This Batman interview contains major spoilers for Batman #50 and the rest of the run.
Some people might say it’s still too early to call Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman “legendary,” especially since it hasn’t technically even ended yet, but I think I’m right on time. It’s not every day that the Batman writer of a decade is fatefully teamed up with the Batman artist of a decade. I’ve been following their work on the Dark Knight ever since #21, the start of “Zero Year,” the story that convinced me to finally make the dive into comics. I haven’t stopped reading or collecting every single thing they’ve done since. I even bought some old Spawn, a character I don’t actually care about at all, just to look at more of Capullo’s awe-inspiring drawings.
With Batman #50, the conclusion of their current story arc, “Superheavy,” we finally see the return of Bruce Wayne as Batman after a year-long absence from the cowl. And what an ending it is, showcasing some of the biggest, most insane stuff they’ve ever done. (Bats doesn’t punch any horses in this one, though…) It’s over the top, it’s fun. Snyder writes with such lightness, his words springing from panel to panel like a revitalized Bruce, while Capullo gives way to the coolest Batsuit I’ve seen in quite a while.
Alas, Snyder and Capullo bring their brilliant run to a close with next month’s #51, which Capullo teases as “the most peace we have ever given Batman in a night.” Capullo will then move on to work on a miniseries with Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) for six months before getting back together with Snyder for their biggest stuff yet. Snyder’s DC plans aren’t exactly set in stone as of this writing, but I suspect that will change when DC hits the stage at WonderCon on Saturday. And you can still find Snyder’s work in the pages of American Vampire, Wytches, and the upcoming AD: After Death, which he’s working on with Jeff Lemire (Descender).
I had a chance to chat with Snyder and Capullo about their run with the Caped Crusader, their feelings on what they’ve accomplished with the book, and what characters they’d like to tackle next. We begin with the new Batsuit…
Greg, can you tell me a little about your thought process behind the new Batsuit?
Greg Capullo: A couple of things. When I came on to New 52, the suit had already been designed by Jim Lee—he designed all of the suits. I didn’t really have any say. The only thing I kind of did when I took over Batman is I tried to make it look less like shiny armor. I always got that impression when looking at Jim’s designs.
So the first thing I did was tone that down a little bit. But now I had “Okay, here you go, it is yours to design.” One of the things I tried to do with the cowl, before I redesigned, was keep it rather featureless. I never really liked the spray painted mask or where every line in the face can be seen. I understand that because you are trying to get the emotional scale of the face—that’s why you do that—but in real life that’s not what he looked like and never wanted that.
The other thing that always turned me on was Frank Miller, when he did the armor when he fought Superman in Dark Knight Returns, and I just loved that. Then somebody also pointed out to me, “Hey, your Batman cowl kinda reminds me of Space Ghost.” I loved Space Ghost as a kid. I even had the coloring book. So maybe, subconsciously, I was always trying to do Space Ghost Batman.
I finally gave him the cowl that I wanted and now it’s down to the forehead and to the nose peak. And the other thing I did was I wanted the downside of the cape and the cowl to be flat black. I think it is more stealthy that way. There’s times when it serves you to put a shiny highlight on the cape, or a sliver of lighting on the cowl, maybe I will bend that rule a little bit. But overall, a flat black light-absorbent cowl and cape would really be very stealthy if you are doing the kind of work Batman does.
So that was that part of it, and then I wanted to give a little bit of a nod to things that Scott and I have done since we started together. For “Zero Year,” we had Batman with the purple gloves, and so I said well I’ll make the inside of the cape lining purple. It’ll look cool with the yellow, and it will pop off the silhouette of Batman’s body when he’s in the street. Then with “Superheavy,” Gordon’s armor has the bat emblem with yellow trim around it, so I said I’ll take that and put that on his chest. It’s a little different, it’s not going shoulder-to-shoulder, but it’s the same idea.
