CAPULLO, SNYDER Guiding BATMAN Through COURT OF OWLS
GREG CAPULLO Talks BATMAN & SNYDER
There are two things that Scott Snyder finds particularly inspiring about artist Greg Capullo, his collaborator on Batman.
"The first is that he's always working, and always just striving to be better," Snyder told Newsarama, describing the artist who helped him relaunch Batman in September, making it one of DC's best-selling titles.
"I'm a workaholic about Batman, but Greg is just as maniacal about it, if not more," Snyder said. "He never fails to turn in work, and it's just incredible work that he will redo if he doesn't like it. So his work ethic and that dedication to making everything as good as it can be, while still being an incredible pro, is something I really admire and look up to about him."
The other thing that inspires Snyder? "He has incredible ideas for the story itself," the writer said. "He comes up with things that add to it, beyond just doing stuff like how to design something I'm describing, or how to do an action sequence better than I could imagine.
"It's like having another voice telling the story with you," he said.
Snyder and Capullo's voices have combined on Batman to make the title not only one of the most critically acclaimed titles in DC's relaunched "New 52," but also one of the best-selling titles in comics today. The two have generated buzz with their innovative layouts and disturbing psychological story — particularly the labyrinth depicted in Batman #5.
Before Capullo started on Batman, he was best known for doing art on Quasar and the Image title Spawn. He also created his own title, The Creech, and spent time working as an illustrator on everything from animation to rock album covers.
This time, Newsarama talks to Capullo, whose enthusiasm was unbounded as he talked about his time on Batman. And during the interview, we found out his art has evolved since issue #1 — and so has his working relationship with Snyder.
Newsarama: Greg, I assume when you were first offered this gig, the biggest attraction for you was the chance to draw Batman and his extended cast of characters?
Greg Capullo: Yeah, absolutely. At the time, I was talking to Marvel, and the first thing they mentioned to me was Wolverine, because I suppose I'm typecast a little bit toward the gritty, darker characters. But then the talk became Avengers Vs. X-Men, right? That's going to be a big powerhouse for them, so it was quite a bit of a struggle for me to figure out the choice on that one.
Nrama: I think people have been impressed with what you and Scott have been able to create through the Court of the Owls story, and in particular, that nightmarish labyrinth he went through. Batman #5 was designed to really evoke the feeling of the labyrinth. Where did you guys get the idea to turn the art sideways and upside down like you did in that issue? It was so disorienting, just like the story.
Capullo: First off, let me just say, I'm impressed with Scott as a writer. I've been around a long time, and I literally can't wait to see what he writes next. And there's been times where I'm, like, reading through it, and I get to like page 10, and I have to stop reading and right away send him an email that goes, "I fu*king love you!" He's just great, and he writes really cool and interesting stuff.
So anyway, I'm drawing this labyrinth, right? And when I work, I very much dive into that atmosphere. So much so that when someone disturbs me, I go, "Aw, that sucks. Now I have to take time to get back into that area where my characters are all living." So I'm drawing this thing, and I'm so into it, and it just popped in my head: Wouldn't it be cool to rotate the pages? Now everybody's done that, but I don't know if anybody's gone full tilt and taken it all the way around like we did.
Anyway, they climbed on board. Scott was the first one. He's proven himself to be a real team player, you know what I mean? It's like, if I want to do something, he's for it. If he wants to do something, I'm for it. You know? And so he backed me on that. And we got the go-ahead.
I get them to say OK, and all the pages are done, and it's all planned to go. And I went over everything meticulously with the editors to make sure all the pages would line up just right, so the pagination would be correct.
And all of the sudden I get an email from Mike Marts saying, "There's some concern here that people might think this is a printer's error. We're thinking maybe just go horizontal, then maybe back to the regular format."
I was like, "Are you crazy?" You know? I'm thinking, not at this point! To just go horizontal and go back? That's just plain stupid. And I was pretty mad. And Scott backed me, saying, you know, "it would be very disappointing if you backed out now."
And so I wrote this mad email. And I quoted Steve Jobs to everybody in this email. I said, "Steve Jobs said, 'Stay Foolish!'" You know?
And Bob Harras shoots me back an email and says, "I'm as foolish as they come, so we're going to do it!"
So I'm thinking this is great, but then I get a copy ahead of the public, right? And I'm flipping through this thing. And I get to the point where the owls have pored out of the mom and dad's mouth, right? And then all of the sudden, I'm seeing that I have to read the pages in the opposite direction of how we're used to reading the pages. I had never considered that!! And so it caught me off guard.
But then I look at it again, and I realized, oh, wait, this is right. It has to be this way. It's the only way it could work. And so I saw what these guys were panicking about, and why they were worried about it!
But I ended up saying, "This is genius!" I mean, I'm thinking, this is even better! Because you're even more like you're in a maze. You don't know to go left, you don't know to go right. I mean, you're lost! It takes you a minute to figure out which way to go.
