[Spoilers for Batman #37]
Is the Joker immortal?
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's top-selling Batman series, in the midst of its "Endgame" storyline, is introducing that question while exploring the idea that Bruce Wayne is only a man, juxtaposing the Joker's claims of immortality with Bruce's fear of how his life will end.
In this week's Batman #37, Jim Gordon discovered archived newspaper photographs that show the Joker wreaking havoc all the way back in 1910 and 1946 — implying that he doesn't die. Although Jim doesn't buy it, accusing the Joker of doctoring the photos, when the Joker gets shot, he doesn't die. By the end of the issue, it's starting to look like the photos aren't a trick and Joker really is immortal.
In our latest mid-story interview with Snyder (check out our talks about issue #35 and issue #36), Newsarama talked to Snyder and found out "Endgame" clears the way for "something very fresh and different in June."
Newsarama: Scott, it feels like this idea introduces the idea of the Joker being immortal or timeless. Is that what this issue is saying?
Scott Snyder: That's what he's saying. That's the threat. He says, "you don't know me. I'm a stranger to you. I have tried to lead you on the right path — I said come with me forever, with me and the rest of the villains. I said I could help you do that if you listened."
But Bruce does not listen to him.
So now he's saying, "All right, then I'm going to stop pretending and stop playing with you. And I'm just going to show you how insignificant you are. And what a tiny nothing, how meaningless the whole mission of your life is. And it's over."
So it's what he's saying, and it's what seems to be true. But obviously, it's up to you, the reader, to try to figure out whether you believe it or not — whether you side with Bruce and Jim, and the mystery of how he's doing it. That's part of the fun of the story.
It's meant to be Joker making his final argument, which is sort of like, "I've always been bigger than you, more powerful than you — all of you. And now I'm just going to laugh as you all go down in flames."
Nrama: We finally saw Duke show up again, too. You've teased before that he might become the character called Lark. Did you have this appearance in mind when you introduced him in "Zero Year?" You wanted him to be part of this storyline too?
Snyder: I wanted him to be part of this storyline, when we first were developing. I wasn't sure where he would go, and what his role would be.
Now his role is set to me. We have ideas and plans and stories for him, post-"Zero Year."
He's an important character to me, the same way Harper and Cullen are. I mean, creating new characters — it's such an exciting thing because you get to see the city and the characters through new eyes.
And what Duke has been through, and how he sees the city is very different than Harper, very different than Cullen and different from these established characters.
So it gives you a new lease on Gotham, when you create somebody you really enjoy writing that way.
Nrama: When Jim Gordon looked out the window and saw a Jokerized redhead, was that Barbara?
Snyder: Oh, no, it was not Barbara.
Barbara's coming in the story later. You're going to see a lot of that character soon.
You're going to see everybody from Dick Grayson to people you wouldn't expect.
This really is meant to be a celebration of, first, Batman's 75th, where it started — it starts during Batman's 75th, and it finishes during Joker's 75th. So it's meant to be, you know, a celebration of all things Batman and Joker.
Nrama: We've already seen the Justice League fighting Batman. There are more surprise characters coming?
Snyder: You're going to see a lot of characters, from the most obscure, kind of reinvented, to the Bat-family, to the villains — so yeah, there are a lot of characters you hopefully will be very surprised and happy to see. And others I think you're hoping to see and will see. Just the whole thing.
It's a huge, cinematic story that's also personal to me, in the way that it's about Bruce coming to terms, in a lot of ways, with the idea that, no matter how big he makes himself, and no matter how big Batman is, he's still just human, and there's no cure for that. There's nothing that's going to preventing one of those nightmarish endings from happening one day. It will come.
So it's sort of like, "Is this it?"
So it's very personal for me, but it's also meant to be the most bombastic and over-the-top and fun (in a twisted way) story that we can do with these characters, as a way to saying thanks to the fans and thanks to the character for being so awesome for 75 years. Both of them.
