Every time Newsarama talks to writer Scott Snyder about this week's Batman Lost, he calls it "hugely important" to the story of Dark Nights: Metal.
And although initially reading the issue's seemingly-disjointed scenes can be a little disorienting, diving deeper into its themes and implications reveals a slew of information about the nature of the Dark Multiverse, the history of the DCU, and the existence of Batman himself.
Written by Snyder with James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson, the issue features art by Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, and Jorge Jimenez. It continues the story of Dark Nights: Metal, the six-issue event mini-series by Snyder and artist Greg Capullo.
In fact, Batman Lost picks up where Metal #2 left off - showing where Batman has been since he disappeared at the end of that issue - then gets readers to the point where the series resumes in Metal #3.
Spoiler ahead for this week's Batman Lost #1.
In this rather hefty interview, Newsarama talked to Snyder, Tynion, and Williamson about the themes of Batman Lost, the issue's revelation about Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and how the Dark Multiverse feeds worlds into the DC Multiverse itself.
Newsarama: Scott, this issue is framed around this idea of the window. What does that imagery mean to you, and how did you use it in this issue?
Scott Snyder: For me, what the issue is deeply about, is the sense of Bruce realizing that everything he's done in his life might have led him to the biggest failure of his existence, and that all his achievements - all the victories, all the heroism - what if all of it not only means nothing, but worse than that, was all a lead-up for him to fail on such a huge, cosmic scale that he would allow the great villain of human history to come in here, through him, and use him as a vessel, use him as an instrument of terror.
It speaks to his greatest fear that he's essentially a terrible detective. Instead of being a good detective, he literally missed the biggest case in human history. And not only did he miss it, but he wound up being the answer - the terrible answer to it, in such a way that he was unable to prevent this cataclysmic thing from happening.
So in that regard, the first image, for me, always with Bruce is that "Yes father, I shall become a bat." And him standing by the window making that decision, whether it's in the cave or it's in the study. It's that sense of looking at that pale reflection of yourself, having the bat have flown through or about to fly through and saying to yourself, I need to become something else.
And this messenger - what if this messenger that was coming toward the window, that you saw as this great sign of inspiration, was actually the sign of your own doom. It was this thing - it's all part of the same narrative. What if the messenger was in fact Barbatos? What if the messenger was your own failing, your own flaws, your own darkness?
And instead of being the thing that wound up telling you, "Hey, you have purpose" it's actually a thing that says your purpose is to fail - to fail humanity, to fail your parents, fail all of it.
Joshua Williamson: The window plays such an important part in Batman's mythology, that bat coming to the window is just this huge thing. We wanted to mess with that, we wanted to twist it and take something that was very meaningful to Bruce and make him confront this idea that maybe it wasn't what he thought. And to show that side of his story.
So this takes something that was such a pure, innocent coincidence - and there's maybe even something inside of Bruce that thought it was fate or destiny - but it takes that idea of the bat coming through the window and just destroys it.
Snyder: That's the only moment of chance in all of Bruce's formation beyond his parents being killed. You know? Everything else is his deliberate training. It's the one thing that comes in and is circumstantial and prophetic, and like an omen.
So it's the one thing you could dig at and say - the one thing you risk kind of just taking a sign from the universe. What if the universe is tricking you the whole time?
Nrama: As the issue says, "it all started with a window." Wow, actually, you even start this issue with Bruce near that window.
Snyder: Yeah! To me, the window was sort of the classic, most important place to start, at the very beginning of his time as Batman, but the idea of a window - it's also something that has this kind of primal importance, I think.
Nrama: Primal to anyone, you mean?
Snyder: Yeah, you look out and decide what you're going to do with your life.
Nrama: Right. So can someone address this moment where Bruce jumps through the window toward the end?
Williamson: Yeah, he's seeing himself at the window and he's seeing an escape. He's seeing a way out of this nightmare.
So we twist it where, instead of the bat coming in, he goes out - he breaks through the window. But when he gets to the other side, he thought the other side was going to be an escape from confronting these things.
But he gets out there and it's worse. Right? It's worse than what he thought was going to happen. It wasn't an escape.
And to continue to confront him with these ideas of, like, his confidence - what he thinks is going to be the way out and what he thinks is the best - keeps leading him into something bad. It's just trying to break him down.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about how the other scenes in the issue support this idea of Bruce failing. James, is the idea of failure a key theme in this issue? It kind of runs through all these different scenes, doesn't it?
James Tynion IV: Yeah. You know, one of the things that's really powerful about Batman as a character is how self-assured and confident he is at every specific moment. Like, Batman walks into the room and he's planned for everything. He knows himself. He knows the world. He knows the city around him.
It feels, at times, like Batman knows everything. And he kind of walks through life going that way.
