It’s that time again – well, it technically was that time yesterday, but due to the holiday last weekend, schedules were off by a day, so now it’s that time.
Time for DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio to answer 20 reader questions, and fire back with one of his own. This time out, we hit the changes in the Batman family, upcoming Red Circle developments, beat the dead horse of re-numbering series, talk some Titans talk, and much more.
1. Dan, let’s start with the biggest news that you can now talk about opening – the conclusion of Batman: Battle for the Cowl, and the new Batman and Robin. When was the choice of Dick and Damian made, and was there every any back and forth over it, or has this all been in the works in Grant’s long view for Batman?
Dan DiDio: It’s funny – we were trying to lock down the actual date when we first came to the decision. It feels like this has been in play since the beginning of Grant’s run on Batman. We knew we were going to move to a change, we knew Grant had the “R.I.P.” storyline in mind, and we saw it as the perfect opportunity to revisit the idea of who’s operating underneath the cowl. In my mind, it was always going to be Dick Grayson, even though there were some discussions about it. This really was, in some ways, an extension of the generational aspect of the DC Universe as it applies to Batman. If you’re looking at it in that sense, there was only one logical choice to be the next Batman, and that was Dick Grayson.
NRAMA: That works for Dick, but what about Damian as Robin? I think a lot of people saw it coming for a while, but it’s still a relatively controversial move, given how Damian’s been portrayed over the last couple of years…
DD: It is and it isn’t. I understand that it could be seen as a controversial choice because of what people see Damian as right now – especially in his role as Talia’s son and confronting the Bat-Family in the way that he has, but again, we can go back to the start of Grant’s run on Batman, and I think Grant always had it in his mind, and was even providing clues that Damian would be the new Robin.
The fun part about Damian is that he thinks he should be the new Batman – without a doubt and regardless of his age.
I still remember when Grant pitched this to me – it was one of those light bulb moments when he described it – Dick and Damian are the reverse of Bruce and Dick as Batman and Robin. Bruce was grim and Dick kept him light and centered, now we have something that is a complete reversal. Batman is the lighter one, and the one who’s enjoying what he does, and now he is the one who has to lighten this grim and gritty kid, and make him more understanding of the role of a hero. It gives us incredible potential for story.
2. It’s not ruining any big surprise to say that Dick’s run as Batman is a timed affair which will allow you to explore certain things, but speaking as a fan – how does Dick work out as Batman for you? You mention that he’s lighter than Bruce, which is a given, but yet, part of what made Batman “Batman” and allowed for his control of Gotham was that he was grim and dark…
DD: Dick’s going to be a different Batman, and that’s what’s fun. You really can’t compare apples to apples with Bruce and Dick. Even though Dick was trained by Bruce, Dick has a different center, a different sensibility than Bruce had. He’s going to approach everything from a different light, which will help him in some cases and hurt him in others. One of the things that we did not want to do is have Dick Grayson act lock-step in regards to how Bruce Wayne acted in that role, because if we did that, why make the change in the first place? The whole purpose of making a change like this is to expand the story opportunities and potential of the characters, and the only way that will work is by finding somebody who takes that same thing but twists it, and allows us to look at it with a fresh set of eyes.
What’s interesting about Dick Grayson is that he’s been by Bruce’s side, fighting all of these villains – Joker, Two-Face, Black Mask – he’s done all these things beside Bruce, and now he’s doing them as Batman, and yet it all feels brand new. That’s what’s fun about it.3. The Batman books will be going through their expansion in June and July, which will pretty well cover the Batman Family in Gotham, and with Red Robin, around the world. But what about in regards to the rest of the DC Universe? When and where will we see Dick interacting with the rest of the DC Universe as Batman? When you’re talking about story potential, it seems that there’s tremendous potential the first time Batman walks into the JLA’s meeting room, and everyone’s left wondering for a minute as to who this guy in the cape and ears is…
DD: There’s a good chance that Dick Grayson as Batman will be appearing in Justice League towards the latter part of the year, which will be a fun moment, especially with the changes that are in store for the League as the year progresses. On top of that, we’re also doing a four-part miniseries for the back half of the year called World’s Finest where the changes in Batman’s world meet up with all the changes in Superman’s world. It won’t be a head-to-head Superman/Batman meeting, but everything that’s happening in those books right now will meet up.
