by Matt Brady
for part one.
: Moving on to the influences on the DC Universe – with the second Batman movie coming out next year and the presumed influences of the first one just recently playing out with the return of Ra’s al Ghul; the changes Superman Returns
made to the character’s mythology, which were, again, seemingly reflected in their own way in the Superman titles, and more television and film projects featuring DCU characters coming, what kind of connection is there between other media’s interpretation of DC characters and the comics?
: Minimal. We are not beholden to what goes on in the other media – we work free of that. We’re not even in the loop of what goes on in the movie scripts. The first time I saw anything about the story of Superman Returns
, I was at the premiere. So I didn’t know anything about that movie, and it was the same with Batman Begins
. I prefer it that way. I’m concerned about our
storytelling, our direction for our characters.
That being said, there have been characters and elements that have grown from what they were originally created for. Renee Montoya, Harley Quinn – these are characters that came out of the Batman animated series. Why? Because they’re good ideas. We’re not adverse to adopting god ideas that involve our characters when we see them or learn of them. Jimmy Olsen came from the Superman radio serial. A good idea is a good idea. If we think we can use it, we’ll do it. It just becomes another source of story.
: With that though, surely there’s an interest in increasing readership in comics by adding these good ideas, but isn’t there a danger of blurring the lines a little when, say Ra’s comes back in Batman comics and a segment of that audience who know him from the movie may be wondering why he never mentions training Bruce as a young man?
: It won’t always be an exact match. That’s where we, again, have the control. Some elements, like a Jimmy Olsen will match up pretty closely to their use in other media, but some won’t. Again, if it’s a good idea, and makes sense, and adds to the character and to the story, we’ll look at it, but if it doesn’t fit with the established continuity, it’s not something we’re going to feel pressured to retrofit.
: To broaden things out a little again, when it comes to the “buzz” and giving fans something to talk about – what’s a good fan reaction and what’s a bad fan reaction for you, and how did that happen in 2007 and how did it inform you?
: The worst reaction I can receive is apathy. If they don’t hate it, and they don’t love it – that’s the worst reaction, because in everything, we want to get a response. We have such a wide, diverse set of fans, that if you’re not getting somebody loving it and somebody hating it, you’re not doing your job, because you’re not pushing the storytelling. If people just accept it and buy it because it’s #553 in a row for them, that’s not a god enough reason to buy a comic book. You’ve got to buy the comic book because you want to read it, because you love the characters, and you want to know what’s going on. My goal is to make sure our books sit at the top of somebody’s reading pile, not on the bottom, or put in a bag with a board just after they’re bought – or not bought at all.
It’s funny – when this conversation gets going, I have an expression that I use around here a lot…”You can smell a good comic.”
: And the flip side is also true…
: [laughs] It probably is. But with a good comic, you can tell when it feels right. There’s a buzz in our halls – people are interested in seeing the pages. Sinestro Corps comes in, we’re looking at it in make-readies, and those are being stolen from people’s offices. People can’t wait to read it in here, and that shows me that we’ve got something.
We’ve got a staff at DC Comics somewhere around 200-250 people, and it’s the most jaded group around. When you hear from other departments in this company that they like something we’re doing in the DCU – that shows you that you’re on to something. You’ve touched a nerve, and someone’s reacting. If our internal systems are reacting positively to something, that’s
when we pull together and say, “We might have something here,” and we start to examine it, and see what we can do to make sure we get the most out of it.
: So where do the fans come into the equation in the feedback loop? Sure, if people at DC like it, they are a tough crowd to impress, but what about the people buying the books?
: When it comes to the fans…I like to go into comic shops. I like to go to conventions. I like to hear what people have to say. I really respect their opinion. The people who go into a comic store to buy comics are people who support us. They are the reason why we make comics. They go in every Wednesday, once a month, but they make sure they get their comics on a regular basis. Those are the guys that we’re out there to win their support and try to have them enjoy what we do. When I go to conventions, and I do a lot of conventions – there’s a passionate cry from the people who attend our panels about the things they like, and the things they dislike. Nobody is ignored. I like that level of feedback, because these people are making an effort to come and talk to us about the things that they like most. It would be disrespectful not to listen to what they have to say.
: When it comes to fans and what they’re excited about and buying, looking back at 2007, looking at the Diamond charts and market shares – it was a good year for Marvel, and DC, while strong (in looking at market share) was in the #2 position for the majority of the year…with Marvel titles consistently dominating the Top 20 books. When does that become a concern for DC?
: Who’s saying it ever stopped being a concern? Why should anybody ever settle on being #2? Simple as that. It’s not like we’re sitting here and saying, “Oh-ho! We’re #2, so we’re not having a party.”
Everything we’re about and built upon at DC is to strive to be #1. Everything that Marvel is built upon is to strive to be #1. That’s what makes everything wonderful. For me, our goals here are to never stop trying to put out the best comics that we can, with the hope that by doing so, it will make us the #1 company. I can’t go out there and convince people to buy more DC than Marvel. The only thing I can do is to go out there and put out the best books that we possibly can with the hope that people will do that on their own.
