Not a seat was spared as fans crammed together at the DC Batman panel to get insight from their favorite writers and artists, including Batman author and convention superstar Scott Snyder, clearly a favorite here. DC dished on the future of their Batman line and also gave every attendee their own Owl mask, so everyone in the room could now dress like Batman's greatest villains. ("Do me a favor and wear those to any Marvel panels you go to," said DC VP of Sales Bob Wayne.)
Batman: A lot of time in this panel was spent talking about DC's upcoming "Zero Month" in September, in which every issue will take a step back from its current action to focus on a charater's origin. Scott Snyder mentioned that this was a particular challenge for Batman, since Bruce Wayne's origin had been told so many times before. However, Snyder said that he found some spaces within Frank Miller's classic Year One graphic novel to write something new. We're entering a surprisingly different Gotham, he said, that will show us a different Bruce Wayne physically, emotionally, and technologically. He'll also have different villains; Snyder teased that the #0 issue would feature the Red Hood Gang, who have a special connection to the origin of the Joker.
That connection's probably not an accident, since issue #13 kicks off a giant Joker story. Snyder said the tale would be a love-letter to everything great about the character, who's his favorite villain in all of fiction. He explained that the Joker sees himself as Batman's court jester; it's his job to deliver terrible news to the Dark Knight in an effort to make him stronger. This time, though, Joker's not limiting the bad news just to Batman: he's taking his fight to the whole Bat-family, and we'll see Joker enact awful plans against Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and more. Snyder is clearly ridiculously excited about this story, which he calls his Killing Joke or Arkham Asylum. "It's the biggest, darkest, craziest Joker story we can do."
Jumping back a bit, Snyder said that Batman #12 would be kind of a breather between the Owls and the Joker; the story will focus on Harper Rowe, a young, troubled Gotham woman that eagle-eyed readers would have spotted in Batman #1 and #7. This issue will be drawn by indie comics star Becky Cloonan.
Talon: Even though the Court of Owls story has wrapped up in Batman, it's not over yet. Snyder and co-writer James Tynion IV will be launching Talon this fall. It's a look at the one trained killer for the Court of Owls who ever managed to escape. Appropriately, he also used to be an escape artist for the circus (Haley's Circus, maybe?). Snyder says that the story spun out of unused material he'd come up with for Batman and will have something of a DaVinci Code-esque feel. The series will be drawn by Guillem March.
Nightwing: Writer Kyle Higgins explained that issue #0 of the title will show how and why Dick Grayson first became Robin and will include a new Robin costume design we've not yet seen in the New 52. Higgins pointed out that Dick's approach to grief is different than Bruce's who, in many ways, never overcame the death of his parents. After the elder Graysons are killed, how can Dick move on? Later on, Snyder's Joker story will cross into Nightwing in issues #15-16.
Dark Knight: Artist/co-plotter David Finch and new writer Gregg Hurwitz were on hand to talk about their next story arc, which features the Scarecrow and aims to find what really makes him work as a villain. This macabre character should suit Finch's dark pencils well. Hurwitz also mentioned that Dark Knight #0 would ominously feature Joe Chill, the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents.
Batwoman: Co-writer/artist JH Williams III said that it was strange to revisit the origin of a new character so quickly, but Batwoman #0 would give us more information than we previously had about the character of Kate Kane, especially by getting in her head and giving us a diary-style narration. After this, the third arc of Batwoman begins with an extended Wonder Woman team-up. DC previewed the cover for one of these issues, and it looked stunning.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Writer Scott Lobdell dropped his usually excitable demeanor to explain his plans for the #0 issue of this title, which is "the saddest thing I've ever written." Kind of a mirror to Nightwing #0, it's a look at why Jason Todd decided to become the second Robin, and according to Lobdell it's really going to tug on our heartstrings.
Batman, Inc: The #0 issue of this title, editor Mike Marts explained, will show the beginnings of Batman's international league of Batmen, which might, you can guess, flash back to Grant Morrison's "Club of Heroes" story from a few years ago. The issue will be co-plotted by Morrison and usual artist Chris Burnham; meanwhile, it'll be drawn by Morrison favorite Frazier Irving. After that, Batman Inc #5 will return to the Satanic future established by Morrison back in Batman #666 five years ago. Here Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce, has taken up the Bat-mantle, and to protect Gotham he's sold his soul to the devil. Why are we jumping back to the future? We'll have to read to find out!
Detective Comics: Current writer Gregg Hurwitz said that #0 would return to Bruce Wayne's year training in Tibet, and it would give a concrete reason why Wayne is so bad at emotional intimacy. Hot. After that, new writer John Layman takes over the title with issue #13. Layman laid out his plans for the book, which sound amazing: fast-paced, exciting, fun, self-contained stories that link up to paint a bigger picture. This sounds a lot like what Paul Dini did with Detective a few years ago and, before that, on Batman: The Animated Series. Layman noted that his first arc would be called "Emperor Penguin," and that if we thought it was a Penguin story we'd be half right.
Catwoman: The book will get a new writer with Ann Nocenti on issue #0, which explores Selina Kyle's past. Afterwards, she, too, will be tangling with the Joker in the present day.
Legends of the Dark Knight: This digital-exclusive Batman series, with stories from Damen Lindelof, Jeff Lemire, Ben Templesmith, and more, will begin to see print in October, though why wait six months when the digital comics are only 99 cents?
Random: During the Q&A portion of the panel, DC mentioned that a Riddler story would be coming, though when and in what book was left unstated. Also, one fan asked probably the best question possible: "You do so many dark, twisted things to Batman. How do you sleep with yourselves at night?"