Superman #686Saturday afternoon, at MegaCon in Orlando, Florida, DC Comics held a panel focusing on the DC Universe post-Final Crisis. The panel, which was moderated by DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio, featured: Tony Bedard, Dan Jurgens, Jimmy Palmiotti, Ethan Van Sciver, Billy Tucci, and George Perez. DC’s feature panel for the weekend was packed with info-hungry fans. After a rousing introduction of the members of the panel, Dan DiDio interrupted the proceedings to announce that he had received a proclamation from Richard Crotty, mayor of Orange County, stating that February 28, 2009 was officially deemed “George Perez Day”. DiDio awarded Perez with a certificate signed by the mayor of Orange County to the delight of the audience. While introducing Perez, DiDio spoke, “This is one of the greatest moments for me. I’ve been a comics fan now for 35 years and right now I’m going into fan mode,” adding, “I have about fifty thousand comics in my house but I only own about 10 pages of artwork—the first page I bought was one of George Perez’s.” After a standing ovation, Perez accepted the award and paused, “I just came back from New York—and I was tickled that my high school had George Perez day,” which drew laughter from the audience; he added, “I’m quite honored—and genuinely surprised by this award.” He thanked everyone for their presence at the panel and took a moment to pay special tribute to his wife of 28 years, Carol Flynn, who was also in attendance. DiDio resumed control of the panel and began discussing upcoming projects from DC Comics; mentioning Battle for the Cowl, World of New Krypton, and the Wonder Woman story, Rise of the Olympian and their place in the post-Final Crisis status quo of the DCU—and how events over the next several months would lead directly into Blackest Night this summer. The crowd was receptive and enthusiastic—cheering for the upcoming summer event. DiDio asked the audience about Final Crisis and how they felt about the project to which he received a healthy amount of applause; after which, he quickly spoke about the portents of 2009, adding, “We’re upping the ante—we’ve increased the speed of the books—and more importantly we’re making them bigger and better than they have ever been before.” REBELS #1 The panel was addressed from left to right—starting with R.E.B.E.L.S. writer Tony Bedard—who was given a small placard featuring the new title. Bedard spoke enthusiastically about R.E.B.E.L.S.; stating, “It’s the best thing I’ve ever worked on,” he continued, “this book is meaner and very fast paced; it focuses on Vril Dox—he’s Brainiac II—and he’s the most mean-spirited good guy you’ll ever run across. It’s kind of like if Lex Luthor was a good guy.” He added, “[Vril Dox] will do anything to save the day—including shooting your dog.” Next up was Dan Jurgens—creator of and current writer on Booster Gold’s monthly series—talked about his love for the character and the current arc in the ongoing. He also noted that Batman will still be playing a crucial role in Booster Gold’s monthly, Jurgens said, “The only person who knows what Booster is up to right now is Batman; but we have a little problem…since Batman’s gone.” He continued, “There all these photos in the Bat-Cave that Batman had of Booster doing various things in the past with the Joker and Barbara Gordon—and that kicks off another major storyline. But I can’t say much more than that.” He also mentioned that Booster Gold #23 would feature an encounter with Kingdom Come heavy, Magog. After Jurgens, DiDio introduced Jimmy Palmiotti who spoke initially about the coming Power Girl series and how he was primarily concerned with making the title accessible to new fans. He mentioned that Power Girl’s ongoing would introduce a new status quo for the character including a new supporting cast. Palmiotti commented on artist Amanda Conner’s work on the book, stating, “Justin [Gray] and I have it pretty good with Amanda on board,” adding, “no matter what we do—she tends to draw it even better than we imagined it.” He changed course and spoke briefly about Jonah Hex—and an upcoming 6-part arc featuring the debut of classic Jonah Hex arch-nemesis, Quentin Turnbull. Known widely for its monthly “done-in-one” stories, this arc marks the four year old title’s first large story arc. Palmiotti also mentioned the latest news on the Jonah Hex film—that John Malkovich had joined the cast of the film as Quentin Turnbull—stating, “Between Josh Brolin and now John Malkovich, sounds like it’s shaping up to be a really cool flick.” He quickly added that Jonah Hex #50 would be double-sized and featuring artwork by Darwyn Cooke. Legion of 3 Worlds #3 Following a round of applause for Palmiotti, DiDio re-introduced George Perez—noting Perez’s work on Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. Perez spoke briefly about the challenge of working on a book with a huge cast, saying, “It took me some time to loosen up a little.” He noted that it was still too early to talk about his upcoming projects; he looked to DiDio and said, “It’s something epic,” and proceeded to joke with DiDio, warning him that his contract was up for renewal in 2010 much to the delight of the audience. Next up, DiDio introduced Ethan Van Sciver—who spoke at length about Flash: Rebirth which hits shelves next month. Van Sciver expressed his enthusiasm for the project and working with Geoff Johns by saying, “This is the book that Geoff and I have been waiting to do our entire careers—we’re returning Barry Allen to the DC Universe,” which was followed by an eruption of cheers and applause from the audience. Indicating that could not talk at length about the project, Van Sciver still managed to tease the audience, “In the first issue, Barry Allen will discover a dead Flash that will lead him to investigate real truths and the scary reality of being a Flash.” He paused, “The only other thing I’ll mention: Issue #3— Superman/ Flash race,” which drew another round of applause from the audience. After the audience subsided, DiDio introduced Billy Tucci who spoke briefly about Sgt. Rock: The Last Battalion; he also paused to thank the fans in attendance for their support of the title. DiDio asked Tucci to tell “the Helmet story”—to which Tucci obliged. Essentially, Tucci gave DiDio and Sgt. Rock editor, Mike Marts, authentic army helmets as gifts. He had taken the time to actually put bullet holes in the helmets. DiDio, unaware of the holes, and the effect the bullets had had on the metal interior of his helmet—put the helmet on his head—injuring himself. Tucci closed the story by saying, “I can say I physically hurt Dan DiDio,” much to the delight of the audience. DiDio laughed and resumed the panel—before opening the floor to questions, he stated, “I feel like an old man…in a good way…when I look out into the audience and see so many young faces. It’s good to know that there are young, fresh readers approaching our books.” The first question involved Final Crisis—a fan wanted to know if DC would release a book that would help him understand the mini-series. A bemused DiDio responded quickly, “Here’s what I want you to do—sit down and read all seven issues in one sitting. It’s a completely different experience and a much more fulfilling story.”
