Now that The New 52: Futures End has passed its 10th issue, readers have begun to understand that the five-years-in-the-future DCU has gone through a lot of changes.
But there are also a lot of things readers don't understand yet, as co-writers Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire move forward multiple story threads that come together in the weekly's remaining eight months.
In the debut issue of Futures End, Batman Beyond (Terry McGinnis) barely escaped Brother Eye's world domination in a dystopian future 35 years from now. At the end of the issue, Terry traveled back in time to five years in the future. Since then, readers have been learning what the DC universe might be like in five years.
Newsarama has already gotten some information from the writers about what's coming up in the series.
But there are still plenty of mysteries in the story, as well as questions about what this weekly series (and others) are setting up for the future of the DCU (particularly, in March 2015 when all the weeklies end).
Newsarama talked to Giffen and Jurgens to ask about the series, and we found out that Azzarello's the one who proposed the "five years later" setting, the New Gods play a role in the future, and the Earth 2: World's End weekly was not part of the original plans for Futures End.
Newsarama: Keith and Dan, let's start out with the discovery of Big Barda. Can you say how much of a role she plays going forward, and whether any other characters from the New God pantheon are part of the story?
Keith Giffen: Big Barda is part of the story, and Mr. Miracle and Fury, who have roles to play in the CADMUS Island story.
The greater New Gods, right now, are just spice. I don't think any of the New Gods are major players in the story. Dan?
Dan Jurgens: In terms of the story as it exists now, that would generally be somewhat correct.
In terms of the story where we end up, they become bigger players.
Nrama: Oh, that's a good hint. But Keith, did we see Big Barda before on CADMUS Island? I think some readers were under the impression she was there?
Giffen: That was somebody else.
Nrama: Was it the girl running away?
Giffen: No, no, no. That's Fury. That's Fury.
Nrama: So who did you say "was somebody else?"
Giffen: A lot of people were wondering if the woman in the cell next door to Hawkwoman might have been Big Barda. But no, that's Rita Farr.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about Brother Eye and the revelation that Mr. Terrific has gotten ahold of technology from 35 years in the future. And Brother Eye has access to that technology. Is this a Terminator type of time travel loops being created here?
Jurgens: To a certain extent, because some of it is, as soon as we had Terry McGinnis, Batman Beyond, come back into this time, we started to set up the potential of that. You always have that sort of paradox that inherently is built into these things.
But, obviously, as we established in issue #0, Brother Eye is the ultimate bad guy threat here, just because of what we see 35 years from now. So to answer your question, yes.
Nrama: Michael Holt seems like a bit more of a jerk in the future. Is there a good reason he's a bit of a jerk? Or are we reading too much into his attitude?
Giffen: I don't know if he's a jerk. He's certainly a variation on Mr. Terrific. But then Brian Azzarello has a tendency to come in and add layers to a character.
Jurgens: I think some of what you're seeing here is, the last time you would have been familiar with Mr. Terrific would have been — just DCU timeline-wise — five years ago. And we have a lot of characters who have been through a lot of changes in this five year gap.
Brian, I think, is getting into an aspect of the character that we really haven't necessarily seen before, and writing him, I would say… not using the "jerk" line, and more of an "edge" to him than what we've seen before.
And he's clearly become a much more pre-eminent hero, character in the DC Universe five years from now, and that's how Brian sees the character. And some of what you're seeing reflected there are those changes.
Nrama: OK, is it OK if I call this masked Superman a bit of a jerk?
Jurgens: I don't think of him as a jerk, but again, he's certainly different and has a bit of an edge to him. But go ahead…
Nrama: Well, because he has a mask on, people obviously wonder who's inside the suit. And I said he was a bit of a jerk, but maybe that's heavy-handed. He breaks things and approaches things a little more harshly than we'd expect from Superman, and says some things that we wouldn't expect to come from Superman. Are those clues to his identity behind the mask?
Jurgens: The word I use is direct, and I think any time you see a character do anything, or you hear a character speak or read his word balloons, whatever it might be — all those things should offer insight into who that character is, and why he might be doing what he's doing.
And to emphasize again, we're dealing with a world — a post-war world — that has to be different and has to have changed these characters somehow.
And yes, this Superman you're seeing now is more direct than the Superman you would have been familiar with five years earlier.
Giffen: Yeah, he's a jerk.
Nrama: Is there a story reason he's wearing the mask, beyond just hiding his identity?
Jurgens: There is a reason he's wearing the suit he's wearing. And all of that is building to a reveal, I think, in issue #17.
