DC - THE NEW 52 PANEL
By Todd H. Latoski
The New 52 is the industry's most talked about game-changing event of the last year. Although the landscape has changed, DC is not done making news. DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and Executive Editor Eddie Berganza were joined by creators Jimmy Palmiotti, Tony Bedard, Dan Jurgens and Greg Capullo to discuss the books that are shaping the dawn of this new era.
DiDio opened the panel by telling all the fans how much he, and everyone at DC, appreciates everyone that has supported the books, whether it's buying 1 issue one or buying all 52 issue ones.
Berganza said that when it came to building the new 52, DC had to decide which 52 books they wanted to see, but even more important, which books the fans wanted to see. Then it became a matter of finding the right talent. It was a team effort for everyone involved, and getting the writers and artists talking to build the excitement level for the books. DC challenged all of the creators to do their best. Everything had to be new, since they were all coming out as issue number ones.
Palmiotti, who was writing Jonah Hex prior to the new 52, indicated that the character of Hex hasn't changed, only his location. Palmiotti blamed DiDio for putting Hex in Gotham. DiDio said someone showed him a picture of Hex with the Gotham City sign, and he liked it. Palmiotti indicated that he and Justin Gray found the idea of putting Hex into Gotham provided them with a lot of story possibilities. They have a lot of great stuff coming up, working with the Court of Owls story. With Hex in Gotham, Palmiotti said, everyone will get to see what kind of madness will happen. Palmiotti also said he loved being able to do the back-up stories in the All Star Western title. Some are old, some are new, and Palmiotti told fans that Cinnamon and Nighthawk would be coming up soon. He said it was their opportunity to have some fun and hopefully get people who never read a western in their life to pick up the title. When DiDio asked if any one in the audience picked up the title as their first western ever, several hands went in the air. DiDio was thrilled, saying that part of the reason for titles like All Star Western and Demon Knights is to give readers a snapshot that this new DC world has a history to it beyond the present day stories.
For Capullo, drawing Batman is his first work at DC. When asked how he liked it, he jokingly replied, "It completely sucks doing Batman." Once the laughter died down, Capullo admitted to having always been a Marvel guy, and he never dreamed for working for DC. When he was negotiating between Marvel and DC (after working for considerable years with Todd MacFarlane), his initial thought was that he would end up at Marvel. But when DC offered him Batman, the little kid in him wouldn't let him pass up the chance to draw Batman. Capullo said drawing that issue one of Batman was terrifying. He has been drawing for a long time, but he was honestly scared. "This is not like doing Batman #730," he said. "This was Batman number one!" He said he met fans who were afraid he would turn Batman into Spawn, with a cape 40-feet long. He assured fans that would not happen. When he takes over a book, Capullo said he likes to get into it slowly. He said that for Batman, it began to happen around issue three. DiDio asked fans what they thought about the recent issue where you had to turn it around to read it. Many in the audience applauded, and DiDio joked that they should try reading it on an iPad!
Bedard, who was working with the Green Lantern team prior to the new 52, talked a bit about his work on the New Guardians. He joked that it was hard to follow an act like Capullo. "It's like taking the stage after Andrew Dice Clay," he laughed. With the switch to writing New Guardians, Bedard said it was a challenge, since it dealt with all the different rings, and he was still trying to figure out everything about each of the colors. He also admitted he was at first worried that since he wouldn't be able to use any of the ';first-stringer' lanterns in the New Guardians, he would be stuck with a team of no-namers. But it has been fun for him, having the opportunity to show all the different color corps and what they are capable of doing. DiDio asked him about Blue Beetle, and Bedard replied that working on that book was intimidating, because the last series was fabulous (his favorite read from the prior books). Bedard wanted to do something fresh, but not change everything he loved about the first series. He spent the first six issues focusing on Jaime and introducing the character to new readers. "Now," he said, "we're taking the book a lot wider and will have him interact with more of the DCU. He's not going to be just a hero in El Paso!"
