SDCC 2014: DC COMICS Champions of Justice: Finch, Johns, Many More
Wonder Woman #36 by David Finch
CREDIT: DC Comics
DC Comics brought a selection of creators from across the New 52 to kick off their Friday programming at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014.
John Cunningham moderated the packed dais, with Geoff Johns, Meredith Finch, David Finch, Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Charles Soule, and Nicola Scott as panelists.
Cunningham said this is his favorite titled panel of the convention, and introduced each of the panelists.
First up was Justice League, and Cunningham said it's a "Spoil away panel."
Johns said, "Well David Finch and I just finished the series called Forever Evil, that really starred Lex Luthor. The core of FE was 'what can we do to force Lex Luthor to behave like what he thinks is a good guy?' That rolled him into Justice League where he's trying to join the team. The story now is that Luthor has figured out that Batman is Bruce Wayne, and he's trying to hold that over him to team up. The reverse of that is Bruce Wayne trying to get inside Lexcorp. So the book will focus on the cat-and-mouse relationship there, as they each start to discover what's coming to Earth.
"The next issue brings back Element Woman, and the Doom Patrol. There's actually a bigger bastard in the DC Universe than Luthor, and his name is The Chief. We'll find out about the shared history that Lex Luthor and Niles Calder have."
The Doom Patrol is a "superhero support team," Johns said, and will face off against Jessica Cruz, the new Power Ring, "who is holding the secrets of what devatated Earth-3 and is coming to this world. That's something that Luthor, Batman, and the Doom Patrol all want to find out."
Superman by Johns and John Romita, Jr. was next. "John Romita, Jr. is amazing. It's really a privilege and an honor to work with John," Geoff Johns said. "He really wanted to work on Superman. What we did, was we sat down and read every Superman comic from the New 52 and plotted the course of who Clark Kent is - the human side has been really removed from the equation, with leaving the Daily Planet, dating Wonder Woman. So we wanted to bring that all back in a big way. Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White play a big role in our story. Jimmy is going through a big change in a few issues that's bigger than, dare I say, Turtle Boy. We are also bringing in our new character Ulysses to help show how Superman is the Man of Tomorrow and redefine that.
"Clark Kent is defined by everyone around him and what people mean to him."
Wonder Woman #36 will see Meredith and David Finch take over the character. "To put more pressure on you," Cunningham said, "Azzarello and Chiang's run has been really brilliant, one of the best redefining stories in the New 52."
Meredith said, "It's a great foundation. I really didn't have to figure out who Wonder Woman was - they established that so well. We're trying to focus on Wonder Woman and the other people in her life - Brian did a great job of showing how she interacts with her God family. So we want to focus on The Justice League, and the others in her life. We can't let the Amazons go neglected. They're a key piece of what we're doing in our first arc, and we have a cool villain, and old character people are familiar with imagined in a different way.
"I think when people find out who this character is, we'll have shock and awe!"
Asked to narrate some pencil pages without spoiling anything, Meredith said, "Something's happening on Earth, and the Justice League are talking about it, and it has a profound impact on Wonder Woman."
Wonder Woman vs. Swamp Thing was shown as a big two-page splash.
Next was Superman / Wonder Woman #10 by Charles Soule.
The "Doomed" storyline is meant to see "when a major change happens in a relationship, can a couple survive it? Should they survive past it, evolve past it? Of course, it's a superhero comic so we tackle that in a big way, with Superman possessed by Doomsday and Wonder Woman fighting a Brainiac-infested Lois Lane.
"Some people see Lois as the perfect foil and companion for Superman/Clark Kent, and some people are really liking Wonder Woman there. I don't think who their dating defines either character. But this fight and doing this you can really illuminate both characters. Those moments matter to me.
"There's a lot of great stuff coming up in the book. The DOOMED storyline continues through August and gets bigger and bigger with many worlds at stake. The Futures End issues in September, I was lucky to write Wonder Woman FE and Superman/WW FE, which is a one-two punch story telling what their relationship does in five years."
The Flash with Venditti and Jensen writing now was next. They wanted to focus on life after the events of Forever Evil. The future Barry Allen is also traveling through time trying to repair the speed force and fix things he got wrong the first time. "Wally West is a tremendous character, we've had a lot of fun writing. it's really added a lot to the book," Venditti said. His death is one of the things Future-Barry wants to fix/prevent. Jensen added, "It combines big superheroics with a heavy scifi element and a lot of smaller character moments, the crime/CSI component, it's a lot to work in, but it's all really good stuff."
Next up, was Green Lantern, which just had the "Uprising" crossover end, between GL and GLC. "It was really about Hal Jordan figuring out who and how he can be as a leader," Venditti said.