Once I did that, it gave rise to the belt. You want to always try to echo things and drag lines through and colors through and backgrounds and shapes. So that’s what gave rise to the utility belt. We’ve always had the yellow belt, I mean forever. We didn’t want to change Batman’s suit too much, because it is so iconic and it is just so perfect, but I go here’s what we will do, we’ll mimic the emblem. We’ll give him a black utility belt with yellow piping. Then it’s a direct echo of the emblem, and I felt that the suit needed that anchor in the midway of the body. So the black, to me, is necessary to give the right contrast and the right weight to that figure.
The other thing I wanted to do, because we’ve always seen the conventional pouches and stuff, is they make angled pouches believe it or not. So I tried to imitate a bat shape. The prongs next to the buckle, I peeked them down to look like fangs and then swept them up like wings, which goes into the oblique and falls back down. Again, it is just how do you make a Batman look like a bat? So it was just playing with those kinds of shapes.
Then obviously I have toned down the line work as far as seams on the suit quite a bit. There’s few on there, and pretty much that was it.
From now on, I’ll always know your Batman as Space Ghost Batman. Did you guys always know that you wanted to end the arc with a big mech vs. kaiju fight?
Scott Snyder: Well, I’ve been gunning for that for years. I did this short with Sean Murphy back in Detective Comics #27 two plus years ago, where I came up with the idea of doing a giant owl, like a huge owl Jaeger* vs. a Bat-Jaeger, and I was like, “Oh man, if there’s any way to save that for #50 or the last thing we do, that would be amazing.” Im glad we did that, as stupid and crazy as it is. I hope that our run so far has been a combination of bringing the crazy, over-the-top fun and explosiveness that I love, but also we tried to make each story personal and about things that we feel passionately about when it comes to Batman and his mythology.
This issue is kind of exemplary in that way. It is as far as you can push things with a giant black hole strange star in Gotham and a huge monstrous superpowered kaiju boogeyman attacking the city and robot suits and mechs and crazy new elements that block cosmic rays. I hope it’s also about bravery and heroism in the real world.
*Editor’s Note: By “Jaegar,” Scott means the giant mechs in the movie Pacific Rim.
Greg, did you look at any manga or anime for the designs in “Superheavy?”
GC: No, not really. Though I have certainly seen that in my younger years, no. But it may be something rolling around in my head from something I saw when I was in my twenties, maybe?
But no, I didn’t seek out any reference. It was just playing with shapes and trying to add variety. The truth is that you don’t have a lot of time to plan things when you have a monthly title. When I first had to draw all those Batman armors that we saw for the first time in the bay at the Powers Corp, there was no time to sit down and think about that, it’s just go and make it look a little bit different. So I didn’t refer to anything. It was all done on the fly.
This arc is a lot about Bruce Wayne’s rebirth as Batman, and I was wondering if you guys could see a day when Bruce would finally pass on his mantle to a successor?
SS: No. I mean, I think he would. I believe in Batman Beyond and all those things. But, I think as much as that happens, those stories exist in a way to renew Bruce as well. I can never see a day when someone else will be Batman permanently.
I could see a future where Bruce is too old to be Batman or he passes away and someone else takes the mantle. But I feel like the end of that story is always bringing Bruce back. Whether he is like reborn or he finds a way to rejuvenate himself, or whatever it is. Bruce Wayne will always be Batman at core.
But I have written Dick Grayson as Batman and now Jim Gordon. When other people step into the cowl, it gives you a new angle on why Bruce is so perfect for the role and also what the mythology and what the cowl means from very different perspectives.
What can you guys tell me about Batman #51?
GC: It’s quiet. It’s the most peace we have ever given Batman in a night. [Laughs]
SS: I had this idea for it after writing #50. [Batman #50] is obviously city-shaking and heavy as possible, so we wanted to do something small and quiet that would circle back to some of the material we began with. So I am really proud of it. I think it’s a love letter to the fans and to Batman itself, thanking everybody, and so I hope everybody really likes it. I am very happy with it and I am proud of it.
GC: You’ll recognize a lot of nods to our earlier work.
