Flash: Rebirth #4With apologies for the missed day (scheduling problems over Easter weekend), it’s time to hear DC Executive Editor Dan Didio’s answers to your questions.
This time out, we saw a large number of questions (as always) but many on “thoughtier” topics – so many, as a matter of fact, that we’ll be highlighting one tomorrow as a standalone.
But you’re not here to read introductions, so on we go…
1. To kick things off the in the same fashion we did last time, you ended up our last installment by asking readers who would be on their dream Justice League team, and it came up a few times in the question thread, reflected back at you – what would your dream JLA team be?
Dan DiDio: My dream team? Not what people think it is, actually. My dream team is not comprised of characters that all have their own series at the same time, primarily because I like to see a level of character development and story risk being taken with the characters so you can wonder what’s going on, and not have to worry about what’s going on in their regular books and worry about how it’s affecting the team book.
That’s as far as I’ll go with it right now – I have certain characters that I enjoy: Green Arrow is a charcarer that I love to see on a team, and there are a number of characters who are currently deceased that I think belong on the Justice League of America, that I would love to see back on at some point.
NRAMA: Deceased? But wait – with that said, and as has been a theme of these discussions, the way stories are told today, in multi-part arcs that rarely allow for even a single-issue story, are we in a place where a Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman centered Justice League just isn’t going to happen anymore?
DD: No – that’s not to say that. I think there’s always a future with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman and the League; I just don’t feel that the team or the stories should be consistently built around them. Right now, characters like Batman and Superman support so many series under their own mini-brand, so to speak – you have eight books running that are tied to the Batman universe, and four to five books running that are tied to the Superman universe. So there’s a lot of story being driven by Superman and Batman in their own universes, and by the same token, it’s kind of nice to give Justice League, one of our key and more recognizable franchises over as an opportunity for other characters to shine. Think back to Justice League International – so many of those characters didn’t have their own series when that series first premiered.
What it’s really all about is the development and interaction of characters – what every character’s role is, and how they interact with one another. I think that’s what makes for strong stories on a team bok – not just to put the primary icons in there. We’ve had a number of series that have had a Superman, a Wonder Woman, or a Batman “brand” as one of the sell points of the series, and we’ve had those series fail. So that doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed just because Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are involved. The book sells when the stories are compelling, the interaction is important, and there’s development that’s unique to that series.
So realistically, my favorite team is a team that interacts well, where everybody has a clearly defined role, and we’re constantly challenging the relationships within the team as the conflicts they face become greater and greater. That’s my idea of a fun book. Everybody has their favorite characters, but the reality is how a team interacts is what matters most.
2. Next question is one that concerns…consequences for actions; I guess is a good way to put it. The reader based their question in the context of Battle for the Cowl #2, which showed Jason going around doing horrible, horrible things – shooting Damian, stabbing Tim in the chest … not to mention that he has killed people. Yet, he’s a regular character in the Batman universe, and while you can’t say he’s someone that Batman looks the other way on, there’s been a feeling that Jason is afforded a level of “tolerance” by Batman and the others who routinely beat people unconscious for, in comparison, minor crimes. I think most readers can still remember Jim Shooter’s edit that if Chris Claremont and John Byrne were going to have Phoenix kill a star system’s worth of people, she had to die. Long question short, does that feeling still apply? Is there the sense in the DC offices that since Jason has killed, he cannot be a hero, and must therefore be either hunted, jailed, or on the run all the time…
DD: Let’s take this one from the very beginning. When a story is going to be told where we feel that a character crosses a moral line, we just don’t put that in arbitrarily. We think through how that affects everyone around him, and what the long-term ramifications of that action will be.
The perfect example of that was when Wonder Woman killed Max Lord. We thought that all the way through – we saw how that affected the relationship between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. We saw what happens when that relationship breaks down, and how that affected the entire DC Universe, as well as how it was ultimately resolved. We saw those causes and effects all the way through. Or another case - Identity Crisis - we saw those events, the effects of those events, and how they played through the DC Universe. Every time that we try to do a major story where we feel a moral line has been crossed, there are always ramifications because of it. Things that you’re mentioning with Jason – of seeing him kill – are all potential stories for the future. Unless he doesn’t make it out of Battle for the Cowl, these are all story beats that we’d like to see play out throughout the DCU, and they’re all fodder for future storytelling.
