DC's Free Comic Book Day edition - Blackest Night #0The DC Nation made its convention circuit stop at , where Senior VP – Executive Editor Dan DiDio was joined by Jimmy Palmiotti and Vince Letterio, director of Direct Sales to discuss where the DC Nation is heading in the coming year.
For the left coast version of the DC Nation panel, held at WonderCon, click here.
Didio started off by admitting that while Wonder Con was scheduled for the same weekend out in California, he chose to come to MegaCon, which brought a round of applause from the fans. Didio went on to say that MegaCon was the first convention he attended as an employee of DC back in 2002, but he hasn’t been back since. All of the DC creators who have attended have been telling him how great MegaCon is, so when the choice came between WonderCon and MegaCon, he chose to come meet the fans and talk with them, and just have fun.
Didio then went on to explain just what a DC Nation panel is all about – “being silly, ridiculous, and slightly irrelevant,” he joked, before saying that seriously, he was interested in getting feedback from the fans. What do the fans like and not like – an exchange between the fans and the DC staff. “Of course,” Didio said with a grin, “We never said we would answer the questions, and we never said we would be truthful – but every once in a while, some truth does come out.” This caused some laughter from those present.
Turning serious again, Didio admitted that with all that is going on in DC, sometimes those within the industry become insulated, working amongst themselves. He went on to say that once in a while they forget what truly excites the fans, referring to the old adage, “we get our comics for free.”
From Jimmy Palmiotti, the fans learned how he and Dan Didio first met, when he met Didio in a comic shop in Brooklyn years ago, back when Didio was working at ABC television, rubbing shoulders with soap stars. They got to talking and discovered that they lived in connecting apartment buildings. When Jimmy told Didio that he would get boxes of comics (something that didn’t exactly “woo” the women!), he offered Didio whatever comics he wanted. They quickly became friends, and when eventually Didio would hit Jimmy up with story ideas. He pitched and pitched and pitched, and when DC was about ready to cancel the Superboy title, they offered him a chance.
Didio cut in at this point, reminiscing about the proposal he and Jimmy worked up for a brand new Guardian series, which actually got approved by Archie Goodwin. Before it went forward, however, the project was killed. They put it aside, until two years later, DC called Jimmy and told him to dust it off and to go with it. This, of course, excited them, so they sent it in. DC came back, asking for someone more recognizable in the series, so they added Superboy to the mix. DC wrote back again, asking for more Superboy with Guardian as a supporting character. Didio and Jimmy re-worked it again, sent it off to DC, and got yet another response that they loved everything they wrote for Superboy, so remove Guardian! Didio immediately went to Jimmy and asked if they were writing for Superboy (which turned out to start with issue #94), and Jimmy said, “Shut up and send it out.” Which is exactly what they did. From Superboy as an apartment superintendent, to a crossover with Robin and Young Justice that didn’t turn out exactly as planned, Didio brought the series up to issue #100. “It was at this time that I was interviewing for my job with DC,” Didio remembers, “and the first thing I did when I got the job was cancel Superboy!”
DiDio and Palmiotti“This is how DC Nation runs,” Didio told the fans, once the laughter died down. “Just roll with it.”
“Any writers out there have to be able to roll with it,” Jimmy added. “Just make things work.”
Didio pointed out that the Young Justice crossover was the last crossover they did before Infinite Crisis – that DC spent a period of time without crossovers. He added that using other books to prop up characters doesn’t work. Books should stand up on their own, and when there is a crossover, it should just help promote, not to hold up another title. He further explained that the reason some fans may feel that a story keeps going on and on and on is that DC hopes that the event is worth reading and that people want to keep reading more from it.
A fan asked if that type of storytelling comes from Didio’s soap opera background?
“Yes,” Didio replied. “We try to be flexible if we see a character breaking out.” He pointed to Ravager as an example. When sales of Titans spiked each time Ravager appeared on the cover, they knew they were on to something, which prompted the Terror Titans series, which fans in the voiced they liked.
Didio then opened the floor to questions:
QUESTION: The web and internet have really played up the fans who are disgruntled with Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, but isn’t there a comparison between Morrison’s Final Crisis and Geoff Johns’ Legion of 3 Worlds: people disgruntled – same type of major story, simply different styles of storytelling?
