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DC Takes the Pulse of Fans at the DC Nation Panel 2010

The first official DC panel of San Diego Comic-con was a casual and humorous affair, a little more concerned with making a connection with the fans than announcing new projects. DC co-publisher Dan DiDio wanted to take the pulse of DC’s con-going fans and get some feedback on the last year of DC’s stories. DiDio said that he values the “opportunity to hear from [fans] directly.”
Joining DiDio on the panel were co-publisher Jim Lee, VP-Sales Bob Wayne, Jeff Lemire, Bill Willingham, J.T. Krull, James Robinson, and Nicola Scott.The majority of the panel was a question and answer session between the panel and the fans. DiDio ran a few informal polls over DC’s big tentpole franchises, mentioned that there will be a “Young Justice” comic in Johnny DC style, and Bill Willingham discussed the details of “Fables” #100.
When he asked who was into J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows’s run on “Superman,” he got a light smattering of applause. The reaction was much stronger when DiDio asked what the audience thought of bringing Death from “Sandman” into Paul Cornell and Pete Woods’s “Action Comics.” DiDio’s joke about how fans claim they hate to see death in comics, but seem awfully excited to see Death in comics, was met with more than a few loud groans.

The Batman franchise got the biggest reaction of all. The assembled fans were really into Grant Morrison’s run in particular, though there were a few very vocal opponents to the idea of Damian Wayne as Robin. DiDio and Bob Wayne reminisced over a fangirl who would scream each time they suggested killing Dick Grayson on a panel a few years back, an anecdote that the audience immediately emulated.

Wonder Woman” had a mixed reaction, to say the least. The crowd was almost evenly mixed between light applause and loud groans, almost entirely due to her recent costume change. After being asked why the costume is so different from her original uniform, Jim Lee explained that DC wanted to do something completely different for Wonder Woman so that they wouldn’t just be making cheap cosmetic changes. Lee explained that there is a reason in-story for the change, but that the new costume doesn’t invalidate the old costume. They both exist, and for someone who started reading comics with “Wonder Woman” #600, the costumes are equally good. After a fan suggested just getting rid of the jacket, Lee joked that the jacket was magically bonded to her back, and that the best she could do was bring it down off her shoulders a little.
“Justice League of America” got a respectable amount of applause, though the ensuing questions were almost entirely about Roy “Arsenal” Harper’s recent trials. When a fan asked why Harper couldn’t just get a simple cyborg prosthetic, James Robinson explained that when passing through an airport, he noticed several military servicemen who had prosthetic limbs. Robinson wanted Harper to have a prosthetic that wasn’t an all-powerful cybernetic arm was a “really cool thing” and an allusion to those servicemen.

When a fan questioned why Roy Harper has had such a bad time of it lately. JT Krull said that it’s because you can actually afford to change him around, and that he has a flexibility more popular characters don’t. Robinson also explained that Harper is a person who self-sabotages, and that’s part of why he’s attracted such traumatic events lately.

After being asked about the varying quality of DC’s line of books, DiDio emphasized that they’ve “got a nice mix of books and we stand by them.” DC prizes the variety of their line, and they want to create as much product for as many people as possible, and hopefully those people will be excited about it.
A father mentioned that his eight-year-old daughter is upset over the cancellation of the Johnny DC line. In what may have been a stealth announcement, Dan DiDio teased that maybe a “Young Justice” comic done in the Johnny DC style may make her feel better. While there was no hard confirmation, the recent cancellation of the line is being used to relaunch the books, so we may well see “Young Justice” in the near future.
JT Krull’s work on “Green Arrow” generated a modest level of excitement. Krull explained that “the forest in Star City has allowed Star City to become a unique city like Gotham is for Batman,” which, despite its comic book-y origins, provides a “very grounded story.” Krull stressed that the forest makes for a fun and grounded setting, and “for a character like Ollie, that’s the story I want to do.”
Bill Willingham spilled a few details on the upcoming “Fables” #100. It will be 100 pages long, and the first 60 pages will be a “Fables” issue as normal. The remaining forty will feature a story written by series artist Mark Buckingham and drawn by Willingham. Lee asked the crowd if they remembered Willingham’s art from “Dungeons & Dragons.” After laughing, Willingham explained that he has terrible timing. He drew his first Joker just before Brian Bolland did his seminal version of The Joker in “The Killing Joke” and drew an issue of “Justice League International” right before Adam Hughes came on and defined the look of the series.
Only part of the audience applauded for “Sweet Tooth,” but those audience members were among the loudest during the panel. Jeff Lemire spoke briefly about the launch of “Superboy” in November, and emphasized that he wants to focus on telling proper superhero stories with the hero, something that has been fairly lacking in recent years. “Smallville is such a great location in the DC Universe,” Lemire said. He plans to explore how a rural setting will change the way superheroes work in the DC Universe by bringing in a few guest stars down the line.
The overall tone of the panel was positive, though Wonder Woman’s costume, “Cry for Justice,” and “Rise of Arsenal” were clear sore spots amongst many attendees. For a “getting to know you” panel, however, DC Nation seemed pretty successful.

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