Spoilers ahead for Dark Nights: Metal #4.
With Dark Nights: Metal #4, writer Scott Snyder told a story that spanned the history of the DCU and took characters into far corners of its Multiverse.
And according to Snyder, the concepts of the "World Forger," his dragon, and other additions to the DCU's creation myth will continue to tie into stories after Metal is done.
Featuring art by Snyder's Batman collaborator, artist Greg Capullo, Metal #4 pushed forward story threads that were introduced when the event series launched earlier this year. From the appearance of Lucien's Library from Sandman to the sudden inclusion of Black Adam in the story, readers were treated to plenty of surprises in the event's fourth installment.
Newsarama talked to Snyder to find out more about the concepts of the World Forge and the creation of the Multiverse, why the heroes are being thwarted in their attempts to get Nth Metal, and when readers will find out the story behind the change in Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
Newsarama: Scott, that was quite a surprise, making Carter the dragon of Barbatos and Kendra this dark version of Lady Blackhawk. Is this all tied to what they went through in the past, when they pursued the "dark?" And will we find out more about how they got this way?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, very much. With Kendra, she has felt his influence over time. They both were stabbed by Nth Metal in the past. Trying not to give too much away about what you'll learn, the remnants of that blade in Kendra were much worse than in Carter.
So Barbatos has had influence over her, although I think she's easily as strong as Carter in being able to overcome all of this.
Part of what she becomes here plays into her strength later on.
You'll find out more about her and Carter soon, and in the stories rolling out of Metal with them as well.
Nrama: There was a comment from Dream, before he sent Batman and Superman to the World Forge, that there is a "cosmic being" who was tipping the "balance." Was that referring to Carter? The balance isn't being maintained anymore, right?
Snyder: Yeah. There used to be a World Forger, a mythical figure that we made up here as somebody who watched over the Forge and made sure it was kept in balance. And his pet monster, Barbatos, was the dragon who destroyed all the twisted and abominable worlds.
But once that creature, Barbatos, became envious, he ended up killing the World Forger and taking over the Forge and forcing it to go dark.
So the role that Carter is playing here is almost his dragon. He is to Barbatos the way that Barbatos was to the World Forger.
Nrama: So you've basically taken the idea of the Monitor and Anti-Monitor, as well as matter and anti-matter, and you've expanded upon them as part of this big creation myth of the DCU.
Snyder: Yeah! One of the fun things about Metal has been to actually touch on deep DC creation myths and be able to add to them, and explain some of the things behind the Monitor, the Anti-Monitor…
My favorite stories and events - Infinite Crisis and Crisis on Infinite Earths and Grant Morrison's Final Crisis and, you know, Infinity Gauntlet - they tend to do that. They circle back and go as big as they can with some of the founding stories of the mythology behind the universe itself.
We wanted to try to do something as bold as that here, and we're really excited about the story we have for Metal and the repercussions for all of it later.
Nrama: Repercussions that spin out of Metal? About these concepts?
Snyder: Yeah, we have stories planned for it - for these mythological figures - post-Metal too.
Nrama: Interesting. OK, so let's talk about the heroes who are going out to the corners of the Multiverse. A couple of the groups have run into big problems, namely Starro and Black Adam. It's starting to look like a coordinated effort by these villains. Is it? Or does it just show that everyone's after the Nth Metal and the power in the wake of this invasion?
Snyder: You'll see in issue #5. I don't want to give too much away about how it plays out.
We really wanted every mission that the characters go on to be something that's exploratory.
Metal is about this idea that when you try to venture out beyond your comfort zone and you fail, sometimes it causes you to fall to a place where all you see are the failed versions of yourself and the ways in which you'll continue to fail, and that there's nothing beyond this moment except failure and darkness.
So the roads that each of those character's take - the teams going to Thanagar Prime, going to Atlantis - we didn't want them to just be set pieces explored. We wanted them to be stories explored.
So what Aquaman discovers down in Atlantis will play out both in Metal in a way that shows his mythology is bigger than he thought, and scarier in some ways and more wondrous, and after Metal as well. And similarly with Wonder Woman and Kendra - what happens between them will sort of show Wonder Woman a larger set of responsibilities than she was aware of in the DCU and also change Kendra in big ways.
So we wanted to set them on journeys that would make them look at their own identities or their own mythologies and suddenly realize there were elements they never knew anything about that were scary and could cause them to fail, the same way that Batman was suddenly venturing beyond his own kind of nest and then suddenly realized this mystery was too big for him and fell into a place that seems really dark.
It's like Green Lantern saying, "Why didn't the Guardians tell me about this?"
So each character, we wanted to say something about that. They're going through the same thing that Batman is going through, or they're starting to venture out beyond the boundaries of their comfort zone to places that are revealing things about them, their allies, their own mythologies that are scary.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about Dream's role and this idea that when these stories, or "dreams and nightmares," become reality, the whole library burns. That sounds almost meta to me, but it really makes sense in the mythology of the Dreaming. Was that something you realized later, or did you always know this fit with Lucien's library?
Snyder: Oh, that was part of the founding idea of the story. We really wanted it to be something where Metal is almost like all those things that you fear will happen, that you hope will happen, that never really take hold because they're almost just beyond the realm of the possible.
And so, one of the ideas that I loved in Sandman was that there was a section of the Dreaming library that was for impossible stories that could not be spoken, could not be recited, could not be read. And to be able to have Metal link to that, and to have Barbatos and the Dark Multiverse be a place where those stories live comfortably.
