Dan DiDio, Scott Beatty and Bruce Jones finally revealed the answer to one of the DC Universe's deepest and most abiding mysteries at the Year of the Bat Panel at Wizard World Philly: How exactly do you pronounce Ra's Al Ghul?
The question was raised by one of the lucky con goers who attended the IMAX screening of "Batman Begins" in which the Demon's Head plays a major part, and whose name is pronounced 'Raaz Al Ghoul,' slightly different than the 'Raysh Al Ghoul' pronunciation that's been accepted as standard. Turns out, as human Batman encyclopedia Scott Beatty revealed, the movie version was actually how Ra's Al Ghul creator intended it to be said all along.
Matters of the Arabic language aside, the laid-back Sunday panel focused less on the upcoming events of the Batman corner of the DCU and more on the nature of the hero himself.
"The nice thing about Batman," said newly minted Bat Writer Bruce Jones, "Is that he could be anyone of us."
Dan DiDio expanded on that idea by saying Batman had such a long and successful history as a character because he fits so well into nearly any situation. You can have Batman fighting crime on a Gotham city dock and fighting Paratroopers on Apokalips and he still remains the same or character.
"He believes in himself implicitly. He is Batman and there is nothing but the war." said Beatty.
The current incarnation of Batman is less a vigilante or detective than he is an urban commando, a leader who directs his troops to carry out the war on crime. That version won't remain the status quo for much longer, with the beginnings of the dissolution of the Batfamily having begun in the aftermath of "War Games," with Spoiler dead and Tim Drake moved to Bludhaven.
The events of "Infinite Crisis" will push Batman even further back to his roots as a lone vigilante and detective fighting a one-man battle against the darkness that took his parents.
The apparent return of Jason Todd as the Red Hood was a popular subject in the Q and A section that dominated much of the panel. Does his return lessen the impact of what was always considered Batman's failure? According to the panel, Jason could be seen as living reminder of Batman's real failure.
"He not only failed to save Jason's life, he failed to save his soul. That was the real failure; Batman couldn't turn a bad kid good." said Beatty.
The loss of another Robin, with death of Spoiler, was a tragedy but not the same kind of failure that Jason. Stephanie had already been fired, been told she wasn't good enough by Bruce, but she did it any. And died in the process. Sad, but different than Jason's death at the hands of the Joker.
Despite the tragedies with the various Robins and the push to return Batman to his more solo roots, Robin will remain a vital part of the Batman story. The panel all agreed Robin was a necessary part of the myth. He helps keep Bruce in touch with his humanity, stopping him from becoming ever more relentless and brutal in his crusade.
"Robin gives Batman hope in the face of hopelessness." said Beatty. Deep down, Batman knows he can't last forever, but taking on these wards gives him a sense the fight might continue, and it doesn't have to destroy a person.
But the interactions with Robin are never going to be easy. Batman's childhood died when the bullets struck his parents in Crime Alley, and he never really had a chance to be a child. He's life is all about control and minimizing weakness, and as a result he can't show Robin the emotions he needs to, or give Robin the approval he craves.
The Bruce Wayne side of Batman will gain more prominence in the post-"Infinite Crisis" books. While Bruce is just a mask for Batman, says DiDio, the mask needs to be seen. Batman's activities as Wayne have been increasingly minimized in recent years, but that has already started to change with "OMAC Project."
"He can do things as Bruce Wayne that he can't as Batman. Batman can't launch a satellite, but Bruce can."
DiDio revealed that after the events of "Infinite Crisis," which involve the return of the Joker, another aspect of Batman will be revealed: who he views as the rightful successor to the mantle of Batman after he is gone.
And for the first time this weekend, the panel ended without DiDio making any vague and ominous comments about Flashes future or lack of future after "Infinite Crisis."
Somewhere, Wally West is relaxing. But only a little.