SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains minor spoilers for “Batman” #48, on sale Jan. 20 from DC Comics.
Following “Zero Year,” which examined Bruce Wayne’s earliest crime fighting days as Batman, the superstar Dark Knight creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo took Bruce out of the Batsuit and replaced him with Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon, his longtime ally and member of the Gotham City Police Department. But just because one Batman has replaced another, that doesn’t mean either of the men beneath the cowl have been able to escape their demons — internal or external.
CBR News connected with Snyder and Capullo to discuss next week’s “Batman” #48, the latest issue of their critically-acclaimed “Superheavy” storyline from DC Comics, that finds Gordon’s Batman facing off against Mister Bloom — a villain that is very much The Joker to his Batman. Snyder and Capullo also shared their thoughts on the real Batman and Joker that find themselves in conversation while on opposite sides of the proverbial mirror (in their eternal struggle) faced with their own moments of truth in a story that feels ripped from the headlines from any media outlet in America.
CBR News: Greg, I wanted to start with you. Last month we spoke about drawing Joker and making him look like Joker without his trademark facial aesthetics. You shared your thoughts on his haircut being quite distinctive and the structure of his face and his body staying basically the same, but that was just for one page. What was your approach to un-masking him for some extended ‘screen time’ in the upcoming “Batman” #48?
Greg Capullo: He is really seen through a different lens [when he is unmasked]. During this whole conversation on the bench, he was very gentle. The way I interpreted it, he’s almost playful. The way he tosses the bread to the fish and the way that I perched him on the bench watching the fish surface, it’s almost like an excited child. The whole conversation is so different than we traditionally see from The Joker because he is usually portrayed as evil incarnate. In this one, when you hear him lament and try to be supportive of Bruce, it’s, dare I say, touching. Scott’s a great writer and he loves spinning everything on its head and I love this take. It’s also fun to watch and read and I love drawing it. I read Scott’s scripts and get inspired by the emotional content and then I try to bring it to life on the page.
When this issue gets a reprint or collected, I am thinking a Forrest Gump-themed variant featuring The Joker.
Capullo: [Laughs] You’re not getting any royalties for that one.
We’ve talked in the past about the only real romantic relationship that Bruce has enjoyed in your run, prior to the arrival of Julie Madison, is with The Joker. Now I know you didn’t mean ‘romantic’ in the biblical sense of the word, but with that level of intensity, will we see The Joker as the jealous lover when Bruce races off to face Mister Bloom?
Scott Snyder: I don’t see him as jealous of Bloom. Again, to be clear, the romance between them for me has always been this sense of them locked in this dance. And Joker likes to play it up. “We love each other. We can never leave each other. I am the other half of you. You complete me.” It’s not prosaic or a real romantic love. They are opposites and the Joker loves to use that language to taunt Batman. “You’ll never be rid of me. We are married. You can’t get rid of me. We will forever be partners in this way.” That’s his lexicon. That said, here, I think Joker is almost the opposite. He’s saying, “Please don’t let it go back to the way it was. Let’s stay this way.” And when he realizes that Bruce doesn’t have that choice, he sees him hurting and he says, “It’s okay. I am just going to sit here on this bench for a little longer.”
The truth of it is, Bloom is Jim Gordon’s monster. That’s very clear by the end of the arc. Joker is the villain that could never have an origin because nobody’s life could be horrible enough or be evil enough to warrant what Joker becomes.
Bloom is the opposite. Bloom is anybody who feels they don’t get a fair shake. He’s anybody who feels the weight of class divisions or racism or homophobia, all of those things, and feels those things are too entrenched and too hard to overcome so you better go after what you need in life. “Go arm yourself. Get your superpowers and take what you need.” He’s the anti-thesis of the Joker. Anybody could be Bloom. Anyone’s life could warrant Bloom’s creation.
Is Joker jealous of Bloom? No. What he’s saying is that if we have to go back to fighting, we need to go back to it and that’s okay. He’s saying, “What you did here means something and what I did here means something. We got to see what this looks like and whatever happens, happens.”
With such a sobering origin, Bloom is a really interesting villain at a time that sees the United States in an election year and following the words of hope in President Obama’s final State of the Union address. If he represents what he thinks many are feeling, that’s pretty scary.
Snyder: That’s right. Bloom is the antithesis to everything that you would hope a city or a country like America could be. Nobody gets ahead. Whatever you’re struggling with, whether it’s a personal problem or a national problem, it’s completely entrenched and intractable. And what Bloom is saying is: “Go blow it all up. Get what you need for yourself and forget everyone else.”
Here, the way that he invites other people in and the way that he grows when other people join him, I hope runs in parallel to what we are seeing in the world today. The thesis of this arc, what we really tried to do with this one, with all of the zaniness — the giant robots and the monsters and the cloning machines — is make a story that shows why Batman matters to a world in which he doesn’t exist. Because he doesn’t really exist for Gotham either. And that’s one of things that Jim says in “Batman” #50. He says, “I stand next [to Batman] and I know that he is a ghost.” Ultimately, he fights these giant, silly monsters that threaten the city in a huge way but he does it to show us to be brave when we are facing our own challenges that seem impossible. It’s brave to take any steps towards police brutality or racism or homophobia.
To me, Bloom is a villain that means a lot. I love this arc a lot. He’s very particular to Jim Gordon, who has always believed deep down that we can make a difference as people. And his big mistake, his Achilles’ heel, is that he may overstepped. Maybe we don’t need a superhero to fix our problem or at least bridge the gap between the public belief and the systems that we’ve set up to protect ourselves and the people involved in those systems. Maybe we just need good people involved in those systems not superheroes. And he sees that in “Batman” #50 and becomes the hero that he should have been and he is. Spoiler alert. [Laughs]
And Greg, I know readers will learn more about Bloom and his army in this issue, specifically about how they are transformed. What is it like bringing your horror-filled A-game to “Batman” #48?
Capullo: Oh yeah. That’s the fun part of comics, in general. As Scott was saying, it dawned on me that if you look at Bloom as an ISIS kind of figure that is a recruiter, he uses the same kind of tactics that we see ISIS using. He attracts the disenfranchised and he also attracts the people that just want to do some bad stuff and misbehave. I read the news to the point of depression and to draw a story like this, it really illustrates something that is very, very familiar. We’re doing an issue that is very timely and a story that is very timely. Scott has always said “Dark Knight Returns” was pertinent to the time in New York City, in which he grew up for that era and the threats have changed and now Scott is writing that story.
Snyder: Bloom believes what Batman — before Jim Gordon — is saying is, “I put on a costume and did what I thought was right and you should do that to.” And that’s a very dangerous interpretation of Batman. That’s very clearly, in my opinion, wrong but also, that’s something, like Greg said, that can appeal to anyone.
“Batman” #48 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo goes on sale Jan. 20 from DC Comics.