SDCC 2019: Exploring The Darker, Mature Side With DC Black Label

by Gary Catig

DC Black Label is an imprint geared towards more adult material involving the DC Universe characters. It provides an opportunity for creators to experiment and develop novel stories with DC’s heroes and villains outside of continuity. At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, the imprint hosted its own panel moderated by editor, Mark Doyle. Present were creators Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Kami Garcia and Jeff Lemire.

Capullo and Snyder are the minds behind Batman: The Last Knight on Earth. They felt the title is a culmination of their ten-year journey on Batman. Characters that have appeared on their runs of the Caped Crusader will make appearances. The story also involves an interesting take on the Joker as he has an eternal struggle whether he really wants to defeat his greatest foe, Batman. The villain is able to be portrayed as darker and meaner because it is part of Black Label. Despite the title, the comic could also be seen as a tragic Joker story. The overall tale will explore what it really means to be Batman while the second issue will explain what has happened in the world.

Romita Jr. was excited to work on Superman: Year One due to writer, Frank Miller, own enthusiasm for the project. Like their previous collaborations, Miller provides minimal plot details which allows him to draw and do what he wants. Their series follows a person’s normal life progression from child to adult but with super powers. Clark must learn restraint when dealing with bullies and barfights because of his strength. The second issue has our hero joining the Marines and he begins training to be a Navy SEAL. It will tackle his moral conflict with carrying out the special ops that Seals do. Later, he finds himself in the Kingdom of Atlantis. Also on display is how Superman not only falls in love with the humans he protects but also with the Planet Earth.

Garcia writes the upcoming Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity. It is a procedural where Joker is a serial killer and Harley is the profiler set to catch him. She is fueled to find justice for her dead roommate. The original premise spun out of an idea Garcia had for a YA novel but she thought it would be too dark for the age demographic. She consulted a criminal psychologist she met while working on an X-Files book because she wanted to see what made a psychopath a monster. It was important to show a forensically accurate version of developing the Joker and how he became a murderer and anarchist. The comic has two artists with Mike Mayhew illustrating the Joker and flashback scenes and Mico Suayan drawing the present Harley scenes.

Lemire has two upcoming books coming on the imprint. The first is Joker: Killer Smile with artist Andrea Sorrentino. The now Eisner winning duo look at the Gotham suburbs where an Arkham psychiatrist lives. He is responsible for rehabilitating the super criminal but soon his mind is gradually corrupted and he begins taking pieces of his work back home with him. The title is told through a grounded story and also in a twisted child’s fairy tale. In the latter, the character of Mr. Smilez was supposed to be a one off but when they saw the artwork, he was given an expanded role.

Lemire’s other title is The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage with artist Denys Cowan. It was always a pie in the sky dream project to work with The Question and he was impressed by Cowan’s previous work with the character. This comic is to show the next step and evolution of The Question and his main adversary is a man of 1000 faces. The two frequently come into conflict throughout time.

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