Editor’s Note: This interview contains major Batman comics spoilers.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are two of the coolest guys in comics. Since the New 52 relaunch of Batman back in 2011, this dynamic duo (although, along with the uber talented FCO Plascencia and Danny Miki, they’re more like the Fantastic Four) have been spinning some of the best Batman stories this humble interviewer has ever had the chance to read. Some people have Jeph Loeb, others live by Frank Miller, but in a few years, Snyder and Capullo will be the storytellers I’ll claim as MY generation’s Batman team.
They’ve already dished us three fantastic arcs. In The Court of Owls, Snyder and Capullo focus in on the secret history of Gotham, bringing the infamous city to the forefront of what it means to be Batman. Death of the Family introduces the Joker to their run. It’s a sick, twisted ballad in which the Joker tries to make Batman turn against his family. Capullo designed the scariest Joker I’ve seen since Dave McKean drew him in Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum. The third arc, Zero Year, is the most epic story these talented creators have worked on since they began their run. It’s the New 52 origin story of Batman, and it’s excellent. Zero Year just wrapped up, so if you haven’t read it, I suggest you hurry and pick the books up!
And things are only going to get better!
Batman: Endgame is the newest story arc by the Batman creative team, and it’s already thrown some surprises at us after one issue. The big reveal, which is spoiled in the interview (SO BEWARE), comes right on time for the Batman 75th anniversary. What better way to celebrate than with a big, muscular story like Endgame?
I had a chance to chat with Snyder and Capullo at NYCC this weekend. We talked about their version of the Joker, a possible sequel to Zero Year, and the cast of new villains they’re preparing to introduce in future books:
In the very last panel of Batman #35, there’s a big reveal. The Joker is BACK! What are the challenges of writing and drawing the Joker?
GC: I’ll tell you, doing Death of the Family was a blast. Scott was writing it and he was going into these dark places and it was freaking him out. We were together some place on a panel or something, and he goes, “It had to be this hard on Greg to draw this dark stuff.”
I’m like, “This is the easiest,” because I did so many issues of Spawn, which was dark scary stuff. So this was like getting my old comfortable slippers on and going, “Yeah let’s draw some scary stuff!” That was nothing but a party. Drawing the Joker is fun. Batman’s whole rogue gallery is a blast, but Joker, man, he’s a living monster. What kid or adult doesn’t love a monster? So for me, nothing but a good time.
SS: Yeah, the challenges of writing him are, I think, accepting that you have to go to a very dark place with it, where all he is about is seeing the thing you are afraid is true about yourself and showing you why it is true. He’s like a devil that laughs at you. You have to be willing to go to places that you think are scary for you and for Batman. Certainly with this one we’re going there.
You’ve talked about taking ownership of Batman, making your version of Batman. How do you guys feel that you have taken ownership of the Joker?
SS: I wouldn’t call it ownership. It’s more that you realize your version is your version. And it stands in a gallery of versions that coexist and aren’t the same. When you accept that you have yours, it’s not like taking [another version] and sort of doing away with that one to make yours. It just is yours.
It was Grant Morrison actually who talked to me about that in San Diego a few years ago, and it kind of clicked. He asked me, “Do you have a birth and a death for him?” And you realize he’s entirely your version. He begins and ends with you. There might be a DNA made up of you versions and other ones, but you kind of automatically have ownership of him when you begin. That’s the hardest thing to accept, that like it or not, he is yours when you start writing him.
GC: You have to be respectful of the past. There are certain things fans love so much, and you have to be respectful of that. But you automatically, as Scott said, take ownership. We each perceive things and it goes into our blender and comes out the way we feel about it. So when Scott writes, that’s what happens. And when I draw and illustrate his stories, you come through on that. Just by that virtue, you own it. So it’s being respectful and then just letting your feelings show on the page.
You mention birth and death, do you feel that you have an end for your Joker in this run?
SS: Well, [Batman: Endgame] is the end of his arc. If I never got to write the Joker again, this would be the goodbye to that character. Not that I won’t. I don’t want to say that I’ll never write him again because I feel like you always do that, and then you have an idea and you bring it back. But it’s the end of the arc.
The arc really, for me, begins emotionally in Zero Year, where he feels a certain way about his purpose in the world. Then Batman comes in and he evolves with Batman, and then he’s rejected. His mission is rejected in Death of the Family. This is him coming back and saying “See, I was always right. I’ll show you why.”
Did you guys always envision a beginning, middle, and end? Did you know you were going to do this big three-arc Joker story?
