EXCLUSIVE: Dan DiDio of DC Comics talks about Superman leaving "Action Comics" (and Earth), the revival of "Adventure Comics" and major changes in Gotham City that will mean "a close to the existing lore … the last rites of Batman."
I was in New York a week ago to work on a long feature about the singer Beyoncé but (just to prove what a hopeless fanboy I really am) I was more excited about making my first visit ever to the offices of DC Comics, which was no disappointment. After a tour, I sat down with Dan DiDio, the senior vice president and executive editor of the DC Universe, which means he oversees the bread-and-butter, ongoing comics titles. He had plenty of scoop to share, including this Andy Kubert cover above, which is the variant for the upcoming landmark Batman tale "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader"…
Geoff Boucher: So, Dan, what are you most excited about right now?
Dan DiDio: Oh, gosh, that’s a good one. We’re coming to the end of “Final Crisis” right now and I’m not only excited about people reading the ending of “Final Crisis” but I’m also excited about getting to the end of “Final Crisis.” We did “Countdown to Final Crisis” and “Final Crisis” itself so this has been a long story for us. I feel we’ve accomplished a lot of goals and we created a lot of excitement. But more importantly it’s a point of change for us in DC Universe again. And once you know the ending is coming, it’s in sight, that’s when you start getting worked up about what’s coming up next. That’s what I really get jazzed about. We have two really big events that spin out of “Final Crisis” each in its own way and affecting our key franchises, Superman and Batman. The first thing we’re going to see is called “Battle for the Cowl,” that’s going to be a book that features nearly every member of the Batman family
GB: Even Ace the Bat-Hound?
DD: [Laughs] Probably. We have a writer-artist team on this right now that’s scouring every book possible to see what they can include in these two-page spreads they want to build of all the characters that inhabit the Batman universe. So it’s a lot of fun for us. I always like those things because it’s a big noisy adventure book. And whenever you do one of those, the level of excitement is always right there on the page. You hopefully have people respond properly to that.
GB: There’s a lot going on with the Batman franchises.
DD: There are a lot of questions about what’s going on with the Batman line of titles. We just recently canceled three of the longtime Batman-related series: "Birds of Prey," "Robin" and "Nightwing." They all end in February. Then in March, “Battle for the Cowl” starts and once it does, you will get to understand how the Batman universe is starting to be realigned.
GB: And what about the Man of Steel?
DD: Simultaneous to “Battle for the Cowl,” we’re going to be making changes in Superman’s world as well. Superman has been the star of "Action Comics" for its entire run, essentially, and he will be leaving it and handing it over to new characters. The only time he hasn’t appeared in the book, I believe, was after “The Death of Superman,” in those years. So this is a lot of fun for us. I think that’s going to get people excited and scratching their heads and wondering what’s going on. In his own book, "Superman," there will be a dramatic turn as the hero leaves Earth and it seems like he’s leaving for good. We’ll follow his adventures in space more so than his adventures on Earth, and that’s a big and exciting thing. We’re also bringing back one of the old-time favorite titles of DC Comics, "Adventure Comics." It will be …
…back with a new No. 1 and with new stars but old stars at the same time. It’ll be pretty easy to guess who will be the stars of "Adventure Comics" if you know who the title was most identified with…
GB: Well, which era? Sandman, the Spectre, Dial H for Hero, Superboy…
DD: [Laughing] And who did Superboy appear with?
GB: Ah. The Legion of Super-Heroes.
DD: So this is a lot of fun for us. "Action," "Adventure," and "Superman," these are some of our premiere titles, some of the titles with the longest history. To affect a real level of change on these titles is exciting for us. It makes our oldest and most enduring titles fresh again.
GB: That history is both your greatest strength and your greatest challenge, I would imagine. You have the benefit of possessing iconic characters and their mythologies, but then you have to find a way to reinvent them and escape the clutter of their half-century histories…
DD: Absolutely. That is one of the huge challenges. But the interesting thing you have to do is go back to the core concept, back to the 1940s or even 1930s in some cases. There’s a reason the characters are still enduring now. You have to identify what made each character survive through the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s…the sensibilities have changed with every decade, but these characters remain pretty much the same. So what is it in the characters that people recognize and identify with? You keep that at the core and change the world around them to make it contemporary and compelling.
GB: There’s also the storytellers you have coming to the books. On Batman, for instance, in the span of a few months you have writers such as Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Kevin Smith and Paul Dini…
DD: Yes, absolutely. With Neil, he’s doing “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” in February, which pretty much pulls to a close the existing lore of Batman before we break into “Battle for the Cowl.” The Neil thing is really fun for us because it compares and kind of lines up with what Alan Moore did with “Whatever Happened to the Man from Tomorrow.” And that’s not to diminish by any means Grant’s stuff with “Batman R.I.P." He also celebrates so much of what Batman is about. Denny O’Neil steps in to celebrate so much of what he brought to the character and, of course, if any one person had the most influential voice on Batman for the longest period of time, Denny is that person. We have Paul Dini involved. Everyone is bringing their own package and their own unique voice in what we’re calling a celebration of the last rites of Batman. This is amazing stuff! You asked what I was excited about, right?
Check back here at Hero Complex later this week for more from this Dan DiDio interview, including his take on "the Aquaman problem." We also have a three-part Neil Gaiman interview starting Tuesday.
— Geoff Boucher
Credits: That’s Dan DiDio in the pages of a special holiday issue from a few years ago. All images courtesy of DC Comics.