DC Comics' New 52 panel at Fan Expo got off to a bit of a rocky start as over half the panelists were late in their attempt to make it from the talent area of the floor up to the conference room. John Cunningham, DC Comic Vice President of Marketing, reluctantly started the panel 10 minutes late with only writer Ray Fawkes and editors Eddie Berganza & Brian Cunningham at his side.
The big news of the weekend, of course, was the announcement that DC is overhauling its "Justice League of America" title under the guidance of Canadian writer and DC mainstay Jeff Lemire. "Coming out of 'Forever Evil,' we will have 'Justice League of Canada,'" Cunningham said. "Adam Strange will be introduced as a member. He will be a Toronto resident."
The shadowy hooded figure of Pandora has been at the center of the Justice League-centric "Trinity War" from the get go. Writer Ray Fawkes said he was terrified when he began sketching out the character in her own ongoing series, though the job has yeilded plenty of rewards.
"Maybe I work well under pressure, but it's been really fun. It's been strange, being handed a character who has literally been in every title in the DC universe and yet nobody knows anything about her," Fawkes said. "It was really kind of cool to kind of piece together who this person is and what she's up to and why she would want to have a look at every superhero and villain in the DC universe before she gets to work."
What Pandora is actually doing, Fawkes explains, is sort of a meta-superhero mission.
"Other superheroes respond to evil acts, and they try and put away the criminals," he said. "Pandora is actually trying to kill the concept of evil. Erase it from the world completely. She thinks if she can do it successfully, she can return the world to a kind of paradise state which she believes the world was in before she accidentally unleashed evil.
"While the 'Trinity War' is unfolding and the heroes are all in combat with one another, Pandora can actually see the spirits of evil," Fawkes continued. "Caught in the middle of this battle she sees Superman and Wonder Woman and Batman fighting. She can see spirits feeding on them behind the whole thing and she's trying disconnect those spirits. It's going to be a pretty wild ride."
The artifact these teams are fighting over in "Trinity War" is Pandora's box, the original container of evil.
"Pandora, at this point, has realized that they have all been tricked, and something really terrible is about to happen, and she's desperately trying to stop it."
"Constantine" #8 arrives in November and continues its current plotline involving the daughter of Sargon the sorcerer. "She's inherited all his power, and she's literally stealing John's heart. I'm going to leave that up to the readers here as to how metaphorical they think that is," Berganza said sarcastically about the cover featuring her doing just that.
"John Constantine is either the worst good guy or the best bad guy in the DC universe," Berganza said. "He had to get involved especially because the story of the 'Trinity War' is about corruption. I don't think there is any hero in the DC universe who is more corrupt than John and then still gets to be called a hero."
"John, being the chess player that he is, understood something really, really bad was going to happen if Shazam was going to be part of the 'Trinity War' battle, maybe just because he's so powerful," Berganza continued. "In issue #5, John tried to take Shazam off the board, and issue #6 was the result."
"A lot of the ['Trinity War'] story leads into 'Forever Evil,' which is our massive villains event for the end of the year, starting in September and riding out through the spring," Cunningham said.
"I think it's going to be mind blowing how gleefully bad things get before the heroes, I hope, eventually get their chance to rise up and really show their stuff," Fawkes said. "When I first read the scripts for the last three parts of 'Trinity War,' it was, to me, mind blowing. I couldn't believe that they were willing to go in and go with some of this stuff."
Panelists assured the audience that "Trinity War" ends really badly and is going to get worse. David Finch, who joined the panel late, is the artist on the "Forever Evil" miniseries, and he said he's excited for it's upcoming release in September.
"It's Geoff Johns, who you all know, and it has a million characters in it. There's actually a spread coming up in issue #1 that has 95 percent of the characters, I think. There are just so many on there. I'm really looking forward to that coming out and hearing what people think about it," Finch said. "We really put a lot of work into it. We tried to make sure that every character was in there, that they were done properly, that they had the right costume. It was a big job, and there's just a lot of crazy still coming up. I am really reluctant to say much about it right now.
"You know, darker characters and villains, and it's starring Lex Luthor, who I love as a character," Finch continued. "Especially Geoff Johns' Lex Luthor. He's just a great, great character. He's just the ultimate opportunist, and it just makes him a lot of fun. I just want to be him. I already have the head -- I just need to be a genius."