Nrama: OK, so Batman is dealing with this fear of his own mortality and what his "ending" will be, while Joker is looking immortal and trying to convince Batman of how small he is. Is that why this issue featured so much self-talk by Bruce. Does he need a little self-boost in his confidence as he faces all this? Am I reading that right?
Snyder: Yeah, that was actually the most I had him talk to himself since, within "Death of the Family," really, for me — at least it felt that way for me.
In "Zero Year," there's absolutely no narration, for almost a year, in the book.
But when it comes to the Joker, I think there's a lot more self-doubt than there is with other characters. He really is his arch-nemesis. He is the devil in his ear. He tells you all the things you're most afraid of are true about you.
So Bruce needs to build himself up.
This issue is meant as a mirror issue, actually, to the third part of "Death of the Family." The first page [of issue #37] is set up as a mirror of the first page of issue #15. In that issue, Bruce is talking himself up, saying, don't be afraid of the Joker — he's just a man.
Here, we flip it and he's saying, don't be afraid — you're more than a man. You're Batman. You're bigger than this. You can do this.
Bruce has to convince himself, deep down, that this guy is just a common criminal. He's not bigger. And here's Joker saying, "Oh, I'm much bigger."
Nrama: Before we talk about what's coming up next, there are some single-issue tie-ins in March, wearing the "Endgame" title. Did those come about because you needed more room to tell your story? Or was it more about letting other writers and characters into this story?
Snyder: It came about just because we were really welcoming everybody that was new, and the new books, and a few people who were established too. It was really about, "hey, we're doing a Joker story. There's a chance to use this character. We're not going to get to use him [Joker] again for a long time, if ever afterwards. So this is our shot, if you guys want to do something with him that fits your book — be my guest."
The only stipulation was, "don't interrupt whatever storyline you have going, because all you guys have such good themes right now. Do it on the side, as a separate one-shot."
We thought that would give fans the option of reading their books, without interruption, following this story into those neighborhoods if they want, and Batman, as always, is completely self-contained. There's no need to read those books if you're looking for pieces of "Endgame" pertaining to Bruce Wayne.
If you want to see what's up with Joker and the city in those books, and how it affects the characters in those books, then absolutely pick them up. They're great stories. I'm really proud of them. Gotham Academy is out-of-control fun. Each one of them has put something really special together.
So they're absolutely worth picking up.
But it was just a way of showing that those books are tied to the main world of Gotham, and that we're all part of the same universe. But we're not trying to shove something down your throat. It's available as a side thing. And I hope you enjoy it.
Nrama: OK, can you give any hints to what's coming up? Are these red zones in Gotham the main threat?
Snyder: It's going to get worse. It's going to get more desperate. And this is really, also, going to have big repercussions for us, in a lot of ways.
It's going to change a lot of things about the book, without giving too much away.
This is my fifth year in Gotham, at this point. I never thought I would get to stay this long. I really thought that maybe "Court of Owls" and then…. I really didn't know that we would be able to do this many things on the book. And I'm so grateful, honestly, and Greg is too.
But what that means is, you can't start your fifth year doing small stories about Clayface or Poison Ivy. I mean, we could, and I feel like the sales would be good with that, because it's safe. But you've got to follow in the footsteps of the people you admire, like Grant [Morrison], for me, who reinvented the book every couple arcs for himself, when he had a run that long.
So for us, you can believe it when I tell you things will be very, very different in June.
Nrama: That's scary and exciting at the same time. Probably for you too, right?
Snyder: Yeah, it is.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans?
Snyder: I really just want to say thanks. I mean, you know, this really is our celebration of all things Batman and the Joker, and also goodbye to a lot of that so that we can start something very fresh and different in June.
And it also is a love letter to all the people who have supported us on the book, by having it be this biggest, craziest, kind of the most celebratory thing we can do, and the darkest and most twisted — it's very, very blockbuster.
This has everybody we can put in it — the biggest stakes, the highest drama, and it's going to turn everything around.
And afterward, we can start with something you would not expect, I think.