[Spoilers for Batman #40]
As Batman's "Endgame" concluded with this week's #40, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo revealed just what the "ending" is, as Joker and Bruce Wayne died next to each other.
After a brutal hand-to-hand battle between the two characters, Batman and Joker were lying next to each other when an underground chamber collapsed on them. They're assumed dead as Batman #40 concluded the six-issue "Endgame" storyline — a Joker vs. Batman tale by Snyder and Capullo that involved all of Gotham City, most of the Batman characters and even the Justice League.
The apparent death of Bruce Wayne now gives the Batman creative team the chance to replace the character — something that's been done before, but never in quite the way Snyder and Capullo are planning for June.
Instead of a new character taking up the usual Bat-cape and cowl, someone is policing the streets in a mech suit, as the title stars what DC is calling an "all-new Batman."
The identity of the all-new Batman will be revealed in Saturday's Free Comic Book Day issue from DC, titled Divergence. (And some fans have already spoiled the story by scanning the pages and putting them online.)
Yet the biggest question today is, are Bruce and Joker really dead?
Do Snyder and Capullo plan to bring either of them back?
And what do Snyder and Capullo think of the reactions they've seen so far to the "all-new Batman," particularly comparisons to Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man story, which killed Peter Parker and put a villain's mind into his body?
Newsarama talked to the Batman creative team to find out more about the choice to kill Bruce and Joker, what Dan Slott told Snyder he should tell fans, and what Capullo and Snyder want readers to know about what's coming in June.
Newsarama: Scott and Greg, Batman called Joker his "friend" at the end of this, and I know he's being sarcastic through much of that scene, but is there a deeper meaning to him saying "my friend" at the end and effectively dying next to Joker? They both died, and Batman called him a friend? Is this related to the idea that they're kind of bound to each other?
Scott Snyder: I think he means "friend" in a way that's cruel. He's turning everything that Joker has done on its head. But I do think, in some ways, he understood, deep down, that they were bound together. You know?
The Joker, to me, is the opposite of Batman more than anybody could be. I mean, the Riddler is so much fun to use because he's basically about testing Batman's greatest strengths, his detection skills and figuring out mysteries. But the Joker is what he's about, for me.
Joker says, "The tragedy that happened to you when you were a little boy? That happens to all of us, and it could happen at any moment. Life means nothing. It's just randomness. So I would stand in the alley and just laugh, if you thought you were going to become a hero and prevent this from happening to other people. Because who cares? It will happen anyway. There's no stopping it. There's no stopping the violence. There's no stopping the chaos."
So that's the great joke that the Joker says he's been laughing at for hundreds of years.
Even though he's proven not to be who he said he was, in terms of the immortality, that's what he's always stood for.
And to me, the reason Batman is inspiring isn't only because he terrifies criminals, but because he empowers us to go out and overcome our own fears, and to overcome the worry that what we do doesn't mean anything, and that we can't make a difference, we can't change our situation. Batman is the ultimate example of how you overcome tragedy, or you take chaos and random violence and turn it into something meaningful.
Greg Capullo: Are you trying to say that they're kind of like married, kind of like the yin and yang?
Snyder: Exactly. And I think Bruce knows that in some way. The Joker represents everything he fights against all the time.
And yeah, they are. They're bound together, just like Greg says.
You know what I noticed too, looking at it? Like, when they're lying in the blood, it almost looks like a heart.
Capullo: Thank you!
Snyder: That was Greg. I saw it and I was like… that's awesome. He brings so many ideas to it.
Capullo: If you look closely, the heart is broken in one spot.
Snyder: I saw that! I saw it! It's awesome!
Nrama: What was your mindset as you drew the final moments of these two characters, Greg? I mean, there's action and violence here, but there's also a lot of emotion, particularly in Joker's face.
Capullo: Well, the violence stuff is very easy for me, because I used to be somewhat of a violent kind of person. I fought a lot and stuff like that. So that stuff is like comfortable slippers.
But acting is acting. And I mean, I was told a long time ago that that was one of my strong suits, when I was trying to get into Marvel Comics so many years ago.
When I read the script, if you were to watch me, I'm making all kinds of faces, because I just instinctively fall into whatever roles are written.
So it just happens kind of naturally. While I'm drawing the scene that Scott wrote, I'm feeling the emotions of those characters. My face acts it out. I probably, I don't know, my body language changes while I'm drawing. But I'm just really involved in the scene while I'm drawing it.
Nrama: Scott, I suspect the answer to this question is going to be similar to your answer when I asked about Joker's immortality a couple months ago and you left it very open-ended, but are Bruce and the Joker really dead?
Snyder: I'm sure that people will be mad and say, "How could you kill them?"
To me, it's not a question of, "Are they going to get out of this one?" With superhero comics, it's never about, "Are they dead forever?" or "Are they going to come back?" It's more how.
So I would say, what matters is that Bruce and Joker understood what was happening here. And to me, this is the end of that relationship in terms of how I write Batman with Greg. I don't ever intend to go back to write Joker and Batman fighting again.
That, to me, was their final battle. So they are. I mean, they're dead. Yes. They went down together.
But if you're asking if we have a way that we would bring them back? You always go into all these stories with other stories in mind, or ways out, or trap doors. That's the whole fun of superhero comics.
There are plenty of people — internally [at DC] and fan-wise — who would love to have us lop the Joker's head off and see it on panel and try to chop him up and make sure he's dead.
But my feeling is, this is the way that he died. He goes down this way. Will he ever come back? Of course he'll come back sometime. And do we have a way to do it in our own way? You'll have to wait and see.
If there is any anger out there, and you're saying, "I hate those bastards! They just killed Bruce and Joker!" I mean, you'd have to really hate the characters and the fans to kill them with no sense of how to ever make another story out of this.
