9:00am PT by Graeme McMillan
Scott Snyder on How the End of 'Metal' Shapes the DC Universe's Future
The final issue of DC Entertainment’s Dark Nights: Metal was released this week, bringing to an end the threat of the Dark Multiverse — but leaving something even larger in the background, waiting to be explored.
The bulk of the sixth issue of the series, written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo, concludes Batman’s investigation into the mythical Nth Metal of the story’s title — but an epilogue, by Snyder, co-writer James Tynion IV, and artists Mikel Janin and Alvaro Martinez, reveals that the impact of that storyline goes further than anyone had imagined, setting up material to be explored throughout DC’s output in upcoming months.
Heat Vision spoke to Snyder about the issue and the future of the DC Universe. Be warned: Spoilers are revealed about Dark Nights: Metal No. 6 beyond this point.
There’s so much in the final issue of Metal; not only do you wrap up the storyline from the series to date, but the epilogue sets up all kinds of material for the future of the DC universe.
I wanted it to feel at once complete, and emotionally done, so it’s not just hooking you to the next story. And yet at the same time, it was really important to us that it had big consequences and did create story engines going forward that would be additive to the DCU and continue in the spirit of Metal, which was all about exploring the unknown.
For us, the idea of breaking the Source Wall, and all the hooks that happen at the end where you realize that, by wearing the armor, the heroes have created monkey’s paw conflicts for themselves that will have huge ramifications, it felt like a good balance. We can say, "OK, we finished, everybody made it out. You have one night to party," and then we’re going to go even crazier in 2018 with Justice League: No Justice, the new books rolling out like Hawkman and all the rest of it.
The last time I spoke with you, we were both talking to Grant Morrison, and there’s a lot about the final issue of Metal that reminds me of his Final Crisis — especially the idea that superhero stories end with “To Be Continued,” which really feels that way with Metal’s final pages. The idea that this is a story that doesn’t finish; you will have the conclusion of one storyline, but the superheroes’ lives go on and things continue to happen to them.
I’d spoken to Grant about the end of Metal and what we’re doing after, just to get his take, and he was so incredibly helpful about that exact thing — about the need for a story to continue. Especially, he was helpful about exploring mystery — Metal, at its core, is about the heroes stepping out of their comfort zones, and Batman in particular, on a detective case that takes him farther than he’s ever gone before and suddenly finding himself surrounded by terrifying answers. For me, that’s certainly happened in my life, when I’ve tried something and failed and found myself in a very dark place. This story is about how we need each other to pull ourselves out of those places.
The feeling we wanted for the end of Metal was, we got to the end of this crazy ride, but there were things left unanswered, there are things that will never be answered, there are things that will absolutely be answered, there are challenges that seem insurmountable, challenges that seem feasible — all of that is coming. It never really ends. Grant was tremendously helpful in the final issue and everything that’s coming after.
As you said, the epilogue reveals that the Source Wall — literally the wall at the end of the universe in DC mythology — is broken. That’s such a big idea for DC’s mythology; it’s literally taking this concept that already exists and saying, ‘We’ve never done this before, what happens if this happens?’
Yeah, that was the idea. It was the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby last year, and from the beginning of Metal, the plan was to try to follow the spirit and try to tap into the energy of the comic book storytelling he did. We felt like it would be a great tribute — even though the Source Wall came as a corollary to the work that he did — to break it and go beyond it. To say, with this ending, we don’t want to kill anybody or take stuff away from the DC Universe, but add to it. Just as Metal added the Dark Multiverse to the multiversal theory, this adds an omniverse and opens up that possibility not just for me with Justice League — which immediately picks up these themes; these characters and these themes carry into Justice League: No Justice in a big way — but these things are for other writers and artists to explore as well.
We wanted to create big story engines for other people to power whatever storylines and directions they wanted to pursue. You’ll see a lot of this stuff in different ways; there are huge effects on magic, on the laws of physics, on cosmic energies — there are beings, galaxies, all these things that are discovered that are completely mysterious and enigmatic. All of this stuff is there for writers and artists to use. We have a big story, sort of the main focus of Justice League, but it’s used in different ways in books coming up that I think will be really really exciting. I was happy to see people respond to it creatively with such enthusiasm within DC.
You tweeted out before the issue was released that Metal No. 6 is an end and a beginning, and it does feel very much like the start of something else. Ending, specifically, with the Hall of Justice plans, feels like a very clear nod to the past but also suggesting, "It’s not what you think. It’s something else."
It’s always that. Part of the thing I’ve learned — and I hope Metal does this — is to give fans what they want to see, all the stuff people expect, but also giving them a dose of what they didn’t think they’d see. Like the Dark Knight Returns Batman jumping out of the Ultima Thule [in Metal No.6] — which we got permission from Frank Miller for, which I was totally excited about [Laughs] — or have Swamp Thing in a swamp bow-tie, dancing with all the other heroes at the end of the issue. We really wanted to balance it; the goal is to give you as a reader the things you want, but also to go way further and take you to a place you didn’t expect. The goal is to say, "Here’s the comfort food, the thing that will make you feel we love the same things you do, it’s all here, but now let’s go someplace farther."
