Free Comic Book Day is once again almost upon us and nothing has been generating as big a buzz as the launch of DC Comics’ second weekly, New 52: Futures End. Debuting with a free #0 issue at local comic shops on Saturday, May 3, 2014, the series takes the DCU five years into a desperate future, headlined by the first appearance in the New 52 of Terry McGinnis, the Batman Beyond! At C2E2 last weekend, we were able to sit down with two of the series writers, Brian Azzarello and Dan Jurgens, to find out just what we can expect in the zero issue, who the cast of characters are, and why even Brian Azzarello thinks this story may be a bit dark!
Matt Santori: Thanks so much for taking time out of the con to talk, gentlemen. We’re a week away from the Free Comic Book Day zero issue of Futures End. How’s the co-writing process been so far, and what can you tell me about how it is structured?
Brian Azzarello: You can take this one, Dan.
Dan Jurgens: OK!
BA: That was a little insight into the writing process… (laughs)
DJ: The writing process has been going well! We’ve obviously had to spend some time learning to work together, and find out what each other’s voices were — not in terms of our characters, but in terms of ideas and communication, what works for them and what doesn’t. I think it’s come together very nicely, and it’s probably become a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
BA: Thank God. Because that’s the way it should work. We’ve been really supportive of each other.
MSG: And it’s a very different way of writing, particularly for you, Brian. I know Dan has had a lot of experience with this on the Superman books in the past, but you’ve essentially been a solo writer for years. Anything you’ve learned about yourself in the process.
BA: Yes, actually! I think I’ve always just relied on my own ideas, and never really had to accept anyone else’s, as far as sitting down and writing. So, when Dan brings something to the table, I have to consider what he’s doing and consider it in regard to what I’m doing as well. When we’re crafting an issue, we have to look at what kind of beats are we going to be hitting this time. If Dan’s got a big action beat, and I have one that was going to be in the same issue, I’ll put mine off so we can do his.
Nobody’s stepping on anybody’s toes.
DJ: No! There’s no preciousness of ideas in the room. And in fact, we kind of have this loose goal of each of us getting five pages per issue in the way we work. So far, it’s just been terrific in that sometimes, one of us will say, “I need an extra page. Can I go six? Does anyone have one they can give up?” We haven’t had any problem there.
In fact, sometimes it’s even been the opposite, where we’ll say, “Don’t confine that to five pages! Take one more. Take two more. Turn that into something bigger.” And I’ll sacrifice here and there. There’s been no personal preciousness of idea, and I think that’s the major thing you have to have to make something like this work. This thing we’re trying to do is meant to serve the overall story.
Some of that comes from Dan DiDio, because when he first got us in a room and started talking about this, he kind of challenged us to be able to come up with stuff that way… and make it work!
MSG: The title features a ton of characters that have had concluded ongoing series in the New 52: Frankenstein, Amethyst, Stormwatch, Grifter, Mr. Terrific, Firestorm, OMAC… Was that a specific goal in developing the series, or just an opportunity to work outside the usual A-list box?
DJ: It was a partial goal. We always had those conversations, right from the start. For some reason, Hawkman was always used as the example. Like, “Who wants to fix Hawkman?” For the most part, we didn’t want that. We didn’t want to do that sort of thing. As we worked more and more on the story, one way or another it sort of evolved.
The other part of it is, I took some of the younger characters. If these guys were in high school five years ago, there comes a point for all of us where we go from age 17 to 22, we change a lot as individuals. That seemed like something that was worthwhile to explore. Firestorm fit into that, so it wasn’t like “Let’s find a way to use Firestorm.” It was more like, “Who do we have for characters that would go through a transformation in five years that would become something interesting that could become part of the story?”
MSG: Are there standout characters in the series for each of you?
DJ: And? (laughs)
BA: Plastique is a character I really like writing. I’m having a good time with her. She hasn’t even been announced yet as being in it! A D-list villain…
DJ: …who’s become a strong part of the story!
