After months of hype the wait is finally over — the Joker has returned to Gotham City in the pages of DC Comics’“Batman,” and in the hands of artist Greg Capullo and writer Scott Snyder he’s more deranged and murderous than ever.
“Batman” #13 re-introduced fans to the killer clown and within one issue he single-handedly killed most of the Gotham City Police Department, involved Harley Quinn in his schemes and put the whole Bat family on watch. As the other books in the Bat group gear up for the “Death Of The Family” crossover in November the Joker will continue to plague Batman in the main title, taking the story arc forward into next year.
Comic Book Resources caught up with Capullo and Snyder at New York Comic Con and the two spoke about the aftermath of “Batman” #13, gauged fan reaction and expectation for the Joker storyline and discussed the evolution of their working relationship, from rocky start to strong present.
CBR News: “Batman” #13 has finally come out and at NYCC you’ve been able to hear firsthand from fans about the beginning of your much talked-about Joker story. With the Harley twist and the debut of Joker’s face, to your minds how has the start of “Death Of The Family” been received?
Scott Snyder: It’s been extremely positive, I’ve been really excited, but one of the things fans keep talking about is how awesome the art is and the scene in the GCPD and the end. I feel like I’m on the shoulders of this guy [points to Capullo]. I feel like I could write the phone book and it would be fine, everyone would love it! I’m really glad he’s here because I feel like the love that people are giving to the art is so seminal to it and the contributions this guy makes — I’m just really excited that he gets to share it because he deserves at least 50% of the credit on this thing.
Greg Capullo: I don’t even pay him to say this stuff!
Greg, what’s your reaction to the reaction?
Capullo: I just came into town [for NYCC]… but all the response I’ve been seeing on Twitter has been outrageous and just more than I could have hoped for and just really, really spectacular. So of course, I’m delighted, to say the least! People are putting the cover up to their face, Tweeting these pictures posing with the Joker, mask over their face. It’s very cool.
Was that the whole plan behind doing the die-cut covers?
Capullo: Well, the mad scientist mastermind behind this was Dan DiDio and the art director Mark Chiarello. I just asked Dan DiDio here, ‘Did you intend that?’ and he said, ‘I did.’ So god bless him, it worked like a charm! [Laughs] And somebody online actually turned the cover inside out so you see the white and they went, ‘It’s also an Owl mask!’
It seems what’s really caught fire visually among fans are the simple things — like how simple the Owl mask is, or how Batman is often just one solid black shape. Greg, after years of working on things like “Spawn” is this letting out your inner graphic designer?
Capullo: When I was doing “Spawn” I would always refer to Spawn as a shape more than anything. Batman is very similar in that respect, and even when I took over the book I knew I wanted him to be very monolithic, a specific shape, especially when he’s standing still, there’s no wind blowing and cape around. I wanted him to look like that singularity in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” I wanted a monolithic slab of something very solid. I’m just doing what feels right and I’m just glad that people like it and dig it.
In early August, long before “Batman” #13 went on sale, you were a little upset, Greg, when the image of the Joker was accidentally released early. With us talking about the Internet, is this something that’s just unavoidable because there is Twitter, there is so much more attention being paid to it online, etc.?
Capullo: Well, I mean, it was kind of a fumble, it wasn’t intentional, DC meant to black out the face before it got through the gate, and of course the way technology is now that stuff travels like wildfire. I constantly Tweet panels as I’m working to keep people interested, keep them entertained, but I wasn’t Tweeting anything about the Joker, I was keeping that card close to my chest. So it did bother me a little bit that somebody else released it ahead of me — who designed it — but it’s all good anyway. Everybody said, “That was nothing [compared] to how much he scared us in the issue,” so it all worked out!
In this first part of “Death Of The Family” we’ve seen Joker take out the GCPD in pitch dark and use decoys. Visually, how are you pushing the envelope going forward? Are you planning on doing alternative layouts or anything close to what you did for “Court Of Owls?”
Capullo: With me everything happens organically, the turning the book around with the Court Of Owls just happened while I was reading the script and drawing the pages. It just seemed to make sense as an act of progression to amp up the story, to tell in a better way. So I mean I don’t have any flight plan, things just hit me while I’m doing it. At the end of the ride if something happens I guess everyone will point it out! [Laughs] But I just follow my gut all the time.
For both of you, how are you pushing the envelope with the story — how do you keep the twists up and consistently top Joker’s appearance in this issue?
Snyder: That’s just the start of this, that’s just him saying hello! Everything that’s coming is 100 times worse than what we did in the first issue. Story-wise all the horrifying, twisted funny stuff is coming. One of the things that’s so awesome is he’s found a way to be a showman and funny and horrifying all at once, so Joker, even though you got a glimpse of him in issue #13, I think the true horror of him story-wise and visually is coming in issues #14 and #15 and #16.
Capullo: For the visual aspect of it, Scott mentioned keeping it funny and horrible at the same time — you know how you might adjust your tie or your cufflinks or your buttons? It’s kind of comical and sick in a way, because that’s the way Joker adjusts his face! He pulls it back together! It’s funny but it’s also kind of — yuck.
NYCC marks your first full year and some weeks as the creative team on “Batman.” How has your working relationship changed and how have you adapted to each other in that time?
Snyder: All I can say is it’s not a secret that when we first met I was way too protective of the story and way too tight assed about it! He helped me grow as a writer by helping me let go and I feel like I learned from him every day, every issue to write better. The more I allow the artist and someone like Greg to contribute story-wise the better the story is because he gives me ideas. There are so many ideas I think people give me credit for because I wrote the story, but they really come from his art both in the way he portrays the Joker and the way he sets the tone, the way he sets the scene. So in that way I think our working relationship is such that I look to him as a mentor on how to tell a story every single issue, and I mean that, honestly! I really feel like he’s my brother on this thing, so it’s a real honor and thrill to get to work with him.
Capullo: For my end, out of the gate I would never work with any writer who wants to tell me how to draw what panel and put the camera here and that stuff. So how I’ve adapted is, I’ve always worked from very loose plots and, at times, phone calls, which were basically a series of notes. But I noticed that the same as Scott had to adapt to me, it would not be fair for me to say to him, “Completely change the way you do something and take you completely out of your comfort zone so I can remain completely in mine.” I do get full scripts with no camera direction and things like that and he also gives me the freedom to change things as I want, so for me the adaptation was reading a full script. Now I have to be very conscious of the content and the placement and the allotment of room for script, which changes my time and flow factors, slows it down a bit, but we both found this common ground. The biggest important thing in all of it is you have to let go of your egos. We all have them as professionals, what we create is very close to our hearts, but to produce the best product don’t let an ego get involved! So Scott and I never have ego clashes; what we have is a commonality of love for the character Batman and the work that we’re trying to do, and that’s paramount to all. That’s how we put our preferences aside and now we’re a unified force. That’s to give the public what they need, what they want, and that is the biggest, baddest motherf-ing Batman you’re ever going to get! We’re here to take care of business and Gotham City and that’s the bottom line!
To wrap up, if you could go back to your younger self a year ago is there anything you’d do differently or any advice you’d give?
Capullo: Yeah, I would say the advice to younger Greg is stay off the Internet before you take over the book! [Laughter]
“Death Of The Family” continues with “Batman” #14 on sale November 14.