NYCC 2018: DC Meet The Publishers On Black Label, Wonder Comics And More

by James Ferguson

Before the panel started, we saw an ad for the new DC Universe. DC Publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio took the stage to large applause. They talked about the premiere of Titans from the day before. Lee spoke about the streaming service and how it allows them to do things they wouldn’t normally be able to do, such as a more mature Titans series and the upcoming Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing. It sounds like they’re staying pretty faithful to the source material with these new shows.

Didio said that there’s so much on the TV and film side of DC that it forces them to be better on the publishing side. “I haven’t been this excited for the DC lineup for a bit.” They go to great lengths to get the best creators as possible. Didio referenced Brian Michael Bendis on Superman, Tom King on Batman, and Scott Snyder on Justice League.

Lee touched upon the young adult imprints, DC Zoom and DC Ink. He said the old strategy for young adult was making simpler art and concepts and just throwing it out there. That hasn’t worked so they’re changing things up by focusing specifically on this audience. They’ve partnered with well-known young adult creators to tell all-new stories to chart new ground and explore new themes. These will be in different formats and different price points.

Didio shared a story about how Grant Morrison came onboard to write Green Lantern. The two had dinner and Didio lamented how he didn’t know what to do with Green Lantern next. Morrison jumped in with a number of suggestions, but wasn’t ready to commit to write it. Ten minutes later, he outlined the first few issues right there.

DC Black Label was next up in the discussion. It came about based on evergreen comics that are constantly talked about like The Killing Joke or The Dark Knight Returns. This is in an effort to create more books like those, such as Batman: Last Knight from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and Batman: White Knight – Volume 2 from Sean Gordon Murphy.

Didio spoke about the DC Comics released in Walmart. This is another effort to reach a new audience while super heroes are heating up the pop culture landscape.

Brian Michael Bendis joined the panel as a nice surprise. They pointed out this was the first panel they’ve ever been on together. Didio jokingly asked Bendis what’s going on with Spider-Man. Bendis introduced Wonder Comics, a line of books that celebrates DC’s characters and the wonder of life when you discover your place in the world and realize you have to fight for it. A new Young Justice comic is coming which will feature the return of Connor Kent, Wondergirl, Bart Allen, and the Wonder Twins. More will be revealed in Bendis’ spotlight panel on Saturday.

Bendis explained that this was a way to further explore the themes he was going through at Marvel with characters like Miles Morales and Riri Williams. These characters mean a lot to each other personally. Some of them don’t have a history in this continuity so they’ll be meeting for the first time. It’s literally a list of things people have been screaming at him to do since he joined DC Comics. “At least part of my Twitter feed is very happy, for the first time in years.”

Didio said that every character is someone’s favorite, so you have to treat them with respect. “I know Wally West fans. I’m sorry.” A fan yelled out “Still sore!” He continued by saying that they wanted to make sure that the characters had stories with them, not to bring them back just to do that. They wouldn’t have anything to do. Bendis came to them with ideas for Young Justice which is why it’s moving forward.

Bendis said his son, London has a lot to do with the casting of Young Justice. Some of them, like Conner were already in there. While watching Young Justice with his son, he was thinking if Robin should be in this. Unprompted, London turned to him and said “Robin is the coolest.” Young Justice #1 is set for release in January 2019.

There are some new legacy characters on the team too. Jamie Hex is one example, who’s a descendant of Jonah Hex, who inherits a big trunk full of DC characters’ stuff like an Adam Strange ray gun. She’ll make her debut in the next Batman Walmart comic. Bendis said he asked about a lineage and Didio sent him a panel from a comic in the ’70s that showed Jonah Hex had a baby.

Bendis explained the challenge of the Batman Walmart comic is that it’s a 12 part mystery told 12 pages at a time. Each chapter has taken him to new areas of the DC Universe that he’s never been able to explore as a writer, from Gotham to Thanagar.

The panel praised the stellar artists working with them now. Didio pointed out that the competition is so fierce right now. He doesn’t want to be in the business of selling variant covers. The art inside the book has to be just as compelling and exciting as the cover. He said it’s their job to make retailers’ jobs as easy as possible by putting out the best books they can.

Lee explained a hoax they put together that involved a line of Funko toys that were designed like they were from Masters of the Universe. They approached DC Wiki to seed information about “Primal Age,” a defunct line that DC decided not to move forward with it. Writer Marv Wolfman was pulled in and they Photoshopped a picture of him with the fake designs and color guides.

There is no technology in this world. Instead of a Bat Computer, there’s a Bat Magic Crystal. Wolfman joined the panel to talk more about the project. He said that Didio gets so excited when explaining something that you just kind of go with it and then wonder what you just got yourself into. To complete the loop, Wolfman is actually writing a comic book based on this which is due out in February. The toys will be out this week from Amazon.

Wolfman said he had a lot of fun with this because it was basically playing with all these characters in new and unique ways. Didio held up one of the toys and pointed out that Batman has a sword and shield.

The discussion turned to Titans again. Wolfman was on stage at the premiere with the cast. He’s had a number of people come up to him at the convention who were at the premiere and gushed over it. He said they can’t all be from DC Publicity. Didio asked him if he ever imagined all of this happening in film and TV. Wolfman said “No, I’m not that good.” The actor that’s playing Deathstroke in the films called him up and asked him out to lunch to learn more about the character and make sure he was staying honest. Wolfman pointed out that this would never have happened before because there would never be a Deathstroke movie.

Didio went “off script” for a moment to ask Bendis how he feels about Into the Spider-Verse featuring Miles Morales. Bendis said it is great and it feels weird promoting it here. “There’s a panel on Saturday that I may or may not be crashing.” It’s amazing that he gets to see something like while he’s still “in the game.”

The panel was opened up to a Q&A. A fan complimented Lee on his Twitch stream on Sundays then asked what the spark was that got everyone back in the groove at DC. Didio joked he attributed that to low sales. Lee said it was New 52 where everyone in the company got together to put that out and then with Rebirth there were things they could improve upon. Restarting everything like that can be very exciting, but it’s not something you can do too often because it loses its novelty.

Another fan said ten years ago when he was posting on Brian Michael Bendis’ message board, he said that he should write a Young Justice book. Bendis joked he printed that out and put it in his diary. The fan then asked who the Robin was in Young Justice. Bendis confirmed that it was Tim Drake “the best Robin.”

Someone else asked if there were plans to publish as Superman ’55 in the same vein as Batman ’66 and Wonder Woman ’77. They’re waiting for the right story, but the panelists talked about the idea of a Batman ’89 series.

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