4. We’ll hit a couple more Batman issues down the line, but just to check on some quick topics – a reader posted that they had heard something they believe you said at the Bristol Con about Steel – that he was off the table for the next little bit in order to make the introduction of Hardware from Milestone into the DC Universe a little easier and smoother?
DD: What I said was that we were focusing on Hardware just for the moment. It’s not that Steel is off the table, it’s just that we were spotlighting Hardware in Justice League of America at the time, that’s all.
There were a couple of misconceptions from that con, I think. That was one of them, and the other was that I didn’t want anyone to think that Adam Hughes had stopped working on All Star Wonder Woman - that’s still in production as well. My English accent must have been off that day. (laughs).
5. Since a bit of time has passed since the announcement of the co-features, have there been any changes to the line-up, either in the form of additions, or new series in the vein of Doom Patrol/Metal Men. It seems that when people start thinking of co-features and shared books, Hawkman and Atom come to mind pretty quickly…
DD: Not really any new additions – we talked about Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics, so that’s part of the bunch.
Oh – and there is actually something I can share – we have the four Red Circle one shots coming out in August, and both of those will be followed by two ongoing series: The Shield/Inferno and The Web/Hangman.
6. The Marvel family came up yet again this time, with a few readers asking that, since the story seems to be unfinished after their appearances in JSA, is there an imminent Marvel Family project coming up?
DD: How’s it unfinished?
NRAMA: Characters were left as statues, powers were taken back by a very grumpy Wizard Shazam, promises were made to get them back, and there’s no Marvel Family anymore…
DD: But Freddie still has his powers, and he’ll be in Justice League: Cry for Justice…
NRAMA: Sure, but overall, is there, say, a pin in the calendar for when the Marvel Family will get back on their feet, or is it just out there and waiting for a good idea?
DD: We’ve had plenty of discussions about this – the end of that story was very carefully planned out, and it’s my belief that there were things said in the final pages of that story that set the stage for a future story.
7. Something of a thought question for you from a reader who asked what series or project had surprised you at the creative output level or in fan interest – was there say, a sleeper book that rose up and took you by surprise?
DD: Wow – that’s a pretty tough question, because it’s kind of based on the idea that we would have low expectations for a character, or a creative team or a book, and we don’t. I’d never approve anything if we had low expectations for it. Now granted, there are certain levels that we expect or hope for books to hit, and some of them meet those marks, and some do not, but do we ever go out and launch a series with low expectations? Speaking frankly for a second, in a couple of cases where we realized we had low expectations, we actually held back on production, because they just didn’t meet the standards we had hoped it would. But everything we put out, we believe it. It sounds hokey, but it’s true.
We put a lot of time and effort and a lot of work into getting a book made, and if we’re going to have something coming out on a monthly basis, there’s a lot of hope and expectation in it.
Actually – there is something that’s fresh in my mind, that doesn’t have anything to do with sales, but just on a fun level. The Solomon Grundy comic that came out just wound up being fun. You come out with a comic book starring Solomon Grundy, and there’s an expectation of what this book will be about, and in some ways, it exceeded the expectations we had for it because it was more fun than I imagined it would be. When you see Solomon Grundy fighting Bizarro, it’s a hoot. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s not that I had low expectations for it, but I’m having more fun reading it than I imagined I would have at the start.
From here, you always hope that you’ll be able to find something in every book that exceeds your original expectations of what the book was originally going to be, and I can find that in every book we publish. I think fans see it too, and they pick up on it – things like Secret Six - that could just be a book of six different characters operating through the DC Universe, but yet, it has such a personality and such heart to it, I think it grows exponentially over what the original expectations of the book were. Not that they were low, but because the finished product it greater than what the original pieces were going to be.
The bottom line is this – we don’t put anything out that we have low expectations for, but I do get excited about things that exceed our expectations. Things like Secret Six and Solomon Grundy – we had high expectations for, but with both of those, their first issues shot way over what I was expecting. I just saw the completed first issue of Batman & Robin and it exceeds what I believe it would be, because the talent involved elevated it beyond what even my expectations were. I’m happy to say that I can still get excited by the books that we create, and I’m happy to say that I’m more excited today about the things that cross my desk than I have been in quite a while.
