As Batman: Endgame heads toward its conclusion with this week's issue #38, Scott Snyder is warning fans that it's a "transformative story" that "really changes things."
In fact, the new direction for Batman in June is was Snyder's calling, "sort of like, 'Whoa! What?'"
Endgame, the latest blockbuster story in Snyder and Greg Capullo's top-selling Batman series, has brought back the Joker in a brutal, scary way that implies the villain is not only immortal, but knows Batman's secret identity.
The last time Newsarama spoke to Snyder about Endgame, the writer teased that the Joker-Batman battle would lead to a "fresh start" in June. Now, Snyder is revealing that 2015 will see the Batman title with a "new status quo, new villains, [and] a new lease on the book for a bit."
In this week's issue of Batman: Endgame, readers found out more about Joker's alleged immortality — evidence that Batman himself can't believe. In fact, he's so eager to disprove Joker's history in Gotham that he's turned to an unusual source for information about the past.
Newsarama talked with Snyder to find out more about what's coming up next in Endgame, how this story arc is personal to him, and what he can reveal about what's coming up when the title returns after Convergence ends.
Newsarama: Scott, we talked last month about the idea of Joker being immortal, and how you really wanted to leave it open-ended. But this month's issue really delves deeper into the supposed science of how he actually could be immortal, even tying him to Vandal Savage and the Lazarus Pits. Just to clarify, you're not saying Joker really is immortal?
Scott Snyder: No, no, it's open-ended. I want you to feel like Batman does. Is it true? It can't be true! I don't want it to be true! I hate the idea! All of that.
I want it to be like, is this true? That's the driving engine of the story for me. Joker's saying, you've always wanted to be more than yourself, more than your body. And your biggest fear is when your mortality takes over, when you aren't fast enough or strong enough. And I'm willing to show you that not only is that moment now, but I'm going to bring it to bear against you by saying I've always been the thing that you wanted to be.
And he's saying he would have given this to Batman — like, "I would have given you the fluid in my body, in my spine. I could have turned you into what you wanted to be. But you dropped me off a cliff. And so now I'm just going to bring it all to bear against you."
The reason Bruce had those Cassandra visions at the beginning, of his demise — I want this to be the worst one.
Nrama: Wait, this isn't a vision though, right? Bruce saying at the end, "this can't be real" — you weren't hinting that this isn't real?
Snyder: Oh, this is real. Don't get me wrong. There's no chance at all that this is a dream or anything. It is absolute reality.
What I mean is I want it to be the worst version of one of those. This is a nightmare Doomsday scenario.
Nrama: Thus the title, Endgame.
And also, I know these characters have these huge legacies, but you have to write them like you made them up. Your versions of them are yours. And for me, this really is the last time they fight. I don't want to say "never," because I don't want to be that guy who comes back and does something he said he'd never do. But I don't foresee myself ever writing the Joker and Batman together again as the Batman and Joker.
I want this to be, like, there's nothing off limits to use, there's nothing off limits they can do to each other, there's nothing off limits in terms of the stakes of the story. That's it.
Nrama: As long as we're talking about nothing being off limits — you've got a Joker who knows Bruce's identity. And as Dick Grayson said, "it's over then." So Joker knows who Batman is, because nothing is off limits for this story?
Snyder: He knows who he is. There's no way around it. He knows he's Bruce Wayne. Joker has decided to look at that thing that he has not wanted to look at, in hopes the Bruce would come over and be inhuman with him in some ways.
Instead, now he's seeing him, and he says, "I know who you are, and your life is nothing."
So that is real. All of it is real.
So the problem is, what are you going to do? You going to kill him? Now you can't kill him. You're screwed. Because, you know, maybe you missed your chance if he's taking something regenerative. Or maybe, if he isn't, and you never had your chance, it's all just been a big joke.
Nrama: There's a sequence in this week's issue of Joker swimming. Is that an ominous tease of something coming?
Snyder: Well, I want it to be mysterious. I mean, he's going somewhere, and it's important for next issue. But I think a lot of the time, in "Death of the Family," for me, the Joker kind of led Batman by the nose a lot, and said, "this is where we are headed, because I have a point to prove."
In this story, I want it to be sort of an inverse of that — like, this kind of comedy and tragedy and love/hate sort of structure — for it to be something where he's much less present in certain way, and he's more specter in a spookier way.
It's so comedy to him — he's wearing an old-timey bathing suit, like from Coney Island. But that said, there's a pageantry and humor to him. But he's less noble. That's the point.
