Spoilers ahead for Batman #43.
For Batman writer Scott Snyder, the most exciting part about telling the story of a happy Bruce Wayne — one without the scars of his childhood and the experience of being Batman — was that he believes it's a story that's never really been explored.
"And how would you solve the problem of Gotham if the city needed that Batman back at a certain point, and he couldn't be Batman?" Snyder said. "Who would step up?"
Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's most recent issue of the best-selling title, Batman #43, revealed that Bruce Wayne's memory and experiences as Batman are gone. Because Bruce died for hours, but then was resurrected by the dionesium in the cave where he was killed, his brain was somehow rebuilt without the scars and experiences of his past.
As Snyder puts it, "Batman died and Bruce Wayne came back."
The issue also revealed the new villain Mr. Bloom while also involving Duke Thomas and putting Jim Gordon in a bind. And Capullo's art got the chance to shine during a battle involving some wild looking horned sharks.
Newsarama talked to Capullo and Snyder to find out more about the revelations in the issue, how and why Capullo incorporated so many circles into the issue, and what readers can expect from next month's flashback issue.
Newsarama: Scott, now that I see what you're exploring in this story about Bruce Wayne, I wonder — were you planting the seeds for this story in the scene when you had Alfred imagining what Bruce would be like if he married Julie Madison and had kids?
Scott Snyder: When we did "Zero Year," I didn't know we'd do this story. I knew we were doing "Endgame" next, but I wasn't sure what was after that.
What happened was I realized there was a chance to explore not just who Bruce would be if he gave up being Batman, but who Bruce would be if he had never had this scar that made him Batman in the first place.
I realized, as I was talking to a couple friends of mine, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't a story that had ever been told. You know? Not just if he retired, but if he never had the muscles that made him Batman, if you erased all those and put him in a place where he was unskilled and untrained, completely unprepared and, more than anything, not angry and driven the way he was before. Who would he be?
And how would you solve the problem of Gotham if the city needed that Batman back at a certain point, and he couldn't be Batman? Who would step up?
So yeah, it's a relief to talk about Bruce.
Nrama: You talk about much he's already given the city. Is that an important part of the story?
Snyder: Yeah, and the sacrifice that came from what Batman did, and the way in which this is kind of Bruce's afterlife.
This is sort of, if the city finally gave back Bruce the way he should have been had his parents never been killed. This is the city saying to him, thank you — you can live your life now. You've sacrificed everything and you were the hero everybody needed at the moment you needed to be.
Nrama: Why did you have Clark in this issue as the person to whom Alfred told this story? Why Superman?
Snyder: Well, I thought about using Duke or a couple other people in the story, but for me, Clark represents everybody who knew and was friends with Batman as a big justice leader and superhero. Clark is probably his closest superhero friend, in my opinion. I mean, he's close to Dick in a way that's more brotherly. But out of the people who are his colleagues, to me, Clark is his sort of partner.
So in that way, I thought it was appropriate to have this guy who's seen every corner of the universe and has every power in the world come examine Bruce and walk away saying Alfred's right — Batman died and Bruce Wayne came back.
Nrama: And Alfred used the building of this machine as part of his argument for his approach, right?
Snyder: Yeah, that machine was in Detective Comics #27, the story I did with Sean Murphy. And the impetus behind it was, I bumped into Grant Morrison — I bump into him at every San Diego I've ever been to. And there was a point when he asked me how things were going on Batman early on, when I was about to start "Zero Year." And he asked me, "So you have a birth for him? Do you have a death?" And I was like, "a death for him?"
It never really occurred to me that, since we're doing our version of Batman, our interpretation, then it would have a different ending than Dark Knight Returns or a different ending than Grant's version or any of those.
So I was thinking about it, and I think our Batman is pretty intensely mortal compared to other versions, and he's sort of aware of his own mortality in a way that maybe makes him unique. So I figured that he would think of a way out of that trap.
And here, he doesn't take anything that makes him immortal. But what he does is he makes a machine — in that story, at least – where there's always a mortal Bruce Wayne. They train the same way, ready to be a new Batman for a new era.
I always loved that idea, so I wanted to bring it in here, where the significance of it isn't that the machine is ever going to work or be a part of the mythology in a real way, but it signifies the depths of our Bruce's desire to remain true as a mortal Batman, but always be there to protect the city.
There's some sort of sad and heroic and monstrous about it all at once. And Alfred's like, the time for that machine has gone away — thank God he never finished it.
It's mean to to be read as this endless circle of pain and tragedy that Alfred sees in Batman's mythology, and now finally it's broken.
The egg has cracked, and now out of it comes a new Bruce Wayne.
And that issue — Batman #43 — one of the things that Greg did that's so great about it is that he made so many different references to circles and eggs. The furnace is circular, the eggs in the hatchery are circular, and there are circles over and over that he put into that issue. It's so brilliant of him.
