SDCC 2016: The DC Report

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Continuing our (now very extremely late) parsing of the news from Comic-Con International in San Diego, we now dive into the news about the DC Comics projects. And there’s a lot to dig through. Other news has come out since, and those will be out in subsequent articles. For now, we concentrate on SDCC-specific news.

Source Material: the Comics

DC Comics has had a rejuvenation of sorts with the Rebirth initiative, as the publisher knocked Marvel out of the #1 spot for the first time in thirty-three months.

At a panel in San Diego, co-publisher Dan DiDio and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns talked about the origins of Rebirth, with Johns giving credit for the idea to DiDio, joking that the Rebirth title was there as bait.  “I think he probably said that just so I’d work on it,” Johns said.

The mission of Rebirth, according to Johns, is to restore everything that’s been missing from the DC Universe. Starting with a list of everything he missed, Johns started working up the idea of Rebirth as a one-shot to kick things off. “It was really a sense of history and legacy, and most importantly the emotional relationships between the characters. That’s where Wally West came in.”

DiDio and Johns were joined on stage by co-publisher Jim Lee along with Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, as well as Wonder Woman artist Liam Sharp, Batgirl artist Rafael Albuquerque, Deathstroke writer Christopher Priest, and Shauna and Julia Benson of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.

Returning elements in the DC Universe: Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, the Atom, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Justice Society. Johns also said that Detective Comics and Superman will be important titles in the Rebirth arc, along with Green Arrow.

On Birds of Prey, the Bensons bring their work on The 100 to the book, saying it was essential to go back to the classic lineup of Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress. Their approach will be to treat the characters as family. “We don’t want these characters to be catty…These are women who respect each other and who have different visions of the world.”

Several of the creatives invoked the names of George Perez and Marv Wolfman, citing their work as laying the foundation for much of the DC Universe, from multi-character splash pages to iconic symbols in the artwork.

Asked about the Milestone Universe, Lee said it’s still in the works and would likely become Earth-M in the multiverse.

DiDio owned up to the problems with New 52, saying that when he hosted a panel at New York Comic Con, fans left the room when it came time for questions, and many of the questions from the remaining audience had nothing to do with the comics. “Because of the reaction of our fans, we knew something was missing, and we knew we needed to fix it.”

{Newsarama}

 

And the Birds of Prey are back in their own title just in time for DC to have a 20th anniversary panel this year. Moderator Jordan Gorfinkel brought to the stage current Rebirth writers Shawna and Julie Benson, former editor Joe Illidge, and writer Gail Simone. Birds of Prey creator Chuck Dixon

The story follows Barbara Gordon, who recruits Black Canary and Huntress, reuniting the original team to trek across Asia in a search for someone who’s appropriated the “Oracle” moniker. Shawna Benson says she and her sister got the job after a long conversation with Geoff Johns about DC history. “When Geoff Johns pitches you a book, you say ‘yes’.”

Her first exposure to the team was through the short-lived WB television series that starred Dina Meyer, Ashley Scott, and Rachel Skarsten.

Simone said that her time writing for the team came after meeting Ed Brubaker at her first San Diego Comic-Con. It was Dixon’s original run that inspired Simone: “It was the only book on the stands that felt like it was written for me.”

The Bensons have a goal of expanding the roster of female writers at DC, and Birds of Prey may be an entry point for new female creatives. “Unfortunately change of this kind is slow, and in comics it appears to be glacial…We’re fortunate to live in a time where more television writers are women…but it’s still only 20% of all TV writers.”

 

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Meanwhile, Batman continues his team-up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as IDW and DC ride the success of the six-week crossover book from James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II. Batman/TMNT Adventures will continue the story with the characters from their respective animated iterations.

From the official announcement:

“The previous Star Trek/Green Lantern and Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossovers were a huge hit with fans of each of the characters,” said Hank Kanalz, DC SVP of Editorial Strategy and Administration. “Bringing these characters back again, and expanding Batman and the Turtles to the realm where they’re most recognized by comic fans and fans of the TV series will make for a great story that any fan can’t wait to read.”

