By the end of 2017, two of the top-selling comics of the year came from one of the industry’s most prolific comic book creating teams, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. After helping usher in a new golden age of Batman comics, the two reunited to bring us Dark Nights: Metal, a six-issue story that brings together DC’s greatest heroes against an evil team of Bruce Wayne’s from throughout the multiverse with world-ending intentions.
After reading issue #5, Black nerd Problems got a chance to talk to Snyder about the creative process behind the series, the long-term implications it’ll have on DC Comics and what to expect from him in the near future.
*Warning: This interview contains spoilers for currently unreleased issues of Dark Nights: Metal.*
BLACK NERD PROBLEMS: How would you say the reception for Dark Nights: Metal has stacked up against your own expectations when you first started writing, both with the general public but also inside DC?
SCOTT SNYDER: It went way beyond what I expected, honestly. So, I’m incredibly grateful to fans and to DC and everybody for being so supportive. I mean, initially when Craig and I pitched it, it was a bit of an argument internally just because it’s so different than, I think, events of the past in the way that it’s meant to be a little bit crazy and celebratory, and compressed, and move at this kind of nutty breakneck pace, and it introduces a lot of new stuff very quickly. So, there was initial skepticism I think, which is healthy, but DC very quickly became really supportive, and the fact that fans have shown and sold everything out. So basically, I just found out. I was just out there in Burbank and it’s like, Metal’s on its fourth or fifth printing and the tie-in’s all sold out, and all that stuff.
We never expected that kind of a response, so the fact that people have sold out the t-shirts and all that stuff is really thrilling. I mean, we’re really doing this for us. I mean, I wanted it to be a personal story that was sort of a love letter to the DCU in which we got to talk about how in some moments in your life you kind of step out of your comfort zone. You explore, you look for answers the way Batman does here with the mystery of the dark multiverse that he picks up from Hawkman. You try things that are sort of bigger than you’ve ever tried before. You move to a new place, you try a new job, and then all of a sudden everything pointing back at you is dark. All of a sudden all you hear is sort of people, or the voices in your own head telling you, you made a mistake, you failed, you’re only ever gonna fail, these are the things wrong with you, here are the terrible versions of yourself that are waiting no matter what choice you make.
And we wanted to sort of subject Batman and the whole DCU to that ultimately to say, we all go through that, and the thing that helps us through is that kind of imaginative and communal bravery that comes from superheroes for one thing, but your friends all of it outside in real life. So, I never expected it to have the kind of reception it has is the point I’m trying to make. We were just trying to do something that we believed in and loved and was particular to our aesthetic and our sensibility and the fact that people have responded so well just means the world. We’re very, very grateful.
BNP: You actually mentioned this is a great way to introduce a lot of the characters and you bring them into the story. So, was that something that you planned to do from the beginning, or were you writing the story and you just had the idea that this character specifically would fit in well here, or there, or how that went?
SCOTT: Well, the way I kind of plan a story is I know the beginning, I know the first few big beats, and I know the last few big beats, and I know kind of the turning points. I know the point in the middle at which it looks like it’s going one way, but you realize there’s a lot of darker forces at work than you expected. But outside of that, I try and give myself a little bit of room to play. The characters that we knew from the very beginning we really wanted to boost and have a lot of story both in Metal and after Metal were Cyborg, where we wanted to really level him up so that he didn’t feel sort of like a hub of the Justice League in terms of being connected to the Watchtower himself, but had a connection to the whole multiverse, and also might have a new mission in that way post-Metal that kind of made him a big leader, all that kind of stuff that we were sort of excited about.
Martian Manhunter, who comes in, in this issue. We wanted to bring him back and give a really big connective role. Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Plastic Man. Those kind of characters have been real anchors for us and we knew that we wanted a big story for them, but some of them along the way, like Starro for example, Starro kind took on a life of his own, and I really love writing him, so I’m putting him in stuff post-Metal for myself because I really enjoy his voice. So, I was like … even Dan Didio was like, “Really? Starro?” And I was like, “Yes, Dan, Starro, and I’m taking him post this.” So, we have some plans for him and a couple of other characters that have just become too fun to write and draw to let go of.
BNP: Yeah, speaking of Starro, is it true he has five asses, or is that just something that you made up?
Scot: He does. Well, yeah, in fact, he does. I was looking up starfish anatomy. That has nothing to do with it. So, I was like, starfish anatomy is really boring, and yet when you realize he’s a space starfish with telepathic powers and a single eyeball you realize the whole world is open to you when it comes to creating your own biology for him. So, actually I had to run that by DC where I was like, “Can I give Starro five asses and some other kind of organ that you don’t know what it is that gets kicked?” And they were like, “Just do whatever you want. We don’t want to talk about this.” It was a very, very sort of like just, “Do whatever you’re going to do, and let’s not go there with HR or whatever we have to deal with.” So, yes, so Starro’s anatomy is up for grabs.
BNP: Well, that did come out of left field. Just to backtrack a bit. I’m glad that you said this instead of me doing so. So, Martian Manhunter comes back in this issue. Tell me a little more about that decision.
SCOTT: Well, I’ve loved him forever. I mean, Dwayne McDuffey’s Justice League, the cartoon, meant so much to me as a young adult. The animated stuff is what kept me in comics because when I was in college it was hard for me to go to the comic store. There wasn’t one where I went to college in that city, or anywhere nearby me. I mean, I didn’t have a car. So, my first embarrassing years at college my father actually sent me my comics and then it just was like you’re so above the geek threshold at that point when you’re getting a manila envelope of comics from your dad when you’re away living in a dorm. That it was sort of like, “I need to … “, and it’s before the days of digital obviously and I’m reading … So, it was sort of like, “Ah.” But the animated stuff really kept me involved in these superheroes lives that I loved, and so Martian Manhunter was such a big part of that series and also such a big part of Grant’s run, and all of it that it felt odd to do a big Justice League story and not have him returned.
