In May, DC Comics will debut its first multi-comic event, "The Night of The Owls," spinning out of the story in Batman.
Written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo, the Batman title is exposing a secret organization called the Court of Owls. Despite Bruce Wayne believing he was taking control of the city over the last few years, Snyder's story has revealed that the Court of Owl has been secretly ruling Gotham City for generations.
Now it's time for the Owls to battle the Bat, and most of Bruce Wayne's allies will get involved in the "Night of the Owls." But although DC has promoted the event as a crossover, Snyder said none of the comics will actually "cross" into the other, merely tying into the overall concept.
According to Snyder, the books that tie into "The Night of the Owls" will include Batman, Batgirl, Nightwing, Batman and Robin, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Batwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws. The history of the Court of Owls will also show up in All-Star Western.
The event will be the largest DC has published since the company relaunched the entire DCU in September 2011. It's being entrusted to Snyder, who launched Batman in September after a successful year-long run on Detective Comics and an ongoing hit Vertigo comic, American Vampire.
Newsarama talked with Snyder to find out more about what's coming up in Batman, including "The Night of the Owls" and how the other creators in the Batman universe got involved.
Newsarama: Scott, you're heading toward a crossover event with both your Swamp Thing title and the Batman title. Plus you're co-writing the back-ups after having co-written a few other stories in the last couple years. Are you just naturally a collaborator when it comes to comics?
Scott Snyder: It's one of the things I love most about working in comics. I know it sounds cheesy, but coming from a literary background, the thing I hated the most about it, and the reason I've realized I'm tremendously happier in comics, is that I always worked alone. I mean, I loved getting to tell the stories I wanted and having creative breathing room in literary fiction, because no one's telling you what to write. So few people buy those things anyway, with short stories, that nobody is bothering you about it.
But then in comics, the big surprise is how creatively free it is here too, and the same kinds of stories I was doing in literary fiction, that really matter to me, I could do on characters that I had been inspired by as a kid and that inspired me when I write, like Batman and Swamp Thing. And to create my own series, like American Vampire.That was the most surprising thing. But the thing that's been most rewarding, and is honestly the biggest thrill, is the collaboration. The feeling of getting to work with someone like Jeff Lemire and trade stories, and you feel like you evolve and you grow as a writer every time you share stuff with these guys, because they're so good.
I mean, I listen to Pete Tomasi talk about what he's doing in Batman and Robin and read his scripts, and it makes me want to be better, you know? And it's the same thing with Gail Simone and looking at Grant Morrison's stuff. And all of that is just a thrill.
When you called [editor's note: the interview took place Sunday morning], I was just talking to Gail Simone, coordinating things so that when the Court of Owls story touches Batgirl, it's going to do so in a way that's going to give her plenty of room to tell the story that she wants, and use the material in a way that she wants and that she feels is right for the character.
Nrama: In November, Bob Harras revealed the upcoming Batman event that touches all these other Batman titles. How much of Gotham will be affected?
Snyder: It's all about the battle for Gotham, so it's going to touch a lot of the Batman titles. It's going to have an impact on Batgirl, Nightwing, on Damian in Batman and Robin, and on the Birds of Prey. It will even touch Catwoman and Batwing. And in Red Hood and The Outlaws, with Tim being a big feature in that.
Nrama: I just did an interview with Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Justin [Gray] about All-Star Western, and they said their title is tying in with Batman? Is that also the Court of Owls?
Snyder: Yes! All-Star Western is part of this too. It's one of my favorite books on the stands, and I was so excited that we're going to overlap with them. I don't want to give away how that's going to happen. But you'll learn more about the Court of Owls in All-Star Western, in the history of Gotham in the 1880s.
So this is a story that's going to have repercussions throughout the Bat-world. It not only has repercussions for Bruce in Batman, but it has repercussions and revelations coming about members of the Bat-family, the Wayne family and Gotham itself.
Nrama: You mentioned that you're giving Gail the chance to make the story fit into her book. Does that mean this isn't a true crossover, where the story crosses from book to book and you have to read them all?
Snyder: No, no, no. You don't have to buy them all. We're doing a different format of a crossover. What DC is doing is, we're trying to create stories that overlap with other books, but that don't necessarily depend on you reading one book to understand the other.
