After 75 years, DC Comics' Batman has not only carved out a huge chunk of the pop culture landscape but also the programming of Comic-Con International in San Diego. For their Saturday afternoon offering, the publisher assembled some of their most current Dark Knight creative talent for the "Batman: The Eternal Dark Knight" panel.
Taking the stage to discuss the character and his world were "Batman" writer Scott Snyder, "Batman & Robin" writer Peter Tomasi and his partner Pat Gleason, "Detective Comics" writer Brian Buccellato, "Batman/Superman" writer Greg Pak, "Batwoman" wrtier Marc Andreyko and Batman Group Editor Mark Doyle.
DC MC and SVP of Marketing John Cunningham led the discussion, and as things got underway with discussion of "Batman: Zero Year" – the new origin story by Synder and Greg Capullo. Snyder said that the finale of the story is all about "the lessons Alfred has taught Bruce throughout the story" as in the last pages, Bruce teaches his mentor and father figure a lesson in turn. "There's also an element that's very personal to us...this is about a lot of things that have inspired me and Greg and gotten us through tough times," Snyder added.
The writer also recalled yesterday's panel with Batman legends Frank Miller, Denny O'Neil and Grant Morrison where he was jetlagged but pushing through to not embarrass himself. In many ways, he said, this story was about the modern fears of a city much like Snyder's own anxieties about his community growing up in New York City. "For us, it was such a joy and an honor to do that story. And I was so scared too...Greg really helped me because [at some points] I completely fell apart. It's like 'It's Batman's origin,'" Snyder said, adding that the next story in the series will be a thank you to the fans which may be the readership's favorite story the pair have done to date.
Shifting to the weekly "Batman Eternal," Snyder said the goal of the writing team was to make a book that felt like it had too much story to fit in 52 issues rather than not enough story to cover the bases. "The level of insanity revs up pretty quickly," Snyder said. Doyle related that when he took charge of the Bat Office, the series was already underway, and he was surprised to hear what the creators had planned for the book's second half. "It really is the spine of the Bat world right now, and a lot of things that are happening in October and beyond are spinning out of 'Eternal,'" the editor said.
Tomasi then spoke to the current "Robin Rises" story that spins out of "Batman And Robin," calling it the end of the epic that began with the book's New 52 launch. "It's going to be a 40-some odd-part story with a 'War And Peace' feel to it," he said. "You'll see as a story, when it comes to a conclusion there's a real clear throughline to those very fist issues...the last 'Robin Rises' in December has a one two-punch that delivers a Robin back to the DCU."
The writer also spoke to the seven-page history of Damian Wayne that launched the first issue of the event, and he said that Andy Kubert said, "My God, I haven't drawn this much action in one issue since 'X-Men!'" upon receiving the script. Meanwhile, Gleason has been geeking out over his sharing story beats with Kubert. The pair have been sharing designs and ideas as they each draw their respective parts of the crossover.
"One of the things I wanted to do with Pat in this book after what Scott did in 'Death of the Family' was building back up the blocks of the family...over a long time," Tomasi said, noting that the idea that Batman would grieve the loss of his son for many issues was an attempt to really deal with the emotional issues inherent in the story first and foremost.
The panel also showed off a new design for the "Hell Bat" suit that Batman will wear in the series – an armored version of his costume which apparently drove Doyle to spend all day listening to Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" all day when the image came into DC's offices. The creative team said a huge part of this book was taking Batman out of the streets of Gotham and into other genres like sci-fi and adventure where he works in unexpected ways...including the worlds of the New Gods.
On the other side of the Bat Office, Buccellato and Francis Manapul's "Detective Comics" is focusing on a relatively smaller story to start, but the writer said that the ideas in their first arc would expand over the course of the series. "The ramifications of the murder of Elena will play out in our next arc with Anarchy and beyond," he said. "We're going to reimagine Anarchy." The writer said his artist has often asked him not to spoil so much in the story, so all he could say about the villain is that a major event is coming up that will change the circumstances of who Anarchy is.
In "Superman/Batman," the post-"Doomed" arc will return to some crossover with the world of Earth 2 both practically and thematically. "Batman and Superman get back into our world, and they have a fresh start...the big question is 'What would happen if when beginning their careers, Batman met Lois Lane and Superman met Catwoman?'" Pak explained, adding that his favorite thing about the book is that these two iconic heroes have totally different ways of looking at the world.
In "Batwoman," Andreyko will soon introduce a team called The Unknowns which will draw on more horror-themed characters like Clayface, Ragman and The Demon as well as a new character who may be related to Kate Kane. The arc will take the characters to outer space, though the writer promised that he would also ground the story in Batwoman's own personal journey as faces from her past in the military will return to challenge her own sense of self. "It's a real honor to deal with this character because I feel like she really fills a void in superhero comics," he said, particularly noting Batwoman's desire to have a normal life outside of superheroing.
The fan questions started out in charming fashion when a young fan declared that he wanted Nightwing back rather than having the Dick Grayson solo series which has recently launched. When he asked whether DC could make Damian Wayne the new Nightwing, Doyle said, "Send me a pitch!"
A reader excited to see Ragman return asked whether the shared Judaism of Batwoman and Ragman would play a role in the series. Andreyko joked that "We're going to be doing a Passover special" before giving a more serious response that the character's background will remain intact from his pre-New 52 version and that he has long term plans for Ragman's inclusion in the book. The writer also revealed that the mystery character in the Unknowns team will be called Red Alice.
"You will 100% see the return of the Joker, and the story is all planned out in my head," Snyder said when asked about the arch villain. If the "Death of the Family" story was about Joker and the villains serving the Dark Knight, the return story will be about Joker hating Batman and taking vengeance on him.
On the other side of the villains of Batman's world, Tomasi said he has no plans to bring Nyssa al Ghul into his "Robin Rises" story.