The DC Universe has been reimagined as a medieval world of myth and magic in the series Black Knights of Steel. Fantasy world expands with anthology special Dark Knights of Steel: Tales of the Three Kingdoms #1. Compiling a trilogy of short stories by Tom Taylor and Caspar Wijngaard, Jay Kristoff and Sean Izaakse, and CS Pacat and Michele Bandini, the one-shot features adventures featuring DC icons from the era of swords and sorcery before the main series. From the gruesome mysteries on the fringes of the realm to the origins of several fan-favorite characters in this fantasy world, Tales of the Three Kingdoms greatly expands the myth behind Black Knights of Steel.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, the authors of Tales of the Three Kingdoms – Taylor, Kristoff and Pacat – detailed how they took advantage of the medieval setting to bring new twists to classic characters. They also talked about how they reframed some dynamics for this world and praised their artistic collaborators for bringing these high-fantasy stories to life.
CBR: Jay, I love that this story takes place in the middle of one of the most festive moments in the kingdom as a backdrop. What was it like working with Sean Izaakse to bring this to life?
Jay Kristoff: Simply brilliant. I was a designer before my life as a writer, and illustrations have always been what first attracted me to comics. Sean [Izaakse] is such a talented artist – as soon as I saw his first sketches I knew the story was going to be brilliant. There’s a lot going on in the script, but I tried to give it at least a full page just to show off its skills, and it didn’t disappoint!
With this story, you have a game of cat and mouse on the rooftops. How did you want to change that familiar Batman trope in the world of Black Knights of Steel?
Kristoff: Well, Bruce is still young and finding his feet in this story, so I have to have fun with him being a bit fallible. Bruce’s career actually eludes him at first, which probably wouldn’t happen if he was in full Dark Knight mode. But the talents of his prey end up impressing the young prince, so happy ending for all. Sean’s art across the stage is so dynamic, and I can’t wait for people to see it!
Tom, what was it like to have Jimmy Olsen, through the lens of Black Knights of Steelpresent this mystery to the heroes?
Tom Taylor: We had seen Jimmy before as a lookout and astronomer for the Els and made fun of his friendship with Kal-El. I really wanted to show the genesis of it and to show Jimmy’s story in this world. Casting Jimmy as someone who sees the world, and distant worlds, through the lens of a telescope felt right. Having him adopted by Perry White and Alice White has given us a nice new dynamic. Of course, the story really kicks off as it begins to involve other characters who grew up with him at the Arkham Orphanage and the Stolen Children of Gotham.
This story takes a more gruesome turn as the real stakes the heroes face become clear. How it went with Caspar [Wijngaard] to deliver on this shift?
Taylor: I loved Caspar Wijngaard’s work on Pilots sick at home, and I was very happy that he was able to find the time to join us in this universe. Caspar draws high hope Jimmy and Kal-El with lots of subtle emotion. When the story turns to a darker place, it absolutely nails this shift to horror and action.
CS, there is a quiet battle of wits that serves as the undercurrent of this mentor-student dynamic. What was it about framing Bruce Wayne and Bane’s relationship in this way?
CS Pacat: The enemy dynamic is always more fascinating to me when the characters have a pre-existing relationship, so I loved the idea of creating a mentor-student past between Bruce and Bane. Bane’s sheer physicality training Bruce was exciting, but it’s this mental game that really reveals who Bruce is, even at this young age. I also wanted them each to have a credible cause that would ultimately put them on opposite sides. Bane’s cause represents something that Bruce can’t recognize and has to keep suppressed, so in that sense, too, the fight has to be mental.
This number is also particularly kinetic by its very premise. What was it like working with Michele Bandini to put that emphasis throughout the story?
Pacat: Michele’s art is so dynamic. He immediately captured the physicality needed for the story, getting it in “one take”, so to speak. Michele also did a phenomenal job designing Bane’s armor. Because Bane hadn’t appeared in the story yet, it was a chance to design something completely new, and it was exciting to see medieval Bane come to life.
Written by Tom Taylor, Jay Kristoff, and CS Pacat, with art by Caspar Wijngaard, Sean Izaakse, and Michele Bandini, Dark Knights of Steel: Tales from the Three Kingdoms #1 is on sale now from DC.