NYCC SE 2014: DC COMICS – Batman 75th Anniversary Panel

Batman 75th Anniversary Logo
Credit: DC Comics

Official Description: For the last 75 years, Batman’s crusade against the corrupt and evil has permeated across the DC Universe and beyond! Join some of the comics’ biggest talents who are behind the Dark Knight adventures for an exclusive look at what’s in store for the World’s Greatest Detective! There has never been a better time to walk the streets of Gotham City!

Scheduled Speakers: Francis Manapul, Gail Simone, Greg Pak, James Tynion IV, John Cunningham

Consumate DC Panel Moderator John Cunningham introduced the panelists for the panel celbrating Batman's 75th Anniversary Sunday afternoon at the first Special Edition NYC convention, one focused exclusively on comics, as opposed to their other convention, New York Comic Con which now features games, movies, and TV shows in the mix. The packed room cheered loudly as Gail Simone, James Tynion IF, and Greg Pak were introduced. Cunningham also reminded fans that July 23, 2014 is Batman 75 Day, including Detective Comics #27 Special Edition, which features the original first Batman story, the reimagining by Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch that appeared earlier this year, plus a "Post-Modern reimagining" by Chip Kidd.

The San Diego Comic-Con booth is also "very specially themed for Batman 75," as well. "If you thought what we had out for Superman last year was cool, just wait," Cunningham teased. The DC Comics Essentials line will be Batman-focused this year with famous first issues being reoffered for $1 throughout the year. Cunningham also spotlighted some of the best Batman trades they have in print, like Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, and Hush.

What Batman story is your favorite and/or turned you on to Batman?

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Pak: "Batman: Year One. Not just my favorite Batman story, but one of my favorites of all time," said the writer of Batman/Superman.

Tynion: "Batman: The Animated Series. It's the perfect distillation of what makes the character great, and all the villains, everything, it reinvented everything. That's what got me hooked on Batman for life," he said to copious applause.

Simone: "For me it started seeing the Batman 60s show syndicated when I was really young. I grew up in an isolated farm, and we happened to get that show. When I saw that, it was such a contrast from my life. All these bright colors, the humor, the great female characters. I was so taken with it, I made my brother be the damsel in distress, and my friends had to be Robin and the villains, and I always wanted to be Batman. I would intricately choreograph these fight scenes and these plots. The Riddler would come in and steal the cow, because I was on the farm." She was five years old at the time. "Who knew I'd be doing the exact same thing years later," but as a job, Simone said. "Thank you, Batman!"

Cunningham then asked which of the live-action generations of films, with Batman, Batman & Robin, and Batman Begins as his examples, capture their version of the character the most.

Pak: "Visually, I think the Nolan films nailed it. I love those soundtracks, too, I listen to them all the time when I'm writing Batman/Superman. I do have a lot of love for the '89 Batman though, because everyone doubted Michael Keaton and he did a great job."

Tynion: "For me it's the Nolan films that are the closest to the Batman in my heart, but the one that is entrenched is Batman Returns. It showed how creepy and dark Gotham City was, that's what I look to when I want to recapture what it was to be a kid and experience what it was to see Batman for the first time."

Credit: DC Comics

Simone: "Yeah, the Nolan films I've seen change peoples' lives. I loved the straight-up horror elements of them. I think Batman as a vision of horror and the villains being so horrific - I look at those as horror movies.

Greg Pak reprimanded Cunningham for not having the Adam West Batman full-length feature (complete with Bat-Shark Repellent) up on screen to much applause.

The next slide featured Gotham, the next live-action iteration of Batman. Cunningham said, "it's fantastic, a different iteration than you've seen before. Much more gritty and street-wise. The characters are so rich." Cunningham also said that the actors playing Penguin and Alfred are outstanding and real stand-outs for the new TV show airing on Fox this fall. The show is being filmed in New York on location.

"But at the end of the day, we are here to talk about comics!" Cunningham continued.

Starting with Batman/Superman #11, which crosses over with the Superman titles in "Doomed," Pak talked about the series.

"We've been exploring the relationship between two characters who have the same mission but come at it from completely different angles," Pak said. "We're starting to see how that rivalry turns into a friendship that wil last forever. Superman is Doomed in his new story - Doomsday is inside of him, he's been infected." The infection makes Superman possibly more dangerous than ever, he teased. Batman goes into the phantom zone with Wonder Woman and Krypto in #11, a "hugely Batman-centric story." Batman "will play a continuing role in the rest of the storyline."

Credit: DC Comics

Issue #12 is called "Final Hours," and returns to Earth 2 for one issue. "Batman and Superman have unfinished business on Earth 2. Terrible things happen to Earth 2 - Batman and Superman were destroyed by Darkseid's army, and our versions are going back in time and space to try to save them, and stop the disaster." Tom Raney illustrates the issue. Alfred gets a moment in the issue, and Pak says, "He might be my favorite character ever!"

Issue #13 starts a new storyarc (that has been pushed back for these other issues) where Superman and Catwoman team-up and Batman and Lois Lane team-up.

Francis Manapul then joined the panel late, currently co-writing and pencilling Detective Comics.

Next up on the slideshow was Batman Eternal #10. Tynion said "the impetus of the book is that we have the best toy box in comics and we want to make a whole new Gotham City. That's why we did that glimpse in Batman #28 that shows what happens in the future." The writer, part of the collective handling the weekly series, dropped Carmine Falcone, Stephanie Brown, and Julia Pennyworth - a character who first appeared in pre-crisis Batman comics, who is Alfred's daughter from when he was a soldier. She's Afghani and raised in Britain, and "resented her father for years for abandoning his life and leaving London to be a Butler," Tynion teased. "There's a lot of really exciting stuff coming up in this series, so many different elements and characters we're playing with."

