DC Comics was able to pack the house in the Dave Cockrum Room for its DCU: New Worlds Order panel, taking a look at the stage set for the next year in the DC Universe. From more mentions of "Final Crisis" to snippets of animated DC projects, fans at Wizard World Chicago were treated to tantalizing nuggets of information, characteristically boisterous and frank feedback from Executive Editor Dan DiDio, and a stunningly realistic Power Girl acting as the panel's de facto Vanna White.
The panel kicked off with a bang, when DiDio asked, "Any of the lucky few here?" Hundreds of hands shot up into the air, proudly sporting wristbands, indicating they were among the 1,200 fans who showed up at the convention Saturday morning to acquire special passes to an exclusive screening of 15 minutes of "The Dark Knight."
The big focus of the panel veered towards the upcoming filmed and animated projects including "Superman: Doomsday" and "Justice League: The New Frontier." The audience was treated to a trailer for the "Superman: Doomsday" film, and a seven-minute promotional reel for "The New Frontier." As the names of actors portraying various Justice Leaguers popped up on screen, the crowd cheared for David Boreanaz ("Angel," "Bones") starring as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern and Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") giving voice to Barry Allen/The Flash. Later in the panel DiDio revealed that a one-shot "New Frontier" comic would come out at the same time the DVD comes out, to be written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke.
When pressed for more information on filmed projects, DiDio deferred to Paul Levitz, President and Publisher of DC Comics, to provide answers to the eager audience. Levitz announced a new six-chapter anime series featuring Batman, taking place between the movies "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." Levitz noted, "Things happen in Gotham [between the films]. What happens between the pieces?" The project will be a collaborative effort between top Hollywood talent, comic creators, novelists, and anime luminaries. While a name for the project has not yet been chosen, work has been ongoing for nearly 2 years and it will be released in time to coincide with the 2008 release of "The Dark Knight." In other Batman animated news, Levitz acknowledged the possibility of an animated adaptation of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's "The Long Halloween," news that brought cheers from the audience.
Levitz explained that there are about a half dozen filmed projects in various stages of production. The goal of the animated projects is to take some of the most spectacular moments in the history of the DC Universe and bring them into cartoon format. "We see these cartoons as generation bridges," remarked Levitz, explaining the desire to expand the stories of the DCU to adults and children alike.
As DC expands its focus to encompass a new generation, DiDio spoke passionately about plans to start new books in the Johnny DC line for young readers. He then let Editor Jann Jones take over the discussion. Showing her passion for the new books, Jones said, "For me, these books are so important because you can give them to any kind. Jones noted that she wanted the kinds of books she could share with her 3-year old niece.
The concept shown to the audience was "Tiny Titans," a young readers version of the Teen Titans, drawn in a simple grade school-appealing format. The next title announced was "Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam." With the crowd responding positively to the introduction, DiDio took the opportunity to ask an appropriately costumed conventioneer, "What do you think Captain Marvel? Do I have your approval?" The Captain offered in affirmation and the audience burst into applause.
The final book announced was "Super Friends," a title that harkens back to the Justice League cartoons of the '70s, with a cheerily drawn style.
In speaking of more mainstream books, the panel discussed the new nine-issue series "Gotham Underground," which DiDio described as a story in which the gangs of Gotham City are being infringed upon by Metropolis. All nine covers to the series are designed to be interconnected, to create one large image with some heroes of the DCU featured alongside the titular villains.
The exact motivation for such a move is currently being kept under wraps. Elsewhere in the Batman titles, DC is preparing for the resurrection of Ra's al Guhl, bringing on artist Tony Daniel to help tell the story. "It feels like it's about time. I've been waiting my whole life for this!" exclaimed Daniel.
Daniels was cited by DiDio as being the chief architect in the recent death of Bart Allen in the pages of "The Flash." Daniel shrugged it off as an easy decision, which seemed to be endorsed by the crowd when DiDio's question, "Is [Wally West] the right Flash, by the way?" was met with a resounding "yes!" DiDio also discussed the reintroduction of Mark Waid to write "The Flash," with Daniel Acuna handling the artist duties, a move which harkens back to Waid's successful run on the Flash in the '90s.
Shifting focus to the recent developments in the Green Lantern titles with the introduction of "The Sinestro Corps" storyline, DiDio introduced artist Ethan Van Sciver as "Mr. Sinestro, himself," while prodding Van Sciver for details on upcoming Green Lantern developments. Van Sciver responded, "We have an amazing ending [to "The Sinestro Corps War]!" Van Sciver also revealed he has been asked back to perform artist duties on the upcoming "Green Lantern" #25 to help lay down the seeds of the Green Lantern trilogy [ ["Rebirth, "Sinestro Corps" and the forthcoming installment] set to wrap up in 2009.
The panel took some time to interact directly with the audience in a rapid fire Q & A session. When asked if the emergence of the "52" multiverse means that there may be multiple iterations of Apokalips, DiDio confidently replied, "There is only one Apokalips." Throughout the session, DiDio was met with light hearted jabs at his propensity to allow the deaths of major characters in the DCU. One fan asked about the infamous shirts distributed at San Diego Comic Con 2007 which read,, "Dan DiDio Must Die," a cheeky reference to the "Countdown" teaser declaring "Jimmy Olsen Must Die." Jann Jones took the opportunity to inform the fans "I actually have the hoodie!"
When asked if Firestorm will be going after Darkseid, as has been hinted, DiDio confirmed that we will see this unfold in the pages of "Countdown" and "Justice League of America." While committing to revealing these secrets, DiDio was coy in responding to a fan asking the panel to reveal their favorite DC character. However, Van Sciver not only noted he prefers Green Lantern, "I love 'em all equally, all 7200 of them!" drawing cheers from the audience.
As the panel finished up, the crowd received souvenir buttons with phrases associated with "Countdown." Some lucky few were counting down until 6:00pm, when they would get their first taste of "The Dark Knight."
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