“It’s always a blast to pair up beloved characters in comic series, and our recent pairings with DC have been especially satisfying on a creative level and in regards to fan satisfaction, too,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s Chief Creative Officer. “Being able to bring Ciro Nieli’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the amazing animated Gotham envisioned by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski is a major bonus.”

{Comics Alliance}

DC Entertainment has released video of the panel celebrating 75 years of Wonder Woman. Moderated by Tiffany Smith, the discussion included current monthly artist Nicola Scott, DC co-publisher Jim Lee, solo film director Patty Jenkins, and Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot.

Topics ranged from the character’s debut in December 1941 her current status as a cultural icon.

Lee covered several time periods in Diana’s longevity, including that “mod” non-powered Avengers (British version, please) phase in the sixties and the George Perez run.

Scott’s comments brought the discussion to Rebirth, saying the current series will be “peeling back all the layers of Wonder Woman to find out who she really is.”

Full video:

 

{Comic Book Resources}

She’s a Wonder

Wonder Woman also had a presence with various costumes from the movie, as well as the iconic costume worn by Lynda Carter in the first season of her television series. Also on display were various costume designs and concept art.

See the gallery here.

{cnet}

 

In celebration of the Amazon’s 75th anniversary, Warner Bros. also had a replica of her invisible jet standing by for photo ops:

#wonderwoman75

A post shared by Sabina Ibarra (@la_spectre) on

 

Geeks of Doom correspondent “LA Spectre” was on hand and snapped photos of the collectibles on display during SDCC Preview Night:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

{Geeks of Doom}

 

Wonder Woman and Blue Beetle will also be included in the upcoming Injustice 2 video game from NetherRealm Studios, as announced by Ed Boon and the development team. The characters join the lineup that includes Superman, Batman, Superwoman, Aquaman, Gorilla Grodd, The Flash, and Atrocitus.

During the panel, it was also revealed that Supergirl has been transported to Earth between the two games, and comic book writer Tom Taylor will be working on the Injustice 2 comic book tie-in series. There will also be a Tournament Mode backed up by GGPO netcode.

Descriptions of the two new characters:

WW_sdccinjustice01

Back in Injustice Gods Among Us, Wonder Woman was able to use her character power to switch between her different weapons in order to vary her play-style. Now that she’s back in Injustice 2, Wonder Woman does not have to pick and choose; she can utilize all of her weapons at any time. Using a combination of her Lasso of Truth and sword/shield, Wonder Woman can fight the ranged battle or get up close and personal with quick blade combos. She can also throw her shield and reflect projectiles with her Bracelets of Submission, making her a threat from anywhere on the screen. Her new character power sees her receiving a blessing from the Greek Gods, which enhance her various abilities. With a blessing from Hermes, Wonder Woman’s mobility sees an improvement and she gains the ability to air dash.

 

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Making his debut in the Injustice universe, Blue Beetle uses alien technology to craft weapons for his power suit. Using these gadgets makes him well-rounded, and he is described as a “Jack of All Trades type character that can be effective up close and from afar.” With the ability to morph his hands into blades, shields, and clubs, Blue Beetle can pull off a number of close-range punish combos. He can also fight from further away by equipping an energy cannon that fires quickly from the ground or in the air. His wings give him great air mobility that can be used for advancing on the opponent or escaping a rough situation. Blue Beetle’s character power allows him to transform his hands into long blades that give him better range and effectiveness up close. While this is active, though, he loses the ability to fire projectiles. Many, if not all of these weapons can be seen during Blue Beetle’s super move, as he cycles through several different gadgets to put a hurting on his opponent.

{Heavy.com}

For more video game news from SDCC, click here.

 

And while Wonder Woman heads to the big screen and the game console, Lynda Carter heads over to Supergirl as the president of the United States.

Supergirl

Season two will bring even more changes to the show, as production moves to Vancouver for integration into a new network. That brings new opportunities. Star Melissa Benoist tells ComicBook.com, “I’ve read the first three episodes though and I think it’s a good movement and people will like the way it’s progressing.”

Meanwhile, sister Chyler Leigh sat with EmtertainmentMontly.com and said that Project Cadmus will be among the heavy threats this season, bringing out “a lot of big bads that we are gonna come into contact with even in the first few episodes.”

