Big changes are brewing for DC Comics in the months ahead, both in terms of the stories being published and in the company’s response to recent layoffs and editorial restructuring. With many ongoing comics wrapping up over the next several months and the massive Dark Nights: Death Metal crossover steering toward its climax in January, it’s clear DC has something big planned for early 2021. That’s where Future State comes in.
Future State is a two-month event wherein most of DC’s regular monthly comics will be temporarily replaced by a new lineup of limited series and one-shot specials. There’s no one, core Future State comic. Instead, the entire event allows creators to explore the future of the DC Universe, with stories set anywhere from 2030 all the way till the end of time as we know it. And once Future State concludes at the end of February, DC’s ongoing plans for its comic book line will become clear.
While it’s too early to say what’s coming in March, we can shed much more light on the premise of Future State and the various comics involved. Read on to learn more and get the full scoop on how the Superman franchise factors prominently in this event, with plenty of insight from newly promoted Superman Group Editor Jamie S. Rich.
What Is Future State?
Future State can basically be summed up as the bridge connecting Dark Nights: Death Metal and DC’s more long-term plans for 2021. Death Metal has been exploring the Justice League’s final battle with Perpetua, the dark goddess who birthed the DC multiverse. It’s probably safe to assume Diana and friends will ultimately triumph over Perpetua and her minion The Batman Who Laughs, and that the multiverse will be restored. As writer Scott Snyder discussed at NYCC, the goal of Death Metal isn’t to reboot DC continuity in the vein of previous Crisis events, but to highlight how all of DC’s history matters and carries weight.
That will continue to be DC’s guiding philosophy as the company moves forward from Death Metal. Though before readers see exactly what state the DC Universe is in post-Death Metal, DC is jumping ahead and exploring its future. Future State is a series of interconnected stories – many of them set in the year 2030 but some even further down the DC timeline – that shows us the more long-term ramifications of Death Metal. Again, there’s no one book forming the backbone of Future State. Readers are free to pick and choose which titles or creative teams interest them, but taken as a whole it forms a larger examination of what happens when a newer generation of heroes step up to replace Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.
If that sounds familiar, that was also the basic premise of DC’s much-rumored but never formally announced 5G initiative. DC Publisher Jim Lee recently confirmed 5G has been canceled. As far as we can tell (DC declined to comment on this subject), many of those 5G stories and ideas have been repurposed for Future State. But while 5G was reportedly a permanent shift in focus to a new generation of heroes, Future State is a temporary flash-forward storyline. All of the books involved will span anywhere from one to four issues over the course of January and February. That doesn’t necessarily mean these stories and new characters won’t have a direct bearing on DC’s long-term publishing plans.
“There’s so much to do going forward, and so we want to give the readers a couple of months where you will see all these potential possibilities, all of these stories that could evolve out of the current DCU with the familiar characters getting older, finding themselves in new situations or new versions of the same characters as the DC legacy continues to evolve,” Rich told IGN. “It’s really just two months of us letting our creators go wild and be imaginative, while also laying some seeds and some groundwork for what you’re going to see coming.”
The Three Pillars of Future State
The larger Future State event is being divided into three core pillars – Superman Family, Batman Family and Justice League Family. The Superman Family books will deal primarily with Superman’s self-imposed exile from Earth following a disastrous international incident. While the Man of Steel joins forces with a ragtag band of New Gods and other heroes to liberate Warworld, his son Jon takes up the mantle of Superman on Earth. Wonder Woman is also included as part of the Superman Family line, with Future State focusing both on a new Wonder Woman named Yara Flor and returning Amazon heroine Nubia.
The Batman Family books will explore Bruce Wayne’s lasting legacy. Bruce himself is apparently dead in the era of Future State, with Gotham now ruled by a villain named The Magistrate and his vast surveillance network. Future State will introduce a new heir to the Batman name, one who rises up to rally Gotham’s heroes against this new foe. The previously announced Batman series from 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley and Doom Patrol artist Nic Derington is among the stories included in the Batman Family lineup.
