[Spoilers for Batman #48.]
"Take me to my cave."
On the final page of this week's Batman #48, Bruce Wayne has clearly made the decision to return to his role as Batman, demanding that Alfred take him to the Batcave. After months of issues depicting amnesiac Bruce Wayne living a happier, more well adjusted life, the character has finally figured out that he was once Batman, and has decided he needs to return to a life of fighting crime.
Bruce's decision comes just in time too. Gotham City is in the midst of a showdown between the villain Bloom and Jim Gordon Batman, a fight that will involve an army of mechanized Bat-suits and a slew of angry Gotham citizens who are lining up to become twisted, super-powered Bloom minions.
And of course, this all happened while Bruce was busy with what was perhaps issue #48's most powerful scene, as Bruce Wayne met a character who appears to be a similarly forgetful-about-his-past Joker on a park bench. Despite the character's insistence that Bruce not go back to his former life, Batman looks to be returning.
The issue is the eighth chapter in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Superheavy" storyline. But what comes next? Now that Bruce wants to be Batman, how will Alfred react (since he's already in tears)? Will the new, compassionate Bruce Wayne even be able to return to a life as Batman? And how is this whole situation symbolized through the story's great collider (which has just become unstable)?
Following up our conversation last week with the creative team, Newsarama spoke with Snyder and Capullo about this week's issue, the meaning of Bruce's conversation with the Joker, and what comes next as the "Superheavy" story heads toward its conclusion.
Newsarama: Scott and Greg, the central event in this issue for Bruce Wayne was this conversation he has on the bench with this character who appears to be the Joker. There's a lot of symbolism in there, with the lake and bugs and the infestation. Can you talk about what that conversation meant?
Scott Snyder: You know, I wrote him, actually — Greg will tell you, in the script, he's listed as John Doe. If I wrote him as Joker, I feel like it would just be too hard to write him differently than I normally do. Anyway, he and Bruce are both just on the other side of the funhouse mirror.
And here, I think both of them wind up in a place where he says to himself, whoever I was before, I feel it, but I can't be that again. Doesn't that mean everything means nothing? And he gets over it. He's building a life the same way Bruce is. There's some macabre fun to him in that he works in a butcher shop… but at the same time, I think genuinely, he wants things to stay this way. He doesn't want to go back to who he was. And yet some part of him knows it has to.
I thought about writing it the other way. In fact, I actually did a draft where he comes to Bruce here and says, "you have to go back." But the problem I had with that is that it just felt so familiar. It felt like, oh, yeah, Joker has to want it the way it was because he has no purpose without Batman.
But it didn't feel right. It didn't feel true to the story. Because the story is largely about, when you're not a superhero and Batman isn't real — and honestly, the whole story, "Superheavy," is really a thesis on why Batman matters to the real world. Like, what's the point of doing all these issues together? What does it matter when Batman solves nothing outside of comic books and even in comic books — he really doesn't solve the problems that we talk about every day from city problems to national problems. And this is the kind of argument that is brought to bear between the two of them.
They are real people saying "my life doesn't mean more than it means. It means I am doing what I can to live a good life and do something."
Here, to me, Joker is saying, "Listen, I know you feel down and you feel like none of it means anything. But it does mean something. And if you died right now, it'd be OK, because you meant something." And that gives him the kind of license, I think, to go back and be who he was before, if he can figure out a way to do that.
Nrama: It was interesting that Joker is still a little unhinged — or whoever John Doe is.
Snyder: Yeah, he's definitely not a person that you want to hang out on a bench with for more than a couple minutes, especially with him waving a gun around. He's not — I wouldn't say he's stable and happy.
But the thing that was fun about him too is, you never know what he knows. You know? Like, I was talking to Tom King — it was funny, because I showed him the issue, and he was like, I would have written the Joker as though he clearly knows nothing. And I was like, OK, I get that. But for me, I just think the fun is you never know what he knows.
He always shows up, to kind of continue this conversation, whenever Batman gets to a point, or Bruce gets to a point, where he's questioning — or vulnerable to a question about his mission. And his mission, in our iteration of him is to constantly go out, be brave, make your life matter, you know, in the post-9/11 world.
Joker will always show up to contradict that.
And here, I think there's a kind of strange sympathy from him, where he comes at it from the opposite. He comes from the opposite angle.
Nrama: Last time we talked, you and Greg alluded to the idea that Bloom is asking people to join him, which was an important part of this issue, and you even compared the recruitment to the way ISIS reaches out to the disenfranchised and turns them to evil.