And my feeling is, this egg has finally broken and out of it is a new Bruce Wayne. It's done. That cycle is over.
Nrama: Greg, your writer is singing your praises here.
Greg Capullo: Oh, Scott gives me some credit sometimes for things… he told me he wanted to go with a circle kind of motif. He gave me two or three, and then I tried to come up with as many as I could possibly conceive.
So he gave me that. It's wrong for him to put all that credit on my shoulders. It's my job to take the essence of his story and just elevate it to the next level.
Nrama: OK, here's something you can definitely take credit for, because there's hardly any dialogue or words in the whole thing — that battle with the sharks. That was you, right? Anything you can tell us about how you approached that?
Capullo: Yeah, sharks are cool, and I've always made reference that Batman is like a shark. And then Scott says, "Give 'em horns!" And I said, OK, that's even more awesome!
When I read the script, and I go, OK, I have to kind of choreograph this and come up with how it's going to play out, I was very intimidated. I would say to Scott, I just really don't know what I'm going to do with this thing.
And so I had however much pages ahead of that scene — all the while though, I was contemplating, contemplating, contemplating. You know? What can I do?
Because it was such an overwhelming scene, with so much to accomplish…. you know, when I read a script, I get visuals as if I'm watching a movie. And so I just started randomly jotting down panels that would plop into my head — just moments – and going OK, how can I string this together?
One of the cool things that does take place when you're doing this, which is part of the fun of it, is these moments come to you during the process of the choreography. Like, all of the sudden I go, hey, now maybe a couple of sharks could attack some of the members – that wasn't in the script. I was just going, that would be cool, and it gives me another element to play with.
So a lot of that stuff just happens on the fly.
And then to bring it back to the circle motif, I ended that scene with the reflection of, like, Gordon in the eye of one of the sharks.
And I talked to Scott along the way. He had a different number of gang members, and I said, I don't think it's going to work that way, and he gave me the flexibility.
So that's how it went. And really, the magic happened when I decided the sharks going to take a couple of these guys out.
Nrama: You've told me before that you kind of struggled with the way Mr. Bloom has a flower on his face. Now that we see what he looks like, can you describe the way you designed him?
Capullo: Yeah, this character, you know, Scott just said, all I know is he's very simplistic. Maybe a slender guy, but he's able to grow. But he had this idea of a flower on the mask — a creepy flower.
He was talking about how he kind of like the weeds growing up through the cracks in the city, and I drew, like, this scraggly looking weeds on a face mask — a macabre bridal veil or something like that. But Scott was still harping on the flower thing. And one of the first things he sent me — and I don't know the name of them, but I'm sure he'll help me out here — they're these paint skulls. Is there a name for those, Scott?
Snyder: Sugar skulls.
Capullo: Sugar skulls! They're amazing, and they're very, very ornate. But that to pull off in a comic book — especially because I don't work digitally — would be tricky, and I don't know if it's going to translate well.
And then he was like, OK, well maybe it could be just like a sunflower. But those are cool. They're fun.
Then finally we hit the same wavelength when he sent me a flower that had a center that looks like it's a carnivore. It had all these, like, teeth in the center. And then I said, aw, now I can see a creep factor in a flower.
So then it was just a matter of putting that all together and making it look kind of simple but cool.
Nrama: Yeah, you've said before that he's like a weed, Scott, but the way he skewers these characters at the end is really creepy.
Snyder: Yeah, I just wrote a scene where he's moving through this room of people, and as he moves, he almost doesn't even notice he's doing it, but he's stabbing them with his fingers, one after another. It's almost like they do it involuntarily, where he's walking and talking to somebody at the end of the room, and as he passes people, he'll just stab them with these needle fingers. And they just fall and drop.
He's very spooky to me. I like him a lot.
Nrama: You talked about how you and Brian Azzarello wrote a story about the past of Mr. Bloom in issue #44 — and JOCK's drawing it. Is that what Jim Gordon was referring to in this issue, that he had a hunch about Mr. Bloom that involves something that happened years ago?
Snyder: Yeah, you'll some more about that in Batman #44. Jim Gordon is in that. And it's a Bruce Wayne mystery.
Nrama: And you already told me that the other Bat-books will deal with how the Bat-family reacts to this, but you're featuring Duke Thomas and the way he reacts in Batman. It looks like he's important to this story?
Snyder: Yeah. It's sort of like a three-pronged story, where it's Jim, Bruce and Duke.
They're the three main characters of it.
It's hard because it's so fast. This story, I always think it's a long time to have a year or 10 issues or whatever. But when you're dealing with that many characters in a story that has a new villain and new critical characters, like Geri Powers and Maggie Sawyer and Julia — characters that haven't been in the Batman mythos that long in certain ways — like, it feels so crowded for room.
I wish we could play it out longer, but it's a very, very compact and intense story. And it really belongs to the three of those characters.