20 Answers and 1 Question With Dan DiDio: Holiday Surprise

20 Answers and 1 Question With DiDio

Batman and the Outsiders Special

Welcome to the Holiday Edition of “20 Answers, 1 Question” with Dan DiDio. Thanks for checking in on Christmas Eve – we know you’re probably crazy busy, so we’ll get right to it. Questions for this installment came from your suggestions last week, and we took many of them verbatim.

As for this week’s question, and what we were talking about when we mentioned that would be some cool Batman news today back on Monday, well, that’s at the end of the Q&A. Trust us, it’s worth the…you just scrolled down and back, didn’t you?

Alright, alright – on to the questions:

1. Why doesn’t DC put age ratings on their titles? Why stick with the Comics Code Authority, which is arguably in the eyes of many, an outdated concept?

Dan DiDio: One of the things that we try to do is that we try to be self-policing in how we handle the appropriateness of the material in our comics. We always want to have some level where we feel comfortable in what we’re doing, and don’t really feel the need to break things own into particular age ratings, although you can break them up into sections: we have the Johnny DC books which are for younger readers, we have the Comics Code on books that wind up on newsstands, and lastly, the books without the Code run a little bit tougher in regards to language and subject matter, and the level of violence and action contained in the stories.

So we do have it broken down in that fashion, so to look at it, it’s something that roughly follows a “G, PG” and “PG-13” system in our minds when we compare the content to movie ratings. That’s how we approach the material as we build it, and don’t see the need to go any further than that. Occasionally, we may cross a line or a boundary, but I find that to be more the exception than the rule.

2. Speaking of the difference between the “PG” and the “PG-13” material – do the creators and editors know this and shape their stories and content to match?

DD: The editors know which books have the Code on them, and go into them with a different sensibility. We also get notes back from the Code where we have changes that need to be made in order to meet the approval of the Code.

NRAMA: I guess that it’s always going to boil down to people picking out individual pages and selections and saying, “Well what about this scene, and what about this page? Looking at the latest issue of Supergirl, for instance, it opens with Zor-el staring at a smoking hole in his chest, not to mention Supergirl getting a spear from Brainiac punched through her shoulder, and the issue containing a lot of blood. That seems like it would be pushing the “PG” idea of a Code-approved book, whereas the latest issue of Nightwing, which isn’t approached by the Code is a more cerebral story, featuring a pointed discussion, and ends with a family scene as two “sons” start to accept the loss of their father…

DD: Everything we do is for the sense of story. We hope that we’re not putting anything in the books that would be deemed gratuitous. If there’s a certain level of violence in the story it’s because we want to show the level of threat and danger that our characters are facing. If it’s a language issue, we want to make sure it’s done for dramatic effect, rather than peppering discussion with coarse language and the last consideration is in regards to sexuality – we also try to portray that in such a fashion that we feel is appropriate for readers that we find to be our key audience.

3. Speaking of content meeting the appropriate audience, as you said, the books on the newsstand, are approved by the Code, and that’s done in part because those books have the possibility of meeting the widest possible audience. Yet, the Comics Code isn’t indicated on any trade paperback or hardcover, which is where comics are reaching their new audience, that is, someone who may not pick up an issue of Supergirl may pick up a trade collection of New Krypton. How does that work in DC’s eyes, that is, the Code needs to be met on the single issues that people may buy, but when they move to the bookshelves, there’s no such guidance?

Supergirl #36

DD: Again, everything comes back to what we feel comfortable producing as publishers. If we put the book out on the newsstand, if it gets collected, we have confidence and belief in the material that we’ve created together. It’s different than what would be deemed product that is created for Vertigo. But also, you have to remember that all this material is packaged and put on the same shelf when you reach the bookstore market, true. But there is an expectation with Batman and with Superman that what we expect in other series. So therefore, we are always trying to feel comfortable with the material that we produce and make sure that we’re in apposition that we understand the type of product we do, and that we’re meeting the expectation that comes with it.