DD – Grant’s real thing is to read any of his stories as a whole. A lot of Final Crisis was started in Seven Soldiers, and it played out in Final Crisis – he already had it planned out. Grant Morrison has so many ideas, that they all wind up in the book. Every page is so dense with information that it feeds into other things going on. One thing DC realized is that when we collect Final Crisis in hardcover, it will have to include all 7 issues, 2 issues of Superman Beyond, and one issue of Submit. Once the material is all together, and when you read it as a whole, it’s simple. Originally, I wasn’t fully supportive, but for the full and better reading experience, it’s a home run.
QUESTION: Is the collected edition going to include all the other tie-ins?
DD – No, as the other tie-ins are only loosely related.
QUESTION: With regards to Blackest Night – how much impact will this story have across the other series?
DD – Good question – it will…
QUESTION: What about the case of Conner?
DD - Conner who? Amanda Conner is now a Black Lantern (laughter from the audience). Seriously, a lot of characters will be addressed, but I don’t want to give much away. There will be some mini series feeding off of it. But we are looking it over to see where such mini series would make the most sense before we go ahead. As Geoff (Johns) has been writing the story, we see places where he wants to have more story and pages, and that’s’ where we want to spin off mini series for tangent stories.
QUESTION: I want to ask about…[fan opens a book where he has his questions written]
DD – Give me the book, c’mon give me the book. [Didio thereupon leaves the stage, goes down to the fan, sits next to him, and reads from the book] Hmmm, complements for DC and…Levitz. Who, Jon Lovitz?
QUESTION: I just want to compliment DC at keeping cost at $2.99 and if higher, adding pages.
DD – Until I joined DC comics, I bought comics. So I know that fans want to be supportive and be loyal, but we notice that some of the books that are $3.99 and better sellers, so if it’s a higher price, there will also be additional content.
QUESTION: What about the Origins & Omens? We are paying $2.99, but the additional story can be seen for free online.
DD – There is extra pages in it.
QUESTION: Are you sure?
DD – Let’s clarify a couple of things. First, there are 24 pages of story instead of 22, so fans are getting more pages. We put the Origin & Omens tales online for people who did not want to buy the book for just 6 pages!
QUESTION: At the end of Final Crisis, there is a panel with Arthur Curry, but we’ve also heard that Arthur Curry will be in Blackest Night. Are they the same Arthur Curry, and if so, how?
DD – They are not the same ones. One thing that Grant Morrison wanted to do was, with a big event story featuring the entire universe, some characters would be conspicuous by their absence. So the Arthur Curry used in Final Crisis is simply an alternate universe Arthur Curry who came over to help out. But the bigger story to tell is in Blackest Night. The panel in Final Crisis was simply an Easter Egg put in for the fans, but the bigger story is yet to come.
QUESTION: In trying to keep up with the current Green Lantern storylines, I hear that G’nort has become a more serious character in those books. Why is that?
DD – Because of the tone of the storyline, we felt that the characters should all act in the proper manner. We still have the toy out there where he looks really ridiculous.
QUESTION: Final Crisis was 6 ½ issues of Darkseid and ½ issue of Monitors – why call it “Crisis”?
DD – The Monitors played a role throughout the series, but were seen at the end – sort of as a promise not to go down the “Crisis” road again anytime soon.
QUESTION: DC put out the Death of the New Gods, but then Superman asked “Who are the New Gods?” and then “Who are these people?” Was that intentional?
DD – There is more to it than that. The New Gods, in the form that we known them by Kirby, was something that had already started to change at the beginning of Final Crisis, when we were working with Jimmy on Countdown…
JP – Don’t blame me!
DD – …one thing we did, was we felt that the Kirby interpretation needed to close. Not as something that was a part of the event, but we wanted to showcase them in their own way. That’s why there was The Death of the New Gods. The concept was, as we played a little bit in the Seven Soldiers, that the New Gods are avatars, so the question becomes who will be the new avatars, not who are the New Gods themselves. They are avatars.
QUESTION: With Trinity going on the same time as Final Crisis and its fall out, but Batman and Superman are taking breaks from their title and leaving their roles, how can that be?
