It’s an exciting time to be a fan of DC Comics. With multiple imprints focusing on different audience segments, there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy coming from the publisher. Mark Doyle, a group editor at DC Comics, assembled an A-list panel on Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con featuring Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Kami Garcia and Jeff Lemire to talk about the unique projects they have coming out as part of the mature Black Label.
Romita Jr. has worked on some of the most popular characters in comics, but he feels lucky to be working on Superman, especially with Frank Miller in Year One. Praising the writer for the amount of “play room” he gave him, he talked about how the book explores relatable problems, like bullies and girls, through the Superman lense — something he said he could do for five to eight more issues if DC let him.
“What happens when a guy is a brute in a bar and he’s a bully, how do you stop yourself?” he said. “I had to be told to keep the page count down, there’s so many things we could have done with the character in that light.”
When it comes to what his favorite image in the entire story is, Romita Jr. immediately had an answer: “Wonder Woman stopping Superman from breaking Batman’s neck.”
Snyder and Capullo’s Batman: The Last Knight on Earth, which serves as the culmination of their years long collaboration working on Batman, is part of the Black Label. The story sees Batman randomly wake up 15-20 years in the future to a DC Universe that is overrun by villainy and crime.
Snyder said the spark of inspiration behind The Last Knight on Earth actually hit him at a previous San Diego Comic-Con. When the writer was still working on Zero Year, he bumped into Grant Morrison, a few years after he completed his year-long Batman story. After praising Morrison as “an incredible friend and guide,” Snyder mentioned that he was advised to take ownership of the run and envision his own “version of the character’s birth and […] death.” With Zero Year serving as an upgraded introduction to the character, Snyder slowly conceived of this story over the years as a natural endpoint.
“A lot of our run was a lot of Batman saying everything you do matters and even when something senseless matters you use that as fuel and try to give your life meaning,” Snyder said, adding that the Joker represented an opposite, more chaotic viewpoint. With The Last Knight on Earth, Snyder “wanted to explore a very different side of things, where the world [finally] tells Batman what the Joker’s been telling Batman.”
There’s a whole lot to explore in The Last Knight on Earth, with a new splash page featuring many of DC’s favorite heroes bidding Batman and Wonder Woman farewell as they head off into the Underworld, but it turns out there was one thing in particular that sold Capullo on the project. Before Snyder could even get through the whole pitch he prepared, Capullo agreed to do the book simply after hearing about the Joker’s decapitated head serving as Batman’s companion through hell.
Garcia, a novelist who recently wrote Teen Titans: Raven, also has a Joker-filled book on the horizon. It turns out she wanted to do a Joker book a few years ago, but the DC Ink line the Raven book was a part of was focusing on heroes instead of villains. Now that the darker line is established, she can finally tell her story in Joker/Harley: Criminal Insanity. Rather than square the Clown Prince of Crime against Batman, Garcia has turned Harley Quinn into a motivated adversary for the Joker.
The book features a twist on their backstory, tying the characters together in a new way that sees Harley seeking revenge for a crime the Joker committed years ago. Garcia describes the character as a profiler who “likes Black Sabbath and wears a lot of black,” something that pleased Capullo on stage, and that she is extremely motivated to take the Joker down.
“Harley wants him to pay for what he did, and she is a dark chick,” Garcia said.
Garcia is tackling the book from a realistic, forensic investigative standpoint, promising her version of the Joker doesn’t qualify as legally insane. She’s interested in exploring what made this sociopath choose the life of villainy and violence that he did instead of become something like a surgeon or CEO “as most sociopaths do.” To do this, she said she and an investigator friend created a whole profile for the Joker that helped her discern exactly how someone could become “the narcissist we all know and love.”
The writer, who unfortunately was fighting through laryngitis to explain her story, typically caters to the younger audiences, but this former school teacher is actually the perfect individual to delve into the Joker’s twisted psyche. The daughter of a former undercover cop in the D.C. area, she said that she had to prove she could escape from the trunk of a car, zip-ties and handcuffs before her dad would let her go on dates unchaperoned.
It would be almost silly for DC to say they have another Joker-themed book coming, but since Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino just won an Eisner for Gideon Falls, their upcoming Joker: Killer Smile gets a pass.
Looking outside Gotham and focusing on the suburbs, the story follows the impact on a psychiatrist and his family after the man repeatedly interacts with Joker in Arkham Asylum. Calling it “the most terrifying thing” he could think of, Killer Smile will explore how Joker’s impact can change a family and a seemingly peaceful neighborhood.
In addition to helming a Joker-centric book, Lemire is also writing a Question series. Calling it a “dream book,” the writer revealed that he had a conversation in the past with Dan Didio about doing a Question book with Denys Cowan illustrating it, and it turned out the artist had just been waiting for the right story to return to the character. A time-hopping adventure that sees the Question fight a villain “with a thousand faces” in Sergio Leone- and noir-inspired settings.
A life-long fan of the faceless detective, Lemire enjoyed the internal transformations the character has undergone over the years and wanted to explore “the next step of his evolution that reflects the world we’re in now.”