The priority for Alex, of course, is locating her father, revealed to possibly still be alive and in the hands of Cadmus. Leigh says it’s a big mission for Alex and J’onn J’onnz (David Harewood). “We end up learning about how deep that rabbit hole goes and how much is really involved in it and Project Cadmus is a very bad place. Very bad place.”

"Red Faced" -- Personal and professional stress get the better of Kara when she goes too far during a training exercise against Red Tornado, a military cyborg commissioned by Lucy Lane's father, General Sam Lane, on SUPERGIRL, Monday, Nov. 30 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist Photo: Darren Michaels/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As for her bond with Benoist, both on and off screen, Leigh says it feels just like a real sister relationship. “I love Melissa with all of my heart, so for us it’s very natural to do a lot of this. Even in those Red Kryptonite scenes and the scenes where our characters are fighting a little bit, it’s hard. It really is hard because I do feel legitimately like she’s a sister.” That relationship will continue to be tested in season two, with the death of Astra by Alex’s hand still hovering in the room.

Executive Producer Sarah Schechter also spoke with EmtertainmentMonthly about the upcoming season, saying the reason Superman never showed up in the first season was to keep the focus on establishing the Supergirl character, and not because DC Entertainment had restricted the show from using her more well-known cousin. “The show is not about Superman. It was really establishing Kara and her strength and she’s the center of this show and not wanting to distract from that. Now that we are going into season 2, we feel like we’ve done that.”

{ComicBook.com, Emertainment Monthly}

 

Meanwhile, At the Arrowcave…

“We will definitely see [Katie Cassidy] in 501, and we have made a deal with her across Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, so Katie Cassidy is definitely not gone from this universe.” This from Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim, who also says the new villain is named Prometheus, but it’s not the same Prometheus character from the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter run on JLA.

The show’s 100th episode will be 508, part two of the crossover event between the four CW superhero shows.

During the panel, the cast brought the audience up to speed on their characters at the beginning of the upcoming season:

  • Stephen Amell: Oliver is a “garbage mayor” — terrible enough that Thea has to carry the load
  • David Ramsey: Diggle is still dealing with the deaths of Laurel and Andy, and has been back with Special Forces
  • Emily Bett Rickards: Felicity is still dealing with the guilt of 10,000 people dying in Happy Harbor
  • Willa Holland: Thea will be helping Oliver, but in a different way than before
  • Paul Blackthorne: Lance is an Uber driver now
  • Echo Kellum: Curtis is ready to step up and be a superhero

Amell is looking forward to exploring the political side of Oliver, something that’s been part of the character since his early days. Ollie has always had strong political opinions, and we’ll see more of that this season.

John Barrowman teased that we may get more than one version of Malcolm this season, since he’ll be showing up in alternate timelines on Legends of Tomorrow: “I’ve time traveled before. I know what it’s about.”

 

Legends of Tomorrow has a trailer from SDCC:

{ComicBook.com}

 

The Flash Gets a Villain

At the SDCC Hall H panel for The Flash, producer Todd Helbing revealed, “We’re doing two big bads. One is a speedster, and the other is Doctor Alchemy.”

Doctor Alchemy began his criminal career in the comics as Mister Element before finding the Philosopher’s Stone, which gave him the ability to transmute matter in a way similar to Firestorm’s power. Suffering from a multiple personality disorder, Alchemy’s alter-ego is Albert Desmond, who will be working in the forensics department at the Central City P.D.

 

Of course, being “Flashpoint” (at least a version of it, anyway), the show’s new season has already primed the rumor mill, and there’s buzz about Aquaman making an appearance before the story arc is done. Just a rumor for now, but with Superman finally showing up in full over on Supergirl, could we have turned a corner on restricted characters?

Could Hal and Ollie go on a road trip?

{Comic Book Resources}

 

And Vixen Drops a Bombshell

Not only does Vixen have her own animated series on CW Seed, but now she also has a story arc in the digital first series DC Comics Bombshells.

A Bombshell Vixen statue is joining the lineup in 2017, and we got a closer look at Ant Lucia’s design at the DC Rebirth: Young Gotham/Young Metropolis panel.

vixen-bombshells

Marguerite Bennett will write the story, which has Vixen as a jazz club singer. No artist has been announced before SDCC.

