Baltimore Comic Con '08: DC Nation Panel

The programming at the Baltimore Comic Con kicked off on Saturday morning with the DC Nation panel, hosted by DCU Executive Editor Dan DiDio. Panelists for the DC-fest included Geoff Johns, Jimmy Palmiotti, Sterling Gates, Sean McKeever, James Robinson, Ian Sattler (Sr. Story Editor), and DiDio’s ever-present foil, Bob Wayne, DC VP, Sales.

DiDio kicked off the panel, noting that the panel would be the DC Universe and DC Nation panels combined from the three-day shows (as the two are normally held on separate days), given that Baltimore is a two-day show. DiDio also thanked the audience for making it to the panel so early in the morning, as many audience members didn’t have time to walk the floor before coming to the panel.

After introducing the panelists, DiDio narrated a slideshow which covered the highlights of DC’s current lineup. Starting with a slide of Final Crisis, DiDio asked if someone in the audience could explain what’s going on it him by the end of issue #3. After getting a satisfactory response from a fan (“all hell has broken loose”), DiDio explained that the goal of the series that this point is to show the worst case scenario for heroes – “not when there’s a chance they may lose, but when they actually loose.”

DiDio then said that October sees a return to Final Crisis in a big way, with the return of Legion of 3 Worlds, Rogue’s Revenge and Final Crisis #4, as well as the two one-shots, Final Crisis: Resist and Final Crisis: Submit, which are designed to show what life on Earth is like after the heroes have been defeated by Darkseid.

Next up was a slide of Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns which, according to Johns, will serve to officially introduce the Red Lanterns as a force. “They’re powers are based on rage,” Johns said, “And they have it out for Sinestro. The day the Guardians decide to execute Sinestro…well, they want to do it themselves. It’s a lot of fun.”

Following the Red Lantern slide was a cover of the Superman: New Krypton cover, with DiDio pointing out that as October has five Wednesdays, there will be an important Superman book coming out each week, with the New Krypton special being chief among them. As Johns explained the larger story, when Kandor is expanded on Earth and 100,000 super-powered Kryptonians are released, every superhero thinks they are out of a job – as does every supervillain.

Robinson added that the ramifications of the nine part story will examine life both in Kandor (at the North Pole) as well as in Metropolis and the rest of the earth with the addition of its new residents. The Jimmy Olsen Special will also be part of the larger storyline, Robinson said, noting that its story will lay clues and subtle elements that will pay off down the line. “Jimmy Olsen was too big of a story, so we also did a Guardian Special which slots into the middle of the Jimmy Olsen story,” Robinson added.

Also weighing in on the story, Gates said that the storyline will offer a huge payoff for Supergirl, as all she’s wanted to do since she landed on Earth was to return to Krypton and be reunited with her parents, and now “Krypton” has come to Earth, and her parents are alive. The parent and daughter reunion happens in New Krypton, Gates said.

The storyline will also see the return of a new Superwoman (whose identity will remain a mystery at first), a new Flamebird and Nightwing (the heroes of Kandor), as well as the Creature Commandos in a manner that picks up on the team’s previous continuity.

Whaaa??????

As Johns explained it, at the end of the original Creature Commandos, the team, consisting of Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman analogues, among others, were shot off into space as a means of dealing with something the military no longer wanted. “Brainiac picks them up along with G.I .Robot,” Johns said.

Moving on to Justice Society, Johns said that after the “Thy Kingdom Come” story wraps up, Black Adam and Isis will take center stage, and while Felix Faust will pay for hiding Isis from Adam, the main thrust of the storyline will be Black Adam and Isis taking over the Rock of Eternity.

The forthcoming Power Girl series will pick up thematically on what Johns and artist Amanda Conner did with the character in JSA Classified’s opening arc, Power Girl writer Palmiotti said, but will be telling stories with the character from the ground up, making the title open to Power Girl fans as well as newcomers. The book will have a lighter tone, according to Palmiotti.

Power Girl and Geo-Force will appear in the coming Terra miniseries by Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Conner, which is shipping this fall as well. McKeever added that Terra also appears in Terror Titans, noting that currently in his scripts, she’s being beaten up.

Speaking of Teen Titans, the writer joked that his plan all along has been to reduce the team to one Titan, but on the serious side, explained that the recent spate of deaths and departures sets the team up for the coming recruitment drive, in a storyline (“Kings and Pawns”) which will see Bombshell return as well as Wonder Girl’s nephew – who wants to take her place as Ares’ champion - appear.