I have a young, female character, who I think will become someone the fans really latch onto. And when you first see her, no one would assume she’d necessarily gain that sort of status.
For some of the others, it’s been a lot of fun seeing Jeff [Lemire] write Frankenstein again, which has a certain magic to it. He adds this little quirkiness to the book — gives it a little kick, I think, whenever he’s on screen. Just the style of word balloons he has alone is different and sort of fun. Keith [Giffen] has a character too who is kind of the good and bad of all of that in Grifter. There are some big changes that way.
MSG: Of course, the big hero at the center of Futures End appears to be Terry McGinnis, the Batman Beyond. What can you tell me about his role in the story and why he comes back from the future of our future?
BA: To end the future. It’s in the title and on the cover.
DJ: We have a very literal title!
MSG: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask for information on the return of Booster Gold in Futures End. Last we saw him, he was disappearing amidst the start of Superman and Wonder Woman’s romance. What can you tell me about his place in the series?
DJ: One of things we build to with this story is this cool event in September, where all the DCU books jump ahead five years into the future. Even the characters that aren’t part of our story, we get to the point in the DCU where all the writers get to start to tell stories of what those characters are five years in the future.
There is going to be a Booster Gold title for that, and we’ll start to explore some of those questions everybody has about where he’s been and what he’s been doing.
MSG: It seems like there’s a bit of a genre mash happening with the story as well, with classic heroes meeting the dark corners of the DCU, something we’ve seen a lot in Wonder Woman and a bit in Aquaman to date. How do each of you see that balance and what does it bring to the story process for you?
BA: Yeah, it’s a dark story. It really is. It’s dark, but it’s very, very compelling. We might scare some people at first, but I don’t think we’re going to scare them away.
DJ: Right. I think what we’re going to have to ask everyone to understand is this: if there is a DC Universe five years from now, and there have been a couple of major changes in that time, it puts these characters as people in very different places. Five years from now, we have characters who are going to start out in a place that, just by virtue of that, is very different than what readers are currently accustomed to.
So, with all of these characters, we’re going to look at how they moved through life and what pushed them to that point, and where they go from there. We start to tell these arcs about how these characters intersect, what they mean to the DC Universe, and in some cases, as a whole how they intersect and where they go.
MSG: Alright. How about some word association? Amethyst.
MSG: Mr. Terrific.
DJ: Tattoo. (laughs) He has an awesome tattoo.
DJ: Which Robin?
BA: Again, Keith. Very Keith.
DJ: Yeah. Very Keith.
MSG: Cool! Any final teases in anticipation of next week’s first release?
DJ: I would ask everybody, if they want, to look at the promotional piece, which is sort of an M.C. Escher-style drawing. They’ll see characters they recognize, characters that look a little different, and some brand new characters there. It gives just a hint of what’s to come.
BA: Not to be a pusher, but really, the first taste is free this time.
DJ: I think it’s really cool DC has enough faith in it that they would put their Free Comic Book Day effort behind this thing and give us the opportunity to get in front of that many eyeballs.
We also have to recognize Ryan Sook, who is doing all of our design work and covers. He’s designing all of our characters and really breaking his balls to try to give every writer what he wants as this series moves along. He’s doing this incredible design work in creating this visual world our characters inhabit. And the covers he’s been putting together are just amazing. Every time he sends something in, he does three or four sketches, so we get to see where he starts from. He reads the scripts, so we can see where the script will kick him in visually. The stuff he’s doing with it is just remarkable!
By the time this is done, I’m sure there will be a book of these covers that will just be magnificent. We can’t give him enough props.
MSG: Awesome. Thank you so much, guys!
Don’t miss tomorrow’s unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor of New 52: Futures End, with a special FREE #0 issue by writers Dan Jurgens, Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, and Keith Giffen. Free Comic Book Day is an annual event. Contact your local comic shop to see if they participate, and don’t forget to support them with additional purchases if they do!