DC Comics hit WonderCon 2013 on Saturday with its New 52 panel to a packed room, ready to discuss the newest developments in DC's publishing initiative. Moderated by John Cunningham, the large panel of creative talent included New 52 writers Kyle Higgins, Scott Snyder, James Robinson, Ann Nocenti, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Jimmy Palmiotti, Brian Buccellato and Scott Lobdell.
After introductions, Cunningham kicked the panel into gear starting with "Batman: Zero Year," the next big arc in Snyder's "Batman" run.
"It starts at issue #21. I think it's the best thing that we've done on 'Batman,' said Snyder. "When the New 52 started, we were really adamant about not changing Batman's history." Since then, a lot of stories has made it very difficult for the story of "Year One" to exist. "I had a story in my head where I thought if I could do an origin story, I would do it this way. It shows Batman's life in an incredibly different way."
Snyder did try to re-write "Year One," but realized early on that it was a disservice to the fans to try and retread that ground. "What I'd say about 'Zero Year' is that you've never seen a Batman story done this way. You're not going to see the pearls, you're not going to see the lamppost. Those things will be honored, just done in a different way. … From page one, you'll be like 'What the f? What is this?' You'll know from go that it's our take on the origin and this story. We hope you love it as much as we do."
The eleven issue arc is divided into different chapters and every chapter is a different moment in Bruce's life. "You'll learn more about the Waynes and the Kanes," Snyder said. "You're going to see Gotham in a different way." James Tynion will be doing backups with Rafael Albuquerque on art centered around Batman's training in a "new, modern, fun way."
"Superman Unchained" by Snyder with art by Jim Lee was up next on the New 52 panel. "I still geek out every time Jim sends a page," the writer said. "This is the Superman story I would tell if I had one chance. It's got a lot about American history, there's a new villain, there's a lot about Lois, there's a lot about Lex. The back-ups are by Dustin Nguyen and they're going to show a lot about the supporting cast."
The panel showed the four-page, giant comic-page, double-sided splash from "Superman Unchained" premiered at the DC All Access panel. "We fight alongside Superman," said Snyder. "That's what the book is all about." The story is a big, epic story with that concept at the center of it. The foldout is executed differently than any other foldout. "Jim's bringing his A-game on this. We're giving everything we've got."
Tynion's "Talon," one of the third wave books spun out of "Night of the Owls," was next in line, and the writer said all the pieces are on the board to get to the climax of the story that's been building since issue #0. "Now he has no idea what his mission is or what he's supposed to do next," said Tynion. "It's an incredibly dangerous moment and a dangerous villain is coming onto the scene. It's Bane. You can't do a small Bane story. He's not going to come in, fight Calvin in a back alley and go away again. When Bane comes, he's coming for the city." Hints for the story will begin coming in "Detective Comics" #19. "We're expanding Bane's mythology and getting back to his iconic core." Calvin will also have a run-in with the Birds of Prey in "Talon" #9/"Birds of Prey" #21. "There's a former Talon on the 'Birds of Prey' team. We're going to have these two renegade Talons clash for the first time."
"You have to pick up this series if you like Bane, just a tiny bit," said Snyder.
Tynion will also be picking up "Red Hood and the Outlaws" from Lobdell, and it's a book that Tynion described as a "true adventure book" that allows writers to do different adventures just based on the diverse genre backgrounds of the cast. "I wanted to tell a story that gets to the heart of all three of these characters and puts them up against major figures from their past," said Tynion. Readers will get a chance to see this direction take shape following Lobdell's final issue on the book.
James Robinson, who needed to catch a flight, was next in the queue to talk about "Earth 2." "I know for people who were fans of the original Justice Society, it was kind of a shock to make them young again, and I appreciate you getting behind it." Robinson showed the cover that reintroduces Captain Steel, one of the main Wonders. "The mystery of what's in the fire pits will be one of the many pieces of the puzzle that I'm beginning to lay now that will start at the beginning of 2013." All of the pieces of "Earth 2," including Mr. Miracle, Fury, Big Barda and more will come together to build to something big. Robinson will also introduce the Earth 2 Batman, designed by Andy Kubert.
"He's a real character, he's going to be a permanent character of the DC Universe and he'll have a big impact in the DC Universe as well," he said, then jokingly saying, "Batman is Big Barda." The writer also stetted he'd be bringing in Red Arrow, and he was laying the groundwork for Doctor Mid-Nite.