McKeever’s Terror Titans debuts this week (look for a preview on Newsarama early in the week), and features, “Lots of conniving, lots of controlling and lots of blood,” according to McKeever. “It’s a whole lot of teen superheroes beating the crap out of each other – and there’s story too.”

Asked by DiDio what was special about Terror Titans #4, McKeever said that the issue will guest-star Static, from the Milestone Universe, which will be his first official DCU appearance.

DiDio then moved on to talk about Justice League of America, which will soon see the full-on return of the Milestone characters as the Shadow Cabinet is placed against the JLA. “Icon will play an integral part in Justice League for the next couple of years,” DiDio said.

Joking about Trinity, DiDio said that one of the most amazing things about the weekly series is that artist Mark Bagley is actually faster than writer Kurt Busiek. “The story is about what the characters stand for, and how they have created iconic expectations about a superhero, and how important they are not only to the DCU, but also to the multiverse,” DiDio said. “52 showed how important they are because they weren’t there, and this shows how important they are because they are there.”

Showing a slide with a cover from the current Batgirl miniseries, DiDio remarked that at many conventions since the cancellation of her own series, fans had asked for the character’s return. Hinting that the miniseries’ sales were not very high at all, DiDio pointed that the requests for the character’s return at conventions combined with the low sales of said return are something that they have to struggle with, and makes them look with requests for a character’s return with more skepticism.

That said, DiDio said that Batgirl will play a prominent role in Batman and the Outsiders as well as in the Batman titles next year – plans for which will be announced early next year.

The “War of Light” storyline begins in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps in October, Johns said, adding that he and GLC writer Peter Tomasi have discussed the various spectra of Lanterns, as well as their associated emotion at length. Johns said that despite what readers may think, the various emotions represented won’t be demonstrated by the Lanterns in the way they may be thinking. “Pete and I talked a lot about the ‘love’ corps [the Blue Lanterns],” Johns said. “We asked ourselves if that would that be lame, and realized that love can be scary as well.”

Before opening to questions…DiDio spoke about the “Faces of Evil” theme that will run through January’s titles, as previously reported on by Newsarama. While the villains of the DC Universe will be given a chance to shine with spotlight stories in the mainstream hero titles shipping that month, four associated Specials shipping in January were also announced:

Solomon Grundy co-written by Geoff Johns and Scot Kolins, with art by Kolins, which will, according to Sattler, lead into more Grundy in the future, with Johns hinting that Grundy will play a role in the coming Blackest Night storyline.

“Everybody’s a Black Lantern,” DiDio teased Johns.

“That’s why I want Sean to kill more characters,” Johns answered, “So I can bring them all back as Black Lanterns.”

Prometheus written by Gates. “It’s really, really fun and really, really violent,” Gates said. “Almost as violent as a Sean McKeever book.”

Robinson added that Prometheus will next appear in his new Justice League series

Kobra - which will establish a new status quo for the DC Universe’s leading global terrorist organization.

Deathstroke - set after the events of DC Universe: Last Will and Testament.

All characters in the respective specials will play large roles in the stories of 2009, DiDio said.

DiDio then opened the panel to questions – the highlights of the questions included:

Q: Will Rocket be included in the return of the Milestone characters?

A: DiDio said he felt that Rocket was the star of Icon, and yes, she will be back with Icon, but for now, DC is looking to play up the characters with the most name recognition. DiDio also noted that fans of the characters have nothing to fear about their interpretation, as Dwayne McDuffie, co-creator of the Milestone line, will be handling the characters in Justice League of America and is working closely with McKeever with Static.

“Hopefully there will be enough interest and we’ll see a couple of Milestone books on shelves by end of next year,” DiDio said.

Q: With Black Adam coming back in JSA, will readers see more of Atom Smasher?

A: From Johns, “Yes.”

Q: What’s the upcoming six-issue Jonah Hex storyline about?

A: Palmiotti: We will be bringing back some characters from the ‘70s series as well as bringing in the cast members from the new series into one big story involving…everybody.

Q: From a fan whose favorite comic shop was closing today due to online sales, what is DC doing to make sure people keep going into brick and mortar stores, rather than find their comics from online retailers?

A: Wayne noted that DC has done a number of things to encourage people to make the weekly trip to their stores, from publishing weekly comic series to participating in Free Comic Book Day, which is designed to get new and existing customers into their shops. That said, Wayne added that it’s the consumer who ultimately decides where they will buy their comics, and DC cannot encourage or promote one kind of shopping over another.

