Dan DiDio: 20 Answers and 1 Question, 5.15.09

Dan DiDio: 20 Answers and 1 Question

We apologize for being a couple of days off schedule with this installment of 20 Answers and One Question with Dan DiDio, but schedules and travel got in the way. We’re hoping that the length and information inside (it’s a gooder) will make up for any anxiousness and nervousness on the part of the readers.

Alright – a ton of info in here, so let’s get to it.

1. To start off with Dan, Grant Morrison has been talking about Multiversity, a project that returns him to the DC Multiverse. You’ve been mum about this, saying that nothing was ready to be talked about, but is there anything else you can add in?

Dan DiDio: I’d still like to stay mum on this for now, because we’re still quite a ways away from that series actually coming out. Grant is working on a number of other projects right now. What I’d like to say is that it is what we’d hoped it would be which is a story where Grant explores the various worlds of the Multiverse as only Grant could. What’s great about it is that they’re wonderful standalone stories that don’t interact with much else, so therefore they have a chance to act and breathe in their own way. So you get some really good snapshot views of what these different worlds are. And even better, we get a chance to explore these worlds which may not tie in to the DCU directly, but have a right to exist on their own.

NRAMA: And it’s him just doing that exploring and playing?

DD: Right – this is something that Grant has been talking about since 52 and since the multiverse came back, and the fun part about it is that we don’t do Elseworlds anymore to explore the different interpretations of our characters, so this is one way that we can visit that sensibility without committing ourselves to a whole series of Elseworlds projects.

2. One from a reader about the espionage side of the DC Universe – now that Checkmate is gone, what are the possibilities that readers will see a new book in that vein, or set on that side of the DC Universe, something that follows say, Amanda Waller, or any of the number of covert operators or agencies?

DD: Well, Checkmate the series has been cancelled, but Checkmate, as an entity is still very active in the DCU. The first place you’re going to be seeing that kind of story, showing Checkmate as an ongoing concern in the DC Universe is the JSA vs. Kobra miniseries written by Eric Trautmann.

JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of fate #1

Plus, we’re getting some of the spy sensibilities in Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape - we’re seeing members of Suicide Squad in there, and you’ll get a very real sense that something has happened to the various members of the spy community that operates in the DCU, and the Global Peace Agency has a hand in what has happened.

3. Moving on to the teaser art that was revealed last week showing Doc Savage…what can you say about that, and your plans for the character – not to mention that The Spirit was shown to be in that image, along with Blackhawk…

DD: We’re working with a series of characters that fit within that genre, and we’re exploring their…interactions, to be slightly coy about it. We have several projects on the burners right now, and it’s a little early to start discussing them, but the chances to see Doc Savage encountering The Spirit, Blackhawk, and other characters with that same tone and sensibility is being actively pursued. It’s something we’ll be seeing in the latter half of this year. The best part of it is that the overarching story is something that’s being written by Brian Azzarello.

NRAMA: While we’re talking about creators – that teaser art was by Brian Stelfreeze – will he be involved as well, or was that just a promo spot he did?

DD: Yeah, that was just some sample art that we had done a while back. Several things have changed since then, which is why we only were concerned about showing the Doc Savage portion of it. The full picture – it should be pointed out – wasn’t released by DC, so what you see in the full image…some of the things in it have changed since.

4. A question about Wednesday Comics – a reader asked about you and Eddie Berganza writing two of the stories in the series. Are there concerns about editors writing at DC? It’s been a subject that can sometimes be somewhat touchy afterall…

DD: Mark Chiarello sought out Eddie to work on that particular feature, because he knows Eddie’s love for the Teen Titans characters and wanted to make sure there was a Teen Titans feature in there. The bottom reason why I’m involved is because someone dropped out at the last minute. Mark had asked me at the beginning, I had turned him down, and then he came back when the slot opened up. I have to admit, I have been anxious to do some writing again, but it wasn’t something that I went after. I was a little hesitant at the start, because, honestly, the Metal Men are my favorite characters. It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you work on something that you enjoy so much, because you want to make sure you do it proud.

DiDio's Metal Men page by Garcia-Lopez

5. Speaking of doing the Metal Men proud, and being a fan as I’m sure you are, your feature is being drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. What’s that like for you?

DD: The wonderful thing about him is that he makes everybody look good. I got the first two pages and…switching hats to a fan for a second…I can’t tell you how exciting it is when you visualize something as you’re writing it, but have no expectation about all the detail that would be seen on the finished page. When Jose’s pages come in, they’re even better than I had hoped. All the emotion is there, the  subtleties are there, the depth is there. He’s just a master storyteller – he looks at the entire script, he see’s what’s going on, and he’s already hinting at themes and characters in the first segment that we don’t see until six weeks into the series. It’s so much fun for me – I know where this story goes, and the fact that he has captured all of it so brilliantly is just a testament to his incredible talent. There’s not enough good things to say about it. He’s just that good. I think he’s taken for granted by a lot of people because everything he does is wonderful.

