SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "The New 52: Futures End" and last week's "Superman: Futures End" #1.
After months of speculation, the Masked Superman featured in "The New 52: Futures End" was recently revealed as Shazam. But while Billy Batson's choice to fight the futuristic monsters and villains while wearing the "S" shield were completely honorable, the world reacted terribly to Lois Lane's news report on the hero's identity, the fallout of which was as was explored in the last week's "Superman: Futures End" #1 and this week's "Futures End" #22.
CBR News connected with legendary writer Dan Jurgens to discuss the DC Universe's near universal negative reaction to Lane's scoop, which he described as a reaction not unlike the one expressed every single day via social media, as a story develops and tweeters and posters draw an instantaneous line in the sand, be it for or against the ongoing situation.
Jurgens, who co-writes "Futures End" with Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire, and wrote "Superman: Futures End" #1, also shared his thoughts on Shazam's current status in The New 52, whether Billy Batson is worthy of filling Kal-El's big red boots and if the world still needs Superman - masked or unmasked.
We also take a look at the big reveal of this week's "Futures End" #22, a two-page splash introducing The Blood Moon, whoever -- or whatever -- it may be. That's an important revelation for those who recall the Channel 52 Investigative Report that declared, "WHEN FUTURES END... THE BLOOD MOON SHALL RISE!"
CBR News: First things first, you got me. I was not expecting Shazam/Billy Batson to be revealed as the Masked Superman. How long has that been in the works? Since the get-go or did it come along organically?
Dan Jurgens: Pretty much from the start. Fairly early in the process, I sent the guys a sketch of a masked character that happened to also have the "S" shield. The basic idea was that Superman was gone and someone else had taken his place. That someone was Billy Batson, who by then would be about 20 years old.
We saw it as an opportunity to build in a bit of a mystery and went for it.
Beyond the comparable power-set, why does Shazam filling in for Superman make sense?
You're right -- the comparable set of powers is the obvious first reason.
Beyond that, however, I think there are a number of really good character reasons.
When we first talked about the idea of writing a world that would exist five years from now, I found myself intrigued by the idea of characters that were currently in their teens who would, by that time, be in their early twenties. That's a time of great change and development for people and I thought that would be fun to explore. Billy Batson certainly fits into that age category. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank did a great job of re-envisioning the character for The New 52, introducing Billy as a 15-year-old. While he seemed a bit jaded at first, we soon found he had a real depth of character.
That, more than powers, is why I saw him as one day wearing the "S" shield.
Why did so many of the world's citizens react so poorly to the reveal once Lois wrote her story?
Five years from now, Earth will have been through a traumatic war. It's a more cynical place.
Even now, when a secret is revealed or a story is developed, we seem to instantly draw a line in the sand with half the people on one side and half on the other. When Lois reveals that Superman isn't really Superman, that he's actually Shazam, people realize they've been lied to and mislead. As such, they react negatively.
What's your personal history with the character? Were you a fan of Captain Marvel as a kid?
I was. I thought it was cool that a kid could simply utter a magic world and turn into an adult superhero. Who wouldn't want to do that?
Why does the character work? And on the flip side, what are the challenges of writing him?
Like many people who are in his or her twenties, Billy is still trying to determine his place in the world. He's trying to figure out who he really is. The challenge is to portray that, even as he's pretending to be someone else.
What are the differences between Shazam and Billy Batson because unlike Clark and Superman and Bruce and Batman, I see and read them as two different characters? And obviously, the change of age makes a major difference.
With Billy now being older, there are actually fewer differences between him and Shazam.
Earlier in the series, people read Shazam's dialogue and assumed he was a jerk. Quite honestly, he simply reflected the lack of tact and more blunt speech patterns of a lot of 20-year-olds. He isn't a jerk at all. He is, however, lacking a bit of confidence and uses more "in your face" dialogue to cover that up.
Do you believe Shazam belongs along with the A-listers like Superman, Batman and the rest of the Justice League or is he destined to be a B-lister?
Shazam is absolutely an A-lister.
Will we continue to see Shazam/Billy serve as the Masked Superman in "The New 52: Futures End" or have we seen the last of him in that guise?
Billy will continue to wear the shield. He does it to honor Superman and that won't stop.
In "Superman: Futures End," Lois asked Shazam if Superman was still alive. Of course, you don't want to spoil anything but at this point in the series, what do you think Shazam believes? And what about Lois?
Billy is tremendously fearful that Superman is dead. His sense of hope, however, keeps him from admitting it to himself or saying it out loud.
Does the world need Superman?
The answer to that always has been and always will be, yes.
"The New 52: Futures End" #22, by Dan Jurgens, Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire and featuring art by Patrick Zircher, is available now.