DiDio stressed Wayne’s point about weekly comics, as well as pointed to the coming Superman storylines which will see a tight interconnectedness between Superman, Action and Supergirl, which, he feels, will pull readers in week after week thanks to the momentum of the story, and readers not wanting to wait for a monthly shipment to find out what happens next.

Palmiotti added that, for him, he loves the social aspect of the comic shop, and revealed that he met DiDio for the first time in a comic shop.

Q: Will there be more Suicide Squad?

A: DiDio said that the recent miniseries didn’t do as well as DC had hoped it would, and the characters are appearing in Manhunter now, and throughout the DC Universe in the coming year.

Q: Who’s the sixth member of the Secret Six?

A: A new character, created by Gail Simone, according to DiDio.

Q: Are there future plans for Batwoman after Final Crisis: Revelations as well as Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters?

A: There are absolutely plans for Batwoman, according to DiDio, and that she will play an integral part in what takes place after the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline that follows “Batman: R.I.P.,” and will appear in the new Justice League series. As for Uncle Sam, if the demand is there, they will do more.

Q: When will we see Aquaman?

A: Johns: “He’s a Black Lantern.”

DiDio added that he’s writing an eight page Aquaman story in the coming DC Holiday Special with art by Ian Churchill.

Q: Will DC publish trades of the original Milestone material?

A: DiDio: “Yes.”

Q: Are Ralph Dibney and Ted Kord ever coming back – and not as Black Lanterns?

A: Johns: “They’re Black Lanterns.”

DiDio: “Sorry.”

Q: To Johns – what else can you say about the different Spectrum of Lanterns?

A: “Agent Orange” kicks off after Rage of the Red Lanterns and is Johns’ favorite of the bunch. “His oath is very, very interesting,” Johns said of the leader of the Lanterns based on avarice and greed.

The Blue Lanterns are about Hope, Johns said, but “they define Hope in a very different way, and what they do affects the other Lanterns.”

Q: What will come out of “Batman R.I.P.?”

A: DiDio said that the point of the story is to take everything away from Bruce Wayne, and see if, once he has nothing, he would still become Batman. In the tie-ins, the storyline is looking at what the DCU is like without Batman, and what his absence does to his support system and the lives of those who know and love him.

“The final ‘Batman R.I.P.’ issue ties in to Final Crisis, and Final Crisis leads us in to ‘The Battle for the Cowl,’” DiDio said

Q: What’s going on with Hawkman? The latest special felt as if Jim Starlin didn’t even read what Johns had done with the character.

“Yeah!” Johns said, to emphasize the question.

A: DiDio said that they wanted to raise some questions about Hawkman’s origin, and many of those issues will be addressed in JLA and Blackest Night.

Q: When is Black Lightning: Year One being released?

A: It will double ship from January through March.

Q: Who’s in the lightning rod the Legion has?

A: Johns: “We will see that in Legion of 3 Worlds #3.”

Q: Where will we see Dr. Fate?

A: DiDio pointed out that Dr. Fate is currently in Reign in Hell, and will be making supporting appearances throughout 2009, but DC felt that, with writer Steve Gerber’s death (who recently revamped the character), it didn’t feel right to launch a new series.

Q: What story is Johns telling with the Legion on Smallville?

A: “If you know the origin, you know the story that’s coming,” Johns said. “But there is a villain from the Legion’s time that I can’t believe they let me put in there.”

Q: When will we see Hawkwoman again?

A: Johns: “Black Lantern, sorry”

Q: What about the Black Canary/Zatanna book that was to have art by Amanda Conner?

A: The previously announced Black Canary/Zatanna book is on hold, according to DiDio, but as previously announced, a new, ongoing Zatanna series, written by Paul Dini will launch in mid 2009.

Q: What is Paul Dini’s future with Batman?

A: DiDio said that DC is hoping to have Dini writing two monthly books throughout 2009: Zatanna and “one of the Batman books.”

Q: Where will Conner Hawke appear after he exits Green Arrow/Black Canary?

A: DiDio: “No comment.”

Q: Will we see a new project with Harley Quinn and Holly (from Countdown)?

A: “Definitely next year,” DiDio said.

Q: When will we see the new interpretation of Jonny Quest?

