WonderCon 2023: Dawn Of DC

by Erik Amaya

DC Comics returned to Wondercon Anaheim 2023 on Friday with a preview of some upcoming stories in the “Dawn of DC” event. Writers Tom King, Dennis Culver, Jeremy Adams, Morgan Hampton, and Tini Howard – along with artist Mitch Gerads – entertained the assembled crowd with jokes at the writers’ expense and a look at some of their upcoming Dawn of DC titles.

As explained by moderator and Batman group editor Jessica Chen – Dawn of DC is a year-long initiative highlighting new storylines in both brand new titles and ongoing series. The focus is on celebrating the classic characters even if some new ones or curious revamps happen along the way.

One such new title is King’s Wonder Woman with artist Daniel Sampere. “[She’s] a hard character write,” King explained. “I thought about what makes her different; from her very origin, she was a rebel against the status quo.” In contrast to the law and order of the other members of the DC trinity, King sees Diana as an “outlaw” and brings that spirit to new story. “[She’s the sort of person who says] ‘I am different and I can change the world because I’m different’ … I want to see her bashing some tanks and telling the people the world can be a better place.”

Another mission statement of the series is to create someone like King’s 12-year-old daughter can “admire, but still has an edge.”

“I also wanted to go back to the lasso and the tiara. I wanted that Lynda Carter energy where she spins around and becomes Wonder Woman,” he added.

With Sampere, King found what he wanted most in an artist for the project – someone who recaptures the initial energy of Image Comics in its prime superhero days. “He’s perfect,” King said.

The writer’s upcoming The Penguin is the polar opposite from Wonder Woman, he claimed. Although expelled from Gotham in recent days, the character’s new solo title sees him pulled back into the Gotham underworld. “I watched The Batman and loved the portrayal of him there; the Godfather Penguin,” King explained. “He’s the crime boss of Gotham and Batman can’t take him out. He’s an 800 lbs. gorilla in the DC Universe. How did he run crime around Batman and how does he get back into it? He’s a very mean human being.”

Gerads took point on his latest collaboration with King, a new Batman: The Brave and the Bold title which will feature a four-part Joker story from the duo — and not just any Joker story, but something the artist called “the scariest retelling of Batman #1 – the first appearance of the Joker.”

He joked that he kept forgetting the story was set in Year One and had to “go back and redraw a lot of it.” Nevertheless, returning to the homicidal clown’s debut gave Gerads the chance to focus on one of his favorite aspects of the character. “I am obsessed with Batman: the Animated Series,” he explained. “There’s never been a better Joker than Mark Hamill. He’s always the funny clown, but there are these moments where he’s mean and terrifying. That’s how I approached the Joker in this book; he’s stuck in those moments.”

Another new title is Unstoppable Doom Patrol – debuting this coming New Comic Book Day – from Culver with art by Chris Burnham.

“They’re the outcast of the DC universe,” Culver said of the overall Doom Patrol premise. “[But] Burn and I are trying to make them like superhero first-responders. When someone develops powers and it could go out of control, Doom Patrol tries to help them so they don’t end up in Arkham Asylum, where there’s not a lot of rehabilitation.”

In lieu of letting a new super fall down a dark path or even train as a soldier, the new mission statement for the team is “to help them live” with their abilities. “After the events of Lazarus Planet, the world is kind of crazy and the Doom Patrol is stepping on a lot of toes,” he added.

While the series will feature familiar team members like Crazy Jane, it will also introduce a new character – Beast Girl. “There are archetypes you should have when you have a Doom Patrol team,” the writer explained. “You want a kid like Beast Boy, but he’s firmly a Titan. So what if there was a Beast Girl? She’s not a shapeshifter like Gar, she messes with the fight or flight response [instead].”

Fight or flight may not be the most pressing challenge for Hal Jordan in the new Green Lantern series from Adams and Xermanico. Instead, it sees Hal returning to Earth as Sector 2814 goes under a mysterious quarantine. “Hal comes back to discover the woman he loves is in another relationship and people don’t really need fighter pilots anymore, so he’s trying to find [a new] normal.” For Adams, the series is something of a homecoming as well; his first professional writing credit was on Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

“There’s some interesting stuff with Sinestro and Kilowog,” he added. “It’s not as zany as The Flash has been, but it’s been a great challenge. [In tone,] it’s fitting in between The OC and The Terminator.”

As for The Flash‘s landmark 800th issue, Adams teased stories from classic Flash writers like Mark Waid and Geoff Johns. “It’s going to be better than mine,” he joked, adding that is has “been a thrill to write the West family.”

Writer Morgan Hampton, who joins artist Tim Raney on the upcoming Cyborg, is a graduate of the DC Milestone Initiative Program. Starting his career as a journalist, the transition to comic book writer came with a mentorship of sorts from Cyborg co-creator Marv Wolfman. “He told me to cut down on word balloons,” he said with a laugh. “You have to give your artists enough space to do what they have to do.”

He credits Raney, though, with requesting additional details in his scripts as the pair begin to chart Victor Stone’s return to Detroit.

“He’s coming home for the first time in a long time,” Hampton explained. “He sees that the city is very different – thanks gentrification! It’s about exploring Victor’s soul and the soul of Detroit and how they’re intertwined.”

The series also features a redesign for the title character. “I was like ‘can we put Cyborg in some clothes?'” Hampton said of the change. The design reflects Vic’s past as a star athlete. “The jacket is fly, I’m going to need one of those,” he added.

Another new addition: Vic’s therapist. In discussing the design process, Hampton said he suggested someone “like Yvette Nicole Brown” to Raney, who “ran with it.”

Finally, Howard – who apologized for being late to the panel – was more than thrilled to discuss the arrival of artist Sweeny Boo to Harley Quinn with issue #28. “She’s doing everything from pencils to colors because her work is so unique. She doesn’t even need me! If you’re not familiar with her work, you’re in for a treat,” the writer said.

Alongside writing Catwoman, Howard appreciates the fact she can “often explore things with the characters no other writers are comfortable with.”

“I like to see characters cross the line because it puts them in hot water and they have to make choices when backed against the wall,” she continued. “I bring that to Catwoman – it’s very dark and very intense – and Harley, which is a completely different book. We’re laughing at those hard choices.”

For Harley, the tough calls are always colored by the “post-ironic version” of the character who emerged in recent years thanks to Margot Robbie‘s portrayal in various DC films and the Harley Quinn animated series. “I can combine that honest sense of humor [with the situation],” she explained. “Having someone like Harley to write is very grounding. The normal things – they can be hard to preserve if you have the weight of mental health on you,” she added.

Catwoman, with art by Nico Leon, continues its dual tale of Selina in prison and Eiko Hasigawa working as Catwoman on the streets of Gotham. “I love a story where people can fight big over small resources,” she said of Selina’s current predicament. “Jail is a good place for that. She’s not the big cat in the yard and she has to decide if she’s going to be ‘number one’ or if she’s going to remember that the other inmates are Gothamites, too.”

Eiko, meanwhile, balances her duties as the head of the Hasigawa crime family and working Selina’s plan as Catwoman. “She’s sort of a double agent,” Howard said. “She’s not leaning on her heritage, [but] she’s trying to make them listen like they listen to the Bat.” Catwoman #53 hit the stands this week, but Howard suggested going back to #50 if readers have been out of the loop for a while.

She was also prepared to say more, but Chen cut her off suggesting that “coming events” have their seeds back in issue #50.

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