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AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug catches up with Jim Lee and Dan Didio to talk about all things DC Comics!!!

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Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by DC Comics’ Dan Didio & Jim Lee!!!

Ambush Bug here with my yearly chat with Dan Didio and Jim Lee. Last time I checked in with these two, they were getting ready to releaunch the entire DC Universe. Now, one year later, two thirds of the creative force behind the relaunch look back on the year and what is coming up in the next year for DC Comics. I have to say, this was an eventful interview as we all had to sit on the convention room floor and during the interview, we were almost crushed by a falling light stand. But being the professionals that we were, we pressed on with the interview without a missed beat. Enjoy!

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I am here with Jim Lee and Dan Didio. It’s great to see you guys again, I met with you two last year...

DAN DIDIO (DD): I know.

BUG: ...and I’m so glad I’m able to catch up with you guys again this year. What’s new with DC, guys?

DD: Well, we’re one year into the launch of the New 52, so we’re pretty excited about that, about how well it did, and just the level of response we got all over last year, but we don’t want to rest our laurels. Realistically, that’s one reason why we’re doing the zero month in September. It’s basically to fill in some of the blanks on the characters, and also to try to build new stories and new interest, and really try to keep this all going. We have a lot of exciting stuff happening right now, and we find with the zero month we’re going to be able to fill in some of the origins but also set up some new and exciting stories. Including the return of the Joker in the Batman books, we’re doing a series between Hawkman and the Green Arrow called Hawkman Wanted, which will attach some of the other series in that as well. The Green Lantern stories are pretty much the third army of the brand new Green Lantern in the league, so some interesting stuff happening there.

BUG: Yeah, yeah, I just talked with Jeff earlier today, and he mentioned Green Lantern and that there’s all kinds of big plans with that. How are you guys involved with any of that story? Are you doing any of the designs for it, Jim?

JIM LEE (JL): No. I was really involved with the initial launch of designs, but as you would imagine, as each of the stories within the books sort of multiplied or went forward, the individual artists kind of stepped in, so the new Green Lantern is designed by Doug Mahnke.

BUG: Really?

JL: He did a fantastic design, so...

DD: He’s been working on that series for a while, so it was great to see what he brought...especially to the new Lantern.

JL: So, I think it’s important because you don’t want everything to look homogenous as if it was designed by specifically one person. I’ve seen some really awesome designs across the whole board that crossed my inbox, and it’s exciting, man. It’s exciting to see that stuff.

DD: It’s good. It’s new talent, and there’s guy’s like Kenneth Rocafort and Bret Booth, you really can see them stepping up in a huge way and really setting a silent tone across the line which the other artists are really latching on to, and it’s really bringing a sense of energy into everything we see and do.

BUG: I heard that you said that every year right around November that that’s going to be when the big shake-ups are going to be for DC?

DD: We try to do that on a regular basis. The thing is that goal is to always keep it new and fresh, always with fifty-two titles. We know that certain books are going to break out and certain books are going to hopefully break out, but if they don’t, we’re glad to take the risk in it, we’re going to continue to take risks on books that have as much diversity as possible because, I think, that’s really what captures what comics are all about.


BUG: Sorry, I thought you were adding more right there.

DD: It was supposed to be, but he didn’t catch on.

JL: (laughs) I was just trying to think if we did some in November, honestly, it’s a year, we can’t just have one launch a year. We have a massive battleship that’s moving forward, so every quarter we try to have some pretty cool. So, we’re planning a year and a half in advance already. It’s nice to have these kind of anniversaries because it reminds us that we need to make sure that we have something kind of in the pipeline, but we have stuff planned for the first quarter of next year, second and third are going to be pretty huge for us too. I think that’s part of the New 52 mentality, that you cannot just rest on your laurels, you can’t just put these things on autopilot. You have to continually reevaluate what you’re doing, look at your creative teams, look at your storylines, and make sure they’re the best they can possibly be.

