Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question - 04.01.09

DiDio on the Archie Heroes

It’s that time again – you came up with the questions, and we asked DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio.

This time out, we cover JMS’ Red Circle projects, Legion news, All Star Batman and Robin news, Captain Atom’s writers, and much more.

Let’s get to the questioning…

1. First off Dan, is there any update that you can give in regards to J. Michael Straczynski’s projects starting up? You’d said that the Red Circle (Archie Heroes) stories had been pulled out of Brave and the Bold into their own projects, and that they’d be launching sometime later this year. Is there any closer date you can give on that?

Dan DiDio: Yeah – I can update you on that. He’s doing a four-part series called The Red Circle, which features four of the prime characters from those series of books: The Shield, The Web, Hangman and the Inferno. He’ll be writing this four part story that introduces them, which will also include a semi, soft link of their four origins, and more importantly, setting a direction for each of these characters, and the series will follow after that. We’re looking for that to start in late summer.

Newsarama: And he’s writing another project on top of that as well?

DD: Because we moved these out of Brave and the Bold, he’s moved back on to Brave and the Bold as well – so he’s working on The Red Circle and Brave and the Bold. But he does have other projects with DC in addition to those.

2. There was a question this time about variant covers – something that DC has really embraced over the past few months, as can be seen clearly in the June solicitations. What’s the strategy behind the use of different covers for the same issue?

DD: With variants, we try to make them feel event-worthy in their own right, and with all the Batman books for June, for example, all the variants are a series done by J.G. Jones.

NRAMA: Obviously, variants are designed from your side of the table to tweak sales when they appear, but yet, they’ve been a constant since their most recent re-introduction a few years back. Are we in a place where the comics industry will always have variant covers?

DD: One of the things variant covers do is help attract and draw attention to series that we want people to be focused on or that we feel deserve the extra treatment. It gives the reader two ways to see them, and for the collectors, we try to make sure the variants are done by a high-end artist to make them feel special.

We try to be judicious about how we do them, and there are long discussions about which books get variants and which ones don’t. To be very frank, in some of the cases where we were going to put a variant cover on a book, but couldn’t come up with an idea or a strong enough image to run with, we’ve backed away from them. So we’ve actually done less than we’ve originally planned.

NRAMA: But still – variants have their critics, but this is a situation where the answer to the criticism that you’re doing too many or doing them at all is the “if it didn’t work, we wouldn’t do it?”

DD: Absolutely. We’ve spoken to retailers directly and fans as well. Never do we get an overwhelming response that this is something that they are outright rejecting.

3. On the Wednesday Comics front – the question that appears every time its mentioned: how much will it cost per issue?

DD: We’re actually setting the price now. We’re locking down the format and the production and are working hard to keep it as affordable as possible, but at this particular moment, we’re not ready to announce the price. It’s not that we’re being cagey about it, it’s just that, realistically, because we’re doing such a different product in Wednesday Comics, we want to make sure that when we settle on a price, it’s the one that makes the most sense for fans, retailers and the company, and we want to make sure that, once we announce it, it’s one that we can actually stick to.

4. While we’re on Wednesday Comics – how intense do you anticipate the attention being paid toward it in regards to the format’s success? We had several questions asking if Wednesday Comics was going to be the doorway through which DC would begin working with other formats, such as thicker black and white collections, and others.

DD: Speaking as the company as a whole, DC has never shied away from different formats aimed at fitting with different products and content. We’re creating something new for us here because the way we’re presenting Wednesday Comics is unique to the types of stories that we are telling in the series. Whenever we see something that requires a different formula, we’ll do it. When we came out with New Frontier, the page count was higher and it was presented in a different way than it would have been presented in had we just presented it as a normal, 32-page comic. So we’re always looking at different things, we’re always looking for ways to make sure that the content fits the format. In this particular case, success always breeds more options and choices, so if we’re successful with this, you may see us doing more projects like Wednesday Comics or taking things in different directions. But if we had a different idea or direction that an editor or the company is passionate about, then we will go ahead with that, regardless whether or not we’re sure that format will be acceptable.

But when it comes down to Wednesday Comics, the decisions about producing it are not being made in a vacuum. Because it is so unique, we sat down with many aspects of DC – production, sales, marketing and the administrative side – they were all involved with building this, because we had to create a new model by which to present our material. So it was kind of exciting because everyone saw what the potential of this was, and everyone got behind it to make it work.

