SPOILER WARNING: The following interview discusses events which unfolded in “Batman” #36, on sale now.
November has been a busy month for Scott Snyder, with the DC Comics writer serving up the final issue of “Superman Unchained” last week, and Part Two of “Endgame” today. The latter featured the return of Joker — and an unexpected twist — in the pages of his and artist Greg Capullo‘s ongoing “Batman” run.
And while Part One of “Endgame” surprised the world with a Jokerized Justice League, Part Two introduces a twist just as startling: Batman ally and Arkham Asylum employee Eric Border (introduced in 2013’s “Batman Annual” #2) is none other than the Joker, plotting the demise of Batman right under the Dark Knight’s nose.
The issue in hand, CBR sat down with Snyder to dissect “Batman” #36 and the build up to the revelation of Eric’s true identity. During the course of our conversation, we also discuss Snyder’s regrets on how he’s handled elements of “Endgame” and the tonal shift he and Capullo have planned after their big goodbye to the Joker.
CBR News: Last week we spoke about “Superman Unchained” and I have to ask — after reading that finale and “Batman” issue #36 back-to-back — did working on “Superman Unchained” play into your decision to bring the Justice League and Superman into the beginning of the “Endgame” arc? I mean, going from the end of “Unchained” right into the Superman/Batman fight in issue #36 bridged together pretty seamlessly for me.
Scott Snyder: Thanks! [Laughs] No, the beat in “Endgame,” in #35, was there for a really long time. It sort of was the way it was when writing “Death Of The Family.” I knew that the story, when I did it, would have this kind of opening. It was there around the same time I was working on “Superman Unchained,” at least that basic idea that the Justice League became Jokerized. I’m glad that it seemed confluent, though! [Laughs] I love writing them both in the same book. I would love to write a Superman/Batman book someday.
You did get Batman in “Superman Unchained” for a bit.
Yeah, and he always gets the best lines. [Laughter] That’s definitely one of his powers. He has to have the best one-liners, right? He doesn’t have superpowers!
In issue #35, the big reveal was the Joker’s comeback, and here in #36 we get another big twist in that an ancillary character we thought was Batman’s ally — Arkham’s Eric Border — is actually Joker. Now, Eric’s shown up in “Arkham Manor,” and was the centerpiece of the second “Batman Annual” last year. How far back does planting the seeds of Eric being Joker go? Was this planned from the start, or did you discover pieces as you went along?
No, he was designed to be Joker — that was his whole purpose from the moment go. Marguerite [Bennett] knew that when we did the Annual together, and James Tynion knew that. I told Gerry Duggan as I went further, and in the Bat office, we told the other writers as we got closer. So everyone on “Eternal” knew he was Joker as far as a few months ago, but for [me and Greg], he’s always been Joker. That’s why we chose his name the way we did. I was worried that people would figure it out — I don’t know why I was so paranoid, but I was so worried people would figure it out all the way back in “Batman Annual” #2! At one point, Marguerite had him talking more about the Joker and I actually had her cut it, which I feel badly about — it would have been a nice throwback. Where I compromised is, when someone’s talking about the Joker and he interrupts; it always gets interrupted when the Joker comes up. In “Joker’s Daughter,” he’s in that issue, and I think you can start to see it. There’s little things like that, I think, where you can see by design he’s been lying there the whole time, if you look at his appearances.
My only regret, the only thing I do wish is that I had been a little less scared about teasing it more. I really was scared, honestly. I don’t know why. I was scared that people would hear the word “Endgame” and know that it was Joker! I really was sure the story was going to get blown; from “Batman Annual” #2, I started to worry that people would know that Joker was back, and then I started to worry that they’d know about “Endgame” when I said “Endgame.” The fact that we made it all the way here and nobody guessed any of it has really been something of a relief! [Laughs]
That’s definitely something where, when I read the issue, I went back through all his other appearances to try to piece it together, like a couple of issues ago when he’s shocked Batman makes a joke.
“Endgame” is set at the end of “Batman Eternal.” Now that people know who he really is, will Eric/Joker start appearing in “Batman Eternal” to give you a chance you fill in some of those sparser spots in the pre-“Endgame” timeline that “Eternal” and other books are set in?