DD: The other thing too is that the way we did the first year is that we really let the stories stand on their own, we had some crossovers but not in a massive way. The idea was let’s just see how these things take root, and then go ahead from a really strong foundation so then we really bring a level of independent activity to the universe. Because, we do have long term stories and long time ideas as Jim was saying, and now we have a really strong foundation we’ve been working from to build out and really drive the universe as a whole forward.

We’re also going to be bringing in new series on a regular basis. We’ve got four new series coming in September between PHANTOM STRANGER, TALON, TEAM 7, and SWORD OF SORCERY with Amethyst. The great part about it is it shows how committed we are to the diversity aspect. We have a brand new book in TALON, we’re bringing back more Dark because that seems to be working well for us in PHANTOM STRANGER, we’re visiting the entire universe in TEAM 7, which is going to really be something that’s pulled together and taking a lot of great ideas that was from WildStorm and bringing it over to the DCU. Lastly, but certain not least, is SWORD OF SORCERY with Amethyst, which I think is something that is worth the risk and we were trying to do because we haven’t touched about that in a while.

BUG: One of the things I enjoyed about the relaunch last year was that you guys really delved into the past a lot with ALL STAR WESTERN and also some of the other ones like DEMON KNIGHTS. Are you guys planning anything more with that, or any of these new titles, are they going to take place in the past?

DD: Actually, yeah, the TEAM 7 book takes place in the past.

BUG: It does?

DD: Yeah, it takes place in that five year zone where JUSTICE LEAGUand ACTION COMICS Comics started as well, but we do want to go back in those other areas. As a matter of fact, what I’ve done in PHANTOM STRANGER is you’ll find out that a story that starts in ALL STAR WESTERN has actually played out in PHANTOM STRANGER during the course of the series. That’s the kind of fun tie-ins that I think really makes the universe interesting.

BUG: You guys have taken some pretty big risks with some of the choices of titles. Looking back on this, what have you learned in this one year as far as relaunching your entire line?

JL: I would say the big lesson is not to rush out anything just because of an anniversary or a mark. I think we had a tremendous launch, and so that gave us a little bit of breathing room to figure out exactly what we want to replace it with, and we’ve been pretty judicious about what we’ve cut from the line, what we’ve added into it. 2013 is going to be a really exciting year as well, and I’m excited for a lot of stuff we’ll be adding to the New 52 event. It’s exciting, man. I think the old mentality really was you do a book, and there was no real reason to end a book other than maybe the creators were done with it, or sales were so abysmally low that you weren’t making any money. We applied a different metric to there’s got to be a reason for every book on the line, there’s got to be a point where if it doesn’t hit our expectations of sales, we’ve got to reevaluate it, and we didn’t have that codified as much beforehand, at least I didn’t. Certainly, we just changed a lot of the thinking and the processes that went into publishing, and I think that made a big difference.

DD: Yeah.

BUG: As far as, let’s talk about some of the Zero issues. What ones are you looking forward to the most?

DD: It’s interesting, one of the things with CATWOMAN, we’re bringing clarity to her origin and setting more of that up and setting up some interesting mysteries. I think Jim and I both agree that TEAM 7 is the one we’re most excited about because it’s this really interesting mesh of some cool DC characters, it’s so firmly entrenched in the DC universe. It’ll play out in a lot of interesting ways. You see the ramifications of stories going forward as well. That’s really exciting, I think Jeff’s done a wonderful job with the SHAZAM origin in JUSTICE LEAGUE, that’s a great book to see. Like I said, to me, I’m particularly interested in Phantom Stranger’s hero, strangely enough. Primarily because what I tried to do in that series is we tried to tie in what we saw in free comic book day, the first half of the book is set in the past, taking the events from free comic book day, and then moving him into the future. Actually, not only it sets up the Zero issue of PHANTOM STRANGER, but it also is going to return one of the major characters in that book too.

JL: I’m going to throw TALON out there too.

