DC Comics "Night of the Owls" crossover may have all but wrapped its path of destruction through the publisher's Batman titles, but between the upcoming zero month and new villains and creators waiting in the wings for the months beyond, the participants in DC's "Batman: Beyond The Night of Owls" panel Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego had plenty to discuss.
DC Marketing VP Bob Wayne MC'd the discussion, introducing creators like "Batman" writer Scott Snyder, "Batgirl" writer Gail Simone, "Dark Knight" creative team Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch, "Nightwing" writer Kyle Higgins, "Batwoman" writer/artist JH Williams III, "Talon" co-writer James Tynion IV, "Red Hood & The Outlaws" writer Scott Lobdell, series editor Mike Marts and the unannounced participant John Layman, who CBR readers know was announced as the next writer of "Detective Comics" this week starting in October.
"I'd say, Avengers Vs. X-Men...who wins? Batman," joked Snyder to start, saying he'd seen incoming film "The Dark Knight Rises" and was convinced this would be the summer of Batman. He then recounted how DC approached him for a "Talon" spinoff from his "Night" crossover, but he couldn't come up with a pitch until Tynion got involved. OF the main character, he explained, "He's essentially the one Talon who got away from the Court...he resisted the temptation to be an assassin...and because he used to be a circus escape artist, it's really interesting." The writer then introduced his co-writer as this was his first panel as a professional writer rather than a fan. "He's one of you who loves comics and has come over to this side of the table."
Tynion then said, "It's crazy to be on this side of the table. I couldn't be more thrilled and terrified simultaneously." He said that with Calvin Rhodes, the new heroic Talon, his journey would build on the mythology of the Court of Owls villains. "I'm having the time of my life figuring out where this series will go and the journey of the main character."
DC then surprised fans by giving out free "Court of Owls" masks to all audience members. Snyder expressed his gratitude on behalf of himself and artist Greg Capullo. "Greg would say all this in a much manlier, louder way than I can...if you've never seen him, I look like a Keebler Elf next to him."
"Batman" #0 was the next topic up, and Snyder admitted he was at first troubled by what he'd do with an "origin" issue for the Dark Knight. "When the zero stuff came along, I was a little really because that early stuff is so sacred," he said. "Bruce is at a different point emotionally and physically than you've seen him before. He's set up in a different shop that's not the Batcave with different tech and different villains." Snyder noted that he felt the issue turned out to be one of the strongest he's worked on in the series to date and builds on
The anticipated return of the Joker came up next as Snyder and Capullo embark on a brand-new longform story featuring the arch nemesis' return. "In this series, he sees himself as Batman's Court Jester to the King of the Crown...he believes its his duty to deliver the worst new to the King," Snyder said. "Joker's been away for a year. He's been planning everything and going after everyone. This is the craziest, darkest Joker story we could ever do...he's going to be iconic, but different. When you see his face, you'll know what we mean." Overall, the Joker is looking to punish Batman for forgetting the Clown Prince of Crime. Snyder then called the new arc "our 'Killing Joke'" noting that never before has the Joker taken on the entire Bat Family at once and will do more than target one person or idea at once.
Higgins spoke to the mind of Dick Grayson in upcoming issues of "Nightwing" where a return of sorts to the ideas he embraced as Robin – mostly focusing on how Dick moves forward while Bruce Wayne remains stuck in his past. Issues #13 and 14 will be written by Tom Defalco while Higgins works on Joker tie-in issues for 15 and beyond. "I know it's total hyperbole to say this, but [these issues] change everything," he said.
Simone said the #0 issue of "Batgirl" will focus on why Barbara Gordon decided to become Batgirl as well as James Gordon's reaction to the idea. In the series annual, the writer noted that she'll finally get to write Catwoman in a story that plays off the "Night of Owls" storyline as the Talon from her tie-in issues returns. "I consider this the dark side of the mirror," she said, referencing the series opening storylines. Starting with issue #13, Ed Benes will join the series as fulltime penciler. "When Ed and I work together, there's some sort of spark, magic, beauty that happens," she said. The book will then introduce new villain Knightfall, who Simone considers a dark, twisted version of Bruce Wayne's billionaire playboy identity.
