DC Comics' convention marathon came through Los Angeles today and closed the evening with the DC Nation panel featuring Dan DiDio, Jimmy Palmiotti, Bill Willingham and DC's Director of Sales Bob Wayne. Although DC had no booth presence at this year's WizardWorld Los Angeles, Wayne and DiDio assured the crowd of their love for the City of Angels, and treated fans to a surprisingly jolly and free-flowing event that unlike some panels just flew by in no time at all.
DiDio opened the panel with an explanation of DC's official policy concerning complaints. "Everything you like comes from me. Everything you hate comes from Bob. That's the official position."
DiDio then took the pulse of the crowd, asking a number of questions relating to controversial editorial decisions regarding fan-favorite characters.
"Anybody still upset about Batgirl going bad? Any Ronnie Raymond fans?" After hands were raised, DiDio remarked, "Good, now we know not to call on those people."
DiDio later asked, "Anyone still upset about Blue Beetle dying?" To which virtually everybody in the audience raised their hand.
"Oh, come on, guys!" pleaded DiDio. "Get over it! It's been years now! We're talking years! Do you read the new 'Blue Beetle' at least?"
"No!" shouted one fan in the back.
Jokes aside, DiDio and the panel were very interested in gauging the Los Angeles crowd's reaction to "52," the series which DiDio characterizes as a much bigger success than was ever predicted. After the crowd literally applauded "52's" weekly format, DiDio explained how the series' changed from its original plan very early on.
"The original plan for '52' was to do the missing year using a couple of characters as travel guides through the DCU, to see every other character and how they got to the One Year Later point. But as [Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka and Grant Morrison] wrote it, they became so involved in the characters; in John Henry Irons and Ren Montoya and Booster Gold… the stories became about them right away. The whole concept was flipped upside down. Going from the second issue on, I really wasn't sure what was going to be in the next issue! As the writers would tell you, the characters start writing themselves and the stories start developing on their own."
The panel was then opened up for questions from fans, the first of which having to do with the controversial lateness of "All-Star Batman & Robin." A particularly indignant reader characterized the "All-Star" situation as symptomatic of an influx of "hot shot prima donnas," and that shipping the book late was indeed disrespectful to fans. Despite the plainly false sense of entitlement inherent in the fan's particular question, DiDio agreed that as a publisher, DC must constantly work to earn the respect and loyalty of their readers, and went on to explain that Jim Lee made personal appearances at other conventions to apologize for the condition of the beleaguered title, and that future issues are already completed.
Jimmy Palmiotti's "Jonah Hex" series received much love from the LA crowd. Palmiotti revealed that while some DC Western characters such as Bat Lash will be making appearances in "Jonah Hex," fans shouldn't expect the title to turn into a "guest star book" of Western comics icons. "Justin (Gray) and I want it to always be about Jonah, and not the guest stars coming in," said Palmiotti.
Most of the DC Nation questions quite naturally pertained to "52" and "Countdown."
"'Countdown' to what?" asked a fan.
"Our old joke was 'to "Civil War" #7' but that's over," DiDio laughed.
Bob Wayne then remarked, "So now we're saying it's to 'All-Star Batman & Robin.'"
Wayne also revealed that following the conclusion of "52," artist J.G. Jones' series covers will be collected, a an announcement that drew considerable applause from fans.
Fans were elated to learn that many of "52's" featured characters would be going on to new series and mini-series after the title concludes, including a new "Infinity, Inc." series featuring a team led by John Henry Irons and written by "X-Statix" hero Peter Milligan. "52's" team of Chinese superheroes the Great Ten will also return in their own title, as will Booster Gold.
"I'm not saying [Booster] survives '52,' cautioned DiDio over the crowd's cheers. "But what if it were written by Geoff Johns, co-written by a new writer named Jeff Katz, and drawn by [Booster Gold creator] Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund?" The crowd cheered once more.
With news of Mark Waid and Bary Kitson's departure from "Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes" already out, DiDio revealed that writer Tony Bedard would be handling the series for several issues before the new as yet unknown creative team took over. On a related note, DiDio mentioned that the mysteries surrounding Supergirl and her adventures in the future will be explained in DC's upcoming "World War III" storyline.
DC fans were happy to learn that "Justice League of America" writer Brad Meltzer would remain on the title until issue #12, and that "Justice Society of America's" Geoff Johns and Alex Ross would remain with the book indefinitely. Readers of those books will have of course noticed that their storylines appear to be heading towards to inevitable yet wholly disparate futures. In the case of "JLoA," the world of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" seems to be looming in the distance, while "Kingdom Come" heavily informs Johns' acclaimed "JSoA" series.
"Yeah," DiDio smirked. "Something's going on."
Along similar lines, one fan asked, "What's with the Bleed in 'Ion?" referring to the appearance of the Bleed phenomenon appearing in a DCU book, where it has before existed only in WildStorm titles like "The Authority" and "Planetary."
"Read 'Countdown,'" DiDio answered simply.
"Thanks for saving 'Manhunter'" exclaimed one fan, prompting DiDio to explain the history of the cult book.
"We cancelled that book – twice. But Bob Wayne came to me and said it was doing alright in trade paperback sales and that we should keep it going. We have a very intense, loyal fanbase for that book, and you know what? It's okay to do."
As DC Nation panels tend to do, Friday's degenerated briefly into a back and forth screaming match between panelists and fans over the near genocide of characters from Keith Giffen's "Justice League International," such as Blue Beetle, Ralph & Sue Dibney and even G'nort. One fan proclaimed hilariously, "I don't think you've killed enough of the Justice League International!"
"Who's even left?" DiDio laughed.
"Batman!" the fan answered.
DiDio did not laugh.