Scott Snyder's final issue in his current All Star Batman storyline - in which the writer reinvents villains for the modern era - explores Ra's Al Ghul as a Washington D.C. power broker and 'fake news' perpetrator.
The issue, All Star Batman #9, finished the current storyline, which previously featured Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and the Mad Hatter, but threads in the story will lead into Snyder's upcoming work - from All-Star Batman but spreading to include this summer's Dark Days and Dark Nights: Metal.
Newsarama talked to Snyder about his new approach to Ra's Al Ghul, how the next storyline will switch gears, and what parts of this storyline will lead into Dark Days.
Newsarama: Scott, now that you've finished this storyline, how do you feel like All-Star Batman #9 kind of pulled everything together, not only from a story perspective, but also creatively?
Scott Snyder: I've never done anything like this arc before, where it was four distinct stories, but all part of one larger story, where each one of them could be taken as a meditation on that particular villain independent of the larger story happening in the background, but still sort of building in a subplot, to a culmination with this issue itself.
So my hope is you can read the Freeze story as just a Freeze story, an exploration of what makes him really terrifying and compelling as a character both historically and also in a new way now. Part of this is reinventing the characters to speak to things that are personally scary to me and also in the air in the zeitgeist now, I think, in contemporary ways.
So what I'm hoping is that, with this story, you don't have to have read the other stories necessarily, but it helps… in the way that Ra's has been saying, "Here are the different ways the world can end. I'll show you three. And then I'm going to end it tonight in a fourth way that you never saw coming."
So he's saying, here's the way with Mr. Freeze that had to do with climate change and natural disaster. Here's the way you could end it with the Ivy story, through biological warfare. And then he says, here's another way it could end - this kind of Tower of Babel notion of us just hating each other and pulling away from each other and that kind of just stepping away from the table.
Here, the way it really is going to end is this - I'm going to tell a more powerful story than you can.
Nrama: And how would you describe the "story" Ra's is talking about?
Snyder: The story is this: Right now the world is ending, and it is ending with this spot that was set up by somebody - we never know who - and it's going to plunge us into a constant war from here forward, where we don't know who did what, and we're fighting with each other and resources fail.
And he says, the world's poised to do that already. There's these demons and all kinds of things from, you know, cars to planes - you know, there's a way to weaponize everything. Someone's just waiting for us to pull the trigger and tell the story that everyone will believe more than your's, Batman. So I'm going to pull it.
Nrama: You mentioned that part of your intent in these stories is to reinvent the villains. What informed your reinvention of Ra's Al Ghul in this issue?
Snyder: I wanted to do something where he wasn't the cape-wearing, mustache-twirling villain that I love. I love him in that format, and he's one of the few villains who can pull off that very Disney villain-ish kind of grand eloquence. You know, that sort of "Well, detective…" sword fight, bare-chested element.
I wanted to do something that was colder, where he's turned a corner and he says, you know, "I grew up hundreds of years ago at a time of demonology, where nobody knew what was true and science was in its infancy - in the way we talk about medical science and architecture, the things that have come so far - and for years, I've been somebody who fights you with those things, but now I've changed.
So I wanted to show him as cold and put him in a suit, have him more calculating and ready to be done with Bruce, more than he's ever been. And so I want someone who's a product of the times now, that he's constantly reborn. He's somebody who's turned the corner. He used to fight with truth.
But now he kind of blends in with these power brokers. He's more assimilated. He looks like a Washington power broker. It's meant to speak in a way that's not political or overtly taking sides. I mean, my politics are pretty obvious and I have platforms to speak my mind in social media. I tend not to lean into that stuff strongly in Batman, because I think Batman is everyone's hero. So in that way, he's less about choosing a side than he is about helping us fight our way through our problems together and unite around them.
But that said, I wanted to show that right now, the climate is so awful in terms of any kind of discourse that seems progressive or forward-moving, and everything seems so angry and at odds with each other.
Ra's thinks it's a perfect place to be. Like, this monument is made of pieces. Back in the day, obelisks were these kind of architectural wonders because they were all cut from one stone. So what he's saying is, this one is just pieces. It's a fake Tower of Babel. It's nothing.
So it's a perfect place to end a world from.
And Bruce is saying, "No, it's a symbol of a story. It might not be a true obelisk the way you say, but it's a story, it's a fiction that tells us about who we want to be."
So at a time where fiction and truth are kind of weaponized and aimed at each other constantly. You know, we accuse stories of hiding facts.
But it comes down to Ra's saying to Bruce, you're the ultimate story we tell ourself that's untrue, and Bruce having to fight back against that and saying, no, I might be a story, but the fact is, the stories that we believe in most are the ones that we make true. And that's what I did as a boy when my parents died.
And the ones that last, the ones that endure are not the ones that divide us or make us think less of each other, but the ones that make us think more of ourselves and our neighbors.
Nrama: So after reading this story, what threads in here are part of your future stories? Does some of this lead into Dark Days and Metal or the next story arc?
Snyder: The Blackhawks plot tails right into Dark Days and Metal and everything coming over the summer. And of course, the Duke story goes straight into what we're doing in Dark Days.
In terms of the next arc in All-Star, there's stuff that comes back in the next arc of All-Star from the first arc, there's sort of echoes of K.G. Beast, and then there are new villains as well.
Nrama: Let's talk about the next arc of All-Star, titled "First Ally." You said there's a new villain?
Snyder: Yeah, this is the first time in this series I'm creating a new villain, because we've been using the classics.
But I'm also using classics that you haven't seen us use before.
It's definitely another villain extravaganza. And the next arc is largely about Alfred. It's something I've wanted to do for a really long time. I'm super excited about it, actually.
Nrama: This explores his history in MI-6, right?
Snyder: Yeah! Well, it takes place in the present in Miami, and it has sort of a Miami vibe to it, a Miami noir.
Nrama: With Rafael Albuquerque's art, I can imagine that. Lots of art deco?
Snyder: Yeah, and neon and explosions and action and all that good Miami Vice stuff. And Rafael's just murdering it.
But yeah, on top of that, it's about Alfred's days in MI-6 and a villain that spawned from his past, as opposed to Batman's for once.
Nrama: Sort of filling in some of the blanks for Alfred's past?
Snyder: Yeah, you learn how Alfred got into MI-6, what he did there, the reasons that he got out - all the kind of stuff that's kind of vague with Alfred.
I wanted to do a story that really shows his history.
So like I said, it's got this cool Miami story with explosions and everything, but it's also a pretty emotional story about Alfred.
Nrama: The "First Ally" - does that refer to Alfred himself? Or is there more to that?
Snyder: Both. Double meaning. The "First Ally" is Alfred. But it's also the first ally that he found during his past in the military.
So it has to do with the people that Alfred found to emulate in the past, and also who he's been to Bruce in the present.
There's a lot of fathers and sons elements in it. I'm really proud of it.