Batman #14Two issues into Scott Snyder's "Death of the Family" storyline in Batman, and The Joker's plan has been laid out for readers.
Batman's self-appointed "court jester of fear" intends to kill the hero's closest allies and family members, but he's claiming that Bruce Wayne will pull the trigger himself. He also alleges to know all their secret identities, perhaps proving the truth of the statement by first assaulting Batman's butler and father figure, Alfred Pennyworth.
In our interview with Batman artist Greg Capullo last week, we also discussed another element of The Joker's plan: his trip down "memory lane." He will be visiting the locations of some of the most memorable encounters between Joker and Batman, but twisting them into new, creepy ways to attack the Bat-family.
"Death of the Family" has three more issues to go in Batman, finishing up with issue #17. It also spills into other Batman-associated series, including Catwoman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Suicide Squad, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Teen Titans.
Apparently, the event is a hit with fans, who not only made Batman #13 the top-seller for DC in October, but gave it sales numbers comparable to the title's #1 relaunch last year.
Newsarama talked to Snyder and found out what's coming up for Batman and his allies, what Joker is planning for his "celebration," and why preview images for Batman #15 imply a showdown between members of the Bat-family.
Newsarama: Scott, there have been quite a few developments since last time we talked. But probably the most revealing thing we've learned about the plot you've crafted for this story is that you'll be revisiting important places from past encounters between Batman and The Joker. How does this tie into your exploration of The Joker as a character, and what does it provide to the story overall?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I really love framing the story this way because, on the one hand, it is like The Joker is sort of running through his "greatest hits" with Batman and being able to say, you know, "Look at all the great times we've had together."Batman #14 And you're going to see a lot more references coming up: everything from Joker-Fish to Five-Way Revenge to Death in the Family. Joker will reference those in incredibly creepy ways.
As much as we wanted it to be there as something fans that know those stories can see and enjoy, we also wanted to have them presented, if we did reenact them through Joker, in a way that would make the fresh, you know? And also make them accessible to new fans.
It was a really fun line to walk for us. We wanted it to be something that would pay tribute to all the great Joker stories in the past and keep them in continuity, and then at the same time, to not depend on readers knowing those stories to enjoy our bigger story.
So it was definitely both fun and very tricky.
Nrama: In issue #14, he seemed to be way ahead of Batman, because he knew what was going to happen and just finished that part of the story on his own, wanting something more. But he seems to be delighted in the Batman. He loves him in his own twisted way, doesn't he? And feels he's going through this plan to help him?
Snyder: He really believes in his heart that he's doing Batman the favor that Batman can't admit he wants done, which is, he thinks that Batman regrets having accumulated this family because he knows that it makes him slow and weak and all of this stuff, and worried about the world all the time, the way a father would.
And again, like we talked about last time, with me being a father of young kids, that's where this story came from. It's that sense of constant worry about your kids and wishing once in awhile you could just turn it off or put it on pause, you know? But not being able to. And that's part of being a family.
And that's the perfect point for someone to come up and whisper in your ear: "I heard that. I heard you think you would love to have just a minute of pause or a minute of refuge from worrying about these people you love. So let me make that easy for you and kill them all, and then you won't have to worry, because deep down, I know that's what you want."Batman #14 So that's what Joker believes about Batman, and he's going to be sort of making his case throughout this story, as to why Batman loves him more than the family, and he loves Batman more than the family loves Batman.
Nrama: The back-up was interesting too, because not only did The Joker bring other villains into it — which we know was coming from solicitations — but you added to the layers of Joker's relationship with Batman by talking about this "religion of crime" in Gotham and how they're really all just worshipping Batman.
Snyder: Yeah, I love that art too, the way that Jock has them with their hands tied, dead, in prayer position.
Nrama: Wasn't that in the script?
Snyder: Yeah, yeah. That was in the direction. I just now love seeing it visually. It was so creepy the way he presented that.
Nrama: This issue also established that The Joker knows the secret identities of the Bat-family. Or at least he says he knows them, right?
Snyder: For us, that's part of the driving horror and mystery of the story. They were afraid that this is the claim that the Joker is going to make, and now he made it. He's saying, "I know everything about you. I've been in your house. I've been under your bed. I've been in your closet. There's nothing that I can't kill in your life or hurt to break you." And it's sort of your worst nightmare.
If that's true, and what he says is true that Bruce essentially is at fault for that somehow, that's going to drive the conflict. The question of whether or not what he's saying is true all around is part of the driving conflict, or is the driving conflict of the story, when it comes to the family and Bruce.Batman #15 So Joker is playing a game with them, where he's saying, "I know it, and wait until you see how much I know." He's saying, "Wait until you see. I'm going to prove it to you. But I'm not just going to come out and say your names, because that would be too easy. I'm going to show you little by little that I have irrefutable evidence that I know exactly who you are.
