SPOILER SPORT: Joining Batman's COURT OF OWLS with Capullo

WARNING: As the headline directly states, there are SPOILERS for the Court of Owls storyline of Batman, covering issues 1 through 11. If you haven't read them yet and wish to remain spoiler-free, you should probably go read one of our other wonderful articles. Catch up on some SDCC 2012 news for example! For the rest of you, enjoy!

Batman #11 Cover

When Greg Capullo was first named as the artist on Batman, fans had mixed reactions. He was best known for a long run on Spawn, and although he was working with acclaimed writer Scott Snyder, the pairing was new and unexpected.

But 11 issues later, the creative team of Snyder and Capullo is not only a fan-favorite, but the two have made Batman the best-selling DC title month after month.

But oddly enough, the success was all based on some owls. The entire year of issues have told one story, which is long for a comic book story — something Snyder knew was a risk.  "it wasn't a safe thing on our part," Snyder told Newsarama in June. "Greg Capullo and Mike Marts and I talked about this before #1 came out: Are we really going to do a year-long story with no arcs, that's just one issue building to the next issue building to the next issue? It was risky, but this was a story that needed to be punishingly relentless, with issue after issue of the Court coming after Bruce and hammering him and taking away his confidence and just beating him down."

That beating drove the story behind "The Court of Owls," the 11-issue story that just finished in Batman last week. With issue #11, Capullo and Snyder finished their introduction to the New 52 Batman.

"Court of Owls" also introduced DC fans to Capullo's art, and the reaction has been enthusiastic. Reviews for the final issue of the story arc, last week's #11, hailed Capullo's kinetic yet emotional portrayal of the final battle between Batman and the new villain Lincoln March, who claims to be Bruce Wayne's long-lost brother Thomas.

While the first part of our interview with Capullo concentrated on the next story arc coming in Batman — the Joker-centered Bat-family event "Death of the Family" — Newsarama finished our conversation with the artist with a discussion looking back at what he and Snyder accomplished with the first 11 issues of their run in "Court of Owls."

Newsarama: Greg, now that we've talked about what's coming up, I'd like to talk to you about this battle you just drew between Bruce Wayne and his alleged brother, Thomas. What kind of vibe were you going for in issue #11?

Greg Capullo: Portraying seething hatred. That was the main thing. I'm sure you probably, as I do, have family members that you don't particularly care for very much, and we just took that and put it on volume 11. So it was me saying, "How much can you despise and hate somebody who is, allegedly, in your family bloodline?"

So that was it. It was just trying to display a lot of emotion. And you know, one of the challenges with that is the fact that there's this mask on there for the greater part of the issue. So it has to be visually portrayed in ways other than just his face, other than just a scowl. So that's what was what I was going for: deep, seething hatred. 

Sibling Rivalry

Nrama: There was also a lot of movement in that final issue, as Thomas Wayne was swinging him all over the skyline of Gotham. Was the thought behind him being so out of control physically linked to the fact that Bruce was mentally swayed by this news he was hearing?

Capullo: Well, you know, I think we've kept Bruce on the rocks for a very long time, right? So yeah, this is part of that. This whole story has been about really knocking Bruce off his chair, or his high pedestal. It started with sleep deprivation, food deprivation, ass-kicking after ass-kicking after ass-kicking.

And now, when he's already beaten down and on his final thread, and maybe you thought you'd gotten up to one knee, here's where we drop the final bomb on him.

So issue #11 and this whole story was really about knocking the s**t out of Bruce, you know? More than it's ever been done in the past.

So yes, swinging out of control could be perceived as a metaphor for how he perceives his own life unraveling. I don't want to speak for Scott's idea behind those scenes, but Scott is a very careful writer. And we're both accepting of any kind of extra credit we might receive, as far as our genius is concerned.

Nrama: There's also talk of redemption, and we saw a cross on one of the pages. Was that Scott's symbolism showing up, or did you play a role in that scene? 

Soaring Through

Gotham

Capullo: Scott's idea was the church steeple. And as you read, there's reasons for it, from Lincoln's, or Thomas', perspective.  But I fill in symbolism like that quite often, like when Bruce was crawling through the sewer to the back entrance of the Batcave. It's got a guarded electrical fence. And I cropped it in such a way as to show it as a cross because, you know, that's the symbol of salvation. So I throw in my own things like that.

But the idea of the church steeple was certainly Scott's direction.

Nrama: The layout on this issue was obviously really creative. You guys are working with a very loose script on Batman now, right? Wasn't that part of the disagreement you had early in the process? Is there a higher level of trust now?

Capullo: Yeah, definitely. He's learned to trust me. As I knew he would. You know, I knew he'd never worked with me before, and he didn't know what kind of stuff I was capable of doing. And now that he knows, yeah, he trusts my judgment.

My approach is, give me your screenplay, and I'm going to do some really good directing for you, and making sure I sell your story.

