This Batman article contains spoilers.
The Batman Who Laughs #1 not only marks the return of one of the most twisted versions of the Dark Knight to ever appear in the comics but also Scott Snyder and Jock’s Gotham homecoming. The duo first collaborated on Detective Comics back in 2011 (Snyder’s first gig on a Batbook) for an arc called “The Black Mirror,” which remains one of the darkest Batman stories ever told, a tale more akin to a horror slasher than a traditional adventure. With their new six-issue miniseries, which begins with a dead Bruce Wayne and ends in a shocking, terrifying cliffhanger, Snyder and Jock mean to top themselves.
“I was like, [if] I’m going to go back to Gotham, and I’m going to do it with Jock, and we’re going to go back to our roots and make a spiritual successor to ‘Black Mirror,’ then I want it to be the most probing, introspective, nightmarish analysis that I can do and a real challenge,” Snyder says in a phone interview. Also on the line is Jock, the artist who has also worked with the writer on Wytches, a beautifully drawn horror comic for Image.
This duo seems bred for horror and that’s definitely on display in the violent and gory first issue of The Batman Who Laughs. In one scene, another nightmare version of Batman, one equipped with assault rifles, knives, lasers, bombs, and all sorts of other lethal weapons, breaks into Arkham Asylum, shooting and cutting his way through the guards to get to the Joker’s cell. This Batman is called the Grim Knight.
“If Bruce Wayne as a kid had picked up the gun and shot Joe Chill and gone down that route, then that’s where the Grim Knight is,” Jock explains.
In terms of design, the Grim Knight looks like your worst ’80s action movie nightmare, an unrealistic number of weapons strapped to his back, sharp gauntlets that can slice Arkham guards in half, and even what looks like a rocket launcher. Where he finds room for a cape is beyond me.
“When I started putting the guns on his back, and kind of like sticking out the sides, sticking them up on his shoulders, it just looked really good,” Jock says of the Grim Knight’s design. “And I knew immediately that the character could kind of carry that slightly over the top, bombastic element.”
This isn’t the first time Batman has brandished a gun, of course. In fact, in his earliest Golden Age adventures, Batman often used guns and other forms of lethal force to dispose of criminals. Still, for the uninitiated, a panel in which Batman is aiming an assault rifle at a group of guards will undoubtedly prove shocking. For Jock, drawing these panels wasn’t daunting but another way to explore the darkest possible version of the character while also including big action.
“Like on the one hand, it’s actually a lot of fun to draw that stuff, but actually there’s also what he represents, and then the kind of horror behind it is one of the anchors of the story.”
As Snyder explained in our last interview, the Grim Knight is not a villain to be taken lightly nor to be celebrated.
“There’s nothing redeeming about a Batman who uses endless lethal force,” Snyder says.” So it frees us to be able to use him because he’s a villain. The same way when we use Joker, it’s not a celebration of [Joker], even if he’s a lot of fun at times to watch or write. He’s always posited as the villain for what he does, and similarly here. This version of Bruce Wayne has gone down a very, very dark path.”
The return of the Batman Who Laughs, the introduction of the Grim Knight, the dead Bruce Wayne from another universe (more details here), and everything else Snyder and Jock have in store are all part of the Batman epic the writer has been working on since 2011. According to Snyder, there’s a plan in place to bring back elements of last year’s Dark Nights: Metal event, which saw Batman and the Justice League face off against a hellish cosmic plane known as the Dark Multiverse. The writer has been coordinating with the rest of the DC writing group, which includes, most notably, Batman writer Tom King, to tell this story.
Snyder says, “I mean, I know [King’s] whole plan through issue 100, and he knows my whole plan, not only with this but our uber story that we’re telling from Metal to the end of 2019 into 2020, which culminates with a lot of that stuff from Metal coming back, and a lot of the stuff that we’re building here on these books, from the Justice League books to Batman Who Laughs, to some unannounced stuff, culminating in something really special.”
As far as what’s been officially announced, Snyder has at least one more Bat-tale to tell, Last Knight on Earth, a three-part DC Black Label book he’s working on with frequent collaborator Greg Capullo. Not much is known about the book except that it’s a post-apocalyptic take on the character that takes place 25 years into the future. Oh, and Batman has the Joker’s talking head chained to his belt and they love to chat.
While Snyder wouldn’t go as far as to say that Last Knight is his final Batman story (he’s still writing Justice League, after all), it will close out his New 52 Batman run with Capullo.
“Greg and I have a lot we want to do together both in superhero comics, but also really create our own stuff, too. So, going back for a giant 150, 170-page book about Batman at this point, you know, we wanted to have an end cap.”
All that said, Snyder doesn’t have any other Batman stories planned beyond Last Knight. His recent work on Justice League and Dark Nights: Metal has instead whet his appetite for other characters in DC’s pantheon of heroes.
“I have no Batman stories on my docket post that. I have Batman in the books that I’m writing, such as Justice League and other projects post that, but I didn’t mean to say like, ‘Oh. I’m never coming back to Batman ever.’ But I might not. I don’t know. I have a lot of other characters I really want to use and Justice League has sparked a ton of interest for me in other characters, as well.”
But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of Batman to write for Snyder, who has quite a bit in store for the Dark Knight in upcoming issues of The Batman Who Laughs, including the return of a few characters from Snyder and Jock’s past run. Let’s just say that those fans hoping for some sort of connection to “The Black Mirror” will be pleased.
“You’re going to see the Iceberg Lounge, and Penguin, and Joker, and James Jr. from ‘Black Mirror’…A bunch of other characters that I don’t want to spoil,” Snyder says.
I mentioned the idea of “homecoming” earlier and Snyder agrees. With The Batman Who Laughs, Snyder and Jock get to look into their own black mirror and revisit themes and narrative yarns from their Detective Comics days.
“I want it to feel like a blockbuster so that we get to do the biggest action, biggest set pieces, all of that while still telling a story that speaks to the kinds of priorities we had on ‘Black Mirror’ that are character driven, dark, intimate,” Snyder says. “I think [The Batman Who Laughs] is a way of kind of returning to material that I worked on when I was brand new and green, and doing it now in a way that I think speaks to the same heart and the same kind of core values that we had on ‘Black Mirror,’ but I have more muscles now or different muscles that I’m able to flex that I didn’t have back then.”
The Batman Who Laughs #1 is out now. Issue #2 is out on Jan. 16.