Next week sees the official kickoff of Knight Terrors, the two-month horror-inspired event from DC Comics. Masterminded by writer Joshua Williamson, and with a main series by Williamson and a cadre of artists including Howard PorterGiuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Nesi, and Caspar Wijngaard, the event sees the heroes and villains of the DC Universe haunted by their worst nightmares, courtesy of a new villain called Insomnia. A Free Comic Book Day one-shot by Williamson, Porter, and Chris Bachalo teased the event back in May, and next Tuesday sees the release of Knight Terrors: First Blood ahead of the launch of the four-issue, bi-weekly miniseries the following week.

Knight Terrors: First Blood #1 Cover

Knight Terrors is the latest DC event spearheaded by Williamson, who wrote last year’s Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths and has been an architect of both the Infinite Frontier and Dawn of DC Initiatives for the publisher. Before the release of the FCBD one-shot, The Beat chatted with Williamson about the genesis of the event, how Deadman and Wesley Dodds fit into the story, and and how the storyline fits into the overall Dawn of DC story.

Joe Grunenwald: What was the inception of the Knight Terrors event? I know you’ve talked about wanting to bring horror into the DCU. How did you land on nightmares as the way to do that?

Joshua Williamson: About a year ago, we were having a lot of conversations about ’23 and ’24, what we were gonna do, and, what was the other side of Dark Crisis gonna look like? We do try to plan things out, and part of planning things out is really talking about what events are going to be happening, and also, what are the big touchstone points that we want to have happen in the DCU that are then reflected across the DCU. So we started talking about different stuff, and there were a lot of conversations about multiverse stuff, alternate realities, and I was like, ‘We’ve done so much at that, you know?’ And I’m guilty of that, too. So I’m like, ‘How is it different?’ At the end of last summer, I started landing on a couple of things. There was one point around San Diego Comic Con, I had this thing click into my head of like, ‘Oh, DC Comics is haunted.’ That was the first thought that came in my head. And then I started thinking, why are they haunted? Who’s haunting them?

So I went to Ben Abernathy, and I said, ‘It’d be interesting if somebody’s haunting the characters after Dark Crisis is over. Who is that person, I don’t even know.’ So we started talking about it and having more and more conversations, and then we had a couple of different meetings with other talent, just discussing what everyone was interested in, and we weren’t really able to land on something for this summer. But Ben and I kept thinking about this haunted idea, like, ‘Oh, it’s being haunted., it’s something that’d be really fun,’ and we just kept going back and forth. So one day, I was driving to meet with Ben, and I suddenly was just like, ‘It’s nightmares. It’s like Freddy.’ Because that way, with nightmares, you can do something different. You can pull the characters into different worlds. And I personally love nightmare stuff, and nightmare logic, dream logic type storytelling. I love all that. So, you know, I was driving, and I was just like, it’d be like ‘Freddy vs. DC,’ it’d be like ‘Nightmare on DC Street,’ like all this stuff. So I met with Ben, and I was like, ‘I got it. This is what we’re gonna do.’

And then I started developing the new villain. The new villain’s name is Insomnia. And I started figuring out who Insomnia was, and what they were looking for, what they were doing, why they were haunting some of the heroes and what they were angry about. I started thinking about them as a character and what they wanted, and their origin, and then it just kept ballooning out from there, to the point where, last Summer, early Fall, I started writing up a pitch document and started thinking about it a lot, and then here we are, it came together. It’s really fun. I wrote a really long document and then shared that with editorial and shared it with other creators, and we were able to build this thing. 

We wanted to make sure it still fit in with the tone of Dawn of DC, right? With Dawn of DC, we want it to be fun and light – and with Dawn of DC, there’s a bigger story we’re building with Amanda Waller, and there’s a couple other characters we’ve been teasing, and we’re sort of teasing how all these things are connected. And I was like, ‘Well, how does [Knight Terrors] fit into that story?’ And without getting too much into spoilers, things just kept coming together and just making sense. It gave us an opportunity to do something fun and different. But we all love horror, too. So it was like, let’s have some fun with horror for two months.

Grunenwald: You mentioned Insomnia. What you can tell me about them?

Williamson: They’re angry. They’re very angry.

Grunenwald: It sounds from the initial announcement and from the solicits that they might be a character that readers are familiar with already.

