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Dark Nights Metal’s Scott Snyder wants to make the DC Universe matter again

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The future of Batman and DC at New York Comic Con

Wonder Woman sits enthroned, with Harley Quinn, Aquaman, and a massive hyena behind her, on the cover of Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook, DC Comics (2020). Image: Yasmine Putri/DC Comics

Ahead of next week’s release of Dark Nights: Death Metal #4, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV revealed just how DC’s comic book universe will be rebooted without a reboot during their joint New York Comic Con panel Friday — and, perhaps, offered some hints about how the company will be approaching its big superhero properties moving forward, as well.

The two writers talked as part of the intimate DC in Conversation with Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV panel Friday afternoon, discussing their shared past in the industry and the way in which the two share information and support each other in projects from American Vampire all the way through Tynion’s current Batman run and beyond.

“The thing that bound us, I think, early on, was the desire to keep each other honest,” Snyder explained during the panel, noting that the two share work with each other early in their process to ask, essentially, if it’s good enough — something that Tynion pointed out, has been happening since they met, before either of them were actually working in comics. Tynion shared a story about meeting Snyder at Sarah Lawrence College, where they were student and teacher respectively, and almost immediately sharing ideas.

Of course, the two also talked about Death Metal, an event which is the culmination of years of collaboration between them — something that Tynion described as “really powerful,” adding, “It’s not always true that you’ve laid down all this track, and you try to set up this huge story and you actually get to bring it to the close you’ve been envisioning.” With the series approaching its midway point next week, Snyder spoiled what’s upcoming just a little bit in explaining what it means that all DC stories will “matter” by the time the dust settles.

As the fourth issue of the series opens, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman have traveled into the Dark Multiverse to revisit different Crisis Points in DC history with a plan to save the future by changing the past — a plan that gets replaced by something far more unexpected once they are confronted by some of the biggest villains in DC canon, like Darkseid and Superboy Prime, each of whom has tried to rewrite history in their own way.

“What Wonder Woman comes to realize,” Snyder said, “is that, in the end of the day, they have to reckon with the whole history of the DCU — every story has happened, and the only way forward is to not only accept that, but have that as their whole arsenal to fight with.”

Death Metal, and the larger meta-story it’s part of — with beginnings that date back to 2017’s Dark Nights: Metal and was hinted at even earlier in Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run — is “a love letter to all of DC Comics,” he said, and one that is intended to embrace the entire history of the company. “At the end, what we do is, we say that all of this material was consequential, and now, whatever DC is going to be going forward — narratively and as a company, because there have been a lot of changes — we’re excited for that.”

Of course, just because DC will be restoring its past, that doesn’t mean that it plans to repeat it. That’s something that Tynion made a point of underscoring when talking about his Batman run, and where he plans to go following this week’s conclusion of the “Joker War” story arc.

“The city,” Batman says, looking out over Gotham at dawn, “it’s changed so much” in Batman #100, DC Comics (2020). Image: James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez/DC Comics

“I remember right when I was taking on the job, hearing Alfred was going to be dead… and then we were doing interesting things with Jim Gordon [in Year of the Villain, leading up to Death Metal], so all of a sudden, all of these classic pieces, the classic Batman pieces are changed. It’s not like they’re gone forever or anything, but it is interesting to write the character [now],” Tynion said. “All of those iconic elements of Batman are in his past, and now he has to figure out, how can he be Batman today?”

It’s not just Batman who needs to figure that out, as it turns out, with Tynion talking about how he’s approaching the character and his surroundings without the familiar trappings many consider core parts of the Batman mythos. “The city is growing more and more dangerous — the key thing with ‘Joker War’ was to set off a whole bunch of change in Gotham City, and it’s going to deeply affect the status quo to the point that Batman is going to need to change his approach, he’s going to need to change his base of operations, he’s going to need to change how he interacts with crime in Gotham City.”

If his Detective Comics run from 2016 through 2018 was intended to focus on Batman’s family of fellow crimefighters, his Batman run will “elevate” the rogues gallery, and use them almost as a supporting cast for the series, with Harley Quinn in particular sticking around for the foreseeable future. He’s also introducing a new generation of villains, such as Punchline, to show how years of super crime in Gotham City has shaped its citizens. “These are the children of who [Batman’s] been fighting all this time,” Tynion said of his new creations. “Building out these kind of new characters, they’re each meant to challenge him and push him in new directions”

Speaking to the fact that he’s creating what Snyder termed “this generation’s Batman,” Tynion talked about what he’s calling “the exciting thing about this moment in DC comics” — that, with the Black Label titles telling stories outside of the monthly continuity that can lean into the classic, iconic, versions of characters, it “almost requires” the ongoing series to evolve and come up with new ideas. As Tynion put it, the lead Batman title has to offer stories that are “exciting and different,” and tell the reader, “this is an experience you can only get reading the main Batman book at DC Comics.”