The heroes of the DCU face a universe of horror this summer in the company-wide crossover event Knight Terrors! To mark the occasion, DC is hosting a Knight Terrors panel at San Diego Comic Con 2023, where fans will get to hear what's in store for the event and have some of their burning questions answered.
Knight Terrors architect Joshua Williamson will be in attendance along with Green Lantern writer Jeremy Adams and Zatanna writer Dennis Culver. It's an event that DC fans can't miss!
Can't make it to SDCC? Don't worry, Popverse will be live in the room for this panel to break the biggest news and the most interesting insights about the whole thing. You can follow along live with our play-by-play, or come back later for a beat-by-beat recap of the entire thing.
Follow along to the Dawn of DC: Knight Terrors panel from SDCC 2023, as it begins Friday, July 21 at 1:45 PM PST, 4:45 PM EST.
It's five minutes or so out, but we're here at San Diego Comic-Con preparing for some Knight Terrors. I'll take the opportunity while we're all getting ready to ask if you've all seen Knight Terrors: Superman #1 yet? That Tom Reilly art!
My terrible secret: I actually really like comics even after all these years working as a comics journalist.
Oh, the lights have gone down and the music's stopped. Feels like things are going to get dreamy. (Well, nightmarish... but in a good way?)
It's a Knight Terrors trailer! "HORROR DOMINATES THE DC UNIVERSE" announces the speakers which are very very loud indeed. "IT'S NOT JUST A DREAM!"
And here's DC executive editor Ben Abernathy on stage.
"We've got the best panelists you can imagine!" says Ben, who's managing to speak in a very impressive trailer voice; if this editing thing gets old for him, there's a voiceover artist gig in his future.
Who's on the panel? Joshua Williamson, Tini Howard, Dennis Culver, Josie Campbell, and Jeremy Adams, that's who.
Favorite horror movies? "If I had to boil it down to one favorite horror movie, that would be impossible," says Joshua. John Carpenter's Halloween, Evil Dead and its first two sequels, and the original Nightmare on Elm Street, he says. Tini says Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original, of course), Suspiria (again, the original), and Interview with a Vampire. Dennis goes for the original Dawn of the Dead, The Thing, and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, amazingly. (Really?) Josie repeats Suspiria, Dario Argento's Opera, and Alien! Jeremy Adams says Dead Alive, and The Fly (the Cronenberg version, natch). "Nightmares for ages," he says of seeing that one as a kid.
They turned it back on Ben! He says he's going for just one. "The Exorcist scared the HELL out of me," he says, even though he saw it as an adult.
Joshua is asking Tini about her poster for Bram Stoker's Dracula. "It's part of an entire wall about vampires." Tini says that the highlight of her con is going to see the AMC Interview with a Vampire activation here. (You all saw Illianna from Popverse went to that already, right...?)
Now we're talking about Knight Terrors. "[Ben] and I were drinking beer," jokes Joshua about the story's origins. DC had asked for a two-month event. "We knew we didn't want it to be multiverse, or time-travel," he says. "We were spending last summer trying to work out what it was. And I was driving to meet [Ben] to get pizza, and I was driving and I went, 'Oh, it's Nightmare on DC Street.'"
"DC and horror go so well together, you look at DCeased. For years, I've wanted to get more horror into DC," Joshua says, saying that he's done a lot of horror outside of his DC work. (Go read Nailbiter from Image, if you haven't.)
As showrunner, Joshua says that co-ordination wasn't as difficult as it might seem: "The writers and I already talk a lot." He's calling out Josie's Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman #2 script in particular as one that proves that she understands what Knight Terrors is all about. "It's all about talking... I don't like dictating [to creators]," he says. "I love when we get to brainstorm as creators, except we get to make it canon," adds Tini.
Chip Zdarsky was part of early Zoom meetings to plan Knight Terrors, to make sure that it sets up what comes in the DCU after the event, Joshua says. Same with Tom King and Wonder Woman.
"I loved that we got to open it up and ask writers, what are your characters' nightmares? It's not just what they're afraid of," Joshua says. Calls out Danny Lore's Knight Terrors: Punchline #2 as a "phenomenal" example of how out there things can get.
