SPOILER WARNING: The following interview discusses specific events and major plot points from “Batman” #40.
While Batman enjoyed a well-deserved, year-long 75th birthday party last year, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo didn’t want his arch-nemesis to feel left out in 2015. The Joker made his landmark debut in “Batman” #1 (Volume 1) in 1940 and has tormented the Dark Knight relentlessly ever since.
Snyder and Capullo already put the ultimate love-hate relationship of Batman and the Joker to the test during the best-selling “Death of the Family” story arc in 2012 but three years later, the Joker is back and Bruce Wayne just made the ultimate sacrifice to bring the Clown Prince of Crime to his knees in the climatic conclusion to “Endgame.” Or did he?
In “Batman” #40, which was released today by DC Comics, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon and the citizens (and some of the criminals) of Gotham are mourning the loss of Batman, who many believe perished in an epic battle with the Joker in an effort to stop the further spreading of the Joker virus.
CBR News connected with Snyder and Capullo to discuss the game-changing “Endgame” finale and learned that readers (and Batman) may have got exactly what they wished for — even if it didn’t play out exactly as they wanted.
CBR News: Let’s start with the big elephant in the room. Or I guess in this case, a T. rex. Are Batman and Joker really dead?
Greg Capullo: When Scott gave me the script, one of the things that he said was that the fans have always said this is what they want. This showdown. Let’s give it to them so they go, “Well, I thought I wanted this.” [Laughs] And all of sudden, they’re backing out of the room. “I didn’t want it like this!” So be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
Scott Snyder: Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. It was really intimidating doing it but for us, it really had to feel like the last time these two iconic characters would ever meet. I wanted it to feel like the flipside of “Death of the Family” and I actually came up with this story while I was writing that arc. It really became about doing something that represented Joker’s hope that there would be a comedic ending but this story shows that there can only be a tragic ending for Batman and his relationship with the Joker.
But in the best way, he almost gives Batman a gift. Batman knows that he is going to go down fighting. And that’s the way that Batman will always end. He’s not going to retire, at least our version of him. He’s not going to ride off into the sunset. He’s going to go down fighting for the city whether old or young. Giving him the chance to fight his greatest enemy, who represents everything that he stands against is the perfect ending for him. The Joker represents meaningless and the idea that everyone is laughing at him and you. Joker doesn’t think that your life means anything whereas Batman says, “Stand up and make your life matter.” Who wouldn’t want to go down in a blaze of glory? If you’re going to go down some way, what better way than saving the city and making sure that this monster never gets out of the box on your watch. It’s almost a happy ending for Batman.
I love this line from “Batman” #40: “The story of Batman is, and always will be, a tragedy.” And that idea, that sentiment certainly rings true in this issue.
Snyder: Thanks. That to me is what Joker doesn’t understand about Batman. And that’s what I love about the issue, honestly, in terms of the writing. I really feel like I was able to make Joker be scary to me personally. I worry about that stuff. You get to the end of your life and you wonder what it amounts to. What if it ends tomorrow? All of those things that make you scared to go out and try new things. Whereas to me, ever since I was a kid, Batman has always been about overcoming your fears and making your life mean something. Take a chance. Laugh at yourself. In that way, being able to reframe them in a personal way — the things that inspire you and the things that terrify you. It’s exciting and ultimately, the thing I love about Batman is that he could be immortal. He could take many things that are magic and many other things but he just doesn’t. What makes him Batman is that he is mortal — like the rest of us. He only means something, if he is one of us. I’ll go down like you but I’ll go down fighting.
Now back to my original question, is Batman really dead?
Capullo: Of course not. Like Scott has said before, you don’t do a story like this without the backdoor to bring him back. And you have to do a story like this to tell a better story. And we are doing a better story. But come on, of course I don’t want Bruce Wayne to never return. [Laughs] No fan would ever want to see that and Scott and I are two of the biggest Batman fans on the planet. Would we want to crush, kill destroy Bruce Wayne so that he’s gone forever? Absolutely not because he’s as entrenched in our hearts as is he is for every fan that loves him.
Snyder: Exactly. I don’t want to give spoilers about how Bruce figures in or doesn’t figure into the next arc but my favorite stories are the ones that do this kind of thing like “Superior Spider-Man” or Bucky and Cap. They are largely about what makes that first person special. “Superior Spider-Man” is a love letter to Peter Parker and, in a lot of ways, this next arc is very much about why Bruce has to come back and be Batman. But, while we’re at it, let’s have a lot of fun.
And the eternal question must be answered. Can you have Batman without the Joker?
Snyder: [Laughs] You’ll have to wait and see. I’ve already told you too many spoilers so you’ll have to wait and see.
Bruce leaves a note for Alfred, which has but a single word: “HA.” Going back to what you said earlier about being about to laugh at your own mistakes and shortcomings, Batman truly gets the last laugh of “Endgame,” doesn’t he?
Snyder: Yeah, for me, Batman said, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to laugh.” It says, “Look into the face of terror, face your own fears and laugh at them.” Go out there and be a crazy thing like me. Go out there and inspire other people. Go out there and don’t be afraid.
Greg, while this was a personal story exploring some very big themes — the action was huge. How did you find balance, panel to panel and page to page, between blockbuster storytelling and the smaller moments?
Capullo: I put myself into it — 100 percent — every issue, so “Batman” #40 was no different for me other than the fact that Scott wanted the ending to be so over the top. He wanted me to really push it. He said, “You can go as crazy as you want with this at the end. As bloody and as violent as you want.” I’ve got Batman doing a Mike Tyson thing biting Joker’s ear. [Laughs] I had to come up with something that was visceral and then I did little nuances that you may or may not have noticed.
When they are lying in the pool of blood, I shaped the pool like a heart And there is this little crack going through the heart. In “Death of the Family,” using Scott’s words, we had a love story — Joker loves Batman. Where here, it was the reverse of that. He has more hatred, in a way, because Batman broke the Joker’s heart. I was really trying to make it have a loving ending in the middle of this blood bath. Even in the way Bruce was lying next to Joker and the way that he would look over at him, I really tried to make it as poignant as possible while in the midst of this bloody mayhem. [Laughs]
“Batman” #40 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo is available now.