batman panel

Saturday was a big day for this year’s C2E2, with a lot of DC and Marvel’s biggest panels taking place. Besides entry in the morning, the longest line I saw all weekend was for this panel. Hundreds of fans filed through the doors of the convention’s largest panel space, and with good reason.

As things got started, John Cunningham, DC’s Marketing VP, introduced us to our panelists: James Tynion IV, former writer of Red Hood and the Outlaws and Talon and an architect of Batman: Eternal; Scott Snyder, writer for Batman, lead writer for Batman: Eternal, and all-around Batman superfan; Jason Fabok and Dustin Nguyen, the two artists for Batman: Eternal; Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi, the artist and writer, respectively, on Batman and _____; and Jim Chadwick, an editor with DC’s digital division who works on Batman ‘66, among others.

Cunningham started by reminding us that this year is the 75th anniversary of Batman and promised a slew of celebration, most clearly embodied in a “Batman Day” sometime this July. He also mentioned the two animated shorts commissioned for the anniversary and, as a thank you, revealed that we’d be screening them before the panel began.

Unfortunately there was some technical trouble, kicking off a friendly rivalry between Cunningham and the people running the projector.

Unable to resolve the problem immediately, we turned to the comics.

The first book mentioned was Grayson, which received a warm reception, but just as quickly as it was brought up, Cunningham informed us that he couldn’t talk about it yet. Instead Scott Snyder took the opportunity to enlist the audience in a campaign to make sure that DC used the slogan that he and the other writers had come to love, “You think you know Nightwing, but you don’t know Dick.” It seemed to take off with the fans. DC had actually published the line in the Grayson #1 solicit a few days earlier, but after this panel I’m sure they were pleased that they went ahead with it.

Batman 31Next on the docket was Batman and Scott Snyder’s “Zero Year” storyline, which has just entered its final phase, “Savage City”. Snyder, ever eager to share with the fans had thrown in a couple of extra slides into the presentation as a thank you. “You guys are our bosses,” he said, quoting a sentiment that drives he and Greg Capullo’s work on the title.

The first new image was a page of Bruce straight-up wrestling a lion. Capullo and Snyder had apparently come up with the idea in an attempt to one-up the other’s biggest, wildest ideas. Snyder also directed our eyes to the lion’s face, saying that the fight would become one-sided in favor of Batman, especially after Bruce spits oil into the lion’s face and sets it aflame.

You read that right.

Snyder spoke about his love for Batman: Year One and how he felt that there really is no competing with it. It’s a sentiment he’s expressed several times since “Zero Year” began, but this time he clarified things, saying that “Zero Year” is really intended to be “the opposite of Year One”, something fun and over the top. He warned that F-16 are set to bomb the city and that this will effectively be The Last of Us in Gotham. In short, it’s a celebration of how badass Batman can be.

He also spoke on a somewhat more serious note about the power of the Batman mythos and how it’s really about turning tragedy into fuel to drive us forward. In a wonderfully candid moment, Scott revealed that the story will really spend some time looking at the kind of trauma Bruce endured after that fateful night in Crime Alley and that the whole idea came out of his own experiences with anxiety and depression, thanking the crowd again for their continued support.

Snyder and Tynion then spoke about the process of creating Batman: Eternal. According to Tynion, the DC approached them over a year ago with the prospect of a Batman weekly, but both writers agreed that it wouldn’t be worth it unless the story they were telling would have the kind of impact it would take, not only to fill 52 issues, but to hold momentum for 52 weeks. It had to really change Gotham and the writers agreed that removing Jim Gordon would have that mythology changing effect.

Tynion also stressed the importance of seeing the personal side of Gotham. Too often, he said, we see Gotham on the macro-scale, where it’s the entire city at stake, but the rapid fire release of Eternal would allow readers to really get a sense of the personal stakes of the story.

Year One also came up again, as Eternal will see Gotham’s old status quo, represented by Carmine Falcone and Acting Commissioner Forbes, try to take back the city. All the same, Tynion promised that this was only the beginning.

Jason Fabok joked that oftentimes he’d get the script and think “why are you making me draw this!?” The response from editors, however, made it all worth it. He also took a personal moment to thank fans for making him feel welcome drawing one of comics’ most sacred locations.

The panel called the first three issues of Batman: Eternal the pilot, and that the next month we’ll see how the other plotlines spin out of that core conflict. This week’s issue four begins Batgirl’s journey with Dustin Nguyen on art chores. Next week will introduce Tim Drake and Harper Row into the series in an issue penned by Tynion. After that, Ray Fawkes will write a story focusing on Batwing and The Spectre, of all people! Finally, in issue seven, Tim Seeley will set off a gang war.

The panel also revealed that they have roughly thirty-three issues plotted out and that the flashforward issue, Batman #28, will should fit between issues thirty-five and thirty-six of Batman: Eternal. Scott Snyder particularly pointed at Catwoman as a character to watch from this point forward and especially after she takes control of Gotham’s underworld.