5. There was a question about The Spirit this week – a reader said they had just discovered it, and was hoping to possibly see him in more stories with DC Universe characters. Are there any more of those planned, and also – was The Spirit considered for Wednesday Comics? Given his origin, a new Spirit story, told in a newspaper strip format would have been the bees knees for fans…

DD: Wednesday Comics was largely assembled by the talent and what they wanted to produce, and through no fault of anyone, The Spirit wasn’t a part of it. Also, Wednesday Comics is mostly the house properties of DC Comics, and we still license The Spirit from the Eisner Estate, so that would have complicated things a little more than they are.

On top of that, I think The Spirit is a character that is ripe for crossover, but…not the way you’d expect to see it from DC.

NRAMA: Could that be taken as a hint that there might be something coming up?

DD: (laughs) There’re loads of hints in everything that I say – it just depends on whether or not you pick up on them.

Justice League of America #27 cover
Justice League of America #27 cover
6. Since the story with the Milestone characters has wrapped up in Justice League, can you give a pointer to where and when readers may see the Milestone characters appearing again?

DD: Yes – that was just the first phase of the introduction of the Milestone characters in the DC Universe, and Dwayne’s next major arc will prominently feature the Milestone characters.

7. Following up with the Justice League – it was pointed out by a few posters on the thread that, at least for the past few months, and now into June, there have been more fill-in issues on Justice League than usual. What can you say about the shifts?

DD: The stability of Justice League , both in the superhero team and the creative team depends upon not only the changing landscape that working in a universe of shared characters represents and the events that affect the larger DC Universe, but also depends on Dwayne’s schedule. Along with writing comics, he’s a very successful animation producer, and his schedule required him needing a break before his next major arc, and I can’t think of a better person than Len Wein stepping up and getting involved in the Justice League again. I’ve always said that some of the best and most fertile stories of the Justice League were written by Len. If you look at his run from the ‘70s, so many writers have used that as a springboard for things that are being worked on right now. So it was a no-brainer to have Len involved, especially in a way that moves the characters forward, rather than reflects something that he has done in the past.

8. A Batman question – since there actually was a body, and that is such a rarity in superhero deaths – was there a real funeral for Batman?

DD: No. And it’s not because they don’t think he’s dead, but rather because he specifically requested not to have one. We’ve alluded this to in several of our books as we’ve referred to Bruce’s Last Will and final wishes – everyone had come to agree that there would be no memorial, there would be no burial, and there would be no celebration of Batman’s life due to his death. Although, as we’re doing in the two-part Neil Gaiman/Andy Kubert story, that tale is just told there. It doesn’t play a role in the current continuity.

Preview: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1
Preview: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1
NRAMA: So no one in Outsiders will say, “Man, remember when we went into that small bar and saw his body and it seemed like a ghost was there?”

DD: No, and the reality is that we believe that having the heroes en masse, stand over a grave and talk about his passing is not what he’s about. Looking at Batman, I think the heroes who knew him best know that the greatest respect that you could pay to Batman would not be to celebrate his death, but to go out on the streets and strop crime and injustice. That’s the greatest memorial that any one hero could do for Batman – and like I said, those closest to him knew that, and I think you could even imagine Batman, if they did have a memorial for him, being upset that they were wasting their time on him when they could be continuing his work.

9. There was a question this week about writers coming on to DCU projects in regards to the short term versus the long term. With the Superman books, you have Greg, James and Geoff laying out a years-long plan, Grant has done the same for the big picture with Batman, and Gail has done the same with Wonder Woman – but with other titles, we see teams come and go after shorter stints, with hardly a ripple left after their passing. What, in your opinion, serves the DCU best? If a team can start a year-long build to a payoff that then leads to another 12-part arc afterwards, or if a team can come in and hit a home run in six issues and move on?

DD: Both. We put out somewhere in the area of 50-55 comics on a monthly basis, and one size does not fit all in regards to series, character or writer. What we try to accomplish is tel the best stories possible on a continuing basis. For the characters that we know are going to need long arcs with long development, we hope that those writers are going to be there to see it through to completion, because they are the most passionate about those stories, and know how to pace themselves and the story they’re telling. But also, we occasionally have the opportunities to work with talent that we feel can add to the overall value of the DC Universe, and will work with their schedule to make sure that we can get the best work form them for the longest amount of time possible.

