The basic premise of Batman: Zero Year takes readers into the hero's past, but Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are also trying to transport the comic in a way that Batman fans have never seen before. An 11-issue story beginning in June's Batman #21, Zero Year takes place six to seven years ago and promises to help explain Batman's continuity in the New 52. Capullo and Snyder are tackling the story of Batman's new, revamped past while trying to still honor the sanctity of Batman: Year One, the acclaimed 1987 story by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli that defined Batman's old continuity.
That doesn't mean Snyder won't be changing some of the logistical facts found in Year One — after all, many details of that story have already changed thanks to the revamps of the New 52. Instead, Zero Year will attempt to do something completely different, telling stories not told before, structured in a way that is fast-paced and, as the creators describe it, "fun."
"Instead of almost trying to do a Frankenstein story, and pull pieces of Year One in," Snyder told Newsarama, "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."
For Snyder, who considers Year One a "masterpiece," it has been important to reassure Batman fans that he's not trying to rewrite that story. (To read more about his reassurances and explanation, check out our previous interview with Snyder.)
Capullo is reuniting with Snyder after the series had a few issues drawn by other artists, putting back together the team that relaunched Batman in 2011 with resounding success. During the creative team's first 11-issue story arc, Batman became the best-selling series for DC, and it has stayed at the top ever since.
With Zero Year, Snyder and Capullo are taking a risk to tell this story in Batman, not only undertaking the daunting task of writing a new "definitive" history of a beloved character, but taking Batman out of the current-day DC events for a whopping 11 months. That means it will be spring 2014 before Batman is back in the present day DCU.
But to keep the story moving with a quick pace, Snyder and Capullo are telling Zero Year in chapters — showing different chunks of Bruce's life while telling an over-arching story — to maintain what Snyder calls a "really fun and sort of rock 'n' roll" approach.
Now that the first issue is quickly approaching, Newsarama talked to both Snyder and Capullo about more of the story details we'll see in Zero Year, how this story challenged Capullo like never before, and why the Red Hood Gang plays such an important role in the formation of Bruce Wayne as Batman.
Newsarama: Scott, we've talked before about the reasons you're doing this series, as well as how it fits with Year One. So I'd like to just jump right into some details about some of your story choices. When you're writing Batman six years younger — or I should say Bruce Wayne, because he's not quite Batman yet — how would you describe the idea you have in your head about who he is at this stage?
Scott Snyder: Well, the idea is, basically, he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. You know? That's what I love about this stage of his life. He comes back to Gotham with a mission, and he's really impulsive. He thinks, I've trained oversees, I've learned all these skills, and I have this goal and I'm ready to go to war, and yet he understands very little about Gotham and what he really should be doing.
So in that way, he's young. It's fun to remember being that way, you know? In your own life. Thinking you know the right way to do things when, you know, the way that you think you should do them is really sometimes self-destructive and could have disastrous results.
That's part of the fun thing, because Bruce is so in control, and so accomplished when he's Batman, even just six or seven years later. He's so on top of everything that, to write him here, where he doesn't have the right words for something or he doesn't have the right answer or actions — he doesn't know what to do — it's really invigorating. It's one of the reasons I wanted to do the story, was to be able to go back and rebuild him that way.
Nrama: Greg, how different is it drawing a young Bruce Wayne, a guy who makes mistakes and is young and cocky, before he was Batman?
Greg Capullo: The fun of it is, because he's not so controlled, he has the flashes of anger. He's like good Metallica, you know? When they were young and pissed off. So he's kind of like that. He's got an edge to him. So it's fun doing that.
I've given him a little bit of a different hairstyle, plumped up his face just a touch to make him look a little bit more youthful, but not too much. So it's fun. I mean, seeing him in black leather and black jeans and stuff is definitely cool and fun to do.
Nrama: I have to tell you guys that I was surprised this morning when I went back and read issue #0, just how many clues were in that issue about this storyline. Jim Gordon even said "Zero Year."
Capullo: See the mad genius of Scott Snyder?
Nrama: I'm starting to. But the issue #0 made it clear that the Red Hood Gang plays an important role in this part of his formation. What are they like, and what's Gotham like at this stage, six or seven years ago in the New 52?
Capullo: The Red Hood Gang, they're running the show, man. They're like, the most dominant criminal force in Gotham. Far-reaching, wide-spread, like a disease.
Snyder: Yep. Part of the idea is that the Red Hood Gang represents something diametrically opposed to what Bruce is doing. One of the things that makes them different as a gang is that they're faceless, you know? They don't know who their own leader is. And he, himself, strong-arms people into the gang in a way where he gets something on them or he threatens them. And these are middle-class, upper-class citizens as well. So it's a completely unconventional gang. It's like a collection of sleeper agents that he can call upon whenever he wants. In that way, it's really nefarious and have very much infected the fabric of the city. And what it stands for and what it means is something that needs... the only way it can be stopped is by something that means something to the city that Batman should mean. But at this stage, Bruce sort of refuses to see that.
Nrama: Yeah, I wondered how this was going to tie into this theme you've been exploring in Batman and even back in your Detective run where villains pop up in Gotham city as a reaction to Batman. At this point, does Batman even have that relationship with Gotham? Or is it more the Red Hood Gang's city?
