Hometown creators combined with visiting talent on the dais in Chicago Friday afternoon for the DC Entertainment All Access panel at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2). Repping both DC Comics and Vertigo were panelists including moderator and VP of Sales Bob Wayne, cartoonist Art Baltazar, writer Brian Azzarello, writer Charles Soule, cartoonist Franco, artist Freddie E. Williams, Editor Jim Chadwick, writer/inker Jimmy Palmiotti, writers Kyle Higgins and Len Wein.
Higgins took the mic early on to explain upcoming events in "Nightwing" as the hero just moved to Chicago full time. In issue #22, the writer said, "The idea is that Tony Zuco – the man that killed Dick Grayson's parents – is still alive and living under an assumed identity in Chicago." The high concept of masked heroes and villains all being outlawed in the city even as a new masked version of Prankster pops up in Nightwing's new city. "Once you see the Prankster's motivation and history, it's going to make sense how it all ties together with Zuco's story."
Soule joked that it was a little intimidating to talk about his plans for "Swamp Thing" considering that the character's co-creator Wein was on stage with him. "One of the things I've realized writing the book is that there are a lot of people who LOVE Swamp Thing and have loved him for a long time," he said, adding of #22. "As you can see from the cover, Constantine guest stars. One of the things I loved that Scott [Snyder] did is that he made it able for Swamp Thing to travel through The Green again, so I can do stories anywhere." The story is a two-parter that starts with a village in Scotland which has a magic tree that creates the best Scotch known to man, but things go horribly wrong from there.
When it came time to talk "The Green Team," Baltazar admitted "That's cool! I didn't see that cover yet!" of the new hard partying on a car cover by Amanda Cover. "The one question we get asked a lot is 'How does this fit into the New 52?' and we're going to smack you right in the face with that in issue #2 with the Batmobile," Franco said of the book, which will also bring in Deathstroke for action in issue #3. "These guys'll probably be the new Justice League in 20 years," Baltazar said of his hopes for how the characters will grow in the DCU. "There's gonna be a whiskey tree in there too, but they're all underage so no one uses it," he joked.
Williams spoke to the other side of the "Green Team" launch – the new series "The Movement" which he will draw. "It's both fun and dark, so it's an interesting mix of tones that Gail Simone is very good at," the artist said. "All I can say about the story is that there's an awful lot of story mixed in there that almost kills me to draw. There's a lot going on. A lot of these new characters Gail has created for 'The Movement' feel very fleshed out...they feel like they have a lot of history." The artist said that he's in the middle of drawing #3 now and feels the book is getting bigger in ambition with each new installment.
Wein spoke to the end of "Before Watchmen: Ozymandias" which he's been writing for Jae Lee. "I really wanted the last book out to be 'Ozy' #6 because the last panel sort of connects up with the first one of the original 'Watchmen,'" the writer said, adding that while his famous disagreement with "Watchmen" writer Alan Moore about the classic story's end is well known, "The thing I'm most happy about [with this new story] is that I sort of got to deal with that one way or another and give myself closure if nothing else."
Chadwick spoke to his work with writer Jeff Parker on "Batman '66" coming up, saying that the team's plan of incorporating non-Adam West TV show villain Killer Croc into the comic by playing him like they thought he would have appeared on the show...as a guy in a crappy rubber mask.
Baltazar then joked that he and Higgins were working on a pitch for another digital crossover with pop culture called "Batman: Beyonce."
The conversation swung back around to his incoming "Brother Lono" series for Vertigo. "When we were finished with '100 Bullets,' we were done with that story," Azzarello said, recalling how he and Eduardo Risso convinced him to do a new story in that world in a cab in Spain shortly after the country had won the World Cup. "That night we hashed out this mini series, and it's not what you expect...sorry." The writer's emphasis on that last word elicited laughter from the audience.
Wayne then announced that DC would soon be releasing a free sample one-shot meant to lay out what the publisher thought the reading order should be for DCU collections. The DC Library Encyclopedia offering would "Give you something to argue about with us next year" joked Wayne.
