Batman can now see through the eyes (and the visor) of the Batman Who Laughs, and according to Scott Snyder, readers of the Batman Who Laughs mini-series will start to see Gotham through the villain’s eyes too.
With the end of this week’s Batman Who Laughs #3, Batman finally succumbed to the toxin that has been taking over his body ever since the Joker “died” in issue #1. And as Snyder told Newsarama, the change in Batman will mean the series will also change visually, and readers will “see Gotham in a whole new light.”
As the six-issue series hits the halfway point, Newsarama spoke to Snyder about the themes he’s exploring, why this villain with “laughs” in his name is so connected to happiness, and what readers can expect now that Batman is more susceptible to the mind of the Batman Who Laughs.
Newsarama: Scott, this issue of Batman Who Laughs features a difficult conversation between James Gordon and James Jr., and it feels like it’s exploring similar themes to Justice League. I feel like the relationship between father and son is more important to this Batman Who Laughs story than we might have realized when it was announced, even though you’re calling this a sequel to what you did in “The Black Mirror.”
Scott Snyder: Yeah, it’s meant to be a sequel. I know some people are going to be asking, is he good? Or is he bad? But we really wanted to take it in good faith and show that he’s in a very different place now than he was before.
This series plays similar themes to what we’re doing in Justice League, as does Last Knight on Earth, the Black Label book that I’m doing with Greg Capullo. All of these deal with similar themes, about human nature and whether we’re designed to be selfish and kind of myopic, and whether our impulses toward heroism and community are actually missteps and evolutionarily we’re meant to be something that’s much more selfish, or we have a better and higher purpose.
Each of these series investigates that from a different standpoint.
With Batman Who Laughs, it’s really about what makes us most content, what makes us happiest. Is there really truth to the idea that being a “good person” and living a decent life and thinking of the rewards of that life being things that are kind of beyond ourselves, the effects that we have on other people, the effects that we have on the world, are those things really gratifying? Or is there something to be said for a life that’s completely hedonistically self-serving?
As a sociopath, James Jr., I think, enjoyed his life before in a way that was entirely about his own desires. Anyone he wanted to go after, he went after. Anything he wanted, he had no guilt, no shame, no conscience.
Now he’s suddenly chained to a sense of morality, and he does feel guilt, and he does feel shame. I think he’s struggling with that.
Part of the battle going on within him is a reflection of what’s happening in the whole series.
The Batman Who Laughs is saying to Batman, why do you think you’re so miserable all the time? Why do you think every version of you is happier than you? Is it because they’re just bad and selfish? Or is it because, deep down, you are afraid of the things that you could actually do to help and be a better Batman than you are, and you’re just punishing yourself in a way that’s self-serving? Like, are you the worst Batman of all, actually?
It investigates the intersection between good and evil and happiness. That’s what this series is really about.
Batman Who Laughs, I mean, the whole idea about it is in his name itself.
Nrama: He laughs.
Snyder: Yeah, it’s been built in from the beginning. He’s the Batman who always wins and is, ultimately, being happy. Are laughter and the things that make us joyful really the kind of things that Batman embodies or not?
Nrama: It’s more than just the Batman Who Laughs, though. You’re exploring what Batman could become in a myriad of ways. I mean, you call him the Grim Knight, but even he seems very content with the way he’s approaching things.
Snyder: Oh yeah. Wait until you see his issue. I mean, he really believes in what he’s doing. And the art that Eduardo Risso is turning in is just out of control. I really think it’s going to be something intensely special when people see it.
None of them are just stock villains, even the Batman Who Laughs. In Metal, we didn’t really have that much of a chance to explore some of the characters, like Red Death and Devastator. We tried with the one-shots, and I’m very proud of those, but ultimately, the whole idea with the Dark Multiverse and with Batman Who Laughs isn’t to create a sensational, commercial villain. I mean, I’m glad he is, because I’m glad people like him that much. But it was to create something that was a very dark reflection of Bruce’s fears about himself, and those fears are layered.
What the Batman Who Laughs is saying is, are you really a failed experiment? And, you know, at the end of the day, are you doing something that you do selfishly to protect your own guilt and shame instead of doing the hard things that would have a bigger effect on Gotham?
He’s really there to have that argument with him.
It’s really interesting, Vaneta. I feel like, at this point in my career, Last Knight on Earth with Greg Capullo and this are almost a coming home, like a full circle revolution on what I started with on Batman and in Gotham in general.
This is really an end-cap, or a spiritual successor or end-piece to “Black Mirror” in the run on Detective, and the piece I’m doing with Greg Capullo is really a finale to our stuff with Batman in the main series.
So the ideas and the things that I’m trying to address are really important to me and personal. I’m really deeply proud of these series for that reason.
There’s nothing in these, like the Grim Knight, or any of the Bruces who are brought here by the Batman Who Laughs, that are thrown in there for fun. Every one of those Bruces … there’s one coming in the next issue who reforms Arkham and makes it into something that’s much more penal, much more punitive, and was just tired of people coming in and out of Arkham, and he winds up combining it with Blackgate. And because of that, Gotham is really purged of crime. And that Bruce is a really controversial but, I think, intriguing figure. And this issue, the Bruce that’s brought here was one who decided, instead of doing a war on crime that’s one man going after particular criminals the way Batman in our world does, legalizes a lot of things and then takes control of them and becomes the kind of overlord of gambling and drugs and stuff, in a way that he feels is safe and controlled.
So we want it to really be something that’s an investigation of whether there’s a better way to be Bruce Wayne in Batman than the way that we know in our world.
Nrama: So the end of this week’s issue…
Nrama: Batman is now, basically, a version of the Batman Who Laughs. Does that mean we’re going to start seeing things through his eyes?
Snyder: Yeah! You know, one of the questions I get asked the most about this character is, how does the Batman Who Laughs see? You’re going to learn that in a big way in issue #4. It’s all about what that visor does and how he sees the world and all of that.
You’re going to see Bruce start to view the world through the point of view of the Batman Who Laughs, which means visual changes in the book, all of it, down to the font that he speaks in.
We really want it to feel like you’re spiraling down into a way of seeing the world that is really, really dark and frightening, while Bruce is trying to fight it off. He’s doing this so he can see the Batman Who Laughs’ plan in time to stop it.
yet, as he does it, I think he winds up becoming more and more susceptible to the way the Batman Who Laughs thinks.
You’re going to see Gotham in a whole new light. You’re going to see the villains in a whole new light. He goes to Blackgate in the next issue, and you see a world that he couldn’t see without that visor. He starts to see through the dimensional barrier into the Dark Multiverse.
Nrama: So he sees different possibilities?
Snyder: Yeah, when he goes to Blackgate, he sees a Blackgate that a Bruce Wayne has transformed into a huge penal colony with all the Arkham villains and all that stuff. So you’re going to see Gotham completely differently through this lens that essentially says, are you doing it the best way? Are you really just being fearful and selfish by not making bigger calls and bigger sacrifices to have bigger effects in Gotham?
It’s really going to revolutionize the series once he puts that visor on. We’ve been waiting for it. We wanted the second half to feel like a spiral into a hellish reality that really shakes Bruce to his core.
You’re also going to see the Robins! They come back in issue #4.