For the third time in three days at WonderCon, DC Comics presented "Infinite Crisis" and "52" creators Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns (with more than a little help form DC head honcho Dan Didio and editor Steve Wacker) on Sunday in order to prepare fans for what's coming in the DC Universe in 2006.
The panel got off to a start when writer Johns showed the audience pages from "Infinite Crisis" #5, including one image of a skyline with multiple Earths in the background, and another of Jim Lee's full cover to the issue. Added to the previously seen Batman, Blue Beetle, and Booster Gold, there were two Wonder Women, one wearing her traditional costume and another with what looked like a Greek warrior's helmet.
Didio began by asserting that "Infinite Crisis" closes the door on the DCU's past and that everything is new from there on out. There's a new tone, a new direction and a new style. Didio said, "Once Crisis is over, the DC Universe is standing naked in front of you." Morrison quickly added, "Remember though, it's almost 80 years old; you may not want to look."
Repeating an answer mentioned in earlier panels, Didio said that DC will be steering away from inter-company crossovers for a while. "We have the DC Universe to discover," he said. "We want the entire Universe to be exciting, as opposed to building event on top of event on top of event. We've spent a lot of time building this universe; we don't want to cross over again." After this brief introduction, the panel turned to its audience for questions. It took a few minutes to get things rolling, with Didio playing ringmaster, calling on random audience members and demanding that panel members ask questions of those who had just asked questions themselves.
The first question (and one that came up at least a few times over the weekend), was "What's happening with the Flash?" Answer: We'll see the Flash in Crisis. (Though which of the many Flashes was not clarified). The new "Flash" series starts in the fall.
Next was a question about the new "Spectre". The questioner wondered whether it was always intended for Gotham City Detective Crispus Allen to become the Ghostly Guardian, and if having a character named Jim Corrigan (the Spectre's previous host) in "Gotham Central" was a red herring. Didio answered there was a logic behind Jim Corrigan being the Spectre; "It was what makes the Spectre work. What made (it) work was that Corrigan was a police detective. Hal Jordan being the Spectre didn't make sense; it doesn't make any sense to make one hero into another." That was one reason the panelists found ridiculous the rumors that Booster Gold would possibly become the new Blue Beetle. For more on the Spectre, check out CBR's interview with series artist Cliff Chiang.
Rucka said that he'd been asked to put a Jim Corrigan character into "Gotham Central." When he asked if Corrigan would be the new Spectre, he was told no, which he took as invitation to run with the character. Rucka added that issue #37 of "Gotham Central" was his favorite, because it sets up Crispus's relationship with God. "You may not like it," said Rucka, "but God exists in the DC Universe."
The subject of the Almighty arose later when the panel was asked, "Why is God such an oblivious dick" in the DCU? The answer came back that that was the whole point of the "Day of Vengeance" miniseries; to clarify God's role. Rucka: "He exists, but he's not an active character." Johns: "He's not a guy with a big stick who's going to come down from Heaven and fight alongside the Justice League." Waid: "That would be cool, though." Asked why God was killing people throughout "Day of Vengeance," Grant Morrison replied, "Are you asking us to do 'The Trial of God?'" Rucka shot back: "You just gave away the 2008 event!" Morrison tried to close discussion with his statement that, "The reason God seems that way in the DCU is that the characterization is accurate." Johns had the last word, though, by noting that the opening scene in "Infinite Crisis" #5 deals "…specifically with God and Christianity in a way we've never seen before."
Are there plans for Nemesis in the new "Checkmate" series? "He'll be there."
One fan asked about the differences between covers and plot descriptions of issues when they are solicited and when they finally appear. Wacker said that the creators have been working on "Infinite Crisis" for a long time and "…we think we know what the beats are and what's happening in the story" at the time, but that the plot and its events can change so much that the solicitations may well be outdated by the time a book is ready to be published. Didio added that "the story starts to evolve and plans fall through the cracks." Waid gave a concrete example of the recent death of Dream Girl in "Legion of Super-Heroes." "Her death was featured on the cover until we realized that it was too good to give away." Wacker concurred, saying how he and Waid had "Legion" planned through issue #12, but "…came up with so much great stuff that we had to go to a 13th issue," regardless of what had been solicited as a 12-issue arc. Wacker further mentioned that because of the pressures to keep the events of "Crisis" and "52" timely and up to date, deadlines are pushed back to the last possible minute to absorb changes in the rest of the line.
