Looking to The Future of the DC Universe

Future State will explore the future of the DC Universe in wild and unexpected ways. We have the inside scoop...

DC Universe Future State
Photo: DC Comics

The beauty of telling stories in a multiverse is the infinite possibility offered by the infinite places and infinite times to set those stories in. DC’s embrace of their multiverse has historically been one of its strongest features, but Crisis on Infinite Earths muted that ability for decades after, and only recently have comics creators started to enthusiastically dive into the concept again. And with Dark Nights: Death Metal wailing towards its conclusion, it looks like DC is set to go head first into the Bleed again.

Future State is the next big DC Comics event. Following the conclusion of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s explosive reintroduction of the infinite multiverse-slash-musing on what might happen if we let evil get a couple of high profile wins in (gee no real world analogue to that story at all no sir), the entire DC line will be taking a pause for two months, while a variety of creative teams jump forward in the DC Universe’s timeline to tell stories about what that future might look like.

The Future State: Justice League titles include three minis with two stories in each issue, and five one shots or character-focused series. They have a mix of long time DC creators and some new faces, all of them trying to do some new things. The titles include:

  • Future State: Justice League #1-2
    • Justice League, by Joshua Williamson and Robson Rocha
    • Justice League Dark, by Ram V. and Marcio Takara
  • Future State: Green Lantern #1-2
    • Last Lanterns, by Geoffrey Thorne and Tom Raney
    • Tales of the Green Lantern Corps, by Josie Campbell, Ryan Cady and Ernie Altbacker, with Sami Basri and Clayton Henry
  • Future State: Suicide Squad #1-2
    • Suicide Squad, by Robbie Thompson and Javi Fernandez
    • Black Adam, by Jeremy Adams and Fernando Pasarin
  • Future State: Aquaman, by Brandon Thomas and Daniel Sampere
  • Future State: The Flash, by Brandon Vietti and Dale Eaglesham
  • Future State: Teen Titans, by Tim Sheridan and Rafa Sandoval
  • Future State: SHAZAM!, by Tim Sheridan and Eduardo Pansica
  • Future State: Swamp Thing, by Ram V. and Mike Perkins

We had a chance to talk with Justice League group editor Alex Carr about that future: a broken speed force, a drained central power battery, magic being harvested, and…Red X!

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This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

CHANGE IS COMING TO THE DCU

Den of Geek: Walk us through Future State and the Justice League books. What were your marching orders for the creative teams? What got you excited at the beginning point of this event?

Alex Carr: Well, I don’t want to spoil anything for Death Metal. I can tell you that the events of Death Metal will leave the door open for a variety of really, really cool stories for us to tell beginning in 2021. Future State is one of those.

When we think about Future State, one of the things that I really got excited about was I looked at the Justice League’s list of titles and our list of heroes, and when we think about the Justice League, we cover such a wide breadth of heroes, of settings, of villains, of power sets, that when I started to consider what does the future mean for all of these characters? It just simply opened up because I thought, “We can tell stories in the near future, we can tell stories in the middle future, and then we can tell stories in the far, far future,” because we have characters who play to all of those time periods and all those possibilities.

Not just time as an element to get excited about, but then I thought, “We’re in the far future, where anything can happen, where storytelling possibilities are limitless,” so too does that mean approaches to our characters. While we don’t have a central hub as a setting, or even a central time period where all of our stories take place, what we did want to get across, through all the editors in our group, was a thread of change. That thread carries through, not just our heroes, but also again, their power sets, the way they approach villains, the villains that they interact with.

If we’re talking about new heroes, that’s a huge change. Then if we’re talking about classic heroes, what’s a new mission statement that we can give to a hero? What’s a new setting we can put this hero in? What’s a new perspective that this hero can have that will really give readers a reason to open up these books, and then secondly, to get excited about the stories that are unfolding therein?