Higgins' "Nightwing" recently hit a requiem issue for the death of Damian Wayne, and the series writer teased the upcoming transition to Chicago. "The twist at the end of issue #18 was Tony Zucco is still alive. The man who killed Dick Grayson's parents is alive in Chicago," he said. "He's got two pennies and a Nightwing suit to his name." Higgins said Nightwing only planned to stay in Chicago to deal with Zucco, but the writer plans to build a mythology along with artist Brett Booth of masks in Chicago and the mystery of what killed them all. Two of the heroes were Ether and Ghost Walker, the Batman and Robin of Chicago. "They're dead as well," Higgins said.
Ann Nocenti, who writes both "Catwoman" and "Katana," said it was fun to give both "this schizophrenic thing" going on. "If they have honor, it's honor among thieves sort of honor," she said. "It's been fun to slowly move Catwoman and Katana where you can believe they would participate in the Justice League of America." "Catwoman" #20 is Selina's first encounter with the JLA that lands her in Arkham Asylum. "I became completely fascinated with Arkham. She discovers brand new worlds in Arkham," said Nocenti, who teased the arc after as dealing with some of the major players on Gotham Central including the coroner. The annual will be drawn by Christian Duce.
As for "Katana," Nocenti teased there would be resurrection of some really cool DC villains. "She goes to a weapons con in Japan and she starts meeting some ancient warriors," she said. "It's Japanese martial arts/superhero hybrid book. If you saw the gatefold cover for her, the Creeper is back."
John Layman's "Detective Comics" was up next, and the upcoming 80-page issue. "You will sit down and spend a lot of time on this book," said Layman. "I'm really proud of it. We've spent my first arc building this 'Emperor Penguin' storyline, and the giant #19 leads to the end of the first arc."
The cover for "Batwing" #21 hit the screen, which gave incoming writer Jimmy Palmiotti the chance to talk about his run on the book, which has big events down the line for the current Batwing. "The people reading it, I think are really going to like what we did," said Palmiotti, who plans to introduce a new Batwing during issue #20. "It's someone tied very close to the Batman family. It could be Alfred. It would be awesome if it was Alfred. I don't think he'd look that fit." Palmiotti plans to bring back Lion-Mane, and wants to go international with the character. "The new Batwing is going to be all over the world. We're having a blast writing the book."
Palmiotti has had the opportunity to play in the Batman universe previously with "All-Star Western." The panel showed a teaser image for the upcoming story, which will have a surprise guest star. "It's a guest star that we think will have people saying, 'What the 52?'" Palmiotti joked. "We take the book in some wild territory for a while and the die-hard Hex fans will shake their heads and laugh, and the new fans will say, 'What are you doing?' If you've never picked up 'All-Star Western,' you want to pick it up next month because it'll have something that appeals to a lot of people."
Buccellato teased the meeting of Flash and Kid Flash in "Flash" #21. "In #18, he's going to have to [foil a plot] without powers," he said, referencing the "Dial H" story plot where the main character stole his powers. "We're going to go into a huge arc with the Reverse Flash and why he's killing people in the Speed Force. Iris … may be on the Reverse Flash's hit list." During the annual, Flash will team up with the Green Lantern. "It'll be our first New 52 team-up with those guys and hopefully we'll lot at how they met and why they like each other."
An image of Hector Hammond in a Superman uniform by Tyler Kirkham. "As you can see in this picture, Superman develops a horrible, horrible thyroid condition," joked Lobdell. "This is Hector Hammond and I can tell you that whatever you're thinking about Hector Hammond and Superman is the complete opposite of what we're doing in the next few months. Superman is the most powerful superhero in the DC Universe, but he doesn't do well against psionic powers." Lobdell teased a huge psionic war heading to Metropolis, which Superman understandably gets caught up in. "When they asked me to do Hector, they asked me if we could do a Hector that can square-off against Superman? A Hector with an Onslaught-level power. By the end of this, you'll believe a man can have a big head."
Snyder said, "Horses." After the laughter died down, he also referenced the strength of "Batman: The Animated Series." "I would say the Joker is my favorite at the end of the day," he said. "For me, the thing that's so wonderful about him is he hears the worst fears about yourself. … For me, he's like the devil's tongue and I love him for that."
Nocenti is into "the anti-villains," the characters that have a damaged center that they can never fix. If she had to pick a favorite, she said the Joker was her favorite while she was writing him, but her favorite villain is Poison Ivy. "I did a Poison Ivy graphic novel and it was so much fun that I want to write her again."
With that, the panel wrapped. Stick around for more on DC Comics and WonderCon 2013.