Again – the problem when we talk Matt, is that a lot of what I say are generalities, but it gets taken as absolute and applicable to every situation when every situation is different. The bottom line is that there are no absolutes. Except for the ones that we put out for $100 each. (laughs)

NRAMA: Did you just put a commercial into your answer?

DD: (laughs) Working at DC< I think of it as more of a public service announcement.

10. Given the number of questions that were in the thread about it, I think that if any group of DC fans needs a little patting of the hand and calming, it’s the Titans fans. Sean McKeever has announced that he’s leaving Teen Titans, and the June books are described by some as a “holding pattern”…

DD: These are always fun questions, because I always hear from people about how they want stand-alone, done-in-one stories, and as soon as you do them, we’re putting the franchise into a “holding pattern,” and we don’t know what to do with it.

In terms of the franchise – there is a long-term plan for the Titans. We knew we were building to a major storyline with the “Deathtrap” storyline and the Jericho involvement – and there’s a definite conclusion there. Because this is crossing over into both Titans titles and into Vigilante, we thought we would take a little bit of a break afterwards and take some time for reflection on the characters – to give them a chance to breathe on their own.

Breaks like this also give us an opportunity to work with new writers who aren’t used to working with us, or haven’t worked with DC in the past, to show their wares and give them an opportunity to work with characters that they want to give a go to. It’s a win-win all around as far as I’m concerned. More importantly, we get a little bit of a break, and gives us a moment or two as the new teams get in place with the new direction for the stories – something which we feel will have long-term implications for the characters and series – it gives them some running ahead time on the books so that when we do have the work scheduled, their issues can come out on a monthly schedule. Again, it all sounds like a good thing to me – we get a sampling of new voices, we get a chance for characters to shine, we get a chance for the new teams to work on their stories to make them the best they can be, and most importantly, we get a chance to put them out on a monthly basis.

NRAMA: Speaking of the Titans changes – one of the first of these new voices coming on to the Titans book itself is Hugh Sterbakov, of Top Cow’s The Freshmen fame. Who got him to DC, and what do you see in him?

DD: We’ve been looking for ways to work with Hugh for a while now, and as I said earlier, something like this is just an excellent opportunity. He’s working on the Cyborg story – he has an interesting take on the character and an interesting exploration of the characters that we wanted to try. It’s a great single-issue story, and if there are other opportunities down the road, we’ll explore them.

11. A poster asked, in regards to the Vertigo $1.00 issues that have come out, will that happen with specific issues in the DC Universe line?

DD: There’s a huge difference between Vertigo and the DCU. When you look at the Vertigo dollar books, they’re new ideas, new properties and new talent. So in many ways, it’s a wonderful way to get people sampling those titles and ideas. When we’re working with pre-existing characters and properties as we do in the DC Universe, people are mostly predisposed and understand who our characters are, so the idea of a wider sampling at a lower price isn’t nearly as necessary as it is with Vertigo.

12. Legion of 3 Worlds’ final issues are still experiencing delays. When will that finally be completed, and what does it mean for Adventure Comics and Legion plans in the rest of 2009?

DD: First of all, I’m not saying Adventure Comics and the Legion of 3 Worlds are somehow tied together (laughs), but – that said, I would expect to see Adventure Comics in late summer as its being worked on right now, and I expect that we’ll be seeing Legion of 3 Worlds #4 in April, and honestly, we’re looking at #5 two months after that, and then we’re good.

13. We had a question about the decision to make Blackest Night #0 the book for Free Comic Book Day – if people are unable to get one on Free Comic Book Day, will they be able to buy one later?

DD: Yes, they will.

NRAMA: Before Blackest Night #1?

DD: Probably very close to the launch of Blackest Night #1.

14. Lately, Jim Lee has been seen mostly working on the DCU Online game. Is there anything planned with him on the comic book side of DC?

DD: Well, he’s still working on All Star Batman and Robin…

NRAMA: Yeah, sure. But is there anything planned with him on the comic book side of DC?

DD: Well, I’ll go back and say again – he’s working on All Star Batman and Robin with Frank Miller. I can say officially now that he and Frank are committed to six more issues of All Star Batman and Robin, and that will bring the story to a close. And they’re working on them now.

NRAMA: “Bring the story to a close” – are you saying that in the same sense as All Star Superman was Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s book, and when they were done with that, it was ended, rather than continued with new creators?

DD: Yes.

15. Black Adam and the Marvel Family – they’re storyline is wrapping up in the Justice Society issue that’s out today, but what’s coming up for them after this? Where can readers look for them next?

