DC Comics Executive Editor Dan Didio kicked off the first DC panel at this year's New York Comic Con with the following disclaimer: "I apologize if I reveal anything true." Didio went on to introduce DC Coordinating Editor Jan Jones, "evil sales genius" Bob Wayne, Senior Editor Mike Marts, writer Keith Giffen and "'Countdown' maven" Paul Dini. "Countdown," DC's next major event (which picks up where "52" leaves off) was the main focus of the panel.
Didio did warn the crowd that there was very little those assembled were allowed to say about "Countdown." "We're barely allowed to be here at all," Wayne said.
After they realized that they were able to maintain a weekly comics schedule, DC decided to keep that trend going with "Countdown." And as successful as "52" was, Didio said, "some things we hope to do better."
When asked by Didio how he wound up overseeing "Countdown," Paul Dini responded: "You threw me to the ground and said, 'You're doing this.'" Dini said that one of the things he's always enjoyed about collecting comics since he was a kid is the "weekly event," getting his comics fix week in and week out, and this is the mentality he's bringing to DC's latest weekly event. On top of his time-consuming involvement with "Countdown," Dini will continue his run on "Detective Comics."
The final issue of "52" will be released on May 2nd and "Countdown" picks up one week later, counting down from 51 to issue 0 (which will each retail for $2.99). But counting down to what? "To the last issue of 'Civil War,'" Giffen joked.
Though "52" was released on-schedule fifty-two weeks in a row, Didio was the first to admit that DC has delivered their share of late books in the past year. He assured readers, "We're working very hard to get our books back on time."
One such title notorious for its shipping delays is Allan Heinberg's "Wonder Woman." In light of the delays, and looming projects like "Amazons Attack" and "Countdown," Didio made the difficult decision to modify issue 5. He did say they're working hard to get that book back on track, and that he'd signed off on issues 5 and 6 prior to leaving for the con that very day.
Paul Moore at DC is one of the people who is attempting to ensure that DC books come out when they're supposed to come out. Wayne joked that it was Moore who discovered they'd been operating on "misprinted calendars with only nine months."
On either side of the panelists, there were five concealed posters. Revealed over the course of the evening, these posters hinted at the direction of "Countdown." One promise Didio made was that while "52" focused on decidedly third-string DC characters, "Countdown" is going to focus on characters "who are only one or two steps removed" from DC's major heroes, and the first poster, "Jimmy Olson Must Die!" was a testament to that.
The second poster to be revealed read "Seduction of the Innocent," and refers to a storyline in which Mary Marvel finds a new direction in the form of some mysterious new mentors.
Poster three read "The Search for Ray Palmer." According to Didio, the tag line for this part of the story is "The smallest man is the biggest piece of the puzzle."
Poster four read "Villains Defiant," and pictured two arms shackled together. "It's two characters who shouldn't be together who are bound together for the length of 'Countdown," Dini said.
The fifth and final poster read "Unto man shall come a great disaster" and pictured none other than Darkseid himself.
"There will be a lot of interaction between DC books and 'Countdown,'" Marts said. But when one fan asked if that meant there would be a multitude of so-called tie-in issues, Didio quipped, "No, you're confusing us with the other guy." Marts, who recently left Marvel for DC, said "I'm just glad I don't have to answer questions about Magneto and Xorn anymore."
Didio went into some detail about the assembly-line process of creating "Countdown." The stories of each individual issue are worked out by Marts and Dini, who hands them off to the individual writers. After Dini does a dialogue polish on the writers' finished scripts, Giffen does the breakdowns and sends them off to the artist. Even though it requires many different writers and artists to keep up a weekly schedule, Didio insisted that this core group allows them to maintain a "unified vision."
Several fans expressed dismay at the absence of fan-favorites like Batman and Superman from "52," and confessed that they were not terribly fond of the third-string heroes who populated that series. "That's our job, to make you a fan," Didio responded. Didio also said that that fans could expect to see three or four spin-offs from "52" in the months following that series' completion.
When one fan asked if the myriad of discontinuities between "52" and "One Year Later" indicated that the two were happening in separate universes, Didio offered up, "I wish that was the case."
Another bit of news that should come as a great relief to many fans is that "DC" has once again overturned the cancellation of Marc Andreyko's series "Manhunter." "It's one of my favorite series," Didio admitted. "We want this book to find its audience and we're gonna keep on putting it out there."
In response to a fan's query, Jones provided a few words of advice for aspiring comics creators. First and foremost, she encouraged aspiring writers to go out and write. DC can't look at unsolicited proposals, but there are plenty of opportunities for self-publishing independent comics. "If it's been published we can read it," Jones said.
When asked how DC responded to a call for a more diverse cast of characters, Giffen joked, "The white folks hate it." But in all seriousness, Didio said DC was committed to the diversity of their line. "We want to broaden it as much as possible."
Other tidbits include: We will see more of Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters in the coming year. It will also be an important year for Captain Carrot. "The Flash" is not as directionless as it seems. Kyle Rayner will not disappear. Firestorm will find a home in other books now that his solo title has been cancelled. Of Lobo, Giffen said, "I passed him off to Grant Morrison and hoped he didn't come back to me." Didio announced that Sean McKeever would be writing more for DC, but was not ready to reveal what those projects might be. Didio was also proud to announce that Mike Norton had signed an exclusive with DC.
Didio, who calls the Q&A portion of the DC Nation panels "Quid Pro Quo" (because anytime someone asks a question, he reserves the right to ask a question of them), asked a hapless fan whether he thought fast-running zombies or vampires with machine guns were more dangerous, a debate which he insists he's engaged in at the DC offices. "And you wonder what we do all day."