Ricky Church chats with Scott Snyder about Dark Nights: Metal…
Last month famed Batman writer and artist team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo reunited at last for their long teased DC event, Dark Nights: Metal. The series sees Batman and the Justice League exploring a deep mystery of the DC Universe, one that threatens to destroy it if the Dark Multiverse is uncovered and Batman may unwittingly let it through.
Since the first prelude issue, Dark Days: The Forge #1, Snyder has weaved together many elements from his and Capullo’s Batman run, tying together the Court of Owls’ electrum metal to The Joker’s Dionysium to the Nth metal wielded by Hawkman and the Thanargarians. Dark Nights: Metal #1 ended with Batman escaping from the Justice League and their would-be captors with a piece of Nth metal, determined to solve this case on his own for the League’s protection, when a very surprising visitor came to see him.
We got a chance to chat with Snyder on what’s to come in Dark Nights: Metal, where the idea for the series came from and re-teaming with Capullo on the long-awaited series. Check out the interview below.
Mild spoilers for Dark Knights: Metal #2…
Ricky Church: You’ve been pulling aspects from the very start of your Batman run and even All-Star Batman into Dark Nights: Metal. What kind of steps do you take to weave together the mythology you’ve made through your Batman series?
Scott Snyder: For me, it was back when we were doing ‘Endgame’ and then into ‘Superheavy’ when I started to think “What if we did one last, big Bat-event extravaganza before we left?” And then the design of things sort of became clear before we left when they were talking about DC Rebirth and Greg decided he might want to take a break after Batman #50 and then come back.
It was back then when I had begun to make some connective tissue between the Court of Owls, the electrum, the Dionsyium. I started to get this idea as we were working on ‘Superheavy’, especially with the metals, there could be this secret periodic table that would point towards something bigger because we had Batmanium in that one and the collider. It became this thing of what if there was a metallurgy or science that has to do with these metals and culminate in Batman investigating the Nth metal.
I remember calling Greg, he was actually over at my house well over a year ago back when we were doing ‘Superheavy’, he and his wife had come over and I was like “Listen, I think I’ll know what we’ll do when we’re all done and we come back”. I had this whole thing prepared where it was about Dark Nights and there was the Dark Multiverse and how in the Dark Mutliverse all of our fears exist and so the villain Barbatos has plucked every single one of Bruce’s worst fears about himself, like “What if I killed The Joker and Joker’s heart had a toxin in it to make whoever killed him the next Joker so I become The Joker?”, every one of these things and I was ready to give him this whole speech and I said “So it’s called Metal” and he was like “Oh I’m in!” I was like “Well there’s this whole story” and he said “Fine, fine, you can tell me, but I’m in. It’s called Metal, we’re good!” So I said “Let’s have a tequila, relax, we’ll talk about it later.” I’m really beside myself with disbelief that its finally real and exists and DC let us do it and has been so supportive of it. Its just great.
RC: Just talking about Greg there, what’s it like for you to reunite with him on this series?
SS: Oh jeez, he’s literally – I don’t have better friend than Greg. Greg is literally my brother. I can’t tell you how great it is to work with him again. We were talking the whole time he was on Reborn and I was doing All-Star Batman. We still talked every week, texted, joked around and saw each other. Our wives are good friends too so it wasn’t like we weren’t hanging out and stuff. There was no break for us socially, but to just see him explode on the page with these characters that I thought I’d never get to see him draw, from Plastic Man to the wizard Shazam to Uncle Sam, to see him draw Green Arrow! All that stuff is a joy. He loves the bonkers aspect of it as much as I do and ultimately the story is about celebrating the ridiculous, zany joy of comic book storytelling and by sort of diving into it and celebrating it, we’re reminding us how personal these stories can be and how intensely meaningful they can hopefully be.
RC: Awesome! Now at Fan Expo you mentioned to me that issue #2 of Metal would see Batman almost on the run from the Justice League because he’s got this great weapon with him. He’s always shown a willingness to go rogue if he thinks he’s doing the right thing to protect others, but wouldn’t you think from past stories he’s learnt his lesson about that by now? What drives him to go separate from the Justice League?
SS: (Laughs) Never! He will never learn that lesson. Ever! He’s the greatest detective in the world, but when it comes to his own failings, he is not the sharpest. That’s what makes him so great! I love writing him for that very reason. For all his prowess and brilliance and all of it, he’s so human in terms of his own blind spots when it comes to his own psychology. That’s why he makes such a rich character. He exists at this strange intersection of human perfection and tremendous human frailty. I love that about him.
RC: Issue #1 ended with a pretty big reveal where you pulled in Neil Gaiman’s Dream from Sandman into the story. How did that happen? How will Daniel play into this big mystery of the DC universe?
SS: Well, the idea is that the Dark Multiverse is this vast, oceanic realm that exists beneath the Multiverse the same way there’s this sentient, waking reality and then there’s the subconscious. This idea that there’s this sort of roiling, primal realm that essentially encompasses all of our hopes and fears. The idea is that the Dark Multiverse is a place where any one of your fears or hopes becomes materialized and the whole planet bubbles up out of this forge based on those fears or desires. As soon as you forget about those things, that world crashes in on itself and disappears. They’re all unstable.
