DC Comics' DC Nation panel Friday evening at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo found panelists DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, Peter Straub, James Robinson, Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Brain Azzarello, and Jim Lee discussing developments throughout the DCU, as well as in the Wildstorm, Vertigo, and First Wave universes.
The panel began with DiDio announcing changes to the usual DC Nation panel format. "As Executive Editor, I'd stacked the deck with DC Comics people," DiDio said, before saying that he would be bringing Vertigo and WIldstorm people to DC Nation as Co-Publisher.
Peter Straub is working on "Green Woman" for Vertigo, a story about "where stellar serial killars go, their retirement home." He's working with Michael Easton, who is also an actor on "One Life to Live."
Following introductions, DiDio asked fans whether anyone was here attending their first convention. The first fan to speak said she began reading comics last year, by way of "Fables." Another was in town from Australia, while the third wanted to submit artwork.
Next, DiDio asked for reactions to this week's "Brightest Day" #0, and following applause, a fan called it "the best thing since '52.'" Several fans appreciated the return of characters like Osiris and Maxwell Lord.
This week's other big release was "Flash" #1, and DiDio asked whether any fans bought it just for the ring. One fan said she was disappointed that the ring did not pop open, like Barry Allen's. There was some dissent, though, about Barry's return vis-a-vis Wally West's tenure as the Flash. Most fans, though, were enjoying the ride.
DiDio asked for fan comments on Robinson's controversial "Cry for Justice" miniseries, which received a good amount of applause. Robinson said he was asked to put Starman (Jack Knight) on the team—"I wasn't going to do that, so I put Mikaal on instead." Regarding Congorilla, the character was the first Robinson thought of when asked to add an obscure character.
DiDio then opened the floor to questions.
Asked whether "dead means dead" in the DC Universe now, Azzarello said, "dead means dead in the First Wave universe."
"Working the Spirit into this has really been great," Azzarello said, continuing discussing "First Wave." "There's something about that character that really resonates."
The next question dealt with event fatigue. "How many people read 'Blackest Night?" DiDio asked the room. "How many of you enjoyed the storytelling of 'Blackest Night?'" He added, though, that there needs to be a balance, and the current raft of 'Brightest Day' books are more about building up the DCU than being an event in itself. "But if you want to buy it as an event, feel free."
A fan asked whether the new entity of DC Entertainment changed the way Vertigo was perceived within the company. "Vertigo has always been Karen Berger's baby," Jim Lee said, noting that the imprint has opened up new readers and brought New York Times best-seller attention.
"There's a flavor, there's a need, there's a tone to those type of stories, and we're going to make sure we keep doing them," DiDio added.
In response to a question, Johns said that "Brightest Day" would serve as Hawkman's "Rebirth" series, adding "there might be other plans."
The next question was about Rucka's departure from the upcoming 'Batwoman' title. "Greg has an open door at DC," DiDio said. "He's decided to move on. Sometimes to you need time to refresh."
Red Robin will be "heavily involved" in the return of Bruce Wayne, DiDio said, answering a fan question.
"Young Justice" characters will appear in "Teen Titans" soon, according to Johns, "and some of them might get their own books."
Will we see Grant Morrison's "Multiversity" before the end of the year? "Sure!" Jim Lee said, cheerfully but perhaps uncertainly.
James Robinson said that Gentleman Ghost is one of his favorite characters, "and you may well be seeing him soon."
A fan expressed disappointment at the end of Steve Niles's "Simon Dark," and the character's fade to obscurity. "It's interesting, because we put out a lot of product," DiDio began, noting that some books "struggle for attention, but we are intensely proud of." He noted that DC gave "Simon Dark" a generous eighteen issues, but it didn't catch on. "I'm sorry that didn't work, I thought it was a beautiful book."
Next, a question about the new "Earth One" graphic novels starring Superman and Batman, and how these iterations would differ from previous incarnations. DiDIo noted differences in Batman, from "Dark Knight" to Adam West to Paul Dini's animated version.
After a discussion of "Birds of Prey" and female heroes, Robinson said, "the Justice League is going to have more females in it than males."
"We've got more books with female leads than ever before," DiDio continued, noting "Batgirl," "Powergirl," and others, nearly omitting "Wonder Woman" before being prompted by a fan.
DiDio said he received over 700 postcards for the "Wonder Woman" #600 campaign, and said J. Michael Straczynski's run would begin with the destruction of Paradise Island "and it gets worse from there."
Asked what happens to Dick Grayson once Bruce Wayne returns as Batman, DiDio said, "we'll leave that to the story--but you're assuming Bruce returns as Batman."
Next was discussion of the Milestone characters and the lengthy time it took to bring them into the DCU. This was down to legal issues, DiDio said, and Johns added that he had wanted Static for "Teen Titans" #1, but the character wasn't yet available.
A fan asked what Johns would do "to save 'Teen Titans'" and "'Titans, villains for hire--why?" Johns said that "Teen Titans" is a very personal book for him and he wants to get it back on top, while DiDio added that the current "Titans" direction is not necessarily permanent.
Similarly, DiDio discussed the return of Batman and how fans never really thought Bruce Wayne was dead. "Somebody at DC once tried to kill Dick Grayson," DiDIo said, referring to his infamous wish to do away with the character in "Final Crisis." The current direction allows DC to play with the idea of Grayson as Batman for an extended period.
Johns was asked what other characters were considered for return in "Brightest Day." His initial list circled back through multiple discussions and, "these characters all came back because there was a story to tell."
DiDio asked who fans wanted to return. Ted Kord (Blue Beetle) and Ralph and Sue Dibny were popular choices, while others included Garth (former Aqualad) and Terra.
Johns said Deadman—or "Aliveman"—would be the lynchpin of "Brightest Day," and that "Boston Brand is now realizing he has to eat and stuff. Being alive sucks."
The next fan commented about "Cry for Justice" and questioned the wisdom of using "the death of a little girl" as a catalyst. "We never said we were getting rid of grim and gritty," DiDio said, addressing another of the fan's complaints, "and I don't think we're doing grim and gritty--we're doing storytelling." He said that the emotional reaction means the story worked.
"It's absolutely one of the darkest Justice League stories ever written," Robinson said, "and it was supposed to be." He also said that there was a purpose to everything--the rubble of Star City being star-shaped, taking everything away from Roy Harper, and so on.
"J.T. Krul, when he writes this material--he's very much a family man--it's going to be very heartfelt," Robinson continued, referring to the writer of "Fall of Green Arrow," "Rise of Arsenal," and the upcoming "Green Arrow" relaunch.
Johns added that Star City "is going to become one of the most important cities in the DC Universe, it's going to have a personality." DiDio added that all of DC's made-up cities should have identities, otherwise it would be best to use real cities.
Robinson then said, "I promise to make 'Justice League' into big, exciting adventures of the kind you like, and it will be nothing like 'Cry for Justice.'"
In a discussion of sales and trades, Lee said, "I would like to see more focus on the periodicals," which might help series at the lower end of the sales spectrum, like the previously-mentioned "Simon Dark" and "Manhunter."
"There's a major turn to" the Riddler in Paul Dini's "Gotham City Sirens," DiDio said, in response to a comment that the character had been under utilized.
"You'll see the Spectre in 'Brightest Day,'" Johns said in response to a young fan's question. "He's kind of messed up right now."
Asked whether he and Geoff Johns would collaborate on a Green Arrow Secret Origins series, Jim Lee said they have discussed working together. "I'm busy with 'Dark Knight: Boy Wonder,' and Geoff's got all his stuff; but eventually, I think there's a good chance." Not, specifically, for Green Arrow, then.