There is certainly a lot of anticipation behind Dark Nights: Metal, as you’d expect — it’s the reunion of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo after their celebrated 51-issue run on Batman wrapped last year, it’s the first major DC Comics event of the “Rebirth” era, and it’s already known to kick off a new line of “Dark Matter” books, featuring new characters and fresh interpretations of existing concepts.
What there hasn’t been a lot of are details of what the story is actually about — though that changes today, as CBR has secured new information directly from Snyder himself. The story, which launches in August and starts earlier this summer with prelude one-shots Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting, is a DC Universe-spanning event series that revolves around the discovery of “the Dark Multiverse,” which propels the story forward. Snyder is remaining tight-lipped about the exact nature of the threat the Dark Multiverse will pose, but he’s quick to state that it’s not what you’d think.
In fact, Snyder wants to make sure readers know that despite titles like Dark Nights and Dark Days, the story itself is not “dark” in the way comic book readers might guess — it’s about celebrating the wacky wonder of the DC Universe via battle armor, dinosaurs, robots and unexpected team-ups between DC superheroes you’d expect and plenty you wouldn’t. As he puts it, the tone he and Capullo are aiming for is “Frazetta and Jack Kirby had a baby to a heavy metal soundtrack.” (Music reference are frequent when Snyder’s discussing Dark Nights: Metal.)
CBR spoke in-depth with Snyder earlier this month at DC Comics’ Burbank headquarters, to learn how the Dark Days one-shots lead into Dark Nights: Metal, find out about the “lead guitar” role Batman plays in the story, the importance of Nth Metal — a substance from the planet Thanagar and a major part of Hawkman lore — and how the story coordinates with Doomsday Clock, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s just-announced follow-up to “The Button” and the Watchmen elements of last year’s DC Universe: Rebirth one-shot.
CBR: Scott, how much has this story brought you out to the west coast and DC’s offices lately? Seems like it’s been a lot.
Scott Snyder: It’s been a lot. Almost every month. Event stuff is a lot. It’s fun, though. It’s definitely a dream, because I get to coordinate with so many different writers and artists. That’s the thrill of it — Josh Williamson, James Tynion, getting to work with them on books.
That’s a little bit different for you.
With you and Greg on Batman, it was a story that functioned pretty much on its own — same on All-Star Batman. What’s this experience been like for you?
On the one hand, it’s super-terrifying, because it’s using all of these characters and elements of the DCU that I’ve always loved, but I’ve never gotten to write. With this one, we’re going everywhere — from places that you know, from the Source Wall to Atlantis to all over the place, with characters I think you wouldn’t expect Greg to draw or me to write. We’re also going to brand-new locations that we’re making up, and expanding the cosmology of the DCU.
It’s really thrilling in that regard, but also, so many great events have come before, from Geoff Johns and Grant [Morrison] down to Cosmic Odyssey; Crisis [on Infinite Earths], obviously. It’s a very intimidating tradition, and certainly I wouldn’t pretend that I think we can touch the hem of some of those things, but at the same time, we’re going all out. What I hope you always enjoyed if you were readers of our stuff is that we love working together, and we still do. There was no break for us, I still spoke to him almost every day while he was doing Reborn and I was doing All-Star.
With this one, if we’re going to get back together, we want to blow the doors off — Green Lantern, Aquaman, Cyborg, Hawkman, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. Let’s just have a huge rock and roll party — if Frazetta and Jack Kirby had a baby to a heavy metal soundtrack, this is that event. Battle armor, dinosaurs, robots. It’s really meant to be a celebration of comics storytelling and a thank you to the fans, honestly. We’re going all out.
That definitely gives a good sense of the tone, but all of the Dark Days and Dark Nights reveals so far have been deliberately vague as to the actual story. This is broad, but what can you share at this point about the story of Dark Nights: Metal, and how it evolves from the initial two one-shots?
I’ll totally spoil some stuff, even though I shouldn’t. Believe me, if it were up to me, I’d keep it all secret, so when the curtain opens, we just come out on stage and rock out as much as we can.
