Skepticism permeated the DC Comics' "Final Flashpoint" panel at Fan Expo in Toronto this past weekend, where creators Francis Manapul, James Robinson, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert and editors Brian Cunningham and Eddie Berganza fielded questions from a crowd uncertain as to whether or not the "Flashpoint" event would prove meaningful in the long run. As one fan of the storyline put it, "It feels like it's all going to be tossed away."
"It could have easily been this summer thing and it's gone and it didn't count," Berganza agreed, "but they created some really great characters. You're not the first ones to ask me if we're going to be seeing more of this. I'd love it if we could even do 'Untold Tales of Flashpoint.' Would you guys be up for something like that?" That possibility received a warm reply from the crowd. There had apparently been plans for a Shazam! book "that tied into some other stuff," Berganza also shared, "but there just wasn't time. That's why I'm saying 'Untold Tales' would be kind of fun."
Cunningham reflected on the ways characters were affected by the event, saying, "What the Aquaman and Wonder Woman parts of the story boiled down to was, 'How did it get this far? How did it devolve to this? How did these people, who started out being the same characters, get to this level of antagonism?'" Cunningham then shifted his thoughts to Green Lantern. "We wanted to explore how the ring changed Hal by showing him never having gotten it. He starts out from the position of kind of a selfish guy. He's a bit of a screw-up. It's a credit to Hal when he gets the ring, how he turns his life around in the regular DC universe, but in the 'Flashpoint' universe, he never had that opportunity. The 'Flashpoint' miniseries kind of gives him another scenario to make a change and he seizes it because he's still Hal Jordan."
Berganza also reminded the crowd that elements of "Flashpoint" were intended to help set the stage for the new status quo. "Cyborg we built up a lot, and he's going to be a big deal moving over to 'Justice League.'" He then teased the audience by loaning one fan an advance copy "Flashpoint" #5 to read while the panelists fielded questions, offering an exclusive black "Wayne" poker chip as an incentive. Among the questions was an inquiry as to whether or not more would be done with the Shazam! kids. "I thought it was a great concept," one fan shared. Berganza smiled and replied, "I'll take note of that."
Another audience member, introducing himself as a friend of "Captain Atom" artist Freddie Williams II, said that while trying to help spread the word about the new ongoing series, he encountered some negative reactions from fans: "One of the things I keep coming across is people bitching about J.T. Krul, and I know James Robinson will understand this. When they kill characters, they get this animosity for it. I don't think it's fair, because we don't know how much of that's the writer and how much of that's editorial policy. So what I'm wondering is, do you guys ever tell the writers that these characters are going to die, and they have to carry the burden with them?"
"Yeah, actually that's a perfect [question]," Berganza replied, before joking, "It wasn't like James came to us like, 'I want to kill some little girls today!'"
"You also wanted me to kill Speedy, and I said, 'No, that's too much!'" Robinson retorted. "So I actually saved someone's life, and I don't get credit for that."
Azzarello answered the question more directly, stating, "When you don't like it, it's editorial; when you do...," trailing off as the crowd laughed. Berganza backed him up, agreeing, "It's pretty much what Brian said. It's a mixture."
A fan then asked which of the "Flashpoint" deaths were the most fun to plan. Berganza replied, "Andy [Kubert] kills someone in the last issue that's pretty cool. It's a nice take on 'The Wizard of Oz.'"
"I got to kill a couple of people," Andy corrected him, recalling the events of issue #4 and the death of Billy Batson. "Geoff [Johns] called me before I had to turn this page in and said, 'Let's be very discreet with it. Let's not make it gory. Be very careful with it.'"
Attention then turned to Azzarello, who recently killed off Martha Wayne. "What do you want me to say?" the writer shrugged. "She had to die. That's the whole point of that story." Robinson, who had offed Black Adam and Isis, revealed that Adam's defeat was fun to plan. When a fan later protested the death of Krypto and asked "Why?" though, Azzarello chimed in with a simple "Why not?"
After quickly finishing the final issue of "Flashpoint," the chosen reader from the crowd praised the finale for not being a cheat and made a point of saying that he "really, really liked the coda between Bruce and Barry," adding that the event was "a great package." Berganza breathed a sigh of relief, saying "That's cool, because in the end it is a story about Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen."
One attendee wondered why Zoom seemed only to emerge as the villain of the story very late in the game, prompting Berganza to point out his earlier conversation with Barry's mother. The selected reader then revealed that Zoom "is not the major villain!" before anyone on the panel could hush him. Later it was asked why Captain Cold was featured in the event, prompting Azzarello to explain how Joker was almost given the spotlight, only to be swapped out for story reasons. Berganza also emphasized Geoff Johns' love of the character as a major factor in the decision.
Various other questions were sprinkled throughout the Q&A portion of the panel. It was asked if the recent "Star Trek" film's use of time travel had in any way influenced DC's approach on "Flashpoint." Berganza thought it was an interesting comparison to make. "It evolved that way, but it wasn't a conscious decision," he replied, while another attendee asked the panel how they'd use time travel powers of their own. Azzarello said he would buy the newspaper the day after the Kentucky Derby, while Robinson figured he would go back and join the Air Force.
A woman in the crowd encouraged DC to keep the maturity level of their content and price point in mind, as comics had greatly encouraged literacy in the "working-class poor" community where she grew up. "I hope that you continue to create more general-level works so that children can keep reading these kinds of things," she said. Berganza agreed, citing DC's attempts to draw the line at the $2.99 price point.
Then, it was asked if "Batgirl" scribe Bryan Q. Miller would at some point be involved in the new DCU, only to be reassured that more was coming following the initial 52 titles. Someone flatly asked if "Flashpoint" would prove to be "the last DC event."
"See, this is how it works -- you guys buy them!" Berganza pointed out before being saved by Azzarello, who droned, "Yes, this is the last event ever! I'll take the heat when the next one comes." Berganza encouraged the crowd to put their faith in the writer's word.
The sentiment was repeated moments later when an annoyed Captain Marvel fan called the panel out on the recent treatment of the Big Red Cheese. "You guys have said you'd be doing something with Captain Marvel for the last 10 years, and he's still not around."
"But he's coming, don't worry," Berganza offered, before realizing it had to come from Azzarello to be taken seriously. "Shazam's coming, alright?" the writer confirmed.
This news piqued some interest, though it was quickly overshadowed by another announcement. "We reveal one of our main heroes that we've seen for a while is Canadian," Berganza hinted of the impending relaunch, before confirming that hero in question is none other than Booster Gold.
To put it mildly, any thoughts of "Flashpoint" or the reboot were immediately forgotten as the Canadians present erupted into cheers, thrilled that their native superhero ranks would be expanding.