As All-Star Batman heads toward the series' conclusion in September with #14, Scott Snyder admits that the series was a sort of training ground for the type of storytelling he's exploring in DC's upcoming event, Dark Nights: Metal.
And with this week's All-Star Batman #12, Snyder will continue to expand the history of Alfred Pennyworth, connecting his past to a current-day mystery in Miami.
Newsarama talked to Snyder about the current storyline, "The First Ally," in All-Star Batman and why his experience on this title helped build his confidence to write Metal.
Newsarama: Scott, this week's issue of All-Star Batman with Rafael Albuquerque is the third issue in the current Alfred-focused storyline, "The First Ally." How do you think this storyline fits into what you've been trying to accomplish with this series?
Scott Snyder: All-Star is a constant conversation for me between, like, what I love about the character of Batman and his mythos and all the things that I haven't had a chance to explore yet.
So Alfred's past is one of those things I've been dying to get to.
Nrama: Something you wanted to do when you were on Batman?
Snyder: Even before. I pitched a few things when I first got on Detective Comics, actually. But they didn't want to go there then.
Now that I have a little more latitude, these are all the things I've always wanted to explore.
This issue in particular really brings it to a head where you really realize that Alfred was not in that different of a position than Bruce when he was younger, and some of the reasons that he's so protective have to do with mistakes he made in the past.
Nrama: We've learned a bit about Alfred's youth. So you're tying his experience to Bruce's, and then connecting it to the way Alfred "fathers" him?
Snyder; Alfred was an angry young man, and that was all established in continuity. He was in the military and he was in MI5 - that was all suggested. But nobody's really explored it all that deeply.
So I wanted to do something that explored, well, what does that mean for his connection with Bruce? What happened to him in a way that made him feel like he was going to be a different kind of parent and ally to Bruce than a normal parent would be?
Nrama: So much of your writing reflects what you're dealing with yourself. Is this because of you being a parent? Do you think of Alfred as a father because you're one?
Snyder: Yeah, I think about him all the time in that regard, as a father, because if my kid wanted to do something that was super dangerous but I was proud of him for it, how would I react? Would I try to dissuade him? Would I support him? Would I try to get involved the way Alfred gets involved? Or would it be too much? All that stuff.
So this story is really an exploration of the decisions that Alfred has made and the way he's constructed his fatherhood and partnership with Batman.
But on the other hand, it's also - in the spirit of All-Star - a chance to bring a lot of elements that aren't usually in Batman to it. So it's got Miami pirate drug lords, crime lords, and the Penguin and Black Mask in Hawaiian shirts, and Great White drinking out of coconuts while murdering people, and all kinds of sunken treasure and underwater casinos and all that kind of fun stuff.
Nrama: I sense that you're a fan of pirates.
Snyder: I am! But also, a lot of the worries that Alfred has about Bruce is that he's coddled him and made him believe that he's this invincible hero. He's helped him cocoon himself in that belief and that legend that he's built around himself.
And in a lot of ways, that staves off your own sense of mortality, your own sense of fallibility.
To me, as a kid, I always loved pirate stories. I still do with my kids, I adore the Pirates of the Caribbean and all that stuff.
But the thing that always stays with me is that sense of the search for the fountain of youth - Ponce de Leon - and that sense of it being the Holy Grail, setting up a sort of pirate utopia, where the water would run with the fountain of immortality everywhere.
So all of it speaks to that same set of ideas and feelings.
It might feel kind of crazy - there are these pirate moments and Goonies and Errol Flynn moments and all kinds of nutty stuff coming, with sword fights and sunken ships and caves and all that kind of fun stuff. And aerial battles.
But there's a reason for it. It's a meditation on the way we protect our children from their own sense of mortality, and at what point does that cross the line into something that might be dangerous?
Nrama: This series is nearing its end. And I feel like, looking back at your run on All-Star Batman, it was sort of a training ground, or a safe place where you could play with structure and blockbuster elements that you're now incorporating into Dark Nights: Metal?
Snyder: Oh, 100%.
All-Star served two purposes. It gave me some room to try new things artistically with different artists and to explore areas of Batman's mythos that I had never been able to, but it also gave me a way of unhooking from some of the pressures of being the main Batman book. I knew that Tom King was going to do a terrific job, and knowing that he had such big ideas was a relief as well. And seeing him do so well is exciting for me.
But to me, All-Star Batman was kind of like going to training camp - like you're saying - where it's like, somebody else has a great take on Batman and they're going to do their own thing, and while that's happening and while they're holding up the main line, I can go over here and practice and try new things.
With All-Star, I could write these characters in a way that's a little left of center and nuttier - a crazy, grind house road trip, a pirate adventure in Miami, Batman at every corner of the Earth. All that kind of stuff.
Yeah, I was flexing those muscles and sort of preparing for what we're doing with Metal.
Let's take all of the characters now and go places that we haven't gone before, and try to build my own confidence, my own sense of identity with the Justice League and with Batman in a way that would allow me to stretch the elasticity, I think, of the way that I've been thinking about him and writing him.