If you want to see what the Justice League does next, you can wait for the next issue or you can fast-forward into the future -- the far future -- in DC Comics' digital-first series Justice League Beyond.
Launched last year, Justice League Beyond shows the flagship team in the futuristic continuity established by the animated series Batman Beyond (which also has a digital-first comic). Saturday's installment of Justice League Beyond features the debut of one of the publisher's most overlooked heroes -- Shazam, whom you can see in a Robot 6's exclusive preview, below.
Introduced in 1939 by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, Shazam (formerly known as Captain Marvel) is a wholesome superhero from an earlier, more time who doesn't always work well in a modern setting. Having him show up in the future of Justice League Beyond, even further removed from his Golden Age roots, makes the classic hero seem that much more of a throwback -- and that's something writer Derek Fridolfs is tackling head-on with artist Ben Caldwell.
On the eve of Shazam's debut, Robot 6 spoke with Fridolfs about the hero's introduction, and his work on Justice League Beyond.
Robot 6: Derek, what can you tell us about Saturday’s Justice League Beyond comic?
Derek Fridolfs: This is the last part to the Brain Trust story "In Gods We Trust." And there's a reason why gods is plural for the wrap-up to this story. Also, for all you Ben Caldwell art fans (myself amongst them), it's one more treat to see his style applied to the Beyond universe.
The big news of this is that this issue features the debut of Shazam in the Beyond continuity. Can you tell us about Shazam in this future?
Shazam really is a man out of time. In the sense that the town of Fawcett City and the hero that is Shazam, have basically gone untouched, even in the future Beyond timeline. This idea of a very Mayberry-type community and its outlook on heroes … somehow surviving (or left alone and forgotten) in this high-tech future world. The Batman Beyond show looked to the future. But this is a way for these future heroes to stumble into this preserved city from the past.
Shazam has always been portrayed as a classic hero, kind of a throwback of sorts. How does he fit in the futuristic Beyond universe?
Shazam hasn't aged after all these years -- just part of the magic associated with the character. In that regards, one might think of him as a sort of Peter Pan. Ben Abernathy, my original editor on Justice League Beyond, chose to see the flip side to that … bringing up the idea to maybe explore a more tragic outlook to a child that doesn't age (much like Claudia in Interview With the Vampire).
All that said, Shazam is as heroic as ever, with a wink and a smile. He's very much the same classic throwback version of the character we all know, with a bit of an added twist on display in this last chapter to the story.
You’ve been writing Justice League Beyond for a good while now. How do you feel you’ve settled in to the series, and do you feel you know more about them now than in the beginning?
Honestly, I feel like I barely got started. Barely scratched the surface to these characters. It just feels longer to the audience due to the way it's released.
It's no secret that I love the animated universe and this interpretation of the characters that grew out of that. A chance to have them continue to live outside that show. They had such a brief appearance in the animated show, that it left a lot of room to really flesh out these characters more.
I really wanted to show them as more than a team of heroes and friends, but as a family. The bickering, jokes, elbow-ribbing, and their caring hearts. A lot of the same approach that Dustin Nguyen and I have brought to Batman: Li'l Gotham probably got its start here in Justice League Beyond: a fun, optimistic approach to the future and these characters.
This Brain Trust story is as much a story about our Green Lantern Kai-Ro, and how far he's come as a member of the League, as it is about Shazam's appearance. Kai-Ro is the heart of this future League. The youngest member, still learning the ways of the world, with a peaceful Buddhist outlook towards those around him. I love seeing the Beyond universe through his eyes, and hope the readers have too.
What do you have planned coming up for Justice League Beyond?
I have one more Beyond origin story about Danica, our female Flash, that is coming out. All those Dani Flash fans will get to see how she got her powers, and where all those voices in her head are coming from. And then my time on this title is at an end.
All of us that have worked on Justice League Beyond up to this point have set the groundwork for the next creative team to continue forward. I hope they'll use the new Flash and Shazam, and even continue this "Recruitment Drive" arc to expand the League. But that's up to the next crew. I was happy for my time spent in the future. But now I'm spending my time in another "Li'l" corner of the DC Universe. And a few other familiar places as well.
Thanks to all the fans that have joined us on this journey! Your enthusiasm has been greatly appreciated.
Shazam debuts in Saturday's Justice League Beyond #24 digital comic, and will be available in print inside June 19's Batman Unlimited #17.