WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers for Dark Nights: Metal #3, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, on sale now from DC Comics.
Dark Nights: Metal is jam-packed with references to arcane elements from DC Comics history and to rock — no, make that rawk! — from “devil horns” to the spirited rendition of the classic Batman TV theme by Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent. However, the most metal aspect of the series has nothing to do with Nth, and everything to do with a font. Yes, a font. And once you see it, you won’t be able to un-see it.
Comic book lettering has often been referred to as “the invisible art,” because it largely goes unnoticed by readers, except when it’s done poorly. In the hands of a skilled letterer, word balloons guide our eyes from panel to panel (and even compensate for a bad layout), and the right font choice can help to set a story’s tone and even convey crucial information about a character. In Dark Nights: Metal #3, letterer Steve Wands’ choice of font for the bat-demon Barbatos achieves the latter, while delivering a cheeky tribute to heavy metal.
The fearsome creature from the Dark Multiverse, who fills the backgrounds of panels and towers over the heroes of the DC Universe, making them appear powerless and insignificant, “speaks” in appropriately oversized letters distinctive not only in their statue and lavender drop shadows, which mimic the color of the veins in Barbatos’ wings, but also in their style. Although we won’t hazard a guess at the font’s name, we can point out the rather severe angles within the letterforms — the arms, the spurs and so on.
In short, it looks pretty much what you’d expect the font to look like for a gargantuan bat-demon from a hellish mirror dimension. But it’s those severe angles that produce the typographic heavy-metal Easter egg (a phrase you’ve likely never read before and will never read again).
Whenever Barbatos says “See”(or, rather “SEE”), the letterforms conspire to create the illusion of “666,” the fabled Number of the Beast. No, not the Iron Maiden album and song — well, OK, also that, but more specifically the number associated with the biblical Beast of Revelation. It doesn’t get much more metal than that.
The word appears again a little later, as Barbatos taunts Superman in an apocalyptic Gotham City (“See, Clark Kent?”) While it could certainly be the backdrop, or the two enormous fire-breathing, flying serpents with the face of The Joker, but the “666” illusion seems even more pronounced there.
It could certainly be a happy accident, but we prefer to believe it’s a comic-book version of backmasking orchestrated by Wands, part of a larger sinister conspiracy that also includes writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. It makes any plot hatched by the Court of Owls pale by comparison.
Whoever is responsible, we salute you.
Dark Nights: Metal #3, by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia and Steve Wands, is on sale now from DC Comics.
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