NRAMA: But it seems that saying it’s fodder for future storytelling seems almost to be a convenient way out, almost a hand off to some future team that’s not involved in the story or decision that saw the character cross that moral line…
DD: The way it is is that we don’t set things up arbitrarily – I think you’re asking me what the end of Battle for the Cowl in regards to Jason and the ramifications two years from now…
NRAMA: Not really – looking at Jason as a specific case, he’s been killing since he’s come back, and he’s been given a pass on it for the … months of comic book time since Judd’s storyarc that brought him back…
DD: And he’s showing his true colors. He confronted Batman upon his return, he toyed with the idea of being a hero, he failed at being a hero, Bruce Wayne is no longer there, and Jason sees an opportunity where he can take what he wants and show his true colors in the process.
NRAMA: Okay – it’s just a much longer view then – he tried to be a hero, initially, he failed, spectacularly in Countdown, and now he’s apparently failing again…
DD: Right. And that leads to something I can never say enough – we’re in the business of periodical storytelling. We are telling serial stories with our characters – these are continuing stories and adventures, and more importantly, everything that happens is building upon things that happened before, Naturally, things that are happening right now becomes fodder for future stories, and by that I mean, not for the people who follow us, but for things that we want to act upon right now, or else we would not go to lengths to set up things that we think will have potential for future stories.
3. Let’s talk about the Blackest Night miniseries that have been announced. There are Batman, Superman, Titans, JSA, Wonder Woman, and Flash. Is that it?
DD: No, that’s it – there are six of them. We have three, three-part miniseries that start at the beginning of Blackest Night and three, tree-part miniseries that start at the conclusion, and they don’t overlap.
NRAMA: What’s the broad strokes idea behind those rather than having three issues of Wonder Woman tie in to Blackest Night?
DD: The reason why we took “Green Lantern” out of the title is that Blackest Night is a story than encompasses the entire DC Universe. There are only so many pages in each individual issue, and there’s a primary story that really unfolds the whole mystery of the Black Lanterns and the threat that they pose, but there are so many stories to be told around the edges dealing with the Black Lanterns themselves and the different agents of the multicolored rings that we felt we needed these miniseries in order to enhance the story.
NRAMA: And this grew out of what the original plan was, that is, it was going to resemble The Sinestro Corps War in that it was to be a tighter storyline?
DD: Yeah – and you’ll see this in the first issue. Things do start with a conversation between Barry and Hal, but it does key off so many other aspects of the DC universe, and we really wanted to give those story beats time to open up and breathe, because there really are big moments in the DCU. That means that some of the stories that would have been given short space in Blackest Night now really have their own chance to shine in their own series.
It’s interesting to answer this question, because one of the things that we saw and heard with Final Crisis was that there were setups without payoffs from the main story beats that were taking place in Final Crisis itself. This is us understanding that and realizing that and making sure that the primary beats are serviced to the best of our ability, and really have a chance to open up and breathe in the story. But by doing that, we’ve realized that they can’t all take place in Blackest Night, and that’s one of the reasons we created these miniseries.
4. Another quick Blackest Night question – will the issues be regular 22-pagers?
DD: Right – 22 pages.
5. Is there any word on the Zatanna series by Paul Dini, or is he going to be tied up with his work on his two Batman titles?
DD: We have an artist working on Zatanna as we speak, and we’re giving him the amount of time necessary so that we have enough issues in the can so we can be monthly with it when we launch.
6. Continuing with a couple more “update” questions…is there any more news on All Star Wonder Woman?
DD: Nothing right now, other than the fact that Adam is working on it. Actually, one of the reasons why Adam stopped doing covers of Power Girl was that he wanted to focus all of his attention on All Star Wonder Woman.
