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NEW YORK -- The countdown to Countdown is on.

DC Comics went public with its new weekly series Countdown on Friday at its DC Nation Panel at New York Comic Con. Giving away pins -- a set of five will be available throughout the show -- that hit upon touchstones of the series, the publisher also revealed touchstone themes and images on large cards in front of the crowd during the panel.

DCU executive editor Dan DiDio led the panel, which featured Countdown writer Paul Dini, Countdown editor Mike Marts, artist Keith Giffen, coordinating editor Jann Jones and vice president-sales Bob Wayne.

The five touchstones included:

* "Jimmy Olsen must die."

"Jimmy Olsen hasn't been used fully and we want to bring him back into the limelight," DiDio said.

* "Seduction of the Innocent" centers on Mary Marvel.

"Mary Marvel is at the crossroads, looking for a path," Dini said. "She finds one in several new mentors. It's her heroes' journey through the DC Universe, which takes some suprising turns."

* "The Search for Ray Palmer."

"We like to use the tagline, 'The smallest man is the biggest piece of the puzzle,'" DiDio said.

* Villains Defiant," which showed that arms to two costumed characters chained together.

"These are two contentious villains who are shackled together who shouldn't be together," Dini said, adding they will go through "the underbelly" of the DCU.

* "Unto Man Shall Come a Great Disaster," which featured the top of Darkseid's head.

In other highlights from the panel:

* Giffen is performing the same function in Countdown as he did in 52, providing breakdowns for the pencilers. Dini will oversee writing with the various contributors and is writing the first issue.

* Countdown will take place in real time. "It will be the spine of the DCU for 2007 and take place across the line," DiDio said.

* DiDio said DC is trying to improve its on-time status with books, which will become even more important with Countdown as part of the current events in the DCU.

"We're working very hard to get our schedule back on time," DiDio said. "It's our promise right now, to the best of our ability, to get books out on time."

* "We'll see a lot of interaction between Countdown and the DC Universe books," Marts said.

* Countdown will start with 51, a week after 52 Week 52 on May. It will include a zero issue for 52 weekly comics.

* Wayne said Countdown issues will cost $2.99.

* DiDio said DC is looking into doing something with Lobo.

* Manhunter has earned a second reprieve, DiDio announced. The book will not be canceled, a previously solicited.

* DiDio said there will be 3-4 spin-offs from 52 that "will be announced shortly."

* Asked about elements of Kingdom Come in Countdown, DiDio said, "We'd be foolish not to tap into that in some way or form."

* DiDio said there will be no Vertigo characters in the DCU because they are part of mature reader books.

* DiDio said there won't be Teen Titans versions of Green Lantern and Hawkman because those characters are basically members of police forces.

* Dini said even with his Countdown duties, he will continue writing Detective Comics.

* Asked about the final fate of Ralph Dibny in the recent of issue of 52, DiDio said "that's a story still to be told."

* DiDio on Flash: "It's not as directionless as it seems."

* DiDio went to editors in the crowd when asked about Supergirl. Janine Schafer said that writer Joe Kelly is trying to break down the character before building her up and Peter Tomasi said Supergirl will be in the third issue of World War III.

* Asked about Wonder Woman, DiDio said he has signed off on #5 and #6, and #7 and #8 are almost finished.

The story originally slated for Wonder Woman #5, the end of the run by Allan Heinberg and Terry Dodson, will now be released as a 48-page special.

DiDio stressed that the new Wonder Woman #5 story will not be a throaway and will tie in Countdown.

* DiDio said he couldn't say who the next new writer of Wonder Woman will be.

* Captain Carrot is returning in a three-issue mini-series by Bill Morrison and Scott Shaw! in Captain Carrot and the Final Ark. According to Jones, the villain of the story will be Ra's al-Pica.

* Sean McKeever is writing more than Countdown in his new exclusive with DC, but DiDio said he can't yet provide specifics.

* Artist Mike Norton signed an exclusive with DC, his first such deal with a publisher.

* Returning to the issue of timely publishing, DiDio said, "We are reestablishing a lot of guys on the book to make sure they come out on time."

* Asked if the Monitors will be involved in Countdown, Dini said, "Yeah."

* Al Barrinuevo is the new artist of Teen Titans.

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