Another fan asked whether or not letter columns were returning to monthly issues—to which DiDio remarked, “Truth be told, by the time we actually got to the point where we cancelled the letter pages—we weren’t even receiving enough actual letters to publish. We were had to pull content from the internet to fill the empty letter space.”Blackest Night #0 A fan asked about Hawkman’s presence in Blackest Night—and DiDio explained that Hawkman would feature prominently in the first issue of the event. A member of the audience asked about J.Michael Straczynski’s pending work on Brave and the Bold too much DiDio “slipped up” that JMS wanted to have very eclectic team-ups—some of which would feature Red Circle characters. DiDio explained that the stories were somewhat problematic—so instead, JMS would be penning four one-shots featuring Red Circle characters later in the year. Another fan asked about Quality characters—which garnered a response from Jimmy Palmiotti; he stated, “It’s up to you guys—the fans—if you want to see another Freedom Fighters book. I’d be happy to do another one.” There was a slight discussion initiated between a fan and DiDio regarding products for smaller children. DiDio expressed a sincere interest in creating more products for smaller readers; he gave praise to several titles including Tiny Titans. A question was asked regarding wearable rings for the various Lanterns of the DCU. Ethan Van Sciver joked, “You mean like ones that actually work?” which garnered some laughter from the audience. He also mentioned his work on the Blackest Night figures which prompted another fan to remark about the recent ad in Diamond which spoiled the identities of two Black Lanterns. The fan, not wanting to spoil the secret to unknowing fans, was interrupted by Dan DiDio who blurted out, “Earth-2 Superman,” to the laughter of fans. And again, he blurted, “Martian Manhunter,” mocking the inadvertent spoiler made by the marketing of the upcoming toys. Van Sciver explained that Blackest Night was given a lot of lead time; which, in turn, allowed for a number of various aspects of DC—including DC Direct—to actually develop a number of related projects. Both DiDio and Van Sciver agreed that neither of the two aforementioned toys really spoiled much. DiDio asked the audience if they would still read Blackest Night even though the spoiler indicated some changes—and the response was an overwhelming “Yes.” Someone asked about the re-launch of the Bat-family books—DiDio responded by listing several titles including Batman and Robin, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens, Red Robin, and Batgirl. Gotham City Sirens will feature the first “in continuity” Harley Quinn and will be written by Paul Dini. The identities of both Red Robin and Batgirl were both unknown at this time. A fan asked about recent edits in books which garnered a response from Palmiotti in regards to the current arc of Jonah Hex and a scene involving an edit because of exposed human brains. Tucci laughed at the situation and said, “This coming from the guy who had midget strippers at his birthday party.” To which Palmiotti responded, “What can I say? It was a good party.” DiDio asked the audience potentially re-numbering a Flash monthly title. A fan reasoned, “Either 598 or 351—depending on which Flash is in the book.” The panel marveled at how quickly the fan had responded with the numbers. Another fan asked about continuity in regards to the stories taking place in Superman/Batman and the fact that Batman had recently met his untimely demise. DiDio remarked that the stories in Superman/Batman would not reflect regular continuity; he explained, “We feel that readers of this title want to see the Clark Kent Superman and the Bruce Wayne Batman. The stories in this title will revolve around recent larger moments in the DCU.” There was a short discussion regarding George Perez’s earlier work on New Teen Titans when it was pointed out that two fans in costume, one dressed as Wally West/Flash and the other dressed as Starfire, were both creations from Perez’s first run on New Teen Titans. They were asked to come to the stage—Perez greeted them both warmly and said, “Who knew that creating Starfire would lead to having women dress up like her at conventions…” drawing a healthy amount of laughter from the audience. A member of the audience asked about the possibility of Billy Tucci working with Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti on an issue of Jonah Hex. Both Tucci and Palmiotti surprisingly looked back and forth at one another—both wholeheartedly agreeing that they’d love to work with one another. Dan DiDio looked at the fan, snapped his fingers, and said, “Done! Just like that.” The same fan asked whether or not there was anything DC and the fans could do to get Jonah Hex #36 nominated for an Eisner Award—to which Palmiotti responded that that matter was entirely up to outside sources. A number of fans were asked to quickly ask about characters—due to time constraints. A flurry of characters’ names were bandied about—each receiving a short remark from DiDio: “Firestorm?”—“Blackest Night.” “Aquaman?”—“Blackest Night.” “Huntress?”—“Ehh…I’d love to say Blackest Night but I can’t…” A final fan blurted out, “Ted Kord?”—there was a long pause as Dan DiDio looked over the audience, “Blackest Night.” Keep your eyes peeled later this week for Newsarama’s interview with comic industry legend, George Perez, as he continues to celebrate his 35th year in the industry.