 

Powerless

NBC released a new promotional poster for Powerless, which will hit the network as a mid-season series. The poster reveals the name of the workplace — Retcon Insurance — and an addition to the main cast: Ron Funches as the company’s IT guy, Ron, described in Entertainment Weekly as “a sweet and innocent guy, who, unlike his co-workers, has not lost his childlike enthusiasm for all things superhero.”

Powerless-SDCC-poster-662x1024

Here’s the network description for the show, which arrives Spring 2017:

In the first comedy series set in the universe of DC Comics, Vanessa Hudgens (‘Grease Live’, ‘High School Musical’) plays Emily, a spunky young insurance adjuster specializing in regular-people coverage against damage caused by the crime-fighting superheroes. It’s when she stands up to one of these larger-than-life figures (after an epic battle messes with her commute) that she accidentally becomes a cult “hero” in her own right … even if it’s just to her group of lovably quirky co-workers. Now, while she navigates her normal, everyday life against an explosive backdrop, Emily might just discover that being a hero doesn’t always require superpowers.

ComicBook.com asked members of the cast about the inspirations for their characters. Vanessa Hudgens, Danny Pudi, and Alan Tudyk all shared thoughts on what (or who) inspires the characters they play.

“People who are masters as their craft is definitely something that’s inspiring, whether that’s with art or with film or with movement,” said Hudgens. “Just people who are masters of what they do.”

Pudi veers toward Hudgens’ character, Emily, as an inspiration for his character. “I think Teddy’s a really good friend and he’s empathetic. I think the nice thing about Teddy is that he doesn’t necessarily know what to do all the time, which is interesting. I think superheroes swoop in, they’re able to make quick decisions because they have to; they come in times of crisis. I think Teddy’s more used to being around before the crisis and way after the crisis and picking up the pieces.”

Tudyk’s Del takes inspiration from Lex Luthor: “That he’s ruthless, that he has power, that he’s able to take on powerful superheroes like Superman. You don’t get more super than that. It’s in his name. Super. Man. So he aspires to that. He aspires to have power in this Powerless world.”

Post-panel, ComicBook.com also got a chance to talk with the show’s producers, Ben Queen and Michael Patrick. Queen has since left the show due to creative differences.

{ComicBook.com, ScienceFiction.com}

 

Gotham

Plenty of details on the upcoming season of Gotham, which is going to get darker. Leslie is back, but she’s with someone else, adding to the complications between her and Jim Gordon. Gordon, of course, is riddled with guilt over the things he’s done, and will be trying to avoid drama, but you know how that’s going to go… because he’s now a freelancer, chasing bad guys on his own. For hire.

Executive producer John Stephens said that the new, older Poison Ivy will have a different aesthetic from her previous incarnations.

As for the rest of the villains: Butch is back at Penguin’s side, and we’re told Penguin’s story will mimic some real life issues, although no details on just what that means. Nygma is on his own, having embraced his dark side. Barbara and Tabitha have a new club, The Sirens, which will see traffic from all the villains throughout the season.

And it turns out that Drew Powell, who plays Butch Gilzean, would like to have a song. “You think we’re joking? I have been pitching [producer] Danny Cannon all season long that Butch is gonna have a song,” Powell told Comicbook.com. “At home, you need to write in and tell us, #ButchSingsTheBlues, what song does Butch need to sing? Danny and I are in active negotiations for Butch to sing. I started out as a singer, so any excuse to sing. I think Butch, with his fake hand at the new nightclub, singing; come on man, it would be so great.”

As for “New Bruce”, he is not Clayface, and the character was created for a reason that will unfold this season. This will also have an effect on Selina.

And Sean Pertwee says David Mamouz has a mean right hook.

 

{hypable, ComicBook.com}

 

The Killing Joke Gets Hammered

Meanwhile, over in the other Gotham, reaction to The Killing Joke was not kind, after a premiere screening of the R-rated animated adaptation of the classic one-shot issue by Allan Moore and Brian Bolland.

During the Q&A afterward, however, there were heated exchanges between members of the audience and screenwriter Brian Azzarello, who later apologized on Twitter (sort of). The criticism of the additional 20 minutes of Batgirl-centric story has many fans crying “foul” when it comes to Barbara, and the perception is that the entire segment puts her in a place defined by the men in her life.

