Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question - 02.13.09

Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question

Flash: Rebirth #2
Flash: Rebirth #2
May's Flash Rebirth #2

Back in the saddle again.

With New York Comic Con behind us, it’s time to get back to our regular “20 Answers and 1 Question” with Dan DiDio. We opened the call for questions on Monday of this week and saw, by what we can figure, an all-time record number of responses (352. Seriously). Being upfront here, it was hellishly difficult to pick from that many, so we did our best at selecting those which we thought had the best chance of getting some new information, or getting Dan to expound a little more than he did at the show.

We’ll be opening the floor for more questions soon (and we may pull from the list that we have), so keep an eye out for it. In the meantime, we’ve got some answers on the coming Batman titles, further Final Crisis: Aftermath teams, why Barry Allen is coming back, maybe a confirmation about Kyle Baker and Hawkman, and loads more…

Kick your feet up, grab something to drink, and here we go.

1. To kick things off Dan, one of the big announcements coming from DC was the new Batman-related titles that are coming in June. Can you go into any more detail about them than you did at the con, more particularly about the characters that will be appearing in them, their tone, and what niches they’ll fill?

Dan DiDio: Sure- how about we talk about some of the characters? What you’re going to see in Gotham City Sirens is Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and some other guest stars along the way, but those will be the three leads in that book, and it picks up directly from the ‘Faces of Evil’ conversation with Hush.

In Streets of Gotham, you’re going to get a chance to see the supporting cast of Batman’s world, meaning that you’re going to see Batgirl and Huntress and also the new DA of Gotham City, Miss Kate Spencer.

Naturally, I’m going to be a little more cagey about Red Robin, Batman and Robin and Batman, primarily because who lands in which book will be determined by who wins the Battle for the Cowl, but obviously, Batwoman, Kate Kane is front and center when that book hits the stands in June.

2. Speaking of Batwoman, why did it take her so long to get her into her own story? Both you and Greg had been hinting that something was coming now for years…

DD: We wanted to establish her as a hero in the DC Universe first, from her introduction in 52 all the way through to her appearances in Final Crisis: Revelations. We knew about the storyline that would be taking place in Battle for the Cowl, and figured that would be the perfect opportunity to introduce her into her own stories in Detective Comics, and quite honestly, we’re quite happy to say that we have a number of issues in the can of J.H. Williams’ brilliant art and Greg’s very compelling story. So we can say that we’re looking forward to a nice strong run without any interruptions, and all the issues shipping on time.

3. Are you preparing yourselves for the media response and reaction again? Obviously, it’s already begun, and even some “respectable” mainstream media outlets are trumpeting “Holy Lesbian!” headlines…

DD: We are prepared, but we’re not anticipating any major stir. I think we had a lot of attention brought when we introduced the character in 52, but she’s been appearing semi-regularly since then, and people have seen her in stories, and we’re hoping that once she starts appearing in her own stories, people will see her for who the character is, and everything else that might be a distraction will be gone.

NRAMA: I think that’s a good hope, but still, the headlines are going on now, and clearly, when the character appeared, DC lost control of the story in the media, with her sexuality becoming the issue…

DD: And that was part of the reason why we wanted her to have so many appearances before she moved in to her own solo title. As I said, we wanted to establish her as a hero first. Her sexual orientation is just an aspect of her character, rather than who she is. It does not define her. We wanted to make sure that Batwoman stood as a hero first, and I think we’ve done a good job setting that up, and now we can do more stories with her.

4. When will we learn the fate of Hawkman and Hawkgirl?

DD: Actually Hawkman and Hawkgirl are recuperating right now from the events of Final Crisis, and they’ll be seen in one or two spots coming up, but they also have a big role in the first part of Blackest Night.

5. With Hawkman and Hawkgirl getting a bit of a dusting off coming up, and Aquaman back as well, will we be seeing Hawkman: Rebirth and Aquaman: Rebirth, projects, or is that story title only being used for the Green Lantern and Flash stories?