But should they ever become material, this library burns, this section of it, because it contains these stories that should never occur. And here they are occurring not just in the Dark Multiverse but occurring suddenly more and more in the real world.
These figures that should have gone back into the World Forge - the Dark Knights and all of these things - are becoming concretized.
It was a really fun way of connecting one of my favorite series of all time to present-day continuity.
So between that, and working with Neil Gaiman there, working with Grant on The Wild Hunt, and then some other small, collaborative things that are coming up in Metal #5 and #6 too - the experience of working on Metal has just been such a joy, getting to work with people who have been responsible for many of the stories that inspired me to love comics and to want to do something like this in the first place.
And they've turned out to be both terrific partners and really inspiring people and friends. It's been one of the big thrills of the whole ride.
Nrama: It also feels like there are echoes here of some of the ideas that Doomsday Clock is exploring - the whole idea of hope and despair. It's particularly present in Batman and Superman's journey to the World Forge. Is that something you meant to echo, knowing that there was a concurrent title exploring this idea?
Snyder: Yeah. You know, Geoff Johns and I laid out the stories next to each other over - it was about a year ago, I guess, almost to the month. It was back in November or December of 2016.
I went out to Burbank and laid out everything I was thinking for Metal, and he laid out everything he had for Doomsday Clock.
And it was very interesting. They're very different stories, and they have a very different tone, very different pacing, very different sort of sensibility. And yet I think a lot of the stuff we both love about superheroes is synergistically parallel in the stories.
He's focusing on slightly different characters than I am. He's focusing on a slightly different message, I think, than I am, about how these characters inspire hope. And I'm sort of talking more about exploration and the need to be bold and go forward into places that you haven't explored yet.
So there are overlaps. They were made in conjunction with each other. We both wanted to make sure neither story stepped on the other. And also, it was just for fun, to see what each other was doing, because we get very few chances, me and him, to work together.
Nrama: He's working other areas of DC Entertainment now.
Snyder: Yeah! He's been out there for so many years, and he's involved in so much stuff between the TV stuff and the movie stuff. So it was a real thrill to get to kind of do this whole …. he has a thing in his office that's like a wall-sized whiteboard, and we just put everything up.
So it was a lot of fun. I'm very excited for him and what he and Gary Frank are doing over there as well. I certainly hope everybody's picking that up and enjoying it as well.
Nrama: Did the Anti-Monitor's brain survive that scene with Kendra turning into the dark Lady Blackhawk and Black Adam showing up?
Snyder: Oh yeah. The brain's still there. It comes back in issue #5. And it's in #6. So his brain plays a big part.
There's also a bandaged figure that Batman-Who-Laughs brought here.
Nrama: Oh yeah, so that's coming back too?
Snyder: Yeah, there's a plan he has behind the scenes.
Nrama: OK, so before we get to Metal #5, DC is releasing Hawkman Found. Is that something readers need to pick up in order to understand what comes next? I mean, this issue ended with Hawkman being found…
Snyder: No, you don't "need" to read it. We didn't want anything in Metal to be essential beyond the series. But we wanted every piece to feel like, if you picked up another piece, it was gripping and it had something original, it had something that filled in another part that you were interested in exploring, that would give you more than your money's worth.
So Hawkman Found is a really big piece about how Hawkman wound up here, what he's experienced, what his history is a little bit more concretely than we've gotten a chance to explain it, and also what might lie in his future.
You'll get plenty of Carter Hall in Metal and you'll see what happens with him as this kind of giant kaiju dragon at the World Forge, but if you want to know more about how he wound up there, about his history, about his place in the DCU, about his relationship with Kendra, his different lives and what might happen to him beyond Metal - all of that - this is a good place to go.
And Jeff Lemire killed it with Bryan Hitch. I mean, the two of them just knocked it out of the park. So I'm really excited for people to take a look at that one. It's a very strong piece of Metal.
Nrama: This is quite an undertaking for you, as sort of the architect of all these "pieces" and this story that spans the history of the DCU. But I know you always try to make things personal too.
Snyder: Yeah, I did a lot of homework on events, and what I realized was that the ones that captured my imagination when I was young and even now are the ones that are kind of bonkers, over-the-top, immersive, bombastic storytelling, and I wanted to make something here that was really personal about those dark moments and how comics have helped me kind of get through them at different times.
But then I also wanted to do something that felt expansive and robust and had consequences.
So every piece of it, we want it to feel vibrant, and its own thing - "Bats Out of Hell," the Dark Knight one-shots, "Gotham Resistence" - and then also have the ending be self-contained and yet also give hooks in-story that are additives to multiple different books and series that roll out.
So we're really proud of all the stories coming out of it too.
Nrama: I did a timeline of the history of the DCU according to Metal. Now I have to go back and add more stuff after this issue. You keep adding stuff!
Snyder: I know. We're never going to let you rest!
Nrama: And I saw that somebody had a Baby Darkseid in a baby carrier at a convention. You're also adding a lot of new crazy concepts.
Snyder: I know, right? If I can't have a tag on the end that has Baby Darkseid hitchhiking, you know, with his god-wave sunglasses on like that, with the little bag with an Omega symbol, I'll be very disappointed. I'm going for it. I'm going to push for it. Something like that.