SPOILER ALERT! There are Spoilers for BATMAN #15 in this interview. Do not read further if you don't want SPOILERS from "Death of the Family" and BATMAN #15!As "Death of the Family" hit the halfway point in Batman #15 this week, the "family"-targeted part of The Joker's plan was fully put into motion. As a result, a secret from Batman's past with his archnemesis threatened to tear apart the alliance between the Bat-family.
"Death of the Family" has two issues to go in Batman, and also spills into other Batman-associated series. And according to sales figures, the event is a hit with fans, with Batman #13 being reported as the top-seller for DC in October, with numbers comparable to the title's #1 relaunch last year.
Snyder, who also announced this week that he would be leaving Swamp Thing after March [Click here for our interview about the end of Rotworld and his departure], has indicated he has a lot more Batman stories to tell with his artist Greg Capullo, which he echoed today in our interview. The writer is also creating a new Superman title with artist Jim Lee, as well as his work on the American Vampire ongoing and The Wake mini-series for Vertigo.
Newsarama talked with Snyder about the events of Batman #15 and what's coming up in the book, including a battle with The Joker in Arkham Asylum, a "tragedy" in the Bat-family, and the return of Harper Row.
Newsarama: Scott, there's obviously a conflict with The Joker at the middle of "Death of the Family." You and I have talked about that -- quite a bit since this story began. And Greg too. But this issue made it clear that there's also this conflict between the control that Bruce Wayne has to maintain when he's doing his job as Batman, and the man he needs to be for the rest of the Bat-family. Is that part of the "Death of the Family" conflict for Batman? This conflict between being Batman and being a "family" man?Scott Snyder: Oh, 100 percent. What The Joker is saying, essentially, is "you don't want them around for that reason." And "deep down, you wish you weren't responsible for them. You want to just be Batman. You don't want the father figure role that is more of a Bruce Wayne role." You know what I mean? Nrama: Yeah, and we've talked about what the Joker is saying, but I think we readers always assumed that, while there might be a tiny bit of truth to it, overall, it's not true! We see these tender moments he has with Damian, and these bonding moments he's had with Dick and the others, and we don't buy what The Joker is saying. The Joker's wrong, isn't he? Yet in Batman #15, Bruce's interaction with the "family" is kind of proving the Joker's right.
Snyder: Well, the thing the Joker does, that I think makes him the greatest villain of all time, is he sees the things you're afraid are true about yourself, and then brings them to life.
So they don't necessarily have to be true. And I told you the way this story came about. Having young children, I was thinking about Bruce's position as someone who's responsible for all these younger allies and how much he is a father to them, and how in some ways, that would make him -- especially coming off of the Court of Owls where he was so reliant on them -- both proud of them and incredibly attached to him, but also make him worried. Not just for them, but also worried that he does rely on them in ways that he didn't before.
The Joker, as his villain, hears that. You know what I mean? Not in a supernatural way, but in a kind of metaphorical way. He hears it and says, "I know what you're feeling. I know you well enough, darling, to know that you just said you want the family dead, and you want to go back to being me and you."
And Batman is saying, "No, I didn't say that. I never said that."
But Joker is like, "Sure you did. When you said you wanted to stop worrying about them, that's what you meant. You're not willing to say it, but deep down, that's what you're thinking."
So there's a kernel of truth in it, but it's not true. Obviously, he doesn't want the family dead.
Nrama: He's hit upon that kernel of truth, and he's created a situation where, in this issue, just that tiny bit of truth is tearing the family apart. Right?Snyder: Right. That's what Bruce says. The Joker knows how to tear them apart. The Joker is saying, "He loves me more than he loves you. And that's why he didn't tell you that I got into the cave." And Bruce is saying, "I didn't tell you, because he didn't [get into the cave]. There's no way he could. And by telling you, I would only worry you about something that's impossible to have happened. So there's no reason. It's irrelevant that he put a card in the cave. He only did it by attaching it to the boat so he could say to me, I love you. Good show. Can't wait to see you again."