Realistically, it’s a tough question to answer to every readers’ individual standards. We publish what we believe is the proper style and tone that fits our characters, and we stand by it. Whether there’s a Code on it or no Code on it, we stand by the material that we produce. Realistically, if there is something that slips through a crack or maybe goes over a line because we didn’t view it in a proper light when we produced it, we will go back and fix it, and make the changes in regards tothe trade publications or anywhere else so that we do not put that material out in a second format if we found it offensive or inappropriate to our characters.

We could put any label we want on our books, but in the end, we have to believe in the material that we publish, and that’s what we do – we stand by the material that we publish.

By the way, while we’ve been talking, I pulled out that issue of Supergirl with the smoking hole in the chest. I feel that the way that particular scene is presented in this comic is no different than what we’ve been seeing for the last 20-30 years in comics, to be perfectly honest. If someone is looking at that scene as a rallying point, then they’ve probably been offended by a lot of material over the years. There’s smoke seen rising from a person’s chest. I feel extremely comfortable with the way that was published.

4. A scheduling question next – when will James Robinson’s Justice League series see publication? It’s been talked about since the summer convention season – is this another case of “placing” the series in the right time and place, relative to the DC Universe?

DD: Absolutely. There were a lot of circumstances in building that project – coming out of Final Crisis, as well as assembling the other Justice League team, and also the speed in which the issues were being created. As of right now, it’s not on our schedule, and we’re reviewing the best time to put it out.

5. Speaking of Final Crisis – in terms of a timeline, you’ve said that the March books will be the first solid reflection of the events of Final Crisis in the DC Universe…

DD: Absolutely. We had a long editorial meeting about this. Each one of the editors in working on the series they’re on right now – because all the series have their own storylines that are moving at their own ace and speed – we’ll see the first ramifications of Final Crisis starting in March, primarily in the Superman, Batman and Justice League titles. But you will also see clear spots where Final Crisis has taken place in regards to the other series, and those books will be coming out between March and June.

Final Crisis #5

I’m not doing a hard “One Year Later” as we did coming out of Infinite Crisis, but you’ll see in March, Superman, Batman and Justice League reflect the changes wrought by Final Crisis, and then you’ll be seeing other changes in all the other continuity-driven series from March up to and including June.

So, for instance, the “break spot” where Final Crisis happened in the Green Lantern story occurs somewhere in either April or May, while the break spot for others is clearly in March. Each series has a different break spot. Likewise, any series that come to a conclusion in February – anything that happens with those characters after their series conclusion is post Final Crisis. But in all of this – I don’t want to say that there is one clear month where everything changes, because that is not the case. I don’t want to disrupt the flow of the storytelling in the ongoing series just to reflect on particular moment.

6. Something that was brought up by many fans, and I figure you would like a chance to explain more in-depth: from what you said last time about the coming year – one without a Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, and Dwyane telling us about the coming year in Justice League without the “big three”…this brought up the question with many people of “weren’t we just there with 52?” Wasn’t that the point of 52, to show what the world was like without these three characters?

DD: That was the start of 52. But let’s approach this in two different ways. In 52, we pulled Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman off the stage in that series. In all of their ongoing series, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were appearing. So let’s remember that we never had a disruption of those characters in their ongoing books.

The removal of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in 52 was a story point in 52, but as we’ve said, that story evolved and became one more about Steel, the Question, Ralph Dibny, Black Adam, Booster Gold and the space heroes. Every one of those storylines took on a life of their own and a story of their own. Every one of those stories could have been told, even if Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were still on stage. So it really wasn’t about their removal – it became about those other characters as their lives moved on.

What we’re doing right now is we’re changing the status quo in Batman’s universe. We’re changing the status quo in Superman’s universe. We’re changing the status quo in Wonder Woman’s’ universe. That doesn’t exactly mean they’ll be gone – Superman will be active – his story just doesn’t take place on earth. There will be someone actively acting, and taking on adventures in Gotham City in a Batman suit. In Wonder Woman – she is removed temporarily before stepping into a new situation that changes her status quo.