7. Where do you see the All Star line moving forward? Grant and Frank’s All Star Superman has ended, and as you said last time we spoke, once Frank Miller and Jim Lee are done with All Star Batman & Robin – which will take some time – that series will end as well. Is it still going to be a viable place where creators can come to tell their special stories, or is the concept being slowly shelved?
DD: Right now, as we’ve said, Batman & Robin is still running, and Frank and Jim are working on it again, and with All Star Wonder Woman in construction with Adam – the line’s still running. I haven’t seen past that, but depending upon what the lay of the land is, and what creators step forward we’ll see. I’m not saying there is no more All Star line; there are just no All Star plans at this moment.
from next week's Detective Comics #8538. What happened to the second part of “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
DD: It should be in your hands next week, unless I’m mistaken. There were some slowdowns here and there, and there was a minor mishap with production at the very end that didn’t have anything to do with the writer or the artist that we lost a week and a half on, and unfortunately, when you lose a week and a half, that turns into two to three weeks on the production schedule. It was an unfortunate situation that was basically hardware-based, not people based.
NRAMA: I would guess that when you see the clock tick down on the production deadline, those are the worst of the delays, given that those units of time are then in terms of weeks that can telescope out…
DD: Yeah, they are. It something where we push everything we can to get there as quickly as possible, and then something breaks down. It’s one of those things that can happen when you run a really tight schedule – if something breaks down at the end, it has a greater impact than if you’re not running a tight schedule.
Needless to say, we’re in a position now where I’m happy to say that you’re going to see that book out next week, Legion of 3 Worlds will be out at the end of this month and again in April as well. We’re caught up on Green Lantern and JSA, so I feel that we’ve got our arms around our schedule, and the big problem books we’ve gotten back on schedule, and we’ve got things where they should be headed into Blackest Night, so it’s all systems go.
9. Is there any word on Titans #14? The last time we spoke, we talked about Hugh Sterbakov coming on for that issue, and now he’s said that he’s not writing it … what’s up?
DD: Eric Wallace will be coming on board for that issue. I’d like to say that I’m really excited about it like I was last time, but that seems to be some kind of kiss of death for writers on that book (laughs). But all kidding aside, Eric is on board and very excited about working on that issue of Titans, and he’s doing a great job for us on Ink, so that one’s all good right now.
NRAMA: Will the story still be the same, that is, “A Day in the Life” starring Cyborg?
DD: Yes – the overarching idea is that we’ll be taking a look at a day in the lives of our team members with a bigger story running underneath them all, so it gives each of the characters a chance to shine a little bit, and gives a few different writers an opportunity to try their hand at the Titans, but more importantly, it helps us to set the ground work for a big story at the end of the year with Titans and Teen Titans as the two books will be coming together again.
10. Speaking of events – we had a reader ask about how you go about mapping things out for the future. You’ve mentioned before that things at DC are largely planned out through 2010, with some even into 2011 at this point. How much flexibility is built into the schedules?
DD: You’re setting up a general conceit for where the DC Universe is going, and have a mapped idea of what storylines are going to be taking place, and interesting key beats that you put in as milestones throughout the year. But as for individual stories, and how you get to specific point, those are created as you move. You want to have as much flexibility as you go towards certain places, but that’s not to say that every place we’re going is locked in stone either. If we see a better direction, we’ll take it. If someone comes up with a better idea, we’ll use it, and more importantly, we want to be able to work with everybody, so they have maximum flexibility with everything that they’re working on.
So yeah – we always have a mapped course, but that’s not to say that things may change as other ideas come to the table. Quite honestly, some things work, and some things don’t. Some things break out to be big hits, and others don’t. We like to be able to really follow what the mood is, and what catches the most attention, and building on it, and following those ideas.
NRAMA: With that said, is something like Blackest Night still flexible? Say, of people really dig the idea of a Black Lantern Kal-L and give the impression they want to see more of him. At this stage in the game, could there be a spinoff – obviously, if it’s something that fits, story-wise?
