Deafening darkness and big-rig truckers - welcome to Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel's new series Nocternal.
This new creator-owned, ongoing series from the two longtime Batman creators keeps the darkness, but trades in Bruce Wayne and the Batmobile for a new dark knight: Valentina 'Val' Riggs and her colorful eighteen-wheeler. Val isn't hauling merchandise, however, but has been conscripted to be a 'ferryman' taking people to safety in a world where darkness has overtaken Earth and some humans have been corrupted by it into becoming demonic 'shades.'
Announced on Monday with a special pre-release Kickstarter edition that's already surpassed its $40,000 goal, Nocternal is the first stage in what Snyder tells Newsarama is a "new era" for him and his creator-owned projects.
Newsarama spoke with Snyder and Daniel about this new project, working together for the first time, and how this series has eerie similarities with what's going on in the real world right now.
Newsarama: Scott, Nocternal seems prescient to everyday life living now in a pandemic, but you've been talking about doing more creator-owned work for over a year now. When did the ideas for Nocternal first start percolating for you?
Scott Snyder: It's been in my head for a long time actually. As a kid, I was deathly afraid of the dark. A couple of years ago, one of my kids started going through something similar and it just hit me - a story about our world being plunged into a night that doesn't end, a terrifying darkness that changes anything that stays in it too long into a monster.
Tony S. Daniel: It's strange, the parallels between the story and what the world is facing now. The world plunged in darkness, no answers, no end in sight, just find the light, find a way to survive. It sounds like what we're living through right now. But we've been working on this story since 2019, well before any of today's troubles could even be imagined. But it's a hell of a story and world we're setting up for the series.
Nrama: Scott, the last time you and I saw each other in person was Chicago, C2E2... Tony's home convention.
You two have worked side-by-side for years in DC's Batman line; how did the conversation turn to doing creator-owned work together?
Daniel: Yes, but although we were both in the Bat office at the same time we were doing different books, so the opportunity to work together never presented itself. Scott worked with Greg Capullo, and I was writing myself.
Only recently did we first do a DC book together and that was last week's Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights. We did that as sort of a fun way to show Scott and I as a team at DC before embarking on this new journey.
Snyder: We'd already decided to do Nocternal together by February so Tony and I made a point to get breakfast together far from the con on the first morning and just talk ideas, talk the characters, talk blue (or black) sky... He took me to this historic hotel and we ended up staying way past when we said we'd leave. It was a fantastic time.
Daniel: The conversation started on a street corner in NYC in 2019 when we by sheer chance bumped into each other. I just so happened to be planning on returning to the world of creator-owned, and Scott was looking to delve into it as well.
Though I initially thought I'd start with something I was both writer and artist on, Scott's idea and energy was so strong, and so up my alley, that it as a such a natural fit that I felt like it was a no brainer that this be my first creator-owned project.
Nrama: This isn't your first creator-owned project, Tony - just first in a while since the days of the Tenth and Adrenalynn, also at Image.
But it's been a while - and here we are talking about it with crowdfunding now in the mix. What do you think about how the playing field for creator-owned comics has changed?
Daniel: I think the playing field has changed for the better over the years. Creator-owned was a bit harder for people to do back when I was doing it. Now you have a lot of other avenues to get the product out, like crowdfunding. For us, we're using Kickstarter to help us be self-sufficient and not put a strain on Image's resources. It's great that we have these sorts of resources today.
Nrama: In this world, some people have been turned into what's called 'shades'. What is a shade exactly?
Snyder: A shade is what you become if you don't stay in the light in the new normal of Nocternal. Any living thing immersed in the darkness too long becomes a twisted, monstrous version of itself, humans, animals, even plants change... it's a world of shades lurking in the shadows.
Nrama: The concept of 'shades' is pretty interesting, and from the black and white art I've seen Tony, you're really spending some time here making these real, and textured - especially from what I see on page six. What went into designing them for you?
Daniel: Basically listening to Scott's ideas, what he was thinking, and combining them with my ideas. I wanted these creatures to have their own look, something we don't see every day. The great thing is, I'm not set on just one design. There are many variations of the shades. There can be a frog shade, a moose shade, a horse, and most scary, a person. And I can go to town, using a similar framework that I've already set up. So the more we're in this world of shades, the more variations we'll see.
Nrama: How has Val and others escaped being turned into shades?
Snyder: In our story, ferrymen are the brave folks who drive people between lit-up outposts and towns along the deadly, shade-infested roads of this new landscape. And Val is one of the best. With her brother Em as her guide, she ferries people in her eighteen-wheeler loaded with weaponized lighting. The thing is, as a young girl she had terrible cataracts so she lived in a state of near blindness. Now, in the dark, she's using lessons she learned back then to her advantage. She's a real badass and one of my favorite characters in a while. Tony contributed a ton to her as well. Not just her design but her backstory, her psychology...
Nrama: The idea of drawing Val and this big illuminated big rig sounds like a lot of fun. How's it been for you? Any tips or tricks you've learned or developed in drawing 18-wheelers?
Daniel: I'm excited to get to draw these types of scenes. It's something I haven't done before, and I get to strengthen my vehicle drawing skills. I've been collecting several small-scale big rigs for inspiration. So drawing the big rigs will be easy, the hard part is conveying the power and motion since there'll be a lot of that. All fun stuff for me.
Nrama: The premise is pretty well set up in the introduction - is the mystery of how and why the world came to be this way something you'll explore, or is that a backdrop to tell these stories of humanity?
Snyder: Yes, the mystery surrounding the darkness - its nature, its origin, whether or not there's a way of ending it - is a major engine of the series.
Nrama: Put yourself in Val's shoes, or anyone living in this world. What would you and your family be doing in a situation like that?
Snyder: Man, that's a scary question. I like to think I'd be doing what she is, not just trying to survive, but trying to find the truth, the solution, some light at the end of the tunnel.
Daniel: I'd be staying indoors, trying to keep myself and family sane, trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, and maybe sleeping a bit lighter. Something like I'm doing right now.