So in every situation, the changes are unique to those characters and their stories and how their stories move through 2009 and into 2010. Realistically, I look at this as apples and oranges – it’s one thing to remove them completely and tell stories of the world without them, and it’s another thing to have their books proceed and see how the world changes when the status quo of those characters changes. The stories that we’ll be telling with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in 2009 and into 2010 are nothing like the stories that were told in 52, and are completely new stories for the characters. Simple as that.

7. We’ve spoke about your efforts of changing the racial and gender makeup of the DC Universe. What about the international scene? Is it as important say, to see characters from different countries appearing in the DC Universe?

DD: It’s something that we’re interested in pursuing, only because it broadens the flavor and the scope of the DC Universe. The introduction of the Great Ten and the Super Young Team were done to broaden the idea of what people think of the DCU being, and that’s one of the reasons why we were very excited about having those characters introduces in 52 and Final Crisis, and one of the reasons why those characters will continue to be strong supporting cast members from this time forward.

8. Something asked by multiple people in the thread this time: Aquaman – when and where? And who?

Philip Tan's Orange Lantern

DD: Aquaman’s storyline picks up again in Blackest Night, and what happens following that is a key story beat of Blackest Night. But also, I would remind people that if they really are looking for an Aquaman story, he did just appear in our Holiday Special in a story that I wrote that people can still probably find on shelves. [laughs]

9. You mentioned it, so let’s talk about the structure of Blackest Night - there’s still question out there whether it will be within Green Lantern or its own thing, or…what…?

DD: Blackest Night will be its own miniseries starting in July. There will be Blackest Night storylines that will play into Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps during that period of time. We should also see other material generated around that in the firm of miniseries and specials to support the main series.

10. With the Milestone and Red Circle characters coming in to the DC Universe, a reader brought up the point that DC does have another larger group of characters in the form of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers that really haven’t been that much used since Grant finished telling his story. Is there any plan to a large-scale integration of that group of characters into the DCU?

DD: It all depends on Grant’s schedule. Seven Soldiers, like the multiverse is something that I really like to leave under Grant’s control. On occasion, we’ll use them – naturally you’ll be seeing Zatanna in the new Paul Dini series that will be coming out next year, and we see Klarion here and there, but the group, as they appeared in that series is a story that I feel only Grant can tell.

NRAMA: Character-wise, they’re not like, as Dwayne explained, like the Milestone characters will be, just in the general pool of characters that writers can use in their projects? Do they have a bubble around them right now that says, “Not until Grant…”?

Justice Society of America #18
Justice Society of America #18
DD: They don’t have a bubble around them right now – we’ve had discussions about Frankenstein, discussions about Bulleteer and the other characters that are out there, but the reality is the person that has the most passion for it is Grant.

11. Since we’ve last spoken, word has come that Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham will be stepping down from Justice Society. Is a replacement team ready to go?

DD: Yes there is – what we have is Jerry Ordway working with Geoff which takes us up through issue #25, and then starting right behind that is the new writing team of Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges. They have this incredible story they’re working on in Fables right now where they’re crossing over all the Fables’ books, so we’re just waiting for them to come free of their Fables schedule a little, and then they’re going to be taking on Justice Society on a regular basis.

NRAMA: And as for Dale? Any word on where he’s going to land, or is that for another day?

DD: That’s for another company to say.

12. A question that’s come up a few times in various forms concerns where talent lands on different project. For example, someone pointed out Scott Kolins’ Solomon Grundy seven issue miniseries. Scott’s a solid artist, consistently on time, and even ahead of time most times. It seems that he should be a workhorse on a top-tier book to ensure a level of art and scheduling, rather than on a seven-month commitment starring a B-ish list villain…obviously there is passion behind it, but still…

DD: The interesting thing behind Solomon Grundy is that the passion behind it is Scott Kolins. So this is the book that he wanted to do, and we’re more than happy to have him do it, because I think it brings a lot of excitement and energy to a character that we’re interested in seeing if it has any legs other than just appearances in other books. He and Geoff came up with an overarching story for Solomon Grundy, we liked it a lot, Scott really wanted to do it, and had brought it up to me on several occasions, and when his schedule opened up to the point that he could take it on, we got it going. What I like to think is that it’s not about Scott doing Solomon Grundy, but Scott wanting to do Solomon Grundy.

