Editor's Note: The header image above was identified in error by DC as a Detective Comics #1076 variant cover by Liam Sharp. The image is now credited to artist Jason Shawn Alexander. There was also a misspelling in the liveblog of the same artist's name that has been fixed.
The DC Universe isn’t looking for a capitol, but if they did, Gotham City would be on the shortlist of suggestions. And at San Diego Comic Con 2023, the comic publisher is highlighted the macabre metropolis with a special panel and fan Q&A.
Can't make it to SDCC? Don't worry, Popverse was be live in the room for this panel to break the biggest news and the most interesting insights about the whole thing. If you were here when it happened, you could've followed along live with our play-by-play. But don't worry, we saved it - and now you can re-read the whole thing, bit-by-bit.
We're five minutes away from the official start, but it's Thursday, it's San Diego, and it's very bright and sunny... at least until the Gotham panel begins, and everything gets very dark indeed.
Aaaand we're off! Ben Abernathy is here to introduce the panel and complain the crowd isn't cheering loudly enough. (He's right, we're a low key bunch for some how.)
And so, who's on the panel? Tom King, who just called Abernathy, "the best fucking editor in comics."
Also on the panel: Belen Ortega, Tini Howard, Ram V, Rafael Grampa, Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing.
"I'm so tired!" says Tom when asked how their Comic-Con is going so far.
We're talking Batman: The Brave and The Bold. "It's a very nice, upbeat story," jokes Abernathy. "I've done original things once or twice, but this is an unoriginal story," says Tom. "This is Batman and Joker meeting for the first time, that's the plot of at least three Batman movies. But the idea is to make something simple and perfect."
"We were trying to sample the story. We're sampling Batman #1 to give it a beat, to give it a heart, to give it some importance," Tom says. "We've never been scared by a comic -- you can't do jump scares, you can't do music, you can't do movement. So Mitch and I are trying to do a scary comic."
"I think I've written more Batman stories than anyone alive, I think I have that title. It's me and Chuck Dixon going for it," Tom says. "My concept for the Joker -- what we're always trying to do is balancing people's motivations. That's our whole game: why did someone do something? The Joker, he's the one character in all fiction where there's no why. He's just chaos. He's something entirely unique, in all fiction, there's nothing like him. He doesn't care about the way. It's not The Killing Joke, which is just one of his origins. He doesn't care."
"Mitch and I have been playing around with [the black panels with captions] since Sheriff of Babylon, we stole it from Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man," Tom says. "When it came to the Joker's dialogue, I didn't want it to look normal. I wanted it to look weird. I did it once, thinking that Ben would stop me."
"In the fourth issue, he eventually speaks in his own voice, and it's a big moment," Tom says.
Now Tom is talking about The Penguin series that launches August 22, which has been in the works for close to a year. He's a silly character made real, Tom says, describing it as a "Taxi Driver Penguin."
Batman can defeat anyone, we've seen him defeat Darkseid, but crime still exists in Gotham City because of the Penguin. "He's Batman's greatest villain, who's actually been driving him insane. That's what this comic is about."
Penguin has left Gotham and is living in Metropolis "and he's actually happy for the first time in his life." But the Government send him back into the city to be their undercover agent. The question is, how does the Penguin take back the city without the Batman notice?
The Penguin #1 is out August 22, but a week earlier, The Penguin #0 is released, collecting the Batman back-up stories by Chip Zdarsky and Belen Ortega. "I didn't know this was going to be a fresh new start for this character," she says about the stories she worked on.
Why can't the Batman villains leave Gotham, asks Abernathy. "There's a very good dialogue with Catwoman at the end of [Penguin #0]" explaining that, says Belen. "There's something about Gotham that makes them comfortable being a villain. We'll find out that the Penguin [tried to escape] but returned to villainy eventually."
Abernathy teases that Tom and Belen could collaborate on a story about the Cobblepot twins, who she co-created with Chip Zdarsky. "You created them? Yeah, let's do it, I'm in!" Tom says.
