DC’s New Age of Heroes Panel Discusses Firebrand’s Origins and a Final Crisis Villain’s Return [SDCC]

Words and Photos courtesy of Bleeding Cool’s Mike Sangregorio:

Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con saw some of the creators involved with the New Age of Heroes line that spun out of DC’s Metal discuss their current and future plans. The panel was moderated by Marie Javins, comic editor and colorist, and included Dan DiDio, James Tynion IV, Ryan Benjamin, Robert Venditti, and Steve Orlando.

Orlando is writing The Unexpected, which features new interpretations of existing characters Neon the Unknown and Firebrand. He remarked that “Jody Houser likes to say that I was bitten by a radioactive Who’s Who” and “re-imagination is integral to DC, going back to Barry Allen being a brand-new version of the Flash.” He described Neon as “Paul Pope meets Doctor Strange” and reminded fans that he has a connection to the World Forge from Metal. “Neon is an artist. The world is his art.”

Firebrand is someone who is meant to have survived on the fringe, unseen and between-the-panels, for so long (including the events of Final Crisis and Forever Evil) but still saved lives. She did all of that just to have her heart replaced with the Conflict Engine, a device that requires her to do something terrible every 24 hours to survive.

Orlando confirmed that Mandrakk, one of the main villains from Final Crisis, will be returning. Neon’s enemy is Alden Quench, described as Mandrakk’s harbinger. “Mandrakk is his master and tormenter.” Quench is “similar to the Master from Doctor Who” in that he knows something awful is coming and he is driven mad by that. He is visually based on Johnny Depp from the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico, according to Ryan Sook, artist of the Unexpected.

Orlando, as a young writer in 1998, had discussed writing with legendary creator John Ostrander. Wanting to know how he worked so well with his collaborator Tom Mandrake on the Martian Manhunter title, Ostrander pointed out that he had already worked with him on the Spectre and that the best work comes from working together over time.

Vendetti is writing Damage, a book about someone who wanted to become a superhero but received abilities that only work for one hour and require him to recuperate for the remainder of the day. Vendetti described Damage as “walking destruction wherever he goes” and says that the plot is driven “mostly by what artist Tony Daniel wants to draw.” It will be revealed that classic DC war character the Unknown Soldier has been working with Damage from the beginning. Vendetti is a huge fan of the property and is overjoyed that he can work with the character. The Damage Annual will feature a cover by Aaron Lopresti.

Tynion had Jim Lee pitch him the Immortal Man, which was something he was not expecting, and it gradually became the Immortal Men. Lee designed the characters but Benjamin provides art for the series. Tynion thinks of the series as “if the Matrix was a Final Fantasy game that came out as an early WildStorm comic.” The title features various ‘houses’ filled with immortals who have driven the course of human history. The Batman Who Laughs is in the book and “may appear again soon.”

Benjamin recalled that during the days of WildStorm he and other artists would draw scenes and then stand-up and act them out. When asked why he never became an actor, Benjamin replied that he would much rather be behind the camera.

DiDio was late to the panel because he was in Hall H watching the Aquaman movie trailer. “If there was ever a time I wanted to have Sideways’ power it was then!” He asked that no one watch the trailer now during this panel but that they should “go to a Marvel panel and watch DC stuff there. No, I’m just kidding… don’t go to a Marvel panel.”

DiDio thinks that Infinity War was a great movie and that it proves that the movies “are doing comics better than the comics.” As the writer of the series, he wanted to create Sideways because he felt that all existing “DC teen heroes were the same age, on the same team, and all sounded the same. Sideways should be about how actual teens sound.”

When pressed on the fact that he last went to high school during the 1970s, DiDio responded that this is why he enlisted co-writer Justin Jordan — to better provide actual dialogue. Actual teens confuse him what with the “sitting directly next to each other and still texting instead of just talking!” DiDio admits that he has no fond memories of high school, which he attended in Brooklyn, and that his “assigned seat was on the radiator which was not fun during the winter.”

DiDio wants to use the New Age of Heroes to “fill in the gaps of the DCU.” He claims that this is similar to 1968 when characters such as Metamorpho and Deadman were popular. “That was 50 years ago, and I want Sideways to be around for another 50 years. We’re forging new territory in an era where everyone is going after nostalgia.”

A character from Sideways named the Tempus Fuginaut was apparently just a silly name that DiDio came up with until artist Ken Rocafort designed him and then he became someone DiDio wanted to use again in a more substantial way.

Regarding the series’ main character, DiDio points out that he is not meant to be particularly heroic at this early stage of his career. DiDio is more interested in exploring “how do people learn to be heroes? In some cases he’s the hero and in some ways he is not. He’s not doing heroic things. This is about his evolution. We grow and evolve with him.”

DiDio will be working with Grant Morrison on this year’s Sideways Annual. Morrison once told him that “every story matters” and that their job as creators is to mine them and polish up what they find. The issue will return Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, his version of Superman from the New 52 Action Comics, and the Dark Multiverse from the Metal series.

In answering the question of what the working relationship is with his editor on the series DiDio responded “it’s tough. Publisher Dan can overrule the Editor who can overrule Writer Dan.”

A young fan asked when he might see “The New Age of Villains” and suggested that Captain Cold be one to be reinvented. All of the panelists appeared to agree that this was a great idea. Someone suggested giving the kid a job immediately.

Another fan asked about the possibility of a Crisis or Zero Hour type of event happening to the line. DiDio believes that type of story “is an end” and that it is many years away, if it ever were to come. He believes that “we do not want to limit our potential, we want to grow our potential.”

Gallery of panel photos available below.

About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.