This week, All-Star Batman #9 will take the idea of fake news and put it into the hands of one of the Dark Knight's greatest villains, as Scott Snyder concludes his latest storyline in an issue drawn by artist Jock.
For those readers who haven't seen previous spoilers about who the villain is, we'll put a spoiler warning right here. Snyder talks about the frequent nemesis of Batman, and why the "demonology" of what he more eloquently calls "false" stories fits for this villain.
Newsarama also talked to Snyder about the future of Duke Thomas, whose superhero identity in the Bat-titles has yet to be decided, as this story leads into DC's Dark Days and Dark Nights: Metal events later this year.
Newsarama: Scott, let's start with Duke Thomas and his new role. You haven't exactly revealed what it's going to be. With the back-ups now ending, when will we find out more about what Duke is going to do in the future?
Scott Snyder: Duke is a huge part of the plan for All-Star Batman and beyond. With the line running double-ship and with all the events we've been planning with Metal, it's been an exciting but also tricky math of, like, where do you put a character that you want to have a story of his own, beyond being part of a team of him and Batman, extending that but also giving him his own space - all that stuff.
So All-Star Batman #9 really leaves him off in a place that begins his ascendance.
He then features in a big way in Dark Days, the two-parter series that preludes Metal.
Nrama: Is that where we're going to learn where you have Duke?
Snyder: That's kind of our long runway plan.
By the time the second issue [of Dark Days] comes out, my hope is that we'll be able to talk about openly Duke's role in the Bat-universe coming up.
Nrama: Weren't you originally planning to do that in All-Star Batman?
Snyder: Initially I thought it would all land in the back-ups in issue #9 and say, "Hey! Here's who he's going to be. This is what we're going to do."
But then our editors were very wise to say, "You're smushing it into six pages?"
So what we wanted to do was give it a bigger stage and roll it out in a way that tells the story more expansively.
This way, it goes from All-Star Batman into Dark Days and then lands itself right afterwards. So that's my hope.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about the front story that's been happening in All-Star Batman. I know you were kind of hoping to keep the mastermind behind the current story a surprise, but the villain has been spoiled by a cover and by the preview. We can talk about him?
Snyder: Yeah, I always love when it's secret stuff, but I don't mind stuff being spoiled either. It never bugs me that much, as long as it's in a way that you can kind of opt to see it or not. I hate when people put it on my timeline, like, "look at the ending of your favorite show!" And then you're like, ah! Stop putting it in front of my eyeballs.
But I don't mind if you have to go seek it out in solicits or whatever it is.
Nrama: OK, so issue #9 reveals that Ra's Al Ghul is behind all the attempts to destroy the world, and as you've said several times, it takes place in Washington, D.C. This fits his M.O., to attack the world, but All-Star Batman stories also tap into current-day anxieties as you reshape the villains. Right?
Snyder: Yeah. The idea of All-Star is that we're trying to sort of re-position my favorite villains in the Batman mythos, to speak to personal fears but also to be engaged with elements that are in the air right now, that are really scary.
Nrama: OK, so how does this story about Ra's fit into that idea of scary elements in the air right now?
Snyder: To me, out of the four ways the world might end that are presented in this arc - whether it's a cataclysmic disaster like the permafrost melting and spores getting in the air, like a natural disaster like that, or biological warfare, which is kind of touched on in Ivy's arc, or the madness that I think people feel where you sort of drift into your own refuges and decide that you're not going to engage with the world, and you only believe the stuff that you want to believe news-wise — the thing that's scariest to me is where something begins where we don't know what's true anymore in terms of an attack, or a failure of some system.
And it just begins this endless slide to complete cacophony and war and fighting. We essentially say, "Who did that? Oh, we don't know. We can't tell who did that. Did this person? Did that? Well, what happened over there to them? Oh, did we do that? We don't know."
It's this kind of constant uncertainty that's almost a time of demonology.
And that's why I thought Ra's would be a perfect villain for that.
Nrama: So is Ra's fighting Batman in a way that fits with that idea of stirring up uncertainty?
Snyder: Yeah, this story is one that I've been building toward for a really long time and I'm really proud of it. Ra's is saying, "I've always been the agent of truth. I've always been the doctor who cuts away the rot. And I've tried to do that. But nobody listens to me. They'd rather listen to the false story that you tell people.
"So why don't I fight you with false stories for a change? And we can really go to war, and I'll be the true 'head of the demon' again."