How 'Death Metal' Became a DC Team's Biggest Story Yet
The first time Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo created a comic book event storyline for DC, they introduced the Dark Multiverse, cracked the walls in reality and called it Dark Nights: Metal. This summer, they’re doing it all again with a follow-up called — what else? — Dark Nights: Death Metal.
The ambitious six-issue series picks up plot threads from the past couple of years of DC comic books including Justice League, Year of the Villain, Batman/Superman as well as the first Metal series as the Earth has been consumed by Dark Multiverse energy, leaving the few remaining heroes with few options to save humanity. But a mysterious figure might be about to change everything … if they can reach Wonder Woman in time.
Heat Vision breakdown
Death Metal will run in two three-month blocks, from May through July, then September through November, with additional “Metalverse” special issues already planned to accompany the series. But what should fans expect from the latest pairing of Snyder and Capullo? The Hollywood Reporter talked to the creators to find out.
Greg, I actually want to start with you, because the first teaser image for this that came out was the Wonder Woman image, which was such a great image — the Batman Who Laughs skull hanging down from her belt was wonderful. Who came up with that? That image, the Superman teaser and the Batman teaser — who came up with those designs and who came up with these particular ideas of the characters?
Greg Capullo: Scott came up with the idea of having the skull. Certainly, I can't take it upon myself to include a detail like that — I don't know if that's something that you can do or not do. Scott said stuff like, "she's the queen of hell, she can have horns, but not like Loki." Things like that. So I go, "OK, queen of hell, heavy metal, don't make her look like Loki." (Laughs)
He gives me ideas of these characters, what they're about, and I just turn them into heavy metal. I don't know if I have a magic answer, I just follow my gut. I've been into metal since I was young kid, so it's sort of in my veins. It's the easiest part of my job!
OK, Scott, so you're to blame apparently. These characters being teased are clearly Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman, but different. What does this say about Death Metal as as a series? Where were you hoping that fans' imaginations were going to go seeing these images?
Scott Snyder: What we want is for you guys to feel that this is like Dark Nights: Metal, but even bigger. So for us, it was always the hope that if Metal did well and people liked it, we could kind of compete it with an even bigger story, because when we did Metal, DC still kept it pretty contained; I think they were a little bit nervous about it because it was so out there. We felt great about it because we had the mindset that, if we had an event that was kind of over the top fun, and was personal to us and about something, but ultimately was filled with comic book lunacy and heartfelt epic moments, people would show up even if it seemed insane.
This one, though, we have the chains off entirely. They gave us all the toys and the keys to the kingdom, the whole thing. I want people to look at it and think, only this team could put together, and it's gonna be huge fun.
The other thing I'd say, too, is that I think that the reason that we wanted to do it outside of just having the story and wanting to do the story is that, it's been a tough couple of years, I think, in terms of disconnection. With things at DC, there are so many good books happening and so many good stories that, if we're being really honest, I think there hasn't been a ton of overlap and and connectivity between the stories. We're all friendly, and we work hard to kind of make things that could connect … if we figured out how to do it. (Laughs.)
One of the things I loved about Metal in particular is that the two of you really work off well against each other in terms of, like you said, making these big, broad, wonderfully fun stories. You both completely embrace the ridiculousness, the over-the-top nature, of these characters and that's really, really enjoyable to see. What is it about your connection that makes that happen?
Snyder: Greg makes me much braver as a writer just because he's so good. He can draw anything. Even though he's known for these monsters and horror characters like Spawn and Batman, he's just an incredible storyteller when it comes to emotionality on the page. And then, of course, when you get the big high budget, over-the-top kind of blockbuster moment, he's superlative as well.
Knowing that he can do all of that, and he's got such a badass kind of spirit about wanting to do things that matter to us, and not giving a shit about what anyone else thinks, it makes me inspired and makes me braver and makes me want to try things on the page and embrace that kind of fun and the things that I would love to see, even if I'm like, "I don't know if anybody wants to see a Batman who's uploaded his consciousness into the robot dinosaur in the cave except for me." Let's just do it. Or Cthulhu Batman. I'm like, "I've always wanted a Cthulhu Batman, why not?" I know he'll draw the hell out of it and make people believe it.
Capullo: Scott just has all these great ideas. I don't know what makes us work better than Scott with another artist. I mean, he's worked with some of the best artists out there in the business, in my opinion. I don't know what makes us special in the eyes of fans, I'm just really grateful that they see us as special as a team because it's certainly cool. (Laughs.)
Both of us — the whole team, Jonathan [Glapion, inker], FCO [Plascencia, colorist] — we all put all of our hearts so into every single page that we do, but there are plenty of people who do that, same as we're all doing, and they don't necessarily get the accolades or the fan support that we've been blessed with. So, I don't know what the winning formula is. Scott and I have had these conversations before, and it's a mystery to me. I'm just really, really grateful for the fans who continue to support us and allow us to be able to do these crazy things.
Snyder: I will say one thing. One of the evil Batmen — there are many evil Batmen in this story, just to let you know, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are kind of ludicrous. I said to Greg, I want a big monstrous one and I have a few options. One we were thinking of was maybe an evil monster truck Batmobile that eventually became sentient and then killed everybody and became Batman of his world, or, I was like, what about dinosaur if it was the robot dinosaur in the Batcave and Batman was about to die and he uploaded his consciousness into the mechanical dinosaur, and then that kind of gets out of control and becomes an evil Batman on its world. Those are the kind of things that we talk about.
You're kind of teasing it slightly, but what can you say about the story of Death Metal? You've mentioned that it's a ramping up of Metal, but there's a lot of ideas and threads floating out there after the end of your Justice League run, Scott.
