Scott Snyder had a great vision for how he'd incorporate DC's co-feature program into his run on Detective Comics, incorporating it into the overall theme of the series.
But the end of the co-features means the "'Tec" creative team had to do a little re-arranging. And what resulted was, according to Snyder, an arrangement he believes is even better than before.Beginning with this week's Detective Comics #874, the Jim Gordon-focused back-up feature will be integrated into the front story of the title, and back-up artist Fracesco Francavilla will fill-in for regular artist Jock as the two stories are integrated.
It's all part of a theme that Snyder is building around Dick Grayson's official status as the Batman of Gotham City. "The idea is, now that Dick Grayson has been given that mantle officially, what is Gotham going to change itself into all around him?" Snyder told Newsarama.
The theme gets examined further in a new mini-series Snyder is co-writing with Kyle Higgins called Batman: Gates of Gotham, which begins in May.
This week's issue #874 begins to integrate all the elements with which Snyder and his artists have been working. In the third installment of our three-part chat with Snyder, Newsarama talked with the creator about what's coming next in Detective Comics.
Newsarama: Scott, let's start with this week's Detective Comics #874 with Fracesco Francavilla on art. Is that going to continue the former co-feature you two were doing about Jim Gordon?
Scott Snyder: Exactly, yeah. I feel like people were worried that Francesco wouldn’t get to finish the story, or that the story was only going to be three back-ups. But we're going to finish it. Now it will be the front part of #874, which is a full issue by Francesco, and he’s also doing #875. So Jock is taking a rest for two issues, and then he’s back for #876, #877 and #878.To be totally honest, I had already been thinking about, instead of having a backup for all 12 issues, maybe moving the backup into the feature by having interspersed issues where it would be three or four issues by Jock, then one from Francesco, which is what we’ll be doing now. So it was something that we were leaning toward as a team almost anyway.
It’s nice to see Francesco get to flex his muscles. I feel like he and Jock are the unsung heroes of the book, and Dave Baron on colors. All of us really talk the entire story all the time. So it’s not like Jock goes away for two issues and I don’t hear from him for two months. I was just talking to him today about Francesco’s issues this morning, because we’re all a team. So we’re all on the same page about making this one big story happen. It’s not like pieces scattered and we’re trying to sort of fit them back in or something.
It's really just #873 where the back-up got moved because of the pricing change. Otherwise, our plan really hasn’t changed very much.
Nrama: The stories in both Fracesco and Jock's pieces seem to be exploring the same theme, as part of this "Black Mirror" you've been exploring.
Snyder: That was the idea from the beginning. It’s all one big story to me, and concepts behind it are similar for both characters. The big theme is: Gotham is a place that essentially will throw your worst nightmares back at you if you are good. Can Commissioner Gordon stand up to his worst fear coming true, and can Batman stand up to his worst fears coming true? So that’s the concept of the "Black Mirror" running through the entire arc, and Commissioner Gordon’s story is thematically and literally linked to the Batman story throughout.
Gordon's story was written so it would work as an intertwining story through the whole 12- to 14-issue run. It was going to be something that was going to run as a spine through all of the stuff from the very start. There was no way that story wasn’t going to get told. It’s part of the fiber of the whole run.
Nrama: After the two issues Francesco’s drawing, then you're going to start what was originally solicited as next month’s issue, "The Hungry City." Will that continue some of the threads that you’ve had in the comic so far?
Snyder: Definitely. My favorite stories are really the long-form stories, everything from The Long Halloween, and Hush, and everything that ran through Gotham Central, and the way the stories are an accumulation. So it really is, I can’t stress enough, one big story with different chapters to it.The first story arc was really about introducing Dick to Gotham as it’s reforming itself in his image. We met the Dealer, and Bruce would have handled him very differently than Dick.
It’s not the Dealer that frightens Dick; it’s the menace of the people around him in the city from that arc. That’s what I wanted to show — not that the Dealer is evil, but the level of malevolence that comes with being a part of Gotham sometimes, from the Gotham citizens. Just the idea that they’re capable of bidding on a crowbar. So that idea is what the Dealer is presenting to Dick. Bruce would handle that differently. It’s not a nightmare to Bruce to know that.
Dick believes in people; that’s his whole character, based on his faith in the human character. That’s what I was trying to do with that arc.
Nrama: And in "Hungry City?"
Snyder: "Hungry City" is really about the way that the city is reshaping itself in a broader way — the abstract idea that it’s making criminals that match Dick's personality.
So in the more concrete sense, with the vacuum created with the fall of the Falcones, most of the family, and the Meroni’s and the Black Mask, there’s new faces on the streets for organized crime. New, young faces. These aren’t the godfather types; these are the guys that are hungry, that are coming up and aren’t afraid of Batman. They’re not afraid of people. They’ve got flashy personalities. They’re going be real fun characters.
So everyone from this new guy Tiger Shark, who’s essentially a revamp of a character from a long time ago, with which he barely anything in common anymore. He’s a high class, flashy, really, really vicious pirate that exists on waters right off the coast of Gotham and works to smuggle things into the city.