DD: There’s some flexibility in the body of the story, but the reality is, we know how Blackest Night ends, and more importantly, we know the direction of the DC Universe as it comes out of it, so we can be working on things that feed out of Blackest Night at the same time Blackest Night is being created.
But in terms of Kal-L – we’ve got an action figure…(laughs)
NRAMA: Well, not using him specifically, is there still flexibility for unexpected breakout stars to get their own projects at this stage in the game?
DD: We’re hoping that we’re projecting the proper breakouts from there. What happens is that one of the stumbling blocks we have in One Year Later is that so many people were focusing on concluding their series that they weren’t putting their full attention into what was about to start up fresh in the “One Year Later” jumps, which is why those stories were something of a mixed bag.
So what I’m trying to do right now is make sure that we’re putting all our attention on and making sure we all know what we need to accomplish both during Blackest Night and coming out of Blackest Night. Everybody here understands that we’re working towards a common goal.
11. Next up, based on the art that’s been seen for Batman #687 and that of Batman and Robin #1, one could almost get the idea that there are two different Batmen, based on distinctive costume differences. Is that a possibility, or is this a case of artistic interpretation?
Batman and Robin #2DD: I think Batman is the one character that lends itself to varying artistic interpretations than any of our other characters out there. If you look at projects like Batman: Black and White and the various artists that have been working on the character, simultaneously during periods where it was clearly understood that Bruce Wayne was Batman, it was always understood that there could be different looks. Neal Adams was different than Irv Noveck, for example.
At this particular moment, all I can really say specifically is…I’m not answering the question. (laughs) I don’t want to give too much away.
But – while we’re talking about artistic interpretations of Batman, I do want to announce something – the first issue of Judd Winick’s Batman run will be drawn by Ed Benes, as was announced, but Ed is moving on to another project, so I’m very happy to announce that the first arc will have Ed on the first part, and the remainder of that stroryline will be drawn by Mark Bagley – his first work after Trinity.
Newsarama Note: Check back tomorrow for Newsarama’s interview with Bagley about moving to Batman.
12. Touching again on the idea of scheduling, a reader asked that if Wednesday Comics goes over well, and is selling strongly after the first 12 issues, is there any chance of it continuing with issue #13 and onward?
DD: It’s set in stone for 12 issues. Given the talent and the teams, a number of people involved with Wednesday Comics took it on given the set length that they would be working. To change that at the last minute – I think we’d be at a disadvantage. Everyone is working with a very clear goal in mind, and when you have that goal, you can see the end in sight, and put all your energy and effort into building towards that end. To change that, or extend it would upset that apple cart, and I’d prefer not to do that.
What I would say though is that if Wednesday Comics is successful, we would entertain the possibility of returning to it in 2010.
NRAMA: But what about just swapping out creative teams on the features with a #13 and keep that momentum going on this year’s series?
DD: Mark Chiarello has put much time and love into putting together the teams on this project. This isn’t something you can just expand upon automatically or just get anybody to step in and do. Every page is assembled with a real sense of importance, and because of that, you want to make sure that if it’s going to continue, it’s going ot do so with the same level of quality, or else why bother?
13. Another Batman question – what’s Tony Daniel doing after Battle for the Cowl wraps up?
DD: Taking a rest? He’s working very hard on Cowl right now, to make sure it hits the schedule. We do have plans for him after this, though. He’s going to need a bit of downtime, but we have his next assignment already lined up.
14. A question related to the start of Flash: Rebirth – by resurrecting Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen, do you feel that DC is catering to a specific demographic?
DD: I hope so – I’d like to think we’re catering to people who like DC Comics.
But as we say, we’re not reverting to anything – we’re continuing a story. There are no reboots taking place. This is building on the existing stories and continuity of the DC Universe and giving us the chance to examine our characters in a new light by using characters that are familiar to everyone. There’s a reason that Hal Jordan is Green Lantern, which we’ve explained time and time again in his own series, and there will be a clear understanding of why Barry Allen is the Flash as we move on through Rebirth. What’s also great about them is that they have a pre-existing relationship, and we can build on that relationship, which allows us to explore them even more in the stories we’re planning on telling.
