Batman, a Dead Bruce Wayne, and What to Expect from The Batman Who Laughs

We sat down with Batman and Justice League writer Scott Snyder to talk about his upcoming miniseries, The Batman Who Laughs.

“I will never get tired of writing Batman,” veteran DC writer Scott Snyder tells Den of Geek on the last day of NYCC 2018. “I mean, I will stop writing it, you know, cause I don’t want to overstay my welcome. And when I don’t have an idea that I think is special. But I get in that Batmobile and I just love it to death, I have so much fun.”

Since 2011, Snyder has been working on a Batman epic that is already regarded as one of the all-time great runs on the character ever written. Snyder has tackled everything from Batman’s origin story to his adventures through the Dark Multiverse, a nightmare version of the DC universe run by an evil Justice League and a Bat-God. Batman’s also fought a villain-turned-kaiju in a giant mech, punched a plethora of zoo animals (a running gag in Snyder’s stories), teamed up with the Joker, and even created clones of himself in order to fight crime forever.

What’s kept Snyder’s Batman work so interesting is his unbelievable range as a writer. He’s explored Batman through the lens of horror, sci-fi, and the adventure genre. He can make you laugh, cry, or shiver in terror. Most importantly, the stories he tells about Batman feel personal, more concerned with what makes Batman human than whom he is punching. 

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With almost a decade of Batman stories under his belt, Snyder has shown no sign of leaving the Dark Knight behind. In fact, he has at least two more stories left to tell. Next year, Snyder will team up with his Batpartner-in-crime, artist Greg Capullo, for Batman: Last Knight on Earth, a postapocalyptic three-part miniseries inspired by Mad Max and billed as “the last Batman story ever told.”

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But before that, Snyder has an even grimmer tale to tell: The Batman Who Laughs, a six-issue miniseries with art from Jock, another frequent collaborator (most recently on Wytches and All-Star Batman). It will see the return of one of the most grotesque villain’s in the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery, a Jokerized Batman from the Dark Multiverse who killed all of his friends and enemies on his Earth and has now come to our Earth to do the same. For Batman, the Batman Who Laughs is a terrifying mirror image of what he could become if he ever broke his most important rule.

“It’s a really personal story,” Snyder explains. “It’s very much about the Batman Who Laughs coming to Gotham and saying, ‘I’ve seen you across multiple worlds, and I know what really makes you happy. And what makes you happy is going to surprise you.'”

While the material is certainly dark, Snyder says that the book will still contain plenty of the over-the-top action Batfans know and love. 

“The story starts with Bruce tracking down the smuggling ring, and they’re smuggling things in these heavy load trucks, with these kinds of compartments that sort of sit beneath the truck. He’s following one that’s carrying houses and people are pushing houses off and trying to stop him. He’s busting through the houses on his Batcycle. I love it, it’s so fun.”

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According to Snyder, what the Dark Knight finds inside these hidden compartments is what sends him on a collision course with the Batman Who Laughs

“He opens up the compartment and he sees a dead Bruce Wayne. This Bruce Wayne is ten years older than him, has lived a different life, was married to Selena, had a kid with Selena,” Snyder reveals. “He has to autopsy himself and discover the clues as to whose back and he realizes very quickly it’s the Batman Who Laughs.”

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While it’s true that the Batman Who Laughs is what happens when you mix Batman and Joker together to form the DCU’s most terrifying bad guy, Snyder stresses that this isn’t necessarily a Batman vs. Joker story. Even the Joker doesn’t know what to make of the Batman Who Laughs.

“I would say that the thing that’s really interesting to me right now is not the Joker/Batman antagonism,” Snyder says. “It’s the Batman Who Laughs as the nightmare that the both of them are sort of unprepared for. I don’t think Joker ever really thinks Batman is going to kill him. I think he just pushes him and pushes him to be a better version of himself in his own evil, psychotic way. He believes he’s helping [Batman] somehow as his kind of best villain.”

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Just imagine a villain who has every quality that makes Batman great — the superior intellect, combat training, and determination bordering on the suicidal — while also enjoying the amorality that allows the Joker to destroy, burn, and kill without hesitation. He’s the perfect foe for Batman, he knows every move the Dark Knight will make as well as all of his weaknesses.

“The Batman Who Laughs to me is a figure who, he’s not even so much the Joker as he is Batman. He’s Bruce Wayne, he has all Bruce Wayne’s memories. He knows everything that’s happened with the Justice League,” Snyder teases. “That’s what’s scary about it.”

First introduced in Snyder and Capullo’s big Dark Nights: Metal crossover event, the Batman Who Laughs was finally defeated when the Joker decided to team up with the Caped Crusader to take the monstrous aberration down. This was one partnership that the Batman Who Laughs couldn’t predict. 

Most recently, the Batman Who Laughs returned in the pages of Snyder’s Justice League series. It’s revealed that Lex Luthor captured the villain after the events of Metal and locked him up in the Hall of Doom. In Justice League #8, Luthor and the Batman Who Laughs make a pact to help each other take down the world’s greatest heroes. But while Luthor wants to take down all of the superheroes who stand in his way, it’s clear that the Batman Who Laughs has his sights set on his heroic counterpart. And this time, he’s not coming alone. 

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The Batman Who Laughs will also introduce the Grim Knight, a gun-toting Batman from another universe who Snyder likens to the Punisher. He’s packed with weapons and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on his enemies. As you can see in the art above, the Grim Knight has a real love for killing machines.

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Grim Knight is making his debut at a time when our country is facing a major gun violence problem that’s resulted in over 280 mass shootings just in 2018. While Snyder isn’t using the Grim Knight to comment on current political issues, he does stress that this gun-toting villain isn’t meant to be celebrated. The Grim Knight is very much the bad guy.

“With Batman, a lot of the time you get the question of ‘Why doesn’t Batman use lethal force?'” Snyder says. “This is one of Batman’s worst fears come to life. That fear is that he will cross a line and will never be able to come back and get darker and darker and darker.”

Guns aren’t the only tools the Grim Knight uses to inflict his particular brand of justice on his enemies. He’s got plenty of other ways to hurt his enemies.

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“It’s not really about guns, so much as it is about lethality. And the story itself, as much as he’s shown with the guns on the cover, he actually uses many other means. He uses a lot more blades and gauntlets and scythes and electricity, and all kinds of horrifying things to get you.”

Like Bruce Wayne, the Grim Knight is also incredibly rich. While our Bruce has used his immense wealth to fund his non-lethal crimefighting tech, the Grim Knight is basically running something akin to Murder Google.

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“The Grim Knight is literally the head of a multi-billion dollar military industrial complex. He has stuff in your phone. He has stuff in your car and GPS. So if he wants to kill you, your car just goes off a bridge. You don’t even know it was him. So its really not about the guns, so much is about the fact that he’s willing to kill anyone to get what he wants, anytime.”

With two killer Batmen on the loose (and one dead Bruce Wayne), will the Caped Crusader be able to win the day without breaking his one rule? Will he survive the onslaught at all? We’ll find out when The Batman Who Laughs #1 arrives in November. 

John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9