Cunningham explained that there will be a lot of groundwork laid in the September "Villains Month" books for "Forever Evil", and not just a lot of back story. Cunningham acknowledged Finch's work on the title, saying he was a pleasure to work with.
"It's kind of ironic that one of the nicest guys I know in the business is doing this title," Cunningham said. "It's amazing when pages come in, because they come in in chunks, like five or six pages at a time. I've got to say, that it makes my day -- actually, it makes my week, when I see them because they are incredible."
Batman is currently involved in "Zero Year," which is the New 52 origin of "Batman." Cunningham said this title is going to be immensely long, allowing for a number of other books to tie into the series, including "Detective Comics" #25, "Green Arrow" #25, and "The Flash" #25.
"We've always alluded to the fact that Barry and Iris have something going on, and this was a great opportunity to show Barry and Iris' first kiss," said Francis Manapul, who also arrived to the panel late. "Essentially, what's going to be happening is we are going to get into starting to develop their relationship. I think that's something a lot of fans really want to see and we also want to continue perusing the relationship. It's going to be a really interesting story line with Barry Allen."
I highly, highly suggest you guys pick [Issue #23] up," Manapul continued, saying that this is where Reverse Flash's identity is revealed. "I'm sure you guys all had your speculations on who you thought it was, and some of you might think you have a good idea who it probably is. And, yeah I'm going to stop talking." Manapul said, smiling as he pushed the microphone away.
"When John and I first started this, our little run here, we really discussed taking the character back to that classic, adventurous, detective-y roots," artist Jay Fabok said of his an writer John Layman's current run on "Detective Comics." "We wanted a book that was fun. We wanted a book that anyone could jump in at any time and pick up the issue and have a self-contained mystery within that issue, but if you were dedicated and kept reading the book, month after month, you would see that there are ties that are going to run through the entire arc into these next couple issues, into the wrap arc, into some stand-alone issues and into the next big thing we're going to do."
"He would send me these ideas beforehand and it was always like, 'OK, John, if you can make that work, great,'" Fabok continued, praising his collaborator. "He always makes it work. I just got a script yesterday for the next issue, the first couple pages, and I had my mouth open. I was like, what? This is crazy, but it's awesome! I'm just having a blast drawing this."
Cunningham called the book beautiful and darkly visual, and Fabok said he was influenced by several past portrayals of Batman.
"Batman's always been my favorite character," the artist said. "I'm trying to draw him as I saw him as a kid. Just big, bold, dark, a mixture of Frank Miller meets Jim Lee meets 'Batman the Animated Series.' I especially draw on 'Batman the Animated Series' a ton because that was some of my first exposure as a kid to the character so I'm bringing a lot of that in and I love to do references to that within the book."
Cunningham then opened it up to audience questions, which focused on major changes within the DC universe. "It's not like the things that are happening are unplanned. There's an evolution of two years of people sitting and thinking how can we make this even cooler," Berganza said addressing a question about character redesign.
Panelists were tight-lipped for the most part about upcoming events. One attendee asked about the new "Harley Quinn" title, which debuts in November.
"I'm very happy with the take that we're hearing," Cunningham said. "The best example that I can give is that in the first issue Harley will be trying out artists for the book. We have twenty really amazing artists who will all be doing one-page each as tryouts for her in that book. This is a book that's going to play with the fourth wall a little bit and really revel in what Harley brings to the table."
Fawkes promised audience members during the question-and-answer session they would be seeing John Constantine "besting some of the best." For example, he noted a previous issue in which Zatanna saw him shaking hands with Lex Luthor. "I have plans," Fawkes said.
It was requested Manapul to bring the Flash family back together, to which Manapul replied, "We'll do our best."
Another attendee asked if there are any plans in the works for next summer, to which Berganza replies, "Yes, all the superheroes are going to take a vacation. They are awesome covers."
Finally, a fan asked about when readers can expect to see The Joker again. "In Villains Month. He has his own book in Villains Month," Cunningham said. "Beyond that, no one up here would say a word under penalty of death. Believe me -- we have all been warned."