Belen drew Batman #136, which teases out future developments for Gotham. "I feel I had to make a huge effort to make it work," she says of the end of the issue. "It was one of the best moments of my career in comics. I was very honored to draw that issue."
Now we have a pre-recorded message from Chip Zdarsky. "I'm sorry I can't be there with you in that convention center. In that big room. With all those people. Breathing that same air," he starts. "For some reason I couldn't make it."
Gotham War is "really about Batman and Catwoman sitting down, talking about their hopes and how to make Gotham a better city." Jokes that it's about communication and developing a good fiscal plan. Tini Howard shouts, "eat shit, coward!" at the screen.
And now Tini gets to talk about Catwoman. Her run started with Catwoman decided that she was going to be the greatest criminal possible. "She's got a lot of power and clout on her own, and I wanted to bring that up." This has brought her into conflict with other criminal elements in the city. "Selina Kyle has just returned to being Catwoman after a few issues where she was thrown into the clink" after the events of Catwoman #50. "When the rubble fell, not everyone was alive. As a result, Selina Kyle has spent a couple of months in jail awaiting trial."
Catwoman and Batman "are basically trying to work out what to do with the city. Her criminal empire has basically gotten too big for Batman to ignore." Catwoman is "arguably the most powerful criminal in the city now," but she doesn't want to fight Batman because she thinks she's the best person to be the mob boss of Gotham.
"We plan our stories, and we work together. We're totally in sync," Tini says about working with Chip on Batman. "Despite everything you've seen, I really do like working with Chip."
"We're not bringing [Batman and Catwoman] together for this event because we hate them and we want them to fight, we're doing it because we love these characters," Tini says. In response to fans asking why they can't be happy, "the question is, what does happy mean to everyone?"
Tini says that she's making her favorite kind of comics, "which is soap operas! Soap operas with hot people in spandex! Which is also kind of wrestling."
"The end of Gotham War, out of it comes the Catwoman event I've wanted to write since before I was a Catwoman writer," Tini teases. "It's the story I've wanted to give to Gotham all my life."
Ram V is talking about Detective Comics now. "So far, I've tried to come up with really inventive ways of putting Batman through the wringer. The third act, we go through the metaphorical death and rebirth of your central character."
"When we started off this arc, there were so many intepretations of Barbatos through the DC canon. I liked playing with the idea of the character as Bruce's demon," Ram says. "We're finally getting to the point where [giving in to Barbatos] is the only option left."
Future issues of Detective will be drawn by Dustin Nguyen and Jason Shawn Alexander. The Batman: Outlaw arc will be "very western-theme and inspired" and feature a group of cowboys having to save the Dark Knight.
Ram just announced that he's signing an exclusive DC contract for two years!
Now we're look at a teaser video for... something. The DC logo is coming up...
It's a teaser for Batman: Gargoyle of Gotham, and it's WONDERFUL. Hopefully it'll show up online somewhere soon. Rafael Grampa is here to talk about the series.
"This is the first time that I'm sitting at this table at San Diego Comic-Con," Grampa says. "Working on Batman is a childhood dream. I've loved this character since I was a kid. I thought this character worked a lot to be Batman, but he didn't work to be Bruce Wayne. He didn't know how to be Bruce Wayne. There was a question of, what happens when he realizes that he doesn't need Bruce Wayne?"
"For this project, I wanted to add to Batman's origin," he says. It's an Elseworlds book where Batman "kills" the Bruce Wayne identity because Gotham is getting worse and worse. "Because of an investigation, he's starting to understand that he doesn't know who is Bruce Wayne. He's starting to discover some origins about his own life, his parents..."
"I never read a story about the day Bruce Wayne was born," Rafael says. "This is a big element to the story of how he became Batman. I'm bringing a lot more about his relationship with his mother, instead of with his father."
