As readers saw with the just-released preview of Batman #44, this issue by writers Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello is a bit of a departure from the regularly scheduled programming in the best-selling Batman title.
Featuring a story that's very grounded in real-world problems and current events, Batman #44 is given even more of a raw edge by the work of guest artist Jock.
Yet as unique as this issue is, Snyder wants to make clear that Batman #44 is not a departure from the story he's telling in the current story arc, titled "Superheavy." In fact, he explains, #44 exposes the core of the current arc, as readers are taken to the dark beginnings of villain Mr. Bloom, who arose from the "cracks in the system" inherent in a big city like Gotham.
"Superheavy" has featured Jim Gordon in the role of Batman since the story arc kicked off in June. The former police commissioner took over the role after the alleged death of Batman — although readers have since learned that Bruce Wayne is actually alive, but has completely lost any memory of his life as Batman.
Yet Bruce is one of the stars of Batman #44, as the story flashes back to show what led to the current-day conflict in Gotham that Jim Gordon is facing. Newsarama talked to Snyder to find out more about what readers can expect from the September issue, and how this leads to what's coming next.
Newsarama: Scott, how would you describe next week's Batman #44? This feels like a very different approach to the story than what we've been seeing since June, as you look at the "cracks in the system" that led to Mr. Bloom's appearance as a villain.
Scott Snyder: It is. This issue, for me, was really key from the beginning, as a kind of thesis about the arc. Batman #44 is where we peel back the skin of the arc, and look at the core of the arc. This issue sits right at the center of all that stuff.
Mr. Bloom is a villain who exploits and takes advantage of the kind of hopelessness that can happen in a place like Gotham — or a place like New York or Baltimore or Chicago, or a lot of places around the country, when the kind of things we put in place to protect ourselves don't work.
It's a story I also think — even though it's Bruce in the driver seat as Batman [for the flashback story in #44] — it highlights a lot of the stuff that Gordon believes in, and the types of things that Gordon, as Batman, is trying to fight for.
Nrama: You've said before that Mr. Bloom really serves as a villain specific to Jim Gordon as Batman. And this issue highlights that, by focusing on the "cracks in the system" that led to his rise?
Snyder: Yeah. And we've tried to hint about it. There have been comments from Harvey Bullock and other people about how people feel very let down after "Endgame." Joker just came out of nowhere and destroyed the city. And in destroying the city, the police prioritized certain neighborhoods, or the rebuilding of certain areas has happened faster than others.
All of that's part of the subtext of the "Superheavy" — this idea that, it isn't just that when the Joker attacks, he burns the city to the ground and Batman fights him. This arc is largely about the more realistic — some of the more realistic underpinnings of a city like that. When the city rebuilds itself, are certain neighborhoods or communities given advantage over other ones?
The reason to address those things isn't just to suddenly bring them into Batman. For me, it really has to do with Jim Gordon stepping into the role as Batman. These are the things that Jim has concerned himself with all his life. He has faith in all the things that are real-world systems — the police, local government — all the things that we create to make a city like Gotham fair and let us thrive.
Once those things fail, it's a failure, in a core way, to a character like Jim. So that was the fun of making him Batman, was getting the chance to address real world issues, and yet still have the story be even more zany in a lot of ways than when we had Bruce in the chair.
Nrama: What were your thoughts about having Jock involved in this issue, besides the fact that it's a flashback? Because his art feels much more suited to this exploration of the system breaking down than maybe what Greg's been doing on the arc so far.
Snyder: One of the joys of working with somebody like Greg or Jock — and I'm close friends with both — is that the story is going to be about the exact same things when you get to #45. But it's going to be the robot suit, hitting people with sharks, and out-of-control, bombastic action and zaniness.
But what I hope this issue will underscore for people is that, even when an arc seems almost cartoonishly over-the-top for us, if I'm working on Batman with somebody as good as Greg or Jock, it's never going to be something that's just for fun, for kicks.
It's always going to be about something that's personal. Bloom is a villain that's scary in a very deep, emotional and psychological way for me, as someone having grown up in New York, and what Gordon's fighting for is something very important.
Check back with Newsarama after the release of Batman #44 for more conversation with Scott Snyder about the hard-hitting message in this month's issue, as well as a discussion with Jock about his visual approach to the story.