DD: While after JSA #25, it may look like the plans for Black Adam are set in stone – but there are future plans for him. We just wanted to let him rest for a moment, as we’ve been using him a great deal since back even before 52. We’ve had a great run with Black Adam, but at this moment, he’ll be coming off the grid for a moment.

16. There were some more questions about the co-features, chief among them a poster asked if the co-features would be ongoing, or if creators would come on for a period and tell a “co-feature” story and then another team would take the slot, or the book would lose its co-feature for a period, or…what?

DD: Well, the way we stand now, there are seven co-features in total – five were announced, and I can confirm the last two as being Captain Atom in Action Comics and we’ll be splitting Green Arrow and Black Canary in that series, so Green Arrow will have the lead feature, and Black Canary will have the co-feature. And before anyone gets upset about the feeling that Black canary should be the lead, that’s the most fluid of the co-features – we may see a full-on 30-page story with the two of them together, or Green Arrow taking a couple months as the co-feature while Black canary takes the lead slot. So that’s pretty fluid.

The plan is that those are the features at this time, until we choose differently – by which I mean that we have another character that could work in a co-feature slot or that a co-feature performs beyond our expectation and is able to spin off into their own project, leaving a vacancy. So there are several ways to see them change.

NRAMA: Explain the choice of Captain Atom in light of what you said before – that these are characters or teams that could support their own series or miniseries. Captain Atom – really?

DD: Captain Atom had his own series in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, but he has also been a prominent character in the DC Universe over the course of the past few years, and is a key figure in the DC Universe. He’s going to be returning to be a key figure in the DC Universe, and this is a great way to bring him back into the public eye.

NRAMA: And the creative teams?

DD: For Captain Atom, we’re looking at James Robinson and Greg Rucka writing it. We’ll announce the other creators in a little bit.

17. A Wonder Woman question – the Superman titles have a long-form story and multiple titles going on. The same for Batman. Yet, the third part of the “DC Trinity” has her own series only, and has just stepped down from the Justice League, which was her only regular appearance outside of her own title. What do you think can be done with Wonder Woman to boost her importance with readers and the market, and get her to Superman and Batman levels of buzz and excitement?

DD: Right now, the only way we can improve her prominence and importance in the DC Universe and see her grow beyond a single title, which is something that I’m sure people know that I want to see occur – the only way we can do it and control is is to go out there and tell the best stories possible, and Gail is doing that for us. I hope that more people recognize that and support it. Gail’s creating a wonderful cast within the series now with the addition of the male Amazons and Achilles. There’s a lot of great drama that’s coming up, and from our point, we hope that a lot of people will start going back and giving Wonder Woman another look.

It’s a question that has plagued Wonder Woman for an extended period of time, and it’s my hope that with the Rise of the Olympian storyline, we created something that people can look at as way to look in and see what’s going on with Wonder Woman and get hooked.

18. A question that would apply in light of current discussions that we had last time with Flash – has there been any discussion of re-numbering her series with the legacy numbering in order to boost her series numbers up to the same status as an Action or Detective level?

DD: No – no plans on that at all. This is our third real run on a title for her, so I don’t see the real need to do that. I don’t think that there’s anyone who doesn’t know that Wonder Woman has been around for an extended period of time, just like Superman and Batman. I don’t think the numbering makes a difference on that one.

19. One more question about co-features – a poster asked that, with the spotlight being shown on these specific characters as co-features, have there been any thoughts as to starting an anthology featuring these characters that would be able to support their own series or miniseries? After all, put a few of them together in one place, it seems that the co-feature worthy characters could move an anthology…

DD: I think the co-features give the characters a better chance to shine and be seen than an anthology book would. As long as we’re doing these co-features, there’s no real need to do an anthology.

20. One last one, and it’s about characters you enjoy – are there any plans for Shade the Changing Man, The Odd Man, Challengers of the Unknown or the Blackhawks?

DD: Shade – he’s in Vertigo now; Odd Man – nothing new coming up ; Challengers of the Unknown – yes – we are discussing them as we speak, and Blackhawks – we’re talking about them, just not in the way you might think that we’d be using them. And Blackhawk will soon be seen in Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape

And my question for the readers this week: in reading through the questions this time, I noticed a lot of concern over the Justice League, and a variety of opinions on what the Justice League should be. So let me turn that back to the audience – what would you consider the perfect team for the Justice League f America, and why?

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