When Scott Snyder came up with Batman's "Zero Year" arc, which told the origin story of his version of Batman with Greg Capullo, the writer also devised how his Batman would die.
It was an exercise suggested by Grant Morrison, who had a lengthy run on Batman before Snyder and Capullo started on Batman in 2011.
As Snyder previously explained to Newsarama, although Batman has been handled by multiple writers since he was introduced 75 years ago, the character has gone through an evolution under each writer's pen — creating different versions of him. And while conversing with Morrison at a comic book convention, Snyder was told that Batman would become like a “creator-owned character,” complete with an origin story and ending. "[Morrison] said, openly to me, you'll see how your version of Batman is going to die, or go down," Snyder said.
Years later, Snyder is reuniting with Capullo to tell that story in Batman: Last Knight on Earth, which launches next week. Newsarama talked to the pair to find out more about the story, how it compares with their last major Batman story, Dark Nights: Metal, and whether it’s really the end of not only this character, but their time on Batman.
Newsarama: Greg and Scott, I know this has been awhile in the making. Are you excited to finally have it hitting stores?
Greg Capullo: Absolutely!
Scott Snyder: Yeah, it’s been in my head for years.
Nrama: I know this was previously something you were thinking a different artist might do — Sean Murphy was slated to draw it for awhile. But you switch to Greg so he could finish this Batman’s story?
Snyder: Yeah, I always wanted to do this with Greg. I conceived of it back when we were doing “Zero Year.” I think I told you during an interview back then that Grant Morrison once told me that the way to kind of own your version of Batman is to create an origin story and a final story.
So I was thinking of them almost simultaneously.
Nrama: Because “Zero Year” was your sort of the “origin” story.
Snyder: Yeah. And this was always the final story. And I wanted to do it with Greg, and we were still on Batman when I was planning it. But then he was going to do Reborn. So I started talking about doing a version of it with Sean Murphy.
Then when Sean started in on Batman: White Knight, things fell into place when we realized that Greg was going to be free in time to be able to do it instead.
So it became inevitable.
And Sean was great about it. Sean was the one that was like, look, if Greg’s free, it only makes sense that you do it with Greg. And I agreed.
And also, I was so excited to see his success with White Knight. Well earned and deserved. His version of Batman was so much his own that it felt doubly wrong for us to do it together at that point.
So it ended up being Greg, as it always should have been.
Capullo: I totally agree.
Nrama: I know Metal was completely designed with Greg in mind. Does this story have a similar feel to that, since the idea started when you were working with Greg on Batman?
Snyder: Yeah, it was conceived with Greg’s art in its DNA. A lot of the things in the story, I wouldn’t have thought of if they weren’t born of our time together.
His art is so expansive and emotional and imaginative and inventive and all that stuff. It makes me think of things for this story that I wouldn’t otherwise.
A lot of the story really was born of our run on Batman at the time we were doing it. He’s the inevitable co-parent.
Nrama: Well, I asked about Metal because you had some really crazy concepts emerge in that mini-series, and this one kicks off with some similarly off-the-wall ideas. I mean, Batman is carrying around the Joker’s head, which is talking to him, in some type of apocalyptic future?
Capullo: As soon as Scott gave me the pitch, and up front was the stuff about the Joker’s head in a jar — of course I was thrilled to start.
Snyder: Yeah, it’s really fun. But I want to say that it’s not just for the sake of doing something crazy or to push the limits. It always starts with an emotionality.
For me, the point was to try to do a story that would be a really fitting end to our Batman saga, but also show the ways in which Batman always has to be reborn for new generations.
So that kind of a story felt like it would need to be an investigation of what he means and who he is. That means it needs to be really unsettling. And I think the story has to be challenging and expansive and big and crazy.
So it starts from what it’s about, and then I use that as a way to kind of define the boundaries of it.
Nrama: Oh, it’s definitely an intimate examination of Batman. But the boundaries?
Snyder: Yeah, with this one, the boundaries are pretty far out. [Laughs.]
