Spoilers ahead for this week's Shazam! #10.
According to writer Geoff Johns, now is the “right time” to bring back Superboy-Prime, who appeared for the first time in almost a decade in this week’s Shazam! #10. And Prime isn’t the only blast from his past who’s coming to Shazam!: Johns said the Justice Society of America will also soon be featured in the book.
The whiny-but-ultra-powerful Superboy-Prime played a central role in Johns’ 2005 event series Infinite Crisis and other high-profile DC comics during the mid-2000s. But the character has been missing from continuity since 2011, before the "New 52" reboot.
Similarly, the Justice Society characters, who officially returned to DC continuity in Johns’ Doomsday Clock #12 in December, were also largely missing from DC stories since 2011, although they were featured in a recent Justice League storyline involving time travel.
“First off, what better villain to fight the world’s greatest superhero kid, Shazam, than the world’s worst superhero villain kid, Superboy-Prime?” Johns told Newsarama. “And then in Shazam! #14, the Justice Society of America will be coming by to help, fresh from Doomsday Clock. Alan, Jay, Stargirl, Cyclone — the whole gang will be coming by. So the book’s going to get a little more crowded.”
According to Johns, Superboy-Prime will be a central villain in upcoming issues of Shazam - a plot point that was spoiled recently on Twitter by Shazam colorist Michael Atiyeh, who shared artwork from issue #13 that featured Prime.
“For me, Superboy-Prime is both a very fun and very tragic character,” Johns said. “He’s super dramatic and overly emotional and cruel - he’s a joy to write because he’s so out there. From Infinite Crisis to Sinestro Corps to Legion of Three Worlds, I’ve loved him because of that. He’s so bizarre.”
The character was created in 1985 as a version of Kryptonian Kal-El/Clark Kent who lived on “Earth-Prime,” an Earth where superheroes were only in comic books - a sort of fictional version of the real world. He became part of 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and its 2005 sequel, Infinite Crisis. In his more recent appearances, “Prime” - as he came to be known - was more and more vocal about
“A lot of readers see him as a mouthpiece for a fanboy gone wrong - in some respects I think that’s correct, in others it’s overly simplified,” Johns said. “But whatever he is, he’s fun. Anyway, like it or not, folks - ultimately, the twisted Superboy will be face-to-face with Billy and his family as they deal with Mr. Mind and the Monster Society and the secret behind the return of the Wizard.”
The character’s return in this week’s Shazam! #10, drawn by Dale Eaglesham and Scott Kolins, occurred during a scene where Dr. Sivana and Mr. Mind were on their way to free the Monster Society from the Dungeon of Eternity.
On their way through the dungeon’s halls, Sivana and Mind passed Prime’s prison cell door - although they didn’t unlock it. Superboy-Prime was naked and had the signature “S” scar on his chest that he carved into his skin at the end of Infinite Crisis.
“I can hear you out there, you stupid little worm!” Prime yelled from his prison cell during the scene. “Don’t think I don’t know who you are! From Venus or the Wildlands, it doesn’t matter! I see you, too. After everything they’ve done … I can’t believe you’re all still here. Well, good! Wait until you see what I do to Billy Batson.”
Johns gave a hint about why Prime might have said the line, “After everything they’ve done … I can’t believe you’re all still here.” Apparently, Prime has been a witness to the changes at DC since the last time readers saw him before the New 52 reboot.
“It felt like the right time to bring Prime back, after everything that’s gone through with the DC Universe,” Johns said. “He’s witnessed it all from outside.”
The last time the character was seen, in a 2011 Teen Titans storyline, he was trapped in the Source Wall - a barrier at the edge of the DC Multiverse. The Source Wall was recently destroyed in a DC storyline, which might have freed Prime, although his imprisonment could have been much longer.
“We’ll see where he’s been and what he’s been doing,” Johns said. “Again, he’s a character that I’ve obviously written a lot and it’ll be fun to see him face off against the Shazam Family.”
Although most fans are probably not surprised that Johns is the writer bringing Prime back (since he was instrumental in the character’s villainous evolution), Johns said he expects other writers to feature him now that he’s returned.
“I’m sure they’ll end up using Prime in a crossover at some point. How can they not?” Johns said. “He’s too much fun to leave on the shelf for another 10 years. For now, I’m really excited to play with him again.”