SNYDER On BATMAN's Mortality, Social Problems & Dealing with CAPULLO's Departure

Batman #24
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Dramatic shifts in the status quo is the norm in superhero comic books, and Batman promises changes not only in the current story, but to the creators as announced. Artist Greg Capullo will be leaving the book temporarily in 2016, opening the door to an as-yet-unnamed artist to work with writer Scott Snyder.

Snyder talked with Newsarama on the floor of New York Comic Con about Capullo's sabbatical, Batman #44's one-issue break from the current “Super Heavy” story arc, and DC's star writer's once-rumored involvement in Frank Miller's upcoming Dark Knight III: The Master Race.

Newsarama: Scott, Batman #44 seems to have garnered significant praise from fans and critics for the way it takes on present-day social issues. Although it isn't the first time a writer has addressed Batman’s ineffectiveness at stemming the tide of socioeconomic injustice in the streets of Gotham, #44 did seem to capture a lot of mainstream attention.

Was this storyline always a part of the plan for “Super Heavy” or did you find the break to be an opportunity to for you to write about something a little more timely?

Credit: Jock (DC Comics)

Scott Snyder: No, that issue was planned as the keystone issue for when we started “Super Heavy.” Jock is not somebody who has an open schedule between how busy I keep him with Wytches and he also has a lot of work we can’t talk about in the movie concept design world. He’s extremely in demand there, so to do a 30-page issue with Jock means you have to schedule it months in advance.

What I wanted was this: My favorite stories translate sort of social problems into potent, resonant comic book language. I’m trying to do that in “Zero Year” where the Red Hood Gang represents gun violence and the Riddler inspires these super storms with his weather machinery, but really, it’s about the earth and climate change. It’s the translation of the real world into cartoonishness, but I’m still trying to keep it scary.

Now, this arc is more bombastic than any we’ve done. It’s energy monsters, robots, and all sorts of crazy stuff. But at it’s heart, it’s about a man who’s believed in the things we’ve put in place to protect ourselves his whole life. The police, local government, even business – Gordon is someone who believes that the mechanisms that exist in a city like Gotham…and New York, Baltimore, or Chicago are to protect the people of that city and to make life vibrant and good.

Is there a way to do an issue that will be the beating heart within an arc that actually peels back the comic book language and shows it in very real prose? This is the prose, not the sort of cartoon language of comic books we love. But no, this issue was planned from the very beginning. And Brian Azzarello’s schedule was such with his being on Dark Knight III: The Master Race was to co-write and get way ahead on it from the beginning.

Nrama: You like to dance between two types of stories: The fun, bombastic Batman and the mythological and symbolic Batman – and “Super Heavy” is no different. Is it difficult to reconcile these two different takes on Batman? How do you strike that balance? Is there a shoe that will drop that readers aren’t expecting?

Snyder: The weird thing is it’s not that difficult. As long as you have a compass that’s always pointing towards the same destination. I know what I want to say, I know what I want to question, and I’m less concerned about finding answers as I am about exploring.

Credit: DC Comics

For me, that means if you gave me an artist like Jock, he’s not going to love working with an energy monster and robots. He’s going to want to work with the gangs and real world violence. If you gave me Olivier Copiel,  Sean Murphy or Sara Pichelli to work with, I’d write the same story but write it completely differently. For example, I’d go more elastic, propulsive, and dynamic for Sara. For Sean –

Nrama: More motorcycles!

Snyder [Laughs]: Definitely! I’d also look to go with a terrible future vision of what happens when all of this comes to fruition in “Super Heavy” - a terrible dream of the future.

You’re always going to be talking about the same stuff, but it’s all about the way it’s translated into the art. I try to cater to what I know Greg Capullo loves to draw, and what he really excels at. That’s what gets me really excited.

Credit: Sean Murphy (DC Comics)

Nrama: Scott, we've heard rumors about the creative team post-Batman #50

Snyder: Now, I don’t know if this is entirely okay to say, but one of the things I’d say is Greg is going to be stepping off the series with Batman #51 for a little while. Not very long, but for a short period. I’m going to hold down Batman while he’s going, and I have some very big plans for that time, which I’m pretty excited about.

Nrama: This news is probably going to have a number of fans feeling kind of anxious. Is there a reason this is the right move for DC’s most successful and longest running creative team?

Snyder: One of the reasons I’m excited is similar to how Greg is excited about the possibility of working with another writer. I love Mark Millar, and he’s been extremely kind to me over my career. I’m very excited for that book, and I’ve known about it for a long time.