Snyder: I think Bloom is constantly asking us to join him, and becomes more powerful the more you believe this garden — or this thing where everybody plays a part — is impossible. So he's very dangerous.
Nrama: It's interesting to see him juxtaposed with the Joker, because they're so different. They're coming from a completely different perspective, aren't they?
Snyder: Yeah, and it's funny because there's a conversation in issue #50 — I don't want to give it away or spoil who it's between — but it sort of addresses that idea. Someone says, Bloom is a one-word monster like the Joker. But the other person says, that's not so — they're reverses. Nobody's story is awful enough to become the Joker, and that's why, at least for me, he'll never have an origin, because no origin would justify a character that evil. The horror of him is that he's so purely evil and not crazy, that any story would feel lacking. Like, nobody what you did to somebody, you could make them the Joker, it just wouldn't feel enough.
And Bloom, the scary thing about him to me is that it's completely the opposite, that all it takes is a series of disappointments to anybody. You know, you start to feel that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, you start to feel "I don't get a fair shake because I'm an immigrant," "I don't get a fair shake because my skin's the wrong color," and you start to feel like, "I'm not appreciated. I do everything I can as a police officer; I really try." And anyone can become him.
He is someone whose life was taken for granted. And he gets a second chance — and you'll learn his story in issue #50. He said already, "I was headed for the potter's ground," and he was someone who tried to make the city better and then was going to be forgotten and all of his life's work thrown away. Or her life — not to ruin who the person is.
In that way, I think the scary thing about Bloom is that anyone can turn into Bloom. It's the reverse, to me — it's creating the anti-Joker.
Greg Capullo: Well, if anybody can be Bloom, I'd like to be taller.
Snyder: You can take the right seed and be, like, eight feet tall.
Nrama: At the end of the issue, Bruce tells Alfred, "take me to my cave" — which is such a great line — does that mean Bruce is back as Batman from now on?
Snyder: Well, yeah, but he has to figure out a way to do it. I think the next question is really, how do you do that, given that Alfred took an axe to that machine.
And the bigger question, I think, that we're going to try to answer in issue #49, when you get there, is, can Bruce knowing he's Batman absorb all of the memories of the Batman he was and still be himself?
Meaning, can this Bruce live as Batman? Even if he learned all the skills, can he still do it? Can he get over the scar of his parents' death? Can he meld it? Can you have a Batman who's both heroic and dedicated and also well adjusted? Or is that just so impossible that it's going to explode?
It goes back to the idea of the collider, and the idea of creating new elements, and trying to add too much to the nucleus of something, so that it becomes unstable. Trying to mess with the kind of core element — the core material of something to see if you can make something new that works and is different.
Nrama: Greg, I assume, in upcoming issues, you get to draw lots of people twisted by Bloom's seeds, as well as lots of really cool robot Batmen?
Capullo: Yeah! I mean, I'm hoping there's also some more emotional content, like what we saw on the bench. But yeah, it certainly gets bigger. Bloom continues to bloom, and yeah, you're right — we've got a lot more Blooms all over the place, and each has their unique power, and I'm told we're going to be in for a mega-showdown between — as you pointed out — a Bat-bot and Bloom.
So yeah, all of this fun is happening right up front too. We have, coming up, a double-page spread that is sheer insanity.
And Scott insures me there's further insanity coming.
Snyder: Yeah, Greg just turned in one of the best spreads I've ever seen in my life.
Nrama: But Scott, to Greg's point, there have to be some smaller, more emotional scenes coming up. We only saw Duke for one panel, I think, in this issue, but we need to find out what's happening with Duke. And we've got an emotional moment when Batman gets back in that Bat-suit, and Alfred's reaction. So besides these big, huge, wonderful set pieces you have all around them, it's a very human story.
Snyder: It really is. I think Batman #50 — it's hard, because Greg also… I mean, the bulk of the issue really is this city-shaking stuff, crazier that anything we've done in any issue, easily. Like, as much as we've said that before, where I'd like, the city is gassed or whatever, this one has the city in peril, the craziest peril I think I could ever come up with.
But there are a lot of emotional moments too. There's the reconciliation between Bruce and Jim; there's Duke coming to terms with what you'll learn has happened to his parents; there's Jere's finale with Jim. There's a lot of stuff.
There will be some fall out that will be taken care of by Greg and me in issue #51 as well — a lot of the stuff that coasts out of this arc with Alfred and Bruce. And you'll see a lot of those conversations that need to happen after the city is saved.