Everything is about to change.
With the release of today’s DARK DAYS: THE CASTING, the road to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s eagerly awaited DARK NIGHTS: METAL has now been paved, and where it leads promises to be far vaster and more frightening than anything we could have imagined. Immortal heroes and villains, mysterious tribes of ancient humans, Lovecraftian monsters, metals that seem to have shaped existence… Heck, when the Joker is worried, you know you’re dealing with some serious, existence-level threats.
Now that the Dark Days are behind us and the Dark Nights are ahead, we thought the time was right to sit down with Scott Snyder, one of the masterminds behind this metallic madness, to discuss the importance of The Casting and what it means for next month’s Metal. Along the way, we got Scott to shed some light on what sort of story we should expect from the event miniseries, how it all came together, and how a story that deals with so much darkness can still be a fun, upbeat ride.
More than anything, I feel like The Casting gives us a sense of how big this story truly is. Is DARK NIGHTS: METAL Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS?
Well, it’s pretty close. I would say that it’s like if we were tasked with doing a Crisis, but one that didn’t need to go back and explain or repair continuity, just because I think Geoff [Johns] has done such a good job with that, both with DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH and with what he has coming with DOOMSDAY CLOCK. For us, it’s a question of how do we do something new that feels like it has that level of drama and excitement?
Instead of going back to Earth-2 or Alexander Luthor—all the stuff that I love in previous Crisis events—this was about creating a brand new territory. What if there’s an area of the Multiverse that remains completely unknown and unexplored? Our heroes open a door to it and it comes here to destroy everything. What about something we’ve never seen before? What about a being as old as the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor that we didn’t know about? What about a whole set of realities that are a vast roiling ocean of possibility that we’ve never even laid eyes on, something that is all around us at all times, like dark matter and dark energy?
In other words, if we can do a Crisis-type story, but it doesn’t depend on the pieces that we’ve always used for those and instead creates new pieces, then it felt right.
So how long did it take you to develop that idea and to come up with a story on this large of a scale, and with this many moving pieces? We’ve only seen limited examples of that level of storytelling from you in the past. How does it feel working on that scale?
Hugely exciting. I can’t even articulate what a thrill it is to get to use all of the toys in the sandbox. For me, James Tynion, Josh Williamson, Tom King and Sam Humpries—all of us who have been involved in different ways in the event—it’s the same thing. We just look at each other, and say, “I can’t believe I get to use these characters.”
It’s hugely thrilling. There are days where I feel like I’ve put almost too much in there. How do you not? I mean, you love these characters. One of the things that’s hugely intimidating is the quality of the events of the past. You need to be like, “Yes, it might have every character you can think of in it, but it’s really focused on one emotional trajectory and one purpose.” So that’s sort of the challenge. It’s different than writing Batman, by far. What I hope, too, is that people see that we’re trying to do it in our own way and slightly different than what’s been done before.
The Casting makes reference to the Joker and Batman’s experience in BATMAN: ENDGAME. Did you have this story in mind when you wrote that one?
By the time I was doing Endgame, I was starting to think of ways of bringing all of our stories together for a capstone piece. I had this idea of a mystery that involved our entire run on Batman with the Joker as almost a Greek chorus and a threat that was bubbling up based on all of the Easter eggs that we’d been layering in the stories. I didn’t quite have the story yet, but I had the idea that there would be something that connected to detectives of the past—Hawkman, Detective Chimp and more. There would be all of this material that would fall into Batman’s lap, and the more he followed it, the more it would point back to him in a scary way that gave him real pause. It would be the first mystery in his career that he would think he didn’t want to solve, and that’s where the Justice League would come in, solve it for him and wind up opening the doorway that he didn’t want to open.
So yeah, it’s definitely something I was thinking of all the way back then, in kind of its nascent form. It really got fun once Greg said he wanted to come back after Reborn and we were able to start planning it. There are clues in BATMAN #51, actual terms. The scene with the Owls, the “mantling,” the “strigidae.” There are all kinds of things in that issue setting up stuff that will play out in Metal.
So would that be a good issue for fans to revisit before they read Metal?
Yeah, and there are also clues in ALL-STAR BATMAN about the Blackhawks and other things. However, we don’t want you to feel like you have to read all of this stuff to have fun with Metal. It will be user-friendly. But it is deeply connected to stories and events of the past, which I think fans are starting to see in terms of the characters we’ve chosen for it. Just the depth of history that comes with Hawkman. We want Metal to be something that pays homage and celebrates the rich history of the DC Universe, but also feels like it’s tied to our stuff, and also is something that you can read blind and have fun with over the summer as well. Everything else just kind of enriches it.
