The events of Dark Nights: Metal pull from diverse corners of DC's history. From DC's immortal characters who emerged at the dawn of man to the mid-20th Century teams who explored the universe, Metal has touched upon a huge number of characters and concepts from throughout the DCU.
The comic book series, created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, has also added to the history of the DCU.
As part of our ongoing "Metal 101" series, Newsarama takes a look at the parts of DC's history that have been mentioned in Dark Nights: Metal and the new timeline that has led the DCU to the moment when Metal #1 first began.
Although this part of DC's history hasn't exactly played a part in Dark Nights: Metal (yet), one of the characters from among the Endless has made a couple cameos and promises to be a bigger part.
The Endless have existed since the dawn of time and are thought to be among the most powerful beings in the universe. They include Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delirium.
In Dark Nights: Metal #1 and #2, Dream appears to be taking an interest in Batman's struggles against Barbatos.
Creation of the Multiverse
An ancient scientist named Krona - one of the ancient beings who became the Guardians of the Universe - wanted to explore the mysteries of creation. He developed a machine that allowed him to peer into the very core of the universe. He saw a great hand so far back that the very act of looking at it opened up millions of worlds.
After the Earth was formed, around the time of the dawn of man, the Immortals arose. According to the Metal prequel Dark Days: The Casting, included among the immortals are "brothers who kept secrets and mysteries," as well as "the grove of ancient humanoid plants, sorcerers, shining knights, cavemen and Phantom Strangers of all stripes."
Readers have since learned that the Immortals include Ra's Al Ghul, vampire Mary Seward, the Wizard (from Shazam mythology), Morgaine le Fey, and the Immortal Men. (More on them later.)
Era of Tribes
According to Metal, at the Dawn of Man, several tribes arose among the cavemen. One of them was influenced by the appearance of Bruce Wayne, who had been thrust back through time after an attack by Darkseid. (He actually bounced from era to era as he tried to return home.)
When he landed in the era of cavemen, at the Dawn of Man, he wore a bat fur and kicked butt. After he departed, bouncing to another era, Bruce Wayne's actions in that time period inspired others to do the same thing he did, mimicking a bat and fighting other tribes.
Thus, the Bat-Tribe formed.
"They began worshipping the bat in the dark, not understanding what they were bringing forth," according to writer James Tynion IV, one of the writers on the Metal one-shot Batman Lost. "Then you had the other tribes of man fighting back against it."
One of the tribes fighting against the Bat- Tribe was the Bird-Tribe, led by Hawkman and Hawkgirl in one of their earliest past lives. "The Birds were the explorers of light and the Bats were the explorers of the dark in their own way."
Other tribes at that time were the Wolf Clan, whose leader was Vandal Savage, and the Bear Tribe, who was led by the man who would eventually be known as Immortal Man. They have both been mentioned in issues leading up to Dark Nights: Metal.
A part of the Bird Tribe betrayed their clan and began secretly worshipping Barbatos.
"They were initially part of the ancient Bird Tribe," Scott Snyder told Newsarama, "but they split off and betrayed them and became the Owls – the birds of the night that worships the bat, back then."
Barbatos Arrival and Defeat
During this "Dawn of Man" time period, Barbatos succeeded in entering the realm of Earth because of the secret efforts of the Judas Tribe. This tribe utilized a group of priests called the Strigydae to bring forth the beast.
But after Barbatos arrived, he was defeated and cast out to the Dark Multiverse. Hawkgirl and Hawkman both died in the battle to send Barbatos away. They were able to force it "back into the dark … shuttering the door between its world and ours."
Ever since, Barbatos has "sought desperately to return, to tear down all that was light in the world and drag it into the dark."
Since Barbatos was defeated, the Judas Tribe has evolved. They've become the Court of Owls. They still had the ancient priests they utilized before - the Strigydae - frozen (in a manner they also used for their "Talon" assassins).
The Immortal Men
Among the Immortals who have walked the Earth since the dawn of man is a group known as the Immortal Men, and they will be the subject of a 2018 "New Age of DC Heroes" ongoing title. The concept behind the group was introduced in Dark Days: The Casting and is expected to play a role in Metal.
One of the known members of the Immortal Men is the aforementioned Immortal Man himself, who led the Bear Tribe.
The description of the Immortal Men series indicates that five siblings have eternal life, fighting foes in an eternal war. It’s not clear whether the Immortal Man is one of these five siblings or not. But in Dark Days: The Forge, he was described as “the great and powerful Immortal Man,” and he seems to be a leader of the five siblings.
Immortal Man works in secret in a lair located a mile beneath Philadelphia. He revealed in The Forge that he offered Elaine Thomas (mother of Batman teen hero Duke Thomas) the opportunity to become immortal. It turns out that Elaine has a metal in her veins that somehow links her to immortality (and so does her son Duke). However, Elaine was unable to accept, because she's been affected by Joker's toxin.
During the era of the ancient Egyptians, Hawkman and Hawkgirl lived as Prince Khufu and Princess Chay-Ara. The royal couple and an Egyptian priest named Hath-Set died in the desert. Their death involved a ship from Thanagar made of Nth Metal, and Hawkman now believes they came to "warn us of what they knew was on the other side."
For centuries, as they were reincarnated again and again, Hawkman and Hawkgirl believed their story began in Egypt - that Hath-Set and the power of Nth Metal had cast them down the path of reincarnation on that fateful day in the desert.
