Here we are again! It’s another year with your intrepid Beat team at San Diego Comic-Con! Specifically, it’s another go-round with your friends in the DC contingent. And we’re here live with DC’s first panel of the show, a conversation with Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio.

This one is usually the first big news-maker of the show for the publisher and we’ll keep you up to date with every big reveal! Stay tuned and keep hitting refresh to follow along.

  • Dan is the first one out. And he introduces Jim as they both come out on the stage. “We say this every show, but Jim’s contract says he has to get better applause at every show.”
  • Dan runs down the agenda for the panel. They plan to discuss happenings in the DC Universe, but he makes mention of the retiring of the Vertigo imprint: “The imprint itself isn’t what matters most, but instead the books within the imprint are what matters”, DiDio says.
  • “As publishers, we want to create a destination to help people find the best comics for them…we have a great name, with a great diversity of product…if you’re looking for YA titles, you’ll find it at DC, if you’re looking for mature titles you’ll find it at DC…it becomes your one-stop shop for all titles”.
  • Jim highlights that books like Sandman and Watchmen predated the Vertigo label, and underscored it was created to be a home for British Invasion talent in its earliest years. “So much of that edgy talent is now writing the mainline DC books” and so it makes sense to bring everything back under the DC banner.
  • They move on to discussing MAD magazine and how magazines are challenged at the newsstand. They emphasize that it will still exist, just in a different format and content, but the goal was to play to the strengths of the marketplace (the subscription business and direct market).
  • Moving on to comics…first up, The Year of the Villain event. Dan discusses how the major goal here was the unification of the entire line around this event. While so many of these comics are currently under great stewards like Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Brian Bendis, etc…Dan states what makes HIM particularly excited about comics is how these characters and their individual worlds work together. They felt like the story being built out of Scott’s Justice League was a great way to do that.
  • Dan also states that City of Bane that’s beginning this week in the Batman comics also helps achieve that goal, while also furthering the relationships that are running within Tom King’s run…including the one between Batman and Catwoman.
  • Dan also includes Event Leviathan in that list, and states that Grant Morrison’s Blackstar story in The Green Lantern will begin to have ramifications in other titles too. He also namedrops the Legion of Super-Heroes as a key part of this unification.
  • Jim shares his ongoing excitement with having Brian Bendis at DC, as well as Alex Maleev and the work they’re doing on Event Leviathan, which he says also dovetails with Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins Lois Lane comic.
  • Jim also says that he’s very happy to be joining Brian on Legion of Super-Heroes with the lead-off chapter of Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium. Jim always felt like Legion was the DC equivalent of the X-Men, filled with characters that had varying relationships, struggling with their powers, as well as lots of romance. He says those are the kind of dynamics Brian is bringing back.
  • Moving on to Black Label, Jim touches on Batman: Damned and thanks the audience for their support of that title. He also mentions Superman: Year One to somewhat *quieter* applause…Jim jokes “feel free to hold your applause till the end” to big laughs.
  • After a quick mention of Batman: Last Knight on Earth, they discuss the expansion of the Sandman Universe line in its year 2 (the new Hellblazer title), and the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman proper.
  • Dan emphasizes that these books fill in corners that the mainline books don’t necessarily…lines like the Sandman Universe, Young Animal, and the new horror-based line Hill House Comics…and with that, here comes Joe Hill to discuss it.
  • Hill and the duo plug NOS4A2 on AMC and his work on Locke and Key, and delve into how this line came into being.
  • Hill states that we’re currently in a Golden Age of Horror, with shows like Stranger Things and movies like IT, and that his pitch to Mark Doyle was that he wanted to create a “Blumhouse for comics”.
  • Basketful of Heads is the first title, which he states is about a man who wields an ancient axe that is used to lop off people’s heads, but after they’re decapitated, they continue talking.
  • Daphne Byrne, written by Laura Marks with art by the great Kelley Jones is next, which is states is a bit like the Omen but starring a girl and taking place in the “gaslight era”
