Batman scribe Scott Snyder doesn't want DC's new weekly series Batman: Eternal to be the least bit generic.
"We don't want it to be something you read and it just feels like a studio factory, churning out a plot," Snyder said.
Because of that goal, Snyder and the other four writers of Batman: Eternal are each making sure they come at their stories from different directions — paying homage to a different corner of Gotham City, and a different genre or story approach from Batman's 75-year history.
And, he promises, there will be huge changes to the world of Batman during the next year.
Readers got a few hints about those changes in DC's recent "Happy Batsgiving" teaser image.
Snyder will be previewing some of those changes in a special one-shot edition of Snyder's monthly series in February. Co-written by one of his Batman: Eternal co-writers, James Tynion IV, Batman #28 promises to provide a peek into the future to tease what's coming for Batman in future stories. [Editor's note: Check back for more on that issue when we discuss it with Snyder next week.]
It's all part of a very busy year for Snyder, who's not only working on Batman: Eternal and Batman in 2014, but the recently launched title Superman: Unchained and the Vertigo series American Vampire, which returns this spring after a short hiatus while he finishes up his current limited series The Wake. And just this week, Snyder announced he'll be launching a new Image series with artist Jock in 2014 titled Wytches.
But the writer is best known now for his work on Batman, and that doesn't look to change anytime soon, as this year sees DC celebrating the character's 75th anniversary in his several ongoing monthlies and the new weekly.
In a series of articles about Batman: Eternal, Newsarama has been talking to the various writers over the last few months as they detailed what they're doing to make their story arcs feel unique: James Tynion IV will be utilizing Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown, Ray Fawkes will be using Batwing and highlighting the horror side of Gotham, Tim Seeley will write a Batgirl adventure story, and John Layman will focus on the more colorful characters — particularly the villains — of Gotham City.
Now we talk to Snyder, who will be the first writer to contribute a story arc to Batman: Eternal. Over the course of the year-long story, the writers will set the stage for Snyder's plans for the Batman monthly in 2015. In the second installment of our conversation with Snyder about his upcoming work, we talk about Eternal and Batman proper and the changes to come.
Newsarama: Scott, walk me through the approach you guys are taking to the structure of Batman: Eternal. Several of the other writers on the series have talked to Newsarama, and they've described how they're each approaching it with a really different point of view. How did that approach evolve?
Scott Snyder: When we first started thinking about how to do the weekly, with the options that DC originally offered, we figured we could do it one of two ways — we could either co-write each story so it had multiple writers, or we could do it so that there were different story arcs by each writer, whether they ran concurrently in the same issue — like five pages each — or in different arcs.
My thinking really was — and James' thinking too — was that it might be more difficult or tricky to do a series where each one of us is doing an arc that leads to the next arc, but we liked that idea. We liked that challenge.
Nrama: So you're each writing your own arc, separately, in your own style, right?
Snyder: Yeah, so I'm writing an arc, while the person after me is writing an arc, while the person after them is writing an arc. But you really have to know how they link up.
So we made a really, really extensive document that showed the whole story. Like, this whole, huge story. And the big moments that we really want to hit by a certain point are in there, so the document says, for example, by issue #5, this huge thing needs to happen, this big surprise.
And then another of our goals was to bring in four writers that we really trust and like, and that we're friends with, and have them come in and do arcs that are about their interest in Gotham.
So James, for example, really loves young characters. He loves peripheral characters. He loves the Gotham Gazette. He loves Arkham Asylum. He loves the characters that aren't necessarily always Batman. You know? In kind of that Paul Dini way, where his comics and the animated series would often focus on secondary characters, and given the emotional arcs while Batman was sort of this stable force in the thing.
Ray really loves supernatural elements in Gotham, and the darker stuff, the twisted stuff, from characters that I think people will be really happy to see return to some of the more magical elements.
