Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question - 02.25.09

Dan DiDio @ NYCC @ 2009

Once again we sit down with DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio to ask 20 questions.

This week, we saw a huge number of replies to our call for questions again, and tried as best we could to pull out the overriding themes and questions that were asked multiple times. Don’t see yours in here? Don’t worry – we’ll be looking for fresh questions next Wednesday.

In the meantime, let’s get rolling.

1. Dan, let’s start with Batman this time – someone was looking for a guarantee here – that at the end result of Batman: Battle for the Cowl – will there be a Batman in Gotham City?

Dan DiDio: Absolutely. Gotham City needs a Batman. That’s the key to this whole story, so there definitely will be a Batman at the end of Battle for the Cowl. Maybe even before.

2. You’ve said on many occasions that you want to return the DC heroes to their most iconic representations: Barry is the Flash, Hal is Green Lantern, etc. There were a couple of questions this past time that wondered how “deep” this iconic-ing goes and to what degree. Does it apply, for instance, to the Marvel Family, or to the Atom, or is there a level beyond which the character “under the mask” is interchangeable in a sense?

DD: The argument always goes back to the origin of the character. As we use it in shorthand around here, if we need one character’s origin to explain the origin of another, then the character that started it all is the “iconic” interpretation of it. So the argument about say, the Atom – you’re correct in where you were going I think – it should be Ray Palmer. One of the things that we’re doing right now is that we’re looking through our list of character’s origins and are finding what we think is the clearest interpretation and the one that’s the easiest to explain. That way, we can carry on with their stories without getting bogged down with all the continuity that put other characters in their place.

What I’m basically saying is that the defining origin is the one. Think of the Flash – you don’t know Wally or Bart’s origin without Barry’s first. You don’t know Kyle or Guy’s origin without understanding Hal’s origin first. And then there are other situations – the Hawks are interesting in this way, as are the Legion of Super-Heroes, where we’ve had multiple interpretations of the same origin, and they’re all slight variations of each other, including the latest interpretation for Hawkman which tried to incorporate all the variations together. The question always is: what are we trying to understand about those characters and what is the easiest way to explain where they’re form and what their motivations are, so we can get into their stories quicker and develop them to be much richer than otherwise.

3. That said, how does that apply to someone like The Question? Full disclosure here – I still don’t believe Vic Sage is dead. He “died” too close to a city where people never die for him to be over and done with. But yet, Greg has developed Renee as the new version as The Question which flows organically from Vic, and there seems to be a push to further establish her, rather than start the questions of “When is Vic coming back?”

DD: You’re absolutely correct. Again, one of the problems even with these interviews is that when I make a statement, it gets interpreted as a definitive statement that has to be applied across the board to every single character and every situation forever, and it gets held against us. The reality is, when I say something about wanting to get back to the iconic versions, that is an overall direction for the line. It’s a mission statement for what we’re trying to accomplish, but it’s not something that’s all-encompassing for every single character and for everything that we’re doing. We do approach things case-by-case, we look for what has the best potential for story, and we look for what has the greatest opportunity to expand the scope and standing and breadth of the line, and that’s where we go. In some cases, it’s looking back, and in other cases, it’s looking forward.

People ask why we seem cagey or never, in their opinion, give a clear answer. We do give clear answers, but the problem is that there are always options and choices. I don’t want to say that we have a blanket option and a blanket answer for everything we do. We can’t do that. One of the things we try to avoid is the homogenous feel of the DC Universe, and what we’re trying to do is approach every character from the standpoint of what has the most potential. At this particular moment, Renee Montoya as The Question has, we believe, more potential for story and more opportunity to enhance the DC Universe than Vic Sage did. We told a great story with Vic Sage in 52. We had a great ending for that story, a great passing of the mantle, and a great platform in 52 for telling that story. There’s no reason to go running backwards from it so quickly, because it’s a story that we fully embrace.

Therefore, Renee Montoya, as we’re presenting her, will be The Question for the foreseeable future, because there are so many stories with her as The Question that are completely untapped, and are waiting to be told. And for you, personally Matt, I understand that Vic Sage will always be your Question, and that’s what’s wonderful about our trade paperback program. [laughs] Everybody has their favorite. Honestly, I’ve ended up going against my own favorites in some cases, but that’s just the way it works.

But again, with Barry Allen – and I’m sure there are people who will say, “What you just said about The Question should apply to The Flash,” and it did – for over 20 years. And now, we’re deciding to explore Barry Allen again. So, in twenty years, or somewhere down the road, you and I, or whoever’s in these chairs may be about Vic Sage, and if the excitement is still there, you might end up with a Return of Vic Sage storyline. If that’s the case, I’d be happy to read it from my rocking chair at the Old Age Home for Comic Book People.

4. Two characters that haven’t been seen lately, although their status quo was changed away from their iconic forms – Ralph and Sue. Any chance of seeing the Ghost Detectives appear anywhere?

DD: There are no plans for them right now, but there’s always a chance for characters like theirs in Blackest Night.