There is absolutely a reason he is wearing the suit, beyond just "gee it looks stylistically nice."
So absolutely. And that's coming up with the revelation point in issue #17.
Nrama: We've seen these symbols that seem to indicate Brainiac. Can you guys confirm that's what those symbols mean?
Giffen: There's a lot of foreshadowing going on, and I think to confirm or not confirm anything at this point would spoil any reveal.
But keep in mind, a lot of the things going on in this book are leading down one path, just to veer off on another. So we're very unreliable narrators. Let's put it that way.
Nrama: Keith, obviously, you are very familiar with Kevin Kho, and you're populating CADMUS Island with OMACs. Is there any chance we'll see Kevin in this weekly?
Giffen: There's always a chance. Kevin was an OMAC, so he might show up. But then again, he's a different OMAC, so he might not. We just don't want to give away too much.
Nrama: Are you the one who came up with Fifty Sue?
Giffen: I came up with the character, but Dan, correct me if this is wrong — I believe it was Brian Azzarello who came up with the name?
Jurgens: I think so, and ultimately, the way we've been working is that we all sat in a room, when that stuff was kind of put together, and we all share in it equally.
And that goes for the bad stuff as well as the good stuff.
Nrama: Equal credit and equal blame.
Jurgens: Yeah. But primarily, it was Keith who started to describe the character, and yeah, I think it was Brian who jokingly said "Fifty Sue."
And we all said, oh, that's too good not to use.
Giffen: So if anyone has a problem with the name Fifty Sue… Brian Azzarello!
Nrama: Well, I love the character, and I think she brings a lot of humor to that portion of the story, mainly because she's a little girl who's pretty egotistical about her powers. Are we going to find out more about her, or was she just inserted to make the Grifter story more interesting? Can you expand on her role?
Giffen: She's there for a definite, definite reason. It's funny, because it was Dan who actually said to me at one point, you know, when you're done with the CADMUS Island thing, you might want to tell people who Fifty Sue is.
So yeah, because I was doing a character and getting such a kick out of the character, I totally blanked and didn't even bother with an origin or background or anything.
But I will. You'll find out a lot about her.
And yes, she's in the book for a very, very specific reason.
Nrama: Dan DiDio had told Newsarama readers that Futures End sets the stage for Earth 2: World's End, and that the two of them together set the stage for what comes next in the DCU. When you put together the story, did you know what kind of things you'd have to seed in there what's coming up in the DCU? Was it a challenge to work it in there as part of the story?
Giffen: Eh, screw them.
Jurgens: [Laughs.] Any time you have to blend in two weeklies, it is always going to require some hurdles in the beginning, but I think we have it all figured out to the point where it really is going to work well.
Giffen: When we first started talking about Futures End, there were two weeklies — there was Futures End and Batman Eternal.
But one of the things you learn when you're on a weekly, and you learn it fast, is to be quick on your feet, think outside the box, and be ready for anything that comes to you.
So once World's End gestated and became the third book, then it's just a matter of keeping the lines of communication open.
Nrama: I'm also wondering about your thought process as you came up with the teams — like Grifter with Fifty Sue, or Hawkman, Frankenstein and Amethyst. And what are you hoping to do with the teams we'll see interacting in the future of the title?
Giffen: The weird thing is, even though I don't think it was planned, each one of the storylines has somehow become about relationships. Either Grifter and Deathstroke and Fifty Sue, or Tim Drake and Madison, or even, in a weird, kind of twisted way, Batman Beyond and Brother Eye or Alfred or his absentee relationship with Batman — these stories, at their heart, are about people with other people in their lives, and their issues.
It wasn't planned that way, but it just kind of gravitated around there. I think everybody's got things some interesting things to say, some interesting things to offer when it comes to interpersonal relationships as the story goes on.
Jurgens: One of the things that happened is… it was Brian who first kind of floated the idea of, "What if we set this story five years in the future?"
And when we started to talk about that, that's when we started talking about the characters that we might use, and who could have changed in five years? In some cases, there were real reasons for it. In other cases, it as kind of like — and I think, Keith, this is where you were with Grifter, which is, well that's someone who could have gone through some changes in five years. Let's see what those are and how he fits in.
In some cases, they've changed because of the war. Other times, it's because of their mission or whatever it might be.
But we kind of played with it, in terms of who might fit and who might work, and it ended up taking off from there.
Giffen: It may sound corny, but eventually, these characters do kind of start writing themselves. And that's been the case here.