By Joe Grunenwald
DC Comics held their first panel of Emerald City Comic Con today. Moderated by Hank Kanalz, the panelists included writers Marguerite Bennett (Batwoman), Justin Jordan (The Curse of Brimstone), duo Shawna and Julie Benson (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey), James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, Justice League: No Justice), and Joshua Williamson (The Flash, Justice League: No Justice), as well as artist Mitch Gerads (Mister Miracle).
Bennett began the panel by saying that she’s been off of social media for five months so she wasn’t sure what she was allowed to talk about, but that she’s been building to “The Fall of the House of Kane” since the beginning of Batwoman. The story sees Kate Kane return to the city where her family died, and to her old house to confront what Bennet described as “the rot at her roots.” Fernando Blanco is the artist on the story. Bennett says that her new hobby is plagues and infectious diseases, which she researched heavily while working on this story. When asked for a spoiler, Bennett implied that Alice Kane makes a return in this story. Bennett also stressed what an honor it is to continue telling Kate Kane’s stories, following in the footsteps of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III.
Next, Justin Jordan spoke about the development of The Curse of Brimstone, his forthcoming ‘New Age of Heroes’ title with Philip Tan. He talked about his upbringing in a rural town in Pennsylvania that is 99% white, and how, in his lifetime, he has watched the economy in the area decline dramatically. He asked the question, ‘why do people stay in a place like this?’ and said that The Curse of Brimstone gave him the opportunity to explore that. The series focuses on a kid who makes a deal with “The Salesman” to help save his town, and the curse that comes along with that. He describes it as a Swamp Thing-type book that looks at corners of the DC Universe that are not normally shown. He described the process of working with Philip Tan on the book and developing the looks of the characters, and how Tan would suggest designs that Jordan then developed a character and plot around. The New Age of Heroes titles are being developed plot-first, and as a result Jordan and Tan have a very close collaborative relationship. Jordan promises that characters from the rest of the DCU will show up in the title, hinting that Constantine and Swamp Thing will appear before the first arc is completed.
When asked if he would name a child ‘James the Fifth’, James Tynion IV says he definitely would. He also clarified the pronunciation of his name as ‘TIE-nion’. Issue 981 of Detective will be Tynion IV’s final issue on Detective Comics, which was met with sporadic boos from the crowd, though Tynion IV promised that he is working on big things that he can’t talk about yet. Tynion IV described his final arc as the natural culmination point of his story, particularly in the relationship between Tim Drake and Kate Kane. He described their relationships with Batman as being the embodiments of two potential futures that Batman could take – Kate Kane being a cynic and realist, while Tim Drake is much more optimistic. He described his work on Detective as “the third Eternal,” referring to his previous work on Batman Eternal and Batman & Robin Eternal, which is called by the title of the final arc, “Batmen Eternal.” Javi Fernandez is the artist for the next few issues of Detective, and Tynion IV described his pride at his 50+ issue run on the series.
Tynion IV also talked about the evolution of the decision to ‘kill’ Tim Drake. It was something that had been discussed in the past for another storyline that never materialized, and when the decision was made to take him off the table, it was planned as being a core part of “Rebirth.” Tynion IV described working with Geoff Johns to fit Tim’s removal into the overall Rebirth storyline, and how Johns’s run on Teen Titans helped solidify Tynion IV’s love of Tim Drake. Drake is his favorite character, and he described his work on Tim Drake as a celebration of what he loves about the character as well as an effort to push Tim forward in a new direction by putting him through the ringer.
Tynion IV and Bennett have worked closely together to coordinate the story of Kate Kane between Detective and Batwoman, and they have worked hard to establish Kate’s place within the Bat-Family and her relationship to the other characters. Bennett also joked that it helps that eating Mediterranean food and drinking wine is part of their collaborative process.
Joshua Williamson talked about the “Perfect Storm” arc of The Flash and it how ties together everything that has happened to The Flash since the beginning of the current Rebirth series. In a recent issue, Grodd stripped Barry of his powers, which led Barry to turn to others like the classic Wally West and Godspeed for help. “Perfect Storm” sets the stage for the upcoming “Flash War,” in which something happens that puts Barry and Wally at odds with each other. The “Flash War” arc is drawn by Howard Porter, and Williamson described how the story capitalizes on both his and Porter’s love for The Flash. They will explore how Hunter Zolomon has survived the timeline changes and what he does to get Barry and Wally to fight each other. Carmine Di Giandomenico just turned in his last page of The Flash artwork within the last few days, and Williamson praised the energy that the artist brought to the title. He also teased Zolomon and Eobard Thawne teaming up to get revenge on Wally and Barry, as well as Wally finally confronting Iris about his return and the repurcission of that.