DD: Yeah.

JL: It’s co-written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV is the other writer co-plotter. To me, what’s interesting about what Scott and Greg Capullo did on BATMAN, he’s been around forever. So many great stories, so to me, he’s an extra hard character to produce a story that surprises people and adds something to the canon that seems like “wow, I never really thought about that before,” and he completely nailed it. To me, being able to spin off a character from that mythology, that’s a hard, hard thing to do, man. It’s a lot harder, actually, than creating a brand new character from scratch, building onto an existing mythology so that it feels organic like it should have been there all the time. So, I’m excited to see what they do with their banished assassin, I guess.

DD: Yeah.

BUG: Very cool. Well, you brought up Shazam, and it made me think is that set five years ago? Or is it a present day story? When does Shazam occur?

DD: Shazam is playing catch up right now, so it’s catching up to the rest of the DC Universe. Again, that’s going to be as we look into the second year of the New 52. He’ll be playing in a different role in a lot of the stories and then moving forward.

BUG: Very cool. And so, also are there going to be any more five year stories that are set five years ago other than the Zero issues?

DD: It’s funny, we were talking a lot about it, and we want to be able to really populate our world throughout the decades and through the years, through the different times. So, I think we’re going to be doing more of that, and we’re just trying to find the right stories and the right mix, and the right types of events that will really play through bits and pieces. We just discussed one that actually can, if it works out right, it can play through DEMON KNIGHTS and JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK as well.

BUG: Awesome.

DD: Those are the fun things you do. Once you find that type of connectivity, and it does sort of stand alone, you feel the greater value through all the pieces then you know you’ve done your job.

BUG: Cool, very cool. What else are you guys talking about here? You’ve got Before Watchmen, that’s still going on right now. You guys are still around, so apparently things are going ok.

JL: You thought we’d spontaneously combust? (laughs)

BUG: I didn’t know. People can get pretty crazy out there.

JL: A rain of frogs from the heavens?

DD: (laughs) We’re pretty excited by the way it’s worked. The numbers in the sales have exceeded our expectations. The reality is that we’re watching the stories unfold, the creators are incredibly dedicated to this material and are excited about what they’re working on. What we’re really looking forward to is not only the fact we’re excelling in a periodical nature, but we’re hoping when these are all done, we can collect them up and hope they have the same pull and longevity that we had on the original series.

BUG: Would there be a possibility of all of them being put into one gigantic kind of volume?

DD: We’ve been doing more of those giant omnibuses. Huge fan of it. We just did it for the CRISIS omnibus. Is that out yet? That’s out, right? The CRISIS omnibus? I don’t even know, I get everything wrong.

JL: I’ve seen it in the office, I don’t know if it’s out yet.

DD: I hope so, but it’s the great big book, and we’re actually going to be collecting all the Zeros in one great big book too. So, I love those things. The more we can do those, the more value in creating those series, so much the better.

BUG: One of my favorite projects that you had a couple of years ago was the giant collection of the newspaper that you guys put out, WEDNESDAY COMICS. Do you have any plans for any more of that kind of book?

DD: You know, we’re looking at some interesting things right now. There’s one of the Absolutes that we’re going to build that’s going to be collected in a different way than any other Absolute.

BUG: Well, we’re about to run out of time. Are there any closing thoughts you want to leave us with?

DD: This time last year we were so anxious about the launch of the New 52, there was so much conversation about what are we doing and how are we doing, and how can we do this? The fact that we were getting so much positive feedback from everybody, saying how much they’ve enjoyed it, and how much they wished we pushed it even further and how they’re looking forward to the next things. It shows me we’re on the right track, and that gives us the impudence to try things even more. That’s what makes this fun.

BUG: Well, great. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk, I know you guys are really busy. Thank you so much. You had a great year last year, best of luck this coming up year. I look forward to seeing all your stuff, so thank you.

DD: Thank you very much.

JL: Thanks, Mark.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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