Tim, on the other hand, I think really deals well with the deep psychological drama, and the creeping sense of dread, I think, with the suspense building between the bigger elements of the plot. So he's taking some of the more bombastic stuff.
And John really loves the colorful aspects of Gotham, and the villains.
So it became about, let's do arcs that focus on things that we feel are organic to our own interests. Let's not superimpose things on the writers. Let them do the stories they want. But these pieces have to move forward at certain moments, as either major parts of their story lines, or in the background, so they have this big plot moving for 52 issues as it rolls forward.
I'm really proud of that format. And so far — fingers crossed and knock on wood — it's been going really well. We're up to about issue #22 right now out of 52, written so far. So we're really, really proud.
That said, they're the first two issues of every three-issue arc. We have yet, all of us to write the third issue in the arcs that we're doing, meaning how they link up together. I mean, we know how they link up. But we haven't done that yet, you know?
Nrama: No, you lost me.
Snyder: Each of us is writing three-to four-issue arcs in a row. So I write one, James writes one, Ray writes one, John writes one, Tim writes one.
So it's like, issues #4 to #6 are James. Issues #1 to #3 are me. Like that.
So we're going from one person to the next person, like handing off a baton. Right?
Nrama: Got it.
Snyder: But, because you're writing them in order, when you're on the second issue of your arc, the next person is on the second issue of their arc too. So the third issue — or the final issue in each arc — is the one that passes the baton to the next person. So right now, we're at this great point where I love reading each arc, because we're two issues into three-issue arcs, or three issues into four-issue arcs. But none of us have written the issues that actually pass the baton to each other. So it's either going to go great and be incredibly smooth, or it's going to be this really big challenge to make sure it all works seamlessly.
So far, what I've seen is outstanding.
Nrama: So this structure really complements the approach where different writers are coming at it from very different directions.
Snyder: That's why we're really proud of it. We don't want it to be something you read and it just feels like a studio factory, churning out a plot. We don't want it to be like we're churning out one issue by me, the next issue by James, and it's all part of one, generic story, especially when we're working within Gotham, where you can really explore him from a lot of different directions through a lot of different characters, and still be writing a Batman story. We wanted each writer to get to do an arc that explores something that's to their interest in Gotham, because I think it will be a better series that way, honestly.
So we still have this huge, big, crazy-ass plot moving in the background — and in foreground, a lot of the time (in my arcs and in James') — but at the same time, we want everybody to get a chance to explore the characters in the neighborhoods of Gotham.
I'm really, really proud of it so far. All the issues I've read, and the way it looks like it's going to link up, arc to arc, based on our planning and the coordination (and to our editors' credit — Mike Marts and Katie Kubert), I really think it's going to come out great.
Nrama: And talking to the other writers, it sounds like it's quite an epic story that touches upon a lot of corners of Gotham.
Snyder: Yeah, it really is a huge, bombastic story that really does change a ton of things. It will really bend the mythology of Batman. I mean, from his core characters changing, his core allies, to the shape of the city — there are really, really big things coming for the series, that I'm going to play into in Batman and sort of dovetail off of when I come back [to present day in the Batman title, after "Zero: Year."]
Nrama: You mentioned that the story changes a "ton" of things, and from the "Happy Batsgiving" teaser, and the art you revealed from your February issue, they look like pretty drastic changes.
Snyder: Yeah, we're trying something different and pretty daring, but hopefully fun. The things that happen within issues, and the way the city has changed, and the way the mythology has changed, I think people are going to get really excited by it.
Nrama: Then as a last question about Batman: Eternal, obviously people are a little concerned about Nightwing. In teases, we've seen a blond person dressed as Nightwing, and we've also seen this female character in your tease for February who looks like a new Nightwing. Do these teases about these Nightwing type characters have to do with the end of Forever Evil in March?
Snyder: I can't say. I would love to tell you, but I think I'd rather just let you guys be surprised and have fun discovering it as it goes. I wouldn't want to ruin anything.