Comic-Con International in San Diego was the site of DC Comic's latest "Crisis Counseling" panel. The atmosphere of the room was of anticipation and humor, as regular "Crisis Counseling" host Dan DiDio was joined by special guests Geoff Johns ("Infinite Crisis"), Greg Rucka ("OMAC Project"), editor Steve Wacker ("Rann / Thanagar") and Vice President of DC Marketing Bob Wayne. The panel offered insight into "Infinite Crisis," answered fans' questions and cracked lots of jokes.
DiDio began the panel by telling the crowd DC's intentions for the four mini-series that spun out of "Countdown to Infinite Crisis."
"What we were hoping to do when we put these books out was to find ways to define the four corners of the DC Universe," he said. The books were meant to unify the diverse DC Universe superheroic, fantasy and science fiction characters.
Rucka then asked the crowd who was reading the current "Sacrifice" storyline running through the Superman books and ending with this month's issue of "Wonder Woman."
"Those of you who are reading 'OMAC Project' and aren't reading 'Sacrifice,' you want to read 'Sacrifice," Rucka said. "This is not meant as a simple shill. If you want to know what happens between issues three and four, you need to read the 'Sacrifice' storyline to understand how things are at the beginning of issue four."
It wasn't Rucka's intention to make "Sacrifice" required reading for "OMAC Project" readers. The panel explained that "Infinite Crisis" and the various series that lead into it are constructed so readers can buy only the titles that interest them and still enjoy the larger story. If readers aren't interested or can't afford to pick up another title, they can also catch any important "Infinite Crisis" developments by reading the weekly "Crisis Counseling" updates at dccomics.com.
DiDio then recounted how the groundwork for "Infinite Crisis" began.
"This has been going on since January 2003," he said. "I sat down in a room with Greg Rucka, Judd Winnick and Geoff Johns. Separately, they talked to each other every day. They compared ideas. They crossed over themselves." Later in the panel, Rucka explained how helpful the collaborative process between writers at DC can be. He told the crowd how he had been struggling with the last four pages of an issue of "The OMAC Project." He wasn't able to get them to work, but when Rucka discussed the pages with Geoff Johns, Johns helped him see a new angle and way to approach those pages.
For the 20th anniversary of "Crisis on Infinite Earths," DC wanted to come up with a story that was equally defining. Rucka brought up another element that went into the planning of "Infinite Crisis" and the examination of DC's heroes.
"We wanted to also ask why they were heroes," he said. "If it's easy, it's not heroism."
DiDio then opened the panel to questions from the crowd. The first panel attendee asked about the "One Year Later" storyline spinning off from "Crisis." DiDio said a unifying effect hits the DC Universe in the pages of February's "Infinite Crisis" #5. Then, in the pages of "Infinite Crisis" #6, the DC Universe and all its related titles jump a year into the future. Many characters will have drastically different lives, and there won't be immediate explanations for these changes.
One fan asked the panel how far ahead DC planned the aftermath of "Infinite Crisis."
"Every creative team has a plan," Johns responded. Rucka said explicitly that the one year later storyline was "not a stunt." The panel went on to add that DC President Paul Levitz would only approve the "One Year Later" storyline if at least one to two years worth of stories could be told from it and if the editorial and artistic staff at DC had entertaining ideas for books all the way up to 2008.
All DiDio would say was: "It fits."
Easily the most commonly asked question about the lead up to "Infinite Crisis" was asked once again: Why were so many of the characters associated with the Giffen/DeMatteis run of "Justice League" seemed to be fairing so poorly in the lead-ins to "Infinite Crisis." The panel said that readers only react when someone they care about is killed. DiDio said Giffen was the first person he met when he took his position at DC and Giffen went on to explain to him how to shake things up. Rucka shared that Giffen called him once and gave him a list of characters to kill to do the same. DiDio revealed that Giffen was currently involved with some DCU-related projects, including one that ties into "Infinite Crisis."
Another crowd member wondered why DC was calling their big event "Infinite Crisis." DiDio replied that name "Crisis" was a big part of the DC Universe and that "crisis" has almost become synonymous with change in the DCU.
The panel reassured the crowd that "One Year Later" would not mean a renumbering of DCU titles. Books like "Batman," "Detective Comics" and "Actions Comics" deserve their high numbers as part of a distinguished pedigree, they said.
The panel also revealed that unlike the events of "Crisis on Infinite Earths," the events of "Infinite Crisis" will be remembered by everyone in the DCU.
One fan was troubled by the way Martian Manhunter seemed to cruelly dismiss Blue Beetle's concerns in the pages of "Countdown." The panel said that J'onn J'onzz was under huge amounts of stress. He's not perfect. The panel said that everyone who dismissed the Blue Beetle in "Countdown" would go on to regret not helping him.
DiDio told a fan that everyone at DC is a fan of John Ostrander's "Suicide Squad" book, but it would be awhile before readers saw a new Squad book. DC is currently revamping its villains and wants them to remain evil instead of sticking them in heroic situations.
The panel went quiet and couldn't provide an answer to someone who wondered if, after the events of "War Games" and "OMAC," Batman would begin to doubt himself and his judgment. Another question about the Dark Knight evoked a similar response from the panel. One crowd member asked about Batman and Nightwing's relationship and the panel told him that they couldn't answer his question without giving anything away.
The rivalry between Batman and Hal Jordan did not end when Hal Jordan punched Batman in the face, according to Johns. The Dark Knight makes an appearance in issue 10 of "Green Lantern." Johns believes Batman and the various Green Lanterns don't mix because of opposing philosophies on fear: The Lanterns are fearless where as Batman is in a way an agent of fear.
One of the final questions of the night dealt with the appearance of Detective Chimp in the "Day of Vengeance" mini-series. DiDio said the inclusion of Detective Chimp was his idea: He wanted to add a little levity to the ominous tone of "Day of Vengeance." Everyone was resistant to the inclusion of Detective Chimp in the mini-series except for "Day of Vengeance" writer Bill Willingham, who had wanted to use the character. DiDio and Willingham were having a phone conversation and after he was asked to use Detective Chimp, Willingham jokingly replied that if he could reach out through the phone and kiss DiDio, he would.
Editor's note: Another DCU shake-up after "Infinite Crisis" is that they have to stop calling their DCU panels at various cons "Crisis Counseling."