When it comes to the impending September relaunch of the DC Comics superhero line, fans of the Dark Knight know two things for sure: Bruce Wayne will be back as the one, true Batman and that most of his partners in crime-fighting will be around… somewhere.
However, for anyone with anxiety over whether or not the shape and mission of the Bat-Family will be massively upended, writer Scott Snyder has a message: don’t panic. The writer who’s made a big mark on the Dick Grayson era of Gotham City protection with his work on “Detective Comics” and “Batman: Gates of Gotham” swung by CBR’s ongoing Bat-forum THE BAT SIGNAL to explain how the creative and continuity switch ups coming this fall won’t strip the caped crusader’s world of what’s made it one of DC Comics‘ best-selling lines.
Snyder explains in depth to CBR News how the impending return of the original Dark Knight impacted his work with Jock and Francesco Francavilla on Dick’s story in “Detective,” how the conclusion of their major “Black Mirror” arc will send the former Robin on a path back to being a new kind of Nightwing, what it’s like living up to the pressure of relaunching “Batman” with an all-new #1 and how he and incoming artist Greg Capullo are shaping their new series to be a big, epic adventure that will test Bruce Wayne’s connection to his hometown in new ways.
CBR News: Scott, before we get into the relaunch of “Batman,” let’s talk a bit about the end of your current “Detective Comics” story, “The Black Mirror.” Before all the big news hit, you had hinted that August’s issue #881 would be a major end for what you’ve been building with Jock and Francesco. Did you know from the beginning there was a time clock on Dick wearing the cowl, and did that at all affect how you approached your own story?
Scott Snyder: It didn’t really play into it. We did know for a while, and I did talk to Jock and Francesco and Dave Baron, the colorist, with Mike [Marts]. We discussed what was going to happen to Dick months ago, so for me this is really a story… without giving too much away, you’ve seen the solicits. Dick is sticking around Gotham, and he’s going to be Nightwing. So we knew that was going to be the case, but it didn’t affect our story because we knew that what we were trying to do was really about Dick Grayson coming to terms with the fact that he’s been running from Gotham for many years. Deep down, maybe subliminally, he’s know the nature of the city and how cruel and how trying it can be. He knows the kinds of challenges it’ll throw at its heroes that go right to their worst nightmares.
All that stuff comes to a head in the next few issues of “Detective.” You’ll see all the plotlines coming together in ways that are Easter Eggs for readers of the first few issues. The arc hasn’t been shortened, and nothing’s been changed from what we originally planned, honestly. At the beginning, Dick’s fate in terms of Batman or Nightwing was still up at the air, but that was over a year ago for us. So it was more about us knowing that he was going to stay in Gotham, and we were working on giving him a place in Gotham and building out how he relates to the dark mirror aspect of the city.
As he’s gone through the story in the book and being broken down physically and by the poison messing with his head, there are lots of other touches that are tied specifically to Dick and his history. The Zuckos play in, and the Joker is just around the corner. In a way, it feels like you’re trying to deliver the “definitive” Dick Grayson as Batman story. Was that how you conceived it?
Well, I tried to approach it the same way I do every story. It’s about figuring out what’s most interesting to me about him as a character given the situation. I knew Dick was Batman again and being given “Detective” I knew I wanted to do a hardcore mystery series, but for me I try to figure out what’s the most fascinating aspect of the character and make the whole long form narrative — even if there are miniature arcs within that of different plot elements — match that theme that’s running through the entire theme and culminate in the entire run. So for me, the most interesting thing about Dick Grayson wasn’t how he relates to Bruce, because the guys have done such a great job with that story — Grant and Jud and Tony. For me, it was about how he relates to Gotham.
Since he became Batman, there have been times in the past during “Prodigal” and stuff where he’s taken up the cowl, but this is the first time where he’s taking over with Bruce’s official blessing without any knowledge of whether or not he’ll ever be asked to give it up. So for us, it wasn’t so much about creating a definitive Batman story for Dick Grayson but for developing a story that dealt with Dick Grayson’s psychology in a way that it hadn’t been explored in much in relation to Gotham. While he went to Bludhaven and joined in on all these teams, he hasn’t really been challenged by Gotham centrally in a way where he is its sole protector without Bruce. We wanted to address that centrally, and I’m really glad that fans have responded to it in the way that they have. But we never set out to tell a definitive story. We just wanted to tell a story that we thought would be our favorite book. That was our goal, and I tell my students that all the time in my writing class. You’ve got to write the story that’s going to be your own favorite on the shelves, even if you know it’s not the best. [Laughs] You’ve got to write what’s interesting and compelling to you personally and then do that.
