An interview with Dark Nights: Metal writer Scott Snyder.
Ever since writer Scott Snyder began his Batman run in 2011 to help kick off DC’s New 52 publishing initiative (following a brief, yet well-received run on Detective Comics), he’s been one of the most consistently popular, not to mention smart and entertaining, writers in contemporary comics.
A great deal of this success can also be attributed to artist Greg Capullo, with whom Snyder collaborated with throughout the bulk of their Batman run until its conclusion in 2016. His dynamic, inventive penciling style was a perfect match for Snyder’s talent for telling dramatically compelling and thematically resonant stories that still find room to be fun and thrilling.
Snyder continued to explore the Batman mythos, albeit minus Capullo, with the recently concluded All-Star Batman. But in August, they got the band back together (replete with inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist FCO Plascencia from the start of their Batman run) for Dark Nights: Metal, a grandiose crossover event that follows just about everyone from the Justice League, Dream, and even Detective Chimp as they confront the horrors of the Dark Multiverse, including a team of alternate–and horrifying–versions of Batman.
Ahead of this Wednesday’s Dark Knights: Metal #4, AiPT! got together with Snyder to talk Metal, the writer’s relationship with Capullo, and the spirit of rock and roll.
AIPT!: Thanks so much for talking to me today. I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time and I’m really loving Metal.
Scott Snyder: Thank you, we’re really having more fun on it than any superhero project (I’ve ever done).
AIPT!: That’s great to hear, because that sense of fun really does come through in the writing and the whole production of the comic. I think it’s safe to say that this is, as you’ve talked about before, probably the wildest, most bombastic thing you’ve done at DC so far. Going into the early planning stages of the story, what was the motivation for telling a story this over-the-top?
Snyder: Well, it really came from a couple of things. I mean, first they asked if I wanted to do some kind of an event. That’s before Greg [Capullo] left. And I had this story in my head… I knew I wanted to have Batman meet Carter Hall… following them throughout human history, and kind of having Carter Hall passing the torch after he disappeared. And what happened was I was reading [other] events over the year that I was working on All-Star [Batman], and All-Star was sort of a way of getting to do more bonkers and prismatic storytelling about Batman away from the mainstream… It got me thinking about the [stories] that I had loved as a kid… I realized that they were Kirby-esque, bonkers, and, you know epic. They had a lot of meaning, and they were good, but they were all kinds of ludicrous… We decided that we wanted to do a big rock concert, a sort of party where we’re inviting everybody to sort of celebrate the ludicrous… Justice League Voltron, baby Darkseid, all that kind of stuff, while still making it kind of personal.
AIPT!: That’s actually something I wanted to talk to you about. I want to get into the craziness and the kirbyness of it all too. But something that I’ve always found in your work, and something that you’ve talked about in panels and interviews, is how personal a lot of your work is, including your Batman work. I guess what I’m asking is, with a story like this that is so big, to what degree were you still able to keep it grounded in ideas that we experience in the real world and in our personal lives?
Snyder: Well first of all, we’re really heartwarmed by the response, so we just want to thank everybody over at the site, and all the readers… You know, it is quite personal. I wanted the experience to be like the crazy [stories] that I love. You know, Zorro, Dr. Fate… all great stuff. But ultimately, the story is about… how to try something new and fail… how you failed a version of yourself. All the ways that things can go wrong. All the ways you’re likely going to fail… how you seem to have no way out… you feel like you’re being swept away… those failed versions of yourself, that’s what the Dark Knights are for Bruce… it’s a thing I’m honestly proud of.
AIPT!: There’s a lot to be proud of, I think, to be able to tell a story that is at once very exciting, but also speaks to those things you’re talking about, how stories matter, how stories affect us. That’s why I wanted to bring up your upcoming collaboration with Grant Morrison [Dark Nights: The Wild Hunt], because that sort of metatextual nature is something that he’s explored a little bit in his work as well.