DD: Nah – that’s not going to be the case. With Aquaman and Hawkman, we just want to tell good stories with those characters. I don’t think we need another clarification of who they are, or another origin for either one of them. I think all we really need at this moment is to show them in the best light possible in the strongest stories possible.

6. Speaking of Blackest Night – there are some readers who are seeing it as having the potential for being a “reset” button for a lot of characters within the DCU, perhaps moving things back to a previous set point in regards to who’s alive and who’s dead. Is there anything you say about the limits of Blackest Night? This is not just a wholesale “everybody up!” is it?

DD: No – not at all. The key concept behind Blackest Night is: the dead shall rise. You’ll see the birth of the Black Lantern Corps because of that. The idea that we’re repopulating the world with characters that have died is getting pretty far ahead of the story, because how the characters return, what their goals are and what happens to them is central to everything that happens within the miniseries. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves – and also, I said it earlier: the dead shall rise. You’re going to have to anticipate that these characters will not be seen in the same light, or act in the same manner that they did before their deaths.

And also – there are a finite number of rings out there, so the characters that do rise have a very specific purpose for being chosen, a very specific purpose, and a very specific goal. And that goal ain’t a good one. It’s not called Blackest Night for nothing.

7. One question that came up a few times in the thread – what happened with Legion of Super-Heroes #50?

DD: It’s pretty clear, and I answered this at one of my panels at the con, but I’m more than happy to address it again. What happened was that upon the author’s request, there was a name change and a pseudonym used and we obliged that request. We made those changes at the very last minute because we did not want to miss our shipping date on the book. We made a couple of changes in order to get the book out on time, and we felt that it summed up the story to the best of its ability, and we’re ready to move on to the next chapter of Legion wherever that may be, following the conclusion of the series.

8. One question that probably should’ve been up with our other Batman questions – just ballparking here – we’ve seen that Batman is alive, and living in the past. There are easy ways out of that – you could have Booster Gold find him and pick him up – and there are difficult ways out of that – he could live through a series of lives, which is presumably what the Omega Sanction is about – so what goes into the decision of how Caveman Batman plays out?

DD: Well, there wouldn’t be much of a battle for the cowl if we had Booster go back and grab him – although from that last panel, it doesn’t even look like he needs the cowl, as he casts the shadow without it on [laughs].

Obviously, there are a lot reasons that go into it, and a lot reasons that are related to telling the best, most dramatic story we can. I really can’t go into too much detail about the plans, but what I can say is that the outline and plan for his return is known at this point.

Justice Society of America #27
Justice Society of America #27
Justice Society #27

9. You’ve said that there are plans for the Marvel Family, Billy and Mary specifically. Any more details that you can give about those?

DD: JSA #25 brings some closure to the story of evil Mary Marvel and Billy Batson being off of the Rock of Eternity.

10. A couple of Flash questions showed up in the thread – Barry Allen had one of the most heroic and honorable deaths in modern comics, complete with his replacement coming of age and literally filling his boots to honor him. When the story lines up so logically, and his replacement, Wally, has been the Flash for the past 20+ years, why bring Barry back?

DD: The same logic that applied to Hal Jordan’s return applies to Barry Allen’s. My argument is that we want to return our characters to their most iconic representations. In the case of Flash – you can’t tell the origin of Wally West without Barry Allen. Barry Allen was the first Flash of this generation. You don’t have a Wally West without Barry. You don’t have a Bart Allen without Barry. You don’t have the Tornado Twins without Barry Allen. All of these things spring from Barry being the primary Flash. Beaucse of that, we decided to go back to our roots, find what made him the most unique Flash of the bunch – and not at the expense of the other Flashes. We wanted to show what makes Barry great, what makes Barry unique and show why Barry Allen is first and foremost, The Flash.

NRAMA: It seems like an uphill battle – for this generation of DC readers, or for the under 30 segment of DC readers, Wally has been The Flash for them. Barry coming back will appeal to a certain group of older fans who knew Barry as the Flash, and a group that you want to convince that Barry is “the” Flash for the DC Universe.