Williamson: They’re not. They’re a brand new character, but they do have connections to some of DCs history. And they’re a very angry person, and they feel very wronged. And I think by the time you get to the end of Knight Terrors, before you get to the final issue, I think there will be a moment where, I’m curious if people are going to agree with them. Like, are you going to say, ‘This person is justified in their anger, this person is owed their revenge.’ I think by the time we get there, you might actually question it. Like, ‘Oh yeah, this is bad, and maybe this person deserves to have this revenge.’ I think that’s something that we’ll be able to play with, as we get closer to the end, you’ll see with them. But yeah, they’re a new character.

Grunenwald: Gotcha. One of the central characters here is Deadman. Sort of a no-brainer for a horror event to have a ghost.

Williamson: Yeah, of course.

Grunenwald: What do you like about writing Deadman? What does he bring to the story?

Williamson: He’s a showman. This person is a showman who’s very, very cocky. And, you know, they’re slightly tortured. It’s interesting with them, because I think they’re just this tortured person that feels like they want a second chance, and to die for a good reason. That was kind of explored during Brightest Day. I think a lot of the ideas of Deadman, and him being a tortured individual, were explored there, and him trying to find something to live for. I wanted to just grow those aspects of him as a character and really talk about the idea of him being this kind of cocky individual. He’s funny, he’s a funny character, and I think he’s this guy who sort of watches life in a weird way, he’s never totally a part of it, but he still wants to help people. It was all those aspects of him that I just found really interesting to write, and I find him to be funny.

But again, there’s the showmanship of him, without getting into some of the spoilers of it. We present him in a very weird light throughout the book, but I knew I needed a point of view and an emotional arc of the story. I think when I was doing Dark Crisis, there were many points of view and many emotional arcs across it. With this I was like, it’s Deadman’s emotional arc. Everyone else will have things happen, but it’s about this dude, and him and Insomnia, both of them having an emotional arc across the event.

Grunenwald: Deadman is going to be spending some time with Batman, and with the Wesley Dodds Sandman, for the Wes-heads, the Mystery Theatre fans.

Williamson: Yeah, I love that book.

Grunenwald: What’s the dynamic like between those three characters?

Williamson: Well, it gets a little bit into spoilers… But I think there’s a part of Batman that is bothered by Boston, right? I think there’s a piece of him notoriously that is, not annoyed, I think he respects him, but he feels like Deadman spies on people. That’s one thing, and I think the idea that Deadman can possess people’s bodies also sort of bothers him. We’ve had multiple stories where Deadman has possessed Batman’s body, and Batman is like ‘Never do that to me.’

And then you get Sandman, and again, without spoilers, with Sandman the stuff that’s happening in the book actually connects back to one of his earliest cases. And it’s a case that he feels that he messed up, like it’s his failure, and it’s the thing that haunted him even. It was this thing where he made a mistake way back in the golden age, and the chance he’s given to correct that mistake, he’s going to take it.

I think there’s a part of him that recognizes — you have this guy who was always a very curious person, right? He was obviously a scientist, but he loved adventure, and there’s all these different aspects of the character, and in Sandman Mystery Theatre, he was such a thoughtful and curious character. I think in this, without getting too much into spoilers, he finds the situation he is in to be very fascinating. And to also be around Batman and Deadman, he’s just like, ‘this is all super weird. I love it. Let’s do this.’

Grunenwald: Is there anything else you want readers to know going in to Knight Terrors?

WilliamsonWith this event, it’s not something to skip. One of the things we talked about with the other writers was making sure it still fit in with the stories they were telling in their books, but also there’s things [they] could [continue] on the other side of this. So I think once we get deeper into the rest of the year, you’re gonna start seeing how Knight Terrors is crucial to our plans. There are few really big pieces that are in Knight Terrors that will spin off into the rest of the year. In the [First Blood] issue we have the first appearance of Insomnia, and then in Knight’s End, which is the end of the story that comes out August, we have the first appearance of another villain that is also going to be familiar to DC readers, that will impact things we do in the rest of the year. So the things here connect to the Dawn of DC plan, and then will explode out into other stuff later in the year.

Knight Terrors: First Blood #1 arrives in comic shops and digitally next Tuesday, July 4th.