Over the past year, fans have seen a lot in DC Comics, from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights – Metal, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock and Brian Michael Bendis taking stewardship of Superman and Action Comics. At the Fan Expo convention, Dan DiDio held a DC Nation panel with Snyder, Capullo, Tom King, Jock and Jason Fabok on what fans can expect to see in 2019 and beyond, including Three Jokers, Heroes in Crisis and some new stories they announced at the panel.
The first story discussed was the much publicized Three Jokers that is to begin later this year with DC superstar Geoff Johns writing and Fabok illustrating. The miniseries will pick up on a cliffhanger Johns dropped in the final moments of The Darkseid War – and The New 52 – where he revealed there are in fact three separate Jokers in the DC universe. Since this reveal, it hasn’t really been expanded upon as Johns has waited until the right time to explore its implications and answers.
“Very early on Geoff and I really established the rules for this book,” Fabok said. “Look at what Geoff is doing on Doomsday Clock. He’s exploring a lot of that old school, nine-panel, Alan Moore-esque type of storytelling. I’m exploring that in this book artistically and have put rules on myself that is very opposite to the way I’ve drawn things before. Everything before was big, widescreen, four-panel pages, sometimes the stuff is bleeding off the panels. This is to a specific rule set. It’s really pushing me artistically and I feel this is the best work I’ve ever drawn and so confident about this book it will be the book I’m remembered for for the rest of my life.”
That is definitely some high amount of build-up on Three Jokers from Fabok, but when the story is dealing with a two-year-old reveal like that, it’s hard not to feel the amount of anticipation, especially with such big names like Johns and Fabok attached to it.
For fans of Snyder and Capullo, you’ll have more of their work to look forward to as the pair will be teaming up again. They exclusively revealed during the panel their next project together is The Last Knight on Earth, a story which Snyder has called their last Batman story. “When we started on Batman, I got to know Grant Morrison pretty well. He was amazing as a mentor and one of the things he said to me when I first started was ‘The only way to really make him yours is to give him a birth and give him a death’. We did our birth in Zero Year so this one really is the end of our Batman story. It’s the last thing we plan on doing together. It’s been in the works for a long time and is a story I’ve been thinking about for 4 or 5 years.”
Fans can expect The Last Knight on Earth to be a very trippy and different tale for Batman as Snyder explained the book begins with Bruce Wayne in Arkham Asylum after decades as a patient. “It opens with a case Batman is on where someone has drawn a chalk-line of Batman all over the city and he’s on this case, classic detective stuff, and all of a sudden he wakes up and he’s in Arkham Asylum. He doesn’t know why and he’s Bruce, he’s out of the costume. His doctor is there he’s like ‘Thank God, Bruce, we finally found a drug that got through to you’ and Bruce is all ‘what are you talking about? Let me out of this’ He’s all Batman and then they say ‘No, you’ve been here for 20 years ever since you killed your parents in the alley.’ And then Alfred walks in and confirms it and that’s the beginning of the story.”
Quite a shocker to not only hear Bruce is a patient in Arkham, but apparently is there for killing his parents. Things will get more trippy, however. “About 10 pages later, he comes out and finds himself in this situation that you don’t know is real or not. He goes up to a desert and he’s wandering there in this straight-jacket Batman suit and he finds the lamppost and under it is The Joker’s head in jar. It’s still alive, the eyes open and he’s got retracted teeth and he’s like ‘we have to go now’ and Batman clips it to his belt and gets going.”
Snyder also has another Batman/Joker type story in the work with The Batman Who Laughs, focusing one of the chief villains of Dark Nights – Metal that is Batman’s fear come to life of what happens if he ever killed and then became The Joker. He was a very twisted villain with all of Joker’s malicious cruelty and Batman’s tactical intelligence. For a story like this Snyder is teaming up again with the artist Jock, who he previously worked with on his Detective Comics run in the fan-favourite story The Black Mirror.
“When Scott first called me in 2010 or 2011 about Black Mirror,” Jock said, “I wasn’t even planning on doing a Batman story but his idea for it was so good that I got an instinct that it was going to be a good thing and here we are now. Batman Who Laughs isn’t a bookend, but there’s a definite callback to Black Mirror tonally. These guys have been doing some amazing stuff on Justice League, bigger, more expansive stuff, but this is kind of more street level.”
And that’s when Jock dropped the biggest bomb about Batman Who Laughs: “James Jr. is in it.”
