The superstar “Batman” team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo delivered a megahit for DC Comics with “Death of the Family,” the Batman event that began in October and also ran through “Batgirl,” “Batman and Robin,” “Catwoman,” “Detective Comics,” “Nightwing,” “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” “Suicide Squad” and “Teen Titans.”
Following months of critical acclaim and chart-topping sales figures, the crossover event ended with this week’s release of “Batman” #17. With the comic book industry heavily anticipating the issue for the past four weeks (ever since The Joker presented Batman with a serving dish of revenge back in “Batman” #16), Snyder and Capullo didn’t disappoint as the Batman family will clearly never be the same thanks to some heavy handed play by the Clown Prince of Crime.
CBR News spoke to Snyder about the final scenes of the 23-part story arc and the fan favorite writer shared valuable insight into the relationship between Batman and Joker, the genuine death in “Death of the Family” and the climatic close, which featured arguably the most significant fictional plunge since Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty went over Reichenbach Falls in “The Final Problem.”
CBR News: When DC Comics relaunched its entire line with the New 52, you delivered a blockbuster event in “Batman” with the “Night of the Owls” story arc. But did you consider kicking things off with this Joker-driven story or, conversely, further holding out to tell this story?
Their relationship is so rich and twisted and wonderful and ever-changing, between writers, that Joker is a character that I would explore again in a second. In a split second.
With Joker still dangling, possibly to his death, Batman tells him that while he was away the past year he finally “deduced” who he really is. Has Batman actually figured it out or was he playing Joker for the fool?
[Laughs] I don’t want to say because I like people to make up their own minds about that but for me I think the idea is that if Batman knew who he was for real and he didn’t tell the family through this event, it would be as though he wasn’t growing enough as a character. He wasn’t growing to the degree I wanted to show him growing in the story.
And plus, if he knew who he was, what fun is that at the end of the day? I like the idea that Gotham would never allow Batman to figure out who Joker is. The Joker is Gotham’s son just like Batman is. Gotham loves them both for being locked in that horrible relationship. I think whatever Batman found, Gotham would blur and erase.
You said Batman would have to tell the family if he knew who Joker really was but when he called the family together at the end of “Batman” #17 for a debrief, Tim, Barbara, Jason, Damian and Dick don’t respond. Or at least they come up with excuses not to. What Joker did put some real distance between Bruce and the Bat family, didn’t it?
Yes, and we wanted it to have lasting repercussions. It was definitely tempting to leave some physical scars on them — to mutilate someone or even kill someone — because The Joker often does that stuff.
I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t go back and forth and think, “What if we just took a leg?” But at the end of the day, what worried me was that it would become distracting or it would detract from what the story was really about, which was The Joker proving, in some way, that he could divide Batman and the family and in that way, I felt like if somebody died or was horribly mutilated, it wouldn’t have the same resonance. And it wouldn’t cut as deep and it would distract from the deep cut that he’s left, which is the things that he said to the family in the dark, the way that he proves that Batman behaves the wrong way.
Batman didn’t tell them about the card. He didn’t tell them that Joker had taken Alfred. He didn’t trust them, at first, to go after Joker the way they should be able to at this point. All of those things that are his way of protecting them but are misguided but are also, wonderfully his own and prove The Joker’s point in some way and by doing that Joker set Batman up to have a hollow victory. That’s why doing something like that to one of his family members at the end would just take away from it, as tempting as it was to take a finger.
I remember sending Dan DiDio a note. “What if we send a hand? His hand comes in a box. Or what about a finger?” It would be really hard if Alfred had a hook for a hand. He’s going to sew Bruce up with a hook? That’s going to be a mess.
You certainly teased that you were going down that road with Greg’s gruesome panels featuring family around the serving dish with bloodied bandages on their faces.
It’s meaner and more truthful and cruel of The Joker to play a joke them and say, “I can get you to hate each other and to turn on each other. I can create a wedge between you and Batman without doing the thing that would have this horrifying physical consequence.”
“I can basically pretend to do that but the actual cut is this.” And technically, that’s what he’s saying, and the point of this story, at least in The Joker’s mind, is, “I have cut off all of your faces. I showed you what’s beneath the skin. I’ve exposed you to each other.”
And that’s why when his face comes off as he’s falling, it’s supposed to be that brief moment where Batman sees him for who he is, as well.
With the title for the arc, I thought, as did many others, that a Robin would die. Or maybe Alfred. Then I thought with the family torn apart it was the philosophical death of the family. Finally, I thought it was The Joker who died but you’re saying you might have another story with him. So can you confirm Joker survived his Reichenbach Falls’ splash landing?
[Laughs] If I killed him, I knew he’d back. But more than that, I think the idea of death is that they’re all totally allied and they are this well oiled machine that works together and loves each other. I think what The Joker was trying to expose was that there are deep divisions between Batman and the family and in some ways, he can exploit those and make it so that he can kill, or at least wound very, very badly, the heart of that living relationship between them so that the repercussions of this will play out very darkly and heavily in “Batman” and the mythology of Gotham for some time. And there are more stories actually to be told about it.
Where do you go from here? “The Court of Owls” was a huge story for you and DC Comics and “Death of the Family” was even bigger. Where do you go next?
I would say that the story coming up in 2013, as corny as it sounds, as much as it makes me sound like P.T. Barnum, is definitely our most ambitious. It starts in “Batman” #21 and is a 9 to 10-issue story. It features another one of my favorite rogues and essentially, it’s going to be our boldest take yet.
Like I was telling you earlier, I really want everyone reading this at CBR to know that I’m always waiting for the pink slip. Hopefully, in this way, you know that the story that we’re going to tell is one that if I got kicked off afterwards, I would be excited that I got to tell it. And that’s it. The fact that I get to tell it means the world to me and I owe the readers of CBR and everyone else out there that picks it up my thanks. I’m very grateful. We’re not going to sit back and spin our wheels or do small stories. I promise you that. I’m way too neurotic for that.
“Batman” #17, the conclusion of “Death of the Family” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, is available now.