13. Switching gears again – looking at the original Charlton characters that came into the DC Universe with the original Crisis. They are, compared to their original versions, somewhat different - with some to the point of being unrecognizable. You’ve got two large groups of characters coming in – Milestone and Red Circle. There are fans wondering if this is the ultimately fate of them as well – characters brought in to change them up…which also brings up the idea of the latitude of changes that can be made with characters versus holding them to what they are or were…

DiDio on the Archie Heroes
DiDio on the Archie Heroes
DD: The changes that were made to The Question and Blue Beetle were made 20 years after DC acquired those characters. So we were working with the “recognizable” as you like to put it, forms of those characters for 20 years before we decided to make some changes to them. So, to say that we’re going to introduce characters for the first time with massive changes doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, primarily because when we decided to go out and acquire these characters, we did so for a particular reason, and for the recognizability of those characters. So therefore, I don’t think anyone should have any fear or concern about the fact that we’re bringing in the Red Circle characters or the Milestone characters and changes are going to be made. We’re reintroducing those characters, and if we’re going to change them right from the start, the question would be why bother? Why bother going out and acquiring the rights to these characters in the first place?

You really can’t compare something that you’ve been working on for 20 years with something you’re working on for the first time.

NRAMA: And what about that earth that we saw in 52 with the Charlton characters are still in their original, pristine form?

DD: That’s a question for Grant.

14. There was a question about The Mighty, the Peter Tomasi, Peter Snjeberg series that’s coming up, and how that seems to be a return to things like Fallen Angel and Monolith, where the stories are published by DC, but yet, the characters are still owned by the creators. Is this a return to those projects, or is it a “now and then, as needed” type of thing?

The Mighty

DD: It’s a “now and then” type of thing, when we find something that is particular exciting in its original form. We should always be trying projects like that – there will always be a place for a Monolith or a Simon Dark or a Mighty. I always like to see us trying something a little bit out of the box that still fits within the style and tone of the product that we make, but yet, has a new take on it, and that’s what The Mighty is.

15. With changes in Batman and Superman going into space, what’s going to become of the Superman/Batman title?

DD: The two books that exist, as I like to say, on the “side” of continuity are Superman/Batman and The Brave and Bold. In both those cases, we really want to keep with the high concept of those series, and keep the high energy, and more importantly, allow for the open sense of storytelling that people would expect in those two books. So even though we’re making chances to Superman and Batman in their own series and in satellite series, Superman/Batman will stay true to form and just go with the biggest, wildest, craziest ride we can offer.

NRAMA: Was there a temptation to put the “replacements” in there for even an arc? That is, whoever wins Battle for the Cowl and say, Nightwing and Flamebird?

DD: There was a temptation, but it’s been pushed aside. We want to stay true to the form of the series that was established in the very firs issues of each.

16. Will the Suicide Squad be a part of any books in the foreseeable future?

DD: Yes.

NRAMA: Any books you’d like to share the names of?

DD: No. [laughs] But definitely yes.

17. Knowing that he is quite busy between what he’s doing between Hollywood and what he’s already committed to with DC, have there been talks with J. Michael Straczynski about continuing Babylon 5 in comics?

DD: No there haven’t, but we’ve talked with Joe about a number of projects, so much so that one of the projects that we were rolling out, we actually changed: in his preparing Brave and Bold, Joe was having a lot of fun teaming characters from the DCU together. The original plan was to roll out and introduce the Red Circle characters inside the series, but what we’re going to do, rather than the original plan, is stay with the tone that was established with the Brave and Bold – that is, team ups between DC characters. He was really excited about that idea from the start, so it makes sense to keep things the way they are for that series. But at the same time, he’s really excited about the Red Circle characters – so much so – that he’s going to be writing a series of one shots later this year to introduce all of those to the readers too.

