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Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
DC Comics made their first convention appearance of the year at Orlando Florida's MegaCon, according to DC's Co-Publisher Dan Didio, during Friday afternoon's DC All Access panel. MegaCon occurred from Friday, February 17th through Sunday February 19th. Dan mentioned that their last convention appearance was at the New York Comic Con during October of 2011, about six weeks after the release of the New 52 titles.
Dan revealed that the planning for the New 52 began around the time of last year's MegaCon, during March of 2011. He complimented all of the creative teams for keeping the details secret until the official announcements during the summer, thanks to their dedication to the project.
DC's Executive Editor Eddie Berganza was introduced next, having literally arrived at the panel straight from the airport. Dan described Eddie as one of the architects of the New 52. Eddie mentioned that he had brought overviews of the next six months for DC's titles.
In the course of launching the New 52, DC conducted surveys to gauge fan reaction to the relaunch, according to Dan. He then asked the audience what some of their concerns about the reboot were. Comments went from losing an established continuity to the possibility of a confusing partial reboot as in the past. Dan said that the DC staff shared the same concerns, since they are comic book fans themselves. Several things that DC wanted to accomplish with the relaunch was to make a pact with the fans, to not take anything for granted, and to make sure that titles were published on time.
Another concern was the role that the Justice Society would play in the New 52, which Dan said would be revealed in the coming months. One thing that a fan liked about the relaunch was the lineup of the creative teams on the various titles, including the Watchmen prequel. Animal Man and Swamp Thing were popular, and Dan mentioned that Vertigo had good plans in store, but the early emphasis was on creating variety in the new DC Universe. Another reader liked the attention given to titles like Hawkman and Suicide Squad, instead of only DC's most popular heroes like Batman and Green Lantern.
Dan and Eddy then shared some background on the New 52. It was a constant, evolving process. The 52 titles and creative teams they began with were not the ones that were finally published. DC's staff mixed and matched titles and creators. They had a giant bulletin board pinned with index cards for 52 titles and various creators, which they mixed and matched until they established the final lineup.
The goal of the New 52 was to gain new readership. One of the important aspects of the relaunch was to give new readers an easy jumping on point. A tough challenge was to balance that with current readers who might feel that DC was throwing away the familiar continuity. The DC staff tried to create familiar characters for their established fans, while taking them in new directions to attract new readers.
Writer Tony Bedard and artist Kenneth Rocafort joined the panel. While Tony had a table at MegaCon, Kenneth was at the convention as a fan. Dan then opened up the floor to questions. One fan enjoyed Kenneth's work on Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Rocafort said that he was enjoying the book and would be continuing on the title as the artist.
The New Gods and Ted Kord were a topic of interest. While the New Gods will have a role in the New 52, the panelists were cryptic about what role Kord Industries, mentioned in some titles, will have in the new DCU.
DC's Captain Marvel, now called Shazam in the new DC Universe, interested another fan. Dan mentioned that his place in the world would be established in a backup story in Justice League.
Eddie Berganza said that the new history of the various characters would unfold in the pages of their various titles.
Dan then did a survey of the audience to see how many readers sampled the New 52, going from 5 all the way to all 52 titles. While he didn't expect readers to buy all 52 titles, Dan appreciated the fans that did. A few audience members said that they were still buying all 52 titles. Dan also reaffirmed DC's policy of keeping all but six titles at $2.99. DC's goal was to give readers the opportunity to buy as many titles as they wanted.
Eddie said that another goal with the relaunch was to modernize their characters.
A Superman reader voiced concern about the number of past reboots for the Man of Steel, the renumbering of DC's longest running titles and the Before Watchmen mini-series. Dan said that the creators working on the new Watchmen series wanted to be on the project. Acknowledging the number of reboots, Dan added that the Superman: Earth One book was its own universe. He also said that the main reason for renumbering all of DC's titles was to show that the company was serious about modernizing its characters and moving them forward. Only three DC titles had never been renumbered, Action, Batman and Detective. During the early meetings, Dan said that he had wanted to hold those three titles from being renumbered. One of the staffers said that if those titles weren't renumbered, readers might get the idea that DC would jump back to the old continuity if things didn't work out. The recently renumbered Wonder Woman and Geoff John's Superman: Secret Origins were recent updates, but were published before the company decided to relaunch its superhero line. When the decision to relaunch the DC Universe was made, the staff realized that changes had to be made, and the goal was not to look back but to move forward.
