DC Comics kicked off WonderCon 2013 in style with its All Access panel, detailing the current and upcoming plans DC has for the New 52 and DC Universe-related comics as well as news from its Vertigo Comics imprint. Moderated by John Cunningham the panel featured a selection of DC's top talent including Ann Nocenti, Scott Snyder, James Robinson, Matt Kindt, Sterling Gates, Bryan Q. Miller and Jim Chadwick.
After introductions, Cunningham kicked off the panel with "Batman: Zero Year," the next story in Snyder's "Batman" run.
"It's something we've been dying to do for a very long time," said Snyder, who went on to say that a lot of the things from "Year One" really wouldn't be able to stand with the current New 52 continuity. "I had an origin story that I had been playing with in my mind and if I ever got to do one this is what it would be." The writer also said that he planned to be respectful to the core of the character while delivering something readers have never seen. The goal is not "to do 'Year One' better than year one." "I'm crazy proud of it and nervous about it and I hope you enjoy it."
Snyder's "Superman Unchained" was up next, Snyder's project with Jim Lee. "If I ever got a chance to write a 'Superman' story, this is what it would be," he said. "I'm really, really excited to see what you guys think. It's meant to be a classic Superman story but done in a new way." The writer also said that Lee was doing things on the book artistically "that I've never seen him do."
"It really is incredible work. I could write the phone book and it would look great with Jim doing it." Dustin Nguyen will be doing backup features on the book, as well.
DC showed an image by Lee on the screen for a splash page of "Superman Unchained." The page is actually four pages together that fold-out into a larger page. "It's a two-sided, four-page fold-out in the book," Snyder said, noting the first side is Superman engaged in battle and the opposite side is a close-up. "The other side has Superman looking so heroic because he's so small and vulnerable in this massive thing."
"The reason I love it is because it speaks to what our book is about," said Snyder. "On the first side, you really see the weight on Superman's shoulders. [The other side] shows how we're all in it together with Superman. That's why it really works as a part of the book. It was never promotional, it was conceptual."
Snyder will also be working with "Punk Rock Jesus" creator Sean Murphy on "The Wake" for Vertigo, which will have two huge parts that take place in wildly different time periods. "It opens with a girl with wings in a flooded world talking to a dolphin with a space helmet," Snyder said to demonstrate how different the book is. "It's really fun to get to go there where I can totally fall on my f-ing face, but why not try it and have fun?"
Snyder's other Vertigo book, "American Vampire," was up next. Snyder spoke a bit about the brief hiatus, so that co-creator Rafael Albuquerque could take a quick rest. However, the two creators missed the series and chose to construct a one-shot, "The Long Road to Hell," which features Travis, the greaser vampire hunter.
Nocenti spoke about "Catwoman," and the publisher projected a new cover by Terry Dodson. "The hard part of this stuff is that everything is a secret," said Nocenti, who praised the work of series artist Rafa Sandoval. "I think that his approach to action is layered with -- sometimes it feels 'Three Stooges,' sometimes it's brutal and heart-wrenching. A lot of fun I'm having is just feeding off what Rafa is doing and heading down roads I think will visually inspire him."
The writer said it was "so much fun to start with Catwoman writing Joker stories," and that she got thrown into a vault with all the toys and had to write her way out. The character is also a part of Geoff Johns' "Justice League of America" and "the idea that you're going to put her on a team where she's suddenly doing heroics -- it's a little odd."
"I think of the Justice League as -- she's going to war. She's going on an assignment, she's doing her job, but her true self is true to her roots, which is as a thief and a party girl," said Nocenti, but couldn't go further than to say that she's created a new playground for Catwoman in Gotham City. "All I can say is we've got a lot of exciting things planned."
Nocenti's freshman series "Katana" was next on the docket, which the writer described as a challenge due to the obscurity of the character. "I went back to Kurosawa films and the '70s Japanese films that I love," the writer said of the inspiration for the series. "I'm very, very nervous about her because who knows if there's going to be a fan base for my obsessions, which are old martial arts films."
