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NYCC 2018: Time to meet the publishers, with DC's Jim Lee, Dan Didio, and some special guests

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Oct 4, 2018, 4:20 PM EDT

Although New York Comic Con 2018 features all kinds of exclusives from movies, television, and collectibles, it's still a pretty good place to talk about comics. The convention still does have "Comic" in the title, after all. They will not be overshadowed! 

When it comes to DC Comics, there are few people who know more about what's currently going on than Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee (Hush, Justice League), and co-publisher Dan DiDio (Batman Black and White, Phantom Stranger). DC's real life dynamic duo gathered for a "Meet the Publishers" panel on Thursday, and there was more than enough DC excitement to go around. 

"We're the publishers and this is our panel!" DiDio said, kicking things off. Lee went on to mention DC Universe, as well as Titans, which received enthusiasm in the room from those who have seen it. He also gave love to the upcoming Doom Patrol, which has "the world's quirkiest, greatest characters," as he called them. With so many superhero projects going on in so many areas right now, DiDio said that all of it makes them "want to be better on the publishing side too." 

DiDio is also very enthusiastic about DC's new lineup, mentioning writers Tom King and Brian Michael Bendis. He also name dropped the Watchmen sequel, Doomsday Clock, which is only now starting to show how the world of of the original comic fits into the world of the DC characters. 

But where do they go from here? Launching in the spring of 2019 are two imprints for young audiences, called DC Zoom and DC Ink. Stories within will include a Vietnamese take on Green Lantern, certainly something that they've never done before. These new books look to appeal to young readers, and, as DiDio said, they are always looking to "expand their reach," and "to reach as many people as possible." He also continued the name dropping (rightfully so), mentioning how Grant Morrison went from "too busy to do it" to mapping out his entire new run of Green Lantern in the course of one dinner. DiDio mentioned Kelly Sue DeConnick writing for Aquaman right after that, which was met with cheers a plenty. 

In terms of other new initiatives, the DC Black Label is set to appeal to adult readers. DiDio hopes that they will recall what he referred to as the "evergreen" books of DC, such as "The Killing Joke." They are also in the process of creating a new book for Wal-Mart, as there is so much untapped potential there to reach new audiences. Even though they are very much aware of the amount of superhero media that is out there right now — as DiDio said, "There's got to be more people wanting to read our material." As such, they're planning to reprint as well as write new and accessible stories for this project, looking to "include as many people as possible in the comics" as they can.

We also learned that when their talent gets excited, the publishers get excited. "I think that's what keeps these characters so fresh for so long," DiDio said, remarking on Superman's 80th birthday this year and Batman's 80th birthday coming next year. It sounds like Detective Comics #1000 will be quite the event, and DiDio says that the longevity of both titles speaks to their staying power and relevance — they are "even more relevant today," he said. 

Of course, Lee and DiDio had to talk about the DC imprint Vertigo, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Everyone is very excited about Neil Gaiman returning to spearhead The Sandman Universe. 

But they weren't done yet, Brian Michael Bendis came out to join the panel himself. After DiDio joked about asking him about Spider-Man, the all-star writer revealed his brand new creator-driven imprint... 

It is called Wonder Comics, and according to Bendis, it will celebrate "DC's wonderful characters, the wonder of life, the wonder of the moment you realize who you are in life and how to fight for it." Young Justice will be one of the titles in the first wave, and it sounds (and looks) like he'll bringing back everyone — Amethyst, Connor Kent, the Wonder Twins, and "even the monkey." Bendis also confirmed that he's going with the Tim Drake Robin, and that the characters included are "literally a list of things that people were screaming at me to bring back."

"You want ot treat them with a certain respect, sorry Wally West fans," DiDio said, when talking about characters returning. "Our job is to tell stories," he said, and not to just bring characters back for the sake of it. Bendis also mentioned some new legacy characters, one of which will be Ginny Hex. That's right, Jonah's great-great-great-granddaughter just got, what Bendis called, a "trunk full of DC crap." She'll appear for the first time in Batman Universe, which is part of the Wal-Mart initiative. 

Next, the publishers got into a practical joke that went too far. Years ago, they decided to create a fake toy line. It was based on DC characters, but definitely had a muscle-bound Masters of the Universe vibe to it. They made an animated intro, put fake stories online, and even had DC vet Marv Wolfman write some backstories. Though all of it was fake, Lee said that "a lot of people worked a lot of hours to create this myth," which was called DC: Primal Age

Well, lo and behold, Wolfman himself soon came out to make yet another new announcement... 

Not only is Funko actually making a line of figures, but Wolfman is writing real comics based on them. "The idea of taking the DC characters... putting them in this wonderful weird universe where we sort of know what it is... it's a great exercise, a great bunch of fun," he said. When talking about his interactions with DiDio, he added, "Somehow you start thinking that what he's saying makes sense."

When asked what it was that got DC "back in the groove," Lee quickly responded that it was the "New 52," saying "everyone in the company basically touched that." And "Rebirth" was even "smarter, faster, better" than that, and energized things further. "On both the writing and the art we're just firing on all cylinders," Lee said. 

DiDio echoed that statement, saying that "the last thing we want to do is be in the business of selling variant covers." It's always about story, and they must "work on every level." He went on to say that "the artist pulls you in, the story brings you back." 

Didio then mentioned DC's new paper stock, much to the audience's approval. A fan asked Wolfman about "Crisis on Infinite Earths," and Bendis remarked that the event is "analyzed by me and my peers like the Torah."

Right at the end, a young fan asked Lee how he got better "at art." As Lee said, "You just have to do a lot of it, and you get better." There was no more fitting way for the panel to close.

Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of NYCC 2018, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.