By the end of August, readers of The New 52: Futures End will find out who's inside the masked Superman suit. But even though fans have to wait for the reveal, there's been plenty of guessing going on.
In recent weeks, we've seen some new clues to the hero's identity, but it's still tough to call. The only thing we know for sure is, five years in a "possible" future, there's someone wearing Superman costume with a helmet that covers his face.
"There is a reason he's wearing the suit he's wearing," Futures End co-writer Dan Jurgens told Newsarama last month. "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.'"
It's also apparent that this Superman doesn't act like the one who's currently in the New 52 universe.
First off, there's his attitude — he's rather destructive of property when seeking justice, and his dialogue comes across as blunt and rude, particularly compared to the way we expect Superman to sound. When Newsarama pointed out that the masked Superman is a "bit of a jerk," Jurgens said:
"I don't think of him as a jerk, but again, he's certainly different and has a bit of an edge to him… 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 — 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."
And then there's the fact that Lois Lane — although followed and protected by masked Superman — does not believe the man under the mask in five years is the same Superman who is now in the New 52. And if anyone can read a "fake," it's an investigative reporter like Lois (who also knows a thing or two about Superman, even in the New 52).
DC also recently released a cover for Futures End #22 that depicts, according to solicitation copy, the world finding out Superman's identity. Although the lightning and the rock at his feet might be only figurative — symbolizing the storm that will follow Masked Superman's exposure to the public — there could also be a clue or two on the cover.
Whatever his identity, the writers of the series — including Jurgens, Keith Giffen, Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire — must think the reveal in issue #17 is pretty significant, since it's the last issue before the whole DCU shifts into the "five years later" timeframe for the Futures End event in September.
With all these clues in mind, we came up with a few of the leading candidates for the identity of the Futures End Masked Superman:
New 52 Superman
Argument For: Jurgens specifically said that the war "changed" characters. Maybe that's a hint that this is actually New 52 Superman, and his attitude is the result of devastating loss during the War between worlds.
The reason for the mask? Perhaps his face is scarred, or maybe his body is damaged from the battles in a way that requires him to wear protection (maybe from the yellow sun?).
Against: First off, this would be a bit of a let-down for readers who have been guessing about the character's identity, so we have to think the writers would be reluctant to go that route.
Plus it's hard to believe that the current Superman would be quite so destructive and rude in his pursuit of justice, only a few years later. Yes, war is hell, but surely that would change Superman's tactics or feelings — not the way he talks or the way he fights.
Earth 2 Clark
Argument For: In the current time period, the Earth 2 Superman has been turned by Darkseid into something evil and twisted. Currently, in the Earth 2 series, he's helping Darkseid take over the earth, and he's been really horrible — killing many of his friends, and even his own father.
If there's some part of him that can be redeemed, and if he made it off Earth 2 onto Prime Earth, he would probably be so ashamed of his actions on Earth 2 that he would hide himself.
It would explain his protectiveness of Lois Lane (they were married on Earth 2), and it's also supported by the fact that this Superman is more destructive and rude — Earth 2 Superman has been genetically manipulated by Darkseid, so would have been altered in a way that would change him, even if he came back to the side of good.
Even the cover, with its bolt of lightning, would be explained by the shock that the survivors of Earth 2 would feel upon seeing him in the Superman suit. If he's truly "outed" in issue #22, and he's actually the evil Earth 2 Superman, then there's going to be some Kryptonite-aided lynching going on.
Against: The chances of Earth 2 Clark surviving the battle we'll see in the upcoming Earth 2: World's End weekly series are slim. And the fact that he killed Pa Kent in a recent issue makes it feel like that guy could never be redeemed — or would at least be unlikely to turn full-on hero again.
Earth 2 Val-Zod
Argument For: Val is the black Superman who just started wearing the big "S" on Earth 2, defending his earth from the evil Superman (mentioned above).