Snyder: Maybe it's just getting older, but this event is really meant to be kind of a capstone on a lot of the stuff Greg and I have done in the big superhero center stage in the DC universe. That doesn't mean that we're immediately leaving DC or not doing any more DC work ever again, but it does mean, for both of us, a significant stepping back from the big stage and doing other things.
Justice League 100 percent ties into Death Metal. Something happens in between the end of Justice League and the beginning of the story that's part of the mystery, and when this story starts, the heroes are really down and it seems as though DC Universe has been transformed in such a way that Perpetua and the Batman Who Laughs have taken over, and the heroes are in a terrible, terrible way.
The other thing I need to say is, it doesn't just connect the Justice League — the goal and the task really, if we were going to do it, wasn't just to do a story that's built on old stuff — Batman and Metal and Justice League — but that built on some of the stories that I think our fans love and are in continuity, but haven't had a chance to kind of impact in the way that, possibly, they could have at different times. So stories like Doomsday Clock, for example, this has a huge sort of connection to that, and is very much meant to honor and build on that story.
Some of the great stuff that is really affecting the line over with what Brian [Michael Bendis] is doing over with Superman, this builds on some of that, on some of the Event Leviathan stuff, on some of the stuff that Grant [Morrison] did, as well as like older stories from all the Crisis, all the crises of the past come into this different ways. If everything before this was a Crisis, then this is an anti-Crisis.
Those villains and those characters [from Crisis on Infinite Earths] appear in this; it has to do with DC Universe: Rebirth and why Rebirth came after The New 52, and Metal came after that; how Doomsday Clock affected the world — all those things are things built into this. It's a big task. It really is. It's a love letter to the DCU asking, can we make it all connect in a way that it really honors the stories that you love and on top of that, gives you just a great crazy comic epic that's as big as anything we've done, as good as anything we've done, and as heartfelt anything we've done?
And, you know, it's Wonder Woman in the lead. We've been dying to do a Wonder Woman story forever.
So, Wonder Woman is the lead character of the series?
Snyder: Yes, a hundred percent.
Capullo: You are expected Batman, right? That's what everybody out there expects. As soon as Scott and I were done with Batman: Last Knight on Earth [Snyder and Capullo's miniseries set in the far future, starring Batman] and said we were done with Batman, everybody thinks, 'yeah, right, they're lying.' No, really, seriously. We intended that to be the last of our Batman. That was sincere. That's not to say we would never, ever do anything with the character — he's a prominent character in the DCU! But Batman is a supporting character in this. This is very much a Wonder Woman-driven story, and as Scott said, we've wanted it do it for a long time.
She was the character I was most intimidated by, but I gained my legs when we did the first Metal. I thought I was excited to do a Wonder Woman series. This is very Wonder Woman-centric.
Snyder: Remember when you first drew her, when we did [2015 storyline from the Batman series] "Endgame"? When you drew her there, yours became my favorite [version of the character] really quick. She's like, fierce and brave and independent and, you know, strong and all those things, but she still has good kind of beauty and sexuality without being sexualized. All the stuff that you're going for is there. I just love your Wonder Woman.
Capullo: I was very intimidated. She is a tightrope walk because you have to do all those things and balance it. It's a tough act. Especially female fans, they're very particular about how you portray those characters. I showed my wife at home, "what do you think of this? What do you think of that one?" just to get a woman's point of view on things like that. Just like I go to my kid for cool monster stuff. I was nervous about her, but I'm so excited to draw this story.
Did Death Metal grow out of your desire to do a Wonder Woman story, or is it that it made sense for her to be the central character for this particular story you were already planning?
Snyder: It makes perfect sense because it's about the truth. It's about the true nature of, what happens to all of these different stories. It's about sort of like the true nature of what a crisis has been for the DCU, and why the heroes haven't been able to connect and stop some of the stuff that's been going on around the DCU as one big team. Wonder Woman has to look through all of the veils and the lies, and the things that have been put in front of their eyes, to see how to win when nobody else can.
So for me, she's the perfect hero for the story. The Batman Who Laughs brings all of our worst fears to life — he says essentially, you're never going to be able to accomplish that, every other version of yourself is better than the version that you are. And those kinds of those kinds of voices that get in your head, stop you from doing the things that make you the hero that you want to be. And so for us, in this kind of a story, Wonder Woman is the perfect adversary for that. Her whole thing, to me, is that no matter how ugly it is, no matter how scary it is, she always pursues and lionizes the truth.
What is the thing that you're both most excited for fans to see in Death Metal?
Capullo: Oh, all of it, because it's a crazy mad ride! I certainly can't wait to see the reaction to my new designs. But the story is just so bizarre, crazy, off the wall, energetic, bombastic — I just can't wait for them to enjoy the ride. We're working on an amazing heavy metal concert that's just gonna, you know, crank those amps, blast the hair off their heads, so that all looks like me. So, yeah, all of it! We're going be all wanting them to see all of it!
Snyder: I think I'm most excited for them to see Greg's art because it's out of control. I think it already looks like some of the best stuff he's ever done. And — I think, the end of the first issue, and then the end of the series. Both those things I'm really, really proud of in terms of where they go story-wise. Not the end of the series, obviously, it's the end, but in terms of what it's saying about the DCU and what happens in it — how crazy that scene is at the end. The final moments of it say everything I've wanted to say about how much we love DC and the characters, and how grateful we are to have been able to work here for this long on these characters that we adore.
Dark Nights: Death Metal will be released digitally and in comic book stores May 13. Look below for the main cover and variant cover for the issue by Capullo, as well as variants by Stanley Lau, Francesco Mattina and David Finch (The final version of Finch’s cover will be colored).
by THR staff
by Richard Newby
by Graeme McMillan
by Patrick Shanley
by Ryan Parker