Yesterday, Scott Snyder told CBR TV about his plans to scare the deep seas out of comics readers with his and Sean Murphy’s “The Wake” and why his and Jim Lee’s “Superman Unchained” is the one story about the Man of Steel he has to tell.
Today, it’s all about the Dark Knight as Snyder and kicks back in CBR’s WonderCon Tiki Lounge and digs into “Batman Zero Year,” explaining why it’s become necessary to visit Bruce Wayne’s first year under the cowl as the New 52 continues to grow and expand. Above all else, Snyder is adamant in assuring fans that he and Greg Capullo have plenty of new aspects to add to the character’s origins and aren’t planning to simply retell Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic “Year One,” asking for readers to just give the first four pages of the epic a chance to sell them on it.
Check out the interview — and full transcript — below.
CBR TV: Welcome to CBR TV. I’m Jonah Weiland, in the Tiki Room. My guest again — part two! — is Scott Snyder. We’re going to make this one a whole Batman-focused one, because the last interview we did was all dead cats and stuff. We’ve got to move on to something more positive, like Batman. “Batman: Zero Year,” this is a big, big initiative for you. It is the retelling, the re-imagination — whatever you want to call it — of the origin of Batman in the New 52. Just jump in and start telling us about this thing.
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I’m really, really excited about it. I genuinely feel from the bottom of my heart, on my kids, that this is the best thing we’ve done on “Batman.” … When the [New] 52 started, I guess, nobody was more adamant than the Bat-people — me and Pete Tomasi and Gail Simone and Kyle [Higgins] — about keeping Batman’s history intact, and DC was great about letting us say those stories happened, but little by little since the [New] 52 started, what we realized was that people had done stories in the separate books — like “Catwoman” or “Detective” and me too, in “Batman” — that had slowly taken away the pieces that were possible for “Year One” to exist now as the origin. For example, James Jr. wouldn’t be six years old. Jim Gordon has a different background. The Falcone Gang has a different background. Selina Kyle has a different history. It became clear to me that there wasn’t an origin. At the same time DC was saying, “We’d like to do a Batman origin,” because most other superheroes have had their origin told since the 52 started — Wonder Woman, Superman had “Action,” Aquaman — some of the origins are somewhat similar, some of them are radically different. Batman’s the only one we haven’t revisited those years.
I had this story in mind that I wanted to do for a while that’s an earlier story that shows Batman’s first adventures as Batman in a way that’s totally different than anything you’ve seen. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. So the project became, you know what, let me do it and try to reclaim parts of “Year One” and work around “Year One” or make sure that I show “Year One.” What happened was it just became clear that James Jr. is six, Selina Kyle’s history is different. Me trying to reclaim those pieces and put them in there would just make me be writing a worse “Year One” for all the fans out there. I’m not going to be able to write “Year One” as good as “Year One” ever — or a book that’s as good as “Year One.” But what I can do is say, “Let’s do something new, let’s do something special, let’s do something our own and tell an origin we’re going to give everything we have.” Everything we have, like sleepless nights, everything we have and say, “Here’s something that’s completely different.” It keeps the core stuff there — Joe Chill, the alley, the bat, the absolute core things — but everything else on the book is something you have never, ever seen. The book is designed to be like, you open it to page one and you say, “God damn. What is happening?” Literally, when you open it up to page one. I promise you, you’ll be like, “What is happening?” and for every page to be that way, where you turn it and you’re like, “Oh, my God! I’ve never seen the origin like that.”
My hope is that you love it as much as we do. Everything you see was made to honor what came before, but do it in a way that’s completely different. You’ll see Gotham in a way you’ve never seen it, you’ll learn things about the Waynes and the Kanes you’ve never learned before, you’re going to see your favorite villains in different ways, there’s new villains and you’re going to see Batman come into his own in ways you’ve never seen.
The backups are designed with Rafael Albuquerque [written] by me and James Tynion. They’re going to be skillsets — I’ve never said this before, actually — skillsets that Bruce learned around the world. No ninjas, no Himalayas, no ice, it’s completely modernized, really, really fun. I don’t want to say it’s almost a punk rock version, but it’s meant to be fast and bright and different than “Year One.” “Year One” is a masterpiece, there’s no touching “Year One” period. Period. I get it. But if we’re going to do it, you gotta swing for the fence and say we’re going to do it our way and try something that’s completely 180 degrees away from that. It’s a story that means the world to us and shows Bruce’s early years in a completely, completely different light.
