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DC Universe: Batman Beyond Ongoing Announced, Rise of Arsenal ‘Extraordinarily’ Good [Fan Expo]

On Saturday morning at Fan Expo in Toronto, DC Entertainment continued their panel schedule with the DC Universe panel, where they announced a “Batman Beyond” ongoing series after the miniseries” discussed the criticism of “Justice League: Rise of Arsenal,” and why DiDio thinks Krul did “extraordinarily well” on the miniseries, and the raw, less experienced Batman readers will meet in “Batman: Earth One.”

Picking up right where the previous night’s panel left off, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio began by asking the audience with tongue planted firmly in cheek, “Didn’t you love we just cut it off at the Cassandra Cain bit? I really liked that.” He then introduced the panelists: “Green Arrow” writer J.T. Krul, “Superboy” writer Jeff Lemire, “Batman: Earth One” artist Gary Frank, “Green Lantern” inker Christian Alamy alongside his penciller Doug Mahnke, “Red Robin” penciller Marcus To, “First Wave” writer Brian Azzarello and “Flash” artist Francis Manapul.

Gary Frank said he had just finished Superman: Secret Origin, annd was now starting “Batman: Earth One.” Where “Secret Origin” was about condensing the things important to him and writer Geoff Johns, and trying to keep things familiar while still doing things differently, he said “Batman: Earth One” is the complete opposite:

“The thing with Batman is that we’re not telling the origin of the existing Batman, so there aren’t really any constraints – we’re not tied to anything that’s come before, it’s a complete blank slate for the way he comes about and develops. It’ll be a Batman that people don’t expect. People are used to a competent, experienced Batman — they’ll be surprised to see how raw he is when he starts out.

DiDio told a story about Doug Mahnke that took place during “Final Crisis” #7:

“Whenever we bring up Doug’s name on a schedule nightmare, we always say he’ll be able to do it, so he’s always the guy who achieves the impossible. The most interesting one was Final Crisis #7. This was a book that, when I looked at the script, I just did not know how anybody was ever going to draw this. It was already running late, but Mahnke turned around 30 pages of ‘Final Crisis’ #7 in three weeks.” DiDio had “completely given up hope,” sayingwe’ll need Morrison’s Rosetta Stone to get what the script’s about,” and lauded Mahnke with mixed metaphors: “[he] stepped up from behind the 8-ball to knock it out of the park.”

Mahnke himself discussed the current run on “Green Lantern“:

“What’s really cool right now is that Geoff’s not throwing too much at one time, and he’s building some more meat onto each character. Me personally, every time I think he’s defined a character, he’s changed it just a little bit. Larfleeze is a lot of fun, and there’s always more stuff coming. The issue I just got the script for had a lot of stuff that was really surprising and shocking. That’s been the most fun part of Green Lantern — working with the New Guardians, and there’s still a lot to come. For instance, he’s a big fan of Atrocitus since he’s not what he expected. He’s a grotesque creature, and yet… as soon as I think I’ve got him down, Geoff will throw something at me to make it different.”

Azzarello on First Wave:

“The goal is to introduce those characters to a new audience, first and foremost. Doc Savage has been around for longer than I have, but not really in comics. Speaking of Rosetta Stones, he IS the Rosetta Stone for everything you like, so you should be somewhat familiar with that character. Fortress of Solitude? In his book first. It’s been cool to work on the Spirit too, and it’s gratifying meeting with Eisner’s family and having them support me taking him in a different direction. Something Eisner said is “I don’t want anybody writing another Will Eisner story.” So I’m not. And Batman has guns.

At this point, the panel was opened up to questions from the audience, where DiDio touched on a number of issues.

DiDio announced that there will be a “Batman Beyond” ongoing past the miniseries.

On The Shadow: “We were in negotiations with that at one point, but a lot of companies are trying to get recognizable characters, so it was hard to pull together a group that’d really work well. We tried to go for the Shadow, it didn’t’ come together but there’s still a chance.”

On whether the return of Vertigo characters like the Shade and Death of the Endless is part of a company-wide push, or a one-off decision: “It’s actually both. It’s making the characters accessible, but using them wherever makes the most sense. The plan on Death appearing in Action was really generated by Paul Cornell himself. He called up Neil Gaiman, asked what he thought about using Death in Action Comics, Neil said “go for it”, and we were surprised but happy.”