NRAMA: What’s he doing now at DC?

DD: Most of the work he does is for licensing, and because of the time that takes, we put him on specialty projects, but boy, would I love to see him on something a little more regular, because he is, without a doubt, one of the true masters out there. He’s one of the first artists where I was able to actually identify a unique style when I first started reading comics. You can talk about Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but I would but Jose in there with them – his style is so classic and so identifiable. It’s just a pleasure to work with him.

6. Something that came up a few times in this question thread, possibly spurred on by Blackest Night #0…Barry Allen’s return is known, Hal Jordan’s return is known. The Martian Manhunter’s death is known in the DCU. Batman’s death – there’s no question about it, no mystery about it from the point of view of the DCU. Is that playing along the lines of the “Batman as an urban legend” idea, that people weren’t 100% sure he even existed in the first place, or is it something different?

DD: The Batman story as it’s established – we have two different perspectives here: the story perspective and the fan perspective. From the story perspective, the DC Universe believes Batman to be dead – the heroes know he is dead, but they have kept that secret away from the world, because of what they feel might happen. The events of Battle for the Cowl shows when heroes and villains start to realize that Batman may be dead – Gotham City falls into, or tumbles towards anarchy. That’s the story there.

From the fan perspective, we all know that there’s something going on with Bruce Wayne. So therefore, we’re going to see reflections of the Bruce Wayne story, the Batman story as it plays out in the DC Universe in all of the Batman books and reflections of it in Blackest Night. The fan knows – or the fans might guess – that was not Batman’s body that was recovered as a skeleton in Final Crisis #6, but nobody else knows that. Part of the year we have coming ahead of us is the exploration of what that means to the DC Universe – what that body represents, and more importantly, what actually happened to Bruce Wayne, and the mystery surrounding him.

7. Wait – that wasn’t Bruce Wayne’s skeleton?

DD: Did I say that?

NRAMA: You said that.

DD: Did I?


DD: Dammit. Then who was the guy in the cave if that wasn’t Bruce Wayne’s skeleton?

NRAMA: That’s a very good question, but so is: Did Superman find a body, take that dead body’s clothes off, and put a Batman costume on a dead body, just to carry it outside? That puts Superman into a creepy new light…

DD: See, I know I didn’t say that. Now you’re starting to suppose something else. I’m saying that there was a skeleton. It did have a Batman costume on it, but whose skeleton that is, where it came from, who is the man in the cave, where is the man in the cave – those are all stories we’ll be exploring in the course of the coming year.

NRAMA: But both the man in the cave and the skeleton had pants on…

DD: Now that, I completely agree with and can support (laughs): both of them did have pants on.

NRAMA: So it’s the two sets of pants, isn’t it – the two sets of Bat-pants. That’s the key, that’s the Rosebud of this whole thing, isn’t it?

DD: (laughs) It’s just like the old days – when you bought a suit, it always came with two pairs of pants.

NRAMA: It did?

DD: Yeah – it did.

NRAMA: How old are you?

DD: (laughs) Trust me – it did – one shirt, one jacket, two pairs of slacks.

Adventure Comics #1

8. Whew – let’s try to pull this back on track…as was revealed in teaser art for Adventure Comics and Legion of 3 Worlds, Superboy is back and is being referred to as “Superboy.” Now, over the past few years, you’ve gone out of your way at conventions to make it clear that you could n not refer to the character as Superboy, and the legal issues surrounding the character are fairly well known. So what happened to allow for the use?

DD: A lot of that at panels was being playful, but as far as what’s changed, Conner Kent, Superboy has come back from the dead, and we’re calling him Superboy. When Superboy died, we stopped calling him Superboy because he was dead. Any decision to call Superboy anything other than Superboy or not were completely voluntary on our end, and story driven. That’s the truth of it. Whether people believe it or not – that’s not my concern. My concern right now is to focus on Conner and get him into the stories in Adventure Comics. He is Superboy, pure and simple.

9. In that vein of Superboy’s return, as well as Bart Allen coming back in Legion of 3 Worlds as well – a reader asked about the longevity of death and the impact of death in comics. Has death been removed as a fundamental change to a character and is now, more or less, a temporary “change” for the character?

DD: Death and resurrection are tools, and have been tools for any writer in comics. Go through the stories from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and now, and we’ve had characters die and come back again and again, and each time, more fanciful explanations have been made of why they are. Granted, we’ve probably extended ourselves on the number of deaths that have occurred because of the major events, and the need to put big, defining moments in them, but the coming and going of characters have been a staple of comic book storytelling for years.

10. Given that is has been used so…heavily in the DCU, will “death” still be as strong as a story point after Blackest Night as it was before?

