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Tom Taylor, C.S. Pacat, and Jay Kristoff talk 'Dark Knights of Steel' prequel

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Tom Taylor, C.S. Pacat, and Jay Kristoff talk ‘Dark Knights of Steel’ prequel

Out today, ‘Tales From the Three Kingdoms’ explores younger versions of the heirs of El.

Tom Taylor likes to muck around with fictional universes. But where he’s previously dropped zombies into the DCU, and cast the MCU into permanent darkness, the more recent The Dark Knights of Steel has been a different beast entirely. It’s more than a mere retelling the DCU in medieval times; Taylor’s shifted origins and alliances together for a powerful recontextualizing of these essential characters.

Now, before he returns in November with the eighth issue in this12-part maxi-series, Taylor is offering up a prequel, Dark Knights of Steel: Tales From the Three Kingdoms #1. But he’s not alone on this latest quest, as the book features contributions from writers C.S. Pacat and Jay Kristoff as well as artists Nathan Gooden and Neil Googe, among others. Together, they tell a couple of stories around the “three heirs” of the Kingdom of El and and “what really prepared them for their tumultuous future.”

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With the issue out today, we caught up with Taylor, Pacat, and Kristoff just a few days ago via email. We talked about the stories inside the issue, exploring the heroes’ childhoods, and what comes next, among many other tidbits.

DC Preview: Dark Knights of Steel: Tales From the Three Kingdoms #1

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: What does everyone need to know before starting this one shot?

Tom Taylor: This is not the DC Universe you know. This is a medieval fantasy world, which the El family escaped to after the destruction of Krypton. The Els are now the King and Queen of a realm that was once ruled by Thomas and Martha Wayne before their deaths. Tales from the Three Kingdoms tells stories of the princes, Bruce Wayne and Kal-El, and the princess, Zala Jor-El, with a host of other DC Characters.

AIPT: Can you tease the stories a bit? Just when do they take place in the timeline and do they spoil the series proper at all?

TT: All the stories presented are prequels to the story taking place in Dark Knights of Steel, but expand the world we’re creating with characters and relationships not yet seen before.

C.S.: Mine takes place in the childhoods of Bruce and Kal soon after the attack of the Green Man. Bruce gains a mentor, and it’s the last person you’d ever expect.

Jay Kristoff: My story takes place when Bruce and Kal are in their mid teens. Kal is just coming into the idea that he’ll be a ruler one day, and Bruce and Harley are trying to educate him about the kingdom he’ll inherit, each in their own unique ways. Shenanigans and Bitewing cameos ensue.

DC Preview: Dark Knights of Steel: Tales From the Three Kingdoms #1

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: Why was it important to explore this story and do so with these younger heroes?

C.S.: I love diving into a character’s past. It’s so often the events that happen in our childhoods that forge us into who we are today. As well as that, there was one character in particular I thought it was Very Important to show with medieval weapons. You’ll know it when you see it.

JK: “The Flock” is the origin story of a group we’ve already met in Dark Knights of Steel, so Bruce and Kal had to be younger for the timeline to make sense. The group contains some of my favorite DC characters, so it was a lot of fun to play with them, even if only for 10 pages.

AIPT: What are some of the opportunities to having the heroes as their younger selves? Are there challenges? I think about that episode of Justice League Unlimited where they all become kids  and it’s either quite charming in parts or irksome in others.

TT: To start, I should say “Kid Stuff” is easily one of my favorite Justice League Unlimited episodes. But I think Dark Knights of Steel had to rush past this era so quickly, and there was a real appetite for more of these times, with a young Bruce and Kal-El and Zara and more to be explored.

DC Preview: Dark Knights of Steel: Tales From the Three Kingdoms #1

Courtesy of DC Comics.

C.S.: The biggest challenge for me was to create a young hero who felt exciting and fresh. Origin stories have been done a hundred times, and I didn’t want to do anything that felt like it was treading old ground. On the flip side, the greatest opportunity is the ability to tell a completely new kind of story — a medieval fantasy DC universe with young heroes opens up so much new space.

JK: When you’re writing characters as iconic as Bruce and Kal — even in an alternate reality — you want to be respectful of their legacy, and the work of all the writers who’ve gone before you. I felt like I’d been handed the keys to a very expensive sports car, and I was desperate to drive it as fast as I could, but also not to scratch it!

AIPT: I feel like the stories here really hit in a stride in terms of “repurposing” parts of the DCU. Did this book feel different in that specific sense?

TT:: I think one of the joys of writing alternate universes is finding new spins on familiar characters. Here, we get new origins and new ties between some of DC’s most iconic characters.

C.S.: I loved Dark Knights of Steel before I joined the world as a writer, exactly because of that exciting, mad genius of mashing up heroes with fantasy tropes. The second I saw Batman in a suit of Armour, and Kal as a Prince, I was swept away by the imaginative potential of the world.

Dark Knights of Steel

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: Which character is more fun or charming or more entertaining as a youngster?

TT: So much innocence is lost in Dark Knights of Steel, that I think all of the characters are more entertaining and charming here. They’re not in the midst of a war or suffering deaths and tragedy here. There’s more room for adventure. In particular, we see a side of this world’s Supergirl that hasn’t been possible to show in the story, so far. There are other characters we don’t want to spoil that we definitely see new sides of too.

C.S.: For me, the most fun was Batman, because he’s the kind of character you can’t imagine being young at all, and it’s that kind of imaginative gap that makes writing him exciting.

JK: Harley is the fun one in my story for sure. Kal is the young Prince coming into his own, and Bruce is . . . well, Bruce.

AIPT: What was it like to either join this “universe” or to be the one letting in new voices?

TT: I was absolutely honored to have bestselling fantasy authors of the caliber of Jay Kristoff and C.S. Pacat join this world. While we’re all great friends and spend a lot of time together, I’m also a fan of both writers. For the authors of the Nevernight Chronicle, the Captive Prince saga, Empire of the Vampire, and Dark Rise to tell stories in this world was a dream. I hope we get to do it again. The artists joining us for these tales are also incredible. Caspar Wijngaard, Michele Bandini and Sean Izaakse make the kingdoms come to life in these pages, and all do an incredible job visually reimagining some DC icons.

Tom Taylor, C.S. Pacat, and Jay Kristoff talk 'Dark Knights of Steel' prequel

Courtesy of DC Comics.

C.S.: It’s my first time to write in any DC universe, though I’ve been a DC fan since childhood. My first reaction was wild excitement. Then almost immediately there was a sense of enormous respect for the legacy of these characters, with incredible coinciding pressure. The actual process of writing was unbelievably fun, as was the chance to jam and share ideas with a writer of Tom’s caliber.

JK: Incredible fun and just an absolute honor. I can’t express how brilliant it was to be writing some of my favorite heroes, and helping to build Tom’s amazing world. If you had have told 14-year-old Jay he’d get to write Batman one day, he’d never have believed you!

AIPT: Does this title prepare readers at all (in terms of even hinting at what happens or perhaps some other tidbits) before issue #8 drops in November?

TT: This title expands on the entire world and certainly sets up characters and instances that we hope to show more of in the future.

C.S.: The honest truth is — nothing will prepare you for issue #8!

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