But Hawkman and Hawkgirl have since learned that their history stretches all the way back to the dawn of man. As outlined above - they were the leaders of the Bird-Tribe. And Hath-Set had actually been the leader of the Bat-Tribe.
What Hath-Set actually did to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in Egypt was somehow take their pre-Egyptian memories away from them. "He had obscured the truth behind the metal we wore in our wings and belts in service of something darker than any mortal could comprehend," according to Hawkman's journal as published in The Casting. "That was the truth Hath-Set severed us from."
In the 1700's, an ancestor of Bruce Wayne named Thomas Wayne joined with other Colonial Americans to conduct a ceremony to summon the demon Barbatos. They wanted to obtain eternal life, and they were apparently an early version of Gotham's Court of Owls.
They seemed to have succeeded, but all the men fleed in fright. Thomas was locked underground with the demon, deep below Gotham City. In one version of the story, this demon was actually a Hyper-Adaptor who traveled through time and ended up creating Dr. Hurt. But in Batman Lost, it's implied that this creature may have actually been Barbatos, or at least that the ceremony paved the way for his eventual return.
During an era that looks like the early 20th Century, Hawkman started to investigate Nth Metal and the powerful energy it conducted.
He joined with Hawkgirl in the investigation and found out from a group of Immortals that the two are connected to the tribes of the past and the fight against Barbatos. Seeking to verify this story, they traveled the world and found "countless paintings on every continent, hidden in the deepest cave systems" that confirmed what they were told.
Alan Wayne goes Mad
Bruce Wayne's grandfather Alan Wayne went crazy and was convinced that there were people working to kill him. He died by falling into the sewers.
His madness has now been linked to something he noticed in the walls of the buildings in Gotham City - mysterious metals laced through the steel used to construct the city, something that was probably perpetrated by the Court of Owls in their efforts to turn Bruce into the doorway for Barbatos.
Sometime in the mid-20th Century, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were so obsessed by the strange Nth Metal and the stories they've been told that they formed a team of scientists and adventurers to study it all. Included in the group was the Blackhawks, the Challengers of the Unknown, Red Tornado, and the Metal Men.
Hawkman operated from Blackhawk Island, a place in a hidden pocket from space-time. It took him decades to build the technology needed, but he and his friends eventually were ready to send a team to the "other side" by utilizing Nth Metal.
At the moment the team traveled to what we assume now was the Dark Multiverse, the entire Challengers Mountain was "ripped out of reality." The team that had volunteered to travel to this other realm, which was made up of the Challengers of the Unknown and Red Tornado, disappeared, but not before warning about the danger of Barbatos. As Hawkman stared at the place where the mountain had been, he saw the eyes of "something great and terrible staring back at me."
Hawkman decided to stop pursuing this mystery, realizing the darkness he could unwillingly unleash upon the world.
A team of Blackhawks continued to occupy Blackhawk Island, working in secret to prevent Barbatos' return.
Hawkman hides his journal with "the family that has always been most loyal to the bird" - the Waynes.
In Dark Nights: Metal #1, Hawkman's journal said the Waynes had "turned from Tribe Bat to Tribe Bird." So by the time Hawkman encountered them, they were apparently loyal to the Bird Tribe.
Scott Snyder told Newsarama that [Hawkman] "must have some history with the Wayne family in his previous lives - like Nighthawk and Cinnamon and that whole mythology."
Nighthawk and Cinnamon were two characters in a long line of reincarnations of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. They lived in the American Old West.
The panel depicting Hawkman giving his journal to someone was not an Old West scenario - it was much more recent and looked like a farm. If the mystery character's fedora means anything, it was probably around the middle of the 20th Century. But the family may have become trusted by Hawkman much earlier.
During the "Death of the Family" storyline, the Joker is cast down into the deepest corner of the Batcave. He was revived by a "shimmering green metal" (that we can assume was Dionesium). He saw a marking on the wall - the sign of Barbatos.
As readers of Batman know, the character came after Batman again and was once again defeated down in a cave filled with dionesium. He and Bruce Wayne were both killed in that cave, but they were both also resurrected by the strange compound.
At some unknown point in the past, Bruce Wayne locked this resurrected Joker into a secret part of the Batcave. But the villain was able to escape during The Casting, after being found by Duke Thomas and Green Lantern Hal Jordan.
The followers of Barbatos in Gotham City - namely, the Court of Owls who secretly rule over Gotham and beyond - began treating Batman with heavy metals in the last few years, including Electrum, Dionesium, Promethium and, more recently, Nth Metal.
At some point in recent years, Batman began investigating the frequency of dark energy. His interest in the phenomenon was piqued, according to the Joker, after he discovered various compounds that could give people immortality - including Electrum and Dionesium.
To conduct his investigation, he utilized a black ops group called The Outsiders, a Wayne Enterprises black site in the Bermuda Triangle, and the efforts of Mister Terrific on Earth 2.
After acquiring a blade of Nth Metal, he uses Duke Thomas to peer into the realm of Barbatos. What he sees is not good.
That brings the DCU up to the time period where Dark Nights: Metal #1 kicks off, resulting in the mantling concluding and Batman being thrust into the Dark Multiverse, bringing Barbatos back to the DCU's Prime Earth.
This story continues December 20 with Dark Nights: Metal #4.