DD: There was a point in time where we convinced a group of fans that Wally West was the Flash after Barry’s death. There was a point in time when we convinced fans that Bart Allen could be the Flash. And you can argue that there was a time before Barry even appeared who believed that Jay Garrick was the only Flash. What we’re doing is we’re looking at all the new Flashes, and building new story on Barry. There are many things that make this character great and unique, and more importantly, we’re hoping that this will appeal to people who are fans of the Flash franchise.

You say I’m talking to fans who’ve never known Barry as the Flash, but the truth is, Wally has seen him and interacted with him. We have told stories from Brave and Bold to Flash itself where Barry was front and center. We’ve told stories with the Justice League where we’ve referred back to Barry. Quite honestly, Barry Allen has never been gone from the DC fans’ psyche for an extended period of time. It’s the same argument that I’ve made with Hal Jordan. When Hal Jordan was “dead,” he was in books just as much as when he was alive, both as The Spectre and in flashback appearances.

In both cases, the fact that our writers always go back to those touchstones, and that the fans always buy those stories when the characters appear in them show to us that there is a continued interest in those characters as well as continued support for those characters. Our hope is that when we bring them in and make them the regular Flash and Green Lantern again, and put them right in the front of the existing continuity, people will be there and excited about it.

11. A question then about Flash: Rebirth from the thread – is Geoff’s plan with Flash: Rebirth similar to what he’s done with Green Lantern, where Rebirth was the first part of a larger trilogy that now includes the Sinestro Corps War and the coming Blackest Night?

DD: That’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, but there are elements in Rebirth that will have definite repercussions when the regular series begins.

12. Moving on to a question about something you said about DC having an increased commitment to the Legion of Super-Heroes in 2009. Last year at this time, there were two series, and an animated series. This year, the regular book has been cancelled, and they’re going to be doing what looks to be a time-share thing in Adventure Comics. What’s the increased commitment going to consist of, coming up?

DD: Well, we also have Legion of 3 Worlds coming to a conclusion too, which is a very important book for the Legion franchise. But the commitment is that we’re bringing a level of clarity to the Legion and one direction that shows the potential for the future of the Legion, but also how that future is springing from the current storylines in the current continuity.

So what you’re going to see is how the Legion has ties to our current timeline, and once we establish those ties to the current time, we’ll spring forward to the future an d see what the future holds for those characters.

NRAMA: So mostly, we’re going to see more of firmly-established clear-line continuity than it’s had previously?

DD: Right. One of the things that I found most interesting about Legion of 3 Worlds was that the delineation between the three Legion teams were slighter than we had originally thought. They were variations of each other rather than different focus, different plans between them. What we’re trying to do right now is to bring a level of clarity to everything, the Legion included. Following Blackest Night, we’re looking at a much clearer, iconic interpretation and a much more committed determination to the direction of our characters. Legion is no exception, and we wanted to clear the decks a bit, straighten things up and get things rolling again.

Green Lantern Corps #36
Green Lantern Corps #36
Green Lantern Corps #36

13. Now that we’ve seen the “real” Lobo in Reign in Hell, are there plans for him in the coming year?

DD: Oh yeah. We’ve got plans coming – there is something coming, including a guest appearance in the Solomon Grundy miniseries that’s coming up. That will be one of the first places you see him back on earth – and there will be more.

14. Do you have a favorite book, issue or series from your days as a fan that you use as an internal guide or bar that you want your books to measure up to?

DD: Well, they joke that I use The Godfather as a basis for my management style, but as for a comic…

Oh, there are a lot, but they tend to circle around a couple of themes. To start off with, how about a Marvel reference – I loved how the Green Goblin story unfolded in Amazing Spider-Man. I love how Stan played up the mystery of the Green Goblin, how he was cured, and ultimately how the subplot of Harry Osborn learning his identity came up through. I love how that was done – it was played brilliantly with so much folded in around it, while showing such great A-B-C storytelling that was just essential.

I also loved the continuity that played back and forth between the Avengers and the Defenders – when they were building up the Avengers/Defenders War and how the characters bounced around, and you got to follow Hawkeye form quitting the Avengers to appearing in Defenders, and fighting against the Avengers.