5. Last time we spoke, you mentioned that it would be wonderful if Kyle Baker was working on something for DC Comics, as it seems that he might be, given the Hawkman images he’s been drawing. Since then, he’s mentioned that he’s working on something with the name “Wednesday Comics…”

DD: It’s a really interesting title, and I’m sure if we were working on something with that title, it would be really fascinating concept, with a lot of incredible, talented people working on it, and we at DC Comics would be incredible proud to have someone of Kyle’s caliber, along with other creators involved in it, if they were to be involved with a project like that, which I really can’t talk about. [laughs]

6. A question that goes back to when we spoke about Jonah Hex’s survival in the DC lineup last time – are there any plans in 2009 for expanding on the “non superhero” titles that DC is putting out along with Hex and Warlord?

DD: I’m looking at a couple of other characters right now to see if we can fill that need in different ways. With Sgt. Rock coming to its conclusion, the first inclination is to create another World War II comic, something that will fill that particular genre, but we’re also looking at the horror genre as well. We’re doing Dead Romeo with Jesse Blaze Snider, which is not exactly DCU, but is still in that style that you’re mentioning. So we’ve got a couple of things moving along those lines right now, and we’re going to continue to explore them.

There are a couple of things too that I can tell you about those books – the first is that Jonah Hex #50 will be an oversized issue done by Jimmy and Justin, and with art by Darwyn Cooke, which we’re very excited about.

Plus, we have several things that we’re looking at that really can expand the types of stories that we tell, but still fit in the superhero genre, and we’ll be talking about those in the months to come.

7. You mentioned before that Geoff Johns is working hard to make sure that Blackest Night ships on time and the ancillary books will be on schedule as well. Is everything still moving forward on that timeline?

DD: Yup. Ivan [Reis] has already completed Blackest Night #0 for Free Comic Book Day, and he’s about to start with #1. We’re managing the page counts and the product, and Geoff is here working in conjunction with everybody. Geoff’s been here in New York for over a month now, and will be here for another month as we work through all the stories and issues to make sure it all stays in track – including the development of ancillary stories in other books.

8. Now that Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew was brought back in Final Crisis, are there any plans for them? I know they’re somewhat sentimental favorites around the offices…

DD: The good thing is that now he’s back in the fashion that he’s back, and if he is somewhere in the multiverse, and he was re-introduced by Grant, and if Grant wants to revisit the multiverse again, there’s hope that you will see Captain Carrot in the hands of Grant Morrison at some point in the future.

9. I know that you don’t like to talk too much about creators work into the future after their current projects, but are there plans for George Perez after Legion of 3 Worlds?

DD: It would be foolish not to have plans for George Perez after Legion of 3 Worlds. laughs

NRAMA: Where would you put him if you had your druthers?

DD: Something epic. George is the one person that doesn’t shy away from the incredible group shots or something that encompasses the whole of the DC Universe, and it would be foolish not to utilize those skills.

10. Something that was brought up a couple of times in the thread – the other side of the coin of making sure the characters are shown in their most iconic representations. It seems that slows down the idea of progression – something that DC was at one time really moving towards…

DD: And I disagree.

NRAMA: So progression still happens even when the most iconic versions of the characters are wearing the costume?

DD: Yeah, because we have to go back to them. It’s not that we stopped the storyline or erased continuity to get back to Hal as Green Lantern and Barry as Flash – Barry Allen will be built out of the story of his departure and everything that has happened since then. Hal Jordan was built on everything that occurred to Hal Jordan, including the change to Parallax and even his becoming The Spectre. None of that has been wiped out. So if we’re returning characters to their iconic nature, we’re not just going and telling ‘60s or ‘70s style stories – that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is the natural progression and evolution of the DC Universe. This is the next phase. It just happens to involve the return of characters who were there at an earlier stage in the history of the DC Universe, and they’re coming back. That’s all. It’s all part of the ongoing story and the ongoing history.

The characters that they’ve replaced are still there and accessible, and now they are still part of the next generation of the heroes of the DC Universe who will be carrying the stories into 2009 and beyond.

11. So there’s still a role for the second generation characters who took the role while their mentors were not in it?

DD: There will be an enormous role for them moving forward. There’s a big role for them now – Kyle is in Green Lantern Corps, so he’s never been marginalized; Wally and Connor, and even Cassandra Cain will be appearing throughout the year, and will be seen in roles where they really have a chance to shine.

Or be dragged through the mud, depending on how you approach it.

12. Grant has told us that he’s returning to Batman in June, and there’s now word it will be on Batman and Robin. Anything more you can say about the Batbooks post Battle for the Cowl?

DD: I really don’t like responding to rumors. If I go out and confirm one, then it looks like I’m confirming them all, so why bother? But that’s not discounting something, nor is that confirming anything. It’s just a statement.

13. An interesting question that came up – and it’s about you. When DC Universe Online starts up – are you going to be playing, and if so, what character will you be?

