By Zack Quaintance, Cori McCreery, and Joe Grunenwald
Last week DC Comics released details about Future State, a line-wide event beginning in January. For two months the publisher’s regular slate of ongoing titles will be put on hold, replaced with miniseries set in the future of the DC Universe. These Future State titles will feature new versions of characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and find the original title-holders – along with every other character in the DCU – in a strange new status quo.
The announcement of Future State combined with the additional details that came in DC’s full solicitations for January were a lot to take in all at once, and there’s plenty of interesting information and things to be excited about among the dozens of titles coming in 2021, especially as it relates to the cancelled 5G scheme. The DC Round-Up team has culled through all of the Future State information to identify 10 things of note, whether they’re series we’re looking forward to, interesting tidbits, or possible portents for the future of the DC Universe.
1. It’s Not Another Convergence
At first glance, Future State seems to share some similarities with a previous DC event, Convergence. Both saw DC pause their regular titles for two months, replacing them with mini-series. Convergence had a main event series, though, with all of the other miniseries serving as tie-ins to the overall story. The resulting titles, with a few exceptions, weren’t fully able to tell their own full stories, as they were beholden to what was going on in the main series. The apparent ‘de-centralized’ nature of Future State, however, should allow those series to be more satisfyingly self-contained, with only the concept of ‘the future of the DCU’ tying them together.
Future State seems likely to also be more ‘new reader’-friendly, as it’s introducing new characters and concepts with only some connection to what’s happening in the current DCU, whereas enjoyment of Convergence was almost entirely predicated on knowledge of the DCU as it had been, with each miniseries featuring older versions of the characters, some of whom hadn’t been seen in decades. —JG
2. DC’s History Still Plays a Role
Yes, Future Shock is presenting a possible future for the DC Universe, but if the solicitations are any indication it’s one that’s not entirely ignoring the universe’s past. A Black Adam-starring story featured in the Suicide Squad anthology series finds the character living in the 853rd Century, introduced in 1998’s DC One Million storyline. The Amazon Nubia, long missing from the DC Universe, makes her return in The Immortal Wonder Woman anthology series. Shilo Norman, the Mister Miracle last seen in 2005-6’s Seven Soldiers, also returns to the DCU, and a new character, The Guardian of Metropolis, looks very similar to another Seven Soldiers character, The Manhattan Guardian. Who knows what other callbacks and returning characters will put in appearances during Future State.
Also of note regarding Nubia, Shilo Norman, and the new Guardian of Metropolis is that they’re all characters of color. Between them, the new Batman from John Ridley & Nick Derington, Jackson Hyde becoming the new Aquaman, and the inclusion of Far Sector Green Lantern Jo Mullein in the Justice League, DC appears to be using Future State as an opportunity to diversify the characters in their line, while again rooting those elements in existing DC continuity. It’ll be interesting to see if any of those changes stick once the event is over. —JG
3. It’s an On-Ramp for New Creators at DC
Story and direction aside, Future State looks exciting to me because of the creative talent involved. There are several on-ramps here for indie darlings or diverse rising star creators. Some of them have done or are doing work with DC, and it’s nice to see them getting more (and more prominent) opportunities. Others are new to the publisher all together.
Nothing against DC Comics’ current stable of creators, but I think even some of them would admit it’s fun to see new names, new lenses, and new narrative interests getting applied to these long-time characters. Just to name a few, I was delighted to see names here like Vita Ayala, Mariko Tamaki, Sean Lewis, Sumit Kumar, Dan Mora, Stephanie Phillips, Valentine De Landro, Jen Bartel, Ryan Cady, Ram V., and the list goes on. —ZQ
4. It’s a Sign of DC’s New Leadership
In terms of moving things forward, one of the other things that makes this much more than a placeholder event in my mind is that there is new leadership at DC, almost from the top down. So while it might be easy to see this as a placeholder during leadership turnover and a distribution shakeup, or a re-purposing of scuttled plans for 5G, I think the glass half full view is that this might be our first glimpse of what to expect from DC Comics moving forward.