I do want people to understand what we’re going for. The rollout begins with a prelude, Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting. It’s written by James Tynion, and story by both of us. That really sets up the big mysteries of Metal. It’s got three narratives going — one focuses on Hawkman, one is on Batman, and one I don’t want to give away. It follows all three stories through different elements of this mystery that goes all the way back to the beginnings of the DCU, and hints at the story elements that are going to come in Metal. Also, it points really hard to the Dark Matter books, and how they are going to be integrated into the DCU, how exciting they are. So you’ll see all kinds of surprises in this two-issue prelude.
Honestly, [DC Publishers] Dan [DiDio] and Jim [Lee] were just like, “You have too much in here, Greg can’t fit this into six issues.” “Alright, let’s do a prelude.”
What I’ll say about Metal is that there’s a lot of dark terminology — Dark Days, Dark Nights: Metal — but the reason is because the event really focuses on the Justice League’s discovery of a whole new branch of DC cosmology called “the Dark Multiverse.” It really came from a fascination that I have with the idea of dark matter, dark energy. My little one, who’s 5, loves Cosmos, the show, and I watch it with him all the time, but he thinks Neil deGrasse Tyson’s name is “Cosmo,” which is really funny. He’s always saying, “Look, Cosmo’s in his spaceship again, Dad!”
But it really struck a nerve with me years ago when I was watching it with him, that the vast majority of our universe is essentially made up of dark matter and dark energy; things that we can’t even perceive, except in their effects. I kept wondering, “What if this great cosmology that everybody set up, from Grant to Geoff, had a similar formation?” Where the multiverse as we know it doesn’t envelop this vast ocean of roiling possibility is the Dark Multiverse.
The story is largely about the Justice League discovering this, and a certain member accidentally opening up a hole, and that Dark Multiverse coming here in a way that’s really, really dangerous and scary. I want to surprise people — I think it’s not what you would think. By terminology, I think you would just think, “Oh, it’s just scary versions,” but it’s not. It’s something a lot broader and different than that.
The event itself is really about exploration. It’s about the ways in which our heroes make us brave, to forge forward in the darkness and explore. I really can’t wait for people to see it.
And that is so much more than I ever expected to say. [Laughs] But I feel at least that will give people a sense of the scope, and the way we’re playing with the cosmology set up by my favorite writers and artists from many DC events, and many DC stories.
Things are going well right now at DC. We’re really happy with the way Rebirth was handled; Geoff did a great job. If that event is really about bringing back classic characters and restoring legacy, and honoring some of the great classics in DC, then we get to be sort of the bad brother that is all about creating new, crazy stuff. That’s why the Dark Matter books are just going all out, and saying we’re going to cut new characters from whole cloth, and reinvent some characters, like Challengers. Try to do stuff that’s risky and different, and do it as a thank you to the fans, because when things go well, I feel like it’s the time when you want to put it back out on the gambling table and take a risk. So this event is largely about that.
It’s almost like the strange twin to Rebirth — and it was certainly done in coordination with that. I really owe a lot to Geoff. He had me out here all the way back in November and then again in December, to vet the whole story and kick the tires with him, make sure that it coordinated with what he’s doing with [Doomsday Clock]. He was great. We just put them up on the board, and they’re in conversation with each other.
It’s been a blast. It just really is intimidating. But I go into a cave with Greg, and it’s the two of us and Jon Glapion, and FCO, and Mark [Doyle] and [Rebecca Taylor], the editorial team, and we’ve worked together so long, it’s like jamming with your good friends, and I really, really hope that energy is apparent to people when they pick it up. Because it really is robots, dinosaurs and crazy-ass space stuff from issue #1. I want it to have that feel of, “You know, comics can be so fun. Comics can melt your face off with joyous, bonkers energy.” And I’ve always loved that, especially about DC events. I think Marvel events are much more grounded a lot of the time in certain ways — in a great way. Believe me, I read every Marvel event going back for years when I was prepping for this, and so many were terrific, from Civil War to [Secret] Invasion, Dark Reign.