DD: Actually, I’m not really a gamer. I’ve been following along what’s going on, and I’ve been talking to the guys, seeing the designs, comparing notes on the story, and trying to find ways we can capitalize on that with our publishing plan, but I’ve just never been a really strong videogame player. I leave it to the younger guys here like Geoff, Alex Segura, Ian, Mike Marts and others. They play it and tell me all about it.

NRAMA: When they come to visit you while you’re sitting on your rocking chair…

DD: [laughs] that’s right.

14. We’re hip deep in Origins and Omens, and I know it’s like asking you to pick your favorite child, but are there one or two that you think people should really be paying attention to, or might be a little underrated compared to others that are getting a lot of play?

DD: The story in Green Arrow/Black Canary has huge ramifications in the DC Universe. The Nightwing one I really liked a lot. Adventure Comics, too of course.

15. While I have a feeling this will be another non-confirmation, non-comment answer, still – what can be said about the upcoming Batgirl miniseries? You mentioned Cassandra Cain earlier…can we at least get an idea of who it is in the title role?

DD [laughs] Why do you think she wears a mask? She doesn’t want anyone to know who she is. Seriously, I don’t want to spoil any of the excitement that’s coming up in Battle for the Cowl or Oracle: The Cure that are both coming out, but I have to say that there are plenty of clues as to who the next Batgirl will be and what her mission statement will be in her series.

16. When will we see the last issue of the Ambush Bug series?

DD: It is being completed as we speak – the last issue is on my desk. It’s one book that I can say quite honestly that hit the editor’s desk and got stuck there. We’re just making a couple of revisions to the story, and I felt the likenesses were a little too complimentary, so I had to make them a little worse.

17. A good question came up about breaking in to the DC Universe. Given your insider’s position within the DC Universe, what comic would you give to someone looking to enjoy and experience the DCU if, say, you were working in a store on Free Comic Book Day?

DD: Are we talking monthly comics or trades?

NRAMA: Let’s talk monthlies. First thing first, we’re gearing up for Blackest Night, soothe #0 issue and the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps books are going to be essential for the latter half of the year. But if you’re stepping up to the table right now, you’ve got to check out Battle for the Cowl, which gives you a very solid feel of what life in Gotham City is like, and literally dozens of characters within the DCU. Between Green Lantern and Battle for the Cowl, they are two easy entry points to so much of what’s coming up in the DC Universe in the coming year, and they will take you to so many other places that feature our characters.

18. A person mentioned what they felt as the lack of consistency in characters between their appearances in the various titles. For instance, Bizarro appeared in space in Strange Adventures, is shown to be in the Phantom Zone, and is tangling with Solomon Grundy in his issues. How should readers synch all of that up, given that those appearances are happening around the same time?

DD: Well, two things – the various appearances show that Bizarro works equally well in space, on earth, and as a Superman villain. We find him to be an exciting and interesting character, and enhance his value by giving him more appearances throughout the DC Universe. Bottom line is we could use this argument with so many characters in so many books – all publishers could – it gave us a giant monster fight in Solomon Grundy, allowed us to touch on Bizarro World in space, and kept him front and center as a Superman villain too. We knew that he was going to be appearing in those three stories, and wanted him to see him in all of those stories. Given the way the time-space continuum works, how he was able to appear is always open for fan discussion.

19. We’ve spoken with Adam Kubert and he’s told us he’s headed back to Marvel for some work, but is there anything coming up at DC for Andy?

DD: Absolutely – Andy has finished up his work with Neil Gaiman on his Batman story, and he has two other Batman-related projects in the works right now. One of them he is writing and drawing himself, and the other one…we’ll be talking about soon.

20. Finally - given that there are less than four months left on Trinity, and given his pace at working, I would guess that if Mark Bagley is moving on to something new at DC, he’s already on issue #22 by now?

DD: [laughs] Yeah, you’d think that wouldn’t you? Actually, I’ve heard from both Mark and Kurt that after Trinity, they’re going to take a little well-deserved downtime. Mark’s next project is already in place, and we’re just waiting for him to give us the green light to get rolling, and he’ll start on one of our more prominent series, and we’ll move on from there.

And my question for the readers this week:

One of the expressions that we hear is “event fatigue,” yet the events continue to be our best-selling projects, not just for DC, but for other publishers in the industry as well. So my question is along the lines of what excites them about events? Why do they buy them, and what does a successful event do that makes them want to read more?

And finally – I really, truly appreciate the number of questions that are generated each time Matt puts out the call for questions. The fact that each time he asks for your questions, we see multiple pages worth of questions gets me very excited that we have a very active fanbase out there that wants to be involved. I’m sorry that we can’t get to all the questions that are asked, but we’ll try to get to as many as we can. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this many questions being asked continually – and even though we can’t get to them all, the fact that the enthusiasm is still there is tremendously exciting and motivating for us to do our jobs the best we can.

And for those of you missing Dan's delightful video presence...a flashback:

Newsarama Note - We originally thought DiDio said Batgirl: The Cure, but actually did say Oracle: The Cure, referring to the three issue Oracle miniseries. 

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