For the first time in a decade, the same few (mostly white) dudes are not in control there. There’s also a seemingly-different mandate from corporate leadership, which is looking to shape the industry in ways that go beyond the direct market. What may become clear before, during, and immediately after Future State, is how all of the change and upheaval will translate to the stories on the page. That’s excitement enough for me to want to check most (if not all) of this out. —ZQ
5. It Expands DC’s Anthology Format
For the last several years DC has been putting out more and more anthology titles, from their seasonally-themed books featuring multiple characters to the semi-regular anniversary giants now focused on single characters or character families. On top of those, the Giant titles (previously Walmart exclusives) offered accessible stories mixed with reprints for the low price of $5 an issue.
The inclusion of anthology titles in Future State seems like a natural extension of the format for DC for a few reasons. By anchoring the anthologies with a marquee hero or team, DC also allows the introduction of multiple new concepts and characters to the event (the aforementioned Shilo Norman, Guardian of Metropolis, and Nubia are all included in anthology titles). That also provides the opportunity to tell stories that couldn’t otherwise support their own individual title. And by tying their inclusion in to a linewide event, particularly one that’s temporary, they’ll function as something of a test balloon for bringing the format to the regular line. —JG
6. Batgirls Rise
Joshua Williamson & David Lafuente’s story in Batman: The Joker War Zone set up the potential for a Stephanie Brown and Cass Cain Batgirls book, and while we’re not getting QUITE that here, we are getting another Batgirls story. Like the rest of Future State, it’s set in a potential future for the DC Universe, but one that at least is allowing itself to reference its past in a way DC really hasn’t done in a decade. Just seeing Steph and Cass put the bats on again is so hopeful and illuminating.
It doesn’t hurt that the story is going to be written by Vita Ayala, who by the time this launches, will be writing two of the books in the extremely prestigious Dawn of X line over at the competition. Like Zack said above, it’s important that these stories are being given to people who haven’t been telling a majority of the stories at the company over the last thirty years. It’s time to move on, and to set up the future. —CM
7. Supergirl Grows Up
Kara Zor-El: Superwoman is also about moving forward. This is allowing us to see a Kara that is allowed to grow up, to move beyond just being Supergirl forever. And while I’m not thrilled that she’s once again left Earth, I have more hope for this story than I did for Marc Andreyko’s. This is Marguerites Bennett and Sauvage telling a story that isn’t reliant on a Superman story to tell. Give me more of that — Kara isn’t just a supporting character. —CM
8. Tim Drake Eternal
For a generation of Batman readers, third Robin Tim Drake is THE Robin, and the character has received a fair amount of focus post-DCU Rebirth in both Detective Comics and the current Young Justice series. Still, it hurt a little when Damian Wayne pushed Tim aside in 2009 to become the new Robin, so the promise of the Future State: Robin Eternal series starring Tim in the title role (alongside longtime girlfriend Stephanie Brown as Spoiler) is definitely something to look forward to.
But wait…isn’t Steph appearing as Batgirl in the aforementioned Batgirls story? Why is she still Spoiler in Robin Eternal? Questions upon questions! —JG
9. WildStorm books
My friends Joe and Cori here have gotten more into the individual titles that they’re excited for, but I’d just like to note it was great to see some of the WildStorm characters back in the spotlight. I have a vision in my head where Jim Lee (WildStorm’s original creator) got the sole publisher title after Dan DiDio’s departure and was like, Listen up, folks! Time to give the people what they want — WildStorm! That’s mostly a joke, but regardless of how it happened, I was pleased to see Grifters and Midnighter (interestingly included as a Superman family title) on the docket for Future State. —ZQ
10. What happens in March?
One line that jumped out at me within the Future State press release was this: “In March 2021, the regular DC title lineup resumes, continuing existing story lines from 2020 and introducing new arcs for the year.” The latter clause “introducing new arcs for the year” is a fun one, seeing as many arcs and even titles have concluded in the run up to this, so bring that one.
But, like, are we just going to move past Future State as if it never happened as far as it applies to books like Wonder Woman and Batman, the two franchises introducing the coolest new characters and ideas? I’d be surprised if so. Maybe we’ll see some of these characters get new digital-first series, which seems to be an ongoing point of emphasis for the new look DC Comics. —ZQ
BONUS: Nicola Scott on Nightwing
NICOLA SCOTT DRAWING NIGHTWING BUTT. DO I NEED TO SAY MORE THAN THAT? —CM
DC Future State begins in January 2021.