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All of reality is collapsing it, and the future of everything just might rely on the most intelligent chimpanzee in existence. It’s fair to say that DC Entertainment’s Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt is not exactly what many people would expect from the penultimate chapter of a high-profile, best-selling crossover event storyline.
The issue, released Wednesday, is a reality-bending collaboration between Dark Nights: Metal writer Scott Snyder, The Multiversity and Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison, Flash writer Joshua Williamson, Detective Comics writer James Tynion IV, and artists Howard Porter, Jorge Jiminez and Doug Mahnke. With the majority of the Justice League tied up by events in the core Metal series, it falls to an unexpected cast of characters led by Detective Chimp — yes, he really is a hyper-smart chimpanzee who just happens to be immortal — to try and save the day. (The Flash and Cyborg also play major roles in the issue, for those who prefer the traditional big names.)
It’s a comic that’s part cosmic disaster movie and part love letter to the weirdness that comic books do best, and Snyder and Morrison talked to Heat Vision about how it came about, the fun of using characters no-one saw coming, and just why Detective Chimp might be the best character DC has.
Scott, this is obviously a tie-in issue to your Dark Nights: Metal series, and you’re co-writing this issue with Grant, as well as Joshua Williamson and James Tynion IV. How did the collaboration get started?
Snyder: My outline had, I think, probably half as many wonderful ideas and moments, and he really elevated it. It was a fascinating and inspiring thing to watch. A lot of what’s happened in Metal points to and is a tribute to so much of what Grant did with expanding the DCU, its mythology, its cast — all of it. With this issue, it was going to be one that delved into a lot of the stuff that he explored with The Multiversity, just because, in this point in our story, the whole multiverse is about to collapse. I wanted it to be this rollicking race across the multiverse, and a tour of these elements that Grant had introduced earlier.
And then, when we were at New York Comic Con, we got talking and I realized there might be an opportunity for him to come in and retool and add to what I was planning for it. So, initially, I gave him an outline, and what it went from to this, was inspiring to see. There’s so much added to it, in terms of layers of mythology, and humor, inventiveness, the cast is expanded. Every idea in there, I think, was extended in a way that makes the issue so much better. It was watching someone do something that I hope to be able to touch the hem of one day.
Morrison: Thanks, Scott! The check’s in the post. (Laughs.)
Grant, the issue is packed with allusions and references to all kinds of earlier DC material. When you came in, did you immediately want to add in nods to 52, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Final Crisis…?
Morrison: All that stuff was already there! I have to say, Scott, Joshua and James had done a lot of the work, and what excited me about it was that it was kind of like being in a band, you know? I was kind of like being brought in to be like Slash and play lead guitar! (Laughs.) Those guys came up with the outline, and obviously, it’s Scott’s crossover. It’s honestly like being brought in to play guitar, and to have this amazing support from the rest of the band, and to add those little notes.
Snyder: I want to nod to Josh and James, like Grant did, but also the artists on this issue —
Morrison: This was the first time I’ve worked with Howard [Porter] since the ‘90s and he’s great!
Snyder: Howard was great, and Jorge [Jiminez], he’s someone who’s an up-and-comer at DC, and to be able to step into an issue that’s so immersed in deep DC continuity and have so much fun with it. And also, Doug [Mahnke], he’s such a monster at all times, I think he’s going through a real renaissance in terms of what he’s doing right now. It’s so much fun to work with those guys.
And you’re continuing to work with Josh and James on the upcoming Justice League: No Justice weekly, Scott…
Snyder: We’ve been trying to build a lot out of Metal, and they’ve just been incredibly helpful to me, and real partners and creative engines, not just on Metal, but at DC in general. Look, going into this, I would always defer to Grant, but it’s nerve-racking to give your ideas to someone, and then to get it back and there’s this tension, this difference between the way you would’ve written it — and they’ve completely enhanced it and made it more what you hoped for in ways you never could, you know? Seeing Howard go crazy with the Detective Chimp stuff, and Josh and James really bringing in their stuff on everything they’re working on. It’s not conflict, but seeing the different angles on it, how they make it better.
Morrison: [On this particular issue,] it’s all those guys. It’s their story! I came in to add, like Scott said, some humor and a lot of monkeys. I brought in the monkeys. Detective Chimp was there, he was always part of it, but I figured, if we’re going to have one monkey, let’s have all the monkeys.
Snyder: And Rex! Rex the Wonder Dog, also. (Laughs.)
Morrison: I mean, I love animals and animal characters, and it was fun to bring Rex back. He was always part of that whole fountain of youth origin for Detective Chimp, so it was fun to bring all the animals back together and let them have their own adventure as part of this bigger story. See what they got up to while Batman and Superman are dealing with all this other stuff.