Snyder: Well, I think it is the Red Hood Gang's city. I think Bruce Wayne, when he comes back — and I think this is established in our #0 issue — he's legally dead. He's been away from the city long enough and missing long enough that he's been declared dead.
So his uncle, Phillip [Kane], has been running the company. And he's a character from continuity, so it was fun to be able to bring him back a little bit.
And Bruce, essentially, as a person, is a corpse. And he fights anonymously. He's someone who hasn't stepped up to the city, in a lot of ways, and I think that's part of the challenge the city issues to him, you know? You have to mean something. You have to have something to lose.
Nrama: And this is 11 issues?
Nrama: And I think you had said somewhere that it's different chapters. Is it divided up?
Snyder: It is. It's different chapters. Just so you understand, it's not one monolithic story that's all about him and the Red Hood Gang. And I think you'll get the sense of that from the very first opening pages. You'll see that it's a story that examines, like, three, or a few different seasons in Bruce's early years — first year — as Batman.
Nrama: Scott, we've also found out from solicitations that we'll meet Harvey Dent in the past. Is this the origin of Two-Face, or is it before that?
Snyder: No, this happens before that, not to give too much away. Pete Tomasi in Batman and Robin has some plans. You've seen Two-Face appear briefly, haven't you? That issue's out?
Nrama: Yeah, yeah.
Snyder: He appeared at the very end?
Nrama: Yeah, we saw the coin.
Snyder: They have really big plans, and cool plans, for revealing more about Two-Face's background.
For us [in Batman: Zero Year], Harvey appearing as Harvey is part of that tradition of him and Bruce being in an alliance before things become what they are.
Nrama: We saw a preview of the Joker's Daughter teased. Is that anything you're doing in Batman?
Snyder: No, that's totally separate from us. That whole idea and everything that's happening with that is outside of our story.
Nrama: Is this story at all tied into what's happening in other titles, as we saw with "Court of Owls" and the Joker story? Or are you guys just completely setting this story in the past?
Snyder: It's really set in the past. I mean, I wanted to do something with Greg that was our story, that's going to be something that doesn't necessarily need to play into the present-day universe because, I feel like we've done a lot of work in that department and had huge fun being able to do these big crossovers, both with the Owls and then with Joker.
But to be able to tell a story that was singular in our own was part of the fun.
So whether or not it affects the other books? That's something we're still talking about.
But in terms of it cutting back to the present? It won't.
Nrama: What kind of fun things are you getting to draw, Greg?
Capullo: Scott's got some crazy, crazy scenes. Just the opening scene is, just... like, you go, "Oooooh, WTF!! What is going on here?" The first few pages are gorgeous stuff that you just go, why am I in? When I got the script, I was like, you've got to be kidding me! This is a Batman story? So as soon as people crack the cover, they're going to go, "I'm in for something I never anticipated."
This is something totally fresh, new. Environments that I never would have foreseen that I'd be drawing in Batman. And he's got some, just, cool scenes that... I love him and I curse him for it. I have a scene with the Red Hood Gang in the first issue that, if it was a movie, I would have loved to have directed this scene. You set up your multiple cameras, you go into the editing room, chumk chumk chumk chumk. Instead, I've only got so many panels, and I have to pick just the perfect shots, and I have to try to get the same impact. It was not an easy scene to draw. It was one of the most difficult scenes I had to draw, to carry off. So just spectacular, fun rides, over and over and over and over again. I feel like I'm in an amusement park. By the end of this, either I'm completely wiped out or dead. It's just a wild, fun, exhilarating ride.
Nrama: And in the back-up story, you're telling stories that take place even before Bruce got back to Gotham? During his travels?
Snyder: Yeah, the back-ups are basically Bruce training in ways that you've never seen before. We didn't want any ninjas or snow or Himilayas or any of that stuff. Rafael [Albuquerque] is drawing them, from American Vampire, and they're meant to be skills that you haven't seen Bruce learning before.
Capullo: Like eating with chopsticks?
Snyder: [Laughs.] They're supposed to be, like, crazy fun. That's part of the mission of the whole book, honestly, at the end of the day, is that if you're going to do something that is going to be the origin, and there's something as intimate and grim and gritty as Year One that is such a masterpiece, the way to do it for us was to take the other tact and do something really fun and sort of rock 'n' roll. And try to win you over just by the sheer force of fun of the thing from "go." It's going to be its own thing. It's going to be really different. And we hope you enjoy the ride as much as we do.
Nrama: OK, then last question... 11 issues takes us all the way into spring 2014. Do you have plans to continue on Batman beyond that?
Capullo: Yeah! We're not bailing! That's like, getting off Gilligan's Island when it was at its peak, man! That's stupid.
No, we're doing this; it's a self-contained story; and we'll probably both just take a couple weeks off to recharge our batteries and then we'll be back to Gotham City to pound out some more.
I've got a two-and-a-half year contract to fulfill with DC, and it's going to be on Batman with my brother Scott. So you can look forward to more madness and mayhem.
Snyder: Yeah, I already have the story after Zero Year in my head. [Laughs.]
I mean, if you guys will have us and keep us in Gotham and like what we're doing, we'll stay as long as you'll have us.