In an attempt to get everyone in fandom up to speed on the upcoming changes in the DC Universe, Dan Didio, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Steve Wacker (editor of "52") took audience questions at WonderCon Friday evening.
Didio got things rolling by asking the panel, "How do we feel about Pantha's head?," referring to the character's death in the recent "Infinite Crisis" #4. The panelists reacted enthusiastically. Johns told the crowd, "Batman's going to be teamed up with Pantha's head" and Morrison announced to one and all, "It's in my lap."
Then, in order to make sure that no one is finding the current continuity confusing, Didio helpfully asked, "Is everybody clear about the order in which events occur?" Johns, Waid, and Morrison (three of the architects of the post-post-Crisis DCU) replied in turn: "Yes, yes, and yes."
Didio assured the crowd that things would become more clear, "Once we come back with that Multiverse," in a tone that trod the line between seriousness and jokiness well enough to make one wonder if the Multiverse is indeed returning. More than that he would not say.
Matters then turned slightly more serious as Didio explained what the purposes of the reconception and deeper exploration of the DCU were: "How do we rebuild that world? What is the tone of the world? What is religion like in that world? What are politics like?" This is what "52" and "One Year Later" are about and will deal in. The desire is that "…after OYL is over, we're all dealing with the same place."
Following this mission statement, Didio turned the floor over to audience questions, which ranged from one fan asking Morrison how he came up with the idea for the subway pirates in "The Manhattan Guardian" ("I wanted to do a pirate story and all the good ones have been done. I'd been watching 'Gangs of New York' and thought if those kinds of people got hold of a subway train, how much damage they could cause. Wouldn't it be great if a train pulled up with a skull and crossbones?") to whether the new DCU would have a place for the Metal Men. All the panelists were delighted to say yes. Didio: "Absolutely." Morrison: "Yes. Will Magnus turns up in 'Infinite Crisis'" and Rucka amplified that by saying Doc Magnus "keeps coming back" throughout the series.
Asked if part of the new universe will include a series set on Earth 2, Waid played dumb by asking "What is Earth 2?" Wacker played it cagier by saying "There are no plans for an Earth 2 series," while not clarifying if there would even be an Earth 2 to place a series on. Didio went on to say that "…Earth 2 is an important part of the DCU. That's why we went back to it. 'Infinite Crisis' is a celebration of that kind of story. And Earth 2's history and future will be a key part of 'Infinite Crisis' #5. What happens when counterparts meet? And when Superman meets Superman?"
Asked whether "Infinite Crisis" was intended to fix a fragmented universe and continuity - something that was broken or needed fixing, Didio replied, "Was fixing necessary? No. Everything goes in cycles. Maybe everything had gone too dark, and the bottom line in the DCU is that everyone likes each other, and it was a nice chance for us to get back to that. Not a bright, sunny, Silver Age-like place, but a sense of friendship and camaraderie. These guys are the policemen and the firemen of the DCU. We needed to reinforce that." Morrison added later that it's less about making everything bright and cheerful than it is about "…turning up the contrast; the heroes will be really light and the bad guys really dark."
Didio himself had a question for Wacker: "What's the message of 52?," a question that set off a discussion among the creators themselves.
Wacker began by saying that "…stories in the DCU are like a pendulum. There are periods when you get away from that core with stories about Superman dying or turning red and blue, and then it goes the other way and comes back to the core. Crisis is about getting back to the core. 'One Year Later' is getting everyone back to that core. We all - readers, characters, creators- come in in the same place."
Rucka took the pendulum metaphor and expanded it by saying that just as physics deal with the universe growing smaller and bigger, this is all about getting the DCU back to that core.
Johns personalized the core discussion by using Green Lantern an example. "What's the core concept? What's great about it? It all comes back to Hal Jordan." When Johns revived Jordan as Green Lantern, the decision was made to acknowledge all the character's previous history. "Keep everything that's happened, but get that core back." Wacker added, "If the problem is 'I've read 10 years of bad Hal Jordan stories,' the solution isn't to get rid of Hal, it's to tell good stories."
Wacker gave the crowd an idea of what to expect once "52" hits the stands. All four writers are writing every issue, an unprecedented collaboration. "52 is aimed at getting the best artists in the business on the book. There will be a Secret Origins feature written by Waid as backups in each issue. The backups begin with a 10-part origin of the DC Universe, then will give the origins of the top 40 DC characters. Waid added that the series is one huge story. "We're following the stories of half a dozen characters, like a night-time drama," said Waid. "There will be continuing plotlines. We may not see a character for one or two issues, but their storylines will go on, developing over the course of the year."
Morrison gave the selling point that "…When you think about it, it's a 1000 page story of the DCU." Rucka later added, "Each hero has to go within himself and determine why he puts on the costume; why and what he's doing - that's the core of IC. You can't be a hero without legitimate danger; a sense of self-sacrifice. You gotta put a serious threat on Superman; you gotta take the gloves off."