  • The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado and Dani is about a spreading plague of forgetfulness is third title
  • And the fourth title is The Dollhouse Family by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, the great Lucifer creative team. Hill says “it’s everything you like about old 90’s Vertigo horror”
  • The fifth comic is Plunge written by Hill, is his tribute to great Arctic horror, where we begin to drill for oil in the Lovecraftian world of R’lyeh.
  • Each comic will have a back-up written by Hill called Sea Dogs, about how we used werewolves to win the American Revolution.
  • Hill says we live in very distracted times, and you have to fight for a reader’s attention in every panel, it’s his number 1 goal…he feels like with this great team of talent that won’t be an issue whatsoever
  • Dan and Jim have a brief aside as to how these imprints and pop-ups compare to his days running Wildstorm.
  • Dan swerves over to the Young Adult set of books that DC has begun to produce. And highlights titles like Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo…and underscores how well its selling and how it plays directly to the goal of finding new readers outside of just the comic shops and into the book market itself.
  • Dan leads the discussion over to the Wal-Mart 100 page giants, which was intended towards attracting the casual fan, similar to the Young Adult program.
  • Dan says that there are disturbing trends in the marketplace, such as the variant cover programs and he especially bemoans the sales of facsimile books that he says in some cases are outselling the new titles featuring the same characters. He feels like their goal should be building new worlds rather than revisiting the old ones.
  • Jim then polls the audience to ask how many in the audience are reading in digital and who is reading through DC Universe. A number of international audience members then speak out and state that they’d like to subscribe to the latter, but cannot as its not available outside of North America. Lee responds by saying there is a roadmap for international expansion for DCU, which is a reassuring sign.
  • Dan says a part of their plan is how to improve the global reach of DC Comics, beyond just the content of the comics themselves.
  • Hill takes a minute to defend facsimile comics, as a possible gateway for older readers to hand to children or other potential fans as something the former is already familiar with. He feels they serve a great purpose in that end.
  • Dan and Jim then open it up to the audience to find out what they’re excited about…books like the Black Label title Harleen and Warren Ellis’ plans within The Wild Storm imprint. Jim says that getting him back was a great boon, and the trio on-stage then discusses The Batman’s Grave briefly by Ellis and Hitch.
  • An audience member asks about Doomsday Clock, Dan states that he can’t hide the fact that book is running later than was expected, but he says that readers will begin to see ramifications from Doomsday Clock running through DC Universe comics in 2020, aligning with the finale of that maxi-series. Though it’s unclear from his status if that means Doomsday Clock will end in 2020 or if it means its ending this year with longer tendrils into the coming year.
  • Dan responds to a question about Naomi and the promotion of that title, stating that she will appear in Action Comics, and also that John Romita Jr will be drawing that title in the future.
  • An audience member asks, in light of Second Coming leaving Vertigo/DC, if a title like Preacher would be produced today. Dan asks Joe if he’s had any pushback, and he responds that he’s had no issues whatsoever with the content of Hill House. Dan calls Second Coming an exception rather than the rule and that the book would have required changes that they felt would have compromised the work itself. He’s very excited to read it, but it’s sold out every time he tries to find it.
  • An audience member asks about the possibility of DC Universe on PS4, and Lee says that’s a part of their roadmap as well.
  • In responding to a question about a new possible Who’s Who In The DC Universe…Dan says that they’re currently building an ultimate timeline of the DC Universe. He says that was one of the great mistakes of the New 52, not knowing where things fit together and the character’s relationships. Dan says “I don’t want to create anything that will get undone 5 minutes later”…but he says they are working on that timeline right now.

And with that, the panel ends with a lovely note of congrats to the newly married Dan and his wife who is in attendance.

Thanks for joining for everybody and we’ll see you at the Eisners Live-Blog tomorrow!!

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