"It's not an 'S,'" Superman tells us in the third trailer for "Man of Steel"--what more might people not know about one of the most recognizable characters in the world? In the second of DC Comics' inaugural slate of "101" panels at C2E2, "All Star Western" and "Batwing" writer Jimmy Palmiotti, Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, "Batman Inc." artist Chris Burnham , "Talon" writer James Tynion IV , "Detective Comics" writer John Layman, and "Superman" artist Kenneth Rocafort spoke with fans about the ins and outs of Batman and Superman. John Cunningham, DC's VP-Marketing and Sales, moderated the discussion.
In highlighting the We Can Be Heroes campaign to help relieve famine in the Horn of Africa, Cunningham suggested that a second set Indiegogo donation rewards would be posted after the initial run ends May 10.
Cunningham indicated that movies like "The Dark Knight Rises" cause a spike in backlist trade paperback sales, and a new house ad for classic Superman books tells "Man of Steel" moviegoers where to start. Highlighted titles include "All Star Superman," "Superman: Earth One," and "Last Son of Krypton."
Another tool is the May-debuting "DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013," a free 128-page catalog of greatest hits.
Palmiotti cited Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli's "Batman: Year One" as a formative influence. He said he gives the book to skeptical non-fans and says, "Just read this, and that will tell you how cool Batman really is." For Superman, Palmiotti chose "Superman: Birthright" by Mark Waid.
Harras said "All Star Superman," for him, "brought me back to the magic of comics, the magic of Superman." Harras's Batman picks are "Batman Year One" and "Batman: Earth One," which is "a different take on Batman, but tells you everything you need to know about Batman."
"They're also great guides for how to be Batman," Palmiotti joked.
"Fully self-serving, I'm going to recommend the first of Grant [Morrison]'s Batman book, which is now 'Black Glove' [deluxe edition]," Burnham said. Burnham is the illustrator for Morrison's "Batman Inc.," hence the self-serving comment. "It starts at ground level and accelerates into Grant Morrison crazy nonsense."
Tynion picked Geoff Johns' Braniac story for his top Superman tale, as it "really made Brainiac scary." "Geoff's always had the ability to get down to the core of the character," Tynion said. "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Year One" are "masterpieces" of Batman, Tynion said. "Every time you read them you'll find something new." He also said the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive" arcs were the first he felt compelled to buy each installment.
"Superman For All Seasons" is "a beautiful book," Layman said, who also picked "Gotham Central" for his Bat-book. "I give that to my smarter friends--which I don't have a lot of!"
Rocafort said that he focuses more on the art side, the first thing he looks for in a comic is the villain. "If I see a certain villain, I know it's going to be really good."
Cunningham then moved into the current monthly books, beginning with "Superman Unchained" by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee. Harras praised Snyder's work on "Batman" and described Lee as "a legend," adding "they're both bringing their A-game." "[Lee] is so excited by what he's doing, there is a foldout of Superman, the most impressive Jim Lee shot of Superman you can possibly imagine," he said. "The energy and excitement between these two guys, you're going to see in this book."
Cunningham noted that, between his "Batman" and Vertigo series, Scott Snyder had 5 of the top 10 New York Times best-selling graphic novels.
The next big "Batman" arc is "Year Zero," which Harras said will be telling Batman's New 52 history "in a new way." "It's going to change some things about Batman but staying true to the character," Harras said.
Cunningham said that, rather than hyping "jumping on points," readers should be able to "pick up a story and suss out very quickly what's happening." "Pick up something that looks interesting and read it," he said.
Tynion said the next "Talon" arc would "be bringing back Bane and getting to his roots." He'll be "building up a cast around him for the New 52," the writer said.
"I was watching 'Breaking Bad' and noticing that they' keep setting up a status quo and shattering it," Tynion said. "I want to set that up for 'Talon,' where it seems to be going in one direction and we just pull the rug out from under it."
Tynion is also the incoming writer for "Red Hood and the Outlaws." He promised he'll "throw a big wrench in the group dynamic" between Starfire, Arsenal, and Red Hood. "They'll have to reevaluate what they have to do to stay together as a team, and if they should." Cheshire will make her first New 52 appearance--pre-"Flashpoint," she was the mother of Roy Harper's daughter Lian. Secrets about Jason Todd's past will be revealed in the coming months, as well.
