Batman #21

Scott Snyder is mining Gotham's history again, but this time the mysteries he uncovers will help tell the story of Bruce Wayne's transformation into Batman in the New 52.

"Zero Year," the Batman story arc by Snyder and Greg Capullo that starts in June with issue #21, will return the title to the type of long-form storytelling the two established in their first year on the title with "Court of Owls." But this time, instead of uncovering Gotham's villainous past, the creators will be telling the secret history of Bruce Wayne's transformation into Batman.

According to Snyder, fans influenced his decision to approach Bruce Wayne's transformative years, because they had so many questions about how the New 52 fit with Batman: Year One, which used to serve as the blueprint for the character's continuity.

But Snyder also wants to make it clear that "Zero Year" is not a retelling of Year One. This is something new, the writer said, and it's told in a way that is "different" and "unexpected." He also said the story is very "personal" to him and artist Capullo.

The writer had already told Newsarama that "Zero Year" is his most ambitious storyline yet.

"I live with too much anxiety and terror of getting kicked off Batman all the time, because it's such a dream come true, that I feel like every storyline I do has to be, like, if I could only tell one more story with Batman, what would it be?," he said. "So I can promise you that the one coming up [in "Zero Year"] is definitely, in my opinion, our most ambitious and definitely our boldest. And it's going to go into areas that I've been a little reluctant to go toward. But I really feel like it's time. And that the story we have is going to earn, hopefully, people's trust in that regard.

"And it will feature a big rogue, who I've teased a lot online — another of my favorites. And it will take up most of the year."

Although Newsarama already talked Snyder earlier today about this week's issue #18, we followed up by asking more about his plans for issue #19, #20 and the more ambitious, history-defining story, "Zero Year."

Newsarama: Scott, why were you interested in going back and telling the New 52 version of Batman's early years? Was this something that the Batman editors or writers felt needed to be clarified? Or was this specifically a "Scott wants to tell this story" kind of thing?

Scott Snyder: It's definitely me wanting to tell this story. It really came about, I guess, about nine or 10 months ago, when I was thinking about trying to redefine, in my mind, for myself, who Bruce is in our run.

I was thinking about who he is to Joker, and reconsidering what we were going to do after Joker. And I was just thinking about where he is emotionally, and who he is.

It started to make me realize that there is a lot that is unexplored, in terms of his early years.

And I had an idea for a story that would be completely different, that would show a moment or a portion of his life that you've never seen before, in a completely different way.

At first I was approaching it a little gingerly, I guess. But what happened was I got more and more questions from people about what Bruce's origin is in the New 52. I'd get it all the time, all day, on Twitter. I always get one or two tweets a day about, "How does this still work for Year One if this is the case in the 52?"

So there are all these discrepancies between Year One and the Batman that we know. Like Selina Kyle's origin is different. And James [Gordon] Jr. — a character obviously very close to my heart — would be five years old or six years old in the New 52 if Batman has only been operating for five or six years. And so how is he an adult? And Barbara Gordon being Jim Gordon's biological daughter.

So what happened is I kept trying to figure out how to do this story around Year One and figure one in.

But what I realized was, instead of almost trying to do a Frankenstein story, and pull pieces of Year One in, it made more sense to just say, let's go big and try to be very respectful of the parts that we adore and love of that origin, but do something that actually makes sense for Batman in the 52 in a way that doesn't just retread what you've seen before.

Nrama: So it doesn't just retell what's come before?

Snyder: It doesn't step on what's come before, but is a new kind of story for a moment that you haven't seen, that explains a lot of the stuff and makes sense of who Batman is for us, in Batman and in the other books as well.

And nobody loves Year One more than me. Believe me. It's one of my two favorite pieces of graphic literature in the world, the other one being The Dark Knight Returns.

But it really just became a matter of, if we're really going to re-explore Bruce's early years, let's do it in a way to give you something you've never seen before, and know that nothing can touch the hem of a book like Year One, like a masterpiece like that.

So instead of trying to pull pieces from that and sort of cannibalize it, let's give you something different. It's saying, here's a story that is respectful of the best moments in that, but at the same time shows you stuff you have never seen before.

And that's one thing I really want to emphasize. This isn't what you expect for a Batman early years story.

It's definitely something you'll open and say, "This is not like Year One. This is not like an origin I've seen."

Nrama: You mentioned that people are always wondering about the timeline of Batman's history. We always get questions about how Batman could have four Robins in only a few years, and how he fathered Damian. Does "Zero Year" address that? Is it meant to answer those questions?

Snyder: Well, I don't want to give too much away. It's definitely not designed to be an answer to those questions. This isn't designed to be that. This isn't an informational thing about how the Batman mythology works, or how the continuity is held together.

It's a really intensely personal story to Greg and me about Batman's transformative years.

So there are a lot of things that will be answered in it, in terms of continuity. But I don't want to say what they are, and it's not designed to be that — an answer to questions as opposed to being a story we really love to death.

Nrama: Is it just one big story that takes place in the past? Or is it flashbacks framed by present day?

