On Saturday afternoon, Comic-Con International in San Diego offered fans a chance to get a sneak peek at artwork and upcoming DC Comics storylines, as well as hearing from three acclaimed artists about their own creative process.
"DC Entertainment has had hundreds of characters," said Larry Ganem, Vice President, Talent Relations at DC Entertainment, "but the three cornerstone characters are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman."
The panel included John Romita Jr., who recently joined DC to work with Geoff Johns on "Superman" after decades at Marvel, David Finch, who along with his wife, writer Meredith Finch, will take over "Wonder Woman" this November, and Patrick Gleason, who has been working on "Batman and Robin" with writer Peter J. Tomasi since before the New 52 began.
Though the artists could not say much about storylines (at the risk of revealing spoilers), they shared some artwork from upcoming issues, and discussed freely the advantages and drawbacks of taking over the artistic responsibilities for such iconic characters.
Interestingly enough, all three artists have had the chance to draw Batman at one time or another, and agreed that in some ways the character offered the most versatility from among DC's trinity. The opportunity to interpret the character was greater, since Batman has had so many different looks through the years.
"I just think Batman is a character that can be cartoony or hyper-detailed, there so many different representations," said Finch.
"Part of the fun of drawing Batman is, he's this character that can really fit in to any situation," Gleason said. "It's that versatility of character from a technical standpoint that keeps it so interesting for me. I've done thirty-plus issues of this book and I'm not getting bored at all."
When asked what it has been like to draw Superman, Romita said, "the first couple pages I was tentative and nervous," but the veteran artist soon fell into a comfortable groove. Romita explained that there were a number of interesting considerations when drawing the character, and finding ways to make Superman and Clark Kent look the same -- and yet simultaneously different -- was something he had to put a lot of thought into. "To still make him look like who he is is a challenge," said Romita. "I mean, he's got to look like himself."
At the same time, Superman's look hasn't changed all that much over the years. According to Romita, this leaves less room for artistic interpretation. The introduction of a mysterious new character named Ulysses has helped Romita find more creative license on the title, however. Unfortunately, Romita could not reveal much about Ulysses beyond what's been seen in the series. "He's similar to Superman in a lot of ways. He's not malicious in any way, but I'm not allowed to say any more," he teased.
David Finch's art for "Wonder Woman" #36 wowed the audience, the most spectacular of which featured a throw down with Swamp Thing.
On drawing Wonder Woman, Finch said something clicked for him as he began the process. "The minute I started drawing it -- it just felt right," said Finch. "I'd had a chance to draw her a couple of times, in other books here and there. I've drawn male-dominated books for a long time, [this] is a real change, but I really enjoy it. I like fantasy elements in a book, and 'Wonder Woman' has that."
Despite it feeling right, Finch confessed that sometimes getting the proportions or Wonder Woman's face just right can be difficult. "Women's faces are especially difficult for me, so anytime I draw a woman I spend seventy-five percent of my time on the face," Finch said.
The audience also received an advanced look at some new threads for Batman -- the Hellbat suit.
"This is the Hellbat suit, and I don't want to spoil anything, but basically it's a highly weaponized version of Batman armor, which the Justice League has possession of. Here [referring to the panel] he's just gaining access to -- he might be needing it -- later on," Gleason said, leading the audience on. "It's not just a cool looking piece of armor either. There are just going to be some really cool surprises coming up. I can't really say anything about it, but it's definitely going to be a functional suit."
In addition to discussing their own creative process, each artist in turn paid tribute to the inkers and colorists on their respective series. "It's such a team effort anyway, it doesn't just stop with the inker," Gleason said. "We work together as a team. It really just boils down to trust -- to trust them to fulfill the vision that you have."