Jurgens then talked about his work with Justice League International. He told the fans that it started with the idea that the book would be truly international. He said they went through mixing and matching characters, and the line-up changed a couple of times before they found one they believed would work. It was also agreed that the line-up would fluctuate. Jurgens said he wanted readers to have the flavor of people coming from a variety of different backgrounds with different experiences. One major difference between this book and the regular Justice League title, is that this book in the present, here and now. This allows them to tell big stories with a cast of people who have never worked together before, even though they may have met or heard about each other prior to this.
Jurgens is also coming back to Superman, beginning with issue seven. Keith Giffen is co-writing the book, while Jurgens is also handling the art chores. They plan to start their run on the book with big-wide open Superman stuff. "That is really what he's all about," Jurgens said. "Plus, there's going to be some intriguing things about Clark, Louis, and Jimmy." He also said he's having to get use to the fact that Superman no longer has the spit curl, and that the costume itself is different. Jurgens is trying to find different visual language for the character, wanting to make sure he does different things with the figure that he hasn't done before. Superman still has the same attitude and stature he always has, but his face is thinner and he's younger.
DiDio then turned to the audience for questions.
One fan said that after having read DC comics for more than 50 years, this new change feels like DC has lost its magic. He doesn't like the fact that DC is simply walking away from everything that's come before and wonders what will happen next year with the 75th anniversary of Superman himself. Didio replied that the reason DC does panels is because they want everyone's honest opinion, whether good or bad. "We need to hear this," he said. "We did the changes of 52 because this is what we were hearing from fans. The history doesn't just go away because of what's happening right now. Superman has re-launched in the past. He has changed in the past. Things change with time, and this is what makes Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman so special is that they can adapt over time." He pointed out that many characters created the same time as Superman are long gone, many forgotten. Yet, Superman is still around. "And your Superman is by no means gone," DiDio said. "Those books will always be in print, in collections. What DC is hoping for is to reach out to a new generation that finds Superman for the first time." DC wants its characters to be around for a long time after all of the current creators are long gone. The same fan told DiDio that what hit him the hardest was the change in numbering for all the titles, particularly the long-running books. DiDio smiled, saying he hoped that the new books in the 52 would hit 900!
Jurgens told the attendees that he has been around long enough to remember sitting on panels back in 1984 when it was first announced that John Byrne would be tackling a new take on Superman. People complained back then, wanting their Curt Swan Superman and not wanting to see Ma and Pa Kent alive again. The re-launch of Superman worked back then, and it will work again now.
Another fan asked about how and why DC chose to use Cyborg as the minority character in its new Justice League. Berganza replied that Cyborg was a cool character, period. Cyborg was used way back in the Super Powers stories, and DC believes he makes a great addition to the team. DiDio added that one of the things the DCU wants to go for is to make sure they have the greatest sense of diversity in their books. A particular book might not work, but that doesn't mean the idea is wrong. DiDio said, "We want to make it feel like the DC world is reflective of the real world."
A question was then raised about death in the new 52 and how DC would be approaching the death of any character. Berganza said that killing any character was going to be hard to do. DiDio affirmed the fact that if any character dies in the new 52, they won't be coming back. For this reason, DC will think long and hard before they allow any character to die.
A fan then asked how the creative teams work together for the re-launch. Capullo said that the writers have the lion's share of that responsibility. For him, though, one advantage of creating a "new" Batman is that it had been so many years since he had even looked at a Batman comic book (the last book he recalled reading was Frank Miller's Dark Knight story). Capullo said he was able to come up with something slightly different because he hadn't been influenced by any of the other books that have come before. So he simply looked for an amalgamation of everything he always thought made Batman cool. When the time came, Capullo wanted to make sure Batman looked dangerous - heavy and sharp. "Those things would intimidate me," he said. "Batman is a shape, a shadow - if I saw a hulking silhouette like Batman, I'd $#!# my pants!"
Palmiotti added that with all the new books, it has been all about communication and collaboration. When the writers and artists are working on their books, they communicate with their editors, and the editors communicate with each other. In this way, everything can remain cohesive. They all hope the stories come across to readers with the idea that everything is stitched together. The fact that the creators can call up and talk to their editors at any time makes their job so much easier.