8. A reader asked that, with as much as they’ve seen Len Wein writing Justice League, and as much as Dwayne has stated publically that he’s not enjoying writing Justice League, is Dwayne McDuffie still writing Justice League?
DD: As of right now, Len’s the writer of Justice League, and once his arc is done, we’ll be able to announce the new direction for the series.9. Are there any more details you can share on Brian Azzarello’s upcoming project with The Spirit, Doc Savage and other characters? The last time we spoke, you seemed to indicate that a lot was happening with it, quickly…
DD: Brian’s storyline is coming together, and it does involved Doc Savage and a number of other non-super powered, non-superhero characters, and it’s coming together nicely. And also, I’m happy to announce that the artist on the series will be Rags Morales.
10. Moving on to one of your favorites – an anniversary question. A reader pointed out that next February is DC Comics 75th Anniversary as a company. Are there plans, either for that or for all of 2010?
DD: it’s really not my lace to speak for larger things going on in the company, but if there is an Anniversary, you guarantee that they will be baking a cake.
NRAMA: With pages and covers?DD Absolutely.
11. Again, to skirt the line as to what you can and can’t talk about, does DC Comics have any input on its various movie projects like Marvel does?
DD Again, I really can’t answer that question because I hate speaking about things that I hear second or third-hand. In regards to that, everyone is very keenly aware of the movies, and where the scripts are, but after that, I can’t really tell you. But we do have departments and people who are specifically in place to work on that side of the exploitation of the characters.
12. While we’re on topics that you just love, we’ve got a question about the barrier between DC and Vertigo, and how it seems to mostly be a one-way street, that it, characters can move from DC to Vertigo, but rarely the other way…
DD Like Animal Man?
NRAMA: But Animal Man was just one, while Madame Xanadu, Doctor Fate, the Spectre, the Phantom Stranger and others seem to be constantly at Vertigo’s beck and call, while many DC fans would love to see the Swamp Thing appear in the DC Universe again, especially since Vertigo hasn’t dusted him off in years. It just seems that DC could be producing projects or exploiting the character if Vertigo isn’t interested in using him…
DD Ahh, it wouldn’t be a 20 questions without a Swamp Thing question…
NRAMA: Hey now, we’ve kept them out for about three months now…
DD Okay, okay. Yeah – there’s an open discussion. Characters like Animal Man, Jonah Hex and Deadman have all found their way back to the DCU, but at this particular point, given what Vertigo’s plans are for the future, and so much of what they are and what they’re about is built around Swamp Thing and his world, it’s good that they’re able to continue to exploit that character the way that they have.
12. With The Human Target getting picked up for a season by Fox, will there be any kind of renewed interest with the character in the DCU?
DD Not in the DCU, but I think that Vertigo is looking at the character again, because they were the last ones to publish it – to tie that in to your last question.
13. Will Adventure Comics launch on its own legs, or will it be pulled into the Superman Family of titles from the get-go?
DD As a matter of fact, it starts on its own legs. Even though the storyline begins with Superboy’s return, and he’s operating out of the Kent’s home in Smallville, it’s very much his own story, and not something that’s leaning heavily on the current events in Superman and Action Comics.
But, there’s a good chance that those two worlds will converge later down the line.
14. While we’re speaking of Superboy – a reader asked that with Superboy and Kid Flash back, and a new Robin taking up the role, might we see a return to a “Big 7” style Teen Titans soon – possibly one that doesn’t involve someone being brutally murdered every six issues?
DD Well, yes and no, then (laughs). For Teen Titans, it’s the same as with the Justice League – we’re not just going to jam every book with every character we can just because we think they should be there, or everybody’s asking for them to be there. There was a version of the Teen Titans that ran like that, true, but we’re looking at the cast, the roles they fill, the story potential, where they are in the DC Universe at that moment, and we try to build the best teams that make sense in order to tell the best stories that we can tell. If that involves the “Big 7,” great, if it involved two of the “Big 7” style Titans, that’s great too, but it matters to me that we have the proper mix of characters.
As for the death issue, yeah, it’s always cute when someone makes a reference like that, but from my standpoint, we don’t shy away from any stories that we think are strong, and we’re just not arbitrarily killing characters, either, because we have too many at a given moment. Also, I said this last time, but the post Blackest Night DC Universe is a lot more sensitive to character death and resurrection, and there’s a much keener sensibility in regards to what that’s all about following Blackest Night.