Your co-writer on “Gates of Gotham,” Kyle Higgins, is picking up the ball of Dick as Nightwing in the new series hitting in the fall. With that happening, have you been talking with him about ways your book can sort of hand of things to him?
Absolutely. We talk almost every day, me and Kyle, at this point. Mike Marts, our editor, has done a great job of making a collaborative atmosphere on the books. So I talk to Pete Tomasi and Tony Daniel all the time too as well as Gail Simone. So there really is a feel of sharing everything. With a character like Dick Grayson, Kyle and I talk a lot. I’ve told him my ideas and how “Detective” was going to end, and he’s told me his plans for the character. What I really want to stress to fans — because I know in a general way while there’s a lot of excitement there’s also a lot of nervousness about the fall initiative — the things that you love about Batman, I can’t say every piece of continuity will be the same since there will be some small changes that I’m excited about. But if people are worried about things like “Will Tim Drake exist?” Well, you’ve seen the solicitations for “Teen Titans” so you know he does. But if you’re worried that the things you’ve enjoyed about the Batman Universe for the past few years and the dynamics of the Bat-Family and the stories of “Batman, Inc.” and the richness of the mythology in Grant’s stuff… the people that work on the books love it as much as you do. We couldn’t love it any more. And the last thing we want to do is erase it or change it just for a headline. We would never do it.
In terms of Dick Grayson moving over to “Nightwing,” it’s not like a magic wand will be waved, and then suddenly he’s turned into Nightwing. We’re trying very hard — and some of this is on Grant’s shoulders as well — but the rest of us are trying to make these changes based on character and story. The things you’ve loved about the Bat U in general aren’t going anywhere. They’ve asked us not to say “reboot” because, especially on the Bat books, it’s not a reboot. The things you love about Batman’s history are things we love, and we don’t want to mess with that. It’s really about having a fresh new start for the stories we’re excited about. We’re moving forward with some new creative teams, and it’s not about shoving Dick Grayson back into the Nightwing role because it’s important to have Bruce in the cowl for movies and so on. It’s about the stories we want to tell with the characters and the best way we could figure to tell those. I want fans to understand that they don’t have to be afraid that Dick Grayson is going to have his memory wiped and be a totally different character or that Tim Drake won’t exist. That’s not the stuff we’re interested in as people. We’re just interested in telling new, exciting stories with the characters. This will just give people a good point to enter this rich history, but the history stands.
I understand the fear, and in “Batman” #1 you’ll see the status quo, and I think you’ll be surprised when you think of the things people are afraid of not being there. None of us are out to mangle Batman or change him for the sake of making him hipper or cooler.
So let’s talk about “Batman” #1… the first comic with that distinction since 1940! What’s it feel like to take on that task?
It’s terrifying! [Laughter] I mean, believe me I’m not going to lie. I’ve worked on this issue and given it to more of my friends in the comics industry — Jeff Lemire, Pete Tomasi, JT Krul, Tony Daniel — and asked them all to help me make sure it’s as good as it can be around and around. It’s as important as anything I’ve ever done. I don’t take the idea of taking on Batman in general lightly ever, so I definitely wouldn’t take doing a “Batman” #1 even just seriously. I couldn’t be more serious and obsessive about making it as good as possible. And I said this before about “‘Tec,” but I’ll say it again: I wouldn’t have taken this on if I didn’t have a story I was excited about telling with Bruce before the opportunity came to be doing Batman. I had a Bruce Wayne story I came to Mike Marts with where I said, “This is a story I think would be fun to do. It’s big and epic. It explores the Bat mythology and the history of Gotham. It has things that will be surprising to Bruce about his own city and new enemies and all this stuff.” Mike said they were going to move Bruce back to “Batman” so if I had a story I wanted to tell, that would be the place.
So I talked to Tony, and we compared our plans, and none of this is just things getting reshuffled. I know that it gets out there that it seems like we just randomly pitch for different things, but that’s never been my experience, and it’s probably the same throughout the rest of the DCU. I can tell you for a fact that in the Bat U we all talk and figure this stuff out as a team. I told them about this story, they said it might be good for “Batman,” and so I talked to Tony and asked him if he wanted to stay on “Batman” or if we wanted to flex his muscles on a different book. We went back and forth, and the point is that I wouldn’t have stepped on to “Batman” if I hadn’t had a story that worked for this book from way back before. But the added pressure of it being “Batman” #1? Yeah, it’s extremely exciting and terrifying at the same time.