Complaints were also heard. One audience member despaired about some of the current interpretations of Batman, saying that, "A paranoid Batman takes away from his battle against crime." Rucka sarcastically answered: "Really?" Johns reassured the reader: "Keep reading 'Crisis' and what follows and I think you'll be happy."
Another fan called Green Lantern Hal Jordan "a cocky ass." Rucka: "He's a test pilot; have you ever met a modest test pilot?"
Asked "When will DC be friendly to such 'classic' heroes like the Wonder Twins and Apache Chief?," Johns reluctantly revealed that the new caretakers of Titans Tower in "One Year Later" will be none other than Wendy and Marvin.
"Are there specific plans for the Joker?" Johns: "That's covered." Rucka: "Don't worry; that's so covered." Johns (again): "In 'One Year Later,' at some point, he'll be fighting Batman."
What about Ray (The Atom) Palmer? Is he a smear? Morrison: "Aztek is a smear; Ray's a speck."
Once crisis is over, how will Superman's role be defined? Johns: "He's the Big Guy; the major superhero in the DCU."
Johns also mentioned he just did an issue of "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.," but there are no plans for a spin-off or ongoing series
One of the characters most frequently asked about throughout the weekend (other than Ambush Bug) was Booster Gold. Didio, reinforcing earlier statements that Booster would be a major player in "52," said, "You're gonna see Booster every week. Though we won't say in which book"
Will there be cohesiveness in the news DCU? Didio: "Absolutely; they don't have to share the same world, but they will share the same story." Morrison: "We're trying to create a functioning virtual reality." Didio talked about one of the problems that had faced the DC Universe was its absorption of characters from other companies such as Quality, Fawcett, and Charlton. "Those universes had different realities; Captain Marvel and Superman didn't share the same sensibilities or the same reality." One of the goals of "52" is to "strip those universes down to their basics and rebuild them to create a cohesiveness" so that those disparate universes inhabited by Captain Marvel and Superman feel the same and can relate to one another. That said, the Wildstorm Universe won't become part of the DC Universe. Didio: "The sensibilities are too different; though that doesn't mean there won't be crossovers."
What were they really amazed at and what were they most disappointed by during the whole process of creating "Infinite Crisis?
Johns: "'Countdown.' It worked out really well and it was only a buck."
Wacker: "The Power Girl arc in 'JSA Classified,' with Amanda Conner's terrific art."
Waid: "Nothing; I was a spectator."
Rucka: "I'm really proud of how 'Countdown' came out. And 'Wonder Woman' #219 was the story I wanted it to be."
Morrison: "Watching everything come into focus; how easy it is to write the stories once the universe starts writing itself. And the end of 'Infinite Crisis' #2.'"
Didio: "The reaction from the fans. At the first panel I went to after taking my job in 2002, there were ten people - literally, ten people - and none were under 50. The first question was whether 'I'd be able to buy all the 'All-Star Archives' before I die.' I knew we had to revitalize the DCU and the fans' enthusiasm shows that. That's the fun part; I get energy from the fans."
Johns: "There are always things; no specifics."
Wacker: "What was frustrating was that I wished some of the story beats in 'Villains United' that had come from other books had been more cohesive…" and better integrated.
Rucka: "The art in 'Wonder Woman' #219. Not that it was bad; it was that we had so many production problems that we had to switch artists."
Didio: "I'm disappointed that so many books didn't come out on time. We know we have momentum and we want to keep it going. We want to earn your faith."
Wacker picked up on that point: "We want to make Wednesdays important again. Even the editors are anxious to get their piles of comics now." Johns continued: "Every fan regrets those Wednesdays when there's nothing to buy. We want it so that people don't have enough money to buy everything they want."
That comment prompted advice from Didio: "Stop buying the stuff you don't like!" Rucka concurred: "That's the biggest problem with fans. They say, 'This is awful!,' and then 'ka-ching' (at the cash register). Stop buying books just to keep a complete collection. Only buy what you're liking."
What is your favorite character you used in "52," and what character do you regret couldn't you use?
