SPOILER WARNING: The following article discusses the finale of Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr.’s first “All Star Batman” arc, on sale later this week.
The first arc of “All Star Batman” comes to a close this week, and CBR connected with superstar writer Scott Snyder to break down the final epic issue as it’s the end of the road(trip) for Batman and Two-Face.
“All Star Batman” #5, available on Wednesday, is the last issue of DC Comics’ best-selling series that will be illustrated by John Romita, Jr. for the foreseeable future as it was just announced that the living legend is moving onto “Suicide Squad” in the new year.
Snyder not only shared his thoughts on Two-Face, who he calls a “very scary villain,” and the major role KGBeast ended up playing in the opening arc, he also teased what’s to come in the series over the next few months.
And while he didn’t reveal the title of his highly anticipated collaboration with Greg Capullo that’s coming next year (we were looking for an extra Christmas present!), Snyder did share that his long-time collaborator calls the event a “Batman heavy metal rock opera.”
CBR: There are so many great lines in this issue, and really, the whole arc. But one line from Batman really stuck with me. When he’s speaking to Two-Face in the closing moments of the arc about this crazy road trip that they’ve been on since the first issue, he says, “Because your little trip? It didn’t show me that people are bad or ugly. It just reminded me that to be someone when you’re proud of when you look in the damn mirror… it’s always a fight. For all of us.” We all wear masks, every morning, don’t we? Two-Face is not alone in this fight. And neither is Batman.
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I think you’re right. Two-Face is the character that says, I am the real half. I’m the monstrous, private face that you don’t want to see in the mirror. And he knows all of this because he’s seen what people do behind closed doors. He has no faith in humanity to do anything but destroy each other and be selfish. Whereas Batman is the other half for most of the arc. He says that he forces himself to see the good. And I think what the arc does, at least I hope what it does, and that’s with some of Duke’s influence too, is that it reminds Bruce to focus on the good in people. And it’s also to recognize the pain that they’re in and the ugliness that they’re feeling. You have to respect all of that because ultimately, it makes it even more heroic when and if they do fight through and do whatever their perception of the right thing is in their own lives.
That’s what I was going for at the end, with the coin. Because of that, for me, Two-Face is a very scary villain. And one of the fun things about the arc and one of the challenges was to balance the levity and the kind of “Midnight Run,” kinetic, crazy bombastity with the very real horror and ugliness that Two-Face represents. He’s a very dark character, in my opinion. When Harvey admits that he’s given up in the fight against Two-Face, I was actually worried that story had gone too dark. I was trying to balance it constantly with this colorful, zany, wild action and humor.
I’m glad you mentioned Duke, because he does bring so much good to the story. But for me, the brightest star of the series is KGBeast, who really brings the bad. Have we seen the last of him in “All Star Batman?” because when he taunts Batman with, “This marks means that this will never end, Batman. Countries can fall, but you and I, we are inside something now! Something very special!,” it certainly feels like it’s not over for him.
[Laughs] I love Anatoli. I was searching for a character that could be hunting Batman and Two-Face on the road, and my first impulse was Killer Croc. But I have had this story in my mind for a long time, and when I knew that Killer Croc was going to be in “Suicide Squad,” he became kind of ubiquitous. I was like, who am I not thinking of? If this series is really about bringing back some of my favorite villains from the past, who am I not thing of? And then I remembered “Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast” and I was like, where is KGBeast? Suddenly, it just hit me; if I could think of a way to make him new, he would be just perfect for the arc. Because ultimately, what Two-Face is saying is that at the end of the day, we’re just a collection of our desires and impulses, and we mask that with what you were saying, which is a smiley, happy face. But beneath it, we are this nebulous thing of needs and desires and selfish impulses.
KGBeast is a character that fought and killed for country, and killed out of need because he was forced to do it. The thing with him is, what if he just realizes that he loves to kill, and that’s it. He’s like the id on the road. He’s like Two-Face’s proof. He is Exhibit A of what Two-Face is saying, which is, “I have admitted who I am. I have made an island where I am going to hunt people in a maze for years. And I love that. I am happy as the Beast.” And to give him a nice flair, to have him re-enhanced by the U.S. government after the U.S.S.R. fell just worked because it gave him all new weapons and new strength. I was so excited when I came up with all of that for him, just this idea that he wanted to be this chaotic, terrible, killing force on the road. I knew he was going to be on the best parts of “All Star Batman.” And I am so pleased that people have responded to him so positively. I was surprised, but also very excited.
And yes, we’ll see him again. I have an idea on how to bring him back in the arc after the next arc. Editorial liked him so much that they wanted me to put him in every arc, in every issue, hunting Batman throughout in the background of the story. But I just felt that he would overpower it. It would be too much of a distraction and take away from the other villains. But yes, I am definitely bringing him back in this series and also, I think, the event that I am doing with Greg Capullo.