In terms of what it means for the book, this book is a reintroduction of Bruce to Gotham itself. It counts the fact that his interests have been kind of far flung of late because of “Batman, Inc.” and the city might have some surprises in store for him. It’s a city he knows so well and knows maybe more than anybody, and since he’s its sole protector, the question becomes what if it has things it’s been hiding from him this whole time. We wanted to start in a way that would reintroduce Bruce to Gotham in a big fun way. The tag is “Bruce is back!” and it’s been that way from the very beginning. We’ve got some big, fun popcorn moments in the first pages of the first issue that really play on the excitement we have on bringing Bruce back to Gotham.
But on the other hand, while it wasn’t that much of a challenge to make this a big new #1 for new readers, I did try to put in some touches that mention his origin story and things like that. They wound up fitting in pretty organically with the rest of the story because of what happens in the issue. I want to it be both things. I don’t want it to read for people who have followed Batman like “I know all this stuff already.” It’s the beginning of a big, epic story, and it’s something new that they can jump on and see as an accessible point.
I think that’s the #1 concern fans have had about the whole relaunch and the idea of renumbering — that this is a place where longterm readers might feel slighted against. It sounds from your experience that a lot of your ideas were in development in some way, shape or form before this came along.
It’s been that way with “Swamp Thing” as well. It’s been very much about developing story over time and figuring out where the best fit for each story idea [is] for each book. Slapping a big #1 on “Batman” was scary when I first heard it. Because I already planned on switching to “Batman” when I heard about the numbering initiative, when they told me it was an added level of fear. At the end of the day, it’s the same thing as when I was set to do a backup in “Detective” and then they said, “Do you want to do the main feature?” It was a similar element of terror. “Oh my God! Am I ready for this?” But I really feel this is a story I’m excited about. It’s the best Batman story I can tell with Bruce right now, and I’m really thrilled. It’s going to have some big revelations, honestly. It’s very ambitious. I want it to be a story that earns its #1 status in terms of really challenging Bruce in ways that’ll shake him to the core.
The big change outside the story itself is the fact that “Haunt” and “Spawn” artist Greg Capullo is going to be drawing the book, and I’ll admit that I was somewhat surprised that he hasn’t ever worked on anything outside the McFarlane stuff. What have you been doing in terms of fitting your story ideas to his specific strengths as an artist?
That’s a great question. Greg and I started talking a few months ago, and the thing about Greg is that he brings an incredible energy and dynamism to the work. He’s so hungry for Batman in a way where he’s a superstar artist but he’s working like an up and comer where he just wants everything to be so good. It’s inspiring to see, and it’s really refreshing. The guy is a consummate pro while being a marquee guy. It’s shocking to me too that this is his first foray into Gotham because he seems so suited for it. I can tell you unequivocally that the stuff he’s handed in has been blowing us all away. We’ve all been thrilled.
In terms of our relationship, it’s funny because it took us a little bit to figure out how to work together. He likes a little more room than I’m used to with some of my other artists just on the page. He likes maybe less descriptive panels. And the funny thing is, that’s great for me. I’d rather let the artist decide what to do panel-to-panel so long as I get the emotional beats in there. Our style has been great so far because it allows me to focus on the psychological development and the character development through narration and dialogue. I don’t have to do so much directing because he’s so good at it. And honestly, that’s the way it’s become with Francesco and Rafael [Albuquerque] and Jock as well. At this point, I can give them a page of dialogue and say “Work your magic” and they do it better than I could imagine.
The other thing about Greg is that his style is perfect for this particular story. It’s so big and bold and energetic and dynamic. This story is something where, while “Detective” was more about Batman in the shadows and discovering mysteries, this is an epic battle for the soul of Gotham City. Greg’s art fits that well. So I do try to give him more room page to page so he can give Batman more breathing room and not make it so tight and tense. It’s been a lot of fun working with him so far, and I can’t wait to see what he does.
Stay tuned to CBR and THE BAT SIGNAL for more info in the weeks ahead about the relaunch of the DC line and its impact on the Bat books.