The panel moved on to James Robinson and "Earth 2," and the writer described Yidiray Cinar's upcoming issue of the series. "It's the return of Captain Steel," said Robinson. "One of the things I've been saying in interviews is apart from setting up the world of Earth 2, I'm starting to put together all the pieces for a big event at the end of next year. … There's a killer surprise -- no pun intended -- coming up in issue #17. There's an issue coming up where you'll see the first [tease] of Doctor Mid-Night." Robinson plans to expand the diversity of "Earth 2" as well, with Captain Steel as a Filipino superhero. Mister Miracle and Barda will also be a part of the series in the future.
Kindt, who is currently writing the backup stories for "Justice League of America," spoke about his experience so far doing a Martian Manhunter story in the back of the book. "I told Geoff, what if you wrote the issue first, you send me your script and I'll respond to that in eight pages," said Kindt. "I would wait for Geoff's scripts to come in, then frantically try to get my scripts done in time, but try to tell a backstory about something he mentioned in the main issue." Kindt said he hopes that it causes readers to go back and read the full issue again.
"Smallville: Season 11" by Bryan Q. Miller, one of DC's most successful digital comics, was described by the writer as not so dissimilar to what Robinson does on "Earth 2." The upcoming arc brings Kara back to the "Smallville" world. "A Booster Gold mishap lands Clark in the 30th Century," said Miller, noting the arc would also bring the Legion back and change Kara's traditional miniskirt costume. "Plus, pants, because she flies around."
Editor Jim Chadwick was present to talk about the recently-announced digital-first series "Batman '66," which will have covers by Michael Allred. Jonathan Case has done all the promotional artwork so far. "This is basically the first time we've ever done this version of Batman from the TV show with him looking like Adam West and Robin looking like Burt Ward," said Chadwick. The format will be similar to "Smallville Season 11" in terms of production -- three digital chapters collected in a print issue.
The popular "Injustice: Gods Among Us" prequel comic was also on tap for discussion, and Chadwick said it gives more of a reason for backstory in the upcoming fighting game. "The story in the comic will fill in the story leading up to the game," he said. The third print issue came out this week.
Speaking of video game-related comics, "Batman: Arkham Unhinged" is still going strong as well. The series is based on the "Batman: Arkham City" video game and the upcoming chapter, which features Nightwing and Robin.
The panel revealed the cover for Jeff Lemire's "Trillium" (below), which will be wholly painted with watercolor.
Robinson chimed in one last time about "Earth 2," saying a new Batman would be introduced in the upcoming annual issue. "Another big piece is this new Batman who will be a big part of 'Earth 2' and a big part of the DC Universe," said Robinson. "He'll be around forever."
Cunningham then opened the panel up for questions, starting with a few questions about "Earth 2," saying "stay tuned" for other publications in the "Earth 2" universe.
Snyder told a Riddler-fan that a story featuring the Batman villain is coming in "Batman."
A young fan asked "If Damian was going to stay dead -- for about two years?" Cunningham told him to read the issues of "Batman Incorporated" very carefully.
Snyder got a question about about the upcoming "Zero Year" arc. "Maybe it was time to do something more singular in 'Batman,'" said Snyder, saying "Zero Year" would tie in to existing continuity, but be able to stand on its own.
A question for Snyder dealt with Harper Row, the new character in "Batman." "Harper wasn't designed with the purpose to be Robin," said Snyder. "She was designed to give a different lens on Gotham. Because I felt like I wanted to create a young woman as the main character for those story lines, that's where she came from. Without directly addressing who she's going to become, she's a big part of my personal mythology for Batman." He also teased that she'll be making an appearance in "Detective Comics" at the hands of John Layman.
One question had to do with the decision to name Snyder and Lee's upcoming "Superman Unchained" series. "I'm really happy with the title because I love that image of Superman busting through the chains," Snyder said. "Ultimately, I can't speak to what the thinking was behind the decision, but I'm really happy with the title."
Following questions, the panel wrapped.