Spoilers ahead for this week's Dark Nights: Metal #2.
With Dark Nights: Metal #2, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have further connected elements of past DC continuity with the story's new concepts and characters.
But the story also took some wild twists and turns, including the surprise identity of the Judas Tribe and the use of objects like the Anti-Monitor's astral brain and the Godwave Goggles on Baby Darkseid.
The Dark Nights: Metal event - which Snyder recently told us includes six issues of Metal and an intermission issue of sorts, Batman Lost - will also inspire spin-offs and tie-ins over the next several months.
In particular, because Barbatos and the Nightmare Batmen came to the DCU in Metal #2, the next few weeks will see one-shots about the various Nightmare Batmen and tie-in stories about DC heroes fighting to protect their homeworld.
Snyder, who conceived the event during his own run with Capullo on Batman, talked to Newsarama about the Nightmare Batmen, the presence of Baby Darkseid, and whether readers will really see the astral brain of the Anti-Monitor go through the core of the Multiverse and into the Rock of Eternity.
Newsarama: Scott, you told us last time we talked that the Dark Multiverse is a place where "anything you fear and hope for materializes," at least for a moment as you experience the fear. So at the end of Metal #2, these dark versions of Batman are Bruce Wayne's fears that have materialized in the Dark Multiverse? And Barbatos grabbed them?
Snyder: Yeah, what Barbatos did was he went around collecting Batman's worst nightmares of himself.
For example, Batman thought…what if, when Alfred dies, I have Cyborg upload the Alfred protocol, which is a program he's been working on to make the Bat-computer Alfred's consciousness. What if I did that out of love and longing for Alfred, but all of the sudden the Alfred protocol turned around and killed all the villains to protect me, and then went around and killed the heroes when they tried to shut me down. And then turned me into its sort of extension. So Alfred will always be there to serve me now and do anything I want, but I am a nano-terminator.
That's the Murder Machine.
Or…what if I killed the Joker and the Joker secretly had toxin in his heart that would make anyone who killed him the next Joker, and that's why he always wanted me to kill him.
And now you get the Batman Who Laughs.
So each one of them has a really particular, fun, crazy origin that we tell in the one-shots that are coming up.
Batman: The Red Death is the first one. It's next week. Batman: The Murder Machine after that. And so on.
And those Dark Knights that have these really robust origins are coming here to take over the DCU in service of Barbatos.
So they have made their first appearance here.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite?
Snyder: The Batman Who Laughs is my favorite. He's been a particular project of mine for a while.
Anti-Monitor's Astral Brain
Nrama: OK, let's talk about that plan the immortals reveal in Metal #2 - the Anti-Monitor's astral brain being shot through the core of the Multiverse at the Rock of Eternity. Just amazing. Please tell me it's going to happen.
Snyder: Oh yeah! Well, that's the plan of the immortals!
I wrote that line and I swear to God, I called Greg Capullo and I was like, "Greg…can I read you a line I just wrote?"
I read that line to him and he was just like, "You're having fun, aren't you kid?"
And I was like, "I could put this line on my tombstone and just be, like, that's it."
It really is one of my - that is up there with when Bruce said, "Who died and made you Batman?" to Jim Gordon. That's another one of my favorite lines.
This line epitomizes the kind of spirit we're going for in Metal. It's in fear. That's the real plan the immortals have.
And when that comes to fruition, it's one of the most painful moments in the series. I just wrote it. It's in issue #5.
The way that plan goes is really painful to some characters. There's a betrayal involved. All kinds of stuff.
So there's real emotion. It's serious. That is the real story [Laughs] in a way that is not tongue-in-cheek. That really is the plan.
But, at the same time, there's a joy to the zaniness of the elements in there. You know?
Nrama: There is, but there's more than one zany element here. Baby Darkseid…
Snyder: Yes! I love the fact that Baby Darkseid - which is something I was dying to use from "go" - is ridiculous.
I love how ridiculous Baby Darkseid is.
And if you look, not to give this away, but every issue, Greg hides characters throwing rock horns. Like, every issue there's characters throwing horns, like, you know, "Rock on" with their hands, you know?
Nrama: Yeah, yeah.