DD: Following Blackest Night, I think that death is a trick we will not be using very often – or at all for a long, long time. There is a finality of what goes on in Blackest Night, and there is an explanation of the “revolving door” sense of death in the DCU that’s part of the Blackest Night storyline.

NRAMA: So are you going to go as far as to say, “Dead is dead?” Someone else talked themselves into a corner that fans wanted to hold him accountable for all time after a statement like that…

DD: Eh – the problem with “dead is dead” is that it works until the next person comes along, or times change. We have a lot of characters and a lot of stories to tell, and to speak in absolutes is never the way to go. It limits your potential and possibilities.

11. A reader asked, given the diversification of the DC line, is there any possibility of a return to All-Star Squadron set in the World War II era?

DD: No plans at this time. I’m really looking at where we’re going in the future. We have so many fresh takes on our existing characters coming up in the Justice Society of America series right now, that it’s hard for that one book to contain them all, but in reality, I’m looking to the future more so than examining stories that date our characters to events that happened 60-70 years ago.

NRAMA: So we’d be more likely to see an All-Star Squadron revival as a present-day offshoot of the JSA, rather than a flashback-style series?

DD: If we did anything further with the JSA, we would be looking for something that is taking place currently, and would be moving the storylines forward from this point, not looking back.

12. Fair enough. Moving on, both you and George Perez have hinted at a DC event coming in 2010…

DD: Did we really?

NRAMA: You both have.

DD: Could it be the same one?

NRAMA: I would hope so, otherwise, you’re planning two events for one year, and readers can get rather iffy about that… Is this a situation where threads are already being laid out, and clues are being planted, or…

DD: in regards to the project with George, the answer is “the opposite.” The fun part about working with George is that he loves the challenge. No matter the project we give him, by the next project, we always feel we have to do one better. Given the number of characters and story he’s telling in Legion of 3 Worlds, you can only imagine how daunting that task must be.

So therefore, I’m happy to say that we’ve come up with a project that gives George the opportunity to examine what makes the DCU great. That’s as far as I’m gonna go.

13. In terms if rumors and folks talking about DC from a not very complementary side of things, this hasn't been a good couple of weeks for DC. In an interview with Ain't It Cool News, Mark Waid said some very specific things about your editorial approach and your editing of Countdown and 52 and other such projects...

DD: Let's just discuss the role of the editor for one second. One expression that I find humorous is "editorial mandate." I feel that expression gets thrown around a great deal. The role of the editor is to assemble and be responsible for whatever project they are in charge of. Whatever talent they hire, that is an editorial mandate. They choose to hire that talent. The amount of control they put on that talent, whether they allow them to work completely free of any editorial notes, or not, is an editorial mandate, because that's what the editor chooses to do. If the editor decides to give notes, that's an editorial mandate, because that's what the editor chooses to do, because he or she, at the end of the day, is responsible for that position.

So anything that winds up on a page, whether a note is given, when a phone call is made - anything that is assembled on from any member of the talent - from the person that writes it, to the art team, to the colorist, to the letterer, to the people working on final production - it's all editorially controlled. That is our job.

So when you say "editorial mandate," please understand that whatever book you hold in your hand, at the end of the day, is there because of an editorial mandate to create that book. End of story.

I find it humorous because it gives the impression that no one is doing anything, other than trafficking paper. We are not in our positions to traffic paper. We are here to put out the best product possible, and everyone works very hard to do that. To say that we don't do anything is an insult to every one of the members of my staff, and I prefer that everyone realize that, if a fan is holding a product in their hands, there is an editor in charge whose job it was to make sure that product reached them. That's what our job is.

And how it's assembled is the choice of the individuals who are working to the best of their ability as they are assembling that book.

NRAMA: So was Countdown "52 done right" as Mark Waid alleges that you said?

DD: The concept that I am not proud of 52 is ridiculous. Anybody here who knows me knows that the minute issue #52 of 52 hit my hands was one of my proudest moments at DC Comics. It's something that I was involved in from the very inception of the project, and made sure that everything worked perfectly in order to achieve that. It was a project and process that we all worked for. It was the editors, the sales department, the marketing department, the production department. Every single person who worked on 52 is intensely proud of their work on that production. When we started it, we were not sure if we were going to be able to achieve our goals, and we exceeded them.

So again, any statement being said about me not being proud of 52 is erroneous.

NRAMA: Does it end up occupying your time or your staff's time when this backstage stuff sweeps through fandom now and again, and there's a segment of fans that are more focused on what's going on behind the curtain rather than the end product that you're putting out?

