Since Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo took over Batman in 2011, the creative team has attacked Gotham City with everything from superstrong owl zombies to a seemingly immortal Joker in a parade of Jokerized Gothamites.
Yet Snyder promises that the next few issues of Batman — leading up to the current "Superheavy" arc's finale in issue #50 — will throw at the city the "biggest, craziest threats" the two have every unleashed on Gotham.
The two are also hoping to explore the differences between being a hero and a superhero, as they've switched the roles of Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. While Jim is wearing a Batman suit and playing the role of superhero, Bruce is the citizen hero that's helping Gotham from the streets.
At the center of the current story arc is a new villain named Mister Bloom, who Snyder has said represents those things that fall through the cracks in a city's system. At the end of this week's Batman #46, Bloom seemed to take over control of Jim Gordon's mechanized bat-suit, catching him unaware during a one-on-one attack.
Newsarama talked to Snyder and Capullo to find out more about their plans for Jim, Bruce and Bloom, and how the next few issues "explode" into a "crazy" finale for the story arc.
Newsarama: Scott, I want to start with something that I think was emphasized in the last issue, when Bruce Wayne found a way to use the stuff from the Joker story to help people. I felt like you were saying even though he doesn't remember the death of his parents, he still wants to help the city. And that's been true throughout this story. Is that something you're trying to establish? That Bruce would work for good even without being the Batman? It's just the way he chooses to do it, without the death of his parents haunting him?
Scott Snyder: Yeah. When you strip away the trauma of Bruce, he's from a family that were self-sacrificing and ultimately cared a lot about making sure Gotham was the kind of place they could believe in. Thomas Wayne worked in city hospitals even though he didn't need to, and Martha Wayne worked in city schools.
The feeling of some cities, you know, when you have public transit and you have a lot of public space — not cities where it's all cars and highways — but that you share that city so deeply. And sometimes you don't want to. But you're constantly thrust into situations where you are in spaces with people that have the same hopes and dreams and fears that you do, even if they're from very different walks of life. And I think that's the great social experiment of a place like New York, where the subway costs the same amount to go to the farthest reaches of the city as it does to go one stop. There are things that are really revolutionary in that, in that the city isn't going to have a center that falls apart, because it costs more to go to the end of it, so that rich people move to the edges of it. Instead, it's equal for everyone.
And Gotham, to me, is that kind of place. It's a hope. It's a place that you go to believing you can become a hero, and you all have it as a kind of shared arena.
For me, with this arc, it's largely about that. It's about Bruce being someone who, in the legacy of his parents but also just as a citizen of Gotham, wants it to be the place he knows it can be and will give everything he can.
It's in his DNA to do that as a hero. But the difference between a hero and a superhero, I think, is what this arc is largely about.
Nrama: It's interesting that you mentioned the public spaces. That comes up in this issue — it's where Bloom resides. In this "Blossom" promenade.
Snyder: Yeah, Blossom Row, right.
Nrama: You've talked about how Bloom is a villain who arose from the cracks — where society has let things fall through the cracks. He represents that. Is the Blossom Row and the history of that open space part of that thinking about Bloom?
Snyder: Very much. I mean, you could see that space, where children make these flower dolls, as a way of birding the gap between rich and poor. It's a place of division or a place of unification.
One of the things I've always been fascinated about in New York are those places like Coney Island. There were these places where people would go that are for rich and poor, that attract them with the promise of being mixed together, and the excitement of being mixed with people that you might not meet otherwise. And there's a real energy to that. And honestly, that's the lifeblood of a place like New York to me, is that strange energy of you're all in it together, even though you have nothing in common with the person next to you.
I think there's a joy in that, but there's also a tremendous frustration sometimes, where you feel, like, the chasms between neighborhoods, between authority and communities, between the police and neighborhoods. All of that stuff can feel tremendous.
The whole thing can feel like a failed idea. And that's where Bloom comes in.
Bloom, literally and figuratively, is the thing that kind of comes up in those cracks that happen between all of those things that are supposed to be sewn together by the city.
Nrama: Greg, let's talk about the way Bloom looks. You and I have talked in the past about the flower on his face, and how you wanted to make it look villainous. But something happened in this issue where it almost came to life. How did you come up with that creepy new power look on his face?
Greg Capullo: Pretty early on — it's hard to remember, when you're working the stuff all the time, when things occur in the conversation or in the script or whatever. But Scott had mentioned at some point the possibility that the flower could change into a different flower and stuff like that. One of the original ideas was maybe to do it with color.
And these ideas kind of take on a life of their own. Once Bloom started to bloom and blossom — and boy, that's a corny bad joke — but I would go, ah, in this scene, the emotion would be served well if the little teeth grew into bigger fangs, and looked like they were about to bite his face off or something like that.