I know Greg teased a drawing of Killer Croc on Twitter. Does #50 circle back to Batman #1?
SS: Yeah. It does in a lot of ways. It circles back to #1 and it has echoes of other things we have done in the series. It’s just to say thanks for sticking with us for this entire crazy ride.
Is there something from your Batman run that you guys are most proud of?
GC: Well, we have done a lot of stuff. I will tell you honestly, when Jonathan [Glapion], Danny [Miki], and I started to talk about pricing pages and releasing them to market..When you’re working on a monthly book, you don’t really get much time to sit back and contemplate what you’ve done. You are on an assembly line. It is just go go go go go. And so while I was going through some of these pages to price them, and all of a sudden I’m looking at this page…and it’s happened so long ago that I am looking at it with completely fresh eyes as if someone else did it. There’s such emotional impact on some of the stuff. I would say “Court of Owls,” that’s the one I was going through, I am really proud of that. I did not realize, while I was in it, what we were actually doing. But now that I am almost five years away from it, and looking at it fresh, I am really proud of Court of Owls. And I think issue #5 is like a standout moment in that arc.
SS: There are so many moments I look back at that I am really proud of. Batman wrestling a lion and issue #5 where we turned the comic book and in “Zero Year” when we reimagined the moment when [Bruce] first decides to be Batman. The Riddler box and the sphinxes and dealing with Joker and his battle when the whole city Jokerized. It’s fun, you know? I look at it and I’m really proud of those moments because I feel like we were starting to push ourselves to do things we hadn’t seen before.
Ultimately, honestly the thing I’m most proud of, looking back, is private in the way I can look at certain moments in the book and say that’s when Greg and I had an idea together for something that maybe DC wasn’t so into but we pushed through and got this and fans enjoyed it. Or I can say this is the issue that came out when we were in San Diego together and we got to celebrate it. Because at the end of the day everything that we are really walking away from is our friendship that means more to me than the run itself and a partnership that will last beyond our time on Batman.
So I’m very proud of all of it. There’s nothing I would change about any of it. That’s the craziest thing. There are lines when I’m like, “Oh man, I wish I would have written that line better.” But that’s really granular stuff. I couldn’t be prouder of it and what were able to put together as a team.
And the fans. That is the other thing, man. There are so many moments along the way, where Greg will vouch for me, where I got panicky. I have anxiety and I get to really low places sometimes. I get afraid that I made a mistake and that it’s just not good. I mean, I don’t care if everyone hates it as long as I like it. But sometimes I go through a period where I have a very hard time seeing the forest through the trees because I just get so wrapped in my own head and the pressure. There are moments where I have been like this is just where it is not going to go through and Greg usually helps me see it for what it is and tries to make me proud of it. The fact that the fans have supported us and he was right and they responded the way they did, it really meant a lot. I would have been proud of it and done it anyway if they didn’t like it, but the fact that they have been so supportive…It has been the best ride, it has been the best ride ever.
Are there any other established characters you two would like to tackle in an ongoing book?
GC: It’s tough to say. I mean, I love Batman so much…I know it would be a longshot, but like old-school Lobo? Like Simon Bisley did him. It would be awesome to do some Lobo.
SS: I’d do Lobo for you, dude. I think some space biker gang stuff would be fun!
There are a lot of characters I’d love to do at DC between Justice League and other things, but I always wanted to do Ghost Rider. I think we’d have a blast on Ghost Rider, dude. Or maybe Wolverine? There are really a ton of characters that I’m like, “Greg and I would kick ass on this.” Because we both gravitate towards the same kind of characters, I think. They’re kind of badass, the one’s that are a little misunderstood, a little darker.
GC: I’ve been typecasted. Because I did Spawn, you assume that, Scott. I thought I was going to get a breather from that when I stepped into Batman. All of a sudden, I realize Scott Snyder is a horror writer!
Scott and Greg, thanks so much and best of luck with your future projects! Batman #50 is out today. Batman #51 will be out on April 27.