Robin Rises OmegaAfter that Peter Tomasi spoke a bit about Robin Rises. While the cover we’ve seen has been announced as that of the ‘Omega issue’, Tomasi revealed that Robin won’t be returning in that story, but rather in the ‘Alpha issue’ in December.

Discussing the “Hunt for Robin” story in Batman and ____, Tomasi said that one of his goals was to humanize Batman somewhat and that he finds characters who make mistakes far more interesting than those who don’t. Speaking of those “mistakes”, Tomasi revealed that the collection of the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ story will feature altered art from Gleason that reveals exactly what Batman did to Frankenstein. For his part, Gleason thanked the audience and DC for letting him get to play with so many of their famous characters.

BM66-GH_1_53209e212fb703.91987933Last but not least was Batman ’66. The current arc will continue to channel the spirit of the original television series and features a veritable who’s who of beloved characters. Even more exciting to Jim Chadwick was Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet, a DC/Dynamite crossover written by Kevin Smith and drawn by Ty Templeton, with covers by Alex Ross!

Before we moved on to fan questions, Cunningham checked in on the progress of the anniversary shorts and found, to his great joy, that we had gotten them working. You can find the two shorts on YouTube: Bruce Timm’s classic Batman here and Darwyn Cooke’s Batman Beyond here.

The first question was about Renee Montoya and the possibility of seeing her in Batman: Eternal. Snyder replied that he understood and appreciated the connection that fans have to these characters, but that that was all the more reason that they shouldn’t be casually thrown into a story. The possibility of throwing Renee into the background of one of the GCPD scenes had been raised but, like Stephanie Brown, long the subject of fan outrage, the return of Detective Montoya will come down to finding the right story for her, one where she can shine. “DC wants to build new fans,” Snyder told us.

I have my own, complicated feelings about this, ones I may well write about later, but I will say that Snyder and Tynion, particularly, have had fairly excellent track records when it comes to doing what they can to make comics, and Gotham, a more inclusive place. Whether or not that was the whole story, it seemed as though Snyder was sincere in his desire to bring the fans what they wanted. How this gels with the mysterious promise Dan Didio gave a fan with a similar question at NYCC 2013 is unclear.

John Cunningham also thanked both parties for allowing him to raise a point he had nearly forgotten and urged fans of Renee’s to watch Gotham when it premieres this fall.

Another fan asked about the discipline it takes to write such an involved story as Batman: Eternal. “We don’t make friends,” Nguyen replied. James Tynion also answered, saying that all of the writers and artists were huge Batman fans and that excitement and the desire to bring something to the collaboration was a big part of their motivation.

Snyder also officially confirmed reports that he has plans for the Joker’s return to Gotham. “If the first one was ‘me and your villains love you,’ the second is ‘now we hate you and we’ll tear your world apart'” Ever reluctant to keep a spoiler from the fans, Snyder also mentioned that the Joker’s appearance would be changing once again, possibly into something even more monstrous, something Batman may no longer recognize. “It was always meant to be a two-part story,” he said, “but you’ll have to be patient.”

The next questioner set my little fanboy heart all a flutter when he, somewhat coyly, asked if we could expect to see Tommy Elliot again soon. “It would have to be a big story,” Tynion replied carefully. Though a return for the controversial character would likely mean drastically different things to different people, his habit of referring to Batman by his first name might shed some light on Batman: Eternal’s bleak prologue.

The next question came from a young boy in a fez, who quickly dispelled any misconceptions by declaring, “I’m wearing this because fezzes are cool” a statement which received thunderous applause. As the roar died down, he informed the crowd, “by the way, ladies, yes; I am single.” This kid is kind of the coolest. In any case, his question was which version of Batman was each of the panelists’ favorite.

Chadwick solid stuck with Adam West’s take, while Pete Tomasi went with the Jim Aparo version. Jason Fabok went with Jeph Loeb’s Batman, surprising me by specifying his collaborations with Tim Sale, despite his bold realistic style. Still, it should come as no surprise that the DCAU Batman was the landslide winner, nor who voted for him. Gleason, Nguyen, Snyder and Tynion all clearly show varying degrees of homage to the iconic series in their work.

bluebirdOne fan asked about Harper Row’s Bluebird identity and whether she might get a one-shot sometime soon. Snyder assured her that their plans for Bluebird were “much bigger than a mini or one-shot.” Already on a roll, the panel declared that, in title or not, Barbara Gordon would always be Oracle.

Asked about the state of the Court of Owls’, especially given the chaos in Gotham, Tynion answered that he can’t give that away just yet.

The panel also took a question from across the pond, courtesy of a British Bat-fan and her stateside friend. “What would Batman buy from a vending machine” came the question, leaving a nearly incredulous Snyder to simply answer “Justice.”

The same woman also asked Scott whether Bruce or Dick had the best butt in the DCU but, alas, some controversies are too big for any of us and Snyder refused to take sides.

Though the questions were silly, they prompted Snyder to make a point about the modern fandom. He actually knew exactly which fan had asked the vending machine question. Though they’re quite busy, creators do remember their fans and the conversations they have with them. And part of that is listening. “We do hear your complaints,” Snyder told us and he encouraged us to keep making them.