There's something familiar in the idea behind Scott Snyder's approach to Mad Hatter, the villain who's at the center of this week's All-Star Batman #8. The villain allows his enemies and victims to, as Snyder describes it, "pick their own facts" - a phrase often used to criticize the current approach to news and politics.
But Snyder's story points out that falling down that rabbit hole is also scary, because "you don't know what's real anymore," Snyder told Newsarama. "That's what's scary about him at the core."
After years of writing DC's best-selling Batman title, Scott Snyder is taking a whole new approach in his new "Rebirth" title, All-Star Batman - one that spotlights villains from Batman's rogues gallery in new ways while also showcasing some of the greatest artistic talents in the comic book industry.
In this week's issue, Snyder is working with Giuseppi Camuncoli. Newsarama talked to Snyder about what readers can expect from this week's issue and how it fits into his overall plan for this storyline and the series as a whole.
Newsarama: Scott, with the third part of your "End of the Earth" storyline in this week's All-Star Batman #8, you're exploring Mad Hatter. In this title, you tried to match the artist with a villain and an approach. Why did Giuseppi Camuncoli make sense for the story you're telling about the Mad Hatter?
Scott Snyder: With Cammo, I spoke to him about it and what excited us both is that he's a really dynamic comic book artist known for his work, I think primarily, with Spider-Man and the Big Two. So he's got a very clean, diamond, crystal style that's kind of conventional comic books, but has a lot of flair. But he's capable of being really elastic, like you see on his work on indie books. He can be extremely flexible. But he can really hit that mark where it looks like straight-up action, comic book convention, in the best way.
And so, when we spoke about it, I thought what would make him perfect for the issue is that it feels that way at the beginning of the story. It's Batman at a secret factory in the swamp.
And he's hitting people with robots, and he's fighting and it's a mystery. And isn't this fun?
But I know that Cammo - that's his nickname - I knew Cammo would be able to kind of switch his style as he went forward to make it more and more unsettling.
And it really was his choice to bring back Dean White coloring, because he's so vibrant and sort of has a palette that's really variable.
So he wanted it to look really psychedelic, though it starts really crystal and hard.
Nrama: So the story starts clear, and the art starts that way too, but then changes with the story?
Snyder: Yeah. In the narration, Batman even says, these window moments where "every outline becomes crisp and clear" - he says that about the case. And as it gets closer, everything becomes not blurry necessarily, but more disconcerting in its color choices and its distorted kind of art. And the inks gets stranger, and the lettering and the font get stranger.
I wanted that progression with this issue. I didn't want it to start off looking strange, like something left of center. I wanted it to start really center and then get weirder and weirder.
Nrama: You've told me before that you're trying to make the villains in All-Star Batman a little more scary and modern. What will readers see in this week's issue that highlights how Mad Hatter is frightening?
Snyder: I think first and foremost, what's scary is when you don't trust your own mind. He's kind of king of that. He's the one that says, "You should take control and make sure you perceive the world however you want, and there is no objective reality. Go down the rabbit hole and get lost in the way you want to see things."
Nrama: Depending on where your mind goes, that might be pleasant or horrifying, right?
Snyder: Well, it's tempting, right? To say, "Well, I'm going to live in a world where I pick my own facts." And I think it has particular resonance right now.
Nrama: Yeah, it's a common discussion topic regarding news and politics.
Snyder: That idea of being able to pick your narrative and say, "this is the way I see the world and nobody else can tell me it's not so" is really tempting.
So Mad Hatter is scary in the way that he says, "There is no objective reality. There's only the way we see things." And if that gets distorted, which he'll do to you if you're his enemy, then it's scary, because you don't know what's real anymore.
That's what's scary about him at the core.
Nrama: And that's what you're exploring in this issue?
Snyder: Yeah, but also… what Cammo and I wanted to explore in the issue was, once you're lost in your own mind, that guy's king. So he can become however large or small or twisted or monstrous he wants to be. He's kind of like a lord of nightmare in your head.
Nrama: And that's represented in the art?
Snyder: Yeah, he physically changes and twists and becomes much more insectile and powerful once Batman starts to lose his grip on things.
Nrama: It's amazing the number of villains you've incorporated into All-Star Batman. Were these villains you've been wanting to get to, even during your run on Batman? I know you mentioned back then that you had a lot of ideas for one-and-done stories about various villains.
Snyder: Some of them are brand new. This one, the Hatter one, is a new one. The Freeze one was one I had in mind for a while. The Ivy one was brand new.
So this arc to me is almost like stand-alone stories that can be sort of explorations of each villain.
But they all do culminate with one villain saying, "I was showing you three different ways the world can end."
It can end with natural cataclysm, like the permafrost, because we don't care about preserving these things. And a spore will get loose or so on.
Or it could end in biological weapons, which is hinted at in the Ivy story.
It could end in sort of subjective madness and indifference, the way that it could with the Hatter stuff.
And then he says, the point is to show that the world is just incredibly fragile right now, and you're just sort of a story that we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel like we're OK.
But we won't.
And in that way, the arc has a kind of unity and is about one thing. But I wanted it to stand alone.
Nrama: Is that the sort of experimentation that you want to maintain on All-Star Batman?
Snyder: All-Star Batman is a place for me to keep Batman as exciting as it’s ever been, if not more, by constantly challenging myself to write very differently and say, how do I make this villain as scary and as new and as personal as possible, with a partner on the book that speaks perfectly to that character.