But I think DC is sometimes a little bit more bonkers in their events — “and a tuning fork filled with magic, that’s also responsible for Crisis, is being taken here, and it’s the Earth-2 Superman!” “What the what?” And I love that about them. So trying to go for that spirit, where we’re going crazy on the page, and honoring the kind of abandon that those events have, while also delivering great storytelling, has been a great challenge.
I really am excited about it. I’m scared, believe me — I know the pressure of this stuff. I get panic attacks, and it keeps me up sometimes, but the reasons I feel good about doing it — and the only reason I would do it — is I think we have a story that does something very different than what people have seen before, and also touches on a lot of my favorite cosmological elements, story elements, from stories that made me want to write in the first place. I’m excited about it.
That was a very labyrinthine answer! [Laughs] I got lost in the Dark Multiverse of my own mind.
And that’s good! Which characters play a big role in this? You named Batman, Hawkman.
Everybody in this story has a big mission. Without giving anything away about what they have to do, each one is tasked with something really big to save the DCU from this coming invasion. And they’re teams. So it’s characters paired together you wouldn’t expect — everybody from Deathstroke, Wonder Woman, Doctor Fate. And characters I think you wouldn’t expect to see again that have been missing a while. It’s really, really fun in that way to have characters in it that I think people wouldn’t expect [us] to touch on, just because they’ve seen us do so much Batman.
There’s a big role — Gotham and that stuff — but this is not a Batman story. DC loves us to push the idea that it’s a Batman-centric event, because we’ve never done one.
Yeah, Batman has been at the forefront of the art released so far.
Batman is the one that picks up the mystery that begins the thing, in a way, through Nth Metal. And he is a big character in it, 100 percent. He plays a lot of lead guitar. That said, it really is a Justice League story, completely, as you will see. It is something that is much more in the spirit of other big DC events, than anything we did on Batman — I think you’ll see from page one, when you see them in their battle armor, in a crazy gladiator death pit, rocking out. Batman has some great one-liners, and is a big part of it, but Superman has a huge role. Wonder Woman has one of my absolute favorite roles in the whole things. All three Green Lanterns right now. And characters you wouldn’t expect, too. It’s a big tour of the DCU — things I think are core to even the origin story of the DCU itself, to things that are really, really new. It ties into things in Tom [King]’s run, it ties into things in James’ stuff, it ties into things in Green Lanterns right now, and in Pete [Tomasi]’s Superman, and into the material with “The Button;” it works in coordination with that, too.
It’s big. We’re trying to go really big. I hope people get a sense that even though it has darkness in its name, and some of the terminology around it, that it is anything but dark when it comes to the spirit of it. It’s going to be scary — there’s going to be some big-ass villainy and monsters and all that stuff, but it is also meant to be off-the-wall, bonkers fun, where we just want to melt your face off and rock out all summer long with everybody, as a thank you for all the support over the years.
So many music references!
We made a Spotify Metal playlist, just for us — his favorites are all like [Black Label Society], Five Finger Death Punch, Gojira — he’s got me really into it. It’s been good. I’m always like, “What about this Americana?” He’s like, “Gojira!” If All-Star was all crazy road rock, this one is just out-of-control metal, melt your face guitar and drums. I’m excited.
When I saw the first cover, Greg was like, “This is it, I really love it — but we’re going to put pyro in it.” I was like, “Pyro?” “Flames behind it!” Oh my god. I love this so much. If only we had the embossed metal [cover], and then DC was like, “We can do that.” “Alright, let’s do it.”
Is that happening?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but yes, that’s happening. It’s pretty awesome. I’m really excited about it.
Doing an event, it allows me to do the thing that makes me happiest at DC — I know it sounds hokey, but it is true, I swear on my children — to collaborate with other writers and artists. I have had a chance, with All-Star and Batman, to write singularly, and DC gave me a lot of latitude to do that for a long time. I love doing it — I love working on my stuff at DC, working on A.D., just trying different things writing-wise. But the joy of doing an event is that it’s collaborative. Right now, here, there are bunch of writers and artists that we’re working with, and we’ve had three summits about it — just sharing pieces.