Fan questions started up with a man asking about the transition of WildStorm characters into the DC Universe with the New 52 and whether or not the Milestone characters would follow in a more major way like Static and Icon. Wayne asked the audience for their opinion on the idea, which gained applause. "We'll talk to our colleagues at Milestone Entertainment and see if we can make that happen," he said.
A woman who expressed love for Azzarello's "Wonder Woman" run asked for some teases on what's next. "You don't want me to tell you these things!" he said before saying, "We're going to New Genesis in two issues, so you're going to see the New 52 version of the brilliance of Jack Kirby."
A fan asked first why DC had no booth at the Chicago show and second whether Damian Wayne would be resurrected in the comics. "We chose this year to participate with the programming and a number of panels like this one," Wayne said noting openly that the man seemed upset that DC was not exhibiting on the show floor, but the publisher seemed open to see what the future held. As for Damian, it was a flat no.
A local fan asked Higgins why he had to blow up the train station near him in "Nightwing's" first Chicago issue, and the writer admitted he wanted a visual with a good vantage point of the Sears (now Willis) Tower that also fit the Wicker Park neighborhood he was moving Dick Grayson to.
A fan voiced discontent with writers being dropped from titles after one or no issues saying he felt the quality of the books would have to suffer as a result. "I can assure you that nothing anyone does at DC – the writers, the artists, the editors – is designed to put out a subpar book. Everything is meant to put out the best possible book," Wayne said.
The self-depricating humor of "Wonder Woman" #0 that cast Azzarello as the heroine's father figure came up, and a fan asked if they did it because they expected to take heat for the story wrinkle of Zeus being Diana's father. "Did we expect we'd get a little blowback from giving her a father? Yeah. Did we expect some blowback from having War train her? Yeah," the writer said, noting that the team decided to respond by making #0 a more Silver Age issue that was a bit more light. The team turned the book in to Editorial at the last possible minute so they could have as much fun as they wanted. "I hope that that kind of stuff rubs off on other people doing these books so they don't always play it so safe."
A young man who has been the victim of severe burning got up and expressed disappointment that anyone who appears in a comic that has burns is always cast as a villain rather than a more empathetic portrayal of the plight. "I think that it's a challenge to writers to come up with ideas that break through the obvious ways to tell stories...it doesn't always occur to you right away, but I'm going to remember this conversation going forward, because that's a fantastic point," Soule said in response.
When a colorist collaborator of Art N Franco took the mic to not-so slyly plug the creators' "Aw Yeah! Comics" line, Baltazar said, "Give that guy a poster!" Wayne declined.
Another fan took the mic to lament the loss of Cartoon Network's "Young Justice" asking if there was a way to bring the show back as an animated movie. "The guys who work on 'Young Justice' with Warner Bros. Animation, I don't think there'd be any disagreement with them on that," Wayne said before promising DC would pass the idea along to the animation department...whatever false hope that might incur in the audience.
A fan with a Swamp Thing tattoo complete with Wein's signature – "You've been cashing my checks again, haven't you?" the writer joked – asked if there were any chances for Swamp Thing to move into other media like he once had in the '90s since he was playing a bigger role in the DCU. "I think that you just need to be patient," Wayne said, noting that the character's presence in the comics was continuing to grow moving forward.
A question about the Superman/Wonder Woman romance came up and whether it would endure for a while. The panel was all jokes in response, so your guess is as good as ours.
A viewer who likes The CW's "Arrow" TV show asked if there were any more plans for the DCU to expand into live action and TV. Wayne's response was simply, "Yes."
The connection between "The Green Team" and "The Movement" was asked after, to which Franco said, "I've said it before, but if Gail wants to throw down, we're there."
A young lady who was a self-described "fangirl" of "Hellblazer" asked if the change of that legacy title to a DCU book was made to make the appeal of the character more soft and for a younger audience. "I think that in many ways, the Swamp Thing/Animal Man/Justice League Dark stories told in the New 52 aren't much different than the stories that were told at Vertigo," Wayne said, noting that the first two issues of "Constantine" have sold out and gone back to press.