Snyder: Well, I don't want to give too much away. I'm usually pretty forthcoming, I think, about what's coming up in the story, or at least as close as I can get without giving spoilers.

But with this one, I kind of feel like I really want to just keep it really close to the vest and just say, "Take a look and see what you think."

I really don't want to say anything about how it's structured or what happens in it except to just say, I hope you love it as much as we do.

Nrama: Your Batman #0 said, "to be continued in 2013," and you had hinted before that it referred to this story, even before we found out it was a "Zero" story. But does this story take place in the same timeframe we saw in the #0 issues of Batman, Batman: Dark Knight and Detective in September 2012?

Snyder: Our timeframe is a little before that. So Batman #0 is a bit of a preview, of probably the quietest moment in our big "Zero Year" story.

That story fits in the continuity of the "Zero" story we're going to tell.

But we're not going to show you those moments again.

Again, I don't want to take things you've seen, even in our own issues, and put it into this thing.

If you're going to see us do Bruce's transformative years, we're doing it in a way that you have not even seen in our stuff yet.

Nrama: And just to be sure, it's not "Year Zero." It's "Zero Year," right?

Snyder: It's called "Zero Year," just to be clear, because a couple people have reversed it in the title. The Zero comes first.

Nrama: DC called this an "event." And as I mentioned, Batman #0 did tie into what was being done in Detective and Dark Knight with their #0 issues. Will "Zero Year" involve any of the other Bat-family titles?

Snyder: No.

One of the things that's been so wonderful for us is to be able to tie into the other books, mostly because I admire these other writers in the Bat-stable so much and I'm friends with all of them, so it's a great joy to get to do stories where you're allowed to be collaborative.

But I do also miss the idea of doing something the way "The Black Mirror" was for me on Detective, where it's a story that is singular and isolated and particular to me — and the artistic team on the book just with me. It doesn't need to provide a platform for the stories in the other books.

So this story, it's intensely personal to me.

Nrama: You said that before. How is it personal?

Snyder: It's very much about an aspect of who Bruce is that is deeply a part of my own fears and anxiety and love of the character — all that stuff rolled into one.

So it's a really personal story about why Bruce does what he does, and what makes him heroic and also frightening at times.

Nrama: We talked to you earlier today about Batman #18, and what comes next in issue #19 and #20. Do those tie into what's coming in issue #21 with Zero Year?

Snyder: Not really. You'll hear mention of some of the stuff coming. There are clues in those issues. Little clues.

But I wanted to do something in issue #18 that was respectful of what happened in Batman Inc. and in the Joker storyline that positions Batman in a way that would make sense for these giant events that had just happened in his life, as opposed to setting him up for the next big storyline.

So there are clues and hints, but I wanted to keep it focused on the present in issues #18, #19 and #20.

This [week's] issue [#18] is dark. It's definitely a remembrance issue for Damian, and our way of dealing with that death from a bit of a distance to give 'Batman and Robin' some room to deal with it more centrally.

Batman #19

From there, issue #19 and #20 are actually a two-part, more fun mystery. Everything was so grim with Joker, and grotesque and gruesome that I was sort of itching to do something that was a smaller, fast-paced action mystery, something that Bruce is doing also to take him mind off everything. So it's really, in my opinion, it's sort of my ode to the way the animated series worked. It's a fun, fast two-parter, even though it has a bit of a grim context, because of the Joker storyline and because of Damian.

Then in issue #21, we begin "Zero Year," our really, really big, next arc.

Nrama: This "Zero Year" story will explore Batman's history, and "Death of the Family" really paid homage to Joker's history with Batman, and the "Court of Owls" story was all about the history of Gotham and the Wayne family. Not to get too far away from Batman, but does Superman Unchained also look at history?

Snyder: I don't want to give it away! I want you to pick it up!

I will say that I'm always fascinated by mysteries that arise from the past, and it's because... I'll tell you a personal story really quick. Growing up, I was really close to my grandmother. And one of the reasons I think I wanted to be a writer is that my grandparents were always encouraging me to tell stories about these antiques they had in their house. They liked to take me antiquing with them, which is definitely a weird thing for a little boy. But my grandmother was always wonderful about making up stories about the objects that she bought, and asking me to make up stories about them.

Batman #20

So I've always been fascinated by the secret histories of things and the stories hidden in the past that kind of lend power to the things in the present. So it's definitely in the DNA of my writing.

The closest thing to a spoiler I'll give you about Batman — I don't want to go near Superman for this one, just because I want you to be surprised — is that you're going to learn a lot about the history of the Wayne and Kane families that you haven't seen before too.

Nrama: And I know you haven't said who the villain is. Still keeping mum on that?

Snyder: No, I'm not going to say. I'm not saying who's in it at all. I think you'll be surprised. I want you to open it and... you know, it might be someone new; it might be a rogue. I'm not going to give it away. I want you to be able to open this one without Scott Snyder having been out there saying, "Guess who's in it?! And guess what's going to happen?! It's going to be so crazy!" I just want you to open it and judge it on its own merit.

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