But The Joker knows them well enough to say, "He's lying to you."
Honestly, I don't want to say whether he is or he isn't. There's a very good chance that Bruce is right. And there's a very good chance that Bruce is also wrong. You know?
And that's part of the mystery of the event, is who you believe. Do you believe Bruce or The Joker?
Nrama: There is evidence that he does know though, Scott, particularly when he's going after Raya in Nightwing and Barbara's mother in Batgirl and he already got Alfred. But you're saying that you're playing with the mystery of "does he know or doesn't he know?" And that mystery, along with the single Joker card he left, is what is tearing up the family?
Snyder: Right. And it gets worse and worse.
The Joker wants to have this situation there, whether what he's saying is true or not.
And as you said, the evidence is mounting that it's true.Nrama: It's a game of torture. And that's why he's not just coming out and saying their names.
Snyder: IF it is true, he isn't just saying their names because he wants them to tear each other apart. He wants to say to them, "believe what you want; why don't you go confront him and ask him?" He doesn't want to just say, "this is who you all are. Boom. I know. Done." He's torturing them. That's part of the fun for him.
But he will kill them. I mean, he is after them. I'm not saying they'll all die. But in the Joker's mind, it's not that he's torturing them to just let them go. He's coming for every one of them in a real way.
But he wants, before he does that, to bring them the most pain and psychological suffering, and to prove a point before he actually does them in.
Nrama: In the back-up story, Joker either admires the Riddler quite a bit or is merely stroking his ego. Which is it?Snyder: The Joker is someone who I don't think admires, really, anyone except Batman. You know?
I was saying this to James when we were writing it. He's like, "I think he does look up to him." And I was like, "I don't think he looks up to him. I think wants to look up to him, but his bar is so high that he never will."
The point of his interaction with the villains is to enlist them in a plan he has, but also to tell them to up their game. To say to them, "you're the one who keeps Batman's mind sharp, Riddler. No one can outsmart him better than you. Start being scarier." You know what I mean?
In Joker's mind, you can never torture Batman enough to win his total admiration.
But I think he does admire the rogues to some extent, the best that he can, because he believes they're doing -- at their best times -- the service that he thinks Batman needs. It's the service that he is completely motivated by, which is to bring Batman's worst fears to life, to make him stronger as ruler of Gotham.
Nrama: I know next month, in the back-up feature, we get to see what started Joker down this path toward this plan. And then I noticed in the solicitations for issue #18, Harper Row is returning. Can you give us an overview of what's coming up over the next few issues of Batman?Snyder: Next issue.... I don't know if everyone has read #15, so I'm not sure if I should give away where we're going. Nrama: I think it's in the solicitation for Batman #16 that it takes place in Arkham.
Snyder: OK. We're going to Arkham. And I've never written issues that are more disturbing than these. The references that I sent Greg, as visuals, I actually left the library while I was doing it, because I was afraid someone would see on the computer and basically call the cops.
The things coming are the most terrifying and, I think, provocative to Batman -- not just sensational provocative, but psychology and emotionally provocative to Batman.
And the way that Arkham Asylum is transformed, I can't wait for people to see.
So the best, or I guess the worst, of The Joker's plan is coming.
And then issue #17, the finale, is one big feature. It's 30 pages, all by Greg. So it's a giant finale, an oversized one without a back-up. And it's definitely a whopper. It's 31 pages actually.
And then issue #18, yeah, in the aftermath of this story, we wanted to do something quieter again, and we're bringing Harper back. And you'll learn more about her background and the mysteries behind who she is.
And that begins to set us up for the next big story that we're going to do, which starts a couple issues later and is going to be a nine-issue epic.
Nrama: From the solicitations we've seen so far for all the Bat-family titles, it doesn't look like the end of "Death of the Family" is going to be good. There are way too many hints about a "devastating tragedy."
Snyder: [Laughs.] Yeah, well.... I don't know. I wouldn't go on record saying it's going to be a happy ending.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!