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Future State: Justice League starring Far Sector's Jo Mullein

Death Metal is, in its own way, dark and reflective of the times that we live in. From a 30,000 foot perspective, it’s a story about the anxiety of living through the world that we’re living through right now. Is Future State going to carry some of those themes forward, or is it going to be more of using the inherent hopefulness of the DC Universe and the DC characters to try and reflect something back onto the world?

First of all, I do want to say that while I agree with your assessment of Death Metal as it reads right now during our conversation, I want to make sure that we aren’t putting it in a box too tightly, because I think you’re going to be really surprised by where Death Metal goes and the way in which it’s perspective may change. I agree with the way you’ve assessed it right here and now. But I think by the time we get to the end, you’re going to be really surprised. Future State carries through both of those. Yes, I’m giving you an easy answer here in that you bet, when we look in the future, it’s easy to go dystopian, and it’s also really fun to do that too.

In Justice League Dark, for example, we’ve got a futuristic witch hunt going on where the Justice League Dark team are being chased because magic has become a commodity that is to be harvested. Who better to harvest than some of the greatest magic users in the DCU? In that regard, yes, we do see a dark future there for our heroes, but there are also plenty of stories in Future State, in the Justice League, in the supergroup, in the back group that will reflect different approaches to future possibilities.

Future State Aquaman

Aquaman

Case in point, Aquaman for our group, really fun writer, Brandon Thomas, and editor, Andrea Shea, approached it specifically not to be a dystopian story. We get to see Jackson Hyde, who is coming off a two-issue arc in Aquaman by writer, Jordan Clark, really take a spotlight here along with Andy Curry, the daughter of Arthur and Mera. She comes into her own here as well. Again, we’re building on something that Kelly Sue DeConnick established in her fantastic Aquaman run, the birth of Andy, which is really one of the first babies to be born in the DCU in I don’t know how long.

We took that element of story that we all loved, and here we age up Andy in Future State, and you get to see her adventure with Jackson Hyde, again, a great character that we’re excited about spotlighting. Their story is full of drama and certainly danger, but it’s also got a really fresh perspective, a positive perspective on futuristic storytelling.

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The Storytelling Freedom of Future State

You’ve got an interesting mix of some DC old hands like Josh Williamson and Javier Fernandez, you’ve got some fresh faces like Geoff Thorne and Josie Campbell. What were some of the challenges to assembling a team from all of these different backgrounds with DC into hammering them into an event like this?

Well thankfully, I didn’t have to hammer too hard. As soon as we talked about, “Hey, would you like to tell a story set in the future with some of your favorite heroes?” People were really, really excited and I started getting proposals right away.

Future State: Flash

Where there were challenges, it was getting writers to think very freely. I think all too often, we get really concerned about continuity, but one of the benefits of futuristic storytelling is that we can go wild here. Anything can happen from here to the year 5,000, so let’s find the best story to tell first and then we’ll figure out where it fits into a timeline and we can go from there. But let’s not worry too much about what [a] character’s boot colors will be in the year 2400. Instead, let’s figure out what are some great challenges and what are the goals? What do we want out of these stories and how are we going to ensure that readers feel like they got their money’s worth out of it before we go too deep into the details?”

But again, it really wasn’t hard. People were really excited to jump right in, especially someone like Ram V, when we talked about Swamp Thing, he and I got really caught up in Swamp Thing and Swamp Thing’s past, and what are the things that we want to cover with Swamp Thing.

But then we took a step back and we thought, “What’s a really great science fiction story that we want to tell that involves Swamp Thing?” Once we freed ourselves from all the other trappings, that’s when the story just dropped right into place, and that’s when we got to have a lot of fun with, “But who do we want from Swamp Thing’s past to fit into this wild story? Okay, cool. We can fit him or her or them here,” and then things just fell into place. I think once we took the approach with writers and artists, that you can be really as free as you want here, we saw the best results.