Nrama: Plus they went down in a heart. How can you be angry?
Nrama: Honestly, the only thing that made me mad in this issue was the destruction of the dinosaur. He stabbed the dinosaur!
Capullo: Well, I tell you what, that dinosaur looked pretty damned good with Joker make-up on, I thought.
Snyder: It really did. You did an awesome job with that, by the way.
The colorist also, by the way, just to give a shout-out to Danny Miki and FCO in the interview. You know, I see the pencils and I'm like, this is so amazing. And then the inks and colors come into it. The way they make Greg's art pop off the page with some unconventional choices, with color, and with shadow. It's just so exciting. It's like, each stage I see that, it has a new life.
And when you see it all together, I couldn't love the way this thing looks more. Thanks to all those guys.
Capullo: Yeah, I hand-picked FCO, the colorist, and my nickname for him is "Killer." I'll send him the pages and just give him the command. I say, "FCO, kill!" And he does. Every time.
Snyder: And he's so young, too, dude. When I met him, I was like, wait, what?
Capullo: He was turning 28.
Snyder: I thought he'd be like an old, wizened master, and I'd be like, of course, that's why you're so good. Then I met him and was like, what? You're younger than me!
Nrama: A lot of people have seen spoilers for this weekend's Free Comic Book Day issue Divergence, where you've got a story introducing the "All-New Batman." Scott, I know you said that you don't like addressing spoilers, but we at least know this Batman looks a lot different. Greg, what was the idea behind the design of this mech-looking Batman? And has it been a big switch for you, Greg, not getting to draw the cape and cowl?
Capullo: Scott pointed me in the direction that he wanted to go, which was sort of the Appleseed stuff, which I was familiar with, and that sort of thing.
If you've seen some of the shots, I've got some grooves that go up his back and stuff. So what I envision is that those actually can become batwings.
That thing would go up, sort of like his spine, and he'd have some kind of device or magnetic thing that would allow him to have his hands free but hold onto the top part of the wings.
So he still will have a cape, of sorts. I just sort of drew that in an action scene recently.
So yeah, it's a lot different. And there's a learning curve to it — you know, how to get it to look cool. And knowing what it looks like from all the different angles. So right now it's sort of challenge mode, to make it look natural.
But listen, it's like I'm getting to draw Iron Man while drawing Batman.
Nrama: OK, Scott, so everybody just saw Batman and Joker die, and Batman's "HA" note has been read. It appears to be over for these two characters. And of course, we already know someone else puts on a Batman suit — a very different one. You and I have talked a bit about this in the past, but now that we understand Batman is gone, what did you want fans to know about what's coming up in June's Batman #41? Batman's gone, but his world continues? In a different way?
Snyder: Yeah. And you know, it's funny because, behind the scenes, a lot of us are friends, even across the aisle. And when I was planning this story, one of the people I talked to was Dan Slott, because I was such a huge fan of Superior Spider-Man. And even though this story is very, very different from that story, it still has the element of, you know, you're killing off your hero.
And I remember talking to him, and I was like, "Should I tease about future plans for Bruce?" And he was like, "No. He's dead. That's it." He said that's how he handled Peter; let them be angry; he's dead.
For me, when I had the idea for Greg and I to do one more big story [starting in June], I knew it would have to be something that was personal. And the feeling of this story — without giving away too much — it's like, what if you're not good enough to be Batman? What if you don't have it in you? But the city needs you to do this.
To me, it's exploring the mythology of Batman in a way that basically gives me new angles on characters that you guys love, that you'd never get otherwise.
They're characters I don't want to name, because I feel like it gives too much away.
But you can imagine, in the aftermath of this story, you're going to get change with your favorite characters that you'd never get to otherwise. This gives you a lens to look at all of it through, that's so bright and different.
It feels like a new lease on the book, honestly. It really feels like this is a new #1 and we're starting a brand new Batman series.
That, to me, is the challenge. We've tried every arc to do something very different than the arc before, and to make each one feel new. And especially with the line the way it is now, with so many good books taking so many risks, it's imperative to be on the book in a way that was daring and fun and bold.
So when I thought of this one, I told Greg, it was just sort of like, "Yep, let's do it."
I really am thrilled about it. I really am. And I know Greg said it's challenge mode, but, like, it doesn't show. I have to say, even the thing you sent this morning, it looks gorgeous.
Capullo: Thanks so much. I'm getting the hang of him.
The thing is, a lot of people are giving negative comments regarding this story before it's even come out. That's just plain silly. So I've been going out of my way to, you know, tweet shots of the armor in action. And already I'm starting to get tweets back going, "You know, I was kind of worried, but seeing this stuff, I'm starting to think it's cool. I can't wait!"
So I think a lot of people's minds are going to be changed when we actually have the book to read.
Snyder: I understand it's like, "You'd doing what?" But it's all in the execution.
And I certainly stand on the shoulders of giants with the art team.
We've always tried to do stuff that goes with our gut. When we announced "Zero Year," there was so much blowback — much more than this. I mean, with this, people just make fun of the suit a little bit and they don't know what's coming. And now that I think they do sort of know, from spoilers that are out there or whatever, the response has been, really, honestly, kind of shockingly excited and positive, which I think is what both of us hope.
We've gotten blowback every arc. I mean, when you do Bruce's brother, or you make Commissioner Gordon's son a psycho, or you do a 12-issue origin of Batman, people are going to yell at you. But the thing that's great about our fans, and the Bat-crew — a big majority of the people are just waiting to see what it is.
We have the best fans in the world. We feel very lucky for the kind of support they've thrown behind us on stories.
Capullo: And for four years they've done it! The loyal masses.