Frankly, I find that a silly question, because your underlying implication is that we’re okay or settling with being #2. We will never settle. We take a lot of risks that work, and even more risks that don’t work, but we’ll never stop trying and pushing, not only the medium, and the types of stories that we tell, but also with the sense that we can be the #1 comic book company.
We take a lot of pride of what he accomplished in October, and I take lot of pride in what we believe will be a very strong 2008. Marvel had a wonderful year, and I do not want to try and detract from anything that Marvel accomplished this year – they had incredible success with Civil War
and a very strong showing with World War Hulk
, so I can’t take away from that. They work just as hard as we do. All that means is that we all have to work a little bit harder.
: The game is much different than it was, even last year, in other words?
: Exactly. I say this every time I go to a convention, and I mean it with all my heart – the competition between Marvel and DC is the best thing humanly possible. When you are competing with somebody, you want to fight them and beat them when they are at the top of their game, and I believe Marvel is at the top of their game, which only makes us want to bring it more. What’s even better is that between us and them, everybody else is the winner. Everybody who reads comics wins, because we are bringing the best that we can be to the stands week-in and week-out between us.
Everyone asks us if we’re worried about who’s #1 and who’s #2 – there’s only one #1 in all of this – the fans. You guys win, you win consistently. Regardless of how we fight it out, and how we compete, the fans win, and that’s the bottom line.
: Let’s look into 2008 – we’re weeks away from the end of Countdown to Final Crisis
. It’s what the line is building to, obviously – what can be said at this point; aside form just repeating the title?
: I’m going to repeat the title a few more times, because it’s all I’ve got. [laughs]
Seriously though, we’re in the process right now of putting together a Final Crisis Sketchbook
that we want to get out there to show the effort and the attention to detail that both J.G. and Grant have put into the building of this series. We’re also adding a bridge in a sense. Countdown
ends with #1, and the #0 issue is actually going to be called Final Crisis #0
. Grant and Geoff Johns will be involved with that issue.
: When we’re talking about Final Crisis
are we looking at another Countdown
style event with multiple spin offs and plot threads going into other series?
: No - Final Crisis
is seven issues over eight months. It has a natural break built in between two of the issues. During that natural break, there will be a series of specials dealing with Final Crisis
and the events of that natural break in the story.
There will also be two other supporting series for Final Crisis
, one of them is a five part story, one of them is a six part story. That is the full extent of Final Crisis
. So we will not see Final Crisis
crossing over in any appreciable manner with the rest of the line. All of the other monthly books will continue on the stories they’re telling, with their established creative teams for those series.
If we go any further or any wider…wait – you know what? I don’t want to be called a liar seven months from now when we add one more special or something, let me couch that – at this point, there are no plans to extend Final Crisis
past that initial conceit, because we feel that what we have planned covers all the major story elements for that storyline. If we have to go any wider, when we will create a special, but we will not incorporate any of the Final Crisis
storyline beats in any of the monthly series.
: So the level of connection/commitment to Final Crisis
for the monthly series writers is less than what it was for Countdown
: No – it’s different. We worked with the other writers with Countdown
to bring the monthlies in line with each other because we were weaving stories in and out – there was an inordinate amount of coordination between, say, Countdown, Justice League
to bring about the death of Bart Allen. That worked quite well, I think.
But in this particular story, with how Final Crisis
is being told, we feel we’ve come up with the best way to tell the story, and it’s not necessary to cross it over with any other series. The beats that are in Final Crisis
right now are essential to Final Crisis
, and they touch upon every single character in the DCU. As Grant says, it goes from the first boy on earth, Anthro, to the last boy on earth, Kamandi. But – that story works best in the format and the series that we’re telling it in.
: And if one would ask about any other teases, this is where you’d just start repeating the title?
: Yeah, pretty much. [laughs] We start with Anthro, and we end with Kamandi – I just told you the ending! Jeez. I’ve got to stop doing that [laughs] God almighty!
: So why Grant and J.G. for Final Crisis
: Simply put, they’re the best ones for the story. It is Grant’s story
, and Grant is such an incredible talent in his storytelling, and his abilities are so unique in how he tells stories – in fact, we so want this story to achieve its full potential, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re keeping it as tight as possible. Grant has a particular style and vision that’s essential to executing this story properly.
: And what about the two other support series that you mentioned?
: They will also have their own vision with their own top-line creators involved to make sure that these books are the best that they can be.
: On the art side – why J.G.? What makes this something that he’s best suited for?
: He loves the New Gods.
: But they’re supposedly dying Dan…there’s this miniseries with a title that pretty much says that…
: Regardless, that’s how we hooked him. This is going to be the largest continuous body of work that he’s ever done. I’m over the moon excited that he’s involved. He was the only person I had in mind at the start of this series, and he was the person that Grant had in mind at the start of the series, and realistically…he had so many other opportunities in front of him and open to him that, in the end, he chose this one because of his love of the New Gods.