Something that struck me about The Wild Hunt, and Metal in general, is that it’s additive to the larger DC universe. It brings parts of the DC mythology and embracing it; it’s not just referencing the Blackhawks, it’s saying, “Blackhawk Island is central to this story,” or “Hawkman is central to this story.”
Morrison: I love that, the idea that there’s this huge continuity. I’ve always said, that’s what attracts me to this massive superhero universes, that you can bring in something like Blackhawk and Hawkman, and make connections that have never been made before. Make connections between all the different types of metals, like Scott’s doing. I just love the fact that there’s this vast canvas, that sometimes you can shine a spotlight on these small corners that haven’t been seen in a while and they seem really interesting and novel and ready to be mined in all these interesting and different ways.
Snyder: For me, the irony is, following Grant in the Batman world, his story was so expansive and connective there that my move when I started there was to go very circumscribed, very grounded. I was terrified of the whole experience, being on Batman, all of it. I was really resistant, early on, of stepping out of that insular mythology. And as I kept going forward, it got more expansive.
Then, doing the homework this past year, knowing I’d be doing Metal, honestly, it was reading Final Crisis again. I called Mark Doyle, who was initially going to be the editor, and [Metal editor] Rebecca Taylor, and said, “This is what we have to be shooting for. This connectivity between everything from ancient human history to Kamandi.” That whole sense of daringness, the inclusiveness of that, the willingness to go everywhere. That was a huge engine for me in the creation of Metal. It was where I realized, we had to do it in our own way, but I was so resistant for so long in looking outside the grounded elements of any character.
I always saw that as something that Grant did so well, and Geoff [Johns] tended to do; it’s been a really eye-opening experience to fall back in love, over the last year, with what Grant was able to do, but also things like Infinity Gauntlet and Cosmic Odyssey, these great big cosmic stories I hadn’t read in a long time. That sense of being able to celebrate and explore and connect — and also revamp and retool — some of my favorite DC elements has been really rewarding to me.
In many ways, The Wild Hunt reads like Metal in miniature, as if it’s a hyper-compressed primer of the story so far, playing out among different characters. Was that part of the original intent of the issue?
Morrison: It’s like fractals, or holograms. If something’s well done, every little piece should contain the whole. With this one, I think the idea was to encompass what had been in Metal, and what might be. It’s a one-off book, and everyone came in and made this band and made it happen — it’s the final chapter before the ending, and I think you have to sum everything up there. But that ending, like I said, bringing in those characters who haven’t been seen since 1997 or something, it’s exactly what we’re talking about. Those characters appeared in one eight-page story, I think, but it’s all out there, and bringing it in now gives it a new context putting them in light of Detective Chimp, and the idea of [the letters] D, C, and putting all that with the idea of music, two chords that create a universe.
That goes back to the idea of DC as a musical universe, which wasn’t mine — it was ultimately Julius Schwartz and John Broome — I think it’s very important and I love that Scott and his team have gone back to it and made something of it. The idea that D and C are chords, the D and C chords, make Detective Chimp, I love that. There’s a lot of stuff there.
Scott, how central is that to the main storyline? For want of a better way to put it, how meta is Metal?
Snyder: It’s not just meta, it came from a more emotional, or a personal, place. Before we started the issue, Grant and I got on the phone and talked the whole thing through, and what Metal was about for me. I think it’s a good example about how things are intimate, and then you develop that —
Morrison: It’s just the daftness of, as you know, Scott — Detective Chimp is immortal, and suddenly that means he can exist a million years from now. It’s the beauty and madness of comics. He’s a chimpanzee that’s immortal because he drank from the fountain of youth in Florida.
Snyder: It’s the lunacy of that, you know what I mean? The total ridiculous lunacy.
Morrison: And then you take that seriously and say, “OK, this is how this world works.” (Laughs.)
Snyder: I was saying to Grant, but it’s the truth, if I had one book I could do right now in the way he did Arkham Asylum, you know, out of continuity and to the side, I would do one about Detective Chimp. To me, the idea that he’s this ape who can’t learn a circus trick, gets frustrated about the limits of his own abilities and is then given this amazing gift where he drinks the fountain of youth and he’s limitlessly smart, alive and vibrant — and he’s still banging his head against his own limitations and capabilities. How ridiculous that whole origin is, how silly it is, and yet how moving it is, it’s an encapsulation of —
Morrison: It sums up the human endeavor. It’s such a beautiful metaphor. We are all detective chimps! (Laughs.)
Snyder: Yeah! (Laughs.)
Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt No. 1 is available in comic book stores, and digitally, now. If all the talk of Detective Chimp has you fascinated, read on for a preview of the opening pages of the issue….
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