For "The Dark Knight," David Finch said that the new storyline with Hurwitz was the kind of storyline he's wanted to do since the beginning of the book. The writer said that he wanted to dig into the guts of a character after his "Penguin: Pain & Prejudice" series. "I wanted to dig into why he's obsessed with fear, and why that's the mirror of Bruce Wayne." The story will dig into Scarecrow's history from his childhood on. Hurwtiz added that the #0 issues will delve into unseen corners of Batman history across the line.
JH Williams noted that it was odd to return to Batwoman's origins so soon after the "Elegy" series he did with Greg Rucka, but he strived to make this book different visually and that "Even though we got her origins in 'Elegy,' there was still room...for things people haven't seen before...We're also getting into her head and seeing those events from her point of view. 'Elegy' didn't have those moments where it was written like a journal...with her emotional state throughout all that stuff. I think this will show even deeper what she's all about." He noted that the book will also delve into Kate's father's past and why he's aided her in her crimefighting. Issue #0 falls in between issues of the third big "Batwoman" arc, but he said the creative team tried to work the one-shot into the broader narrative in a big way.'
"What we're really excited about in arc three is that we get to have Wonder Woman involved in the story in a big way," Williams added. He promised that the story would payoff some threads that have been going since issue #1 and will also propel the series forward once its final revelations have been shown.
Lobdell started his portion by donning an Owl mask marked with the webs of Spider-Man and "pitching" Marts on the new villain "Spider-Talon." He then said that the #0 issue of "Red Hood" would reveal new facts about why he became Robin in a story that's very sad and bittersweet. "We don't even get any Red Hood in that issue." The writer then spoke to Starfire's characterization (he earned a laugh when he deadpanned that the response to the character was "oh, you did that") and the introduction of her sister. "Everything you know about Blackfire will be upended. She comes from the same place she did, but she'll also be a totally different character, and I can't wait to introduce her."
Marts explained that the "Batman Incorporated" will focus on the origin of the team of international heroes as co-plotted by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham. The Damian-centric future world of "Batman" #666 will return in "Incorporated's" fifth issue in a big way.
Hurwitz then spoke to "Detective Comics" #0 and while "The Dark Knight" #0 will dig into the history of Joe Chill, this story will revolve around how Batman approached intimacy and his resistance to it. "I wanted to show a story that really details how that happened...it's a story that's very emotional, and I think it explains in a lot of ways why he remains in that castle on the hill."
"I can't remember the last time on a panel I've been nervous," Layman said. "I am going to write Batman in 'Detective' where I'm not going to try and compete to tell the darkest stories. I'm going to write something fast-paced." He said the first story arc is called "Emperor Penguin," but it's not the Penguin story you'd expect as structurally, the tale will be told through one-off issues which each have their own twists.
Joker action is in store for "Catwoman" as well as the villain appears in issue #13 – the first regular installment by new writer Ann Nocenti.
Fan questions started up with the transition from "Court of Owls" to the Joker arc in terms of how much punishment Batman can take. Snyder joked that Capullo said, "You really hate him, don't you?" but the series 12th issue will give a bit of a breather with the one-off drawn by Becky Cloonan.
Marts spoke to Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" films, saying that the Editorial group tries to play off the tone of the movies in some small ways, but that they don't rewrite the comics wholesale. He also note that the exploding bridges in the trailers for "Dark Knight Rises" came from Snyder and Higgins "Gates of Gotham" series.
Asked whether the "Catwoman" series could go too far in its depiction of sex and sexuality. Series editor Rachel Gluckstern said that the character is DC's femme fatale, and they were happy to play up those aspects, particular as drawn by Guilliem March.