He's a popular Earth 2 character, so we could see DC allowing him to survive the "war" with Earth 2, and wanting him to still be functioning as Superman.
Val would probably have to wear the suit and mask because he's from Earth 2, and there's currently a Xenophobic outcry against Earth 2 characters who are residing on Prime Earth. (Most of them are actually locked up on Cadmus Island.) So the mask and suit could be his way of hiding his identity.
Against: It's tough to come up with a logical reason that Val would feel protective of Lois Lane. Maybe, because he knows the robot Lois from Earth 2, he feels compelled to make sure this one doesn't similarly lose her life?
Another strike against this theory is that Val is a pacifist. He's only currently fighting in Earth 2 to save his own world from destruction at the hands of evil Superman. Would he really change so much after the war that he'd not only stop being a pacifist, but would be destructive and rude? Val's a nice kid. A gentle kid. We can't imagine that he'd just suddenly be "direct," as Jurgens put it.
Plus, would he really need to wear a mask? Yes, he's sort of from "another earth" … but he's actually Kryptonian. Everybody already knows Superman is Kryptonian. And they know Supergirl is Kryptonian. And Superboy. And Krypto. Couldn't Val just say he's another Kryptonian?
Alexander Luthor Jr.
Argument For: Although we haven't actually met the offspring of Earth 3 Superwoman and Earth 3 Alexander Luthor, we can guess that the boy will be the New 52 version of Alexander Luthor, who in pre-New 52 continuity was super powered.
Assuming Alex Jr. would age quickly over the next few years, he could be the powerful hero under the mask and suit. He would have to cover himself because he's not just from another Earth — he's from the super, nasty, evil Earth 3. And we could see him being protective of Lois Lane, since his mother is the Earth 3 version of Lois.
This theory would explain why, although he's fighting for justice, he might be unable to be polite — the "darkness" of Earth 3 would probably be in his genetic structure.
And the lightning shown on the cover of Futures End #22 could reference the fact that his father used the power of "Mazahs" — and that could be why Alex Luthor Jr. has Superman-like powers now.
Against: We haven't seen hide nor hair of Superwoman since the end of Forever Evil, and she was barely showing her pregnancy. Yes, there's precedent for rapidly aging kids in the DCU (we're looking at you, Damian Wayne), but it feels like a stretch to think he'd already be an adult, and already have enough respect for Superman that he'd don his "S."
Plus, the still mysterious Earth 3 spawn feels like a thread that will be left for Forever Evil writer Geoff Johns to pick up.
And hey — who's to say the baby isn't a girl? (Maybe Fifty Sue?)
Argument For: Shazam in the New 52 is Billy Batson, a teenager, and that might explain why he's "direct." And his inexperience as a superhero, plus his immaturity overall, would also be a good reason for the almost accidental-feeling destructiveness — after all, Billy has never owned anything and doesn't realize the value of property damage, so why wouldn't he rip a door off its hinges or come through a ceiling to enter a room?
And it's probably the best practical theory for why there's lightning on the cover of Futures End #22.
Against: Why would Billy Batson follow around and protect Lois Lane?
Why would he have to wear a helmet and a suit?
For that matter, why in the world would he wear an "S?" Where's the "H," the "A," the "Z," the other "A" and the "M?"
Pre-New 52 Earth Superman
Argument For: We know this one's a stretch, but we've all heard the rumors about some pre-New 52 Earth characters possibly showing up in DC comics.
Is it possible they've shown up already?
There would be few people more protective of Lois Lane than the man who married her in the pre-New 52 stories. And he would stay masked and concealed because he's not from "this" Earth — and as we've established, people five years in the future don't like folks from other earths.
And wow, wouldn't that be… like… huge?
Against: OK, try to remember with us here… pre-New 52 Superman was experienced. Like, really experienced.
And nice. Look, people even joked about the guy walking across America and constantly crying on covers. So this Masked Superman's destructiveness and rudeness just doesn't seem to fit.
So what do you think? Who's under the mask, and why?