Future State Swamp Thing Cover

SWAMP THING: FUTURE STATE’S BREAKOUT STAR

That’s actually a great segue, because the next question I had was “let’s both take three minutes to just fawn over Ram V-

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Yes, Ram V!

Because as he took over Justice League Dark, he’s found a new gear. As the group editor, you’re the guy who keeps the trains running on time, but you’re also the coach, right? You’re the one that’s trying to get the most out of your players that you can possibly get?

Interior pencils for Future State: Justice League Dark

Exactly. I’m really fortunate in that I get to work on two books with Ram, Justice League Dark and Swamp Thing in Future State. We took very different approaches to both books. Ram’s storytelling really is… If you’re a fan of his, get ready, because Justice League Dark versus Swamp Thing, the way he approached the stories was very different. Justice League Dark, that the second script just came in today and I read it, it’s going to break your heart. But again, it will give you hope. Swamp Thing however, he just takes the concept to its furthest reaches. Working with him on both was not a challenge, it was just an opportunity for me to cheerlead Ram to stretch, to continue the great work that he has done on Justice League Dark.

Interior pencils for Future State: Justice League Dark

I do think he is producing some of his best work in the most recent issues. They’re so much fun. We just continued that spirit through Justice League Dark. It’s going to be a seamless experience, even though we do have a time jump. Whereas with Swamp Thing, this is brand new Ram V. You get an element of it in the Legend of Swamp Thing Halloween Spectacular that just came out. He has two stories in there and you get a taste of what’s to come in Swamp Thing Future State there. If you like ghost stories, get ready.

Interior pencils from Future State: Swamp Thing

What character are we going to come out of the other side of this event loving more than we’ve ever loved them before? Who do you hope we end up loathing?

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite here, but I don’t want to keep talking about Swamp Thing too much, but again, what we do with Swamp Thing is so wild, I really do think people’s perspective is going to change in terms of what is Swamp Thing, when it’s freed from Alec Holland? What does that look like? What does that mean for the character? The opportunities really open up, so I’m really excited about that.

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Future State: Green Lantern

Green Lantern

John Stewart fans, we’ve heard you. The Future State Green Lantern book, which is oversized, so it’s going to be about 44 pages. You get right around 20, 22 pages of John Stewart in a story called “Last Lanterns.” It’s what happens when the power battery dies. Think of it like The Magnificent Seven. What happens to all these green lanterns if the power battery dies? John Stewart and his ragtag group of former Green Lanterns prove that you can still do good without the rings.

In this future where the power battery is dead, John Stewart and what remains of the Green Lantern Corps, they come to a planet and that planet is just about to be overrun by a galactic religious cult. It’s their last stand against this group. How do a group of heroes who used to have powers now face a galactic threat and attempt to save a planet? It’s so cool how they do it.

Then the other 22 pages will be filled with tales across the Corps. What happens to all the other Lanterns? What happens to Jessica Cruz? What happens to Guy Gardener? What happens to the Teen Lantern and Mogo if they’re on a mission together and the power battery goes down? We’re going to get a wide variety of tones and admissions and artwork to across these stories that feature the tale of Green Lantern Corps. I think John Stewart’s going to get a great spotlight.

Future State: Teen Titans

Teen Titans

Teen Titans introduces a really cool concept where we suggest that sometime in the future, a Teen Titans Academy was established, where the more classic Titans, Nightwing, Starfire, Cyborg, mentored characters that you saw in the new Teen Titans, like Roundhouse, Crush, et cetera. But these classic Titans were charged with protecting and mentoring the students who would become heroes tomorrow, but they’re faced with the students that they could not teach.

This is the aftermath of that betrayal. We see that Teen Titans Academy has fallen, most of its students are dead, we’ve got this mysterious betrayal, and then we get the first appearance of Red X in the DCU. That character will have his appearance in Teen Titans Future State. That’s really fun.