DD: Eh, it's not just comics, it's everything. People ask me if I get personally offended by all of this, and I tell them I can't get personally offended. It has nothing to do with me personally - it has everything to do with my position, and nothing to do with me, even if it comes across as a personal attack. Quite honestly, I can't concern myself with the people who aren't working with DC, because I'm more concerned with the people who are working here, to make sure we're maintaining the proper management of our relationships and more importantly , put out the best books we can. That's where my focus is. Anything that takes away from that focus unfortunately is part of my job to deal with.

14. Moving along to slightly easier topics…any word on what Eddy Barrows will be doing now that he has left Action Comics?

DD: Yeah, as a matter of fact, Eddie Berganza is working with him right now on some of the Green Lantern books to keep those books on track, and also he’ll be moving over to one of the Blackest Night miniseries after that.

15. There was a question from someone who identified themselves as “Giffen,” and his question was: “Dan, I’ve done the work, can I have my kids back now?”

DD: You can tell Giffen that he has to do the work again, and I’m still waiting for it.

Blackest Night #1

16. A quick clarification on the status of the Hawks – the seemed to have died in Final Crisis, but in Blackest Night #0, they’re alive and well…

DD: What happened was that during the whole integration of the Multiverse in Final Crisis where we saw a version of Aquaman appearing from another Earth, so was the case with the Hawkman and Hawkgirl that met their fate in Final Crisis. That said, the Hawks are very prominently featured in Blackest Night #1, and are very much alive at the start of that book.

NRAMA: Just at the start?

DD: I’m gonna stand with what I said. (laughs)

17. Fair enough. Can you talk about the cover treatment for the upcoming books with co-features. Will the co-feature be mentioned on the covers, or will the co-featured character get a spot on there, or..what?

DD: We’re going to be bannering the books with co-features with a picture of each of the characters. But a picture is worth a thousand of my words. So…

Booster Gold #21

18. What does DC’s convention season look like for the year?

DD: Extensive as always. We’re really excited about the season this year. By the time we get to San Diego, Blackest Night will be up and running, and both before and after that, we’ll be sending people to as many conventions as we possibly can, and working pretty much with the same schedule that we have in the past.

We’re trying to maximize our editorial appearances and get to as many shows as possible, and more importantly, we’re interested in hearing what the fans have to say. I just got back from Bristol – I hadn’t been there for four years, and I’m sorry it took me so long to get back, but they had probably one of the best group of fan questions and interaction that I’ve had in quite a while at a convention. It was clear that everyone was on board, is reading along, and is really interested in the stories. It was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get started on the circuit of US shows as well.

19. Speaking of conventions – a reader asked what’s the one question you dread most when you do panels at cons? It is a seasonal thing that each year is different?

DD: Nah, it’s not that so much as it is the questions that I feel we’ve answered before, or a question that is clearly asked by someone who is not reading our material, like when someone asks, “When’s Barry Allen coming back?” and I’m holding a copy of Rebirth #3 in my hand.

There’s no question I dread, as long as the question is presented in a way that shows the people are following along, and are engaged by what we do right now. We’re there to answer questions, so there’s no real question I dread. The other thing is you want to give them an an answer, but you don’t want them to get frustrated. Like, “What’s the DCU going to be like after Blackest Night?” Do you really want me to answer that and tell you how Blackest Night ends? People need to understand that going in. There are certain things we can talk about and others that we can tease, but I love the questions about what’s going on with the characters and books right then, because that shows that the fans are engaged. We never want to discourage questions about what they’re excited about at that moment.

20. With the Vertigo Crime Line kicking off its line of OGNs later this year, a person asked if there was a chance we could see something like that – an actual line – mirrored in the DC Universe, that is, a series of original graphic novels starring superheroes?

DD: Again, I’m a big fan of periodical storytelling, but if there’s a story that’s more in tune to be done as a graphic novel, we’ll do it. We’re always exploring formats and storytelling and how far we can push our characters, so we’re always look at the proper mix. The Brian Azzarello/Lee Bermejo Joker original graphic novel was just a story that worked best as a graphic novel, but again, a lot of what we’re doing right now is periodical in nature and is part of a larger, overarching story that encompasses the whole DCU, but if an editor feels that they have something that’s strong enough and can support a higher price point, then we’ll consider it.

NRAMA: We’re out of questions for this time, but there was an interesting fact was pointed out in the thread, and we have to admit that we haven’t double-checked the math, so we’re not sure if this is correct or not, but according to one reader, issue #45 of the current Wonder Woman series will be the 600th issue of Wonder Woman published by DC. Anything special planned for it?

DD: Well, since it’s not the actual number of the book, and we have no plans to re-number books just for an “event,” so no, nothing at this particular time, but I do hope that the Wonder Woman story going on right now has the feeling of being worthy of such an auspicious achievement.

And now, for my one question – given the stories that we’ve got coming up, this was something that we started to ask around the offices lately…What's the most recent event or story point you've read in a comic that's genuinely surprised you - and why?

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