Highlights from the Windy City

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It’s been a wild couple of days at Chicago’s own comics convention and in addition to the expected announcements and hype, there have been a few exciting surprises along the way. While technical difficulties threatened to thwart our efforts (personally, I blame gremlins. Or maybe Superboy-Prime), Broken Frontier is proud to bring you our report on some of the highlights of the con so far.

DC Nation/New Worlds Order

The words on everyone’s lips are of course Final Crisis, the upcoming miniseries by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones. Still very little is known about it but it is said to close out the three-tiered arc of the DC Universe that began with Identity Crisis several years back. Other anticipated series include Salvation Run, which will send many of DC’s villains to an extra-planetary prison colony, ala a galactic Australia, and Countdown: Arena, a Multiverse-spanning story that will pit alternate versions of characters against each other to win a place in Monarch’s army. Arena has the added attraction of fans being able to vote for the winners of said conflicts.

Many upcoming projects and creative team changes were referenced, including a new (as yet unnamed) writer for Legion of Superheroes with Francis Manapul on art. Will Pfeifer promised "big changes" for Catwoman and that "everything will be explained" in his miniseries Amazons Attack. J. Torres will be writing a six issue Wonder Girl mini. Torres was praised by Coordinating Editor Jann Jones for his ability to write realistic and authentic teenage girls, despite being "a dude." Jones is in fact teaming up with Torres for the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Planner, which she proudly proclaimed "the girliest book ever" but fun for all nonetheless.

The Sinestro Corps crossover in the Green Lantern books now stands revealed as merely the second part of a projected trilogy by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver (GL: Rebirth was part one). Green Lantern #25 promises a 10 page preview of the upcoming third chapter of the trilogy, due in 2009.

One of the big announcements was an expansion of the all-ages Johnny DC line to include the Mini Marvels-esque Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar, said to based off the DCU Titans’ favorite animated show. Johnny DC will also unveil Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam by Mike Kunkel (of Herobear and the Kid), a continuation of sorts of the classic style Shazam world established by Jeff Smith. Rounding out the line is a new version of Super Friends based on the Mattel toy line and written by Sholly Fisch. All of these titles represent a commitment on DC’s part to creating fun, light-hearted series that can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike.

Marvel: Civil War and Remembrance

The big news that’s no doubt already sweeping the net is the announcement that Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch will be teaming together on Fantastic Four. These two founding fathers of the Ultimate Universe will be applying their craft to the mainstream Marvel versions of the characters for the first time. Millar has said that he has drastically changed his style for this venture, moving away from the big screen blockbuster approach to a blend of the epic and mundane, emphasizing the family drama and almost soap opera-like quality of the FF.

While the juxtaposition of the cosmic superhero elements with ordinary family dynamics is of great appeal to the writer, he is also hoping to aim for unpredictability. Millar wants new ideas to be the norm once again for FF and he hopes to honor the tradition of change and reinvention started by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Millar also spoke about his upcoming miniseries 1985, a spiritual sequel to Marvel’s Secret Wars, set a year after those events. So far, it’s been one of the more satisfying projects the writer has worked on. Millar is teaming with Tommy Lee Edwards for the series and believes that the book will be a star turn for Edwards. Preview art teased with the narration that "In 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Marvel Universe. Or so they thought…" Title cards projected onto the screen however seemed convinced that the Scottish writer was mostly interested in "blah, blah, blah, Civil War" and "sheep," on the other hand.

The Dark Knight

I was among the lucky fans who managed to gain access to the much anticipated "secret" panel of the con—DC’s unveiling of footage from the upcoming Warner Bros. film, The Dark Knight. Those who arrived in time to retrieve a wristband and official t-shirt were instructed to leave all cell phones and recording devices behind. What followed was not only the special screening but a star-studded panel/Q&A that included director Christopher Nolan, co-writers David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan, and stars Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Aaron Eckhart.

The cast and crew were thrilled and honored by the reception they had received during the filming of Batman Begins, both from Chicagoans in general and from the ecstatic reaction of Wizard World attendees of the previous screening. Nolan and company made a point of coming back to Chicago to film as many on location shots as possible and to hold another Wizard World preview.

The panel examined the essence of the Batman characters and mythos that had to be translated to film and conversely, how the sensibilities of the Batman Begins interpretation would be applied to the source material in the adaptation.

I’ve been sworn to secrecy over what was actually in the footage but based on the evidence, movie-goers and comics fans will be very pleased by this second outing of the franchise. The panel promised that Heath Ledger’s Joker would blow audiences away and Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent may be experiencing a certain skin condition, shall we say…

# # #

All this plus yours truly joining a team of fans that stood in for Mark Waid at the "Ask Mr. Silver Age" trivia contest (we didn’t win but we held our own, by Rao!) has led to an eventful convention weekend thus far. Only time will tell what Sunday will bring.

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