Future State: Shazam

Shazam

Something that I really credit senior editor, Mike Cotton, with doing here, and his creative teams, was there is a direct story thread that ties through Future State Flash, Future State Teen Titans, and then Future State Shazam. You do get a continuing story there. It doesn’t mean that you have to read one to read the other, but if you do read all three, you see some really interesting pieces come together that involve Barry, when he and other speedsters are tied off from the Speed Force, you get Wally, then you have Teen Titans.

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Future State: Shazam Interior Art

You also have an interesting plot that flows, particularly from Teen Titans into Shazam, involving the Rock of Eternity and the split of Shazam and Billy, which is a really fun idea that writer, Tim Sheridan, takes to a dark place. It’s illustrated by Eduardo Pansica in a amazing way.

Interior art for Future State: Shazam

What creative team surprised you the most?

Justice League written by Josh Williamson and Robson Rocha. This one was a big surprise to me because Josh and I talked a lot about the story here, along with our associate editor, Andrea Shea. The story was originally going to be one thing, and we were all excited about that story, it was fun, it was going to have a bit of nods to some classic stories that fans would have loved, but then Josh called me up one day and said, “I’m breaking this story and I’m turning it on its head.” What Josh didn’t want to do was present, “Here’s a brand new Justice League team, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re dysfunctional and they don’t get along and that’s where the drama lies.”

Instead, Joshua really turned that on its head. Here’s a team that has been together for a while, they’ve been crime fighting for a while. They do have a couple of new secret members, but these are heroes who are good at their jobs. The twist is that their identities are a secret, even from each other. They’re great at their jobs, but they’re not so good at the family aspect of Justice League. What happens is an evolved age old enemy comes forward, and uses those secret identities against them in a plot to, of course, take over the world.

Interior pencils for Future State: Flash

We have this really grand scale plot at work, but then what Josh did was he brought the personal element to it, and we’re playing with a theme of imposter syndrome here. I think it’s really going to change the way people look at Justice League. For me, that was the biggest surprise, was the possibility that opened up. It’s just going to be a lot of fun.

The artwork by Robson Rocha is outstanding. Wait until you see him illustrate the new Wonder Woman we have, the new Batman, the new Superman, the new Green Lantern, the Aquawoman, and the new Flash. All fresh takes on costumes, powers, emotions, the character acting involved there is powerful.

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By the time readers get to Future State, they will have seen how his run on Justice League Doom Metal, the Death Metal tie-in, ends, and Robson was a part of that too, along with Xermanico. We’ll get to see this evolution in wild storytelling, going from Death Metal into Future State with the same writer and artist team, was really rewarding. We pushed them both and they both pushed each other. It’s so cool. I’m really pleased with it.

Future State Suicide Squad

CONNER KENT AND THE SUICIDE SQUAD

And Suicide Squad! We got a movie coming out next year! What’s really exciting about this is we get back to basics on Suicide Squad. If you want to see a Suicide Squad where you’re not sure who’s going to live and who’s going to die, the Future State book is the book for you. Because we’ve got Earth-One villains, but they’re led by Conner Kent. What we see is the ultimate evolution of Amanda Waller’s plan, because now they’re on Earth-Three and Amanda Waller is dissatisfied with her role in the DC Universe, so she says, “I’m just going to go for broke with my team,” but at what cost really, especially to Conner. At what cost is her ultimate goal?

Interior pencils for Future State: Suicide Squad

We will see that. We’ve got a wild group of teammates here, one is, I’ll give a little surprise here, it’s Clayface morphing into Martian Manhunter, and a character that you will see in the Teen Titans Future State also shows up here, along with a couple other surprises. Black Adam, of course, Future State. If you’re a fan of Grant Morrison’s DC One Million, here you go. This is Black Adam in the 853rd century. It’s really wild storytelling.

Future State runs through DC’s entire line of comics in January and February 2021. For more on Future State, the end of Dark Nights: Death Metal, or the future of DC’s multiverse, stick with Den of Geek!