Having sat through a number of DC Panels during San Diego Comic-Con 2011 – most notably, the first, rather contentious New 52 Panel, I was curious to see what the conversation had evolved into over the past few days. From hearing the scuttlebutt on the street (I have sources, you guys – they’re mostly 1920’s news-boys), there had been a pretty split reaction to the following two panels, as well.
[Quick note for those you just tuning in: DC held a different “New 52” panel every day to talk to fans about the upcoming, massive relaunch happening in September. As you were.]
Specifically, fans seem to be divided into those who feel the relaunch is excellent, and have very specific questions about plot points; and fans who are heartbroken or terrified about the relaunch… And have very specific questions about plot points. There’s also been a fair amount of talk about the representation of female characters – in particular – in the relaunch, as well as minority representation, and the depiction of the disabled. As you could imagine, there’s been a lot of heated emotions, and at times, these panels have gotten very, very hard to watch; particularly as sometimes, DC just doesn’t have the answers yet.
We also heard rumors of a particularly heated discussion between the Mom dressed as Stephanie Brown Batgirl who’s been showing up and asking pointed questions at nearly every DC panel, and writer Grant Morrison. No details, but all this talk certainly got us interested in seeing what would happen, and how things have changed on the last day of the Con. So that preamble out of the way, how was it?
Pretty damn good.
The tone was a HUGE difference from the first day, which was nerve wracking and sometimes downright uncomfortable. Didio, in particular, having spent the weekend talking to fans, seemed more relaxed, forgiving, and supportive of the fans and artists. Where the first day, imploring the audience that he would win them over came off as somewhat needy – now, the pitch had been refined, and felt how it could have felt four days ago: inspiring, and supportive of the industry. Speeches from Didio and the panel members throughout the panel drew huge applause from the audience. And many of the audience said they were, in fact, won over by these very panels. So mission accomplished.
Moving on to the actual panel, Didio welcomed Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Matt Idelson, Mike Johnson, and to the hugest applause, Gail Simone. “It’s the last panel! We’ve been going for four days!” said Didio. “Now we only need to put these books out.”
Moving on to talk about The Flash, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato showed off the art we’ve seen previously, then talked a little bit about the plot. In the first arc, there’s a new villain called Mob Rule. Then, the team will slowly introduce villains The Rogues, who have broken up for unknown reasons. Captain Cold will be trying to get the band back together, though the character may be slightly different than how we’ve known them before.
Johnson then talked about Supergirl – again – teasing that a new villain will be introduced in issue three. However, she may or may not still have visible crotch-lines exposed. That’s my comment, not Johnson’s. One character that will come back is Silver Banshee, a frequent villain of Supergirl’s, though she’ll be depicted in – you guessed it – a new way.
Then it was over to Simone to talk about Batgirl, one of the more controversial titles in The New 52. “Batgirl is no sidekick,” said Simone. “She is the smartest character in Gotham – in the Bat-family. Everything we love about Barbara is still there.” She reaffirmed that Killing Joke did, in fact happen, and will reveal how Gordon got from Oracle to Batgirl. New villains include Mirror, a man with a mysterious list, who shows up in Gotham for mysterious reasons that are mysterious. There’s also The Brisbee Killers, who are a gang of “terrifying” Gotham killers.
Simone continued, talking about The Fury of Firestorm(s), which she is co-plotting with Ethan Van Sciver. Simone said she refused Firestorm a bunch of times, until Van Sciver convinced her. It’s a global story, where the two Firestorms have to face down “Firestorm Protocols” around the world. The villain in the first issue is Helix, and he’s, “What happens when nuclear power goes wrong.”
Didio moved on, talking about OMAC, a title he’s writing. A man who lives a very insular life, who can turn into a monster. Didio plugged a number of crazy sounding villains who’s names were too long for me to catch, but they did, indeed, sound crazy.
Then it was time for questions! Here’s the highlights:
– Didio said that rather than concentrating on how they’re going to make this work in ten years, they’re going to work on making everything special as it comes out of the gate, and make sure the quality is high on the NEXT thing, not just ten years from now.
– Asked how long they’ve been planning the relaunch, Didio said, “Personally, I’ve wanted to do it for over five years. I wanted to do it after Infinite Crisis, but the moment didn’t feel right… Now, the market feels right.”
– Asked whether in Batgirl Barbara’s family would show up, Simone said that Commissioner Gordon will be present, and another family member will show up too – though it wasn’t specified if it was the currently appearing James Gordon. “You don’t have your father show up for just one story in your life,” said Simone, to a joking, “Well…” from some of the panelists.
– Asked about how Flashpoint ties in to the New DCU, Didio said, “When Flashpoint ends, there are no trap-doors in the DCU. We’re moving forward, with no way back.”
– Lois Lane comics have been discussed, but they’re not happening yet.
– A fan asked whether there would be more done-in-one stories, which elicited cheers from the audience. The answer was, first arcs for books will usually be a little longer to establish new status quos. But after that, there will be more done-in-one issues.
– A kid dressed like Nightwing asked, “Will Red Robin change his name so he doesn’t sound like a restaurant?” to laughter from the audience. Didio quipped right back, “He’s changing his name to Applebees.”
– The next question was about what books didn’t make it into the New 52, “I prefer to keep the bad ideas to ourselves, because those bad ideas might be books some day.”
– …And then it was time for the “Why aren’t there more women in your titles?” question. The asker actually completely broke down the amount of titles with women characters, the amount of title characters, and then the amount of title characters NOT based on male characters… And ended up with a count of two. She asked how they can call the relaunch diverse when they’re not representing 50% of the population.
Didio deflected the question back to the asker, wondering why it wasn’t an industry-wide question, why is it a DC question. The woman then shot back, “Well, one, it’s a DC panel.” Though Didio then thanked her for her thoughts, and didn’t answer the question, Simone jumped in to affirm that Barbara Gordon in Batgirl is very much her own character, and continues to be despite being Batgirl rather than Oracle.
– In the upcoming Flash title, Barry Allen will NOT be married to Iris Allen, but instead, dating Patty Spivot. This is important info for Flash fans, you guys (which I am one, okay, so leave me alone).
– Moving into a speed round, Didio reaffirmed that the relaunch was because comic sales were way down, and he felt like something needed to be done, and it had to be big.
– DC is looking at doing comics created directly for digital, though nothing right now.
….And then something unprecedented happened, where DC was given ten more minutes. Unfortunately, that’s also where the panel went a little crazy.
– The Stephanie Brown Mom asked why she had been greeted with hostility, and asked fans who wanted more female characters to stand up.
– Milestone characters are coming.
– We may see some Gotham City Sirens in Batgirl.
– There’s a five-year plan in place right now for the New DCU, according to Didio.
– Asked about the replaced recent issue of Superman, which was subbed out for a Krypto story, Didio said, “I had creative issues with the story, simple as that.”
– Didio said he couldn’t talk about the Beyond part of the DC Universe, but that fans would be, “Three times as happy.”
– Asked about Vic Sage and Renee Montoya, Didio hesitated, saying he could say more if someone (that would be Bob Wayne) would leave the room. He didn’t leave.
– Planetary didn’t make the original cut for the original 52, but they’re considering it.
– Asked about Black Alice, and if we’d see more characters like that, Simone wrapped things up, saying, “Dan and I just had a meeting, and… Chances are good.”
And that was it! DC still hasn’t quite figured out how to answer the diversity question, particularly in regards to female characters, but for the most part, the tone was 180 degrees away from the first day. Now all the Publisher has to do is the rest of the country, and they’re good to go!