Nrama: OK, so we know Batman is knocked out at some point, and he wakes up in the future. And he’s carrying around the Joker’s head in a jar-type lantern as he works his way through this dark future. Does the story take place mostly in the Bat-family? In Gotham? Or does the entire DCU have a part to play, since we’ve seen Wonder Woman with a mohawk?
Snyder: Yeah, it encompasses the whole DCU. You’re going to see everybody from Lex Luthor to Wonder Woman to the Haunted Tank in this thing!
It spans the physical DCU, winds up back in Gotham, and yes, you’ll see what happens to the Bat-family and the villains and all that stuff.
Everybody’s in it, really. There’s a couple pages that Greg just sort of channeled his inner George Pérez, and you’ll see almost the entire DCU is present in this thing in a way that I’m really proud of too.
It’s an intimate Batman story, but it really is also about why this matters in the whole scope of everything superhero.
Capullo: There is so much crazy stuff, like we have these crazy Green Lantern babies — just one of the craziest things I’ve ever drawn.
Nrama: Wait. Green Lantern babies? You mean constructs? You have to explain that.
Capullo: Yeah, yeah, we have a scene where Batman enters a pretty-much destroyed city, and he gets in a fight with these giant Green Lantern babies that just look like crazy mutant babies. And they’re dragging behind them their humans that have their rings on them — the power rings.
And Batman goes to battle with these GL babies.
So yeah — you compared it to Metal, and there are many Metal-type moments in this crazy thing.
Scott mentioned the George Pérez business — uh, yeah, Scott is always apologetic up front, going, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to draw every single character known in the DC Universe on this double-page spread.
So yeah, he’s taking me for a hell of a ride. And I’m getting to have so much fun along the way.
This is sort of like Metal, except I would say darker — much, much darker and much more gritty.
Snyder: Batman fighting giant Green Lantern babies with Joker’s head in a jar as a weapon and a straight jacket.
That’s pretty Metal, I would say.
Nrama: And this is the end for your version of Batman?
Snyder: Yeah. It is. I feel really lucky to have done this much on Batman.
He’s still in Justice League, though. And we have stuff planned, Greg and I — stuff that has Batman in the story.
But I wanted to do something that I could say, this is our last significant Batman story.
So it is.
Believe, there’s so much I’d still love to do with Batman. I never got to write Scarecrow thoroughly. I never got to write, you know, Zsasz.
There are so many ideas I would love to do. But to be honest, at this point, having been on Batman or been working in some form of Gotham for 10 years, there are so many other things I’m dying to do with Greg in particular, both in superheroes and outside of superheroes, you know? Both in DC and elsewhere. And you know, our own stuff too, to be perfectly frank.
I mean, I would be happy if somebody sentenced me to have to work on Batman for another 10 years. I honestly would be happy. I’d still do Batman and have ideas for it, and I’m confident that we could deliver things we’re really proud of. But it’s just a matter of having other things that we haven’t gotten to do yet.
Capullo: I was on a panel this weekend, and there was this question about this being my last Batman story, echoing what Scott said, and there’s a couple things … I mean, one, the fans — luckily for us, fortunately for us — still love us on Batman and are begging us not to stop. That’s great. You don’t want to be one of these shows that you run into the ground where they’re sick of us on Batman. So I think it’s good to go out.
And as creators, you really have a short shelf life. As Scott said, there are so many other things we want to do, and the longer you stay in one, particular spot, you know, the window gets more and more closed on those other things that you want to pursue.
So we can put to rest any concerns that Scott and I are parting ways just because we’re ending our Batman. Scott and I have a lot of long-term plans that will keep us busy probably until I’m dead.
Snyder: I’m just going to put his head in a jar, and then we’ll still work together afterwards, so it’ll be good.
But yeah, you know, Greg talked about how lucky we are that the fans have supported us. And this story is also meant as a big thank you.
Joker says at one point to Batman in it, he thinks they’re about to die, and get stomped to death by these giant Green Lantern babies, and he says, I wrote you a poem. It’s everything I ever wanted to say to you. And I don’t want to spoil it. But that statement that this is a love letter to Batman is really about the story being a love letter to the fans. It’s very true.
I’m sort of speaking through Joker’s disembodied head.