I want to ask you about that, but first, let’s talk about the next arc of “All Star Batman.” Are the issues with Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Mad Hatter an arc, or a series of done-in-ones before the next arc?
It’s actually one arc. They seem like done-in-ones but it’s actually a four-issue story called, “Ends of the Earth.” What happens is that Batman goes out to confront Mr. Freeze, because Mr. Freeze is planning something diabolical. That takes place in Alaska, and even though it feels like a one-shot, without spoiling things, the cataclysmic thing that Freeze is planning actually begins to happen, despite Batman’s best efforts, and that leads him to Death Valley to find Poison Ivy, who is working with the oldest trees in the world and making all kinds of miraculous things. And that actually leads us into “All Star Batman” #8, which features Mad Hatter, because Batman realizes that the technology being used against him has similarities to what the Hatter uses. He heads to the Everglades to this factory that Hatter is fronting and using to build this new kind of hat that is pretty spooky. And this all culminates in #9 with [artist] Afua Richardson in Washington, DC.
And can you share, which villain we’ll see in “All Star Batman” #9?
No. [Laughs] There is actually a couple. There is this guy and this woman and then — look, there is someone else behind it, so I want to leave it a surprise. But it’s going to be a lot of fun. This one has more villains than the singular character studies that are coming as the story moves forward. But I think this one that’s coming up has a real spooky feel. My hope is that by #7, especially, people will see the larger idea of “All Star.” This arc was so singular and fun and kinetic because I wanted to “announce” that series was going to be really different from anything that I’ve done, or anything that’s been on the stands.
The Mr. Freeze issue is actually partly written in prose. It’s written like a story against Jock’s art. There are no captions, no balloons. It’s all done in quotes. The reason I did that was because Jock really wanted to tell it almost as a cold, remote, muted, distant story happening in the deep permafrost of Alaska. It has kind of ‘under glass’ quality. With Ivy, I go a different direction, with no narration. It’s a real intense, emotional kind of story. And with Hatter, the narration plays a huge part in a different way.
The challenge with “All Star,” and the thing that’s most exciting to me, is that every piece of every story, whenever I’m working with a different villain, I am trying to adapt my style and try something I haven’t done that fits that story because of what the villain is about and why they’re scary, what they say about the zeitgeist, what they speak to in terms of my personal anxieties. All of that lends itself to a creative process where I am making stories in a new way for me. Nothing you’ll see in this series looks like anything that I’ve done before, in “Batman” or any other book that I’ve done, or even in the issues that have come before within the series itself. I am trying to be different from issue to issue while still telling one big story. I’m really pushing myself, and I have never had so much fun on a superhero book. I couldn’t have had more fun with Greg [Capullo] in terms of our partnership and making things for “Batman” — that was a joy, always — but in terms of the freedom that this series allows me, and the creative latitude it allows me to try things that are brand new for me and new takes for the characters, it’s so exhilarating to go to work in this way because it’s a constant reinvention, month to month, arc to arc, villain to villain. I really love it. Everything about it is new, every time.
Again, not in any way to diminish my time on “Batman.” I couldn’t have had a better time with Greg and I can’t wait to work with him again. There is just a joy to getting to do a series like this where it is constant new challenges and new villains and new characters and new partners and new — it speaks to core thing that I love about comics, which is that collaborative energy that’s always there and renewed when you work with people you either haven’t worked with before, or you’re working with people that you have worked with before, but in an arena that you haven’t tried together before.
You’ve mentioned it twice now. Can you share anything about what you and Greg are working on together, presumably for next summer?
Greg calls it our Batman heavy metal rock opera. [Laughs] It’s going to be a big, epic Batman story with flaming armor, an over-the-top capstone to a lot of the stuff that we’ve done with him. It’s all mapped out. I’ve just been out to Burbank with Geoff Johns going over it, and going over what he’s doing. It was great. It was one of the best story meetings that I’ve ever had. We sat there for a couple of days and really tightened up some of the screws. Geoff was incredibly generous and helpful with it.
Above all, what I really want it to be for fans is to not have it feel like the kind of event that we’ve seen before. I love DC events. They’re bonkers and wonderful, but generally, they refer back to continuity, or they are all about where the line is at that moment in time. Geoff’s best ones have been plain-out great stories, but I think “Crisis,” for example, is in conversation with what we need to do with the line, as good as they are. What I want this one to be is different. I want it built out of the stories happening now and creating new material and giving everybody a place to tell stories that fit what they’re doing on their books, and feels really modern and different and above all fun. I don’t want it to be grim. I don’t want it to be superheroes arguing over something. Superheroes won’t be fighting superheroes. I want it to be celebratory, and huge, and crazy. I am going for out of control dinosaurs and lasers. It should be fun.
Does it have a name yet?
It does. And it’s my favorite name, but I can’t say it yet. Dan [DiDio] would murder me.
“All Star Batman” #5 is available on December 28.
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