Finally, the Justice League Family will take a wider look at the DCU of the near and far future. Readers will be introduced to a new Justice League whose members maintain secret identities even from each other, along with new incarnations of the Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and Justice League Dark. Characters like Black Adam, Swamp Thing, Aquaman and the Green Lanterns will also have their own Future State books.
Future State seems similar to 2015’s Convergence crossover in that it’s a self-contained crossover that allows DC to collectively regroup and prepare for upcoming new storylines and launches. While the Future State lineup will feature some familiar DC creators like Brian Michael Bendis, Gene Luen Yang, Joëlle Jones, Joshua Williamson and Nicola Scott, DC has also tapped a number of indie creators and movie/TV writers who don’t normally dabble in the DC comic book universe. In addition to the Ridley/Derington Batman story (which is one of five tales serialized in the anthology book Future State: The Next Batman), fans can also expect work from Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural), Brandon Easton (Transformers: War for Cybertron), Alitha Martinez (It’s A Bird!), L.L. McKinney (Nubia: Real One), Paula Sevenbergen (Stargirl), Siya Oum (Lola XOXO) and Jen Bartel (Blackbird).
You can check out the slideshow gallery below for a full breakdown of the books that make up Future State:
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Superman’s Exile From Earth
While Future State isn’t necessarily intended to be any more or less dark than the present-day DCU (a pointed change from most future timelines featured in superhero comics), it does seem as though the future isn’t terribly kind to Kal-El. For reasons that won’t be immediately revealed, Superman has fallen out of favor with the people of Earth, causing him to leave his adopted home behind and begin a new mission in the stars. The exact reasons for his departure and his newfound mission on Warworld will be revealed over the course of Future State, though Rich was clear all of this builds directly on what writer Brian Michael Bendis has been crafting in the pages of Superman and Action Comics. As he explained, the events of Future State are basically the inevitable result of Superman’s decision to reveal his secret identity and his shift towards defending the universe as a whole rather than just Metropolis or Earth.
“We’re looking at what Bendis has been doing on his books and Superman revealing who he is and starting to extrapolate – what does that mean?” said Rich. “In Future State, you won’t know exactly how Superman ended up on Warworld, but the story in Superman: Worlds of War that Phillip Kennedy Johnson is writing kind of balances that. So you will also see, on Earth, what it means to people to have him gone… does he create a space that inspires people?”
“The childish thing to do with Superman that every boy who wants to tear the wings off flies would do is try to tear him down or make him evil,” said Rich, revealing that some of the ideas being explored here were inspired by conversations with All-Star Superman writer Grant Morrison. “We want to just show that the symbol is greater than any one place or any one populace. Actually, that’s probably a good point to make too. We’re not imagining Future State as this horrible dystopian, ‘everything goes wrong’ [timeline]. Certainly there are books where things are bad and stuff has taken a turn for the worst cause that’s dramatic, but there’s also a lot of hope in this.”
With Superman now a pariah who’s left Earth behind, you might think Lex Luthor would be having the time of his life in the year 2030. But Rich teased that won’t quite be the case.
“We’re actually dealing with that in the Superman vs. Imperious Lex miniseries that Mark Russell and Steve Pugh are doing, who people know as the great team behind The Flintstones,” said Rich. “That has more of a satirical tone, more of a lighthearted tone as Lex Luthor. I don’t know if you remember back in the ’60s and ’70s, Lex Luthor had a planet called Lexor where he would go and hang out because people thought he was a hero there and he’d managed to con them into thinking that Superman was a villain. Now you see the future where Lex is trying to get Lexor into the United Planets and Lois Lane is now representing Earth, and she’s trying to stop him in and how Superman gets in the middle.”
Head to page 2 for plenty more on the strange landscape of Future State, including what happens when Jon Kent takes up the mantle of Superman.