15. A reader jumped on something that seems to be a contradiction in what you’ve said before about re-numbering series in that Adventure Comics #1 has a variant cover version that has the number #504 on it. “What gives?” the person asked, and added “Give Wonder Woman some respect,” which is in regards to giving Wonder Woman her original numbering back…
DD I look at it slightly differently, and I’m going to talk semantics for a second, and I’m sure that’s how it will be argued, but when I look at books like Action Comics and Detective, and they’ve maintained their numbering from #1 on, I feel that Adventure Comics fits within that same brand and title recognition. There is a pedigree that comes with the Adventure Comics numbering – there were great efforts made to continue Adventure Comics as a publication just to reach the #500 mark – they moved it into digest form to do it – and there’s a certain amount of respect that comes with the number and the name that I’d like to acknowledge in the return of the title.
In other books, such as Wonder Woman and other series, such as Flash and Green Lantern, we chose to go back to #1 when we relaunched them. One of the primary goals is to attract as wide an audience as possible with the new numbering, and in some cases, the lower numbers attract some readers, because they feel that they don’t have as much history that they need to go back and grab or sift through in order to get to this point. We’re aware that Wonder Woman has a long history and long legacy and so many years worth of books under her belt – and none of that is diminished by the fact that we’re standing at the number we’re at right now. From my standpoint, I just don’t see the need to do it – it’s not going to change the stories we tell, it’s not gong to change who the character is, it’s not going to change a single thing about her. She still stands with the sense of history and legacy that she has always had, and we do nothing but treat her with the utmost respect due to one of the primary characters of the DC Universe. Anyone who thinks otherwise, and needs a #600 issue to prove it is mistaken.
16. While we’re on the subject of variants, does it concern you as the Executive Editor that we’re in a place where variants are (only mildly) arguably, a non-removable component of the market. I mean, eBay has multiple listings of the Batman & Robin Frank Quitely sketch variant cover being offered for around $500 – and the winner of the auction gets the 250 copies of #1 that were required by DC in order for the seller to receive the variant in the first place. That’s a market that doesn’t have actual numbers that correlate to readers, and one that rewards this mass-ordering and…well, waste for collectability’s sake…
DD I look at it completely differently. I see it as an incentive for people to purchase additional copies that they might have been a little hesitant to buy with the hopes that they’ll be able to move them. Quite honestly, something like that keeps more copies in the mix through the retailer base, and hopefully attracts more people to the books so that when they look for them, they’re not sold out and people are going to buy them. That’s part one.
Part two is that, regardless of what we think, or what we have to say about the variant business, there is a very clear collector base that enjoys the various covers, and is supportive of that business within the retailer base. There are people who enjoy and collect variants, so it’s something that you see all companies doing, not just DC, not just Marvel. We’re the most visible among those doing it, but there are several companies that are building very big business models on producing variant covers.
17. Winding things down with some quick ones – a reader said they enjoyed Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom, and wanted to know what Phil Noto would be doing next at DC?
DD Phil is doing the covers on Batgirl right now, and we’re talking about some other stuff with him.
18. What’s Kurt Busiek headed towards now that Trinity is over?
DD I think he’s taking a vacation right now, but he’s working on his strip for Wednesday Comics, and we’ve got a couple of things that we’re talking to him about now.
19. And finally in our creator roundup – where might we see Tony Daniel now that Battle for the Cowl is completed?
DD He did so well with the Bat group, I’d hate to see him leave it.
20. Last one for this time – a reader asked how the Bat-office and DC sees the future Grant laid out for Batman in Batman #666? With his work on Batman seemingly taking steps toward it, should we be seeing that as a strongly possible future for Batman that things will be moving towards for the next little bit, such as Kingdom Come and Dark Knight influenced the characters for a time?
DD It’s just one of the many possible futures of the DC Universe and it is something that stays prevalent in Grant Morrison’s mind as he’s continuing to tell his stories of Batman.
And now for my question this time - now that we replaced Bruce Wayne with Dick Grayson, if we wanted to do the same with Superman, who could the one character to replace Clark Kent?