Producer Bruce Timm tried to smooth feathers:

“It’s complicated… I actually like that in that opening story both Batman and Batgirl make a series of mistakes and then it kind of escalates, because Batman kind of overreacts and then she overreacts to her overreaction.  That’s a very human thing.  There’s clearly an unstated attraction between the two of the characters from the very beginning and I think it’s there in the comics.  If you go back and look at the Adam West show, it’s there in the Adam West show.  It’s subtle, but to me it’s always been there.”

As we’ve seen post-SDCC, however, the negative reaction continues.

{ScienceFiction.com}

 

But on the flip side, there’s Tara Strong cosplaying as Harley Quinn…

Kinda loved surprising the fans tonight…. #sdcc2016 #harleyquinn

A post shared by Tara Strong (@tarastrong) on

 

…who’s getting her own animated feature opposite the Dark Knight Detective in Batman and Harley Quinn, one of three animated features announced at the WB Animation panel. The other two: Justice League Dark and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

John Constantine and Swamp Thing lead the cast of characters, and we’ve since learned that Constantine star Matt Ryan is again playing the Dabbler in the Dark Arts.

The Teen Titans feature is based on the story by Marv Wolfman and George Perez (who kept getting name-checked a lot over the weekend…). It will serve as a sequel to Justice League vs. Teen Titans and introduces Terra along with Nightwing.

Batman and Harley Quinn comes from Bruce Timm, and that’s pretty much all we know at this point. Although now that The Killing Joke has had such negative reaction, Timm isn’t exactly untarnished anymore…

{DC Comics}

 

Suicide Squad

During the big Warner Bros. panel in Hall H, a new Suicide Squad trailer was released:

Plus, Warner Bros. released individual clips for each of the characters:

{Geeks of Doom, ScienceFiction.com}

 

How about the other other Gotham? The one made of plastic bricks?

 

The first building sets have been announced as well. The Batmobile kit will retail for $59.99 (581 pieces), and Joker’s Lowrider will go for $49.99 (433 pieces). The artwork also shows that Batgirl (voiced by Rosario Dawson) is not white. Make of that what you will. Some will praise the move, some will criticize. Your mileage may vary.

 

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{ScienceFiction.com, Comics Alliance}

 

The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t the only spark of whimsy in the DC Universe, either. The new Justice League Action animated series had a panel with producers Butch Lukic and Alan Burnett. The show features the return of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and the Joker, respectively, and an episode was screened. Conroy joined the panel, along with Diedrich Bader (voicing Booster Gold this time), designer Shane Giles, and Jim Krieg.

For Burnett, the goal was to have a show that appealed to both younger and older viewers, with a focus on action. The comedy is a natural extension of the format of the show. Says Conroy: “Batman is so dark, and so screwed up, that if you just tweak it a little bit, there’s real humor there. They find little tweaks in the story, and Batman will just raise his eyebrow or something, and it’s really funny. For 20 years, you’ve been fantasizing about his sense of humor, and you get it.”

As for working with Hamill again, Conroy says it’s like they never left. “He’s very generous as an actor. He gives me so much, and I try to give it back.”

Glines referenced Bruce Timm’s designs for the updated characters, adding his own style on top. The show will feature Easter eggs from all over the DC Universe in all media.

{Newsarama}

 

And the Flash checks out the Flash.

At the DC Extended Universe panel, Ezra Miller’s Flash was front and center in a new promotional image from Justice League.

JusticeLeague_Miller_Flash-4-600x321

In a chat with Screen Rant, the TV version of the Flash, Grant Gustin, said, “Oh sick, I haven’t seen it,” before being handed a phone displaying the photo. His reaction? “They’re completely different. Yeah, I mean I was kind of expecting this, I heard it was going to be kind of like Injustice. I hadn’t seen this yet, what else is out? Sorry I’m scrolling through the whole thing, I haven’t seen this picture. Yeah, that’s sick. Um… yeah, it’s sick. I’m glad it’s really different though. Because ours is like a street, vintage feel that I don’t think has been done in any other version of the character.”

{Flickering Myth}

 

 

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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