In front of an audience of hundreds of fans, DC Comics hit the Empire Stage at New York Comic Con on Friday to discuss what's next for Batman and Gotham after 75 years of publication.
DC's Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham opened up the panel, introducing the creators in the panel: Batman writer Scott Snyder, Batman artist Greg Capullo, Batman Eternal writer James Tynion IV, Batgirl writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher, Batgirl artist Babs Tarr, Batwoman writer Marc Andreyko, Batman and Robin writer Peter Tomasi, Detective Comics writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, and Bat-editor Mark Doyle.
The panel started with Snyder and Capullo's Batman, which just started its "Endgame" arc in Issue #35. "Honestly, this story is meant to be a thank-you to you guys," Snyder said. "We got to deal with the most sacred territory in the Batman mythos... and the fact that you guys supported that book and kept it to the top - and we know it was long - that meant a lot to us."
"It's meant to be a celebration about everything that's awesome about Batman," Snyder said. "This is about the return of the Joker." When he was writing "Death of the Family," Snyder said there was always going to be more story with the Joker. "If that was a comedy, this is a tragedy." Whereas "Death of the Family" was smaller and more intimate, "Endgame" is just about the Joker trying to burn everything down to the ground.
"This is as big as we can go," Snyder said, saying Batman fighting the Justice League is the least of his worries. He says that this is as much the Joker's 75th anniversary as Batman's.
"What worries me is that was nice-guy Joker - this is P.O.'d Joker," Capullo added. "Who's afraid of a Joker-ized Superman?" Capullo said that he's really getting into this story arc, saying that Snyder is giving him "more elbow room to tell the kinds of stories I like to tell." Snyder said that they are more in sync than ever with this story.
"We both love Batman as much as any of you love Batman," Capullo said. "We've worked hard month after month to deliver the best Batman we can, not just for you, but also for ourselves."
Tynion then was brought into the mix, as he's working on the backup stories to Batman. "I just wanted to say how excited I am to be back on the main Batman title," he said. "My first published work was in Batman #8. When they started talking about backups, I couldn't let anyone else do that." His backups go into twisted versions of the Joker's (possible) history.
The first story was drawn with Kelley Jones, and will continue to Graham Nolan, John McCrea, Sam Keith and wrapped up with Dustin Nguyen. "This is just incredible talent," Tynion said.
The conversation then turned to Batman Eternal. "Every issue we turn gets crazier and crazier," Cunningham said. Tynion said that "they gave us the best toybox on the table - Gotham City. So now we're going to take out those toys and break them a little." James Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth are off the table, the police commissioner has a hidden agenda, and Hush is only part of the cabal conspiring against him. "This is a very dangerous Gotham City," Tynion said, adding that this series is in its second act, hurtling towards a more dangerous third act.
Tynion discussed the New 52 debut of Spoiler: "She knows more than anyone else about what's going on in Gotham City, and now there's a bounty on her head," Tynion said. "The information in her head makes her one of the greatest assets in Gotham City." She's already had heavy-hitting assassins gunning for her, including the Flamingo, from Grant Morrison's run on Batman.
Cunningham asked that with the main Batman title coming after Batman Eternal, did that give Snyder more flexibility? With Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor, a new base, and new cast members like Julia Pennyworth, Snyder said it helps keeps things vibrant. "Those kinds of things have a relationship to Eternal, and that lets us do things I've never done before," he said, before adding that when it comes to Eternal's ongoing arc, "There are a lot of surprises along the way."
Snyder praised the other books being printed in the Bat-verse, saying that there was so much diversity with the main Bat-titles, as well as new titles like the Batgirl of Burnside or Gotham Academy. "That's the joy of it right now. That's the fun of being a part of Gotham. And you're a part of Gotham, too."
Cunningham used that opportunity to discuss Batgirl. Stewart said that originally he was approached alone to work on the book, but had agreed to do another "huge" project. "I knew I still wanted to work on the book, but I didn't have time to do it on my own," he said, so he brought in Brendan Fletcher. Asking about what they liked about Batgirl, it came back to the iconic versions of her has been Yvonne Craig's take in the '60s and Batman The Animated Series. They were adventurous and plucky and hopeful, Stewart said.
"We wanted to do Batgirl as a contrast to Batman," Stewart said.
Fletcher said that they were looking to do a contemporary version of Barbara, and came up with Babs Tarr. "This is all so new to me," Tarr said. She said that Stewart emailed her out of the blue, asking if she wanted to work on a comic for the first time. "Are you insane? Of course I would be!" Drawing from fashion and animation to portray twists like Barbara's photographic memory, Tarr's vision was "exactly what I was looking for," Stewart said. He said that Issue #36 "looks like Akira."
