“All-Star Batman” isn’t just the name of a new DC Comics title. It expresses the level of supervillains the Dark Knight will face in the new ongoing series and perfectly defines the elite creative talent crafting these new adventures. Industry heavyweights Scott Snyder and John Romita, Jr. have teamed for the opening arc of new series, which pits Batman against the duplicitous Harvey Dent, AKA Two-Face.
Snyder, who guided Bruce Wayne through the New 52, told CBR News that “All-Star Batman,” which launches on August 10, is unlike any series that’s ever been done with the world’s greatest detective while Romita teased that Snyder’s sinister take on Two-Face is so dastardly that memories of Tommy Lee Jones’ over-the-top portrayal of the villain in 1995’s “Batman Forever” will forever be forgotten. And that’s a good thing.
The dynamic duo also shared their thoughts on why Two-Face is a perfect villain to reflect the evil residing in all of us and why his devilish left is eye is not only a window into his darkened soul, but also a distorted lens for his damaged mind.
CBR News: John, when you first moved over to DC Comics to work on “Superman” with Geoff Johns, you told me that you more keen on drawing Batman. Now that you are working on the Dark Knight, is it all that you expected?
John Romita, Jr.: Yeah. It’s pretty much the same feeling as when I was doing “Superman.” It’s very intimidating because of the history of the character, especially when you think about the people who have worked on him before me. Fortunately, I’ve got a guy like Scott [Snyder] to drag me across the start line and help me along this trek. It’s always been intimidating to work on these two characters and yes, it was nice to do Superman first but I always wanted to do Batman.
Intimidating, yes. But now that you have spent some time drawing Batman, what are the challenges in drawing him?
The cowl is pretty cool. It’s easier than drawing Wolverine’s cowl, which is a pain in the ass because of the curved ears. Do they flare out? Do they go straight back? This one is solid to the mask. Getting the belt right every single time is a bit of a challenge but, honestly, it’s not as difficult as one might think. There are some things that are inconsistent about the costume from one character sheet to the next — the lines and the segmented parts to the costume — but once you get the hang of it, I’m in. [Laughs] It’s fun.
Scott, your relationship, if not bromance, with Greg [Capullo] was well-documented. But now you are weight-lifting with John. What does John bring to Gotham?
Scott Snyder: I’ve been dying to work with John forever. I’ve been a huge fan for as long as I can remember and we’ve been looking for something to work on for a while so when the opportunity came to do this, I knew it would be something really special. I had such a blast working on “Batman” with Greg but I wanted to show people an entirely different side of the character and the mythology and me as a writer.
“All-Star Batman” became a really terrific and fun challenge where if you are looking for a team book, I knew James [Tynion] was going to be doing “Detective [Comics]” that way and you were going to be getting the whole Bat-family. And if you are looking for straight-up Gotham in a big explosive way, Tom [King] is going to be doing a terrific job of that in “Batman.” If you are looking for Batman as you have never seen him before, why not us?
For me, it came down to how can we tell stories that we just haven’t seen in the 75 years that the character has been around in ways that really speak to the interests and passions that I think that John and I have for the character. And we also want to explore things out in the world. The first arc about Two-Face is very much about the times right now and why he’s the villain of today versus The Joker or The Riddler. This is his era. And I felt the best way to do that would be to tell a story that doesn’t just take place in Gotham but also take us on a tour of all of the surrounding areas outside of Gotham. It also became this cross-country, death race-style road trip. And it’s just been such a blast. I just finished “All-Star Batman” #4 this morning and I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m so over the moon about the art coming in from John and [inker] Danny Miki and [colorist] Dean White. It’s inspiring to open every file from them. It just gets me so happy and excited.
Are there differences between “All-Star Batman” Batman and “Batman” Batman beyond ‘Batman wielding a chainsaw’ as the solicitation copy for “All-Star Batman” teases? [Laughs]
Snyder: Sure. Everyone has their own take on Batman and Tom has become a really good friend. He was actually just up here at our house. I just put him on the train yesterday [Laughs] back to Washington. And his take is largely his own and I love his take. And I respect it the same way I respect Grant [Morrison]’s take or anyone else who has written the character. I think in “All-Star,” I am writing a much more confident Batman than before. He is reinvigorated and that gives me an opportunity to both take him down and tear him apart but also give him some big adventures. Not only Two-Face but every villain that you see in “All-Star” is going to be reinvigorated.
John, your first major story with Batman and your villain isn’t Joker, Riddler or even Penguin. What are your thoughts on Two-Face?
Romita: Fortunately, I got a story preface from Scott over a couple of beers at a local tavern. I hadn’t considered the character very much and I always thought he was kind of goofy based on what I’d seen on the screen. I had never read the character properly; Scott gave me a good heads-up on the character and what he had planned for him and that completely changed my outlook on it. And his words that we can “re-fashion” the character, so to speak, and we were able to do some slight differences and I did that by cobbling a couple of versions from different artists. Ultimately, it was Scott’s version and his take on him that made him a better character for me. The torture of one side versus the other side. Honestly, without Scott’s take, the character still may have seemed silly to me. That the strength of Scott’s storytelling. And I am enjoying the character more based on how Scott’s handling him in the story. And that makes the artwork better because you have a better attitude about what you are working on.
And I am not bringing down or saying anything nasty about previous writers or artists that have done anything with Two-Face. I honestly hadn’t read any Two-Face stories. What sticks in my head is Tommy Lee Jones. [Laughs] That ruined it for me. Even subsequent stuff that was better in the films, I still couldn’t shake Tommy Lee Jones.
Scott, were you surprised that John thought Two-Face was a silly character coming into the story?
