DC’s presence at C2E2 2020 felt like one of those ‘Road to Crisis’ trade paperbacks, where we get the backmatter of the latest company-wide event. The Crisis in this case is Dan DiDio’s exit, which shook up the industry and put DC in fertile rumor territory as to why the departure happened, and why it was so abrupt. C2E2’s ‘The Super Heroes of DC’ was just one of several panels DC put on over the course of the convention, and the state of uncertainty surrounding the publisher evident throughout it.
The panel was part of C2E2’s Saturday programming, and it focused on the upcoming works of some of DC’s biggest names, which included Gail Simone, Doug Mahnke, James Tynion IV, Sean Gordon Murphy, Daniel Warren Johnson, Joshua Williamson, and Mike Perkins. Curiously enough, nothing long-term was announced. Everything announced is either coming very soon or already on the stands.
And then Scott Snyder appeared, unannounced, in the last few minutes of the panel. He proceeded to show pages from his and Greg Capullo’s new Death Metal series, spoil as much as he could of the story (as is expected from him by now), and describe the series as “The Anti-Crisis.”
All of this came before Snyder had said that the sequel to Metal was going to be “bigger and better, actually” (Snyder’s words) despite the current turmoil, responding to fan worries that DiDio’s departure would halt the release of Death Metal. And yet, that brief descriptor—The Anti-Crisis—stuck with me. It colored the panel retrospectively but decisively.
I know it’s unconventional to start with the end of the panel rather than build up to the big surprises, but the panelists featured seemed very invested in proving DC Comics will continue publishing stories well into the future. And honestly, I don’t personally think we’re getting less of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and everything in between for a long time to come.
The first thing to come up in the panel, though, was the recognition of Doug Mahnke’s 25th anniversary with DC.
The legendary artist has made a mark in comics with classic runs on Justice League and Green Lantern and DC showed its appreciation by gifting him a Batman statue modeled after his own design in Detective Comics #994, plus a glorious anniversary cake with the same Batman drawing on it. It was a touching moment that came with a brief dive into Mahnke’s greatest hits with DC.
Mahnke commented on his Dark Horse days, illustrating The Mask with John Arcudi on scripts, and how that led to Lobo and his time with DC. He did mention one instance in which he illustrated a comic with Silver Sable in it for Marvel but wasn’t particularly fond of that memory. He also said that one question he’s gotten a lot of from fans over the years was what it was like to work with Grant Morrison. He stated, “Grant Morrison just tells you what he’s thinking on his scripts. It’s very dense, but once you figure out he’s riffing you kind of step into that world and bring in your own things.” He also remembered his work on Major Bummer, which he originally wanted to call “Captain Slackass,” although he knew the name would never be allowed to grace a DC comic book cover.
Gail Simone revealed she’s working on more ‘Harley and The Birds of Prey’ stories for the DC Giant editions as well as on Flash for the same line of Giant books. Simone said, “I never wanted to write Flash, but I saw it as a challenge, and it made me want to put the best Flash stuff in my stories. And come on, the Rogues Gallery. What else can you want?”
Mike Perkins spoke about his and Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane series, revealing he’d had a list of dream projects that included working with Rucka on a Lois Lane story before even pitching the idea. When it all came together, Perkins showed Rucka the list. For Perkins, Lois Lane was in the cards long before it became a reality. He did speak to wanting to illustrate the character “as a representation of the importance of journalism,” something the comic has managed to put at the forefront of the story from the first issue onward.
Daniel Warren Johnson, on the other hand, spoke a bit more about his Black Label Wonder Woman comic, Dead Earth. We didn’t get any news about the book, but Johnson did reveal that reading Wonder Woman was never among his priorities and that he took on the project “to write a Wonder Woman story [he] would love to read.”
Sean Murphy and James Tynion IV went the same route, commenting on already known bits of information from their respective batverses. Murphy stated he never thought his White Knight book would continue into a sequel, much less its own universe. He did mention Todd McFarlane had offered him a chance to work on Spawn, but Batman was already in the works and it looks like it’ll be a while before he lets go of it.
Tynion gave the audience a look into his vision for what Batman will become moving forward. He again teased an upcoming “Joker War” storyline slated for a summer release, but what was interesting here were his thoughts on the death of Alfred. Tynion said, “Bruce losing Alfred means losing another parent, something he had sworn would never happen again to anyone so long as he looked over Gotham.”
This take on the meaning of Alfred’s death actually made me want to see an even deeper exploration of that very unique sense of loss, of what it means to lose the parent that steps in to fill in the void left by the original ones. The focus, though, seems to be “Joker War,” which means we’ll have to hope Alfred gets thrown into the mix as it develops. Of course, Joker’s new sidekick, Punchline, was mentioned but nothing truly new was shared with the audience other than Tynion’s reiteration that she’s not meant to be a stand-in for Harley or the new Harley.
Perhaps one of the most interesting bits came from Joshua Williamson, who is gearing up to bring Jay Garrick back in Flash. Williamson admired Flash’s ability to not just inspire readers, but other characters inside the DC Universe as well. As this beacon of hope and inspiration—setting up Flash as the heart and soul of the DCU—Williamson looks to find in Jay another huge helping of inspiration that brings light to those darker stories that often overwhelm the main continuity. Suffice it to say, Flash will have a big 2020.
Scott Snyder’s surprise appearance came with Death Metal talk and an assurance that DC Comics isn’t going anywhere. He started by expressing just how grateful he was that C2E2 gave him one of his first chances to present his work in a big convention. His first C2E2 consisted of putting his and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire in people’s hands. This story really hit the point home in terms of how important a comic convention can be and the degree of exposure creators can get in them.
A DC panel with Scott Snyder in it can’t be complete without spoilers. It’s better to just put it all in a list. Makes for easier tracking of new info. Along with pages of the new series, we learned that:
- The Batman Who Laughs has amassed an army of evil Batmen and Robins from all corners of the dark multiverse, primed for crazy and ridiculous battles akin to those we saw in Metal.
- One image showed a giant castle in the background that Snyder revealed to be sentient. He later clarified that it’s controlled by Bruce Wayne’s consciousness. So yeah, sentient Bruce Wayne castle.
- Remember the dinosaur in the Batcave? Well, Death Metal will have its own, only it’s its own Batman given Bruce uploaded his consciousness into it. We now have a Dino-Batman.
- Cthulhu Batman is also a part of the Batman Who Laugh’s army, and it is linked to Aquaman.
- Death Metal will link to the entire history of the DCU, from Crisis on Infinite Earths to Doomsday Clock. Snyder said, “If everything before has been a Crisis, then this is the Anti-Crisis.”
And there we have that word again: Anti-Crisis. What exactly this means is still a mystery, and a pretty vague one. What is the opposite of a Crisis in DC’s world? Why push for everything to come together through another Batman-centric story? This is what Snyder’s presence brought to the panel: more questions.
The panel didn’t offer much in terms of answers and the projects we learned more about we had already known quite a bit about already. In the face of administrative turmoil and company-wide shakeups, figuring out just what an Anti-Crisis is could very well explain what DC currently is, and what it will become without Dan Didio running things.
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