I’m hearing your enthusiasm and you’re talking about honoring the past. From a creative standpoint, this sounds like the highest risk project you’ve done thus far.
Oh, it is. It is. My wife will tell you. And James Tynion — I call that guy late at night and I have panics about it, I’m not going to lie. Like, panics. I’m like, “Oh, maybe we should have played it safe, and I could’ve done a story that was in the present about Mr. Freeze.” I have stories like that and I want to do them, but my feeling was honestly, “Let’s go for it.” Let’s do something — I really feel at the end of the day, and I mean it, that we’d be doing a disservice to the readers of the book if we played it safe. I always said on the book, and I mean it and maybe I’m an idiot for it and I’ll fall on my face on this one and that’s okay, [that] the moment I don’t go as big as I can and swing for the story I would tell if I got one chance to tell a story on this book, it would be this one — same with “Court of Owls,” that’s my one Bruce story if I ever got a chance. [“Death of the Family”] was the one Joker story if I ever got a chance. This is the origin if I ever got a chance to do the origin. You do it 11 issues, different chapters, things you’ve never seen before. If I didn’t do that, I’d feel like I was a complete f-ing hypocrite on the book, when I’ve said I would leave the book if I didn’t do a story like that every time. After this story, maybe I — it’s causing me so much stress! [Laughs]
Maybe afterwards maybe I’ll say, “I’m going to do a nice Penguin story for a while,” and forgive me if I do, but the point is this is the biggest, craziest, most ambitious thing we’ve done. It’s the riskiest. We might fall on our face on it, you might hate it, but at the end of the day, there’s no story I love more. I mean it, from the bottom of my heart, it’s our Batman origin. What I hope is that everyone who’s been so supportive of us, you feel it’s yours too. We’re trying one for a different generation of Batman fans. It takes nothing away from “Year One.” It can’t retouch the hem of “Year One” in the way that that’s a masterpiece. But, again, if I was doing “Year One” again, you’d be getting a shittier version of “Year One,” where I’m like, “Here’s the pearls, here’s the lamp.” Instead, it’s swing for the fences, do your own thing and try something that you hope that if you love the story as much as you do, fans will love it as much as you do and see that the DNA of it is still the core stuff even though it’s wild and different.
I want to finish up by asking you about the reaction you’ve had from the creative community as word has gotten out about this, because, look — there’s a lot of creators that worked on “Batman” over the years, a lot of creators that feel a sense of ownership — and then there’s fans who feel a sense of ownership on that. Have you had any feedback like, “How dare you. How can you do this?”
Oh, sure. Not from creators. Creators have been very nice and they’re very enthusiastic about it. From guys like Dan Slott at Marvel to all my DC friends, like [Jeff] Lemire and everybody that’s been incredibly supportive. But fans, there have been people that have been like, “I’m never reading ‘Batman’ again because you’re doing this,” and you know what? I totally understand, and I’m sorry about that, I really am. But what I would say is I’m not going to try and hype it to you beyond just saying, “It’s my favorite thing. Open it and –” I’m not giving it any hooks. I’m not saying, “Read it because you’re going to find out X, Y and Z” beyond the most basic things. You’re going to find out stuff about villains, you’re going to find out stuff — I’m trying to stay away from the P.T. Barnum-ing of it to the degree where I’m like, “There will be a shocking twist where a character will die,” and instead say, “Open it, see what you think.” If the first four pages don’t win you over — because they’re my favorite four pages on anything I’ve ever written in “Batman,” literally, my favorite four pages as an opening — if you don’t like it, I understand, you can drop everything I ever wrote. You can never buy another book of mine and I’m sorry to have lost you, but I would stand by them to my dying day. I’m really proud of it. I mean that, honestly. Cross my heart, I mean it. On my kids, I feel that way.
It’s interesting, just watching you here, because we just did an interview talking about Superman and the dead cat and all that stuff — your mood and your body language completely changed talking about this book. So, it’s pretty clear to me how much this means to you and how important this is. Good luck, man, and I’m looking forward to it.
I appreciate it, Jonah. Thank you.