With All-Star Batman #4, writer Scott Snyder further established the new ties between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent that go back to a childhood friendship. But the issue's big surprise was that Dent wasn't the darker child... it was Wayne.
Drawn by John Romita Jr., All-Star Batman's lead storyline has Batman fighting multiple villains as he drags Two-Face to a house in the wilderness - trying to return Harvey to a place where he and Bruce met when they were children.
The story is also revealing a new superhero identity for Duke Thomas, particularly in back-up stories by Snyder with artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire.
Following up on Newsarama's interview yesterday with Snyder and Shalvey about the back-up stories — which reached the conclusion of the first chapter - we now ask Snyder about the twist in All-Star Batman #4 that had Harvey looking more hopeful than his childhood friend Bruce.
Newsarama: Scott, you and I have talked before about how you're using Batman and Two-Face in this story to kind of represent two sides of a coin - even when they were kids. But if I'm reading this week's issue right, when they were kids, Bruce maybe was the darker side of the coin, while Harvey had more hope?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I wanted to push it a little bit there.
All-Star Batman is very much about speaking to both personal anxieties, but also some of the zeitgeist anxieties right now. Two-Face is very much saying we've evolved to a place where we have kind of a public and private self, and right now, we all feel that things are darkening and darkening and darkening all the time.
In that way, it's bringing out the worst in us. And so I'm the villain for right now, and then Mr. Freeze is about sort of the last, oldest ice core in the world with bacteria that could end everything, and Poison Ivy is found in the desert because she's expecting something terrible to happen.
So the stories are very end-of-times, big, larger-than-life stories that kind of reframe the villains in a way that, for me at least, is personal and has to do with why they're scary to me. But also, I think they speak to the things that are sort of particularly scary right now at this moment in time.
So you know, again, it's the beauty of getting to work on a series like this, where you can make it personal and then at the same time go big, over-the-top crazy. Crazy Batman stuff.
I totally did not answer what you first asked, did I?
Nrama: Not directly, but what you said does clarify things a little.
Snyder: What was the initial question again? I'm sorry, I got totally lost in my head.
Nrama: It's just the idea of Bruce being the darker side of the coin, and Harvey was the brighter side.
Snyder: Yeah, no, totally. The story's very much about what makes the villain scary for now. And for me, I think it also is about saying how Batman is a hero for now. And trying to explore the ways in which I think a take on Batman right this minute should be modern also.
So what I'm getting at is Batman in this story in particular, both in the back-up and in the feature, I think skews darker than you've seen him in my stuff - where on the surface he's brighter and he's crazier and he's punching and he's kinetic and he never loses and all this stuff. But when you start to get to the pathos behind it and the darker stuff, I think you start to realize that he has a lot of the same flaws and failings and fears that we have about this moment in time, about his capability to stop some of the things that he sees happening with the villains and all of it.
So it's a different, more fallible Batman than I think you've seen. He's, like, bigger on the surface and larger than life and crazier, so it's more kind of Mad Max Batman on the surface in each story. But beneath it, I think you also see darker notes of Bruce as a child, with him as Bruce Wayne in his civic mission - all of it struggling with, how does one man make a difference? How do you look into all of the kinds of ugliness that you see around you and be a hero? Not just in the mask, but as human being.
Nrama: How does that pact that Harvey and Bruce made as children tie into why they're so desperate to that house? Is it to get Harvey back to that hopeful moment?
Snyder: Yeah! It's very much Batman saying to him, "You kept me from going dark when we were kids" - whether or not Bruce would have gone through with something that ugly or not is another question. But the fact that Bruce was really lost and dark and Harvey is the one that said, "I don't believe in my father; I don't believe deep down that he's going to be a good person; but I choose to believe it. I see this coin with two heads that says I'm going to be different and not beat you every night and do these terrible things, and I say to myself, well I choose to believe in that, even if I know it's a fallacy."
That is what Batman is. He believes in our better natures, regardless of whether or not we prove every day that we're not worthy of that face.
So in that regard, the getting Harvey to the house and saying, "I'm going to do this for you and bring you to the place where things were brighter for us once, and you taught me this very lesson that I'm going to remind you of" is hugely important on a personal level to Bruce, but also important in a bigger way in the story as it goes forward.
There are bigger machinations that are going to come out in issue #5. You know, back to the kind of Earth- or Gotham-shaking plots and all that stuff. Like, Harvey has multiple plans behind the scenes. So it gets bigger and crazier, and Bruce also has some tricks up his sleeves and tricks he's aware of that you might not expect.
So it kind of expands. But you're right - at heart, it's very much a personal journey where Bruce is saying, I'm going to take you here and do this thing for you that you did for me. Because that's what everybody out there needs to see. They need to see someone saying, "I don't care if I lose or I go down in this, but I'm going to remind you how good people can be."
Nrama: We talked last time about this song - Batman's (insert expletive here). And you don't want to say what that word is, letting readers imagine what it could be. But pectoral speakers? That's got to be the best thing I've ever seen.
Snyder: It's good, right? I feel like every part of his suit is booby-trapped. So almost every part. So it was like, this is kind of the last - if I'm going to do a last-gasp gadget thing, because issue #5, he's kind of out of gadgets by then, then having like giant, heavy metal death speakers in his chest is pretty good, to have it be the last one.
Nrama: Do you feel like Harvey's right, that Two-Face knows that Harvey is the better side of the coin? And that's why he doesn't do some of the awful things he could?
Snyder: Yeah. I mean, you could make the counter argument. I think Two-Face believes that he's the stronger part of Harvey, and Harvey believes that he's the stronger part of Two-Face. But in issue #5, I think you'll see, in a dark way, who believes that more strongly, I guess out of the two of them.
Nrama: Any other teases for issue #5?
Snyder: There are some ugly twists coming. The story - I'm not going to be like, "It's so dark! Alfred gets his head cut off!" There's nothing like that.
But part of the fun of it is that it's so out of control. It's 'pedal to the metal' nuttiness on the surface, but beneath the surface, it's quite dark. So I think it turns, in the next issue - it turns in a way where you're like, "This is so fun! Batman's out of contr…. oh, wait. Did that just really happen?"
So it's kind of like that.
Nrama: Please tell me Alfred gets redeemed somehow.
Snyder: Oh yeah, yeah. I promise. Everyone thinks we have it in for Alfred. But Alfred is my favorite Bat-character outside of Bruce. He's the dad that has the son that does something that he respects tremendously, but also hates because it puts his son in danger.
I can relate to that so deeply. When my son - although I hope it's incredibly unlikely at 9 years old - is picking his future career, is like, "Dad, I want to be a WWE wrestler;" "Dad, I want to be Evil Knievel;" "Dad" — and all those things, I'm like, "Great, son!" But I imagine being in Alfred's position, like watching your son drive a motorcycle over a giant pit of crocodiles or something and being like, "Go son! Oh God, don't ever do this again."
So Alfred has a special place in my heart. I'm never going to, you know, kill Alfred or do something horrific to him. But he's a big part of the mystery here and everybody's fallible in their own way.