Rocafort was called upon to discuss "Superman" #22 and its cover villain, the Hive Queen. Shyly, though, he said simply "you'll have to get the book" as he's working with the script now.
While Superman is dating Wonder Woman, Harras said, "Superman as Clark has unresolved feelings for Lois," and there's "intrigue into the relationship" as to whether there will be a love triangle and what the dynamic will be. Burnham suggested Lois should get together with Steve Trevor, a character normally presented as a Wonder Woman love interest.
Harras spoke next about "Batman and Robin," in which Batman is going through the stages of grief with a new guest star in each issue through #23. #22 sees Catwoman turn up, and Harras joked that "Peter Tomasi said she's just the person to take his mind off things." Palmiotti questioned whether that's a "stage of grief."
Next, Harras spoke about "Nightwing," a hero who has recently moved to Chicago to hunt the man who murdered his parents. A new take on the Prankster is "a villain who will create a lot of pain in Nightwing's life."
Palmiotti joked that "Batwing" is also in Chicago (actually, Africa), but in fact it does star a new hero in the role. "We wanted to bring the book closer to the Bat-family, so we made him Luke Fox, Lucious Fox's son. And with that comes a lot of problems," Palmiotti said. "Number one is that Bruce is not telling Lucious that he's made Luke Batwing."
"Part of the fun is he's this young guy who loves that he's in this Bat-suit," Palmiotti said, and he's "dealing with the fact that he's being looked after by Batman via radio, and giving him all these tips as he's getting his butt kicked."
"The book has a lot of heart," Palmiotti said. He also said there would be "a bit more joy" than in the other books, and "you can pick up #20, and it's like picking up #1."
Layman said that he's focusing on the detective aspect in "Detective Comics." "I don't care about Bruce Wayne's love interest ... this is the job," Layman said. He also said that he tries to have a complete story in each issue, though there is a longer arc such as the current "Emperor Penguin" story, which he promised has "a really satisfying conclusion." The next arc will feature the Wrath, whom Layman described as "the anti-Batman," a rich guy in a costume who "loves guns" and "hates cops."
"I found out about Damian's fate after my first or second issue," Burnham said, adding that once he got his exclusive contract and signed his NDA, he got the plot outline for the second season of "Batman Inc." "You're going to make me draw that?" Burnham said.
Cunningham also spoke briefly about "Batman '66," the Adam West television show-inspired comic written by Jeff Parker, before opening the floor to fan questions.
The first fan asked panelists to sum up their favorite character in 140 characters. For Jonah Hex, Palmiotti offered, "Miserable bastard" with a few other descriptors, then, "my alter ego." Burnham gave Damian Wayne, "Son of Batman, and his archnemesis."
A fan asked if Azrael's return was permanent. "I dunno," Burnham said. "We're only on for one or two more issues." "Yeah," Harras said, "he appeared in the book, it's permanent."
"Unless we kill him," Burnham rejoined.
As to whether the concept of Batman Inc. would continue beyond the series of that name, Burnham said, "That's what you're paying $3 to find out."
A fan asked about comics for kids in the wake of "Superman Family Adventures'" cancellation. Palmiotti suggested Jonah Hex, or "L'il Hex." More seriously, Cunningham mentioned "L'il Gotham" and gave the fan a copy with a Chris Burnham variant cover.
The next question was about the possibility of a definitive origin for the Joker, given insinuations in "Death of the Family." "Keep reading," Tynion said, while Cunningham suggested this could be addressed in "Year Zero."
Speaking about the Cyborg Superman, Harras said that "I think the design is awesome," and he'll be turning up soon. He declined to answer questions about how the character might tie into New 52 continuity of Superman and Hal Jordan.
A fan made his own recommendation for "Batwoman" by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III, which he said "changed the way I thought about storytelling." He asked about the process of designing the new Batwing costume. Palmiotti said they were looking for "a sleek, graphic design," and, since "Luke can't leave the suit alone," he'll be making modifications and the costume will change throughout the series.
Asked about favorite Justice League stories, Tynion cited "Tower of Babel" by Mark Waid. "It's basically Batman taking down the Justice League," he said. "It's an incredible story."