He says to Batman, "I'm a stranger to you. I know you, but you've never known me. And I'm going to prove that to you."
So having his motives and his appearances and his actions be more mysterious and surprising in this one is important to me. There's a certain distance between Joker and the reader and Batman in this one. He's kind of hovering around the edge and coming in and out of the story in ways, where he'll really explode centrally next issue, and in #40, our big finale.
I want him to be scary in this one. He has nothing but animosity and menace in this. Everything he's doing is the worst thing he can do.
Nrama: Now let's talk about Bruce reaching out for help from the Court of Owls. Is this, like, worst-case scenario for Bruce?
Snyder: Yes! Yeah, it is definitely not something he ever wanted to do. The Court, for me, is something that I've always wanted to bring back.
And you know, when I was writing "Death of the Family," and I was aware we would do a second part — it would be a tragedy part — as I was about halfway through, even though I didn't know the bones of the story, I knew that that would be my last thing on Batman. That was my feeling, that Endgame, as it was originally designed, would be that.
But then, as I was getting closer, as I was writing "Zero Year," I realized… Wait! I have a way of possibly staying, if Greg wants to stay, and using Endgame as a transformative story.
It really changes things.
So a lot of the things, like the Court of Owls and the villains — all the stuff coming into the story soon too — was a way to say goodbye to a lot of things I got to write, and I made up, or that I loved that other people made up.
But the way it's changed is that, it's still a goodbye to a lot of that, in that I don't intend to do another big Court of Owls story, but, that said, it's a way of also beginning all over again, coming in June.
And I don't mean, like, beginning with a new #1. I mean beginning story-wise with a new status quo, new villains, a new lease on the book for a bit, and see how it goes, you know?
So yeah, bringing back the Court of Owls was always part of it, and they play an important, key role in it for me.
And by the way, Greg wrote me and I wrote him, and he was like, "Dude! I miss these MF's!" [Laughs.] I was like, "I miss them too, dude!" As soon as I wrote them, I was like, we have to write them all the time.
I love how he draws them too — wait until you see them next issue, with their model of the city and all their stuff. They're so creepy. And the way he drew them is so creepy. And then their trick — basically, there's a surprise down there with Batman too, and it's a lot of fun.
Nrama: So the next issue has both this weird meeting with the Court of Owls and a confrontation with Joker?
Snyder: The next issue is, like — if this one is, like, the quiet one… I know it's not quiet, because there's a tank in it, but I mean, it's more connective. It's meant to be structured a little bit more around theme. It was more patterned. For example, it opens with the idea of history being solid, and closes with the idea of history being secret and fluid. And it opens with the idea of staying alive and life, and then it closes with the idea of needing to almost go down to the underworld, like mythologically, where the dead and the people outside of mortality live, to find answers.
So it's meant to be an issue that really sews the ideas together with Crazy Quilt and all that kind of give this story scope.
And then next issue is sort of like, that's where all the gloves come off. It's sort of like Joker playing his final thing, where he's like, "Come and get me. Look what I have. I dare you." And Bruce is like, "How am I going to do this?" And it really becomes a final battle between them.
Nrama: You're always so excited about your stories when I talk to you, but you seem particularly jazzed about this one.
Snyder: I love this one, dude! I'm really happy with it. I'm having a lot of fun, and Greg is too. I mean, don't know when we've had more fun on the book than this story, I have to say.
We figured out, between us, like, we figured out a new way of working while we were on "Zero Year." And it's working great for us.
Up until "Zero Year," we didn't really — I would do the script, and I would send it to him, and there were places that he could totally have fun and alter, and other places that were kind of hammered down.
But we've been going to all these cons together, and we've become — you know, he's one of my best friends.
And so when we were at a con together, I think it was either San Diego or Boston, we were joking around. It was last year. And I was like, "is there anything I can do to make it better, the experience? I want you to make sure you're not run down." Because I knew — there was a lot of drawing in "Zero Year." There was a lot. It was a big grind.
And he was like, well, you know what would be fun? If we got on the phone and we talked through the issue together first. And I was like, "Of course, dude! I love that!"
So ever since, we've been getting on the phone and talking the issue through. And my scripts are a lot looser than they used to be for him. So there's a lot less, like, paneling, because we walk it through.
So this story is sort of a culmination of all of the things we've learned about each other, working together, in a way that I think is apparent on the page. Like, for me, I'm more relaxed, and I hope this story seems more fun, where you get Crazy Quilt and you get Joker swimming in old-timey bathing tanks.