On the DC Comics side, I loved the Ra’s al Ghul storyline, and how he appeared piece by piece, the introduction of the League of Assassins, the introduction of Ra’s and ultimately the confrontation between Batman and Ra’s. That was just some wonderful storytelling.

And in looking at all three of those references –these stories built over a slow period of time and kept you enthralled. Each time a character came back; there was an increased level of importance and...dread, because you knew something bad was going to come back with that character. It just kept you glued to the story.

But what I don’t like is when stories would add characters for the sake of adding characters - the bucket principle – fill a story with as many characters as possible, because that makes it bigger and more important. Once you do that, you have less of a chance to really make anything else feels like it matters after that.

That’s not to say you can’t bring in more characters and do it right - like the introduction of the Sinister Six in Spider-Man – you’d seen each of the Six fight Spider-Man individually and him struggle to just beat them, and then when you all six were thrown together, you legitimately didn’t know how he could possibly defeat them all at once. That was something that built excitement – they were building up tension and momentum – stories unfolded slowly, and would hook readers and then reel them in. That’s the fun stuff – the stuff that you remember.

Another point that I remember with a lot of characters handled very well – when Len Wein was writing Justice League – probably some of the sweetest Justice League stories ever – his story about the search for the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the heroes found them, and then one hero sacrificed himself – Red Tornado, the one who felt least worthy, wound up being the greatest hero.

Both of those are darkest-hour, greatest threat type stories – things that you don’t think the hero will overcome, but ultimately they find the way to achieve and win. Those stories hit me hardest when I was a fan, and that’s what we try to do now – we try to put that level of threat and danger into our universe, and unfortunately because the world gets tougher and more dangerous, the threats have to become tougher and bigger. Blackest Night is an example of that – every time we put our heroes into this type of situation, we have to up the ante to a point where the reader says, “I don’t know how they’re going to make it.” Ultimately, when they do, the reader breathes a sigh of relief, and follows along to the next story to see what other kinds of threats may be waiting down the road. That’s the fun stuff – the good stuff that we aim for.

15. Are there checks and balances in place to make sure that it doesn’t suffer the same fate that Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis did in terms of scheduling?

DD: I would say that Geoff will be checking, and Ian [Sattler] will be balancing. Geoff is actually spending a period of time in New York with us, the same way that he did prior to the start of Infinite Crisis. The primary editors on the book are Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman, and they are working with all of the other editors and everyone is sharing information, and at this point, we are ahead of ourselves. We’re at a point that we can share information among the teams, and have a better idea of what’s coming down the pipeline.

16. Next question from the thread – the reader said that they loved books like Blue Beetle and Manhunter and were sad to see them go, but wonder why and how Jonah Hex, which has sales nearby or under those of the cancelled titles manages to stick around…

DD: Jonah Hex is a different flavor. We have to create other styles of comic books other than just costumed superheroes. Now granted, we don’t do it to the level that anyone would hope that we do, or even to the level that it was when I first started reading comics, but I think we need a Western book. I think we need a sword and sorcery book. I think we need a war book. Science fiction stories. They may not be the best sellers, but I feel that we are taking advantage of our medium better if we keep trying different brands of storytelling. Jonah Hex, for all intents and purposes, while the sales may not be there, it is a Western where there are very few other Westerns, and it is a really well done comic, and when it comes down to it, that maters just as much in making any decisions.

17. Kyle Baker is making no secret about either a) he’s working on a Hawkman project for DC or b) he has a frighteningly serious obsession with the character… can anything be said about these sketches of Hawkman that are showing up by Kyle?

DD: Other than I really love his interpretation of the character and that I would love to see him draw Hawkman for us officially in some shape or form…not really. [laughs]

NRAMA: If I was in the office right now rather than on the phone, would you be winking as you said that?

DD: There is no wink, but there is a nod.