You’re going to see that in “Arkham Manor” quite a bit, actually. Coming up, you’ll see Eric pre-Joker [reveal], but you know that he’s the Joker, and you’ll get to see when he was doing there. It’s a lot of fun.
Obviously, the other big thing for Joker is that he’s got his face back — or a face back.
Yeah! He has his face back!
What was your and Greg Capullo’s thinking behind that and how he appears now versus “Death Of The Family,” or even that very first “Batman” issue when Dick was pretending to be him in jail?
The most important thing is that he looks scary, you know? The other most important thing, when we were talking about him, was that he looks reborn in some way. Classic, but a little bit darker. We talked about different possibilities. We talked about the purple suit, and then we realized, no matter how you cut it and what the suit is, it just makes him not scary in a lot of senses. So for us it became about giving him the black suit with the purple handkerchief, give him a more funeral look. Make the hair shorter on the sides, make sure his eyes are very wide, very bloodshot, the wider grin with the clownish chin and nose. Make him a little less witchy and a little more scary, someone who is in the shadows, looking at you, who is clearly a Joker, young and restarted. He’s come back saying, “This is it. If I’m moving on, I’m starting over without you.”
Thematically, so much of what you’ve done on “Batman” is Batman realizing he doesn’t really know Gotham the way he thought he did. In “Death Of The Family,” even though Batman was going up against Joker he kept insisting that he really did know who Joker was and he knew the roles and what was going on, but here it’s all blowing up on him.
Right, basically you’re hitting on something the Joker is saying. “You used to know me, or at least I let you think you know me, and we played a game together where we sort of understood each other. But who I really am and what I would really do to you, you have no idea. I’m just a stranger to you, and welcome to that status of things.” That’s what he’s saying. He’s saying, “You don’t know anything about me anymore. But I know everything about you.”
I know you’ve been leery about people figuring out what’s been going on, but if we can look ahead a little, in the first issue we’ve got the Jokerized Justice League, and in this second one we’ve got the Joker identity reveal — where does it go from here in this story and the Batman/Joker relationship?
Well, it’s the end of it for me! [Laughs] This is Joker saying, “There is no more relationship! There is no more game between us, it’s all done, and I’m going to show you how small you are and how you never understood anything about me, I just let you pretend or think you did just to let you play along. But I’m bored of you, and that’s it.” To me, that’s burning everything I can with it to build something else with Batman and Gotham. It really is the last time I intend to write Joker; for me this really is everything I have to give to the character! [Laughs]
“Batman” is consistently a top seller, and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk and analysis over this issue. Is there anything else you want to tease or say to the fans that have followed you and are now watching the Joker/Batman break-up?
[Laughs] Honestly, all I can say is thank you! I started writing “Detective [Comics]” in 2010, so I’m coming into my fifth year on Batman and the world of Batman. The fact that readers have followed us through all of this as energetically as they have, I never expected it. Greg will be like, “Of course I expected it!” because he likes to be really confident about stuff, and I’m a little more insecure. The fact that the readership has followed us this far and is this enthusiastic about “Endgame” with sales and all that, I just don’t know how to say “thank you” enough. All I can say is that we promise we’ll do our best on this book for as long as you guys will have us, and we’ll always try and do something surprising, we’ll never spin our wheels. After “Endgame” comes a very sharp left turn from the kind of stuff we’ve been doing with the different characters and a different tone and all of that. We’ll stay as long as you guys will have us, and we promise to try our best to do stuff that surprises us and you, and to be a book that feels like the first issue of a run, every arc.
So “Endgame” is not just the end of Batman and Joker, it’s also the endgame of how you’ve been approaching “Batman” as a writer, taking it in a new direction.
It is! That’s actually a very good way to put it. After “Endgame” I’m going to move away from some of the big cinematic arcs we’ve been doing and try to do something more textured and that leads to big stuff and has big stuff at the end of it, but is a little bit more mysteries on the ground kind of stuff, so it feels different. It’s burning certain elements of the mythology down to build something else, absolutely.
“Batman” #36, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, is out now.