Spoilers ahead for this week's Batman #42.
As writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo continue the story of the "all-new Batman," they're continuing to tease readers with the mystery of Bruce Wayne's return from the dead.
This week's Batman #42 reveals the now-confirmed-alive Bruce Wayne in full — he's relaxed, wearing his hair long and sporting a beard (prompting the new nickname "LumberBruce"). He's working at some type of teen center, interacting with Bat-characters Duke Thomas and Julie Madison, but apparently no longer participating in his former role as Batman.
The issue also gave readers a glimpse at the way Jim Gordon works within the new mechanized Bat-suit, while introducing new concepts like the "Bat-Truck," the "Bat-App" and a new villain called Mr. Bloom.
Newsarama talked to Snyder and Capullo about Batman #42, what the return of Bruce Wayne means for the story, and what themes the all-new Batman allows them to explore.
Newsarama: Scott, at the end of this issue, we found out more about Bruce Wayne and where he is, and that it's apparently known that he's there, since Jim Gordon is now stopping by for a visit. Can you tell us anything about why he's there, and whether we're going to find out how he got there?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, you will find out how he got there and what happened to him and why he's doing what he's doing and all of that stuff very soon.
But you know, with this issue, we really wanted to sort of begin that story and show the mystery of, is this a story about Bruce in a big way? And if so, is it something very different than what you've seen before?
But he looks good, right?
Nrama: Yeah. I mean, honestly, he's hot.
Snyder: Well see? See? Thank you! You can print that, please, because you know, we were always joking around with the Grayson team. When I wrote Dick Grayson, there were always demands for more and more cheesecake shots of him. But then writing Bruce, it just stopped. Nobody wants to see Bruce bare-chested. And I'm like, come on! Show Bruce some love!
And I was talking to Becky Cloonan and Ming Doyle in January at the DC Burbank summit. And I told them, when we have this introduction of Bruce, I'm thinking, is he going to look different? Is he going to have a beard? And they were like, "Beard! Yeah! Yeah! LumberBruce!"
So when we first got the sketches, I sent them to them, and they were funny; they were like, never change him back!
So we're giving Dick Grayson a run for his money.
Nrama: That's awesome. OK, we talked about the end of this issue, but let's back up and talk about what happened to Jim in #42. As you were establishing him as Batman, I thought it was interesting that you showed him looking down at the city from above, and him talking about coming toward the city as a Batman who's "official" and working within the system. He's also got some conflict with the GCPD. From that point of view, what were you trying to establish about this new Batman?
Snyder: For me, if Jim wants to be an extension of the system he fought for his whole life — the police and everything that's officially put in place to protect people — then he's going to have to function under the Rubric of those rules.
Will Batman work better within the law? Within the constraints of the system that he's been a part of for a long time?
Can he be a bridge for people in this wrecked and battered city, where people have lost a lot of faith in the police and their government officials, can Batman be something that heals that?
So here, with this scene with Maggie, I wanted to start to show the tension. If he's going to be Batman and be part of all this, can he do it within these constraints? Or does he have to be the way he was as Jim Gordon, and realize that he was a little bit more of an outlaw than he thought?
Nrama: OK, Greg, now I want to know about the idea for the Bat-Truck, the way it looks, and also the visual idea for how the bricks and the city attacked Jim in this issue?
Greg Capullo: Yeah, you know, all of it's fun on my end, right? When Scott and I talked about this, he said, in the next issue, he'll get a new Batmobile. And then all of the sudden he springs on me that it's a truck, you know? So I was like, OK. And then he said he was thinking of a rig. And I'm going, a rig? You mean with a trailer? Not with a trailer. And he's like, no, no, with a trailer – maybe even an extended trailer.
So I'm thinking, a whole Bat-rig with an extended trailer? How is this thing going to look going around the city? And he's like, it's like a Batcave on wheels! And I'm going, OK. But how do you make that look slick and awesome? So I tried to polish off the lines a little bit.
Then I thought, OK, how is this going to move? But it turns out, it just fell from the sky and it's no longer there anymore!! So my brain power was allowed to stop on that one.
And then, for the bricks and everything, Scott told me about the powers that this guy had, to control every grain of sand and glass and all that.
That just sounded fun.
But how to make that thing come together? It was like he has an extension, with the buildings around him. I was picturing a tornado or something, of bricks and particles and even glass coming apart — and not coming apart in shards, but they were almost like little flecks in a blanket, you know?
It's times like this, drawing this kind of stuff, that I get to be a little kid. I can draw monsters, monster trucks, the city becoming a monster…! So yeah, it's great fun.
Nrama: Scott, I assume there is a thought process behind the villain you threw at Jim. And you used the words, "the city as a weapon." Knowing Jim Gordon and his connection to this city, was that part of why you chose this sort of villain? I know you're building toward the introduction of Mr. Bloom, but was this month's villain formulated with Jim Gordon in mind?