: See – there’s that “New Gods” thing again…and the Death of the New Gods
: Oh jeez, didn’t I answer enough questions about death already [laughs]? Yes – you’re right – we are publishing a miniseries that seems to contradict what I’m saying, but the New Gods’ story…they’re gods
. They’re story’s not even close
to over. It’s the advent of the Fifth World, and what’s the point of a Fifth World if we don’t have New Gods in it?
It’s funny for us – I think we’ve telegraphed so much that the New Gods are coming upon a rebirth, and the story that we’re telling with them now is a continuation of the story that was established when Kirby first conceived the concept. Talk about death – Kirby blew up worlds
at the start of the series. The story started with, “The Old Gods Died!” which made room for the New Gods – we’re picking up that thread and launching the DCU into the future.
: So let’s look at other landmarks coming up in 2008. Are we looking at another year such as you had in 2007 where there are two events running concurrently, that is, will Final Crisis
have its own “Sinestro Corps” running alongside of it?
: We have so much coming at the fans from so many directions; I don’t even know where to begin. We do have another weekly coming – we haven’t hid form that fact. But just like Countdown
was different from 52
, this next weekly will be different from both of them. I’m very excited by the talent we have involved with the project, and also the direction of the project as well. I feel very strongly about it, and have incredible faith in what’s going on just in the same way in Countdown
moving towards its conclusion in 2008 as well. There will be a lot of great stuff happening with Countdown
starting in the beginning of January, and going all the way through to April.
: Anything you can say about the creators on the upcoming weekly?
: Not yet – just the fact that we’re working with a much smaller, but very distinctive team in regards to talent, and they’ve already started working.
: When we discussed a hypothetical third weekly last year, just as the lessons learned from 52
were applied to Countdown
(at that time) you were going to do a third weekly series, there were lessons you learned form Countdown
that you would apply to it as well…
: Sure. We saw what problems we had with 52
, and we corrected them with Countdown
, and Countdown
then revealed a whole new set of problems, so we corrected them with the thirds weekly.
I can’t wait to see the whole new set of problems this third weekly gives us. [laughs]
: Any characters that you’re looking at for 2008 that you’re thinking that will surprise people?
: Let’s touch upon some…Dr. Occult. Captain Comet…
: Picking out the big names, aren’t you?
: [laughs] Who else? Libra is a good one.
: [laughs] That excitement that we feel for these characters, we feel, will translate directly to the fans…
: And a Dark Knight
style revival for Punch and Jewlee?
: [laughs] You know already? Seriously – Renee Montoya – The Question – it will be a big year for her. She’ll have a massive role within the DC Universe.
Um…who else? See, I have to pick the more obscure ones, because if I talk about the big names, it will give away where we’re going, and I don’t want to do that.
: Those feelings aside, talking about one of your most major characters, 2008 marks the 70th anniversary for Superman. What are the plans?
: Hope for 70 more? Hold on a second…
[DiDio gets his door – in distance – “Come on in Geoff, we’re just wrapping up…”]
Ask that question again with Geoff Johns in the room.
: Okay – Superman celebrates 70 years in 2008…any thoughts on the plans? Would you like to plan something now?
: We’ve talked about Superman a lot, and the goal with Superman in 2008 is to take what we did with Green Lantern in 2007 to Superman. That’s the goal.
: We’re going to have different colored Supermans again?
: We won’t
have different colored Supermans again. But there is a plan in place with the goal to make people respond to and feel about the Superman titles the same way they do with Green Lantern
: What Geoff’s dancing around with is that as he brought a cohesive feel to all the Green Lantern story and all the books tied into those characters, we’re going to do the same thing with Superman with a major storyline that helps move Superman to his next chapter.
: Dan, I know you have to go now, so just to wrap things up, with a healthy “to be continued” implied, in the broadest strokes, the DCU after Final Crisis
compared to the DCU now…and how final a Crisis is this, anyway?
: We wouldn’t call it Final Crisis
if we didn’t mean it.
: There is a reason it’s called “Final” Crisis
. When I first heard the name, I was like a lot of fans too, but it actually has a very real reason as to why it’s called “Final” Crisis
: And with that, that’s a more 2009 question than a 2008 question – the DCU after Final Crisis
- Final Crisis #7
comes out in December of 2008, so let’s defer this question until out talk next year at this time.
: I will add this – I’m super excited about where things are going. Very excited.
: Right – and we’re not just looking at 2008 right now, we’re looking at 2009 and 2010 as well. A lot of what’s going on will be built on, explored and examined in the coming months and years. The goal is to continue to push the storytelling with the whole universe.
Newsarama Note: We have approached Marvel for an equivalent interview with Editor in Chief Joe Quesada, but as of posting have been unable to find a mutually workable time to talk, given Quesada's schedule.