Spoilers ahead for this week's The Batman Who Laughs #2.
In this week’s The Batman Who Laughs #2, Batman not only had to counteract the Joker toxin that infected him last issue, but his investigation into yet another dead Bruce Wayne uncovered the Batman Who Laugh’s ultimate plan.
The issue also revealed why James Gordon Jr. gets involved in the series.
Written by Scott Snyder with art by Jock, The Batman Who Laughs is a six-issue limited series that the two creators have described as a bookend to their 2011 Detective Comics story “The Black Mirror,” which also featured James Jr.
This time, James Jr. is in a different sort of role as Batman and Jim Gordon turn toward him as a resource to stop the Batman Who Laughs.
Newsarama talked to Snyder about this week’s issue, the roles played by James Jr. and the Joker, and what’s coming next in The Batman Who Laughs.
Newsarama: Scott, as this issue ended, James Jr. appeared. How does his knowledge come into play here? Or is this more about James Jr. also being a dark and twisted character like the Batman Who Laughs?
Scott Snyder: He is very dark and twisted, but like you said, in “Black Mirror,” it was revealed that he’s been an expert planner about how to poison Gotham, how to turn it into something nefarious through all kinds of medicines, all kinds of pharmaceuticals that he believes will make people sociopaths like him.
So even as a child, he was an expert, in terms of different waterways, things that could be used to poison Gotham in a way that would be most effective and almost impossible to stop. So there’s a reason, unbeknownst to James Jr. himself, that he’s being targeted, that has to do with his past in that regard.
We wanted to use him in a really different way, too. I wanted this to be a different take on the character. So he’s come a really long way from the last time we wrote him and the last times you’ve seen him. And he’s very changed.
So I want his relationship to Jim Gordon - and to Batman, but particularly to Jim Gordon - to be a very big part and a very big thread in the series.
The whole thing is about, to me, an investigation of what makes us happy.
For Bruce, what is the reason, out of all the Batmen in the world, in the Multiverse, the Batman Who Laughs says you’re the one who’s least effective, least content, least triumphant. What does it mean that you go to bed feeling ineffective all the time?
For me, James Jr. brings that same kind of narrative to Jim Gordon, because if he has sort of a single failure I think he looks to, other than what happened to Barbara with Joker, I think it’s what’s been going on with his son.
So he doesn’t have good purchase on James Jr. as a character because he’s so close to him emotionally that he rarely sees him clearly.
Nrama: So this sounds like the themes explored through the relationship between Batman and the Batman Who Laughs are being echoed in the relationship between Jim and his son?
Snyder: Yeah, I really wanted this story to bring in different elements that challenge the heroes in ways that are very singular that all have to do with their biggest vulnerabilities. So yeah, both of these characters are coming to them and sort of saying, the person you think you are, the things that make you content, the things that you think define you aren’t true.
They’re all lies.
And beneath that is something much darker.
Nrama: OK, so can you clarify from this issue, when Jim comes to James Jr., he’s doing that on his own, right? You’re not saying that Batman was told by Joker and communicated to Jim. He went to James Jr. on his own, right?
Snyder: Yeah, Jim is there on his own, with no prompting from Batman.
He knows, yeah. There’s a reason Jim goes to him as well. Jim becomes aware on his own.
Nrama: Interesting. OK, so let’s talk about the time element here. Batman is trying to take these antidotes but we’re told that he really only has one week left.
Nrama: So we’re on a ticking clock, right?
Snyder: Yep. A hundred percent.
Nrama: So even if he solves the Batman Who Laughs problem, he has this other problem. And it’s already showing itself in this issue.
Snyder: He’s in big trouble, yeah. It’s not looking good for him. It’s beginning to make him darker and more susceptible to the kinds of things that I think the Batman Who Laughs wants him to understand about himself and the world.
Nrama: We also learned about this “Last Laugh” program. Is that central to the story?
Snyder: Yes, it’s this fail-safe program for Gotham called “Last Laugh,” based on an old Gotham system from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s an update of that. It isolates Gotham and makes sure that it will never become a place where anything someone like Joker released would be able to incubate.
Nrama: What about the Joker and his role going forward? Even though he pretty much just created another Batman Who Laughs, by Jokerizing Batman, at this point, he’s on Batman’s side, right?
Snyder: Yeah. There’s a scene I just wrote, actually, for issue #4 that’s one of my favorite scenes that I’ve ever written with them, where they come together - basically, Joker interrupts Batman as he’s checking on the “Last Laugh” program at this underground reservoir, and Joker’s waiting for him there.
They have a talk together.
Well, first Batman attacks him, of course. And then they have a talk.
And Joker says to him, I know you think that I always wanted you to kill me to prove a point, but I never did. That thing is not what I wanted. What he means is, I always knew you wouldn’t; I’m only here to make you stronger, in a way. I’m as evil as can be. But my goal was never that thing. That’s no our child - that terrible thing.
It’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve written with him, as they’re over this reservoir together.
The bench conversation in "Superheavy" is another one of my favorites. I love going back to that relationship and giving them sort of odd moments of connection.
So yeah, he plays a really big role going forward. He kind of comes in and out of the story in ways that I think suit the character and are surprising but also kind of inevitable for him.
Nrama: Now that readers know the Batman Who Laughs is developing a serum from the blood of the Bruce Waynes, and now that they know Batman has one week and James Jr. is being consulted, is there anything you can reveal about what’s next in the story?
Snyder: Yeah, #3 is really fun. Issue #3 brings in Penguin and the Iceberg Lounge, and you get to see Batman go up against the Grim Knight for the first time in a real way.
On top of that, it really has some of my favorite emotional material. You learn why James Jr. is not in prison. You learn what’s happening between him and Jim Gordon.
And it also has an ending that I hope will really surprise you and that also sets up the Grim Knight one-shot.
This series … honestly, I don’t know how many times I really have left in me to come back to Gotham proper. I’m doing the book with Greg, Batman: The Last Knight on Earth, but that’s really a DCU book. It’s not particularly Gotham-based and it takes place in the future.
So I only want to come back and do Batman stories if I have something that’s intensely special and personal to me. I hope it shows with this, but I’m giving this one all the extra effort that I can. I want it to stand with my very best stuff. I see it as a kind of spiritual successor to “Black Mirror,” if not a sequel, in some way, and I want it to stand there with that book and be something both new, in a kind of cosmic horror and sort of mind-bending elements that we bring to it, but really also a return to our roots when it comes to grounded, psychological terror in Gotham.