Snyder: Yeah, very much. In the first issue, I wanted to make a villain — and I hope this is clear — that was a larger-than-life projection, and the thing that Gordon is afraid of in that issue is the giant projection that is Batman.
And when Geri Powers says to him, listen, I know you're scared that Batman is larger than life, but it's an illusion. So is the energy man that was just a big illusion.
Here, Jim is struggling with this idea that, you know, he knows the city a certain way. He's used to working the streets. He's fought criminals, but with his boots-on-the-ground sort of method.
And here he's in this new role, and the city's changing and becoming monstrous to him.
It's the idea that the city is going to throw someone at him the way it always does, when you become a hero — someone that's going to be completely antithetical to his skill set. And that's Mr. Bloom.
Nrama: Can you tell us anything about Mr. Bloom?
Snyder: Well, Mr. Bloom to me is… if Gordon is someone who's trying to show that the system can work, and show that there should be faith in all these things and people put in place to protect them, then Mr. Bloom is sort of the weed that grows in the cracks that are created when people don't experience that — the chasms between neighborhoods, between communities, between police and residents, between classes, all of it.
He's the one that both exacerbates and takes advantage of those conflicts. So he's very scary in that regard.
I really have had fun writing him. He really is almost like a boogie man figure.
Nrama: And Greg, you designed Mr. Bloom?
Capullo: Let me tell you, I'll be honest. When Scott first told me about Mr. Bloom and a flower on the mask, all I could think of was, how can you create a more dainty supervillain than a flower on his face? Scott and I, when we toss around ideas, we don't necessarily see things in the same way — at least not immediately; we eventually get there.
And so, in this last issue that I just drew, #43, I'm a believer that Mr. Bloom is a super-creepy character.
Nrama: We heard from different people in this issue about "what Batman is." Even the Bat-App was an example of what Batman is. Was that what you wanted to explore, and something that comes almost organically out of there being this empty spot where Batman once was? This idea of "what is Batman?"
Snyder: Yeah! Look, one of the things that the arc is about, without giving too much away — you'll see it clearly, I think, soon — is what does Batman mean without Bruce Wayne? Not just who's going to take up the mantle and fight.
But one of the reasons it's Jim is because Jim is a real world character. As much as he's so obviously a hero and a fictional comic book character, he's a stand in for someone who works within the restraints that all of us face in life. He has a family, he has a job with red tape — all of that.
So I think one of the things we're asking is, what does Batman mean to the real world? To real world problems?
Without getting too mired down or anything, without getting boring or academic — I mean, it's a story that's full of robots and manga action sequences, with sharks and giant energy monsters, and Bat-blimps and all kinds of bombastic things, only going up from here.
So it's the craziest story we've done, and the most cartoonish, in the way it's got this bombast — you know, the way "Zero Year" was like that too, and was sort of larger than life? But to me, "Zero Year" was also deeply about, what fears I hope Batman will be a balm for, for my kids? It's about the Red Hood Gang being a stand-in for random gun violence, and the Riddler being a stand-in for large-scale terrorism. And the fact that Gotham becomes post-apocalyptic, showing this sense of resource depletion and environmental change, and this post-apocalyptic zeitgeist.
So all that stuff, for me, is there, but it's translated into giant, zany cartoon language. And it's the same here.
This story is about, if Bruce Wayne isn't there being Bruce Wayne as Batman, what does Batman mean to all of us struggling with things in the real world?
Nrama: Then to finish up, what do you want to tell readers about what's coming up?
Capullo: #43 is going to be a big reveal, and we're going to see just how scary and creepy Mr. Bloom is. So there's lots of fun on the way.
And we've got a lot of cool monsters on the way. Everybody loves monsters.
Nrama: And did someone say sharks?
Snyder: In the next issue.
Nrama: And more hot LumberBruce?
Snyder: Tons of hot LumberBruce.
And you know, one of the things I was talking to Greg about was, we can actually do a romantic scene with Bruce for once. You know?
Nrama: And with Julie Madison back in the picture, that's certainly a possibility, as you indicated in this issue.
Snyder: I mean, it's not all a play for Bruce to be, like [laughs] a leading man or any of that.
Nrama: So it's just a happy side effect?
Snyder: Yes, it's a bonus.
But it's mostly, really, I hope what people will take away, honestly… I know that it's always scary when you try to change something — for us, but more for fans, really, than anybody. And the fact that they've been so supportive. We've gotten some blowback, honestly, but so little compared to what I thought it would be, and little even compared to what we got on "Zero Year," at least for me.
We're just so grateful that they will follow us on this kind of journey. What I hope they know is we would never make these kinds of changes unless the story had a better story for Bruce as well as everybody else, on the other side of it or through it or in it, without giving too much away.
We hope that what readers take away is that we love the characters as much as they do. And with a story like this, it just gives us a very fresh lens on the entire mythology.