Warning: Contains spoilers for All Star Batman #7.
With this week's All-Star Batman #7, writer Scott Snyder introduced his "person-of-science" take on Poison Ivy to readers while working with artist Tula Lotay in the unusually stark landscape of Death Valley.
The issue, which is the latest in the current "Ends of the Earth" storyline, stands alone as a Poison Ivy story but also continues a larger story that was set-up in Snyder's Mr. Freeze-focused All-Star Batman #6 with artist Jock. In "The Ends of the Earth," Snyder is spotlighting various villains in one-issue stories, but tying them all together for a finale in issue #9.
After talking to the writer about his version of Poison Ivy talking to the wrier on Tuesday about the issue while in future-tense, Newsarama re-connected with Snyder to dig into the issue itself now that it's on stands.
Newsarama: Scott, one of the things that's striking about this story arc - and particularly this week's #7 - is how well Batman knows his villains. Although your first arc was very bombastic and action-oriented, this week's issue in particular was more of a psychological play. Is Batman that way with all his villains? He knows them so well that he can trick them and play on their fears and hopes and, in Ivy's case, her empathy for a young botanist?
Scott Snyder: It depends on the villain. They exist on this kind of odd spectrum, where some of them are really redeemable and some of them are not. Joker is kind of the "10" on the blackest, darkest soul side, and at the other edge I would say Ivy is probably one of the lightest. I would put her somewhere near Catwoman - if Catwoman is kind of a "1" or a "2," then Ivy is probably a "3" or a "4," with Harley being a little bit further along.
I'd say Zsasz is probably closest to where Joker is, for me. Penguin's somewhat irredeemable, but somewhere around an "8," you know, that kind of thing. Two-Face, when he's Two-Face, he's a 10, but when he's Harvey, he's good usually. So it evens out somewhere. And Freeze, I would put somewhere like a "6," further along than Ivy.
Nrama: So Batman knows whether he can get to them.
Snyder: Oh yeah.
Nrama: And with some of those higher-numbered villains, he may not waste his time the way he did with Ivy, in this issue?
Snyder: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think when he goes up against Zsasz, there's no convincing Zsasz. It's just Zsasz with a purpose that's completely irrational and obsessive.
With Ivy, though, I think he relates to her, in some ways. She's somebody who's on a mission. She just goes too far.
Nrama: I didn't realize until now how much All-Star really plays with the levels in that scale - Batman's fighting crime, but also dealing with the various levels of redeemability, for want of a better word, of his villains.
Snyder: Yes, part of the fun of this series is getting to explore those relationships - next with Hatter as well, where he goes there, and I think Hatter is less redeemable in a lot of ways. He goes there to be able to sort of, you know, present his understanding of the person and sort of explain to them, or take them down in a way that really has to do with the core of the villain.
Nrama: In this issue, there was a countdown. Can you explain the meaning behind that?
Snyder: I was reading about some of the science about pulling medicine from different plants. And you pull some of it from the softest parts. And there's this whole idea not just of counting the age of a plant or a tree by going backwards through the rings but also some of the best material to pull from it or use for art and additional possibilities is from the core.
So I wanted to create this structure that moves backwards from the roughest and ugliest part, and toughest part of the story, back to the most tender at the end. So in that way, we're counting backwards and showing the story of Lilith in reverse, from the place where she ended, which was cold and dark and terrible, to the place of wonder where she went in to find something magnificent in the woods.
I was also hoping to show Ivy's story that way as well, where she begins as someone who's kind of hardened against humanity - she still is, but she kind of softens a little bit at the end for Batman.
Nrama: So did Ivy help Batman just because she identified with the little girl? Or was it because Batman helped her? Or both?
Snyder: I think it's both. I also think Ivy doesn't want the whole world to go down in flames. That's not her M.O. And the idea of that much death and destruction – that's not something she wants. She wants people to have an epiphany, she wants people to realize the power and the wonder of the natural world, the grandeur of it.
So on one hand, it's something she wouldn't welcome.
On the other hand, I think she's dark enough that she's conflicted about it. What turns her is the girl, but also the fact that Batman fought to protect her, even though he wasn't under her influence. And he says to her, you know, I'm here also to see you, meaning you don't need to be the monster that's blamed. Bruce Wayne made a mistake. Batman made a mistake. There's another chance for you too.
Nrama: And at the end, when she doesn't want the little girl blamed - by naming the disease after her - she's also saying that she doesn't want blamed? She's talking about herself, right?
Snyder: Yeah, that's the implication. That's what I was going for, at least, so I hope that comes through. I was really happy with how it came out. I loved the way Tula drew it. I adore her as a person and as an artist. I feel like she communicated so much of the story through her art that I don't know if I did overkill sometimes with the dialogue.
Nrama: It felt sparse, thought, without any narration.
Snyder: That's what I was going for. I wanted to give her art some room that way. But for me it was just a thrill to see the pages come in. I really liked this issue. And I hope people are enjoying this approach. Next up is the Mad Hatter issue, and that's with Giuseppe Camuncoli. That one has narration, but it's different - it's like the narration is attacking against Batman. It's all about madness. I can't wait for people to see that one next. And then in issue #9, Batman realizes there's kind of this bigger plan behind all of it, and he's in Washington, D.C., to stop it.