A: DiDio said that they had started on it with Howard Porter on art, and Porter got an issue and half to two issues in, and then moved to Trials of Shazam Porter then suffered a tendon injury and had to take some time off. “He’s just bouncing back, and is on Titans now, and looking to bring stability to the book,” DiDio said. “We have some ideas and plans for Jonny Quest that we’re holding on to for next year.”

Q: Will Creature Commandos just be a blip of a return?

A: Johns said that since DiDio suggested it, he assumes they will stick around.

Q: How will Barry Allen react to the modern heroes when he returns?

A: Johns: “Part of the fun of exploring Barry Allen is seeing Barry get along with all of the other DC heroes – in a modern setting, he did get along with Bruce Wayne, and Hal, and didn’t with Green Arrow.” Johns said that both Rebirth and Flash will be very science based, but will also blend in the quasi-science of the Speed Force; and will allow readers to learn a lot about Barry Allen before the lightning hit – what did he do, and why did he wear a bow time?”

Q: How important will Freddy be in Final Crisis?

A: DiDio said that Mary Marvel plays a larger role in Final Crisis than Freddy does.

“Grant told me about the most kickass Tawky Tawney scene ever.”

Q: What’s in Scott Kolins future?

A: DiDio: “More Solomon Grundy.”

Q: What’s the future of the All-Star line?

A: DiDio said that while Morrison and Frank Quitely did have more stories they wanted to tell, scheduling has caused them to pull All-Star Superman to a close with #12, and the series is now “on hold.” All Star Batman & Robin has at least six more issues to come, and All Star Wonder Woman is now back on track, with Adam Hughes working on it.

Q: What’s next for Dough Mahnke?

A: Johns: “I’m going to steal him very soon, he’s one of my favorite pencilers out there.”

Q: Will there be a comic based on DCU vs. Mortal Kombat

A: There will be a custom comic included with the game.

Q: What will be the impact of events in Trinity?

A: DiDio said that characters introduced will be playing through DCU after Trinity, and end will prove to be very important for the Multiverse. The larger storyline will then be referenced 8-10 months after it concludes in an unnamed manner.

Q: How does Black Hand play into Blackest Night?

A: Johns said that the villain is the main Black Lantern of the story.

Q: What will the weekly be after Trinity?

A: DiDio, whose answer was preceded by loud coughing from Wayne, said that there is a weekly after Trinity which will not run a full year, and also a weekly which has the potential to be open-ended.

Q: When will JMS’ Brave and the Bold run with the Archie characters kick off?

A: February or March, with the first character to appear being The Shield, followed by the Black Hood and The Fly.

Q: Is there any Legion of Super-Heroes news about the future of the team?

A: Johns: “The future of the Legion of Super-Heroes is in Legion of 3 Worlds - and it will have a lot of stuff in it that will affect the modern day DCU.”

Q: Will there be another science-fiction based miniseries coming, and are they leading to an event?

A: DiDio said that the next miniseries will be called Strange Adventures, but the storylines are not building to an event, rather DC prefers to let the stories drive the miniseries and the characters be the stars.

Q: Will there be more projects coming from Greg Rucka?

A: DiDio said that Rucka has a new series in works that is as of yet unannounced, and he is also working with Geoff on a lot of stuff in the coming year.

Q: Will there be more from Rucka with the Question after FC: Revelation?

A: DiDio: “Yes – where? Can’t say.”

Q: What about Martian Manhunter?

A: Johns: “Oh yeah – Martian Manhunter’s a Black Lantern.”

Q: Will Bart Allen be a Black Lantern?

A: Johns: “No.”

Q: Is Glorith in Legion of 3 Worlds?

A: Johns: “She’s mentioned. You might now be happy about it.”

Q: Will we see S.T.R.I.P.E. again soon?

A: Johns: “No plans right now - I love him, but I’ve got way too many people on the team as it is.”

Q: Will the Legion appear in more than the one episode of Smallville?

A: It’s a one episode thing, Johns said, adding that the appearance will have ramifications throughout the season.

Q: Will Captain Atom see redemption after Countdown?

A: Robinson said that he will be featured in coming Superman books, “So, yes.”

Q: Sean, can you give a mission statement for the Teen Titans, since they seem not to like one another, and are constantly fighting?

A: McKeever: “They are struggling with each other, and that’s part of what we’re building toward. I see them as shining beacon for the rest of their generation to say, ‘We’re the heroes and we are stepping up, and you can do it too.’”

Twitter activity