Readers might think they know how Scott Snyder does Batman, but according to the writer, "everything is new" in his upcoming run on All-Star Batman.
Kicking off in August with a six-issue story drawn by John Romita Jr., All-Star Batman is what Snyder calls a "new take" on Batman, both visually and tonally, as it also introduces a new, more frightening version of Two-Face.
All-Star Batman also has back-up stories by Snyder, working with artists Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, that focus on the training of new Gotham hero (and former We Are Robin character) Duke Thomas. Readers were shown that Duke was offered a job by Batman in Batman: Rebirth #1 by Snyder and Batman writer Tom King.
And although Snyder says his book will interact with the other comic books in the Batman universe, and the DCU as a whole, he indicated that the unsolved mysteries from DC Universe Rebirth — such as the investigation of the three Jokers or the Watchmen-related mysteries — were part of a story that DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns himself would tell.
Romita, who's coming off runs on Superman with Johns and the just-published Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade with Frank Miller, will be the first of several superstar artists lined up for Snyder's run on All-Star. Already named as future artists on the title are Jock, Sean Murphy, Afua Richardson, Tula Lotay, Francesco Francavilla and Paul Pope.
Newsarama talked to Romita and Snyder about their plans for All-Star, how it's different from what Snyder's did with Greg Capullo on the best-selling Batman, and what readers can expect from the new Two-Face.
Newsarama: Scott, readers are familiar with your style on Batman, but I know you've said before that if you're not with Greg anymore, you're going to do something difference. What would you say is mainly different about this run?
Scott Snyder: It's pretty much entirely different. The challenge for me was to make you feel as a reader that you're picking up the book and you're reading something that you've never seen from me or from the artists that I'm working with or from the character before.
So with this story alone, everything's new. It's a new take on Two-Face, it's a new take on what a Batman story can look like visually, tonally, pacing-wise, all over the place.
Nrama: Let's talk about that story. How would you describe it?
Snyder: The story essentially imagines that Bruce is taking Two-Face after Two-Face has this deadly attack on Gotham, to this place upstate where he's going to try to cure him. And along the way, Two-Face makes an offer to everybody in the entire state: If you stop Batman from bringing me there and you can come down and free me, I'm going to give you the fortunes of the great five crime bosses of Gotham, and if I get where I'm going, I'm going to release everybody's secrets.
In our version of Two-Face, he has this kind of horrible devil's eye, and he looks out it and sees you in sort of a color blind way out of this eye, and he sees everything that you've done. Not supernaturally. He's just tied into the crime world where anything you've done that you think no one saw you do, he sees. Any dark secret you have, he knows.
So he really is this guy who says everyone has a monster side to them, and that's the real side.
And so in this story, he's kind of making a bet with Batman where he's like, people will kill you and set me free before we get where we're going. Every villain is going to turn out for this. Anyone that wants to go from B-list to A-list, anyone that's just a person on the street who wants to secretly get all the money in the world — people are bad, he's saying. And this is my moment. It used to be Joker's time, it used to be Riddler's time. This moment right now, when people have a public face that's one way and they're secretly another way. This is now. The more connected we are, the more private we are. So he's really, really scary.
So it's a new take on the character, new take on the story where it's entirely out of Gotham — it's like monster trucks and chainsaws and all that kind of stuff.
And it's just a new sort of take on Batman for me, where it's a lot more exuberant. There's a lot more, I think, brightness to him, even though he's in an incredibly dark story, because he's been reinvigorated after what happened at the end of "Super-Heavy."
So it's just huge, huge fun. I promise. Like, the one thing I can say is you can open up the book and it's going to be a feature, and then the back-up I did with [Declan] Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire — nothing is like anything I've done before.
And I really think it'll show people how incredible these artists are, John and Danny Miki and Dean [White] on the feature. They're just out of control, like bringing a whole new level of ink quality and a whole new level of dimension to Batman's world.
Nrama: John, what is your approach to this Batman. Once you've read Scott's script and gotten an idea about what he's writing, how did you approach the character and his world?
John Romita Jr.: I actually had been looking at Scott and Greg's run, and I luckily had one of the hardcover versions of just the pencils, so I was able to admire Greg's artwork. And it did two things. It helped me greatly to prepare for this, but it also depressed the crap out of me, because I realized how great Greg's art is.
And then it was a revelation to realize that, as good as Greg is, it is owed a lot — well, depending on who you talk to — but it always depends on the writer. Right? It gives you a place to draw better pictures, excuse the expression.
And this is one of those cases.
Working with Scott is a little bit of a comfort zone in that you know you have a good story, and then it's up to you.
But I was preparing myself by looking at their run on Batman, and it was two things: intimidating and helpful in a great way.
And then it helped me to work on [Dark Knight Returns: The] Last Crusade, as well as reading Frank [Miller]'s graphic novel from '88.
I had to study! I was actually on a vacation last September, and I was reading Frank's graphic novel, and I had the hardcover of Scott and Greg's run, and I was reading the both of them. And people were giving me side looks. What is this guy reading at the pool? And I wanted to tell them all, I'm reading better books than you guys! Shut up!
