“Batman” writer Scott Snyder joined in on the fun of the CBR Tiki Room high above the New York Comic Con show floor, and spoke about everything he has planned for “Batman” and Superman, whom he will write in a new title next year featuring art by DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee. Snyder also discusses the pressures of writing stories for some of the most iconic characters in comics, how he’s using the Joker to reveal Batman’s more sensitive side, his new Vertigo title “The Wake” with Sean Murphy, the joys of mentoring new writers as a teacher and just how much his life has changed as his comics star shines brighter with each project.
On doubting his abilities as a writer when working on iconic characters: You go through those panics constantly and I feel like if I didn’t it would worry me more, you know? Just because they’re characters that I love and grew up with — I’ve always said Batman, I always wanted to write Batman, it’s my favorite — and Superman as well, you know. … It’s terrifying, you know, honestly. But the only way to approach it I feel like is you know you love the character, and essentially to find what you know you can bring to them that’s different. … The bottom line is just when you approach [these characters] you have to be able to put the blinders on and say, “I’m writing them as if I’m making them up. They’re mine and I own them.” Otherwise you look around and it’s paralyzingly intimidating because they’re so iconic. You have to just accept that these are your versions and ’cause you love the character hopefully other people will see the DNA of the versions they love in it too and they’ll love yours.
On why now was the right time to use the Joker: As much as the Joker is this iconic villain and you would think, “Well, of course, use him,” the only reason I’m using him is because the story that I was thinking about for Batman, while I was doing “Court of Owls,” was that I was fascinated by the notion that [Batman]’s developed this family. And this family, as much as he cares about them, is also an achilles heel. As the father of young children, that’s part of what excites me — and terrifies me — about Batman’s position right now. The world becomes a scary place when you have kids. And the Joker’s the perfect person to come and say, “Don’t you wish it was just you and me again? Let me show you all the great times we had.”
On his plans for telling a big, epic Superman story: This Superman story really is the biggest, most epic Superman story I can do. It’s sort of like, I always imagine they’re gonna kick me off right after the story so it’s like everything I love about Superman in one. It’s similar where it really is largely about things that I find most heroic and wonderful about him is his sense of restraint in the way that he’s this super hero who has the ability to reshape the world in the way that he thinks would be best. And yet instead he challenges us to do it ourselves, and he looks to us to be inspired, and to inspire us. The story really takes its structure from that, it has the DNA of a lot of my favorite Superman stories like “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” and “Kingdom Come” and “Red Son.”
On serving as a mentor to new writers via his comics writing class: They come with such hunger and such great ideas, and the bravery they have — you see they’re not jaded and they want so badly to make stories that they care about that I feel like it sort of really recalibrates or helps set your compass as an established writer to say, “That’s the fire I want to keep always.”
On how being a father allows him to write Batman as a father in stories like “Death of the Family”: I really try and go for the stuff that scares me the most. So in “Severed” it really is about, “What if my kid ran away and was on the road with this horrifying person?” With Joker that’s what it’s about and with Gotham, with Court of Owls, it really was about growing up in the city I was always fascinated by this notion of the unknowable lives that were lived before you and sort of haunted. You can know historical fact, you can know really what happened in these secret apartments and stuff, and so you try to find ways of putting yourself into the story. And with Joker I don’t know that I could, but I know that the reason it’s working so well for me is because it scares me to death to write because I feel Batman’s — I feel how scared Bruce is for the family and he shuts them out when he’s frightened for them. And by shutting them out he also paradoxically makes them more vulnerable to the Joker, and that’s what Joker sees. He says, “You don’t let them in because you love me more.” That’s part of what he’s saying is, “You wish they were dead and we could go back to it being you and me,” and of course that’s not true but what Joker does is he sees the thing that you fear is true about yourself and he makes you believe that’s the totality of who you are. And that’s the thing that makes him so rich and terrifying as a villain. He brings your own worst nightmares to life about yourself; he makes you frightened of yourself.