Batman. He's known worldwide and the most consistent seller for DC Comics. The company came to New York Comic Con for their final "75th Anniversary" panel of the year, bringing Batman creators in tow.
John Cunningham moderated the panel, starting with the promise of "big big names."
Introducing the panelists, he started with Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment and writer of Justice League. Kevin "the voice of the Batman" Conroy was introduced next, to a huge pop and a standing ovation from the 2,000-plus crowd. "I am Vengeance. I am the Night. I AM BATMAN!" he said into the mic right away.
Neal Adams came out to slightly less fanfare, followed by Greg Capullo, current artist on Batman and Scott Snyder, writer on Batman.
Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics rounded out the panel.
Cunningham said the panel would largely be a "stroll through history." He asked who the best Bat-villain is.
Johns said that he loves whoever he's writing at the moment - the new volume of Earth One will have Croc and Dent, but ultimately "I have to say the Joker."
Conroy is "biased to The Joker, partly because of what Mark Hamill brought to the character, and because so many people can do something new with him."
Neal Adams, "My favorite is Ra's al Ghul," he said, pronouncing it raysh, something Johns and Conroy agreed vocally on.
Capullo and Snyder both said the Joker as well. "He destroys you and laughs at you while doing it. He's endlessly interesting to me."
Jim Lee said, "Catwoman is my favorite. I was a big fan of the Julie Newmar Catwoman. I felt very tingly and funny as a kid watching that show." Laughs to that.
Cunningham sequed that into mentioning Batman: The Complete TV Series coming on Blu-Ray and DVD November 11, 2014. He asked the panelists for their thoughts on the show.
Lee said "I took it very seriously when I was a kid. The Joker horrified me because he had that mustache underneath his makeup - that's how crazy he was!" He also mentioned that Harlan Ellison's unproduced episode of the series is coming out as a comic book in December.
"The very first superhero drawing I ever did was of Batman and Robin from the animated intro to the TV series," Capullo said.
Adams said, "I was very happy when that show was coming out because it was a Batman show. I tried to suspend my disbelief throughout that show until Jill St. John climbed up on top of a cyclotron, fell in, and Batman said 'What a way to Go-Go.' That was pretty much it for me. Sorry!"
The artist reflected on working with Denny O'Neil, saying the writer who helped remold Batman with him was crazy when he was writing it (in a good way). Adams came back to do a graphic novel of Batman - serialized as Batman Odyssey recently, and he wanted to show how far ahead of everyone else Batman always is.
Batman: the Dark Knight Returns was featured next, and Capullo said it's his go-to comic. "That to me was a game changer, it's what I give to anyone that doesn't read comics." Snyder echoed the sentiment. "I remember getting that as a kid, I got the four issues, I still have them. It was really an extension of the city around us - I grew up in New York City. It was the sense of fear and violence. That was when I understood that I might want to write comics." He said it's his favorite book - not just comic book.
Jim Lee said the book also inspired him to become a comic book artist. Johns said the moment when Harvey Dent says they fixed the wrong face was a formative moment for him about hte power of comics.
Batman: The Animated Series was next on memory lane. Kevin Conroy's only exposure to Batman before being cast was the 1960s series. "So I had to get rid of that and build it up from nothing from just what Paul Dini and Bruce Timm would tell me about it. I'm so amazed by how iconic this version of the character became. I had a young woman come up to me in Chicago and told me how she grew up in the projects, but watching Batman kept her sane and off the streets, out of gangs. I hear stories like that all the time, these very personal, dramatic stories from people about how their conneciton to that character got them through it. People ask me what the lesson they can learn from him is:
"Never ever give up. He never does, and you can't either."
Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke's two Batman animated shorts created for the 75th anniversary were screened next on the big screens. If you've somehow missed them, here they are:
Next up: 2002's Hush, which marked Jim Lee's DC debut. "I hadn't done a monthly book in a long time, so I did feel a lot of pressure. I wanted the book to be canon, be regular continuity. I wanted it to be part of the monthly run. They wouldn't let me do it because they didn't think I could do it. We produced the issues secretly and they let us do it as the monthly book then.
"We really got to use every villain. I was so influenced by Frank Miller's art that I had him really big and brawny at first, but he became more lithe, more like how Neal draws him, because I was doing a lot of research."
Then working on All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder was a "dream come true" for Lee. Will it ever be finished? "There are scripts written, and there are pages drawn. That's all I'll say about that."
Batman: Earth One from Johns and Gary Frank was "really intimidating to write," Johns said. They wanted to "really do something different with it." That included Alfred Pennyworth's considerable changes, making him more militaristic and somewhat of a bad influence on Bruce at times. "That's something we deal with in the second volume," which will feature Harvey Bullock and Harvey Dent, too.
"It's about Alfred and Bruce deciding they're going to build this myth of the Batman," Johns said. There's Riddler in the series as a 'terrorist," and Batman "really learns to be a detective in this, he learns to be a detective from Jim Gordon." Harvey Dent "and his twin sister Jessica are in the book - the Dents play a big role." They've also "reinvented Killer Croc," and "we have plans for several more after this."
Batman of course relaunched with a new first issue with the New 52. Capullo said "hopefully you continue to support us the way you have so we can stay in Gotham for a very long time."
And that brings us to Batman #35, the first issue of "Endgame" which, spoiler alert, Jokerized the entire Justice League.
"It's a story we've been planning for over 2 years," Snyder said. "I started talking about it with Greg when we were doing Death of the Family. If that was sort of a comedy in some ways, then this one is the tragedy. If that was about love, this one's about hate. 'We've been playing a game for a long time, but now I'm going to show you who I really am,' is what the Joker is saying to him.
"It has a huge cast, basically every one in Batman's extended cast is in this. It's really a thank you to you guys for letting us go and do that material. It's a culmination of everything we've ever done."
Snyder and Conroy praised each other's work, with Snyder "geeking out for a few seconds," saying he loves how there's a "Batman for every phase of your life."