"I love Deadman. It's a character I really, really wanted to write," says Joshua when asked why he's one of the leads of the event. "I wanted a character who's a little bit on the outside, and Deadman is always a little on the outside, ever since he died." He used to be a showman, but now there's no audience for him. "He's the one who's now looking at these characters, and what's going on... The emotional arc he goes on surprised me." Deadman's arc wasn't part of the original plan for the event, but emerged as the writing happened. Insomnia asks him what the dead dream of, "and his answer surprised me."
"The moment we started talking about Deadman, a lot of people came out of the woodwork talking about how much they love Deadman," Joshua says. "Yeah, we got a lot of pitches," Ben adds.
Joshua on why Howard Porter is great to do the bookends on this event: "He's a really big horror fan... I think he's one of DC's best artists ever. I've been really lucky to work with him over the last six years." Apparently he told Joshua that he really wanted to do something horror-based in the DCU. "There's this part in the first issue where Batman vomits up Deadman, which was not in the script," he remmebers. "We had a lot of talks about, okay, this book is still PG-based, we had to talk about where the line was..."
Knight Terrors: Batman features Batman... even though he's already busy in the main Knight Terrors series. "I was thinking about the artists. I wanted to both of them to draw Batman and I needed to work out how to have Batman in the nightmare realm even as he's running around in the real world, and then I realized, Deadman is possessing Batman's body." Joshua says that he managed to scare himself with the Knight Terrors: Batman mini.
"I can't stand body horror stuff... but with this one, I was doing a lot more body horror. There were times I was like, oh God, okay, this is what's happening," Joshua jokes.
Why is Superman having nightmares? "This is something I've thought a lot about," Joshua says, as he's also the writer of the regular Superman title. This is something that's going to come up again in the ongoing series -- especially as he teases that Superman is haunted by the idea that his father failed to convince Kryptonians that their planet was dying. "He's like, can I save everyone?"
"I put a lot of my own fears into this one," Joshua says about the Superman mini. There are reprecussions from Knight Terrors that will reverberate through Superman and other DC books; there's a teaser for something that is coming next year in the DCU in the second issue of Knight Terrors: Superman.
Gotham War is going to be set up by events of Knight Terrors, Joshua teases. Now Tini is talking about what Knight Terrors: Catwoman, which is key to all of this.
"I was really, really excited about the event, but I couldn't crack what they dream about at night," Tini says about Catwoman and Harley Quinn. "I wanted it to have the tension about what they're thinking about in their life right now." Knight Terrors: Catwoman is based on a recurring nightmare that she herself has: that she's in a familiar place where she's done something wrong and everything is mad at her. "This is her nightmare of a world in which she failed and a world where she is responsible for a terrible Gotham. This is a Gotham where Selina is the one in power but we've never seen a Batman or a Joker, and she's the one responsible... and she's ruined it."
Gotham War follows this, and sets up her mindset because she's coming straight from her having a bad dream about her responsibility and what happens when she fails into a situation where she's faced with the possibility of her worst dreams coming true.
Knight Terrors: Catwoman is a "love letter to Frank Miller and Mindy Newell and that kind of gritty Gotham," Tini promises.
Knight Terrors: Harley Quinn is again rooted in what Tini's doing in the regular Harley title. "It's the last two issues of our last six issues," she teases. "There's this idea that Harley has been through a lot of trauma, and if you read a lot of Morrison, trauma is what changes and influences a multiverse."
Harley's nightmare is what happens if you can speed run through a nightmare and just make it to the boss fight immediately. "From a lot of fun, we see what comes after," Tini says. "We see what happens if you're crazy enough to beat your dreams. But she doesn't get to wake up. She's still stuck in her dreams. Harley can't have too much fun."
If Knight Terrors: Catwoman is a love letter to Frank Miller and Mindy Newell, then Knight Terrors: Harley Quinn is a love letter to Grant Morrison, "who's my favorite comic book writer," Tini reveals.
Josie Campbell is talking about what Wonder Woman has nightmares about: "I think the answer is, herself." She's related to the Greek Gods in canon, "and they are awful, terrible people... and that's her heritage. But there's also a feel that we hid in that second issue that maybe you're not a good person that you thought you were."
"I'm holding myself to these standards, but am I making the world a worse place by existing?" is Wonder Woman's core question in Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman #2, Josie teases.
"This is a magical threat, and this is exactly the thing that Justice League Dark was created to deal with," Josie says. "It made sense to me that the other teammates you see lucid dreaming are Constantine -- he goes, 'oh, I've done this crazy thing' and Detective Chimp, because I love Detective Chimp. He's the world's greatest chimp who's a detective."