Now we have a very good working relationship. He's open and he leaves me a lot of elbow room. And he's open to any ideas I may have to add, whether it's a slight little flourish or a bigger idea.

It's great working with Scott now. I definitely plan to keep working with him. 

Bruce Gives &

Takes

Nrama: When Newsarama talked to Scott after issue #10 came out, he specifically mentioned that he had told you to draw Lincoln March in issue #1 as someone who looked a lot like Bruce Wayne. But fans on the internet made fun of you drawing Bruce and Lincoln looking alike. Do you feel some vindication for that? After all, he was supposed to look like he could be his brother, right?

Capullo: You know what? A lot of people have to eat some guano now. [Laughs.] Yeah, that was tough taking that on the chin when that happened. I've been in the business a long time, and they were making it sound like I'm an amateur who can't draw two characters who look differently. And that was pretty aggravating.

And at first, I started to address it a little bit publicly. And Scott was like, you know? Just let it die down, man. Ignore it, because we don't want anybody to figure things out. So I bit my tongue and said, well, I'll wait for the final hour. And then you'd better fold to your knees. [Laughs.] Nah. But yeah, I do feel a little vindicated, for sure.

Nrama: I know Scott has said the theme of the eye, which is how we ended the arc on the final page of issue #11, was something that came from you. What were your thoughts behind it, and what do you think of the way Scott adopted it for the whole arc?

Capullo: You know, I come up with certain things, whether it be a motif or something like that, and Scott just saw that I was doing this thing with the eye. And he wrote that into the story, as we were rolling. So it happened organically.

The Eyes Have it

And that's one of the cool things about working together, and him trusting me and giving me some room. He's a very, very creative writer. And so, we just found that it worked perfectly with the owls, and you know, the "watching" by the Court of Owls. So I think it just made sense to carry it through the entire book at that point.

I don't know if I can get super fancy with the philosophy behind it like Scott might, or as eloquently. I'm more about, you know, "Let's talk about the ass-kicking." So I don't know all of the meanings behind its symbolism. I mean, they're watching Bruce and he's watching for them, you know, the bat and the owl's eye, and it also feels very personal.

Nrama: Like the "mind's eye?"

Capullo: Yeah, they were getting in his head, you know? But it made sense to me visually, and obviously Scott agreed. So yeah, I think you can read a lot into it and like I said, we'll take credit for whatever interpretation people might have.

Like I said, Scott's really eloquent about that stuff. I'm more about the visceral kind of stuff.

Nrama: But when did it first emerge as a visual theme for you? Was it with issue #5, when Bruce's mask exposed one of his eyes? Or.. it came before that, didn't it?

Capullo: Yeah, that exposed eye was Scott's idea. But it preceded that. It was in the subway scene where he's holding some guy in front of the tracks, pumping him for information. That was where that stuff began. And it was carried forward. I don't know if Scott had the "exposed eye" planned prior to that or not, but I though it was genius. It just made Bruce look so messed up.

And I just took that idea and then thought about how Bruce would be experiencing that scene, and I just made it bloodshot, swollen, puffy, pinkness. It was just cool how it worked.

Nrama: In this run, the City of Gotham played such a huge role, even in last week's final issue, as Bruce was being thrust across the skyline. You got to define the city in this run, from above and below!

Capullo: Right, true!

Nrama: What were your thoughts behind how you portrayed Gotham in the "Court of Owls?"  

A-Maze-ing

Layouts

Capullo: You know, so much of it just happened instinctually. With Gotham City, you know, from the time we're very small until now, we have ideas, because of all the imagery we've seen through television and cartoons and motion pictures and comics — every bit of it, you know? And so it just sort of becomes part of you, and it comes out through your filter. Right? We all have a different filter. So however my "Gotham" came out just sort of happened organically, and it was inspired by what Scott's writing.

I don't really overthink it. So there's not a logical path I could take you on and go, "I did this." Gotham City just comes instinctually and happens organically.

So if people are digging what I did with Gotham, then I'm just fortunate.

Nrama: Now that you're heading toward Batman #0 and the "Death of the Family" storyline, there's a lot of anticipation for what comes next. But as a final statement on "Court of Owls," how would you kind of summarize the experience of relaunching Batman through this imagery and working on this story in particular?

Capullo: You know, I'm very proud of the work that Scott and I did with it, and I think there's a lot of great moments in all of the issues. And I think that all of the issues offered a little bit of something for different people.

I do think that fans have appreciated all the hard work that we put into this story. We hear, when we're signing at conventions, and we hear on Twitter and Facebook and what-not, you know, a lot of love coming toward us. And we're very pleased about that.

My hope is that they feel it's one of the baddest-ass Batman stories they've seen in many years. My goal, just as the artist on "Court of Owls," was to give you a big, bad, hard-ass Batman like you haven't seen in awhile. And so I'm hoping that fans go, "Wow, our Batman is back." You know? "The Batman we've always wanted is here." So I'm hoping they feel that way about it, and that they can't wait to have some more. Because there's a lot more to come.

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