That’s the way we tried to do Metal, and No Justice certainly does that with Brainiac moneyballing all the superheroes into new teams, and then Justice League itself takes that to the nth degree, giving you all the superhero elements you love and taking you far off beyond anywhere you thought we could possibly go.
Getting back to the epilogue — it obviously sets up Justice League with the addition of the new members to the team, but it also sets up Sandman Universe, and there’s a nod toward Immortal Men and The Unexpected, there are specific references to Wonder Woman, Flash, and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. It feels not only additive, but that you’re tying everything together. It feels like you’re really getting your hands around the DC Universe as a whole.
Honestly, one of the most inspiring things about working on Metal was realizing how deeply connected the DC Universe has always been, even in periods where we kind of forget it. I think, with The New 52, we were so focused on pushing forward and doing new things that some of the connective tissue got lost sometimes. Going back over and doing my homework for Metal, and reading the big events I loved as a reader, both from DC and Marvel, you realize that as much as it’s about big consequences and tie-ins and all that stuff, they’re really celebratory. They’re rewarding fans for loving these characters, and seeing the universe you love shaken up and coming back together. For me, part of Metal was nodding to the past and showing these characters that you might not expect to see in it, but ending it in such a way that feels like, as you said, you’re getting your arms around the DCU, that there are little effects and big effects rolling out into the neighborhoods of the universe, but nothing that feels sensational or shocking or inorganic to what’s been going on in those books.
I spoke with every creative team long, long before the end of Metal. I spoke with Dan Abnett and James Robinson and all of these people, and we tried to make sure we weren’t doing anything that upset what they were planning in these books, but gave them a lever to pull that would allow for a quick elevation of story. So, if there’s a conflict in Atlantis brewing in Aquaman, guess what? Now you can pull that lever and have Atlantis rise and become a powerful presence on the surface; you don’t have to do seven or eight issues telling that story, it happens because of what Aquaman did in Metal. It gives you a volume crank-up, if you want, or a pivot if you want, to what you want to do in your book. All of those things that are hinted at — the new Darkstars, the Dark Pantheon in Wonder Woman — all of those things were created by the people working on those characters. None of it was top-down, saying, "This is what you need to do."
We really wanted to make it connective, trying to create a 2018 where the characters explore some aspect of their mythology that’s bigger, crazier and fresher than anything you’ve seen before. It’s a nod to what we were doing in Metal, but also just where we want to go in general with our storytelling at DC. I went out to Burbank and I gave this speech to everybody — "Here’s what’s happening at the end of Metal, do you want to be part of it?" — and luckily, so many people, a lot of creative teams, did.
The Sandman scene was a particular surprise; it feels like it’s a building block for what Neil Gaiman and everyone is going to be doing in Sandman Universe.
It is. That was a beat that he and his team asked us to include, and I was thrilled to do it. I asked, "Is there a way to point to the Sandman mythology at the end," maybe a scene with Bruce and Daniel again. They gave me a heads-up on everything that’s happening with Sandman Universe, and all the great stories they have planned, and they came up with this beat. I was thrilled and said, "Let’s do it."
How does it feel to be firmly at the center of DC now? We’re talking about DC Universe, but also Sandman Universe, and the ways in which you’re helping set up both, You’re firmly at the center of the company, and also all these different mythologies these days. How does it feel to have your fingers in all these pies?
It’s wild. Honestly. I was just talking about this yesterday with James Tynion, we’re working together on Justice League: No Justice, he’s been helping me with Justice League and I’ve been helping him with [Justice League Dark], and the fact that we can say, "I’d like to use Starman, because it makes sense for this kind of cosmic element," or "I’d really like to return to this idea of the Still Force we’ve been building with Grodd and Turtle," and nothing’s off-limits. That we can explain who are those beings in the Source Wall, or what happened to Darkseid’s father. That I can pull in Bat-Mite for Justice League — and he’s actually in there — it’s inspiring. There’s nothing more invigorating and thrilling to know you have that creative latitude, but it’s also deeply humbling and intimidating. I feel very grateful to DC for giving me such a wide berth to be able to have access to so many great mythologies, but also to the fans.
[Metal artist Greg] Capullo always says — and I love the way he puts it — "We’re employed by DC, but we work for you guys," meaning the readership. When you work on these characters, like Batman, the first thing, and it’s terrifying, is how many people really love that character out in the world. Shepherding that character through a story when so many people love him as much as you do, maybe some people know more about him, to have that sort of responsibility with a bigger swath of the DCU.… At the end of the day, I feel very grateful to fans for trusting me this far, and very grateful to have the opportunity to do Justice League. I promise you, everything we’re doing comes from a place of love and excitement for the DC Universe.
It’s easily, and I know it sounds hokey, but it’s the most fun I’ve had at DC, and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had about the tone, climate, with the creators — Rebirth really jump-started everybody and got them excited, and the stories they’re coming up with now on the other side of Metal and the stuff planned for the summer, it feels like a golden moment and I’m really honored to be part of that. I’m very glad that [fans] are very excited about it, because we’re very excited about this.