I was also surprised to discover how important this particular comic seems to be for Duke. What can we expect for him going forward? Is his role in the Bat-universe going to change?
Very much. We have some big announcements coming soon about Duke. That’s a story that I’ve been really espoused to for a long time. One of the things that I’d say is that with characters like Duke and books like the Dark Matter books, one of the big priorities is getting to bring in new voices as well. So for me, when it comes to the story we’re planning with Duke, I’m really proud of both the ideas behind it and the creative driving force behind it. It comes from someone who was in my class that I think is really committed to the character and will bring something really special to it. In that way, I see it as a chance to try to put your money where your mouth is and give other people a chance to come in and own some of the Batman mythos and make it their own in different ways.
Considering the scope of this story, and that it begins very early in our history, it makes sense that the al Ghuls would be a part of it. Will we be seeing more of Ra’s al Ghul in Metal, or is his part done for now?
He definitely plays a role. I don’t want to give it away, but as somebody who’s one of these very old characters, he has sort of a key part. The characters that have seen it all, from Vandal Savage to the Immortal Men, Resurrection Man, Uncle Sam, they have scope on this story, so I wanted to include them in different ways. There will be some surprising ones coming in as well. I’m really excited that this story can encompass those characters. I want them to have a strong role, and that includes the al Ghuls. They play a part.
The sheer number of characters who appear in The Forge and The Casting is huge. How did you decide on who to include?
It all comes out of the story. For Ra’s or the immortals, it became a question of where Carter starts to discover that there’s a mystery bigger than the one he thought he was following—it would have to be with a council of ancients. Well, who’s been around that long?
There’s a certain amount of fun when it comes to things like how you fit in Plastic Man. But the reason that Plastic Man’s in there is because the ways in which he’s been described in the past and his molecular makeup fits some of the ideas we have in Metal. It’s those kind of moments where you get excited and realize that you can do something fan-fun, but also total organic as well.
This story looks like it’s going to take the DC Universe to some dark places, but the word you keep using to describe it is “fun.” How do you balance darkness and terror with fun and hopefulness?
I think there’s an internal battle there in some ways. Historically, what gets people in the shops is when their characters are in tremendous crisis: Who’s going to die?
Whenever it’s that level of shocking darkness, I think it gets you in the store. But I also genuinely believe that it’s been a really rough year for everybody, regardless of what political side you’re on. It’s a rough time. People are angry at each other. There’s a lot of divisiveness and terror out there about what’s going to happen, and from all corners. Metal is a story that’s about things that keep me and Greg up. It’s about the ways in which you can find yourself in a story that you didn’t think was possible, and it’s much darker than the one that you thought was inevitable.
The key [is in how you tell it]. The things that I love right now and that I respond to—The LEGO Batman Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Wonder Woman—they don’t speak to the grim, dark things in the atmosphere explicitly. They speak to them in a way that’s translated to comic book language to such a degree that you enjoy it until suddenly it hits you right in the gut. We’ve tried to do that in different ways on Batman. I think the most engaged stories, like “Super Heavy,” which were about things that were in the air at the moment, do the same thing. We put Gordon in a giant robot Batman suit and gave him a bat-truck, and people just think it’s so much fun. But then suddenly it begins to hit you. Metal is that. That’s the balance for me.
What I want is to go pick up a comic that reminds me of the immense joy I felt as a child in the ’80s, reading something that was bombastic, energetic and crazy in its concepts. Something that felt like escapist fiction, and yet, deeply was not. I believe there is no such thing as escapist fiction in the way that if escapist fictions works—if you go see something that you think is just cartoonish and silly, but it hits you and it means something to you so that it endures—then it’s not escapist. It’s speaking to some kind of emotional truths that are potent and relevant to you at the moment.
Metal adheres to that belief. It’s built around things that matter to us, but we want you to open it up and be like, “Holy sh**, I’m watching the Justice League fight in an alien death pit in space, in giant Frazetta armor against killer robots!”
I want Batman on a dinosaur-level of nuts. I want stuff that will make you smile. I’ll go down with the ship if it doesn’t work, but I’d much rather go out there saying that this is something that’s personal, but it isn’t about being grimdark or shocking. It’s about saying that we want you to remember how much fun it is to read comics, and there will be humongous consequences, but it’s not about who we’re killing. It’s about unleashing our inner rock god this summer, and then boom, you’ll be surprised when it hits you personally. But it doesn’t need to be explicitly, consistently, punishingly, mercilessly dark.
DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo will be available on August 16, 2017.