The DC Entertainment: Meet The Publishers panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con International began as moderator and DC SVP Of Sales Bob Wayne plugged the We Can Be Heroes hunger initiative before introducing the duo at the heart of the panel: Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee.
“What are we co-publishing?” DiDio asked Wayne as the audience laughed.
Wayne and the Co-Publishers then began by speaking about the new “Talon” series, Lee saying that this was part of DC’s promise to publish a lot of new stories and characters. “He’s this assassin who decides to leave the fold and [the Court Of Owls] are not too happy about it,” Lee said.
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, Lee told the audience, “If you love what’s been going on in the [‘Batman’] book you’ll love this.
They then moved onto “Sword Of Sorcery,” the main story of which will be written by Christy Marx with art by Aaron Lopresti.
“We want to introduce the concept of fantasy in the DC Universe but do it in a very fun way,” Lee said of the story, DiDio citing his love of anthology series as one of the reasons he was excited for the book.
Moving onto “Team 7,” Lee said he was especially excited for the comic, saying it will explain the history and the emergence of Superman and the in-universe explosion of superheroes through the eyes of the secret government agency, headed by characters like Steve Trevor, Amanda Waller, Grifter and others.
“Also Black Canary is in there,” DiDio added.
The audience applauded as the three then brought up a slide for “The Phantom Stranger,” which will be written by DiDio. Lee explained that they wanted to tie in the magic parts of the DCU into the universe better and they saw “Phantom Stranger” as part of that integration.
“You’re like the play-by-play recap of the panel,” DiDio joked about Lee, the audience laughing as the two pretended to be sports news broadcasters for a minute as Wayne rolled his eyes.
Talking about “Justice League International” Annual #1, DiDio said he was having a lot of fun working with Geoff Johns on the book.
“With the conclusion of [JLI] we wanted to create a bridge...it actually ties into things happening in ‘Justice League’ #12,” DiDio said, adding that he volunteered to jump in to get the chance to write OMAC again. DiDio also said the Annual will wrap up Booster Gold’s story arc as well.
Lee then spoke about “Justice League,” saying that the next villain in the book is more sympathetic as he blames heroes for his own personal tragedies. “It’s a very illuminating story getting to know who the heroes are behind the mask,” Lee said.
“Superman and Green Lantern fell asleep in the pool,” DiDio joked about the variant cover of the #12 issue of the comic showing Aquaman rescuing the two, Lee adding that the issues will set up “Trinity War” as well.
“There’s an event that takes place in this book that will have repercussions throughout the New 52,” DiDio said.
Wayne then brought up the “Third Army” event heading into the Green Lantern books, DiDio joking that the cover image for the event was so large it wrapped all the way around the book so they couldn’t open it.
“I’ve been following [Ivan] Reis,” Lee said about the “Aquaman” and cover artist, praising his art and adding, “For pure superhero action, Ivan’s the guy.”
The audience cheered when the Co-Pblishers brought up the “Rotworld” crossover, showing an image of the characters from "Swamp Thing" and "Animal Man" standing together.
“Scott and Jeff constantly talk to each other, and I think they’ve created something quite special,” DiDio said, adding that one of their goals of the New 52 was to really revitalize interest in Swamp Thing and Animal Man.
Moving onto “Batman: Earth One,” Lee told the audience he felt Batman was one of the hardest mythologies to add something “cool” to, but Johns and artist Gary Franks’ graphic novel, “Blew me away,” Lee said.
Lee also added that the Arkhams would be an important part and that the way the streets are designed in the city in the book reminded him of being lost in Amsterdam, unable to navigate the winding city.
“Alfred is super cool in this one too,” Lee added.
Lee then spoke about “Digital First,” explaining that DC wanted to do special issues to sell digitally to “civilians,” their term for non-comic book fans. “It allows us to make digital comics to be available every single day of the week,” Lee said, explaining that Monday’s comic was “Ame-Comi Girls,” Tuesdays were comics tied to the Batman universe, Wednesdays would be the Beyond universe books, Thursdays would be “Legends Of The Dark Knight” and Friday would be “Smallville Season 11” releases that readers could buy and download.
“40% of the people buying ‘Smallville’ it was their first comic purchase,” Lee added, saying they believed Digital First could bring in new readers.
“Joe Kubert Presents” was the next slide up, DiDio saying that DC wanted to do something in conjunction with the artist, writer, and one-time DC editor for a while.
“He’s built together a series of one-shots that highlight people’s talents and bring in new people,” DiDio said, adding that he was excited to see Kubert draw Hawkman.
Wayne and the Co-Publishers then highlighted “MAD Magazine,” saying that the upcoming issue of the magazine will take on “The Dark Knight Rises.” The three also spoke about Anthony Bourdain’s “Get Jiro,” a story about a chef fighting his way through a food-obsessed city.
“Everything in the book is based on a certain kind of reality [in cooking],” Lee said, describing a real-world weird gourmet eating experience where food lovers eat birds with their heads still on that shows up in the book.
