With all the buzz surrounding Blackest Night lately, DC Universe Editorial took center stage in a panel featuring Dan DiDio, editor Joey Cavalieri, JLA writer Len Wein, Blackest Night artist Ivan Reis, new Red Robin artist Marcus To, and Adventure Comics artist Francis Manapul.
DiDio kicked things off by explaining part of their mandate this year was to focus on the five cornerstones of the DC Universe, meaning Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern. For Superman, that meant the "World of New Krypton" arc which will be continuing into 2010. Of course, one of the biggest developments for the Batman mythology was Dick Grayson taking over as the Caped Crusader.
“We’ve been talking about this one for a while and for us, with the introduction of Dick Grayson as Batman, this is the first time he’s taken over the role and really made it his own. So far the reaction has been great.”
Obviously, DC has been thrilled by the increased level of freshness throughout the Bat books.
“One of the things we looked at when we built those books is we said ‘It’s Dick Grayson as Batman, but we’re not just going to tell Batman stories as they were told before. We have new people inside the costumes and we really want to explore the types of personalities, the types of stories, and how Dick is different.”
When DiDio asked Ivan Reis how Blackest Night was going, the Brazilian artist, who apologized about his English, said the biggest challenges have been juggling the superhero and horror elements as well as the responsibility of working on such an endeavor.
Speaking of Blackest Night, DiDio announced the mini-series would be skipping the month of January for a special tie-in that he couldn’t talk about yet, but Blackest Night would conclude in March. Furthermore, there will be three more mini-series spinning out of the crisis - Blackest Night: Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka, Blackest Night: Justice Society, and Blackest Night: Flash by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins.
Looking at the Flash, Cavalieri stressed what an important franchise the speedster is to DC and to be patient in the telling of Rebirth. DiDio acknowledged that there had been a bit of a delay with the book due Ethan Van Sciver’s gorgeous art, but that they were hustling so they didn’t lose any momentum. Also, both Flash series would be launching in March with a Kid Flash book not far behind them.
As for Wonder Woman, there was no real news except that the goal of "Rise of the Olympian" and the male amazons was to bring some new ideas to the book and that they will continue to push her into the spotlight.
Regarding Justice League, a slide showed Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Vixen, and Firestorm as one of the covers during Len Wein’s run. DiDio recognized part of the problem is to give the team a sense of purpose with the removal of Superman and Batman.
Turning over to their team books, DiDio revealed Titans would have the most dramatic changes and while the books would be more aligned with Justice League, the two groups would probably be more at odds. As for Teen Titans, issue #75 will begin see the formulation of the key team.
Thanks to the large cast in Justice Society, the team is going to split into a second book, <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/090728-jsa-all-stars.html>Justice Society All Stars</a> written by Matt Sturges with art by Freddie Williams II.
A Brave and the Bold cover showed Batman and Brother Power. Cavalieri noted writer J Michael Straczynski would be using eclectic teams and that “Joe would make you believe in these characters.” Some random information included that Flash and Blackhawks would take place in World War II, the Batman/Dial H for Hero issue features Robbie Robinson, and the Batman in these books, as well as in Superman/Batman, is still Bruce Wayne.
Tackling Superman/Batman, DiDio explained “We’ll be going back a bit to some of the bigger stories we told in the past, like 'Worlds at War' and 'Emperor Joker', and actually doing stories that build from those. Where those stories ended, we’re actually going to go back and revisit the events of those with Superman/Batman and build new stories off of that.”
Once again, DC offered the floor to anyone with questions and the first reader inquired why certain characters have returned from the dead, while other familiar faces haven’t, in Blackest Night.
“One of the key story beats that comes out of that is the goal of the Black Lanterns is to get the most emotional reaction from the heroes and then at the height of that emotion, kill them,” explained DiDio. “That way, they draw more power from them. When you see the charges going off in the black rings, that’s taking place. The characters returning from the dead are characters to elicit the strongest responses from the people they are fighting with. You’ll see more and more characters appearing as the story unfolds, but the first ones are the ones who would get the strongest reaction from the characters they are facing at the time.”
Although older titles like Brave and the Bold are experiencing a resurrection, there are no plans to bring back Showcase.
One fan of the Wednesday Comics was curious if they would be collected in a trade paperback. “You’ll see a collection for sure,” reports DiDio. “We’re still determining the ultimate format on that, but we have some interesting ideas. We want to make sure it captures the sensibility of the current strip and the whole reading experience. That’s one of the things we are trying to work out. You’ll be seeing that next year for sure. As for more, we are going to see when all is said and done and what the reaction is once it's finished.”
When a person asked whether Straczynski could do more work for DC, DiDio replied he already is and we don’t know about it.
One reader’s question about the chance of revitalizing Aquaman elicited an interesting explanation from DiDio"
“Aquaman is different than the rest of them,” he offered. “Where is Aquaman Rebirth? It’s hard for us to do a rebirth because rebirths stands for something to us. It’s a particular character returning who had the lead mantle of that character, and him being re-established in the world. Aquaman has never been removed from the role, with the exception of maybe what we did with the 'One Year Later'. It’s a different sensibility going on there.
"The other thing with Aquaman is he never got the level of traction the other characters did. He never broke free. Most people’s references to Aquaman really are the cartoon series from the 1960’s and . We look at Aquaman a lot of times and say ‘What is the iconic interpretation?’ When we do that, you have 15 different answers because the problem with Aquaman, and in some way the same problem with Hawkman, is that every time he was rebooted, the origin was moved a little bit to the right, moved a little to the left, moved around half way and then it came back three quarters. He never really had a clear change and his story just meandered along. Our goal following Blackest Night, if there is an Aquaman, would be to make sure to get clear what the iconic interpretation is and present it in the best light possible.”
A raised concern was over whether Dick Grayson would go back to being more second tier once Bruce Wayne returned to which DiDio responded “If we were ever to bring Bruce Wayne back, we understand that Dick has evolved to another role in the DC Universe. It would be important for us to make sure he maintains a level of prominence he has already achieved. We don’t want to push him aside in any way, shape, or form. I don’t think we’ve ever given a character the shaft.”
Concerning the Marvel Family, Freddie Freeman as the character Shazam will be appearing in Justice League, they’ve decided to give Black Adam a rest for now, and there will be big stories with Billy and Mary. “If you saw the end of that Justice Society story and our mystery guest at the end, it was to really tease you with what might be coming down the line,” hinted DiDio.
One Blackest Night reader noted that when Deadman tried to go back to his body when he was resurrected, he got kicked out and was wondering if that was a special case. DiDio promised Deadman would play a key role in a lot of Blackest Night and stressed those circumstances were unique to the character.
There are no plans for a Justice League/Justice Society pairing yet.
For those on the lookout for more Shadowpact, besides Deadman in Blackest Night, a few of the characters will be popping up in various places.
Asked whether Connor Hawke would be playing a pivotal role in the DCU again, DiDio responded “Absolutely! That is something we have going on for next year. We have some storylines set up in the conclusion of his involvement in the Green Arrow book and we’ll be playing out on that, but we know where that is going.”
For the last question of the day, someone wanted to know what character outside of the franchise pantheon would be the one to watch in 2010. DiDio said Green Arrow would be the break out.