"One Year Later," on the other hand, will be the foundation of the entire DCU; it's a series that shows how the characters are all living and acting in the same place. One of the few OYL plotlines that the creators would talk about involved the Green Lantern Corps. The Corps members that Hal Jordan "killed" while possessed by Parallax are being held by the Superman Cyborg. Hal finds out and tries to rescue them, but the victims are none too pleased at seeing him. Asked what will happen to the Big Three (who were jokingly identified as Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Black Adam), all Rucka would say is "Can't say." The creators did reveal that the first page of "Infinite Crisis" #7 deals with and answers the questions raised about the conflicts between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
Discussing the philosophy of "Infinite Crisis," "52" and "One Year Later," Morrison offered his belief that the DCU is out there somewhere, as "…a virtual reality and it must be treated at such. It existed before us and will exist after us. You're forced to treat the characters in certain ways. If Superman does something, it has to be in character. And we all know what that character is." Rucka compared the series to the Google Earth software that allows a view of the Earth that goes from a fuzzy focus to clearly showing details. "There's not enough paper to show everything, but it's there." Morrison finds this especially exciting. It's an opportunity to show readers new parts of the Universe. "Have we showed you that? We've been hired to stare into these telescopes."
Waid asked the crowd to "…mention characters you want to see in (52), and we'll put them in the hopper." Suggestions ranged from Jarro the Mer-Boy (Supergirl's flame from the '60s, and the questioner's "first crush") and the Galactic Golem to Ambush Bug (who will make an appearance; in fact, the writers said that they keep having to tell plotter Keith Giffen "not yet") and Christine Chase (currently being seen in "Manhunter").
Morrison was asked just where his "Seven Soldiers" miniseries fits into post-Crisis continuity. He replied that, "As far as I'm concerned, 'Seven Soldiers' takes place in the week before the Crisis."
As far as the logistics of getting all DC's creators (not just Rucka, Morrison, Waid, and Johns) involved in the creation of the new universe, Didio said that, "We're asking for input. Grant came up with one idea that changed the whole focus of '52.' Everyone's invested. It's a big organic thing with input from everywhere. It's being planned far enough in advance (through at least 2008) that it's not being sprung on the creators." They're not being given just one month's warning that there's a big event coming next months and they have to shoehorn their own plotlines into it. They're being told, "This is where we're going; how can you work what you want to do into this?" But oddly enough, one of the things that sparked the idea for revamping the universe was that Didio was suddenly being pitched similar ideas by a number of creators. "All these guys were coming up with the same story."
Asked about Booster Gold's role in "Infinite Crisis," Wacker said that the character "…will have an 'extensive' impact on the story." "More than you'd expect," added Rucka Didio joked that Booster would have the same impact that the Blue Beetle had on "Identity Crisis."
The question about the role of Magic in the new DCU arose. The questioner complained that it wasn't settled in the "Day of Vengeance" miniseries, nor was the present state of intergalactic relations in the Rann-Thanagar War mini. While there is a "big magic scene" coming in "Infinite Crisis" #6, its current state will be settled in the upcoming "Shadowpact" series (apparently it's in some kind of unformed and unusable state right now). The creators noted the intention is to remove magic as an all-purpose plot device; to make it rarer. The intention of both the "Rann-Thanagar War" and the "Day of Vengeance" series was more about the introduction of those lanes and possibilities, and the reintroduction of such characters like Adam Strange and Detective Chimp, neither of whom were especially familiar to current readers.
Another goal of the new DCU was mandated by publisher Paul Levitz - introducing more diversity into the DCU. One of the strengths of the old DCU was adding depth and detail to characters, but those characters were overwhelmingly white and male. But in developing those more diverse characters, Rucka added that care was being taken to develop traits and personalities that were intrinsic to those characters. "It's not just a matter of saying 'we need a black character,' so, Boom - he's black." One idea that all the members of the panel were taken with were Chinese and Japanese supergroups devised by Morrison. "When you guys see them, you're going to search the Internet for Grant Morrison's email address to thank him" Waid added, "It's all Morrison." And when the crowd reacted as though he were trying to shift the blame, he assured them that the praise was sincere and that the idea "blew us all away."
In answer to numerous questions, there are no crossovers planned with rival publishers. "We're crossing over with the DC Universe," said Didio, implying that there will be more than enough exploration at home to keep creators busy. "We want to make sure your faith in us is justified." Morrison added "The DC Universe keeps going back to its own history for new stories; DC doesn't create new universes or ultimate versions." Rucka: "The natural state of the DC Universe is harmony; the natural state of the Marvel Universe is conflict and disorder."
Rucka summed up the panel's enthusiasm for the new universe by saying: "Right now, I wouldn't be working anywhere else. In 5, 10, 15 years, looking at the 2004-2008 window, people will say those were damn good funnybooks."