“There’s Youtube clips, if you have a strong stomach check it out!” Lee laughed.
“The fact that one of [Bourdain’s] big thrills is doing comics is great,” DiDio said.
Lee then told a story about meeting Bourdain on an elevator and the chef asking to smell Lee’s baby daughter’s head.
“I was like, oh please don’t eat her!” Lee said as the audience laughed.
Praising the adaptation of “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” DiDio and Lee then talked about the new “Django Unchained” Quentin Tarantino miniseries, explaining that the film is about an ex-slave trying to rescue his wife from an unscrupulous slave owner.
“We’re going to adapt not only that [film screenplay]...but the unabridged version,” Lee said, saying that it will tentatively debut the month before the movie releases.
“We’ve been trying to get Neil Gaiman back into the fold for a while,” DiDio said, bringing up a slide of the new JH Williams III/Gaiman “Sandman” story. “We will have a new Sandman story for you [in time for the anniversary],” DiDio concluded.
They then threw the floor open to questions, the first fan asking how long DC had been planning the New 52 relaunch.
“It came from a writers conference we had October 2010,” Lee said, explaining that the idea came out of them wanting to reboot Superman and then deciding to take the idea to the whole DC Universe, “We were literally working up to the last couple of months before the launch," Lee added.
The same fan then wanted to know the status of the “Justice League” movie.
“Are they making it?” Lee asked.
“We didn’t have tickets to Hall H,” DiDio joked.
A Tim Drake fan wanted to know how he fits into the New 52 continuity as Robin, not just Red Robin.
“He never took on the full Robin name...once Jason Todd was presumed dead he did not to take on the name,” DiDio said, explaining that to his mind Drake went straight into being Red Robin.
A tattooed fan asked Jim Lee to autograph his arm.
“Sure...are you going to tattoo my name on your arm?” Lee asked, to which the fan answered yes.
“You won’t be the first person with a tattoo of my name!” Lee joked.
“And you won’t be the last,” DiDio added as the audience laughed.
Lee told the next audience member to the microphone that the canceled “OMAC,” “Hawk And Dove” and other series will have their characters incorporated into the DCU, and there were no plans to release new issues of those comics as digital comics. “We don’t want to bifurcate our audience,” Lee said.
Another fan wanted to know if there were any plans to adapt the Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” trilogy into graphic novels.
“We chose not to do that,” DiDio said, explaining in the past those efforts to do movie to comic adaptations did not get much traction. “We have so many great other ‘Batman’ books we want to direct you to,” DiDio added.
The next audience member wanted updates on "Multiversity” and the upcoming “Earth One” books beyond just Superman and Batman.
“You don’t want to hear them, you just want to hear they exist, right?” DiDio joked as the audience groaned. DiDio said they were talking about doing “Earth Ones” for Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. As for Grant Morrison’s “Multiversity,” DiDio added, “Look for it in the middle of next year.”
A fan wanted to know why they didn’t want Green Arrow joining the Justice League, despite having him work with the heroes in a recent issue.
“To me that story identified why it’s those seven characters and why Green Arrow doesn’t fit into that team,” Lee said, adding that threads from that will set up an event coming next year.
DiDio and Lee then said that one of the big surprises of the relaunch was the fact that during the New 52 “Aquaman” sales beat Marvel’s comic book sales for two months.
“My biggest regret is that we didn’t do ‘Batman and OMAC’ as a series and that OMAC didn’t stand for ‘Owls,’” DiDio joked.
When asked about how they balance writing, art, and publishing duties, Lee recalled a time when DiDio hired another artist to draw pages of a comic Lee was behind on, but in secret, resulting in what Lee called a “shadow artist.” Lee said that he foiled them as he drew all his pages out of order.
“Every shadow page we had drawn he had already drawn!” DiDio laughed.
A young fan wanted to know the hardest part of working in comics. DiDio said that he felt the hardest thing was to balance pleasing the fans and appealing to a wider audience.
“I was going to say finding fast food at 1AM!” Lee laughed. For the question, Wayne awarded the young fan an Amazon Kindle as the audience cheered.
The next audience member wanted to know if they would see a DC WildCATS series.
“I think when the time is right you’ll see that series,” Lee said, explaining that he wanted to assemble the right creative team on it before he moved forward, and there were no plans at this time.
“WildCATS is one of those books we want to build to,” DiDio added.
Lee then spoke to his process as an artist, comparing drawing facial features as assembling the face on a Mr. Potato Head. “Don’ think about drawing Batman, think about drawing Mr. Potato Head, and then when you put the ears on top of him it’s Batman!” Lee said as the audience and panelists cracked up.
“How are you the number one artist for twenty years?” DiDio joked.
The final question came from a fan who waned to know if Wally West would be showing up soon, to thunderous applause and cheers.
“With a response like that I can only answer probably not,” DiDio laughed, then said there was no plans at this time, but that did not mean they would never see West in the DCU as they were in a “long-term business.”
With that the three plugged We Can Be Heroes one more time and concluded the panel.