That part has been effortless. All kinds of stuff can be a headache, just because there are so many moving pieces, but the collaboration has been a real joy. That aspect of it, I had high hopes for, and it’s been even better than I thought. I love that about it.
Interesting to hear how integral Nth Metal is to the story. Is that a part of DC history you always thought was cool, and had been hoping for the opportunity to dig into more?
Oh yeah. I started to get really interested in it because I was looking at Hawkman as a possible series to work on post-Batman. But even while I was doing Swamp Thing I started to get interested in Hawkman, because he was a character that was mentioned a couple times after Brightest Day. I got really fascinated by the malleability and the mysterious nature of Nth Metal, where it did all these different things — it would allow you to be reincarnated over and over, or it’d let you fly, or let you heal, or give you super-strength, or you could have Doctor Fate’s mystical powers through it — it seemed almost like something that had more qualities than made any sense.
I’ve always loved, from American Vampire and other things, mysteries that go back through history. So Hawkman became this perfect character whereby I felt, over the course of these many lives he’s lived, he gets closer and closer to these answers about, is Nth Metal from our universe? Is it something conducting energy from far away? Is it the key to unlocking a whole new realm of the cosmology at DC? That really sparked my imagination, then I started telling Greg about it: “I love this story, it sounds really big, and it’s about metal!”
I love Hawkman dearly, and there are big plans for him, certainly, and Hawkgirl as well. But ultimately, what I loved most about the idea of Nth Metal is that it let me explore a mystery that would take me all the way back to the origins of the DCU, and go through some great stories that you’ll hopefully be excited to see referenced here — and also build out into new territory that we haven’t explored yet, whole new realms of the DC Universe that we’re making from scratch, but have corollaries in the real world.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times about coordinating with what the story Geoff is telling — is that more just making sure nothing contradicts, or is there a degree of things here that affect that story, and vice versa?
Well, we didn’t want to affect each other too much because he has really big plans for what he’s doing, and this has so many moving pieces, that it’s hard when you make one thing beholden to another. But what I can tell you is they point to each other, and they talk to each other in certain ways. There are beats in “The Button” that will be referenced, and there are things coming in this story that I think also look back at some of the stuff [there]. They’re about different things in the DCU, but are parts of the same universe. They make sense happening together. We worked hard to both give each other enough room, and also to make sure we didn’t feel isolated from one another, and the stories were all part of a big plan.
I hope fans see that with DC right now, one of the joys being a creator here is that there is an uber-plan for us right now, between what we did with Rebirth, what we’re doing with Metal, the stuff coming after that I can’t talk about — you’ll hear very soon about stuff coming soon after. There really is a big plan for over the next two years. You can say, “I see it from here, now I can play within these structures.” Geoff has been great about that. He had me out for a weekend, and he was just like, “Let’s put everything up on a whiteboard, and we’ll talk story.” It was a real joy.
There will be references, but we also like to give each other enough room, as we did on Justice League and Batman, to tell separate stories. I’m very grateful to him for being a real mentor in terms of how to do an event, and also giving me the toys and the room to do something fun.
It makes sense that they both seem like such big stories, there would need to be some sort of acknowledgement.
Oh yeah. And we’re careful about not using characters in ways that conflict with each other. If he’s using certain villains, I move differently. Different tone, different pacing — all that kind of stuff.
We’re trying really hard to give you an embarrassment of riches as fans. Our goal is to give you the biggest, best stories we can do and never make them feel like we’re doing them as a cash grab, or to course-correct at this point — because we feel like things are going well. It’s more about being additive, celebratory, doing a big, new story that’s daring and really change things in ways that will give us new story opportunities. But none of it is, “I need to kill someone! Someone needs to die in this event!” It’s really about celebrating the joy and bonkers fun of DC Comics in two different ways.
Dark Nights: Metal #1 is scheduled for release in August. Dark Days: The Forge is scheduled for release on June 14; Dark Days: The Casting is scheduled for July 12.