Mitch Gerads (with hard G) specifically asked that we not talk about Tom King, to laughter from the panelists. He described having loved Mister Miracle since he was a kid when his brothers made him read the original Jack Kirby and later Marshall Rogers runs on the character. The series came about because Gerads was originally going to work with Tom King on “The War of Jokes and Riddles” as a standalone Batman miniseries before it was decided to make that storyline part of the main series. After King called Gerads to discuss the news, Gerads told King that the only other book he would want to work on would be Mister Miracle, which was what King had called Gerads to pitch him. Scott and Barda’s baby will arrive in issue 7 of Mister Miracle, which Gerads said is very autobiographical as he and his wife just had a child. He said he’s both super-excited and very nervous for the issue to come out, as the issue is 22 pages of the characters worrying about the birth of their baby. Panelists commented that this issue could win Gerads an Eisner. He said that he and King like to tell stories about people, not characters, and that the first six issues of Mister Miracle have a lot of Tom in them where the latter half of the series has a lot of both of them in it. Issue 8 addresses how to be a good father and still go to war, which is something that King has done. A fifth printing of the first issue of the series was just announced.
Julie Benson talked about how she and her sister, Shawna, were approached by Geoff Johns to come onto Batgirl & The Birds of Prey. The series is wrapping up with issue #23, and the final arc, “Full Circle”, brings back all of the major villains the team has faced over the course of the series, beginning with The Calculator and progressing from there. Also returning will be Fenice and a few other still-unrevealed villains. Each of these villains represents a dark version of one of the Birds, Shawna said, and the arc will see the Birds evaluating who they are and who they want to be going forward. The final arc is a very personal story for the writers, and they described getting emotional while writing their finale to the series. When asked who their favorite Birds are, Julie said hers is Black Canary, while Shawna’s is Barbara Gordon. Julie in particular likes Canary because of her loyalty to her friends, and because she has cool powers. For Shawna, she admires Barbara’s desire to always be better. Their writing process involves each of them writing half of a script, then swapping pages halfway through to polish each other’s work, though Julie is fond of puns and more likely to add dad jokes to the scripts. The Bensons will be revealing a new project at a panel tomorrow.
Next up, Williamson and Tynion IV talked about Justice League: No Justice, which they are working on with Scott Snyder. Tynion IV says it’s hard to talk about because it comes straight out of Metal, which the two of them have worked on tangentially in the form of one-shots and tie-ins. No Justice sees all of the DCU’s superhero teams combined and scrambled up as they try to stop space gods from destroying distant planets. Tynion IV described the team’s lineups as shown in the promo art by Francis Manapul, pointing out the oddball members like Starro. Tynion IV and Williamson were given the opportunity to play with “all of the toys in the toy box”, and Tynion IV says that the title also refers to what happens on Earth when all of the heroes leave the planet. The entire series is being drawn by Francis Manapul (whose work on the series according to Williamson is “breathtaking”) with an assist from Manapul’s studiomate Marcus To. Manapul is designing all of the space gods, as well as new costumes for all of the characters in the series. According to Williamson, everyone in the DCU appears in this story, and it is very important for the future of the DCU. Brainiac is a big part of the story, and he builds the teams based on their skills, but does not factor in their personalities and how they interact with each other. In some cases it works, and in some cases it does not. Gerads joked that one of the teams is “the four grumpiest characters in the DC Universe (Batman, Deathstroke, Lobo, and Lex Luthor), and Beast Boy.” The story kicks off in the DC Nation one-shot the first week of May. It continues the fast-paced action established by Metal.
When asked what their dream books would be, Marguerite Bennett said she would want to do a Zatanna and Constantine book; Justin Jordan wants to work on Lobo; Shawna Benson mentioned Zatanna; Julie Benson named Batwoman; Mitch Gerads, citing the naming of his child “West Allen,” said he would want to work on The Flash; Tynion IV named Batgirl; and Williamson said Superman/Batman (or Batman/Superman, depending on what DC wants to call it).
The panel wrapped up with the cover art by Jim Lee for Action Comics #1000 being displayed, as well as a preview of the forthcoming Krypton TV series from Syfy. No audience questions were taken during this panel.
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