The panel was then asked about Wally West, Kyle Rayner, and some of the other legacy characters. DiDio replied that DC was trying to bring back their icons. DC wants to focus on the characters, such as Green Lantern and Flash, rather than which version. They want to see "Green Lantern" fans and "Flash" fans, not "Kyle Rayner" fans or "Barry Allen" fans. With respect to Robin and the fact that the new 52 effectively has four characters who were Robin, DC felt strongly that each Robin has such a history that they were too important not to use. There was one in Titans, one in Batman and Robin, and with the other characters, DC believed there was still a need for them. With the Superboy character, there was so much changing on the Superman side, it was easier to make changes with those characters connected with Superman than it was with the Batman universe. Fans were assured that in Red Hood & the Outlaws, they would soon be seeing some history between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd.
A fan asked what about Ted Kord? DiDio simply replied, "Next!"
A fan then asked about how DC was going to address the issues of these characters' histories, particularly those that were not completely overhauled, such as Green Lantern or Batman. Bedard said he believes a lot of that stuff is still there, such as the Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, so there is no real reason to talk about it. A fan pointed out the inconsistencies with regards to Aquaman in Blackest Night and the new 52, and DiDio responded that is one of the reasons DC isn't addressing things like that, they are simply moving forward. Palmiotti chimed in, raising his new Ray mini-series in response. This is a new Ray, new guy, new powers. Some of the readers who knew the original Ray will recognize some of the stuff in the first issue, but at the same time, it is fresh enough to draw in new readers without bogging it down in history. The same will hold true in G.I. Combat, Palmiotti said. With the Unknown Soldier, Gray and Palmiotti looked at what really worked with the character in the past and decided how best to introduce that into the new series. Use what makes the character great, introduce that to a new audience, yet keep the older fans happy as well - it all has to be balanced.
Another fan asked if DC had any plans to do another series such as Wednesday Comics. DiDio said that DC loved that series, and it is something they might look into again in the future.
Capullo was asked to talk about the Court of Owls. He said they have been in Gotham for hundreds of years, and he recently had the opportunity to design all the towns from all the different time periods, so fans will see them appearing in other books set in different times. DC is tying things together and creating a cohesive universe with the Court of Owls.
When asked if DC curtailed him and Scott Snyder in the work on Batman considering they both have what some consider to be "warped" creative sides, Capullo laughed and said they have lots of freedom. "I take what Scott hands me," he said, "and the two of us work well together. Scott thinks a lot of the same way I do." Capullo added that he doesn't know if DC keeps Snyder on a leash, but he is as open as they allow him. He's never had to edit himself, and he has faith that DC, DiDio, and everyone will make sure he and Snyder never cross the line with their work.
Another fan asked if Ted Kord could please come back. Bedard said there are no plans for Ted to show up in Blue Beetle at the moment. Everyone at DC knows that the fans are, for the most part, steeped in comics with continuity, and that can be a real barrier when coming into the changes of the new 52. "Who's to say if he will show up in the comics a year from now?" Bedard added.
With five minutes left, DiDio called for a speed round of questions:
How do the creators handle criticism? - It's human nature to resist change. Change can be good. If you ride it out, you might find you actually like it. The reaction of many fans to the new 52 is a knee-jerk reaction, but if everyone will keep an open mind, there's a lot of value that can be found in change. We all change our underwear, and that's a good thing, something we don't regret!
Love the new number ones, since the large numbering of some titles were daunting. - That's one of the reasons for the new numbering.
Will we ever find out if Wally West or Ted Kord will be introduced into the new 52? - DC doesn't know what is going to happen with them, which is why they are not being discussed. DC wants to keep all options opened for these characters as long as possible.
Are certain books aimed for certain audiences? - The books are aimed for everyone. There are some serious books, some books lighter in tone, and some sexier books. It's just like flipping a channel on the television. Every book is set to its own voice and its own tone. DC does not want all 52 books to read the same exact way.
With the audience for the next panel already coming in, DiDio thanked all the fans and encouraged them to keep reading.
Todd H. Latoski/Writer
Todd was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, but moved to Florida back in the late 1980s. Todd grew up reading comics and have always been a fanboy. Working in the legal field by day and writing his heart out at night (with three published comic stories to date, and one more in the works),Todd has been doing MegaCon coverage for several years and looks forward to doing so for many years go come.
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