Green Lantern Corps and its big Fatality reveal "was something we had in the works for a year," said Jensen. We'll avoid spoilers for those not caught up. "It was hard to write, in a way. It was such a tough ringer to run John through, because he's been through so much already, and the whole arc has been him going through everything that's affected him. It's a lot of big action combined with interesting spectacle and the character moments. The next issue is John's hunt for the real Fatality, and I'm really glad to write something that doesn't have 700 characters in it for an issue."
Red Lanterns is building to the big Atrocitus vs. Guy Gardner fight. "The work that Geoff did to set up this Lanterns universe for Rob and Van and Cullen and I was just so wonderful, and I've never gotten to thank him publicly for it, so thank you!" Soule said. After Gardner had apparently beaten Atrocitus to death, his cat Dex-Starr saved him by creating an artificial red-light construct heart inside him. "So now Atrocitus has been building towards his big revenge, and is executing his plan." Guy goes to see John Stewart to have a conversation with him at a bar, and meanwhile Atrocitus is "screwing everything up." Atrocitus, "makes himself priestly robes, he thinks of himself as a religious leader." It's all leading to an Annual where everything comes to a head, "the battle really begins."
Next up stuck with Soule and Swamp Thing. "One of the things I've tried to explore is that he's really new at his job. He's only been Swamp Thing for probably a few months of comic book time." But despite all that, "he's a god of all plants! Just because he has that power doesn't mean he knows how to use it." There are people trying to manipulate him, and Soule is enjoying doing some "mythology building" on the series. "A lot of strange things happen in Swamp Thing. It's either really creepy or really cute or sometimes both like Homunculous Thing (baby Swamp Thing)."
To go with the avatars of Animal Kingdom and Plant Kingdom and others, the next arc will see the rise of the Machine Kingdom with their own "Thing" Avatar - and a possible extinction-level event.
Nicola Scott talked a bit about Earth 2, which she recently revealed she'd be leaving soon. "It's been really freeing getting to play in our own universe. I had someone tell me that reading it is like watching Game of Thrones because they never know who's going to die. Tom Taylor and I have been mates for a really long time, and it's been thrilling working with him. He pitched creating the new Superman, Val-Zod, before he even took over the book. And we'll finally see how Val-Zod takes on the role of being the champion, and how it goes down with the Evil Superman. We've been really leading into the weekly, and changing the goalposts a bit. What's coming out in a couple of weeks is exactly what he wanted to do, and I'm hoping everyone really enjoys it."
Fan Q&A came up next.
Q: "There's a lot of new diverse Marvel superheroes but not a lot in the news for DC right now. Why do you think Marvel is so good at promoting their diverse heroes and DC seems to hide them?"
Cunningham: "I don't see that there's a vast difference - though the key is what is publicized. I think that what's on our page versus what's written about is more telling."
Johns: "I'd also add, too. Across the company too, if you look at The Flash, we have Cisco Ramone, Vibe in there. And it happens in publication too, I'm really proud of Jessica Cruz and others, too."
Scott: "Just because it's not announced on the View doesn't mean it isn't true."
Q: Will Wally be the new Kid Flash?
Jensen: "I don't know if this is meant to be THAT spoilery... but I will say, we will see Wally run."
Q: What's it like working with your husband, Meredith?
Meredith: "The best thing is I don't have to write as tight a script as if I was writing for an artist not in the same house as me. So if I give him a plot and he starts drawing the page I can say, 'Oh well that's not exactly what I had in mind.' (laughs) But I think it really makes it a much more cohesive storytelling experience."
David: "My input on the story is that I really want to draw the big action shot. But I really like working with someone that has a great vision, and I think she does."
Johns: "I was talking with David when we were wrapping Forever Evil #7, and the care that these two are putting into this book is really wonderful. I'm super excited to see it."
Q: Any inclusions from the Flash TV series coming into the comics?
Johns: "There's actually one thing going on in the book right now that will happen on the show eventually."
Venditti: "Yeah at this point I think we're pretty separate..."
Johns: "Yeah, but you guys have captured the heart of it: it's a sci-fi procedural that's all about family." Johns also teased that Jim Corrigan and eventually The Spectre is going to appear on Constantine. "When it makes sense - John Diggle was an amazing character on Arrow so it just made sense to bring him into comics."
Q: Any Earth-2 Red Lanterns coming?
Scott: There are a lot of loose story threads from annuals and such, but the Weekly is the opportunity for a lot of those things to get picked up.
Q: More for Cyborg and Shazam?
Johns: "Next to Lex and Batman, they're the two main characters in the Justice League book and you'll see a lot of emphasis on them coming up."
Q: Was Jessica Cruz the character you mentioned in Green Lantern #20?
Johns: "Yeah, she is that character, that's from a little further in her future. She's an agoraphobic, and the Power Ring feeds on fear, so that's why it found her. She will quickly become a member of the team, and the Justice League will try to help her control that ring."