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Yes, DC Comics insists at WonderCon, you can write a fresh Superman story

Yes, DC Comics insists at WonderCon, you can write a fresh Superman story
Celebrating 80 years of Superman and "Action Comics" No. 1000. (DC Comics)

With announcements for new teams of writers and artists for their relaunched books, and its homage to Action Comics and Superman, DC Comics had a looming presence at this weekend's WonderCon in Anaheim.

For a Friday panel celebrating 80 years of Superman, DC brought in artists and writers who helped shape the Man of Steel — and will have a hand in doing so in the future.

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Though writer Brian Michael Bendis, who will write the Man of Steel comic book on its relaunch, wasn't in attendance, there were more than enough panelists to talk Superman, including Action Comics team Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, DC Publisher and artist Jim Lee, Jason Fabok ("Man of Steel" miniseries), Alex Sinclair and Marv Wolfman.The panel also produced one of the weekend's best giveaways: red trunk Superman underwear.

Jurgens, who famously wrote the death of Superman story line, was asked how, after 80 years, anyone would be able to tell a fresh Superman story.

"The way to always tell the most compelling Superman story is to get in touch with the human aspect of who he is — the Clark Kent aspect, if you will," Jurgens said. "Which then gets into the question of 'Why is Superman doing this?' 'Why does he do what he does?' If you make that character part of the theme, ideally then that starts to fit into any good Superman story."

And, of course, there is the Batman factor. "This is pointed out all the time," Jurgens said. "He is an intrinsically different character than Batman. Their motivations are different. But if you start to build that as the core of the story, make that character the core of the story, that's how you can find new things to say with Superman."

The panelists went down the line and named their favorite Superman artist. Among them were José Luis García-López, John Byrne and Silver-Age artist Curt Swan.

But after praising Swan and his ability to draw Superman in a way that made him known worldwide, DC's Lee had a different favorite to mention.

"When I draw Superman, sometimes it looks like him, and sometimes it doesn't. You just erase it and start again," said Lee. "I think the modern era of art has more of a graphical influence in that it can look different from scene to scene with a little more pliability in the way they're presented. I was more of a Neal Adams fan. He took the perfection that Curt Swan had done with Superman and he made the hair fly in the wind a little bit. It just felt more real and alive."

Wolfman, creator of Blade and the Teen Titans, recounted a story that made the audience cringe. As a child, he toured DC with some friends, and they encountered someone wheeling a cache of original art to be incinerated. The crowd gasped, but he told them not to worry. He and his friends "dove in like Scrooge McDuck" and grabbed many pages of the art. One of them will be on display in the new "Action Comics" No. 1000 book that comes out in April.

Red underwear meant to symbolize the return of the red trunks worn by Superman were given out after a Friday panel celebrating 80 years of Superman.
Red underwear meant to symbolize the return of the red trunks worn by Superman were given out after a Friday panel celebrating 80 years of Superman. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)

Pages from "Action Comics" No. 1000 — or the act of creating those pages — have been on display on Lee's Twitch channel. Before the panel honoring Superman, Lee held court in his own drawing panel and mentioned that he'd drawn a few images from the book and the cover while conducting his late-night video sessions, adding that he's "allowed to."

On Saturday, Lee, alongside co-publisher Dan DiDio and writer Scott Snyder, touted new DC comics and broke a bit of comics news in their live-streamed panel.

— Two all-new Justice League titles will debut from the May miniseries, each featuring new team rosters: "Justice League Dark" will be written by James Tynion with art by Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez (inker) and Brad Anderson (colors). "Justice League: Odyssey" will be written by Joshua Williamson, with art by Stjepan Sejic. Both titles are scheduled to launch in June.

— Adam Glass, writer for the popular TV shows "Supernatural" and "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders" will join artist Bernard Chang as the new talent team for "Teen Titans" beginning with issue No. 20 in June. In addition to Damian Wayne (Robin) leading Kid Flash and Red Arrow into new adventures, several completely new characters will be added, including the daughter of the Main Man, Lobo.

Comic books "The Dreaming" and "House of Whispers" in the Sandman Universe of comics.
Comic books "The Dreaming" and "House of Whispers" in the Sandman Universe of comics. (Vertigo Comics / DC Comics)

— Vertigo and DC Black Label Executive Editor Mark Doyle, along with guest Nalo Hopkinson, who will write the "House of Whispers" comic, gave an interior look at Bilquis Evely's work for "The Sandman Universe" No. 1, which will be available Aug. 8.

— Mad magazine Executive Editor Bill Morrison talked about what fans can expect from the new version of the longtime humor magazine. Artist Sergio Aragones, known for "A Mad Look at …," reflected on his career and the new-look Mad. Fans got a tease of what the book will look like as a new wraparound cover for "Mad" No. 1, featuring a new logo, was revealed. It will go on sale April 17.

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