Credit: Becky Cloonan (DC Comics)

To work with different artists, likewise, is a good thing creatively. When I got to work with Mateo Scalera in #34, Jock in #44, or Becky Cloonan in #12, those stories only get to exist with those artists. Again, it really becomes about how do I do the same material with a different artist. It’s going to be good for Greg that way to work with a different voice for a bit, and it will be good for me in that way.

Nrama: It’s almost as though this will allow you both to return the series together with your creative batteries fresh and recharged.

Snyder: Yeah! Exactly. Who doesn’t want to see more of Sean Murphy’s take on Batman, who is going to be doing some Batman stuff me with in some way… you don’t think that doesn’t make me want to do a new Batmobile? Not only that, but a different kind of story that gets at the same kind of stuff?

Nrama: Now, I know you’re a big fan of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, and you were initially rumored to have some involvement on Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Was there any truth to this? Was there a particular reason you didn’t become attached to Dark Knight III in some capacity?

Snyder: To be completely frank with you, it happened like this: I was invited to be a part of Dark Knight III pretty early on. Me, Brian, Frank and a couple of artists. Now, Brian and Frank had a real rapport from their history together. Also, the work was extremely intense, and that required going to Frank’s studio and talking to him daily about it. Having two young kids and having the workload that I have… well, I realized that while I was invited to help them do it, I wasn’t going to be doing them any favors being a part of it. I would constantly be in a place of constantly catching up.

Credit: DC Comics

And to be fair, it’s a dream project. Of course I was honored and thrilled to be asked to be a part of it. But honestly? I’m happier seeing what they’ve been able to make. I feel like I would have been some sort of albatross in the way of that project. I love Frank, I love Brian, and I cannot tell you how excited for and supportive of the project they’ve made together. That’s all it was. I couldn’t make the commitment needed to be a really helpful part of the project where Brian could. He had the relationship with Frank that was far deeper than in the way I knew them, and I really felt like bowing and letting them do it would make it a better book.

Nrama: Although you’ve cited Miller’s influence on your work, it strikes us how vastly different you both see Superman and Batman in the world of the superhero. In Miller’s era, his Batman is one that needed to be an object of fear to combat the dangers of the streets of New York City in the 1980s. Your interpretations seem to embody more contemporary understandings of the characters who are deeply founded upon a more gothic and yet transcendental and aspirational basis. Even your respective takes on Superman stand in stark contrast to one another for similar reasons.

I didn’t know if part of your decision was also informed by creative differences on the character or if it was strictly for those more practical constraints and concerns you mentioned.

Snyder: Oh no. One of the best moments from this year was when I was talking with Brian about doing one of the Dark Knight III spin-offs – I thought I had the time, but it’s my fault because I didn’t really have the time. He commented how Frank’s and my Batman are both very different and yet very similar. I was surprised as I find them quite different. He responded that the only difference is that your Batman knows he’s mortal; Frank’s Batman does not. I couldn’t help but think that was mind-blowingly true.

But in “Year One,” Brian pointed out, my Batman is quite close to Frank’s. He’s still young and doubtful. So, yes, we are quite different Batman and Superman writers, but there’s nobody who’s influenced me more as a comic book writer and in my vision of Batman than Frank Miller. And Grant Morrison was similar. I love Grant’s Batman so much, but our visions are worlds apart.

Credit: Jock (DC Comics)

Nrama: So, how do you connect the love for these two vastly different visions?

Snyder: Here’s the thing that inspires me about both of them: fearlessness. They both go on the character, and it is suddenly reflective of all of their hopes, all of their strengths, all of their anxieties, and it’s a singular vision of that character. If I can go onto accomplish but a fraction of what they have in terms of owning the character in that way with my run, I will have done something I can be really proud of.

Here’s the other thing, Forrest, I have this constant fear I got onto the character too early. As a comic book writer, I’m a baby. I’m maybe five years old? Literally. Grant took on the character when he was Grant Morrison. He had done amazing things with All-Star Superman, New X-Men, right and left. Frank had done amazing things with Daredevil. And then with me? I worry that I’m cutting my teeth on my favorite character and following in the footsteps of the creators I loved trying to be daring and personal.

But in five years? I worry I’m probably not going to be on the character and saying “Argh! But I’m a better writer now!”  Now, I was talking about this with Neil Gaiman about this at a Vertigo gathering, and it’s pretty funny. We were at dinner and then he asked me how I was doing with Batman. I told him about “Super Heavy” and that I was nervous. He stopped me and said, “Scott, you’re worried that you’re not good enough,” which I replied that I was. “Soon,” he said, “you’ll be worried because you used to be better.”

It’s just a hill – up the bad side, down the bad side.

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