The scenes in this issue strip that away. This is kind of a psychic assault on Bruce Wayne. This is the most devastating attack you could wage on him, is tearing him down from all these different angles.
One of the threads in the story that I spent a lot of time on is the deep far-past DC history stuff.
And you have these figures telling him, "This is your origin story."
And Bruce is like, "No, I know my story. I know how my story began."
But these figures are saying, "No, you don't. This is your story."
And it goes back all the way to the dawn of human humanity.
So we're stripping that away from him.
Then on another level, you see his first case, and he knows his first case - it's the foundation of everything. It's the original Detective Comics #27 storyline playing out.
But the reveal is that, no, he didn't know what was at the root of the case. He missed something all the way back then.
Nrama: OK, so as we're discussing all this, I'm seeing now that the framing device is basically representative of this "stripping down" that you're talking about. Bruce is so confident at the beginning with his granddaughter. He has all these stories he's written down. And when that confidence gets stripped away and he begs for it to stop, he returns to the scene with his granddaughter.
Tynion: Right, you see kindly old Bruce Wayne, who's retired and had a good, long life as Batman and can be confident and assured that what he's done is right.
But then he finds out that his story is not what he thought it was, and it never was.
Nrama: So it's kind of his story that's being stripped away? Josh, I guess that's the reason for the "that's not the way it happened" comments?
Williamson: Yeah, and so much of what makes up people is our memory. And to mess with Bruce and to mess with his memory of his life like that - like James said, it's an assault. It's assaulting his memories, his confidence, his thoughts about himself.
Nrama: So the scenes of these possible futures have to do with failure as well? We're looking at, I think, three of them, correct?
Tynion: Yes, they're three different ways that his story could go.
Nrama: And they all talk about what went wrong, how he failed, right?
Snyder: Yes. Do you want to take this one, Josh?
Williamson: Yeah, so each one represents different things he could have done, right? It's sort of this thing of, damned if you do, damned if you don't.
These are things Scott and I talked about a bunch, going back and forth on, figuring out what would be these different ideas.
One is if he trusts the heroes - what would happen if he trusts the heroes, and how that could go wrong.
One was if he tries to trust the villains and how that could go wrong.
And one of them is sort of, like, what if he just gives up? What if he decides to leave? What if both don't work?
We're just trying to show that all three of these things - action, inaction - all of these things were always going to lead back to darkness. No matter what he chose to do, it was always going to head there. And that was the motivation of doing those three different settings we put him through.
And then we just had fun with it. We just cut into the different ideas of it.
Snyder: For me personally, at the darkest points, when you feel really low, it's almost like you believe deeply that any road you take is going to lead to failure and that there's no point anymore.
You know, you don't want to get out of the dark. You want to kind of stay there. Because anything that you try is only going to hurt worse.
Nrama: OK, I get that there are three roads that led to three different futures, but can you describe a little bit more the roads that were taken to lead to this place?
So in that first future, Damian says to him, "we followed you with your codes and your restraints, and this is what happened."
And in the second future, it says, "you went all-in and people rebelled and it created this - this terrible future whereby people worship the villains instead because you overreached."
So that's what happens if he tries harder or takes off the restraints.
And then the final one is, what if he tries to retreat or hang back? Well, then the Justice Wars and everybody dies.
So it's showing him that no matter what he does, he's always going to wind back up in the same place - the dark. So ultimately, it's all going to come to failure. So there's no point.
Nrama: OK, but this is the Dark Multiverse. And you said that the Dark Multiverse is filled with worlds based on your own fears and hopes. So … these futures - are these actually worlds built off of his worst fears?
Snyder: Yes. They are. They're actual worlds.
Tynion: This is Barbatos taking him on a tour through the Dark Multiverse, in a way. And this is also what's showing how, in a major way, when someone from our universe experiences the Dark Multiverse, it is this kind of roiling nightmare, where you're ripped between different worlds.
Nrama: There's this line that's kind of disturbing. It says Batman has more fears and failings than any other hero. Would it follow that if any other hero fell into the Dark Multiverse, it wouldn't be quite as bad as Batman?
Snyder: It would be different. And I think there's always the question of whether Barbatos is lying to him.
But the idea is that everyone who goes in there, whatever your worst fears and hopes are, they materialize around you. And you have to guide yourself through them down there.
I think one of the secrets of it is, if enough people fear the same thing or hope for the same thing or believe in the same thing sometimes, those worlds are the ones that form - or concretize enough - that they can be pulled up through the world orrery into the Multiverse itself.
Nrama: OK. We got that idea from what we've seen so far, but you're confirming it now? The worlds in the Dark Multiverse can become permanent enough to become part of the Multiverse.
Snyder: Yeah, so the Dark Multiverse is not just sort of a phantom zone - it's a nascent place where these things can be born.