So, it’s not just about kind of having him come back and have a page where he saves them and stuff. The plans for him are extremely extensive and personal, so whatever I’m doing next, Martian Manhunter is a big part of that. So, there’s no kind of bringing him back for their cheers and then leaving him alone. To me, the thing I love about that character so deeply is that he’s so empathetic and connective literally and figuratively. He’s someone from a planet that died behind him, and yet he comes here and finds this new home, a new family, and he’s the one that connects all of our heroes telepathically, through his compassion, through his heart, through his love of sort of life, and humanity, and his sympathy, all of it. So, he’s such a big missing piece of the DCU, for me, that it was important to bring him back especially in a story that’s about how you use each other and each other’s support and friendship to get through the darkest times in your life.
BNP: I got to read the issue before we had this interview, and by the time I got to the end of it, it became a little more clear that this story with only one issue left after this may not have the happiest of all endings. So, how far reaching would you say the implications are gonna be after all the fallout that comes from this?
SCOTT: Well, there is very, very big implications. We have the Wild Hunt issue next month with Grant Morrison, which is sort of a crazy, manic tour of the multiverse as Cyborg, Raven, and Flash desperately try to find any remaining heroes as the multiverse crumbles to help them in their fight, so you get total Morrisonian insanity in the best way possible. But issue six is oversized, it’s 32 pages of me and Gregg, and then another 10 to 12 pages, so it’s a really big issue for cheap. And what we wanted to do with it was to give you big repercussions, so I tried to do my homework with events, and one of the things over the year before I wrote Metal, and one of the things I realized was just they have to matter in some way. And some events are dark and kill people off, and other events like “House of M” create new story engines that just sort of spin things in a different direction. And we really wanted with Metal to be a little bit more of the latter. So, what I’d say is things definitely are meant to look very, very dark, and there are dark … there’s definitely some dark notes at the end.
But that said, on the other hand what Metal is deeply about is sort of affirming that need and that desire to travel beyond the boundaries of your own kind of familiar life, of your own familiar knowledge. Batman does that, Superman does that. Everybody in the event to Plastic Man does that to some degree. They all go on these mini missions, and then realize, “No, what I see is so scary. I should go back into my egg, or I should never have done this.” And then they have to push past that. So, the ending is very crazy and celebratory. You’ll see Plastic Man explode out of his egg, and Batman riding Joker dragons. There’s a lot of nutty, nutty moments like of all the kind of toys I wanted to smash together in the bath as a kid.
All of that happens in Metal #6, but the fun is to kind of roll the story out post that, that says, “Well, this Metal just opened the door to you and said the universe and the multiverse is so much bigger than we thought. Maybe we need to rethink how we do things.” And so, there’s a lot of story that’s coming that we’re going to announce. As we get closer to issue #6 you’ll see a lot more about it, but things that kind of roll out post-Metal that are big repercussions from this story, but that aren’t like, “Hey, everybody’s dead.” It’s more like, “Listen, they just came through this crazy thing, and there are some changes and there are some new characters. Well, how do proceed? Maybe it’s in these ways that give us bigger and crazier story and allow us to go to even farther points off in the multiverse than you ever expected.”
So, we’re trying to expand. We want it to feel big, and fun, and robust, and transportive, and Kirby-esque. So that’s DC 2018 talking to Brian Bendis, hanging out with him, talking to Geoff, everybody that’s involved. We really want that feel that’s like the DC universe just became more fun than you thought it could be, and now, we just want to spin it out and make it even more, and more, and more exploratory, and more surprising, and exciting with each month. So, a lot of big stuff coming out of Metal, I promise.
BNP: The last thing I’m curious about, how far back exactly have you been planting Easter eggs in your stories leading up to Metal? Because I’ve seen things on Twitter here and there, but I want to hear it from you.
SCOTT: Well, the truth is, I started thinking about the story that would become Metal really early on. I mean, it was back when we were doing “Court of Owls,” I started thinking about a story that would be like, “What if Batman picked up a mystery that had to do with some kind of Metal from Hawkman?” And then I dropped it because we were like, “Oh, we’re doing Joker.” And I was like, “Yes.”[laughs] And then while we were doing Joker and had permission to do that, I realized that story had some aspects of it, too, because I knew the first one, “Death of the Family,” was going to be part one of a two-parter with “Endgame”. I started to think, “Well, the thing that would bring him back was some metal.” So, there really are clues from Barbatos being mentioned in Endgame, and Dionesium being mentioned there, and then by the time we rolled into “Endgame” and then “Super Heavy” is almost a set up for it there.
I had the shape of it by the time we were in “Endgame” coming out of it, but I had the pieces of it, like, the idea of doing a story whether it was an event or an arc on Batman, or what, all the way back when we were kind of in a “Court of Owls,” so it sort of just evolved over time. He [Greg Capullo] and I were coming to a close, and I was like, “Yeah, you know what? That’s perfect. Let’s take a year off.” I was like, “What if I plan this?” I told Greg all the way back by “Endgame” while we were beginning “Super Heavy,” I was like, “What if the thing we do eventually is this in Metal?” And he was like, “Done.” All I had to do was tell him the title. I had him over to my house, and we were having drinks. I was like, “Listen, I have this thing that fits you. It’s a big story. I have a whole PowerPoint for you in my head, but it’s called Metal.” And he was like, “I don’t care what it is. Metal, we’re done.” I was like, “Alright.” I had this whole thing prepared, but it didn’t matter.