18. I feel weird now. Moving on, let’s talk about something you can talk about officially – the upcoming Doom Patrol/Metal Men…

DD: Right – Keith Giffen is writing the Doom Patrol side, and he is co-writing Metal Men with J.M. DeMatteis. Matthew Clark is drawing Doom Patrol, and Kevin Maguire is drawing Metal Men. We want to make this as interesting and eclectic a combination of product as possible and Matthew’s grim and beautiful art style is an interesting pairing to Kevin’s lighter and clear style. Between the two, they have two completely different tonal approaches but I think it’s a wonderful pairing, and at he end of the day, it’s just a lot of fun and a great read.

Keith describes his Doom Patrol side as a horror comic, and Metal Men as character comedy – so there are two different approaches that are going on there, and they really blend very nicely under the same title. And just to cut to the next question, Keith will be starting with the Doom Patrol team as last seen in Teen Titans, and working from there.

19. What’s the current status of All Star Batman and Robin?

DD: On hiatus.

20. With con season having kicked off this past weekend, what goes into your decisions regarding what panels to hold and what announcements to make?

Power Girl #1
Power Girl #1
Power Girl #1

DD: In regards to panels, we have three approaches to panels and a pretty set way of doing them. On Fridays, if it’s a three day show, we do a DC Nation panel, which are a little more irreverent and a little more interactive in regards to a Q&A with the fans. That one is designed to get the read of the room and the industry, and to get people talking. I love that people speak up at that panel and that we have a crazy time. On Saturdays, we do DC Universe panels, which we try to load with as many of our creators attending the show as possible, which allows them to speak directly to the fans and talk about what books they’re currently working on and what they’re excited about. And then on Sundays, we do Sunday Conversation. That’s much more of a ‘Charles Kuralt’ approach to Sunday morning – sit back and talk about everything that you love about comics and why we go to conventions and why we enjoy the medium so much. I find that to be one of the most relaxing panels of the convention, and I have people requesting to join me on it, including Tom Brevoort who shows up quite regularly now, and it’s quite wonderful that he does, because he enjoys it as much as we do. That’s what it’s all about – sharing our stories about what we like about comics, and what makes comics great.

As for information – it really depends on what month it is, and what’s realdy to be announced. One of the things that I want to get away from, to speak frankly, is announcing things too early. We announce things like a Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray/Amanda Conner Power Girl that we’re really excited about before they’re ready. Using that as a case in point – we announced Power Girl at last year’s New York Con in April, and it will be solicited for May of this year. Unfortunately, when we do that, we end up answering questions about where those books are because we spoke too soon. I want to stay clear of that and get back to announcing things when they are much closer, and we can announce things fully, with teams and ship months and things like that. That way, we don’t appear to be misleading fans, or getting people worked up about something that is too far away. That allows us to be more focused on the excitement of the moment.

Frankly, the feedback and interaction with our fans is more important to me than any announcement we could ever make, and I think that the fans enjoy that aspect too – they like being able to come up and ask questions and being involved with us and part of the discussion.

NRAMA: That said, and speaking of information – you chose only to announce the titles of the Final Crisis: Aftermath books. We know Matt Sturges is writing Run! and Ian has confirmed that Joe Casey is writing Dance - these are all books that are coming son, so who are the other creators?

DD: Sure – starting with Escape, because I’m editing that one, Ivan Brandon is going to be the writer, and the art team on that will be Marco Rudi (Final Crisis) inked by Mick Gray, with covers by Scott Hampton. The fun part about Escape for me is that you’re going to see a lot of familiar faces in some very unfamiliar situations, and the primary leads of Escape are Nemesis and Cameron Chase, and you’re finding out that they are being held against their will by the Global Peace Agency as they last appeared in Final Crisis.

For Ink, Eric Wallace, a writer from Eureka will be writing it, and the art on that will be by Fabrizio Fiorentino, with covers by Brian Stelfreeze. That’s a greats story where the Tattooed Man learns how hard it is to be a hero, especially when the tattoos have a mind of their own.

NRAMA: And your question for readers this time?

DD: Actually, Geoff Johns has just stepped into my office for our meeting, so he’s taking it this week: Geoff’s question is: “Who would you like to see as a Black Lantern in the Blackest Night miniseries?

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