He added that they would use Barbara's photographic memory as much as possible. "Yes, Bruce is smart, but Barbara has a different type of smarts."
Next up was Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin, which Cunningham called "DC's most heart-wrenching book" and "a man's descent into Hell." "The word for Pat and I was, 'now it's kick-ass time,'" Tomasi said, as Batman is now on Apokolips in his all-powerful "Hellbat" suit. "We're going to have a cool-ass toe-to-toe with Batman versus Darkseid in Issue #37," Tomasi said, as Batman will tear through Apokolips' forces "like a warm knife through butter."
"We're going to have a lot of action for everybody," Tomasi said.
He teased that with Robin Rises, next year marks Robin's 75th anniversary. "I hope everyone digs the uber-story that we've been creating," he said. "There are a lot of Easter eggs for those who have been with us at the get-go."
Cunningham showed off some advance art from Arkham Manor, due out in two weeks. Doyle said that Wayne Manor will be turned into Arkham Asylum, based on the events of Batman Eternal. "Basically, bad things happen to Arkham Asylum - so the question is, what do you do with all the crazy people?" Doyle said. "It's a really, really tight thriller... when you take Batman and take his gadgets away, what does he do?" Snyder added that Gerry Duggan's script "is fantastic."
The next book on the agenda was Gotham Academy. "In my time in DC, I've never seen us publish anything with this flavor," Cunningham said. "This is true YA."
"Gotham Academy really came out of nowhere," Fletcher said. Doyle and artist Becky Cloonan put the initial idea of the school together. Fletcher said that the building's "deep, deep history" is connected to everything in Gotham - including Batman. Those connections will form the mystery of the series, he added. Series protagonist Olive isn't as thrilled about her life, let alone the idea of Batman, while Maps loves everything about Gotham, including the idea of superheroes. Doyle said that "they're very Batman and Robin."
Fletcher said that they tried to tie in things they enjoyed, including Gotham and Hogwarts. "This is not just tropes we're shoving in there - everything has a reason. But we've only put out 20 pages so far," he chuckled. Praising artist Karl Kerschl, Flecther said Gotham Academy this is "the best work of his career." "I can't sing the praises of the Gotham Academy team enough."
The next book, debuting at the end of November, is Gotham By Midnight by Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith. "This book is very different - it's very spooky," Doyle said, comparing it to The X-Files. "It's a cop shop book - they're the midnight shift. They deal with all the weird stuff in Gotham," including the Black Casebook from Grant Morrison's run on Batman.
Batwoman, meanwhile, is going where no Bat has gone before - space, in Issue #35. Batwoman, along with her sister Red Alice, Ragman, the Demon and Clayface are now a team. "This is a weird place in the DC universe," Andreyko said. Georges Jeanty will be taking over on art for the book. "He's really bringing his A-game - it's spectacular, spectacular stuff." While the high concepts are going crazy, Andrekyo said that readers will still see the "interpersonal stuff," like Kate dealing with her messy personal life.
Finally, the panel turned to Detective Comics. Issue #37 will feature Anarky (as well as the Mad Hatter, getting kicked in the jaw). "The book comes out, appropriately, during Christmas," Manapul said. "And Anarky is giving them the freedom of choice." Anarky will be handing out masks, and telling people they can do whatever they want. Batman will be overwhelmed by this idea of freedom. "He's pure order," Manapul said. "It's going to be interesting to see who the readers root for - Batman or Anarky?"
Manapul said that he and Buccellato wanted to do a more orderly panel style than the experimental layouts of the Flash. "I think it's about to get really interesting from a story standpoint and a visual standpoint."
Cunningham opened up the floor for a short Q&A. A fan asked if Dick Grayson would be wrapped back into the larger Batman family anytime soon. Doyle urged him to keep reading. Tynion said that Dick's seeming "death" has hurt the family tremendously, and when they do come back together, it'll be a big moment.
Another fan asked why they think moviegoers don't buy comics in droves. Cunningham says they think about that "obsessively." "We're a decided minority, but we're a very powerful minority," Cunningham said of comic fans. "As the digital world has come in, our readers have grown." Movies and TV have cross-pollenated to bring in more readers, as well.
Another fan asked if shows like Gotham would influence the creators to bring back other characters that aren't currently in the books. Fletcher said there were plenty of Easter Eggs in Gotham Academy from Batman '66. Tynion said Batman Eternal had plenty, as well - Renee Montoya almost made the cut, but would have been a background character. "I would be shocked if we didn't see her in the pages of a comic at some point in the future."
What is the possibility of a Stephanie Brown solo series? Doyle said he has a lot of pitches on his desk.
The final question - what is the name of Batwoman's new team? "The Unknowns."
Stay tuned to Newsarama for the latest news from New York Comic Con!