That should come as no surprise, especially when you consider the creative talent the publisher has involved with the series. With covers by Ryan Sook and a rotating cast of artists including Patrick Zircher illustrating the interiors, the writing team is a dream team of writers from DC’s past, present and future.
Keith Giffen teamed with Paul Levitz for legendary runs on “Legion of Super-Heroes” in the ’80s and ’90s, in addition to co-creating “Justice League International,” one of DC’s most revered series and an inspiration to countless creators working in the industry today, with J.M. DeMatteis in 1987.
Dan Jurgens, who created Booster Gold (a character featured prominently in “Justice League International”), wrote one of the most popular and bestselling storylines in the history of comics, “Death of Superman.”
CBR News connected with Giffen and Jurgens, who are co-writing “The New 52: Futures End” with Eisner Award-winner Brian Azzarello and fan-favorite Canadian cartoonist Jeff Lemire, to discuss the year-long epic set five years in the future of DCU continuity and the shocking reveal at the end of the first issue. They also explain that Bruce Wayne won’t make the same mistakes as Terry McGinnis, Grifter has the most ridiculously named secret identity in comics, and the world — now or five years in the future — is a safer place without Keith Giffen on Twitter.
CBR News: As so many others did, I watched the two-hour premiere of “24: Live Another Day” on Monday night and I was thrilled to see Jack Bauer back in action. But as is the case with so many other superheroes — and Jack Bauer is a superhero — you have to watch him with guarded skepticism as he so often makes the impossible, possible. That’s what I love so much about “The New 52: Futures End.” It starts with Batman Beyond making a mistake as he miscalculates his attempt at time travel.
Keith Giffen: It wasn’t really his fault. As it was revealed in “The New 52: Futures End” #0, Bruce Wayne was supposed to go but he died.
Dan Jurgens: But you’re right. If it were Bruce, he would have ended up in the right place. [Laughs] Not five years in the future.
Giffen: Okay. I’ll give you that.
By not having Bruce Wayne/Batman, or Superman or Wonder Woman for that matter — and Keith, you did this a few years back with “52” — does having lead characters like Terry McGinnis/Batman Beyond, who is making his DCU continuity debut, or Grifter, who was originally a Wildstorm character, allow for a different brand of storytelling?
Giffen: Of course. When you deal with Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman, they’re not just big in comic books, they’re big characters period. Batman isn’t just a popular comic book character. Batman is a multimillion-dollar enterprise. When you are dealing with Superman or Batman, you are like a doctor: First, do no harm. But with a character like Grifter, even though I am still the caretaker of the character, he’s not my character to do anything I want with, there is a certain amount of freedom to mess with the basics of the character that’s not there with the big guys.
And we don’t want to play coy with Batman Beyond but Brian [Azzarello] is doing all of the heavy lifting on him so much of our involvement involves waiting to see what Brian’s going to write next.
You mentioned Grifter, who looks like he’s going to be featured prominently in “Futures End.” For readers not familiar with the character, what do they need to know about Cole Cash coming into the series?
Giffen: He has the most ridiculous name identity name ever. [Laughs] But seriously, what you need to know about Grifter would be what you need to know about any character of any book when you start reading it. I’m going to fill in his background. I’m not going to leave people in the lurch as to whom Grifter is. I don’t think it’s necessary to have read Grifter’s Wildstorm or even his previous DCU appearances in order to enjoy the story that we’re telling. He’s not like he’s a character that’s been hermetically sealed and was waiting for us so when we bring them into a book, we’ll fill you in. [Laughs] We’ll take care of you.
Jurgens: And that’s something we talked about with all of the characters, which is that awareness that with our Free Comic Book Day book, since we’re handing that out free we knew that we’d be getting some readers that my not normally be exposed or predisposed to picking up DC books and the idea is to hook them. But in order to hook them, you need to let them know, right from the start, something about these guys.
You mentioned, Brian is running with Batman Beyond. Am I hearing you right that you’re telling Grifter’s story, Keith?
Giffen: Yes, that would be me.
Beyond his ridiculous identity name [Laughs], what are you enjoying about Cole Cash — because I believe this is your first time writing him?
Giffen: Believe it or not, what I am enjoying most about him is how he bounces off the characters that he’s surrounded by. Plus the fact, there is just something appealing about a guy who is so single-minded. He hates aliens and he’ll kill them whenever he can find them. That isn’t enough to base a story like “Futures End” around, so, of course, the character is going to develop and make changes to the reasons for doing what he does. But you really find more about him through his interactions with other characters. I know that sounds weird but that’s how it worked out.
Dan, how about you? I noticed you’re using Firestorm as an avatar for your Twitter feed. Are you taking lead on the Nuclear Man?
Jurgens: Wasn’t that sneaky? [Laughs] And I am really enjoying writing him. When last we would have seen Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, who compose Firestorm, they would have been high school students. People I knew in high school, by the time they were graduating college, everybody seemed to change. By that token, what I enjoy is writing these guys five years later. And exploring how much they’ve changed. Two guys that are in high school almost inevitably, even if they are the best of buddies, end up going somewhat their own separate ways by the time they get into their twenties. And that’s sort of what this story is. And if that’s the story, how do you hold them together when they have to unite to form one body? That’s what makes this fun for me.
Keith, I asked Dan about his Twitter avatar. But I can’t ask you because you don’t tweet. Don’t you worry that you’ll miss all of the high praise you’ve been getting on “Futures End” by not being on Twitter?
Yeah. I just don’t really twitter well. I just end up getting myself in trouble.
You’d be off the book in a couple of weeks. [Laughs]
Giffen: [Laughs] Exactly. I have to be careful with things like social media. I’m the kind of guy that gets into things and I can see myself on Facebook or Twitter and really getting into it. But then I get bored because I find myself incredibly dull and then I stop doing it and people are still asking me questions and trying to contact me and then I’m a snob… It’s the same reason I won’t scratch my butt at a convention in front of a camera. I don’t want to be that guy.
Jurgens: Every now and then, we’ve talked about getting Keith on Twitter and we always end up landing the same thing. That we’re probably in a good spot without him on it. [Laughs]
Giffen: Yes. Yes, you are. Trust me. You’re better off without me.
Finally, the final page of “Futures End” obviously featured a shocking reveal. Green Arrow is dead. Oliver Queen has really been put through the ringer over the years and this isn’t the first series that’s seen him offered up as the sacrificial lamb. Why choose Green Arrow as your primary target in the opening salvo of “Futures End?”
Jurgens: Part of the reason is that Jeff [Lemire] is also writing the “Green Arrow” book. And he had a couple of things in mind where he could tie it all together. That was a very strong part of it.
We also think that by virtue of that death, we have a story to tell that accompanies it. It wasn’t that we said, “We need a dead body at the end of the first issue for shock value. Who is it going to be?” It revolves around ideas from discussions of where these are these characters five years from now, what can you do with it, what is the story going to be and a lot of that came from Jeff Lemire in terms of being able to make that work.
And I guess this might not be the last of Green Arrow because as we’ve seen the other superheroes are coming back. They just happen to be cyborg bugs under the control of Brother Eye.
Giffen: That would be telling. That would be telling.
Jurgens: But we do like those cyborgs. They make a big impact.
“The New 52: Futures End” #1, by Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire and featuring art by Patrick Zircher, is on sale now and continues weekly from DC Comics with #2 on May 14.