It made sense to me when I was conceiving of the event and getting down to the nitty gritty of it, almost exactly a year ago, that I started talking about the possibility of Dream being incorporated into it because the Dark Multiverse to me is on the other side of that. People think that the realm of Dream is, in some ways, separate, but its not. The Dreaming for me is almost this perfect connection between the DCU and the Dark Multiverse. There are other points of entry and other membranes. Through the Phantom Zone is one – not to spoil too much – and a couple other places that have permeable membranes, but The Dreaming felt like it would be greatly affected by any disturbance there. If, for example, Barbatos had taken over the Dark Multiverse even though there are other gods and deities down there and had wound up making it a place of only nightmares and fears that would affect The Dreaming and Lucian’s library.
Dream is almost the person who has this big, keystone role as the nature of the Dark Multiverse presents itself. He has a big role in a couple other issues, but we wanted to make really sure Neil loved everything we’d be doing with him. I wrote to Neil a year ago and gave him this whole pitch and said “This is how I would like to use Dream if you’d allow it. No worries if its not to you liking, I don’t have to do it,” but I had met and hung out with Neil a few times over the course of my career at DC and he’s always been extremely sweet and generous so I felt comfortable approaching him, but I didn’t expect him to say “Yes, go for it” without a lot more vetting. He just went off the pitch I sent him and said “I trust you, go for it, just show it to me as you go.” Its been a real inspiration just to use the character, to revisit those stories and to see Neil’s generosity and experience, the incredible collaborative energy that he brings to a project, the way he wants to see your ideas. It’s great. I could not be more grateful to him for being so awesome about sharing a character with us that’s so important to so many people, including us.
RC: You’ve obviously had years of experience with Batman and you even got to write Superman in Superman Unchained, so what’s it like for you now to take the next level where you’re writing Batman, Superman and the rest of the Justice League?
SS: Oh my god, dude, its been a dream! When I was working on Batman and Geoff [Johns] was on Justice League, I was so in awe of the scope of that book and I always have been when Grant [Morrison] was doing JLA and Mark Waid was doing it, so I was always looking over saying “Maybe one day I’ll get to play in a bigger sandbox, but I’m not ready.” Honestly, it was working on All-Star Batman where I started to feel reconnected to the crazy joy and cosmic storytelling that this event will allow for when it comes to Justice League and all the characters in the DCU because All-Star doesn’t have a tremendous cast, but not having the same pressures and expectations on a book the way Batman always has, because Batman is in the grind. Batman is kind of the barometer by which the health of DC Comics is often measured.
There’s just a lot of expectation and intensity on that book so for me to be able to separate from it with All-Star and do this crazy, pirate, MI-5 Batman adventure or Batman at Antartica, all of it was like “You know what? Comics are so fun.” I’d had a blast on Batman and ‘Zero Year’ and ‘Superheavy’ were bonkers, but being able to take a step back and say “If I got all the characters, I’d want it to be like this. I’d want to to be a celebration of the Kirby-esque, zany fun that I grew up loving and also still love as a way of getting to the stuff that’s also really meaningful, both to kids and adults.” I can tell a story about a moment in your life, which is what Metal is about, where you wake up and suddenly, out of nowhere, feel like all the things you were proud of, all the things that you’d done that made you happy, have suddenly been inverted and they are all pointing to the way in which you are a total failure and everything around you is more roads leading back into darkness. You have to find your way out of that, but how do you do that? The way to get there in the story is through this over-the-top reminder of how ludicrous comics can be because that is also the way out. Remembering to see outside that darkness towards the insane, awesome, wondrous possibility of recognizant storytelling that is comics. I hope that makes sense!
RC: For sure! I actually do really like how you’re talking about Grant Morrison and the Jack Kirby influence that’s in there. It’s something we don’t see that often anymore, so what’s it like for you to bring that Kirby-esque influence back to the series?
SS: It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a superhero comic hands down! Easily. All-Star was the most fun I’ve had on a Batman one, but this is just 10 times more. Everything is open! The hardest thing is trying to make sure you don’t just put in things just for fun and keeping everything on a really emotional railway where you make sure the story makes sense and its always trying to foreground the most emotional beats, even when you have access to things you’d love to throw in just for bonkers fun. It is a real joy. Grant is one of my absolute idols for the fact he can take these characters and do something that immediately feels like him and builds on continuity and takes you somewhere brand new in a way that feels unique to his voice and the way he tells a story.
That’s what I’m trying to do here in our own way. I know I can’t touch the hem of writers like him or Neil Gaiman or Kirby, but that said, trying to function or follow in the spirit of what they do, to me, is the goal. Trying to say “I’m going to use these pieces that I grew up loving and still love to pay tribute to them in ways that hopefully remind us of how great they are” and then blast off into a place that is our own and new and different and rich, but also in the spirit that speaks to what you, I hope, come to expect from me and Greg, which is dialled up in volume.
Thank you to Scott Snyder for taking the time to speak with us! Dark Nights: Metal #2 is on shelves now.