DD – 52 ran the actual time line – Countdown ran towards a particular story – but Trinity runs separately, showcasing the three characters. At the end of Trinity, there will be clear ramifications and it will affect the rest of the DC universe. There are always challenges with a weekly series.
JP – Are we ever going to collect them all from beginning to end, the weekly series?
DD – I would love to see that book – big hardcover books.
QUESTION: When will we see Young Justice trade paperbacks?
DD – I’m going to speak honestly, which is one of my rare moments here – I’m not involved on the trade or collected edition side of things. I’m still waiting for my Superboy stuff to get traded!
VL – Young Justice is not really popular right now – if the call for it strikes up, then it will happen.
QUESTION: When Green Arrow came back from the dead, Connor Hawke became a side character, and Cassandra Cain has also been sidelined recently. I’m afraid that’s going to happen, now that you’ve brought back Jason Todd, but I fear there was no plan for him. There was a plan to redeem him in Countdown, but nothing happened.
DD – Cassandra is appearing in one of the Battle for the Cowl one-shots – I think the Network one shot. She will also be appearing in the Streets of Gotham. There are bigger plans down the road, as she is a very viable character. Jason Todd was always a plan for in the Countdown books. He is front and center inThe Battle for the Cowl in the DC books, and he has been a major player for a while. The goad is – characters who can support a series for a period of time, we give them a chance to shine.
QUESTION: Superman is my book, and as well as Geoff Johns has been doing, it irks me all the ret-cons from the Superman stories that I came in reading in the ‘90s – it’s almost like a whole different world now, not the same character. Why all the ret-cons?
DD – It seems like all these questions have the same trend, “What I felt in the 90s feels like it is changing now.” Characters keep evolving – Superman gets updated.
JP – Like Galactica.
DD – What we are trying to do, we are entering a new generation of DC heroes, a new interpretation, a new direction. We are not going to ignore what has gone before, and we are trying to build on the past, with slight changes to left or right. We are not doing complete reboots any more, but we have to make these things fresh.
JP – And tone changes. For example, in Hex that I write – it’s the same character from the ‘70s – same character, but one that has to be updated for new audiences. Writers are always having to come up with new stuff.
DD – Back in the ‘70s, when they used to update the characters a lot, those who bought comics would read for a few years, then move on without looking back, so it was no big deal. But now we have a huge readership who has stuck with it for years. How many fans have been reading for 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? 20 years? 25 years? 30 years? 35 years? 40 years? We have people staying with us for way more years, so at some point we have to revisit the stories.
QUESTION: Why does it seem like the re-introduction of the same ideas?
DD – They are the same ideas but shown in a new light. Take the Legion for example. They are important to DC, and Legion always worked best when it appeared with Superboy. Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes was the most successful, so that’s what we want to get back to.
QUESTION: You’re not just letting stories in that you liked when you were a kid?
JP – We remember the stories we read and we try to integrate that into the stories now.
QUESTION: Referring back to Trinity, what is DC’s next weekly project?
DD – It’s one that will run way less than a year.
QUESTION: Previously, you announced that you would be keeping multiverse stories at bay. I enjoyed Countdown, and I thought that the multiverse was treated in an okay manner. Why are you now letting one writer control it?
DD – Because we spent a year in it – a lot of places, it took a lot and moved a lot and told a lot of story with it. So every once in a while, we don’t want to focus on all the alternate characters. We want to keep the focus on our universe – that is what Blackest Night is about. It is important to shut things down once in a while.
QUESTION: DC recently solicited Animal Man as a mini-series, but I’ve heard there is going to be an ongoing. Is this true?
DD – No, Animal Man is just a mini-series written by Gerry Conway.
QUESTION: With Batman in the caveman era now, is there any chance we’ll see a Flintstones crossover?
DD – (with a grin) Already thought of that.
QUESTION: With all the new Lanterns DC is introducing up to Blackest Night…
DD – yes, but don’t ask me to name them!
QUESTION: …will DC keep them active after Blackest Night? Or can you say?
DD – [It would be a] Total spoiler for Blackest Night.
QUESTION: With all this talk about how DC is generational, we all know Bruce Wayne is coming back, and we have three guys running around as Robin…
DD – If they are still alive…. (at which points, the audience gave a collective “Booooo!”)