The reintroduction of war comics into DC's line, as well as new Vertigo titles, was popular with another DC fan.
When asked about future DC animated movies, Dan said that he finds out about the new releases at the same time the public does. While he has a background in animation, Dan's focus is on the publishing side of the company, and isn't involved in the animation side of DC Entertainment, since the two are separate divisions.
Another question was about Static Shock and Cassandra Kane. A fan of both characters didn't like the lack of use of both characters this past year, and how the conflict between Scott McDaniel and John Rozum made the story in the recently cancelled Static Shock a jumbled mess. While Dan wouldn't comment on the situation between the two creators, he said that Static Shock was part of the rich Milestone universe, and would continue to be part of the DC Universe. Static would find a new home.
Eddie added that Static Shock would be part of the Teen Titans, and so would continue to have a presence in the New 52. As for Cassandra, she would appear in an upcoming title, but no details were given.
Dan was asked about how much input DC Comics has with the movies made from their characters. A fan said that there didn't seem to be much input by DC into the recent Green Lantern movie. Dan reiterated that the comics' side of the company was separate from other entities of DC Entertainment, and their input into the various movie properties varies with the different movie production companies. He said DC wants to make sure that their properties are well represented on the screen, and the company has a lot of faith in the people creating movies of their characters. Dan gave the example of The Dark Knight Rises, which he said he felt was in good hands.
A fan enjoyed the early crossovers in the new 52 like the Rot and the Court of Owls, and wondered if there were any other future crossovers. Tony Bedard said that there would be a crossover between Blue Beetle and the New Guardians. The Reach, the aliens who invented the Blue Beetle armor, would invade the home world of the Blue Lanterns. That would result in a team up with the current Beetle, Jamie Reyes, and Kyle Rayner.
Dan received a request for more combo packs. He said that while DC is looking to introduce more, the company doesn't want to overload their readers with it. DC wants to wait and see how the current combo packs sell first.
Another reader asked if DC regretted establishing that the Justice League formed five years ago, rather than making it more ambiguous. Eddy said that there was a lot of story to be told in that five year gap, and DC has plans to fill in that history. Tony said that setting the launching point for the New 52 at five years later makes it fresh, new and exciting for the writers. He liked that DC did that. Dan added that setting the timeline at five years later gave the heroes some experience, but they weren't firmly established in their roles yet. They still had room to grow and make mistakes, seeing things for the first time.
A follow up question was about the $5.99 combo packs, which seemed expensive, especially when compared with Marvel's combo packs which were the normal cover price without any added cost. Dan said that DC was revisiting their digital strategy; everything was still in an evolving process, with the goal of keeping the core line of titles as strong as possible.
Dan announced that for Free Comic Book Day, DC was doing original material. The book itself would be edited by Eddie, who said that Geoff Johns and Jim Lee would work on it. The DC book for FCBD would feature the purple hooded character that appeared in all 52 number one issues, and define the character's role in the New 52. The book would contain a fold out scene. Kenneth Rocafort will do a feature about the DCU, and Gene Ha would be involved in a story as well. Eddie said that he couldn't believe that DC will be giving the book away because it will be that good.
A fan of Batman: Widening Gyre wanted to know when the next issue would be published, picking up from the cliffhanger ending of the last issue released. Dan said that writer Kevin Smith is pretty busy with his current TV show, Comic Bok Men.
A Superman fan asked why the Man of Steel was wearing armor. Eddie responded that it was Kryptonian armor, and the details of Superman's uniform would be revealed in the upcoming Brainiac story. The same fan had a follow up question about the archive editions of DC's Golden Age material. In a Wonder Woman Archives, there was a scene that included a racial caricature of a minority character common to the era. When the same story was reprinted in the Wonder Woman Chronicles the depiction of the minority character had been changed. While the reader didn't support the racist nature of the caricature, he asked why DC changed it instead of leaving it in for historical purposes, and note the unfortunate depictions of minorities in golden age comics in the edition's introduction. Dan was unfamiliar with the editions in question, but said that DC is sensitive to the concerns of its readers.