So to answer your question, I came up with the idea, but I didn't anticipate that last little bit, but it turned out that it worked out brilliantly! That's excellent!
Scott was tweeting, telling people to watch for these pages, but I said, "stop doing that! Screw 'em if they don't get it! Just don't worry about it!" And everybody got it.
Nrama: Another thing that stuck up about that issue was the one exposed eye, where Batman's mask had been torn. You played that up throughout the issue. Was that your idea as well? Because it really contributed to the visual storytelling, as you felt Batman's humanity under the cowl and could see his fear.
Capullo: Yeah, that was all Scott, man. He had the idea to have that eye exposed, and it was just absolute genius on his part. I mean, it wouldn't have played nearly as well if he didn't call that shot.
Nrama: What about the surreal aspects of the issue? Like when Batman appears to be huge when he yells 'Enough!' and throws all the creepy owl people off him? I mean, he's enormous! And then after that, his teeth are surreal. Was that you?
Capullo: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I said, Scott's a really team player, man, and so I just go, "You know, this might be kooky, but I think it'd be cool. And we can get away with it because he's hallucinating. So it's in his mind's eye." I mean, he sees himself as this giant thing, but then we could bring it back to reality by showing that he's really quite emaciated, you know?
So Scott's like, "Why not?!" I was like, "Yeah! Perfect, Scott! I love ya!"
But then the great thing is, we're very much getting to be like the Beatles and how they wrote songs. I mean, John Lennon wrote his bits, Paul McCartney wrote his bits, they mushed them together and they created gold.
So it's like, we have similar but different voices, and combined, we're coming up with some pretty cool stuff, so the people tell us.
Nrama: Obviously, sales have been high right from the get-go, but I think people have also noticed kind of an evolution. The first issue was great, but it feels like it's evolving and maybe even getting a little more experimental. Is that because you're clicking as a team?
Capullo: We're definitely working more as a team. Early on, we were kind of butting heads a little bit. Because I come from old-school Marvel tradition, which was, you know, you give me the plot and as few script pages as possible, and I whip it into something, and then you add the dialogue after the fact. But Scott's dumping, like, 30 pages on my lap, all full scripted stuff. And I'm like, you know, "I can't work this way." And you know, he's been getting some press, so he's like, "Hey, you can't tell me what to do." You know? So it became a little bit of a pissing match in the beginning.
But we talked to each other and we got on the same page. I mean, I always had respect for him, and now he's got this respect for me. And now we're going, "how do we produce the best product?" That's the priority now. It's not egos anymore. Nobody's going, aaah, my chest is bigger. We're just going, "How do we make the best Batman book?" In that respect, we're working as a team, and if people pick up on it, that's great.
About the art evolving, let me first say I need to grow into a book a little. The characters ultimately tell me how to draw them, and Batman's brand new, so I have to learn all these new characters, I've got to figure out how to draw them, or they tell me how to draw them, and the environment and everything. But on top of all that, with Batman #1, I knew I was relaunching freaking Batman. So there was a lot of pressure in that, and I think it might have hurt me as far as performance.
And at the same time, people tell me, "Stay off the internet! It'll destroy you! Stay off of these forums! It'll destroy you! Those trolls will eat you up and eat your mind!" And it was true, because I'm reading this stuff about, "Oh, the Spawn guy? Batman's cape's going to be 40 feet long" and all this stuff.
And now, some of the stuff, like how clean Batman was, the story has progressed to the point where he's got to be drawn grittier and grittier. So those people who were worrying, "Oh no, he's going to dirty up like Spawn": I can't help it! The story's taking me there!
So yeah, the story's helping to evolve the art, and my nerves have settled. And we're working as a team. So now it's just go!
Nrama: And you've learned to stay off the forums, I hope.
Capullo: Every once in awhile I put my nose out there, and I go, "No, no, no, this stinks. I've got to stay out of here."
Actually, it's not nearly as stinky as it was before I took over the book.
Nrama: Oh, I bet. It's much more judgmental when there's nothing to judge yet, and most of what I'm seeing is super positive.
Capullo: Yeah, I love the fans. They're great.
Nrama: Is there anything you want to tell people about what's coming up in Batman?
Capullo: Listen, I love Batman. You all love Batman. Batman's been getting the living shit kicked out of him, right? So what does everybody want, right?
All I can tell you is, it's coming.
What I'm working on right now is just vicious, bombastic, violent, bone-crunching, gore-filled, blood-and-guts Batman stuff. This is going to be something people look at and go, "Holy shit! I cannot believe what Scott and Greg are putting Batman through!"
But he will get triumphant. He has to be triumphant!
And right now, I'm in the throes of just drawing the most terrific battle scene that anyone's ever seen in Batman. I'll just go on the record and say it.
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