DD – You know what questions I hate? “What comes after Blackest Night?” You’re asking me what happens after Battle for the Cowl, and the story hasn’t even hit the stands yet.
QUESTION: But I’m talking about all these adults as Robin. Robin has always been a teenager, but with DC upping the age of people, are you going to introduce a new Robin? (Fans from the audience yelled out - STEPHANIE!!!!)
DD – The problem is that the art is sometimes interpreted to make Robin appear older than the 15 or 16 that he is. But read Battle for the Cowl. That’s where you’ll find your answer.
QUESTION: DC has been bringing back characters – Barry Allen Flash, Oliver Queen Green Arrow – each had characters existing that took their place. Is there a reason they don’t take on their own identity? Such as the multiple Atoms, the multiple Flashes, the multiple Green Arrows…
DD – Sounds like a great idea for a story some day!
QUESTION: I’m excited about Green Lantern and the Blackest Night storyline, but as a fan, just my own nuance, I love the humor characters. And while I know they haven’t sold well as ongoing series, have you thought about Blackest G’nort?
DD – I believe that things like that devalue the story.
QUESTION: Yet, Ambush Bug appeared in 52.
DD – Ambush Bug actually started in continuity in the Superman books. And while we agree about G’nort, he is going to remain the same tone as the story. It’s a different thing from showing some humor in facing tragedy. If a character cracks a joke, they deal with the situation that way – such as talking about baseball at the end of the world – it shows that these characters under pressure can talk about baseball. But the trip and fall type of humor belittles the character.
JP – Like in Terra – we did the shopping scenes.
DD – And like in the new Power Girl book (at which, the audience clapped loudly) there is some humor, but it’s not a comedy book.
JP – It’s not like she trips over her boobs or anything.
QUESTION: Going back to the hardcover for Final Crisis, it there any reason why the two issues of Batman [“Last Rites”] are not included?
DD – Because those stories are more tied in with the Batman books themselves. The argument about whether to include them or not is about the mega-story. Superman Beyond is essential to the mega-story, but the Batman issues are not as important. They were just extra background material.
QUESTION: With regards to the Lanterns, I was curious as to why one color was missing – where are the White Lanterns?
DD – Is white a color?
JP – No
DD – We picked the colors from a box of lucky charms, and no white colors were there.
QUESTION: What’s happening with the Atom? Who is the Atom now – they were even confused in the book before it got cancelled.
DD – That issue starts to get resolved by James Robinson in the new Justice League book coming out – in June or July. Ray Palmer is front and center in the book, and we have a lot of great plans coming down the road, which will present them in some interesting ways.
QUESTION: When will we hear who the creators are for the new weekly?
DD – Are you going to be in San Diego Con?
DD – Well, don’t worry, because it won’t be announced there either!
QUESTION: The Justice Society has been around since WWII – which would mean the first Black Canary would have been around 60 years old when she gave birth to the current Black Canary who is her daughter. Any plans to assert a new generation as WWII gets farther and farther in the past?
DD – We went the other way. We decided to make WWII happen in the 60s with JFK, at which point things get really interesting! No, really, seriously, the only way to explain this is the generational aspect – when you put the firm date, like WWII, it dates them. What we are doing is playing up the generational aspect more so than when they started. The first generation starts with JSA, the mystery men period, before heroes became public. So JSA begins and ends prior to the first public super hero, Superman. What we want to do is build a natural extension of the stories and build on what everyone likes. If you put a stamp on a timeline, it is outdates the story on the next day, so we just talk about periods of time.
JP – Writing books now, I never put a catch phrase or something that is popular now, as it dates the book.
DD – People ask when we are going to put Obama in our books, but when you do that, it dates the book, and at some point in the future, then we would have to retro-out Obama to keep a story current. So we don’t try to tie into that stuff too much.
JP – Darwyn Cook did it very well with New Frontier – it is its own separate pocket universe in its own way, but it works well.
QUESTION: Why is R.E.B.E.L.S. the best book you have?
DD – It’s all about the art
With that, Dan Didio, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Vince Letterio thanked the fans for their participation and good nature and ended MegaCon’s DC Nation experience, leaving fans waiting for tomorrow’s DC Universe panel…