Josie is making an announcement! "I'm working on a limited series called Amazons Attack!" Art by Vasco Georgiev, it'll be tied to events from Tom King's Wonder Woman; we'll get to see a bunch of Diana's fellow Amazons, but also Mary Marvel, who Josie calls "my favorite girl." #1 launches October 24.
We're seeing preview art featuring Nubia, Mary Marvel, and Wonder Girl. It looks really great.
Dennis Culver is talking about Knight Terror: Zatanna, which has a break from the other series in that Zatanna DOESN'T actually fall asleep. "She's tasked with the problem of figuring out what the heck is going on, but she also has to protect Wonder Woman and Detective Chimp." She sends out a request for anyone else who's awake to help, and she gets... Robotman. "The last time she encountered anyone from the Doom Patrol was when her dad died, so she's in her feelings, and Cliff's kind of a buffoon, so there's an immediate contrast."
There's a obvious contrast between the two characters -- they're science and magic, after all -- so Culver decides that it's time to find their similarities. The easiest way to do it? Have them dealing with zombies that look like their dead friends, so that they "have to trauma dump on each other, and let each other deal with their problems."
Knight Terrors: Zatanna leads directly into the Knight Terrors: Knights End finale, Joshua reveals; it let him realize how great Cliff Steele is to write. "He's kind of like, Hellboy, Ben Grimm," Dennis says.
How does Hal Jordan, who's famous for having overcome fear, deal with nightmares? "I had to think about it," Jeremy says. "This comes out after I've done two issues of Green Lantern, and the nightmare wave hits the private plane that Hal Jordan is piloting." The fact that Hal can overcome fear is central to the Knight Terrors: Green Lantern, he says; "it's not necessarily about horror, it's about strapping a lawn mower to your chest and seeing what happens."
Jeremy is giving credit to Alex Segura's back-up strips in Knight Terrors: Green Lantern for doing heavy lifting on where Sinestro's head is at while he's on Earth. "Now I don't have to!" he jokes. The two issues of this series feed directly into the Green Lantern series following this, he says. "After Knight Terrors, you'll see exactly where my headspace is with Hal, and it really launches Sinestro into whatever his plan is on Earth, but I can't tell you."
Ben is coming off the Knight Terrors focus for a second to ask everyone's biggest fears. His two are spiders crawling out of his mouth, and his second is public speaking. Joshua is teasing him for being a moderator, considering.
Joshua's biggest fear: "I feel like, I put this in the book a little bit, I always have nightmares about tidal waves and flooding a lot. If you have nightmares about tidal waves, it kind of means you're doing so much...? I am incredibly superstitious -- this is not a joke." Now we're all talking about splitting the pole. I don't even know what this is? "I will leave a room if someone says knock on wood and they don't knock on it," Joshua says. "Now I know how to get rid of Josh," Jeremy says.
"I have certain mugs I'll use each day," Joshua says of his superstitions. "My therapist says this is called magical thinking and we should not do it," Tini says. "It's called obsessive compulsive disorder, I've been living with it a long time."
Joshua and Tini are very very superstitious, dear readers. "I like the number 13, and I have a black cat. So those ones don't affect me," Tini says. "The ones where it means you're a witch, I'm into it."
"I don't have a lot of typical fears, because messed-up morbid stuff makes me feel good," Tini says. "I don't know, man." What scares her "is a source of a lot of my own enterainment. I don't mean in a messed-up way." One of her unexpected fears? The movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. (I get it.)
Tini has a recurring dream about waking up in the same place which is familiar, but she doesn't know where it is.
Dennis says, "I don't really have nightmares, but I do have anxiety dreams." One of them was having to work an old job where he hasn't been for years, and trying to figure out how to do it again. "I'm not comfortable telling my fears to my editor," he jokes.
Josie has two fears. "The first is being alone in silent woods. I'm expecting noise and sounds." This is rooted to going on put on school trips into woods to discover "the real America" when she was a kid in the '90s. "This is where the serial killers live, and they're going to kill her." The second fear? The Graboids from the Tremors movies. "In the woods, one day, a Graboid is going to kill me," she says.
"Before I had kids, I was a soulless automaton, and now all my nightmares are about them," Jeremy says. He also has a recurring anxiety dream about not getting to a signing in time.
And now that we know how to terrify some of DC's biggest writers, the panel is finished! Thanks for reading along, as ever.