And when you're there, they're physically real.
So the worlds are actual material places.
Bruce, I think, tries to remind himself that this isn't real, but it is real. You know? They are real places.
Nrama: Yeah, OK, so another thing that I've been thinking about ... Barbatos is claiming that he created Batman. But the idea behind the story is that Batman caught the eye of Barbatos when he traveled back through time. But if Batman hadn't been created in the first place, he wouldn't have caught the eye of Barbatos. Isn't this kind of a loop?
Williamson: Oh, totally. [Laughs]
Snyder: [Laughs] It is! It's totally a loop. And that's one of the things I love about what Grant did with "Return of Bruce Wayne," about Batman forming himself.
But I think here, we're trying to propose the idea that, this time, if Barbatos sort of exists outside of space and time in the "Dark," when Bruce goes back on that mission last time, what if it is one single thing? What if the way Batman was formed the first time - or whoever Batman was when he came back in that way - was somebody different than what Barbatos is constructing this time?
So the idea is, what if he manipulated everything in your life to make you exactly who he wants you to be, before he takes you down once and for all.
Nrama: James, I think you said you focused on the far-past story of the DCU? I just want to make sure this is part of continuity now - Hath-Set was the leader of the Bat-Tribe, and then Hawkman and Hawkgirl were leaders of the Bird-Tribe. And this is their extended history now?
Tynion: Yeah, this is something that we started hinting about back in The Forge and The Casting.
In those issues, Carter Hall realized that his story went even further back than he ever understood before. The cycle of life and death that we're familiar with, in DC history - that story has always started in ancient Egypt.
But there were secret lifetimes even before then, and what happened in Egypt actually erased his connection to that early past, trying to hide what happened way back when.
Here, we see a flash of a moment, and it's the birth of the war between birds and bats that we've seen referenced through Scott and Greg's entire run on Batman and, once again, in The Forge and The Casting.
So this scene is the beginning of that clash, where the Bat-Tribe that rose after Bruce Wayne arrived in the past - basically, they began worshipping the bat in the dark. They began worshipping Barbatos, not understanding what they were bringing forth.
Then you had the other tribes of man fighting back against it.
This is sort of re-contextualizing that early past. The Birds were the explorers of light and the Bats were the explorers of the dark in their own way.
Nrama: Will we learn more about this history?
Tynion: We'll be playing with some of these ideas more down the road.
Nrama: OK, so we're running out of time here - let's skip to the end of the issue. Where is Batman at the end? Does this match up with issue #3 of Dark Nights: Metal?
Snyder: Yes. Batman is trapped on the tower that Superman finds him on at the end of Metal #3.
He's essentially on a giant tower of people conducting dark energy from the Dark Multiverse to sink the Earth into it.
So Barbatos cares so little about him and the other heroes - he sees them as such little threats - he's willing to just toss them onto these big towers and just use them as another piece of these giant conducting antennas.
So Bruce is literally just trapped with other versions down there.
Nrama: Other versions of him, right? Some of them are wearing Batman symbols.
Snyder: Yes, other versions of himself.
And at this point, he has no hope of getting away.
Nrama: OK, and coming up next?
Snyder: After this, all the big Metal crazy starts. Issue #4 is our big Dream issue. So Superman and Batman, without giving too much away, must somehow find a way out of the predicament we leave them in in #3 - and in Batman Lost - and find their way to the Dreaming.
Nrama: Ah, the Dreaming. So when you said it's the "dream" issue, you meant the Dream issue.
Snyder: Yes. And that's where we really get our big Daniel scenes. So I'm really excited about that.
And in that issue, we actually - without giving too much away - we actually add to some of the creation myths of the DCU in really big ways.
We really wanted to make the Dark Multiverse something that fits with the mythologies that we love - you know, with the Anti-Monitor, the Monitor, Krona, the birth of the Multiverse, all of that stuff - but we wanted it to have its own deep mythos with characters and with giant beings that shape it.
So you're going to learn some huge secrets about the history of the DC Universe and the cosmology.
And also, you get all the big, fun fighting and crazy moments that people have come to expect from Metal.
There's also the return of a couple really fun characters.
So we're just going all-out. I promise. It only gets better and crazier as it goes. It's like anything - you get your confidence after the first issue or so, and then you hit your groove. So I'm really proud of the first issue, but I think these get better and better and better. And issue #5 and #6 get so out of control and what The Wild Hunt is becoming is nuts.
I feel really great about everything we're heading towards in Metal.
Nrama: And I just have to ask James really quick - dude, you're killing us with all the Conner Kent references in Detective Comics. Are you going to bring him back already?
Tynion: I think all I can say is, after reading "The Lonely Place of Living," head over to the "Super Sons of Tomorrow" crossover [in Superman, Super Sons, and Teen Titans] in December.