NRAMA: So the one shots will be the introductions to the characters to the DCU?

DD: What happened was that Joe really wanted to give a lot of time to establishing the origins and reintroduce the characters in the proper format. So, realistically, rather than doing so in a team up, he felt that they all deserved their own individual spotlights, and that’s how he’s establishing it. That being said, every story that’s told does have the flavor of the DCU either in locations or other characters that might be appearing in them.

NRAMA: Before we move away from Joe – there is the current, and rather successful trend of bringing back television shows as comics with the original creators attached. It seems like a no-brainer that more Babylon 5 is one of the avenues that should be explored with him…

DD: I’m always wide open for whenever he wants to discuss it. I think he already knows this, but I’ll mention it again – I have every single episode of Babylon 5 on DVD> I’m a huge fan of the show, so it’s an easy thing for me to see happening, but it’s really dependant on his schedule and the stories that he’s looking to tell.

18. The March solicitations showed the mini-explosion of the Batman titles. Can you give a thumbnail sketch of what goes where and whether or not they’re all parts of the Battle for the Cowl story?

DD: It depends on who you’re following. If you’re a Batman fan, the primary story that you need to read is Battle for the Cowl, pure and simple. In those three thirty page issues that are coming out, it will feature mostly every character that has every fought, or been inspired by Batman, all converging on Gotham City.

The support books – the one shots and The Gotham Gazette are helping to enrich the world of Batman so everyone can get a bigger Batman fix during the three months that the other books have been stopped. The Oracle miniseries plays into the world of post-Final Crisis, so naturally it does play off of Battle for the Cowl, but really, it is Barbara Gordon’s story, following up on a series of events from Final Crisis, and more importantly how they affect her life. The Azrael miniseries – I really can’t talk too much about that, other than to say that when a Batman seems to be missing, an Azrael always seems to pop up.

19. While we’re still on the Batman universe, we’ve spoken with Peter Tomasi about the new direction for The Outsiders. This goes back to the topic of scheduling and placing the books – but why continue that at its current number with a title change and creative team change, as well as other #1s happening throughout the world of Batman?

DD: Because we’ve just done a #1 on that series, to tell the truth. Realistically, a change of direction is something that every book has happen, and if we renumber a book every time a series changes direction, we’ll be putting out #1s every few months. I’d much rather prefer just to stay on course with the series as it is in regards to numbering, and more importantly, I think Pete’s take on the series flows very nicely from all the events prior to this. It builds on what existed beforehand, it builds on the Special, and it puts a team together that most fans of the Outsiders will be very comfortable seeing.

20. Last question before our respective long winter naps – there was a question about a previous announcement of DC’s Who’s Who being collected that was made a couple of years back. AS you’ve said, you can’t really speak to collections, but to get into your area of control and expertise – do you think we’ll ever see another DC Who’s Who style project, or are those types of things that are ideas that don’t fit well now?

DD: If we were to ever do another Who’s Who, I would want to time it to a major anniversary for DC Comics, but that’s just me.

Tony Daniels' Battle for the Cowl teaser

Oh – and one last thing that I wanted to mention before we go – the content for Adventure Comics #1 has changed – I think it might be out there that Mon-el is in issue #1. The reality is, that the storyline that we were going to put in as the launch of Adventure Comics has actually moved into Superman comics. While the Legionaries will be appearing in Adventure, it won’t be until the second arc of the series.

As for my question this time, we wanted to give DC readers and Batman fans a holiday gift – and I saw that there were some questions in the thread about another teaser image like we did for Infinite Crisis and Countdown. The answer is yes, and we’re debuting it here at Newsarama. This is our teaser for the upcoming Battle for the Cowl miniseries by Tony Daniel, and it ties right in to my question for all of you: can you find all of the clues hidden in the picture?

Happy Holidays everyone!

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