And as that evidence mounts, the tension really ratchets up between the family and Bruce. What Joker said in #14 is that it's Batman's fault, because he wants this to be the way it is. He wants me to come after you deep down.
Nrama: We also get a really good, close look at Joker's face in this issue. We also get to experience Greg's portrayal of The Joker's interaction with Batman, as he's moving so unpredictably when he's talking to him. He also told us in our recent interview that he's going to be utilizing the flies around Joker's face in a creative way to help tell the story. We've talked before about how important he is to the creation of this book, but can you describe his role in this story in particular?
Snyder: These issues coming up are just amazing. Issue #15 has some of my favorite moments in the whole story. There have been preview images already that show Bruce talking to the whole family.
That conversation, and what transpires between them, is at the heart of the entire story. And to have them all together in costume — Barbara included — isn't something I've had a chance to do yet. I've had them working in their own books, and I've had them in different ways, like you've seen Damian and Dick and Tim with Bruce. And you've seen Nightwing with Batman. But to see the family united, at least in location — they're not united at all in terms of how they feel about each other right now — but having them there together is a tremendous thrill as a writer.Batman #15 Greg's work on the issue was so important to getting this entire story right, because issue #15 has the big, emotional showdown between the Bat-family characters, as to whether or not they believe what the Joker is saying is true. And the emotion that Greg is able to bring to issue #15, I think will blow people away. It's a testament to Greg's ability, the expressiveness of the intimate scenes, where there isn't bombastic action, or gruesome horror happening — there's just emotional tension. I was looking at the pages, and even without the dialogue, you can feel exactly what the characters are feeling, panel to panel.
And then issue #16 and #17 just go completely berserk, in terms of what The Joker has planned. So you can only imagine how amazing those are going to be. The pages coming in so far from #16, where some of the more twisted things happen, are just completely out of control. So something like including the flies was completely his idea, and the idea of The Joker's face kind of rotting and rotting as this story goes on.
So he contributes not only these amazing ideas on the page, visually, but he also contributes great story ideas. He couldn't be a better partner, honestly. It really is a special relationship.
I'm very close to all the artists I've worked with — you know, Rafael and I are extremely good friends, and Jock and I are really good friends, and Yanick and I are friends as well, and you know, Sean Murphy and other artists. I've always tried to cultivate relationships with them outside of work too.
But Greg has really become somebody I talk to on a daily basis. We visit each other with our wives and go out to dinner and try to go to cons together. So I can't say enough good things about him both as a person and an artist. And I can only say that this stuff coming up in #15 and #16 and #17 shows such a range of his incredible skills, that I'm really, really, really excited for people to see.Batman #15 And two of the guys I just want to mention really quick — the unsung heroes, I think, of the team — are FCO, the colorist, and Jonathan Glapion, the inker. They just work overtime for this one too.
We have a really good team. We're really super tight, all of us. We're not really interested in doing anything else right now, in terms of looking for projects individually in different places. No one's splintering off from this team. We're really committed to Batman and Gotham for another year.
Nrama: You've obviously talked about what's coming up in the next three issues of the story arc. And I know that last time we talked, you said there would be an explanation for why The Joker allowed his face to be removed. Is there anything else you want fans to know about that's coming up?
Snyder: I think the great thing about what's coming up is that we're just getting started. Issue #13 was just The Joker saying, "I'm back, and I have a plan." And issue #14 was him saying, "Here's the beginning of my plan. Here's me telling you that I know who all of you are, and I'm going to bring you down one by one. In fact, I'm going to present you to Batman, and Batman is going to be the one that kills you in three days from now."
So if you think about it, he's really just set things in motion. You know what I mean? So the stuff coming up in #15 is the aftermath emotionally and what happens between the Bat-family.
And issue #15 has a really big secret, also, that's going to come out.Batman #17 variant Issue #16 and #17 are just completely bat-sh!t crazy, in terms of what he has planned for them, in terms of the psychological, emotional and physical horror of the story.
And I would just say that The Joker has already said that he's planning something of a celebration at some point. So I can promise you that it's going to be the craziest, most twisted thing we could possibly do in this book.
So I'm really excited. I just finished it, actually. I just finished #17. It has my favorite ending that I've ever done. So I'm really, really excited about it.
And I promise you that the best stuff is still coming in this story.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batman?
Snyder: I definitely want to tell the fans thank you. I just found out that the sales on Batman #13 rival Batman #1, and we couldn't be more thankful that fans have been so supportive. I think both of us — the creative team and the fans — have really created something special with this book.
- The 10 Greatest BATMAN Villains of ALL TIME!
- A DEATH OF THE FAMILY Deadpool: Handicapping the RIP Odds
- Greg Capullo Draws on Past for BATMAN & Joker's Big Future