One of the more highly anticipated panels at this past weekend's Pittsburgh Comicon was, to no one's surprise, the DCU One Year Later Panel scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The panel was initially planned to consist of writer Mark Waid, "Firestorm" artist Jamal Igle, "Green Arrow" artist Scott McDaniel and comics legend and "Hawkgirl" artist Howard Chaykin. Unfortunately, Waid was unable to attend the convention and McDaniel was busy sketching at the con, raising money for a sunday school style program at his church, leaving Jamal Igle and Howard Chaykin to pick up the slack, which they did very well.
The panel began with Igle introducing himself to a round of applause and providing a brief background on the character of Firestorm, currently bound to a 19-year-old college student named Jason Rusch. Regular readers have seen Jason begin to learn about his powers and about being a hero. With the jump to One Year Later, readers now get to see Jason with a year's worth of experience under his belt, and rather than being the new kid on the block that the JLA needs to keep tabs on, he's now a respected member of the superhero community. So respected, in fact, he'll be dropping by to see Superman in July's "Action Comics," rather than the other way around. Igle also noted that, over the course of the next few months, Jason will be tangling with some hefty villains, both new and from John Ostrander's original Firestorm run.
At this point, Howard Chaykin arrived and also received a round of applause. After introducing himself to the crowd and to Igle, the two artists sat down and started rolling through the rest of the panel. To begin with, both Igle and Chaykin confirmed that One Year Later is, in fact, still the regular DC universe, not some kind of "Heroes Reborn" nightmare. As Chaykin explained, "the chips have fallen," and now the writers and artists have to pick up the pieces and move on. Since Igle had explained "Firestorm" and Jason's newfound confidence and experience, Chaykin provided an update on the status of "Hawkgirl."
Initially, he explained that the goal of Walt Simonson and himself was to indeed revamp the book, and, in his own words, "get rid of the shit" that had become the precious run of the series. Rather than handcuffing themselves to history, Chaykin explained that, to him, Kendra Saunders is just an "attractive 23 year old woman who likes pink and black, spends a little too much on clothes than she should and doesn't sleep very well."
From that base, "Hawkgirl" begins and will continue.
Something Chaykin had wanted to do, though, was have Kendra date every man in the DC Universe, every male hero, all the while trying to learn about herself. After dating all these men from her job, she'd learn something pertinent, that maybe the problem, why she can't stay with someone, lies within herself and not someone else. However, while this idea didn't completely stick, Chaykin explained that there would be some discussion of Kendra's love life within the series. That said, also expect Hawkman to crop up in the series sometime soon, though what version of Hawkman it is may still be open to debate, as Chaykin offhandedly remarked that he enjoyed the Thanagarian police officer (i.e. Katar Hol) version of the character more than the Egyptian prince (i.e. Carter Hall) version.
Moving off of the actual character backgrounds, both artists discussed the costumes of their respective characters, and how each artist keeps a reference file of fashions and assorted photos to give them a starting base for the characters they draw. Also of note, both artists attest to having a complete design of the costumes their characters wear in their heads as they approach the work. For Igle, who admitted he was in charge of bringing back Firestorm's puffy sleeves, each piece of the costume can be removed or added as needed. The gloves are separate from the sleeves, the tunic separate from the shirt and so on. For Chaykin, he's familiar with how Kendra dons her wings and he explained that the helmet he draws for her is fully functional and designed after a biker helmet. For both men, such attention to detail (something they both admit to being sticklers for) allows them a better grasp of their characters and how they move within their costumes, rather than simply being sculpted bodies with a splash of color.
For two men that had never before met, the similarities between how Chaykin and Igle work seemed odd and yet inspiring. To add to the complexities of how they related, both artists were asked if they would consider working on an "All-Star" book for DC, and both immediately answered yes, because it would be nice to be free of the continuity restraints and just have some fun. Igle continued by stating that he would love a chance to do All-Star Flash, because, if he could, "it would totally be Barry Allen: CSI." Both were also asked if there was one book above any other that they just can't wait to read every month, and, oddly enough, both immediately answered "100 Bullets," by Brian Azarello and Eduardo Risso.
To close out the panel, following some tentative announcements by Chaykin about future projects he swore the audience to secrecy about and a lengthy discussion of why Batman doesn't have a gold shield around the Bat-logo anymore (Chaykin: "Because it sucks! It sucks!"), the artists were asked if the DC universe would slow down some after "Infinite Crisis" and "52" wrapped up. Both men explained that, yes, the DC universe would probably mellow out some in terms of huge crossovers and events. For DC, they explained, doing all this, whether done yearly in one company or every decade in another, is a way of "taking things back to formula" and getting everyone back to a place where the best work can be created.