James Jr. is Commissioner Gordon’s son who was greatly expanded on in Black Mirror. He was revealed to be a cold and calculating serial killer that toyed with Gordon, Barbara and Dick Grayson’s Batman. Many fans have praised the way Snyder wrote James Jr. and there was an collective gasp in the room at learning he would be returning with Snyder and Jock at the helm again. That’s not the only character returning, though.
“To echo what Jock said, Thomas Wayne from Court of Owls is also returning and everything they’re in to. It really is a spiritual successor to Black Mirror. I was thinking about everything that made that book special to me and wanted to do something that took all of it and was almost a logical extension to it.”
The Batman Who Laughs will also have ramifications for the DC universe, particularly for the Justice League. “Batman Who Laughs actually comes into Justice League so you’ll see that soon. And then the Batman Who Laughs series will read in a way that you can read it without anything supportive, but what happens in it will then become a huge part of what happens later in Justice League and the DC universe. What we’re trying to build is an architecture that branches out into some other stuff as well so the story we’re telling which began with Metal. Those pieces – Barbatos, the Anti-Monitor, the Monitor, the World Forger, Dark Knights – all that stuff comes back in Justice League and begins in The Batman Who Laughs. It’s one huge design that goes up to 2020”
Capullo also revealed he’ll soon be doing a Wonder Woman after drawing so much in Metal. “Wonder Woman when I first started drawing her terrified me. She’s such a strong character and can’t be some sexy, pretty babe. She has to have that demeanour that even in her stance you get from Superman and Batman it has to be this very careful balance to do her correctly. I did a lot of test shots and showed my wife before I showed it to any of you. After drawing her in Metal so much I felt comfortable drawing Wonder Woman so I said to Dan we’ll do a Wonder Woman book.”
However, it was not without a caveat for something Capullo desperately wanted to do on his own: Swamp Thing. “I said you have to let me do pin-ups or covers of Swamp Thing to scratch my itch. He said ‘You do some covers for me and I’ll get a book made around your covers’. So I turn in my first cover and he texts me with ‘I need you to do me a Swamp Thing book’. So what I’ve just sidetracked to do, I can’t tell you where, but it is a Swamp Thing story that will precede what I’m going to do with Scott when we really get down to Swamp Thing. It’s perfectly timed. It’s Swamp Thing around Halloween. It will be a Halooween release and will be my first real stab at Swamp Thing which I had so much fun and will show in the work.”
Tom King didn’t talk too much about what’s in store for Batman (though a lot of fun was had and poked at him for the fallout of Batman and Catwoman’s wedding in Batman #50), but he spent most of his time discussing the upcoming Heroes in Crisis series that will explore a shooting at a treatment centre for superheroes going through PTSD and the mystery of who was responsible for the shooting.
“Heroes in Crisis is a mystery story,” King said. “There’s a massacre that happens at a sacred place for the superheroes and a lot of superheroes from B-level to Q-level die. It’s a place where Batman and Superman sent these people saying ‘we guarantee your safety’ and now they’re dead. They have to solve this mystery of who killed these people and why. It’s a hunt. There’s a line Batman has that is ‘Our chance at redemption turned into another hunt for vengeance.’ It’s so annoying that this is what they did to not live violent lives and its turned into another episode of violence and asks if they can come out of that on top. It’s my story so probably not but its possible!”
Dan DiDio also took the opportunity to talk more about DC’s upcoming Black Label, a series of stories that will be more mature and for an older type of audience “Black Label really is built to do those mature stories,” he said. “The prototype is not Omega Man, but actually Killing Joke or the Joker graphic novel that we did with Bermejo and Azzarello a few years ago are the prototypes. Those things are kind of interesting because they sit on the shelves and gives you a chance to explore these characters in ways we’ve never seen before.”
Stories that will be part of the Black Label include Batman: White Knight and the upcoming Batman: Damned and Three Jokers. “Three Jokers and The Last Knight on Earth are Black Label. The concept behind Black Label is an interesting one. The idea is to get ideas and stories that are true to who the characters are and could or couldn’t fit into continuity either way. On top of that, we want to do an exploration we haven’t seen or cannot do in a regular comic. For us it’s a way to expand on the characters and see shades we haven’t seen before. DiDio revealed that Superman: Year One will fall under the Black Label and that they are listening to a couple Aquaman pitches now that the character is more popular and has a film coming out. One other book to come out under the Black Label is The Other Side of the DC Universe, which will be written by 12 Years a Slave Academy Award winning writer John Ridley. “What he’s doing is telling the history of the DC universe from the black perspective and will start at the end of the year,” DiDio said.
It’s some pretty exciting stuff coming up for the DC Universe with these Black Label series and Snyder’s continuing epic being told across the various DC titles. What are you most excited for among this information? Let us know below…