And I had great preparation for this. I had to do homework. I was studying. But it pays off, because this is so much fun.
And he's one of the characters I've never considered before, Two-Face. It's a blast.
Nrama: Scott, one of the things you mentioned when I talked to both you and Tom King was that you both wanted to make it clear that All-Star Batman is not a stand-alone, or stand-apart-from-continuity book and that it's really central to what's going on in the Batman universe as well as the DC universe. Is this that connected to stuff that's going on in the DCU?
Snyder: Oh yeah. Entirely. Tom actually, we just finished getting together in New York, and then he came out to my house for the weekend, out here on the island. He's become one of my closest friends in the last couple years.
So he's not someone I'm just meeting now. "Oh, the dude on Batman." No, Tom and I have been friends and collaborators for a very long time at this point.
Part of the fun was to get to do stuff in Gotham together, that would work off each other.
There are a number of things — the villains, as we use them, and how he uses villains in his book, they'll sort of filter back and forth between the books. So you'll see our version of Two-Face in Batman. And in All-Star Batman, in later arcs, you'll see some of the villains he's using, without giving anything away.
And also the other through line is what happened to Bruce and Alfred, it's largely reflected in both books. And also Duke's story is in both books.
And ultimately, it's a coordinated effort where James [Tynion IV] is doing this great family book, where you get all the characters you wanted to see. Tom is doing these big, bombastic exploits in Gotham — this straight-up, meat-and-potatoes Batman in a great way — and we're doing Batman if you want to see Batman as you've never seen him before, come over here.
So I think we each have a really different flavor, but they all work well together, and they're all very, very much part of the same story in the same world.
Nrama: You mentioned Duke, and we've seen him already in Batman, but you're handing the story of his training in All-Star Batman, right? And his ultimate emergence into a new, named hero?
Snyder: Yeah, Duke's training will be a big part of what I'm doing in the back-ups.
So I'm doing the first arc with Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. They're just killing it. I love them.
And then I'll be working with Francesco and a bunch of other people, we'll tell the story of Duke becoming the hero he's going to be and filling a different niche in Gotham.
That sort of plays between both books as well.
Nrama: John, with Duke's training in the back-ups, are you getting to draw the character?
Romita: Yes, he's in the first issue I worked on. But it's briefly, and I'm not sure how much he appeared in subsequent issues.
Nrama: For how many issues are you on All-Star Batman?
Romita: There are six. I'm about halfway through the second. I haven't seen Duke again yet, but I'm sure he'll appear in the next four issues.
Nrama: Let's talk about this new take on Two-Face. What's he like?
Romita: The take is from Scott. It's a slightly different version. We discussed it at length. There are subtle things, like his healthy side is being drained by the evil side, and it shows its wear and tear.
But physically drawing the character, I did my own version of the distorted side, and then Scott keyed on the eye and what the eye means. It's just more than a big bulging eye, so to speak.
So it still looks like Two-Face, but I did some little details to convey what Scott was going for, and Danny Miki and Dean — oh, what they did to this close-up of the character on one of the covers is phenomenal. You have to see it.
Scott mentioned the two of them. I should say that there's three artists on this book. And Danny and Dean are right there with me. So it makes it a lot easier. And really, even Scott could be considered an artist.
But my take is pretty much within the parameters of the characters; it's just a slight different version in that it's mine and my distortion of the distorted side of his face.
Nrama: I know you're working with a variety of artists, and you've even got a variety in each issue with the back-up stories. How much are you keeping in mind who the artist is, or are you working together with any of them on the story?
Snyder: I work entirely like that. It's very much, like, the challenge and the fun of collaborative storytelling is the fact that it's a team effort. Coming from prose, I'm very grateful to be over here. You know, I didn't realize how lonely and solitary that was until I started doing comics professionally.
For me, every story, I start out by pitching the story to the artist, making sure it's something they're excited by. And ultimately, just making sure it's something that they're going to be inspired by, trying to adjust my style of writing to match what they like to do.
So John has been somebody I've admired forever, and honestly I can think of nobody I've been dying to work with more. It was such a huge honor to get to try to figure out something that hasn't been done before and to raise the bar for myself with this book.
I promise, like, opening it up, seeing the pages, reading the script, looking at the art — I really, really feel proud of it in that regard. I just think it's something that is wildly different than anything I've tried before, and I really, I'm so honored to be a part of this team with him and Danny and Dean. It really is a thrill to go to work every day.
Nrama: We talked a little bit about how All-Star Batman interacts with the DCU, but will this book be dealing at all with the three Jokers or the Watchmen revelation from DC Universe Rebirth?
Snyder: No, that stuff's really for Geoff. There's a lot of that stuff that's a story that he wants to tell later. And I'm really excited for those. But I think our books are generally, Batman and All-Star and Detective are sort of doing our stories that intertwine.
But you'll see stuff about those [Rebirth-related] things in the books, you know, coordinated. But ultimately, those stories are great ones for Geoff to answer.