Snyder: And if you look, it's actually Baby Darkseid in this issue. [Laughs.]
But literally, that happens to be the only thing that made sense.
Nrama: You mean using Darkseid and his Omega Beams?
Snyder: Yeah, our Bruce would say, "I need to go back and fight Barbatos when he was coming out the first time, when he first saw me, and undo all of this mess."
"The only way to do that is to use the Omega Sanction, the Omega Beams that sent me back the first time."
"So what would he do? He'd need Darkseid."
But Darkseid happens to be a baby right now.
So that again is a perfect marriage of everything that Metal is about to me. It's about celebrating the bonkers, out-of-control, sort of high-drama, ridiculous, Kirby-esque kind of comics storytelling that I love, but at the same time, trying to make it heartfelt and sincere and say, yeah, this sounds insane, but it really is - it's emotional and it's true.
Even as he's holding Baby Darkseid [laughs] in this sort of Bat-Bjorn, and even as he's saying, "I'm removing these Godwave Goggles; stand back," he also says, "Please tell my family I love them," and "Make sure that Damian grows up to be better than me."
And that's sincere. That's not a joke.
So in that way, Metal is this constant balancing act for me that I really enjoy. And I enjoy it on All-Star Batman too, where it's almost like, reveling in the fun of comic books and the joy of comics and the ridiculousness of comics, but using that sort of joy as a way of getting to stuff that's personal and sincere and earnest.
Metal is deeply about things that matter to me and Greg both, on a very intimate level, which you'll see once you get to issue #3 and #4.
It gets darker, obviously, but it also gets more personal between these characters. And you see what we're getting at.
Nrama: Before you go, can you clarify that the "Judas Tribe" we've heard so much about in past issues - the one that betrayed the ancient Bird Tribe and "sided" with the bat - is actually the Court of Owls?
Snyder: It is, yeah.
Nrama: So this traces all the way back to the beginning of your run. Even the Batmanium…
Snyder: Yeah, the Batmanium is from "Superheavy."
Nrama: But the Court of Owls, revealed now to be the Judas Tribe, have been trying to summon Barbatos this whole time? And they've been around since ancient times?
Snyder: Yeah, it's connected to stuff that was established as happening in Gotham in Grant Morrison's run. You know, the Vandal Savage Wolf Tribe and all of that, in Return of Bruce Wayne.
So the idea is that the Court of Owls essentially grew up in Gotham, so they're always a Gotham tribe. They're always Gotham-based.
And what they are is a group of powerful people that essentially decided to go their own way and try to rule Gotham from the shadows.
The core of them remains true.
But we've just extended their origin further back, which is something we were thinking about back when we started doing Talon in that way.
Here, the idea is that they were initially part of the ancient Bird Tribe, but they split off and betrayed them and became the Owls – the birds of the night that worships the bat, back then.
Since then, they've evolved, since that failure back in the day. And they've become the Owls that we know now.
But they still have those ancient priests, the Strigydae, frozen - as they did the Talons.
And they bring the Strgydae back here to revive Barbatos once and for all.
Structure and Theme
Nrama: So it's all connected to your run.
Snyder: Yeah, it really is a story with deep, deep roots in our run and in continuity, because all those tribes are real. The Wolf Tribe and the Bear Tribe are associated with Immortal Man and Vandal Savage.
We're pulling on things we loved as kids, and as adults, from continuity itself, but trying to do them our own way now.
And ultimately, what this story is about for us is that very thing. It's resting on the foundations of the stuff, and the exploration and the daring, wild kinds of storytelling that came before on a meta level.
And then we're trying to use that to go forward and talk about, even when you're at your worst, when everywhere you look seems to be … every road you're going to take seems to lead back to your own failure, moments in your life that feel that way, you need to find a way through the dark to the other side. You need to find a way to continue to explore, even when every answer you find seems to announce your own flaws and the things that you hate to look at about yourself.
That's what's kind of happening to Batman and the Justice League here. It's what happens in-story.
And then, on a meta-level, I'm hoping that you can see the material the story is built from - the tone of it, the way we're using it to create new things off old - that it's hopefully one giant project that has a singular vision to it, both in its narrative and in its structure and in its storytelling and art.