Now I say that, and then we're going to get to Animal Man and Swamp Thing in a year, and that is going to have a couple issues that actually do kick off the event and do cross over from one book to another.
But with this, with Batman and the first year of DC books, it was important for us, at least with the books I'm involved in, to not have the books in the event be dependent on reading another book.The way the "Night of Owls" event came about was that I had this Court of Owls story from go, from even when I was on Detective, and I wrote an outline and started writing it and was a couple issues in, and I realized that there was a point in the story where the Court makes a play for Gotham.
And when you've got them making a play for the city like that, the Bat-family would need to help. They would naturally come to help Bruce.
Nrama: And would at least be affected, you would think.
Snyder: Right! Exactly! So I talked to the writers, and I said, "I don't want to force anything on you. The last thing I want to do is say we have to do some crossover when you guys are in the middle of your stories."
And that's exactly why Detective won't be part of this, because with Tony Daniel, he is in the middle of his story at that point. And it would be difficult anyway for us to tell two separate stories when we're both featuring Bruce, the exact same character. So we decided, since he's using Bruce in a different story, it really doesn't need to be affected.
And the same thing happened with Batwoman. We talked to J.H., and he had stories going on and they're building a universe there in a way that didn't work with this right now.
So it became about giving the writers plenty of lead time and asking who wants to be a part of this? And if you want to, and you want to create a story, here's the material for it. You have plenty of room. We won't be tyrants about what you have to do when. Batman won't touch your books, because he's preoccupied, and you can use it or not.
So we tried to give everyone tons for breathing room. And like I said, I was just talking to Gail about how great her Batgirl issue is for it. It's terrific. I'm so excited for her. And she creates all new kinds of characters too.
But it's been huge fun working with everyone. I mean, I'm really good friends with some of them. Like Pete Tomasi, I talk to and trade scripts with very regularly, and Kyle [Higgins], obviously too on Nightwing, from working together on our Gates of Gotham stuff. And getting to know Gail a bit better, whose work I love and who I respect tremendously as a person and a writer, has been wonderful as well.
And Judd Winick, who I'd only met briefly before, was fantastic. I mean, this is the guy who wrote Under the Red Hood and so many other things that I've looked up to for a long time.
So it's been a huge thrill to get to creatively share stuff with him and everyone else. And to be able to come up with the story together.
But you can read Batman and not read the other books. You won't miss anything. Well, you'll be missing out only because those stories are really good! But you will get everything you need to know in each self-contained story. You won't have a missing piece.
Nrama: So what does "The Night of the Owls" mean, and how does it fit with the story you're setting up now in Batman?
Snyder: The Court of Owls is making a play for the city, and they're not only back, but they're more powerful than before. They have done what owls do in nature sometimes, which is hide in plain sight and kind of go silent, but they're always there watching. Until now, they've just been amused by what's happening in Gotham with Batman.But they don't find it amusing anymore. They want to bring down the claw and crush the entire Bat-family and show Gotham that they're the only legend and the only symbol that the city has ever had and will ever need.
As for the title, the "night" refers to the fact that this takes place in only one night. The "Night of The Owls" in Batman is actually only one issue. A few of the other books are doing two issues. But for the most part, it's just one. And it all takes place in one night.
Nrama: You've been building toward this for awhile, with hints even before Batman was launched in September.
Snyder: Yeah, and it's been super fun. And these issues coming up will reveal a lot.
Nrama: Batman #5 comes out in two weeks. Is it one of the issues that reveals a lot?
Snyder: Issue #5 is probably my favorite issue. It begins the attack on Batman and Bruce together.
Nrama: Does the Court of Owls know that Batman is Bruce?
Snyder: The Court doesn't care who Batman is, almost the way the Joker doesn't care who Batman is. The Court could easily take his mask off in the trap they have him in.
Nrama: The Labyrinth revealed at the end of issue #4, after he went down in the sewers beneath Gotham?