Snyder: On the surface, it looks like the craziest thing possible, right? I mean, Detective Chimp, sort of at his origin. So, Detective Chimp at his circus days, unable to learn certain tricks, and then escaping… the reason I love him and the reason Grant loves him so much is, at the end of the day, for me, he’s about the feeling that we all have, where he realizes he’s this sort of frustrated creature that can’t learn what he wants to learn. He is granted this infinite wisdom and infinite life, through the fountain of youth, and at the end of the day, he still feels like he’s no better than an ape in a cage, who can learn only a fraction of what he hopes to. So as silly as he is, and as ridiculous as he is, he’s actually a kind of poignant character, for us both, for me and Grant both. We kind of bonded over him, so one of the things that was fun was doing this issue that feels so insane. I mean, that’s the first few pages of Metal. You have Detective Chimp playing a keyboard, the power of Red Tornado and the Metal Men are almost pipe organs… [rocketing] across the Alterverse trying to get help. It is totally out-of control crazy. But that said, it’s a really personal story. I don’t know, for me it was very resonant just seeing how much Grant cares about so many of the pieces that he once created and also developed for DC. Not just that they’re fun and funny… and so smart, but because they meant things to him… it was a real pleasure. One of the big thrills this year was getting to work with him, getting to talk more with Neil Gaiman, and a couple of other people too coming up… I’m really, really thrilled. It’s been an incredible experience to work with some of my idols, getting to do what I do already but… better people than you hoped, they’re good people and collaborators.
AIPT!: That’s great, because I know Dream of the Endless is in Metal, that big surprising last page of the first issue. I didn’t realize that you [and Neil Gaiman] had actually spoken, and you hinted that there were other creators who you communicated with, so we might see some of their influence coming up. I know there’s only so much you can say or tease about what’s coming next, but could you maybe give us a little insight into what sort of ramifications on both the DC universe, and maybe your DC work, in particular?Snyder: Oh yeah… there will be consequences. They have to have some kind of impact. For us, we wanted it to be additive and celebratory, so we’re not going to off Batman… beyond that, there are big effects to both things that I had planned post-Metal, and we’ll announce what I’ve been thinking about doing afterwards, but there are also a bunch of big story engines that are going into a bunch of books: Aquaman, Flash, Wonder Woman. So there’s a lot of stuff that’s rolling out of Metal that’s adding to the story. We wanted it to be stuff that was organic to the creators, that doesn’t feel intrusive. With Batman too… so there’s a lot of things that are coming out of Metal that I think people will be excited about… I hope [it] feels additive and celebratory and inclusive, and not sort of, you know… a cash grab or anything like that. We’re trying to be very very sensitive about all of that stuff, and make sure that it’s all being done in the right spirit.
AIPT!: Well, I really appreciate that, and I know a whole lot of readers will too. I know we’re starting to run out of time, but I did want to ask before you go… I was actually just listening to the Spotify playlist that you created for Metal, and was hoping you could talk about how metal music, or maybe just music, in general, influenced this story.
Snyder: Well, obviously, it has that story element, Nth metal and all that stuff I was fascinated with, but it’s also about Greg, and about our friendship, and about how he made me a lot more confident as a creator, and I hope I have for him, so I think it’s a little bit of that for him as well. As also, the thing that we sort of bonded over was a sensibility about wanting to put stories first, character first, and he always described that as being rock and roll. He’s like, “come on, man, you gotta rock out. You gotta be rock and roll, we’re a band, man. We gotta go out there and play our hearts out.” And so it just felt right! All of Metal, it sort of plays into that idea of getting out there and just rocking out. He uses that term too… he’s like, “that’s so metal.” It’s cool… it’s daring, it’s bold, you need to go out there and give everything you’ve got, leave nothing on stage. Pyro, theatrical, all of it is in the spirit of what we’re trying to do. There was a little bit of a fight to call it that with DC, but I’m so glad that they finally caved and let us do it. And now they’re all wearing rock wigs, playing guitar… we’re all in a band together now.
Check out the official DC: Metal playlist below, and pick up Dark Nights: Metal #4 this Wednesday.