Scott Snyder: No, he’s right. There has been a lot of goofy Two-Face stories and I knew that it might be a tough sell at first. [Laughs] But let me say, one of things that I love so much about John’s work is that there is a grittiness and a darkness and an element of fun and I feel that all of those things play into what we are doing with Two-Face.
Our version of Two-Face is really dark, and I guess the new version in continuity is also this way, who has this terrible eye in the damaged side of his face. It’s this bloody, red, almost devilish eye and he looks out at the world and says, “I see the monstrous side of you that you don’t want to admit exists.” He’s responsible for a lot of crime in Gotham but he’s not a big gang boss. He’s more of a lone wolf. What he does is he uses all of the mechanisms that Harvey Dent puts in place to track crime to exploit the system and make it easier. He wants you to indulge that evil side of yourself that you don’t want to admit exists and he wants you to see the side of yourself that you don’t like to look at in the mirror. He wants you to flip the internal coin that you have. He loves that about human nature. He wants people to be two-faced. He thinks that how we are evolving.
We’re evolving into a society of sociopaths. The public face that we put forward is one thing versus the private face. And a lot of it has to do with his take on this moment right now in history when there are all of these opportunities to be two-faced with the ways that you can behave in secret but also the way people say the way that they are going to act versus the way that they do, including the people who they are secretly going to vote for. All of that kind of stuff. It’s a huge amount of fun. He is sort of the dark lord of secrets and information and there is nothing that you do that doesn’t escape the vision of his evil eye.
It takes trolling your ex on Facebook to a whole other level.
Snyder: [Laughs] Yes, exactly.
You mentioned people perhaps misleading or even lying about who they are going to vote for. With a very venomous political campaign currently underway in the United States, does this storyline also echo what’s going on in American politics, as well?
Snyder: There is no direct corollary meaning there is no big vote going on in the book but we always trying to do things as writers that speak to what’s going on in the moment. For me, it’s more about how we all want to be a certain kind of person but behind closed doors, we’re not always the people who we want to be. It’s about how our personal demons sometimes get the best of us. I have certainly experienced that and for Two-Face, that’s certainly what he revels in. He says, “Everybody is really that person. They are all Two-Face and not Harvey Dent.” And we should celebrate that truth.
The story, which as you suggested has a larger scope outside of Gotham, has him making an offer to the entire state over the news and he says: “Batman is taking me somewhere towards the northern border of the state and if someone spots us and frees me and takes him down, I will reward you with all of the fortunes of the five biggest crime bosses in Gotham.” But if he gets to where he is going, he is going to release everything that he has one everyone. He’s going to explode everyone’s secrets across the whole state. The whole state becomes a game board on which he and Batman are betting against each other and we’ll be amping up the stakes every issue. And we’ll be asking the question: Are people better than they are worse? Are they heroes or are they villains? And that’s sort of the tagline of the arc: Embrace your inner villain. Two-Face is saying: “I see what you do behind closed doors. Just do it in public.” Just admit it. Be who you are. Be a bad guy because we all love being bad guys more. There is a lot of humor and bombast to Two-Face but he’s also a dark character who speaks to a lot of what going on for people personally, as well.
John, I love the idea of you drawing Two-Face’s devilish eye. Did you stare at yourself in the mirror and give yourself the stink eye to get it just right?
Romita: [Laughs] No, but I did get reference pics of a close-up of an eyeball. That is correct. The eyeball is really important to the character. The story revolves around these little quirks in Two-Face’s personality and the evil side of him, with the eyeball, is damaging his good side. It’s wearing him down. Batman is almost a secondary character to Two-Face in this. And every time I think a writer can’t come up with a new take on an old character, a guy like Scott comes along and shows me wrong.
And again, according to the solicitation copy, you get to draw Batman wielding a chainsaw too!
Romita: [Laughs] That’s right.
Snyder: [Laughs] Yeah. When I pitched that to [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio, he said, “Is it like grindhouse with a chainsaw?” And I was like, “Yes!” There is everything that you can throw in there. There is a monster truck appearance in “All-Star Batman” #3. It’s out of control. There are swamp boats and trains and everything. I wanted it to be like if we are going there, we are going there. One of the brilliant things about John and Danny and Dean is that there are some visual tricks in “All-Star Batman.” I don’t want to give away too much but when Two-Face looks out from that eye, he sees the world differently in different shades than anybody else. It became about creating a visual language for that. And we introduced new characters, we wanted there to be a kind of grindhouse feel. We wanted there to be a fun element too.
“Batman” was always fun and I had a blast on it with Greg [Capullo] and we tried to do some pretty crazy stuff but this has an openly fun feel from when you begin the book. I want you to pick it up and read it and say that is not like anything I have read with Batman before. From the moment, Batman enters and we freeze on him and he looks at everybody in this diner that has been terrorized by Two-Face and says, “Nobody in here dies today.” And he winks at everybody. He’s the most wanted man in the state. I want it to feel like a breath of fresh air for what I do and what John does and what Danny and Dean do and just for fans of Batman. I promise you that. There isn’t a book like this. If you pick it up, you will be surprised.
Let’s finish with some housekeeping questions: Is this the Two-Face from Peter [Tomasi]’s and Patrick [Gleason]’s “Batman and Robin” run? And is this story set in DCU continuity?
Snyder: It is the same. I am a huge fan of what they did with Two-Face. So yes, the big elements of that character are here. And there is a reference in the second issue as to how he survived what happened to him in that story. It’s not going to pick up any of those threads but it is Two-Face in-continuity. Everything about this book is in continuity.
“All-Star Batman” #1 by Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr. and Declan Shalvey arrives on August 10.
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