Next is Detective Comics, with #32's cover shown (on sale now). Manapul and Brian Buccellato are reteamed on this series after a long run on The Flash that kicked off the New 52. "I have found this a lot easier," Manapul said. Before, they had to reintroduce The Flash, and now they can "just write. They've already laid down the groundwork for what Gotham is; they set up the story and now we can just write within it."

Manapul and Buccellato are really focusing on the detective elements of Batman's career, as well as "really focusing on Harvey Bullock." That happened naturally for the duo. "The title became to mean more than just Batman's Detective Comics. It's Batman and Harvey. We'll see this rivalry happen throughout the entire run. I don't plan to let go of Harvey, he'll play just as important a role as Batman for the rest of our run."

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The pair of creators are listed as "Storytellers" on the series. They co-write the book, Manapul draws it, and Buccellato colors it, though Manapul is adding some painted elements to Detective that they didn't get to try with The Flash. "I feel like we're working on a creator-owned book, because we do so much on it together, and that's our approach to the series."

Batgirl, written by Gail Simone, Cunningham says, "has been really vicious stuff!" for the last few (and next few) issues. "This is something I've been working towards for three years now," Simone said of the new storyline. She loved bringing Ragdoll into the New 52, who she wrote on Secret Six before the reboot. In the story right now, the new villain Knightfall has decided she wants all crime to end in Gotham, and she is cutting off limbs and stopping criminals permanently. "But Batgirl will soon learn she has some allies she didn't know she had. #32, 33, and 34 is an arc called Deadline, and everything comes to a head in that arc."

Fan Q&A Closed out the panel.

The first question asked if there were any storylines the creators have read that they would've loved to be a part of but hadn't been.

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Manapul and Simone both instantly answered that they love when they see a scene that they just love - they wouldn't want to be a part of it, because they want to enjoy things when they can. Manapul specifically talked about this early scene featuring Alfred, Bruce, and Damian (when he was in the background, grabbing a bat out of the air). So when he sees "amazing storytellers, I don't want to be a part of that, I want to be in the audience!" Tynion agreed.

What does it feel like to see fans bring characters to life by cosplaying at shows like this?

Simone called out four girls who cosplayed the Birds of Prey and Power Girl yesterday here, and said they take more than just the character looks, they actually play the characters. A Misfit and a Black Alice were here, too, two characters Simone created for DC, and she said "it's just absolutely amazing. It's the best." Tynion agreed, "It's the best feeling in the world," seeing how invested fans are.

Why in the modern age do you feel Batman might be a more relevant character than Superman?

Manapul: "I think it's because he's a detective. Mystery, suspense, those stories last a really long time. Sherlock Holmes is just as relevant now as he was when he was introduced. Batman is an interesting conduit to answer a question that we present to the readers. He's visibly a very different kind of detective. I think Superman is relevant today, but ultimately his story is the battle of good over evil. That's how he was created, but right now there are a lot more greys, and Batman lives in that grey."

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Simone added that the psychological element of Batman, Gotham, and all of the supporting cast makes it easy to tell "any kind of story" with those characters.

Tynion said that "Superman is an ideal you aspire to, while Batman is all of us. We all have moments in our lives where something terrible happens to us and we want to shape ourselves so that nothing like that happens again. Batman is that writ large, and while we haven't experienced that on his scale, he makes us even root for the obsessive qualities, the negative qualities. Superman is one of the greatest characters ever created, he needs to be there."

Manapul said, "Ultimately, you don't have to like superheroes to like Batman."

No comment on future stories with Joker or Carrie Kelley.

Asked about Ben Affleck cast as Batman, Tynion says it's ridiculous to hold something against an actor because of a couple bad movies. "I think the best choices are the unexpected ones."

What Batman artist in the last 75 years is the definitive artist - or your top three?

Simone: Capullo, Neal Adams

Tynion: Mazuchelli, um Bruce Timm, obviously

Manapul: Mazuchelli, Frank Miller, and Jim Lee - three very stylistically different artists that helped keep Batman relevant, bringing in new readers that are less art-savvy.

Why is it easier to create new villains for Batman than for other heroes?

Simone: "It's what I said earlier, because they're born of a psychological origin."

Manapul: "Yeah, I think a lot of the Batman villains are a reaction to Gotham City - they couldn't have been created in Metropolis."

Tynion: "I think that cultural fears change in time, and there are new ways to address those, and that makes new characters."

Will we ever see another yellow ring on Batman's finger? Cunningham said, "I'd be hard-pressed to imagine that would be back."

What's your personal favorite Batman comic you've worked on?

Tynion: "Batman #0, the story with the Robins and the raising of the bat-signal for the first time, where they see it and are touched by it before they intersect with Batman. That was my first time writing the bat-family, and the art by Andy Clarke was spectacular."

Simone: "Batgirl Annual #2 with Poison Ivy, because I really did not want to write that character, but as we sat down and figured it out, I ultimately enjoyed that one."

Manapul: "I'm going to be very self-serving and sell my next issue. When Batman and Harvey meet for the first time, Harvey spits out his toothpick right in Batman's face, and Batman breaks his nose. Then Harvey starts smoking again the next issue."

Final Question: Favorite supporting character outside of Alfred, that touch Bruce as a character?

Manpul: "I think Damian is the answer, because it was the personification of love and everything he is scared of all in the same package. That's scary."

Tynion: "I would say probably Jim Gordon. The interplay between the characters and whether or not Jim knows - or cares to ever find out. That dynamic is so much of what Gotham City is."

Simone: "I think historically, I would probably say Dick Grayson."

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