And as we progress in the story, you'll see that there are times when it distorts and moves and comes to life even more, which is great. When you have a featureless mask that doesn't have a brow you can furrow or teeth you can grit, it becomes another device that you can add a lot of emotional content. And at the same time, you can double or triple or quadruple the creep factor of Bloom as a character.
Nrama: Let's talk about how, in the story, there's an army of mechs, but Jim decides to go in alone. That was probably a smart decision, because somehow the technology has been taken over at the end, so a whole army of them would have been bad. But I have to admit, there's something very compelling about a whole army of Batmen. Did you want just some one-on-one, psychological confrontation time for Jim and Bloom?
Snyder: Yeah! I mean, I think one of the things I try to stress to people is that these couple issues, #45 and #46, are the issues where the threads, emotionally and pay off at the end are laid. But also, the plot devices. [Laughs.]
So things like giganto Bat-bots — they're guns you wouldn't put on the table if you weren't going to take them out and use them someway later on.
So there are some clues here about how things are going to go and what some of the big set pieces are.
Nrama: Greg, you want the Bat-mech army, don't you?
Capullo: Well, you know what? The army would be a pain in the ass. I do though. I want to draw a giant Bat-bot, one that's like big-time, Godzilla, skyscraper level. That's the 8-year-old boy who wanted to do comic books coming out of me now.
Snyder: I will tell you though, it gets really dark. It's going to get really dark.
Nrama: Bloom says in this that the Bat-symbol has lost its meaning, and I like how you literally answered that with a symbol that had power over him. But what do you think the meaning of the symbol is now that Batman is believed to have died?
Snyder: I could go on about this — and I do, more often than I think my wife thinks is healthy. I think this is the battle that this arc is over, is what that symbol means. I think even our version of Bruce in this arc hopes it can be something different than it was.
Ultimately if, or when, he decides he needs to become Batman again, I think the hope is that he can bring Batman back with a different set of priorities so that he's more human and approachable.
But I think ultimately, what the Bat represents for all of us in the real world, and a lot of what this arc is about, is why does Batman matter to any of us when we face real problems in our lives and our cities and our countries and all of these things. Like, who cares about Batman?
Batman doesn't exist in the real world and is just a fictional character, but Bruce Wayne having died in the alley is a real person — an upcoming issue is this idea of a ghost bullet, like a third shot that might have hit him symbolically (it didn't hit him literally). And that Batman is sort of the phantom thing that rises in his place.
I think what a bat is is kind of a traveler between the land of the dead and the land of the living, and the bat inspires us to be more than we can be. Batman is something that's impossible to be, and Gordon has to learn that you can't be Batman — you can't be a human and be something that Batman can be and protect the whole city. A ghost can.
And in that way, what's so frustrating about Batman is that he's real, but he's not real, all at once. And to be him, you have to give everything of yourself in a way that's impossible if you're a living, breathing human being.
Nrama: A bat is like a traveler between the land of the dead and the living? No wonder your wife is a little worried.
Snyder: I know. The other night, I was like — it was like 11 o'clock and it occurred to me while we were watching something on TV — we were watching, like, The Nick — and I remember being like, wait, but the bat is also the only mammal that flies. I mean, there's, like, the flying squirrel, which kind of glides. But the bat flies! You know? And I was like, that's something!
And I remember, she was like, "you've got to stop. We're watching a TV show."
And I was like, "No!" And I wrote it down. Because, you know, it teaches us to strive for more than we can. You know? That's the bat — it's this thing that travels between the impossible and the possible in that way. It's like, you can attain things you shouldn't be able to.
So anyway… she was like, "and they're dirty and they give you rabies." [Laughs.] And I was like, that's not important.
Nrama: Yeah, find the metaphor there, right?
Snyder: Not useful.
Nrama: What's coming up in the next few issues. You said things get psychological, and it looks like things get personal for Jim in the next issue.
Snyder: Yeah, the next couple issues — #45 and #46 — are the issues that set everything up that will be brought to bear against everybody in the next few issues.
I know this seems crazy to say, but these are the quiet issues. #47, #48, #49 and #50 are just out of control. And I promise the finale in #50 of this story is easily the craziest stuff that we've done to Gotham — the biggest, craziest threats.
I know every time, we make it post-apocalyptic — like, we attack it with big zombie owl ninjas. Like, it's always suffering. But this one is the biggest.
Right now, these are the issues that quietly — as quietly as we're capable of being — set up the things that are going to explode in #47, #48, #49 and #50.
Issue #45 is sort of about the idea of trying to create a safe space, whether it's a playground for the kids or the periodic table where you can make new things. But #46 is about things beginning to fall apart. And #47 is about what happens when things become completely unstable and radioactive. And #48 is the explosion. And so on.