Didio: "There's no one who doesn't get used."
Johns: "We all went in with favorite characters,"
Morrison (enthusiastically): "The Metal Men."
On the subject of DC's perennial rivalry with Marvel, a fan asked, "In the backs of your heads, do you try to emulate Marvel?" All the creators leaped on this one. Waid: "I've been at DC for twenty years and the worst mistakes we made were to imitate Image or Marvel. You have to be true to yourselves." Rucka: "We're just trying to tell the best possible stories." Morrison: "I don't think Marvel knows what Marvel is any more." Johns (gleefully): "I want to be the underdog and kick their ass this year."
Referring specifically to post-"Identity Crisis" continuity, a female fan wondered about the effect that the OMAC robots have made on the trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman's focus on ethics and morality. Was that planned? Rucka assured her that that was the intention "…from the start." Didio: "That's what the story's about. To look at how those viewpoints vary." Rucka: "These are people who are a family and love each other dearly, and they had to be legitimately angry with one another and have a reason to say, 'I can't deal with you right now;' it's character; it's not a plot."
An aspiring writer asked Didio if DC has plans for a pitchfest, to allow non-pros to gain exposure. Didio assured him there are none: "We have better ethics [than movie studios that have pitchfests]. I don't encourage pitches; we have so much going on that I don't need to get twenty calls telling me 'you stole this,' 'you stole that.' The best way to see someone's work is to see someone's work. I want DC to be the last stop for writers and artists. I want to have my choice of the cream of the crop."
Are there any future plans for Captain Marvel? Is a "Shazam" series in the works?
Wacker: "There are lots of plans. Black Adam is a major character in '52;' the Marvel Family is in 'Infinite Crisis,' and there's talk of a 'Shazam' series." [Not to mention Jeff Smith's upcoming miniseries featuring the Marvels.] Didio cryptically added, "We do have plans for Captain Marvel and some of them will be rather . . . different."
A hope that "we get a coherent Batman, so that the Batman I read in one series is the same as in all the series" sparked this revelation from Didio: "We're trying to conform him. We've hired (an unnamed) writer to build bibles for all of our characters" to make sure they're consistent throughout the universe.
One fan of the Man of Tomorrow, would "like to see a Superman who doesn't lose 50 IQ points when he's in the same room as Batman." Waid (possibly the world's greatest Superman fan) responded, "If you can punch your way through a mountain, you don't need brains." Rucka sympathized, "Some writers can't write smart people in a room with smarter people. It's not so much an attempt to minimize Superman as it is to build up Batman."
A fan complained about elements of "Identity Crisis" and "Infinite Crisis" being too dark. Didio responded, "Not for me." The fan asked for clarification, "What do you mean by a new direction? Is it darker?" Didio replied, "Not at all. What people call 'dark,' I call 'drama.' In a perfect world, there's no need for heroes. What we want to do is increase the levels of personal drama to make the stories more compelling." Johns referred to Morrison's comment on turning up the contrast of the DCU really high ("To make the darks really dark and the lights really light"), saying that that "said it best."
When one fan asked about the possibility of Ultra the Multi-Alien appearing in "52," Didio mocked the character, recapping his origin, and defying anyone to do anything with the character. Rucka piped up, "Give Grant three minutes." Waid, following Didio's character recap, called this, "The greatest day of my life; the day my geek badge got taken away from me; I feel so free."
Asked how he felt about keeping Golden Age characters relevant and active, Didio said, "I'm against it. These characters are tied to a particular event: World War II. If you assume they started in their 20s, they'd now be at least in their 80s. As much as they want to, 80 year olds should not be running around fighting crime." After a spirited exchange between the panel members themselves and the audience, it was pretty much determined that Alan (Green Lantern) Scott (who will be appearing in the "Checkmate" series), Jay (Flash) Garrick, and Ted (Wildcat) Grant would still be active members of the DCU, because of the special circumstances surrounding their lack of aging.
Finally, asked if Krypto the Superdog would appear post-Crisis, Morrison revealed that Krypto will indeed appear in "All Star Superman" #6, which is the Superboy issue of the title. The story will center around the day that Superboy became Superman, and will feature a fight between Superboy, Krypto, and numerous Supermen from the future.