On the long-term plan for “Adventure Comics”: “I’d rather just figure out the short-term plan right now! Legion is appearing in the moment, Flashpoint is coming up and then there’ll be a new character in the lead of the book.”

DiDio also mentioned that he is considering and in support of digital download codes within trade paperbacks.

On the most underappreciated DC title: “There’s a bunch. Sometimes I gravitate to ‘REBELS.’ Jonah Hex, too — I’m surprised Jonah Hex doesn’t sell to the Deadpool audience. I think every book is underrated and deserves a bigger and better audience, because I see where they are in the market and I know we aren’t achieving their full potential. I think Wonder Woman’s underrated right now — I think we’re putting a lot of effort into it, but everything’s a battle.”

On Lois Lane: “Real Lois [as opposed to Paul Cornell's robot Lois accompanying Lex Luthor] will play a big role in Action Comics — more than Superman.”

On how long Grant Morrison will stay on Batman: “We know where this is going. Another year and a half, two years. He has a blueprint, we have a blueprint, and the same story is still building to a big moment with Damian.”

On whether the Question would come back anytime soon: “Manhunter, Question, Cassandra Cain — they aren’t gone anywhere, people just aren’t using them right now. They aren’t on the shelf, any of these characters. What happens is that people are building their shorelines, they see where they want to take it, and they choose the characters that fit their stories. It’s not that the Question is gone, it’s that the stories for her aren’t there right now.”

On his favorite Teen Titan, J.T. Krul said: “I really love Ravager; she had a lot of potential with her troubled past. She’s tough as nails but vulnerable, and she needs the Teen Titans right now. Wonder Girl is great. I think she’s a true leader and she represents everything the Amazons stand for. She uses it almost like her code of the samurai.”

One fan asked about a future for Doctor 13 and Azzarello’s Doctor 13 backup from “Tales of the Unexpected.” DiDio said that “When those scripts came in, I didn’t believe they were Brian,” prompting Azzarello to quip “I don’t see why. They were pretty mean-spirited.”

On the possibility of splitting up Superman and Lois Lane: “It’d feel contrived right now, and even more so than Spidey marrying MJ, Clark was always going to be in love with Lois. You lose some of the triangle but gain some new challenges, and since everyone knows they’re true loves, there’s no point to break it up now.”

On his work on “Outsiders,” DiDio said: “It’s a quirky little book right now. I wanted to make sure no characters anybody wants to read about are in it, and I succeeded .I wanted to break it away from the Batman universe right now. ‘Batman Inc.’ is very distinct in what it’s about since all the characters are derived from Batman. But with the Outsiders — Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, Katana — I wanted to see them get their proper dues and stand alone without Batman to prop the book up. When they’re able to realign with Batman, maybe something will be stronger at the end.” He also revealed that new character Freight Train is from Vancouver, and that his origin will be revealed in the next issue and will tie into DC history.

When asked how “Rise of Arsenal” did, DiDio responded that it did “really well.” When the fan said that based on the strength of the arc he’d read anything by J.T. Krul, Krul responded that “It really wasn’t a superhero story. It’s the first chapter of this long story for Roy, and it’s not about him coping with his loss, it’s about him experiencing. It’s a downward spiral. I’m a dad, and it was a hard book to write. I’ve talked to a lot of fathers who said they had a hard time getting through it, and the fact that we got that kind of reaction is great. He’s very proud of that book.”

DiDio then said that many criticisms came from new parents, and they had more of an issue with the idea than the actual storytelling, then telling Krul “The fact that you were able to get that level of response showed that you did your job extraordinarily well.”

On how long Francis Manapul will stay on the Flash: “We’re already talking about our next story arc, so at least another year and a half. Beyond that, Geoff and I are talking, so whatever it’ll be, it’ll be with Geoff.”

For the last question, DiDio called out a Robin-costumed fan in the audience, who asked, once again, about Cassandra Cain, prompting DiDio to again cut the panel off. (This time, it seemed like a plant.)

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