SS: I didn’t know back then. When I was writing Death of the Family, I started to think maybe there was going to be a second [arc]. I knew there needed to be a conclusion to it somewhere, I just didn’t know what it was. And then when we were finishing that arc, I started talking to [Greg] about [how] this is a comedy in so many ways. A comedy in the traditional sense…Not like a laugh comedy, but like Joker is expecting it to have a happy ending, an affirmation that Batman is going to leave his family behind. But Batman doesn’t. This time, he’s going to be looking for a kind of tragedy. So I started working on it when we were finishing Death of the Family, in my mind, and I always knew it was coming at that point.
At the end of Death of the Family, the Batman family obviously kind of breaks up like The Beatles. They’re not really working together. Where do you guys feel that the Batman family stands now in Endgame? In Batman Eternal, it seems like they’re starting to work together again…
SS: Well, you’ll see. I don’t want to give it away. I mean they come back. They come back in some ways, and there are other people that are going to be involved with Batman that I think will surprise you.
What’s up with Lark and Harper? Are they coming into their own?
SS: Yeah. Absolutely. Duke, who is the boy in Zero Year, becomes Lark in that sort of vision. Lark and Harper have significant roles in this story.
Would you guys ever consider doing a shorter sequel to Zero Year? Something about Batman’s early years?
GC: Shorter would be the key here.
SS: Yeah, I love his early years, so I would love to do more adventures in that time. But Zero Year is already so sort of total and encompassing as an imagining for us of his origin that I can’t really imagine going back to that story. But I loved going back to his early years, you know. That was fun.
GC: I could definitely see even a series where you would have adventures. Zero Year Adventures. Stuff that we had no witness to. That would be fun.
SS: I agree. I’d love to do it. And it would be episodic.
GC: It was pretty fun stuff, and FCO did an amazing job coloring and making it so bright with those glorious colors and settings. So yeah, I’d be cool with it. Just not a year-long arc, because it was a lot of work doing that book.
How do you approach characterizing and writing Batman differently from the early years to the later years? How do you guys feel that you put that maturity in?
SS: I think you just make him personal. So for me, my Batman, his big fight is with sort of denying his own mortality in some ways. He needs to believe that he is bigger than his body and bigger than his failings. But the wonderful thing about him is that he is just a man and there are constant reminders that, “No, you’re not.” That, for me, is what makes it mature or personal beneath the surface of the muscular fun over-the-top stuff.
One of the things I loved about Zero Year is the fact that you guys included some of those B-list villains. Doctor Death, for example, who you would never expect to see in an arc that big. How do you guys refresh these characters? What is the thought process? How does the process of bringing them back inform the larger story?
GC: For me, it’s all fun and games because Scott will come to me with a description of how he envisions it, and that’s where the most joyous part of my job is. Just lying on the floor with a sketchpad and doodling, coming up with ideas, something I think is cool, and then I’ll take a little picture of it on my phone and zap it over to [Scott]. “What do you think of that?” For me, it is all fun.
I’m self-admitting: I grew up a Marvel guy, so I didn’t even know who Doctor Death was. So reinventing characters I’ve never seen is real easy because I don’t have anything to clog up my mind. I just went totally on Scott’s descriptions and tried to bring that stuff to life. That’s all sheer fun and games. How Scott pens it to fit into the greater story, that’s for him to answer.
SS: The fun of it is trying to stay true to their core but do something that makes them modern. Doctor Death sort of uses menacing gas and has this strange sort of head. So how do you make him scary now? Well, what if he was working in genetic research to strengthen bones so it would be able to withstand blasts, IEDs, and stuff that you actually think about now as traumatic threats.
There are a couple coming up in Endgame too that are like that. I think surprising villains. There’s one that was almost a challenge because I feel like people like to shout his name at cons. When you’re like, “Who are you gonna do?” It’s not Condiment King, but they’ll name people like that. They’re like, “I want to see that!” There was one [villain] that people kept mentioning in particular. So alright, we’ll go there then. You are going to see some fun characters in Endgame.
Is that as nerve-racking as doing these larger-than-life Batman stories where you are introducing his B-list characters hoping people will love them?
SS: They’re just different muscles. Reintroducing a B or C-list character, there’s always applause that’s going to come with that. I think it’s probably easier than taking Two-Face and doing a good story with him. Those are challenging because you have to figure out what makes them interesting to you personally and then write a story all about that. I know why Penguin is scary, and if I did a Penguin story, it would be my take on that character. Not just trying to think what hasn’t been done but more what makes him important to you as a writer. You figure it out that way. Because everything has been seen at some point or other plot wise.
Thank you, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo!
Batman #35 is out in stores NOW!