There's a new breed of organized criminals in Gotham that you haven’t really seen in awhile. So that’s really what the "Hungry City" arc is about.
It’ll also continue the James Jr. story in the background, where Jim Gordon comes to Dick and starts to tell him his worries about James in some ways. So what the arc is really about is Grayson trying to judge, trying to get a grip on whether or not to have faith or believe in people.
Nrama: Are you introducing any other new characters in this arc?
Snyder: We also introduce one of the big stars of that arc, the daughter of Tony Zucco, the man who killed Dick’s parents, who you meet in the beginning of #876. She’s essentially trying to establish herself as a legitimate businessperson in Gotham, and kind of haunted by the mantle of her father. But she started a bank that’s doing very well. And she is trying to escape the legacy of what came before her.
Nrama: For Dick, it’s almost like he put on the costume of Batman before, but now it’s like the psychological side of Batman is starting to get to Dick. Are you showing his psychological transformation?
Snyder: That’s what it’s meant to be. I think the most powerful Batman stories, to me, have always been the ones that highlight the way that Gotham and its gallery are a reflection of Bruce’s psychology.
Actually I teach a comics class, and I just taught The Killing Joke yesterday, which was such a joy, and The Dark Knight Returns. It was our Batman section. In those Joker stories, Joker acknowledges, "I am you. I am you if you break your rule. I am you if you go a little farther than you’re willing to go. You and I are two sides of the same coin."
What’s so great is that in the opening of Batman: Dark Knight Returns, when he finally catches Two-Face at the end, and he sees it is Harvey doing these bad things after Harvey was supposed to have been rehabilitated, and Bruce is the one that paid for it in the first place, and said that even though Commissioner Gordon doesn’t believe in it, Bruce is like, no, he’s going to be fine, you understand immediately that Bruce is just hoping that he, himself, can retire from being Batman, and not have the demon come back at him. And when Harvey says to him at the end, what do you see? And he says, I see a reflection, Harvey. And he hugs him. To me, those stories that really underscore this notion that everything in Gotham, in terms of the challenges that Batman faces, are personal, psychological challenges that are extensions of his own personality.
This obsession in the mythology that Bruce has, and the Joker — that’s what we’re trying to do with Grayson here, in a smaller way. He’s just being introduced to it. The year before he was waiting for Bruce to come back. Now he has Bruce’s blessing to be the Batman of Gotham, so this is what this is about. These are the challenges that Gotham throws at Batman, and he needs to step up his game and be willing to understand that’s it’s going to go for his Achilles heel the moment he steps in.
So that’s what we’re trying to do, and the villains he faces are meant to be tailored to his weaknesses. And that's why we wanted the Dealer to be sort of loud with it at the beginning, to announce that this is another Gotham, this is Grayson’s Gotham, and these are his villains.
It wouldn’t be the same if he was facing the Penguin, and the Joker, and the Riddler. To me, those are Bruce’s villains. Although I will tell you – I don’t know if I’ve said this to anybody yet, but we are going to use the Joker down the line. It’s going to be our version though, a different version of the Joker. It's the real Joker, not some alternative version, but it’s going to be a Joker that fits this story. Jock and I were just talking about it, and we’re really excited. It’s going to be a really dark version of him.
Nrama: You mentioned before that Jock is an unsung hero. What does Jock bring to the comic?
Snyder: Jock brings so much just by drawing it, but he is so invested about what the story is about. And the thing that’s great about Jock is he didn’t sign onto the book until he heard what the whole story was. That really cemented it for me. We were in San Diego, and I had to chase him down. We had talked about working together, but we were going meet and discuss the whole story with David, the colorist. And I was like, if he likes the story, he’ll do the book. That was my impression. And I was so nervous that if I didn’t keep up with him, that I would be seen as like a wimp and he wouldn’t want to do the book. So I just kept drinking, and saying, "Another thing, it’s going to be James, Jr. and another thing, when we get to this, it’s going to be the Joker, and wait until we get to the finale, it’s going to be such a big surprise..." He really liked it from the beginning, and so I was definitely over-worrying. And he’s such a nice guy, and so enthusiastic, and so is David.
For us, we’re making our favorite Batman book. It doesn’t mean that it’s the best; it just means that this is the story that we all signed onto. I presented the story to them, but they’ve contributed so much. Not just in the way of art, but in the way of story ideas, and the tone, the themes. We talk, all of us, consistently about it, the same way Rafael [Albuquerque] has been on American Vampire, with great ideas for that. And it’s a really fun way to work. I feel like it’s what being comics are all about.
So Jock, in terms of what he brings on the page, he’s so dynamic. He can do a page, and you feel Batman’s anxiety, and you feel Batman’s anger. You feel it in the edges of the image itself. And David colors is in this wonderful tribal way, where it’s really bold colors. Because it’s about Gotham changing, about Gotham turning more wild and mean. And with Francesco, with Gordon, it’s the same. He gets it, with these colors that are so creepy, and make Gotham seem almost eerie, and sort of menacing and haunting. So everyone has brought – I mean I feel like I could write a script that’s essentially a piece of garbage, and the book would still be great because it’s in their hands.