The next question concerned Wally West, and why DC went with the Barry Allen Flash instead of the Wally version of the hero. Dan said that DC made the decision to go with Barry because the company wanted to go with the most iconic version of the character. He was the first to receive the speed powers, and Wally was derivative of Barry. When the New 52 was being developed, the staff wanted to keep the age of the characters down, and having Wally at the beginning of the relaunch would have him too close in age to Barry. To keep Wally would mean making some choices, doing away with the wife or kids or make him a teenager, but they already had Bart in that role.
Wally got pushed aside because of those choices, and the same happened with Donna Troy for the same reasons. Dan acknowledged that a Donna Troy fan he knows isn't happy about that choice. DC wanted to make Flash and Wonder Woman as iconic as possible.
The Purple Hooded character piqued the interest of another fan. Dan replied that the character would be featured in the DC FCBD title, and that character's story would unfold in future stories.
A follow up question was about the development of Pandora, the purple hooded character, during DC's planning for the New 52. Eddie said that DC saw the potential in having something tie all 52 titles together, and Bob Harris got involved in the idea's evolution. Geoff Johns developed the mythology further, leading to a pantheon of things to come. In the near future, how Pandora got the name and the revelation of the character's mythology would be revealed. DC is thinking about telling big, epic stories, and the staff wants to give all of their titles that feeling.
Dan said that when DC was building the New 52, the more people who got involved, the more ideas that developed. It was a constant process of evolution for the creative teams. With 52 titles being launched at the same time, they each had their own pace. Sometimes an idea over in one area of the New 52 would mean another area would need to be altered. Dan said it was an incredibly frustrating time, but the creative staff put egos aside, and worked together to make sure that all 52 books were as strong as possible.
When the New 52 reached issue 6 it was a turning point, according to Dan. All 52 titles were all coming into their own, and were all on the same path as they creators were more aware of what everyone was doing. He credited Tony's writing and Kenneth's designs, as well as Eddie and Bob for the long hours they put in to make sure the New 52 worked. Dan acknowledged that, while some things didn't work, there were hundreds of things which did. That was what excited him.
Didio acknowledged DC's fan base. He said that comic book fans were the most fickle and loyal fans. They're fickle how they choose you, but once they do they're loyal for life. He said that DC won't take that for granted because reading comic books is a very expensive hobby. When creative teams change, it's to make the books better and to make sure they are published on time. The goal is to keep the readers enthused and coming back next month.
Another fan enjoyed the backup stories as well as DC Presents, and would like to see more. Dan said that DC didn't want to overextend the backup features and raise the price on too many books. He felt they had a nice balance with their titles and didn't want to alter them too drastically. What makes DC Presents a destination book for DC is that it gives a spotlight to characters that don't appear anywhere else.
Another audience member was dissatisfied with Power Girl's new costume, since the new costume, with the logo on the front, put her design in Superman's shadow. Dan said that an upcoming story point would address that. A follow up question was if Darkseid would be a multiversal villain in the new 52. Dan said that he is.
A reader of the DC Universe Online title asked how to match it up with the comic book continuity. Dan said that the DCU Online matches the continuity of the video game, not the print comic book universe.
Another fan asked if there were new event titles. Eddie said that the events would take place in their respective titles, for instance the Batman Annuals would involve the Court of Owls. Tony added that New Guardians and Green Lantern Corps would have a crossover around issue 12 or 13.
The panel dismissed a rumor about a team up of all of the Robins. A follow up question asked if there would be a New 52 version of a Blue Beetle and Booster Gold team up. Tony said he was torn about it since he was a fan. He wanted to keep Jamie in the spotlight for now. Ted Kord is probably out there somewhere but who knows where. Dan said that all he knows is that there is a Kord Industries somewhere.
A Legion fan asked that DC keep Paul Levitz writing the Legion of Super-Heroes, which Dan said would continue.
In response to someone's question if there would be more Outlaws for Jason Todd, and any new R.E.B.E.L.S. characters. Kenneth simply said, "Yes" to the Outlaws question, but nothing was mentioned about R.E.B.E.L.S.
When someone asked if there was a character that DC readers should look out for in 2012, Dan and Eddie said that there were six to look out for.
The last question of the panel was if Grant Morrison's title Multiversity would eventually be published, to which Dan said, "Yes."
The panel was an interesting look into the birth and evolution of the New 52, as well as a hint of what will be in store for DC Comics this year.
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