Today’s Jim Lee & Friends panel at New York Comic Con saw the titular host, Jim Lee, welcome creators from across DC Comics into a capacity room, spotlighting their various projects. The big news coming out of the panel, though, was that of Joe Quesada returning to DC Comics after a decades-long absence while he was busy running Marvel.

Batman #131 cover
Batman #132 cover

Revealed towards the end of the panel, Quesada will provide variant cover art for several issues of Batman beginning with January’s issue #131. Quesada will also do covers for other DC titles, though those have yet to be announced.

Lee billed him as “one more surprise guest” at the very end of the panel, bringing Quesada to the stage. Quesada said part of the reason for ending his time at Marvel was to get back to drawing more.

He said it was actually Brian Bendis who posed a question to him about what he has left to do at Marvel Comics. Quesada then realized that he didn’t have anything left to do at Marvel, saying, “And that’s why now I’m doing my own thing.”

“I love your style,” Lee said. “People have been drawing Batman for 82 years, and it always surprised me when people draw Batman in a shot I’ve never seen before.”

For some of his new covers, he’s being inked by Kevin Nowlan, whom he described as “my brother in Azrael,” the duo having co-created that character together. There were some questions about whether Quesada would eventually do more for DC Comics, to which Quesada replied, “I don’t like to talk about a thing because it could go belly up, but right now I’m doing some covers for you guys.”

The other big news concerns next year’s 30th anniversary of Milestone Media, the mention of which drew raucous cheers from the panel’s crowd. DC will mark the occasion during Black History Month with a new Milestone 30th Anniversary Special, set for release on February 21 and featuring work from creators including Chuck BrownStephanie WilliamsDenys CowanNikolas Draper-IveyYasmine Flores Montanez, and more. One of the stories in the one-shot, written and illustrated by Draper-Ivey, will see an adult Static team up with Batman Beyond. Draper-Ivey was one of the friends Lee brought to the panel.

“Remember that episode [of Static Shock], where Static went to the future and teamed up with Batman Beyond?” Draper-Ivey asked the crowd. Everyone broke out cheering. “We’re going to do that again.”

Before that one-shot hits, though, February will see the release of Icon vs. Hardware, a new five-issue series starting on February 14. It picks up on threads from this year’s Milestones in History anthology. Co-written by Reggie Hudlin and Leon Chills, the series sees Hardware trying to rewrite history with the help of a newly-discovered time machine. The previously-announced Static: Shadows of Dakota series from writer/artist Draper-Ivey and co-writer Vita Ayala was also touched upon, with a new launch date for the series set for February 7.

Draper-Ivey told the crowd he grew up as a fan of Static and could hardly believe that now he’s working on stories with the character. His preview artwork drew big applause from the crowd, and sparked a brief conversation between Draper-Ivey and Lee about his process.

“This season they took the weights off — that’s a Rocky reference — and now I’m just having a lot of fun with the freedom,” Draper-Ivey said.

“Well, your stuff looks fantastic,” Lee replied.

The last bit of business about Milestone at the panel was that Lee revealed there would soon be a clash between the Milestone Universe and the DC Universe, although he was pretty guarded and didn’t offer any other details.

Beyond the Quesada and Milestone news, the Jim Lee & Friends panel also saw Marc Silvestri talk a bit about Batman/The Joker: The Deadly Duo, which he is writing and illustrating.

Lee brought Silvestri up to talk about it, saying he was inspired to see one of his peers from the ’90s doing career-best work on the day, previewing pages from Silvestri’s forthcoming comic as he did.

Silvestri said he is doing this book in part because Lee “kept bugging me,” and they’d been friends for 30 years.

“Just to shut Jim up…I thought you know what, I’m just going to pitch this idea,” Silvestri said. The idea being that Batman and Joker have to team up to fight a new enemy. Silvestri noted the book is out of continuity, and as such, the story opens as Batman starts receiving body parts of Jim Gordon being delivered to him. This drew a visceral reaction from the crowd.

John Ridley appeared to talk about his various work at DC too, from the currently-running I Am Batman to upcoming titles G.C.P.D.: The Blue Wall with artist Stefano Raffaele (whom Lee described as “the second coming of David Mazzucchelli“) and the Batman: One Bad Day – The Penguin one-shot with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, both of which are in stores later this month.

Ridley detailed some of the work he’s been doing in I Am Batman, as well as some of the developments that are coming up for the book, which stars the Fox family. While Jace is under the cowl as Batman, his siblings will also continue to feature prominently in the book, Ridley said.

And of G.C.P.D.: The Blue Wall, Ridley said, “This story is really about Rene [Montoya] dedicating herself to rebuilding the GCPD in her image.”

Spencer Ackerman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was also on-hand to talk about Waller vs. Wildstorm, the Black Label series he is writing with co-writer Evan Narcisse and artist Eric Battle, describing that book as “something of a year one for Amanda Waller.” That one is set at the tail end of the Cold War.

Lee noted that while that book is out of continuity, he thinks it has the potential to influence how creators treat the characters within continuity (see Dark Knight Returns, or The Killing Joke). He added, “I feel like this will be a seminal title as to how WildStorm is perceived within the DC Universe.”

This marked the second time DC Comics has held a Jim Lee and Friends panel at a major convention, with the inaugural event being at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. This panel has essentially replaced the old Meet the Publishers panels that DC used to hold prior to Dan DiDio departing the company in early 2020.

Miss any of our other NYCC ’22 coverage? Find it all here!

With additional reporting by Joe Grunenwald.