Snyder: Yeah. Batman is caught in a nightmare, deep beneath Gotham. And I really tried to make it horror. The references I sent to Greg for it were The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, Jacob's Ladder... scenes from those movies. I told him, this is the feel I want, which is this paranoid, claustrophobic nightmarish, hallucinatory tone.
So #5 really begins this attack by the Court of Owls on Batman, whom they find amusing, someone who thinks he's put this symbol in the sky and thinks the city belongs to him.
And separately, they have been going after Bruce Wayne, because Bruce has been really shaping the city through his initiative, architecturally and, you know, structurally as he's tried to rebuild derelict neighborhoods.
This is the moment when it starts to all come together. They haven't paid attention to Batman. They haven't cared about Batman. But now they're finding it amusing to attack Batman. So Bruce is really getting attacked on two fronts, never getting a breather at any moment.
And it's not that the Court couldn't figure out who Batman is. I find it scarier, to me personally, that they just don't care enough to even pull his mask off. They just find him kind of funny and small. Whether those things come together and they will see who Batman is, and then it will become a worse kind of attack, I won't say yet. But that kind of thing is certainly something that could happen.
So issue #5 and #6 really starts the attack, and we tried to make them the scariest issues of Batman you've read in a long time, where the Court really comes after Batman because he's been on their tail for awhile now, looking into the Talon and how the guy survived the fall, and whether he has something in his blood, and how he has these abilities and the why he's using the weaponry from long ago.
Now they've pushed Batman into this pit at the end of #4. It's kind of like, OK, why not just put him in the trap and let him run? For days and days and days.
Nrama: So is this more of a psychological attack on Batman, at least for these two issues?
Snyder: Yes. This part of the story was influenced a lot by The Cult, and Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum. These moments. The real psychological attacks on Batman.
It's not 100 lasers shooting at him and robots chasing him and that kind of stuff. It's really much more psychological. The Court doesn't speak. They put you in a trap and you sit there, they tell you a story about yourself without you being able to turn them off in your head.
I couldn't be more excited about it. Issue #5 has some great things in it. Greg really flexed his muscles and did some amazing stuff where there are panels that you turn the issue itself to see how they go. The issue flips. All kinds of stuff.
So we wanted it to feel really claustrophobic and dizzying at times, the way Batman feels inside of this trap.
That issue begins the second half of the Owl story. All of the attacks against Batman so far become exponentially bigger and more deadly. So this is where all of the action and all the big reveals start, in issue #5. And it won't let up until issue #11 from there.
I have realized that, writing these long stories, I've started to see my writing preferences. And what I love to do is set things up with more of a sense of creeping tension and dread for the first few issues. But I promise you -- and you know this if you read Detective or if you read American Vampire -- that although these seeds are planted throughout the beginning of the story, I promise you will it will pay off. I always go for the biggest payoff I can.Batman #8 cover All these books have different natures. That's the fun of reading Detective versus reading Batman. Writing something like issue #4, with the story about Bruce as a boy, I loved writing it but I was a little nervous about it, because it's not giant explosions. Those things are coming, though, I promise! And my hope is that these things set it up to be even bigger, so that you earn a more emotional end plot, so there's some depth behind the extravaganza of violence.
Greg has actually kept me honest on that, because I've questioned myself about not having more action in these early issues. He says, you know, stick to the story you planned.
Nrama: You've mentioned some of the cool things that Greg Capullo is doing for these issues, but what's it been like for the two of you to be creating one of the best-selling comics at DC?
Snyder: I can't even begin to express how thankful I am that people are supporting this book. And you know, I'm glad you mentioned Greg, because I really want to thank the people who have supported him as the artist on the book. Coming from Image over here, there was a lot of stress and pressure on Greg, so to see him explode among the fans and be so accepted is just great. He's so grateful to all of you out there too.
No one earns it more than him. I was just joking with him this weekend because he was at Arizona Comic Con this weekend, and he texted me, saying his line is really long. And I texted back that no one earns it more than him, not only because of his incredible work, but also because no one appreciates his fans more.
In Batman, we're going for the biggest, most definitive, giant, epic conclusion for this story possible. And issue #5 is the start of that whole thing. It's going to move into more action and suspense, keeping some of the horror in it that you've seen so far. And I really hope people enjoy reading it.
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