I hope you can sense the fun we're having on it. And in Greg's art, I think there's an exuberance too.
So this one is a good one for us. I mean, it's a good experience. We're really having a blast.
Nrama: It's hard to imagine that you can top this, but I know you guys are staying on the book for awhile. You already talked about the next issue, and you've talked about changes on the horizon. But can you give a broad idea of what's in store for Batman?
Snyder: Yeah, I mean, the only way I felt like we could stay on the book longer — at least, I could stay on the book longer — there were two options. One was either to pull back tremendously and do small stories. Like, mysteries.
And it's become this, like, joke internally at DC, that I say I'm going to do this after every arc. I think I've even done interviews with you, Vaneta, where I've been like, "after this one, after 'Zero Year,' I'm going to do small mysteries with Bruce in the new status."
Nrama: Yep, I remember that. August's issue was supposed to be the first of several small, like, detective stories.
Snyder: I was sure I was going to do it!
And then what happens inevitably is that I get a little bit closer, and I'm thinking about those mysteries, and I'm like, you know what? This think actually could be bigger. And as I start to play with it in my mind, I realize, this story is actually quite personal, and it's why I like it, is because it attaches to where I am with Batman.
Nrama: We talked about how "Zero Year" was very personal for you, but it sounds like you're saying they've all been connected to your own experience. Can you give me a few examples of what you're talking about?
Snyder: Yeah, so, for example, with "Black Mirror," Dick Grayson was bewildered by being Batman, and he was open about that, and scared and excited and all these things. And that's how I felt, writing Batman. And so it was a very easy fit.
"Court of Owls" was really about me saying, I always wondered this about Batman growing up in the city. I've been waiting to tell this story. Growing up in the city, I knew my neighborhood all the time really well, but I didn't know who lived there before me. And if there was a way of weaponizing that history against Batman and saying, you might know this city right now, but you're not going to know it in 10 years, and you didn't know it 10 years ago, or 15 years ago. And that was, you know, just personal.
And then Joker [in "Death of the Family"] was when I was having a second kid, and I was terrified of being a dad again. I was like, well, Bruce is kind of a dad, and Joker's going to say to him, secretly, you don't want to be, and I'm going to show you why all you want is to come with me and the villains, and you don't want to be mortal and all this stuff.
And "Zero Year" was about why Batman means anything to me in the long run, and how to make him modern for my children, who are just beginning to read Batman — my older son, who was six at the time, now eight. He was starting to read Batman comics. At 10 was when I discovered Year One, so I wanted to make an origin that was modern and personal.
"Endgame," for me, was meant to be both goodbye and also Batman wrestling with the idea of whether or not his mortality is something to be afraid of, at the end of the day.
And the story that I thought of for after this — it was like, wait a minute. If I do that, it's exactly where I am emotionally, meaning I kind of thought I was done, but then I have, like, you know what? If I did that, it would give me a whole crazy lease, and it would give me characters that are in a different place in their lives, where I am, and it would really… I know I could do it.
It's easily — it could be the dumbest thing I've ever thought of, ever. Or it could be the best thing. I have no idea.
I really don't know. I mean, everybody at DC is really excited about it now, luckily, and I'm very excited.
But I always have to be, like, "hear me out" before I tell them where we're going with it.
And it's not Joker becomes Batman. I'm not going to rip off Dan [Slott] with Superior Spider-Man. It's not that.
But it's a very high level of crazy.
This story [Endgame] is transformative. And the only way to stay on the book, I feel like, as much as I was like, "I'm going to do some small stories with Bluebird and Batman and Julia." That would be great. That would. But then I think of something like this and I'm like, if I don't do that…. it's an idea that I promise hasn't been done in 75 years of Batman. And you think of it, and I'm like, that speaks to where I am! If I don't do it, I feel like, I'm going to regret it.
Either it's a jump-the-shark moment, or it's a great moment. I really don't know. It could be the worst idea or the best idea I've had. I have no clue.
Bottom line is, I couldn't be more excited to try it, because it hasn't been done, and it's personal. It speaks to me. And Greg is 100 percent behind it. So we're all ready to go, and excited.
So "Endgame" really is a goodbye and a hello. It really is sort of like saying goodbye to a lot of things that — really, everything we've done on Batman and all of that.
And then where we land in June is sort of like, "Whoa! What?"