"I had to create new villains to tell this story," Rafael says, crediting Andrea Shea as "the best editor ever" that he's worked with. "Writing and drawins a story, you feel very alone," he says, "it's so cool sending the pages and getting the feedback. She gets it."
One of the reasons DC approved the book, Rafael says, is because of the new villains he's created for the book. "I cannot say too much." The crowd has just received an exclusive ashcan from artwork of the first issue, and it really looks great. "So my wife noticed something that I didn't when I drew this," he says about the cover to the first issue, holding it upside down. "It's a bat!"
"The character starts to make choices, you just follow," says Rafael. "I'm imagining you drawing in a black cape," Ram jokes, to which Rafael responds, "I do! It's strange, but it's comfortable." He adds that he does make his wife pose in a blanket to get the art right.
There are six new villains in the series, and we're seeing three: The Virgin, who has "paranormal powers, and she can see what she thinks is the evil in people... and she kills people before they commit crimes. It's Catholic Minority Report," he jokes. Triton is another villain, who is a character Rafael has had in his head since he was a teenager. He cries before he does anything bad, "so if you see him crying, run," he says. He's inspired by old Looney Toons cartoons. The final one is "Moth-er" (maybe "Moth-r"? Rafael was clear to differentiate it from "mother"), who is "the king of the moths."
The new series is "so special... it's very hard to create original Batman stories," Rafael says. "I hope you guys like Gargoyle of Gotham." The crowd gets into spontaneous applause!
Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing are talking now, introducing Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic, which is released next week. "We're all in a Batman horror mode right now," says Jackson. "When we did [Batman Beyond" Neo-Year], we had no expectations of continuing beyond those six issues," but the new series comes out explicitly because of the success of that first series. That first series was "about us trying to take this [series] that had been mired in trying to replicate the cartoon and finding a way to take it to its next level." Terry is "no longer the apprentice Batman," Collin says. "What can you do next?" says Jackson about the new series.
"Terry McGinnis throwing himself into Batman," Jackson says, as he takes on the mantle 24/7. What does it meant to being the only man who can fully explore the darkness on the underworld below Neo-Gotham. "Facing the buried sins, not just of Batman, but Gotham in general." Collin calls it the "under-Goth."
The Batman Beyond Killer Croc will debut in the series as well as the Batman Beyond version of the Court of Owls... a version that is "rotting" in the bowels of the undercity. "This book gives us the chance to experiment a lot more," Jackson says, saying that it was inspired by Grant Morrison.
Kyle Selina 047 is a splicer who's "fallen between the cracks" and lives in the undercity. "He's the Robin to Batman" in this series, and he's the tragic heart of Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic, with Jackson teasing that he's going to make us all cry.
And here's an announcement from Jackson and Collin: in the aftermath of Gotham War, two characters are going to be disillusioned with the whole idea of superheroing and what that means. So they're going to try something a little bit differently. "Looking into the history of the DC Universe," Jackson is teasing it. "It's an archaeology book." It's called Outsiders, with art by Robert Carey, with a cover featuring Batwoman and Luke Fox.
"DC has had so many crisises, but that is universes that have fallen apart. But what could have survived? What could have fallen in the cracks?" asks Collin. Jackson says that it's taking a lot of Star Trek's attitude of approaching the unknown with empathy in approaching how to explore the new and hidden parts of the DCU.
"This is the book we've been trying to do for a really long time," Jackson says. Ben says that Jackson and Collin pitched the book to him at SDCC last year, based on a pitch of Ben asking for a Batwoman/Batwing series. "We're really excited. Obviously, the Outsiders have a legacy, but this is something new," says Collin. "We love the Outsiders, but if your question is, 'when is blank showing up?' I'm sorry, they're not," says Jackson.
And with that speedy pitch, we're done! Thanks for reading along, and keep an eye out on Popverse for all the other panels we're going to be covering over the weekend.