Dark Knights of Steel – Elseworlds high-fantasy DC series features “something that has never been done before with Superman”
DC’s Dark Knights of Steel are finally hitting comic book shelves everywhere. First teased in a cryptic series of tweets from writer Tom Taylor, the comic explores a DC universe set in medieval times, in which Superman’s infamous Kryptonian rocket landed long ago in a very realm, very far. In Yasmine Putri, DC has found an artist to bring the story of swords, witchcraft and superheroes to life, and on Tuesday, November 2, fans will finally be able to experience her and the all-new. Taylor’s vision of the DCU.
Ahead of the release, Newsarama had the chance to chat with Putri and Taylor about what it takes to make the DCU so big, along with their inspirations and, of course, how much they love the fantasy genre. Read on to hear what they had to say …
Newsarama: Yasmin, what got you most excited about this project when you first heard about it? Is it just the fact that you love to draw horses?
Yasmine Putri: [laughs] I don’t know how you guessed that I love to draw horses, but I actually enjoy drawing them! I have been a longtime fan of high fantasy and classic RPGs. [role playing game] conceptual art. There are these Japanese RPG games that I used to play and I have always been very interested in the costumes and the complex worlds shown by these things. So I’ve been a fan of high fantasy since a young age actually. When [editor] Ben Abernathy came up with the idea of doing this in-depth project working with Tom Taylor, whose writing I love, I said, “Yeah, absolutely. You definitely count on me.”
Tom, you kind of have an affinity for the Elseworlds stories, both at DC and at Marvel, you have Dark times. What attracts you to these stories? How did you become the Writer elsewhere?
Tom Taylor: It sort of started with Injustice, but even before that I was already a huge Elseworlds fan. I love books like Kingdom Come or Red Son or The Nail. I like their stakes. I like that this is the only place where you can break the toys. You walk into DC Comics when you’re in class and 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 offscreen?” And they’re like, “Sure, go ahead.”
[Writing Elsworlds] It also means that you can get readers to fall in love with the characters before doing terrible things to them. You can get people to invest, but they know the stakes are real, so they don’t know if their favorite character will be there. They don’t know who they’re going to fall in love with. The rules are written by you as you write.
Dark Knights of Steel is the most I have ever deviated from the norm. We’re creating a whole new DC Universe, telling a story that’s never been told before. What we put together in the first few pages (which I can’t speak to here) is something that has never been done before with Superman. This has never been done in DC Comics. What we do with Batman has never been done until now. We’re doing things with Wonder Woman in issue 2, with Black Lightning and her kids, and it just hasn’t been done before. As a creator you can have the biggest idea I can think of and Ben Abernathy says, “Do it”. It’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…]
Preview of Dark Knights of Steel # 1
Nrama: Now let’s talk about costume design. Yasmine, can you give us a little window into your thought process in designing these medieval versions of our favorite DC characters? What sort of things were you researching at the time? What were you looking for?
Putri: It ended up being more traditional in the sense of high fantasy. In the fantasy you sometimes have those big breastplates and big epaulettes, but these designs ended up being too big and bigger than life. There was a lot of back and forth between me and Tom and Ben, and we took a more grounded approach. We needed something more useful, simpler, and more grounded to allow 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 that padding and plate, people might not recognize them that quickly.
The research essentially involved a deviation from traditional high fantasy towards more traditional leather-based armor. It’s more historical than fantastic in the end. We’re incorporating the usual things like breastplates and helmets in a more mundane and logical way for the characters to wear, instead of using capes and flowing wings or that sort of thing that you might encounter in others. high fancy projects.
Nrama: It’s definitely coming; this philosophy of the simpler armor. I have a feeling that from now on, we’re going to be able to recognize a character and say, “this is from Dark Knights of Steel”.
Taylor: Now we just need toys and statues.
Nrama: Someone is calling Todd McFarlane! So, Tom, part of this story is about two kingdoms at war, one of which is the Kingdom of Storms. What can you tell me about them?
Taylor: This story begins with prophecy, a prophecy that something will come from the stars and it will mean the end of the world. The Storm Kingdom, ruled by Black Lightning and his family, gets this prophecy from John Constantine and sees Superman as that thing that will end the world.
So that’s instantly where there is this antagonistic relationship, this Game of Thrones politics. The world-building that I did off the page for this book has been really, really fun as a fantasy fan. I’m just looking for who likes whom, what happened in previous generations, stuff that I would never bother to write for anyone. I needed to know that to realize this world.
Nrama: I hope we will one day get these notes in a deluxe edition because I would love to travel through this world building. It is so exciting. So that last question is for both of you: Is Dark Knights of Steel a superhero story?
Putri: As far as I know, looking at the scripts so far, he definitely has that superhero element to it. But not in a way that is directly obvious. We know how superheroes traditionally act in the comics, but the story isn’t the same as a superhero story, I think if that makes sense. He’s got some familiar superheroes, those characters that you know but are somewhere else, in a world that is not defined by superheroism. I think that’s how I would put it.
Taylor: I think it’s awesome. They are superheroes, but in this world where that’s not what defines them. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, so I combine my two greatest storytelling loves. It’s just a dream come true. I tried to tell a fantastic story because this is my first chance. I brought everything I love, superheroes and some of my favorite characters to the world and brought them to a fantastic setting.
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