15. How will you be measuring the success of the co-features in the books when they start appearing? Is it just a creative venture, or are they expected to boost the sales of the books that they’re appearing in?
DD: It’s a combination of a number of things – we’re hoping that whatever series they enter will continue to see the same level of success it’s experiencing. We want to make sure that creatively, they’re reaching all the goals we’ve set for them, and thirdly, we want to feel that they are adding to the overall value of the DC Universe, rather than just being perceived as filler materialQuite honestly, I’m hoping that they take on a life of their own, and continue to be a valuable asset for the DC Universe.
16. Of all the co-features that are coming up, I think the one that has the most people scratching their heads is the Green Arrow/Black Canary split. With that, it doesn’t seem like a change … or anything new is being added to the value of the book. Both characters appeared before the co-feature, and now, with the addition of the co-feature, you still have both characters, albeit, separated. Can you explain that one a little more?
DD: The reason why we did this was that when we created the Green Arrow/Black Canary book coming out of the weeding of the characters, we wanted to explore the relationship of the two characters together. We will continue to show that relationship – that has not changed. But again, in looking at the essence of what a co-feature is, we’re looking at characters that could support, or did support at one time, their own series or miniseries. In this particular case, we were lucky enough to have a character like Black Canary who has supported her own series and her own miniseries. We think this gives us an opportunity to tell stories where Green Arrow and Black canary interact as well as gives us an opportunity to feature each of the characters in their own right.
It’s a win-win – we get to see team up stories with them, we get to see solo stories with them, and we get to build up stories that can bring them back together again. It gives the characters a chance to breathe. And of course – it would be really strange if there wasn’t a story reason as to why the two of them have their own features during the run of the series.
17. There were some requests for a little more clarification on the plans for Black Adam and the Marvel Family – is there something specific for them on the horizon, or are they being taken off the stage for a while? After all, the end of JSA was a pretty big cliffhanger…
DD: Honestly, the fun part about the Marvel Family right now is the potential and the future. The Wizard Shazam has taken back the power, Billy and Mary are without the power, Freddy is out there with a different version of the Shazam power; and Black Adam and Isis are statues. The Rock of Finality has been introduced, and there’s also a mystery wizard floating around. There are so many pieces out there right now, that I feel that the potential for Captain Marvel is tremendous in the very foreseeable future.
18. Speaking of Freddy – people were concerned when he wasn’t seen in the painted art for the upcoming James Robinson Justice League miniseries. Is he still in there?
DD: Oh yes – not only is he still in there, but he’s wearing a very traditional costume – the red one, rather than the blue one.
19. Finally – can you clarify what’s going on with Mike Kunkel and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam?
DD: Sure – he’s not leaving it. That all was started with me trying to make an announcement from a panel audience because Art and Franco were there. What happened was that we wanted to get Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam back on a monthly schedule. Because of that, we’re very well aware that Mike could not deliver on a monthly schedule, but we wanted to make sure that the book kept coming out, so we lifted Art and Franco to be writing team on the issues that Mike can’t be there for. We’ve got two more issues by Mike that he’s working on now, and once they’re ready to go, we’ll be soliciting those as well. So Mike is by no means away from Billy Batson right now – we just wanted to get our kids books on a monthly schedule, so we had to use two different teams on this.
For a publisher to build consistency and loyalty among the readers, you have to be out there on a monthly schedule, but at the same time, I didn’t want to lose Mike, and didn’t want to continue without him, so I couldn’t think of anybody better than Art and Frank to be out there when Mike can’t make it.
20. Finally – will we ever see a new History of the DC Universe along the lines of what Marv Wolfman and George Perez did after the original Crisis?
DD: Of course. It’s done in a different light, but yes, there is a History of the DC Universe in the works right now. All I can say is that it won’t cover the future of the DC Universe like the original did – this one will deal with the more generational aspects of the DC Universe.
And my question this time – it’s the classic monthly book versus trade discussion: what gets you to pick up a trade over the monthly issues?