At its Saturday morning WonderCon panel, members of DC Comics' publishing and creative teams revealed that "The Best Is Yet to Come." Panel participants maintained their vows of silence about certain secret developments that will occur post-"Identity Crisis," but the unplanned revelation that Grant Morrison will be writing a substantial run of a Batman comic managed to slip from the mouth of senior VP/executive edtior Dan Didio.
Moderated by vice president of sales Bob Wayne, the panel included DiDio, Mark Waid, Paul Dini, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Stuart Moore, Howard Chaykin and editor Steve Wacker. The event was kicked off by the presentation of the trailer for "Superman Returns."
The remaining issues of "Infinite Crisis" and the first issues of "52," the year-long mega-series of weekly issues, were the leading topics of conversation, the creators' levels of enthusiasm matched only by the almost complete lack of concrete details about what will transpire in the books. Waid, Morrison, Rucka and Johns are co-writing the book, with breakdowns by Keith Giffen.
"52" tells the tale of the missing year in the DC Universe after the books jump forward in time at "Infinite Crisis." DiDio said, "It's probably one of the most ambitious books that has ever been done in comics. Grant probably said it best: 'This is the 1000-page retelling of the history of the DC Universe.' This is the world that DC comics will be building from, from here on out."
Rucka elborated slightly. "Nothing is wasted in this book. Every background detail: what people are drinking, where they're going, what music they're listening to -- builds the DCU. You see how people respond to politics..."
"And you see a lot of superheroes fighting," Johns chimed in.
Rucka continued, "You're going to see some very old ideas done in a new way that I think is going to thrill a lot of you."
J.G. Jones will contribute cover art for all 52 issues. The books will also include two-page origin stories of 40 major characters.
Best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer and Ed Bennis team up to present "Justice League of America" #0 in July, followed by a new #1 in August.
Details of the new JLA lineup are sketchy. DiDio said, "One of the stories of '52' is 'What is the world like without Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the JLA?'" The new series explores what type of League can exist in that new world.
"Checkmate" returns as an on-going series in April, written by Rucka and illustrated by Jesus Saiz.
Rucka said he sees "Checkmate" as "a really good 'Mission Impossible' movie and a little bit like Tom Clancy, except well-written, and a little bit like James Bond, except realistic."
"We're starting to map some of the political problems of the real world onto the DC Universe," continued Rucka. "Say, for example, that there's a 'superhero gap.' The U.S. pretty much leads the world in superheroes. If you are China, maybe you want some of your own."
The book was pitched as "If Superman gets out of line, Checkmate's there to being him back in. If the Joker gets a hold of a nuke, Checkmate will take care of it."
Bill Willingham will continue the occult adventures of Ragman, Inspector Chimp and other team members of "Shadowpact" in a new monthly series he will both write and illustrate. Gail Simone, meanwhile, extends the story from "Villains United" into the "Secret Six" miniseries, slated for April.
The Spectre finally finds a new host body in his "Crisis Aftermath" three-issue miniseries, written by Will Pfeiffer. A new Blue Beetle arrives on the scene in an ongoing series co-written by Keith Giffen and John Rogers, with art by Cully Hamner.
A number of long-time favorite books will be a part of the "One Year Later" project. DiDio said, "The last thing we want to do was come out of 'Infinite Crisis' and feel as if every story was still in the same place. What 'One Year Later' allows us to do is give everybody -- writers, artists and editors -- a lot of freedom to build books with exciting new directions. My goal for this is that each book can now stand on its own and still build from what happened in 'Crisis.'"
A case in point is "Hawkgirl," written by Walter Simonson, with art by Chaykin. Chaykin says he is enjoying finding a new take on the character, drawing special inspiration from Joe Kubert's classic interpretation of her.
He said, "We're playing Hawkgirl as a woman who has serious commitment and romantic issues. In the course of the stories we'll be doing, she'll be dating most of the DC Universe."
Chaykin also revealed that he and Simonson are making the setting, St. Roch, more of a character in the book and taking the series in a more horror-based direction.
"There's a supernatural element to the material," he said. "It'll be sly, funny and sexy. And there'll be a great deal of airborne violence."
Other series getting the "One Year Later" treatment are "The Outsiders," "Aquaman," "Firestorm" and "Supergirl." And "Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes," written by Mark Waid, jumps a full 1,001 years into the future.
After James Robinson completes an eight-issue run on "Detective Comics," Paul Dini will take over the scripting chores.
Dini said, "What was really intriguing was doing self-contained Batman stories that are tight little detective stories. That sounded very fun for me to read and very hard for me to write. That's why I wanted to take the assignment. It's a real challenge, but it's a lot of fun." Rags Morales will provide the art, and Dini says he plans to stay with the book for a year or so.
By far the biggest bombshell of the panel was the suddenly open admission that Grant Morrison will be writing Batman in the near future.
Morrison said, "I've plotted 15 issues. I'm having a great time. The Batman coming off of '52' is a very different guy. He's a lot more fun to write, a lot more healthy. If you remember the Neal Adams, hairy-chest, love-god Batman, he's more like that guy. You will be seeing Talia in the first issue, and the story is called 'Batman and Son.'"
In the nearer term, Morrison is attempting to wrap up the "Seven Soldiers of Victory" saga in Issue #1. Morrison said he has about 100 pages of notes that need to be squeezed down to a 32-page script. "The juice will taste beautiful," he assured everyone.