DC's Dark Knights of Steel (opens in new tab) is finally hitting comic shelves everywhere. First teased in a cryptic series of tweets from writer Tom Taylor, the comic explores a DC Universe set in a medieval age, in which Superman's infamous Kryptonian rocket landed a long time ago in a kingdom far, far away. In Yasmine Putri, DC found an artist to bring the tale of swords, sorcery, and superheroes to life, and Tuesday, November 2nd, fans will, at last, get to experience her and Taylor's entirely new take on the DCU.
Before the release, Newsarama had the chance to chat with Putri and Taylor about what it takes to put such a massive spin on the DCU, plus their inspirations and, of course, how much they love the fantasy genre. Read on to hear what they had to say...(opens in new tab)
Newsarama: Yasmin, what got you most excited about this project when you first heard about it? Is it just the fact that you like drawing horses?
Yasmin Putri: [laughs] I don't know how you figured out that I enjoy drawing horses, but I do enjoy drawing them actually! I've been a longtime fan of high fantasy and classic RPG [role playing game] concept art. There are these Japanese RPG games that I used to play and I was always very interested in the costumes and the intricate worlds shown by those things. So I've been a fan of high fantasy from quite a young age actually. When [editor] Ben Abernathy pitched me the idea of doing this deep project working with Tom Taylor, whose writing I just love, I said, "Yes, absolutely. Definitely count me in."
Tom, you kind of have an affinity for Elseworlds stories, both at DC and over at Marvel, you've got Dark Ages (opens in new tab). What is it about those stories that attracts you? How did you become the Elseworlds writer?
Tom Taylor: It all kind of starts with Injustice (opens in new tab), but even before that I was already a massive Elseworlds fan. I love books like Kingdom Come (opens in new tab) or Red Son (opens in new tab) or The Nail (opens in new tab). I love the stakes of them. I love that this is the one place where you can break the toys. You walk into DC Comics when you're on an ongoing and you say, "Can I kill Flash?" and they say no you can't because it's Flash. But when you're on Injustice you say, "Can I kill Calendar Man off screen?" and they're like, "Sure, go for it."(opens in new tab)
[Writing Elsworlds] also means that you can get readers to fall in love with characters before doing terrible things to them. You can get people invested, but they know that the stakes are real, so they don't know if their favorite character is going to be around. They don't know who they're going to fall in love with. The rules are written by you as you're writing.
Dark Knights of Steel is the most I've ever deviated from the norm. We're creating a whole new DC Universe, telling a story that's never been told before. What we set up in the first few pages (which I can't talk about here) is something that's never been done before with Superman. It's never been done in DC Comics. What we do with Batman has never been done so far. We're doing things with Wonder Woman in issue #2, with Black Lightning and his children, and it's just not been done before. As a creator, you can have the biggest idea I can think of and Ben Abernathy says, "Do it." That's incredibly exciting.
[Speaking of the first few pages, here's a preview of five of them featuring a high-fantasy spin on Superman's origin...]
Nrama: Now, let's talk about costume designs. Yasmine, could you give us a little window into what your thought process was in designing these medieval versions of our favorite DC characters? What kind of stuff were you researching at the time? What were you looking into?(opens in new tab)
Putri: It ended up being more traditional in the high fantasy sense. In fantasy sometimes you have these big breastplates and these big shoulder plates, but those designs ended up being too big and larger than life. There was a lot of back-and-forth between me and Tom and Ben, and we decided on a more grounded approach. We needed something more useful, something simpler and more grounded to ground the readers to instantly recognize these characters the moment they open the page. If we dress a person with too much armor and helmets and all these paddings and plates, people might not get to recognize them as quickly.
The research involved basically deviating from a traditional high fantasy into more traditional, leather-based armor. It's more historical than fantastical in the end. We incorporate the usual stuff like breastplates and helmets in a way that is more mundane and makes more sense to be worn by the characters, instead of using flowing capes and wings or that kind of thing that you might encounter in other high fantasy projects.
Nrama: That definitely comes through; that philosophy of the simpler armor. I feel like from forever on we are going to be able to recognize a character and say, "that's from Dark Knights of Steel."
Taylor: Now we just need toys and statues.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: Somebody call Todd McFarlane! So Tom, this story is partially about two warring kingdoms, one of which is The Kingdom of Storms. What can you tell me about them?
Taylor: This story starts with the prophecy, a prophecy that something will come from the stars and it will mean the end of the world. The Kingdom of Storms, ruled by Black Lightning and his family, gets this prophecy from John Constantine and sees Superman as that thing that's going to end the world.
So that's instantly where there's this antagonistic relationship, these Game of Thrones politics. The world-building that I have done off page for this book has been really, really fun as a fantasy fan. Just working out who likes who, what's happened in previous generations, the stuff I will never bother writing out for anyone. I needed to know it to realize this world.
Nrama: Hopefully we get those notes someday in a deluxe edition because I'd love to go through that world-building. That's so exciting. So this last question is for both of you: is Dark Knights of Steel a superhero story?(opens in new tab)
Putri: As far as I know, from looking at the scripts so far, it definitely has that superhero element. Just not in a way that is directly obvious. We know how superheroes traditionally act in comic books, but the story is not the same as a superhero story I think if that makes sense. It has familiar superheroes, these characters that you know but they're somewhere else, in a world that's not defined by superheroism. I think that's how I'd put it.
Taylor: I think that's great. These are superheroes, but in this world where that's not what defines them. I'm a huge fantasy fan, so I'm combining my two greatest loves of storytelling together. It's just a dream come true. I've tried to tell a fantasy story because it's my first chance. I brought everything I love superheroes and some of my favorite characters in the world and brought them into a fantasy setting.
Dark Knights of Steel is one of DC's highest-profile November titles. Check out everything on sale from DC in November, from new series and specials to the latest goings-on in all its ongoing series.