The last time Newsarama spoke to Scott Snyder about how the events in Dark Nights: Metal were altering DC's history — changing the Metal timeline we'd just finished writing — he said, "We're never going to let you rest!"
Dark Nights: Metal, the six-issue series by Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, has covered a lot of ground in its first five issues and a huge swath of time — from Lucien's Library to the Dark Multiverse, and from the creation of the universe to the dawn of mankind.
And although we took a stab at the Metal timeline a few months ago, the issues since that time have added a surprising number of concepts and characters — expanding the timeline of Metal significantly.
As part of our ongoing "Metal 101" series, what follows is an update to the list of significant time-marking events from Dark Nights: Metal and the new timeline that's led the DCU to the moment that Barbatos came to the DCU in Metal #1.
The Endless: This part of DC's history showed up in a big way in Metal #4, as the Dreaming's "library for impossible stories" began to burn because of the series' events.
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.
At some point, the library of impossible stories was created in their realm, containing stories that could not be spoken, could not be recited, and could not be read. And should these stories ever become material, the library burns.
Krona's Peek: 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. According to the narration in Metal #2, he saw a great hand so far back that the very act of looking at it opened up millions of worlds.
Creation of the Multiverse: Tied into both the idea of "stories" and the creation of multiple worlds is a new story from Dark Nights: Metal #4. This one clarifies that new worlds are being made constantly in the Forge of Worlds.
According to this story, "first were matter and anti-matter," and with them were three creatures. Two were the brothers who monitored the matter and anti-matter (also known as the Monitor and Anti-Monitor).
A third being was tasked to watch over what was "yet to come," residing in the "World Forge" that existed deep in the "rolling cauldron of possibility" known as the Dark Multiverse. The Forge created worlds from the hopes and fears of living beings. If those worlds became stable, they "rose into the Orrery" and became part of the Multiverse.
The third being had a great dragon with him in the Forge. This dragon was tasked with destroying the unstable worlds. Eventually, this dragon became known as Barbatos.
The Immortals: 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 and the Wizard (from Shazam mythology), Morgaine le Fey, Black Adam, and the Immortal Men. (More on them later.)
Barbatos Escapes: It's not clear when this happened in the history of the DCU, but at some point in the ancient past, Barbatos killed his master (the being who watched over the Forge of Worlds).
The World Forge began to go dark. And instead of the unstable worlds being devoured, they continued to exist within the Dark Multiverse.
Many thousands upon thousands of twisted versions of DC heroes and villains (and other people in the DCU, we suppose) lived on dark worlds in the Dark Multiverse. Barbatos chose some to serve as his army, allowing them to devour and kill others.
King Arion: The first king of Atlantis, Arion, saved the city through what was reported to be "ancient magic" spun at the core of the Earth. However, it appears that he actually used some type of hybrid technology to manipulate that core, and Aquaman now suspects that Arion made some type of "infernal bargain" to save the city.
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 comic book issues leading up to Dark Nights: Metal.
Judas Tribe: 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 an upcoming series from DC Comics. The concept behind the group was introduced in Dark Days: The Casting.
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.
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 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.
Thanagar's Interest: For eons, the people of Thanagar have known about the "Dark," and they began watching the Earth closely. At some point in their history, they constructed the Phoenix Cannon, fueled by super-metals and able to raise the Earth should the legions of the Dark ever come for the planet. It stood locked on the Earth's core and never changed target.
Ancient Egypt: 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."
Colonial Wayne: 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.
Hawks Investigation: 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.
Mid-Century Team: 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.
Journal Hidden: 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.
The panel depicting Hawkman giving his journal to someone appears to have taken place around the middle of the 20th Century. But the family may have become trusted by Hawkman much earlier.
Creation of Plastic Man: At some point in the past, Eel O'Brien fell into a vat of chemicals. This mixture of chemicals was an attempt by either the Court of Owls or S.T.A.R. Labs to approximate cosmic metals.
He gained the power to stretch and morph his body at will, but he also became a superconductor for cosmic energies.
Hawkman Lost: In the events of the Metal one-shot tie-in Hawkman Found, it was revealed that sometime after he left his journal in the care of the Waynes, Hawkman received a distress call on Challengers Mountain. The Challengers were lost in the Dark Multiverse.
He went looking for them, but he didn't find the Challengers. Instead, he found the Forge of Worlds.
"I have to man the Forge of Worlds," Carter Hall said in the issue. "All life depends on it. It is my destiny."
But exposure to the metal appears to have overtaken Hawkman, and instead of bringing life to the forge, he has assisted Barbatos in turning it dark.
And Hawkman guards the Forge as a huge, twisted, dark version of himself. He calls himself the "drain of Barbatos, keeper of the Dark Forge." But inside his mind, he seems to be fighting to get out, living the same battle over and over again but unable to escape.
Joker: 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 Mantling: 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.
Batman Investigation: 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.
Plastic Man, sensing the rise of dark energy (as the afore-mentioned "superconductor" of these energies), assisted Mister Terrific in his research. But the pull of the dark energies became too much for him — having to fight off dark impulses — and he retracted into egg form.
After Batman's research revealed certain properties of the metals and the rise in dark energy, he acquiried a blade of Nth Metal. Batman then used Duke Thomas to peer into the realm of Barbatos. What he saw was bad.
That brings the DCU up to the time period where Dark Nights: Metal #1 kicked off. In that issue, the mantling concluded, Batman (and later Superman) became trapped in the Dark Multiverse, Barbatos (and now his armies) invaded the DCU Earth, and the library of impossible stories began to burn.