Writer Scott Snyder is fond of reminding fans at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) how he got his first big break on DC Comics Batman at the show. And the personal side of the best-selling scribe's work with the Dark Knight and beyond got a working over at this year's Scott Snyder Spotlight panel in Chicago.
The writer opened up the proceedings by saying he had no moderator. Just before arriving, he'd been having a beer with frequent collaborator Jock, who offered to take on MC duties. Snyder decided to go it alone, and he opened the floor to the fans, saying that he wanted to give answers to any questions they had about making their way in the world of comics. He explained that while he has left the teaching job he loved for many years, he will soon be heading up a mentorship program at DC to help new writers learn the ropes, and he wanted his panel to be an extension of his work informing the future of the comics community how books get made in an honest fashion.
The first fan offered a self-described "soft ball" asking how Snyder's collaborations with his various artists works. "When I started in comics, I came from prose. And in prose, you're the god of your own world...so I was very controlling over the story," he said, but soon he learned that the fun of comics is letting the collaboration go wild. "Greg [Capullo] for example...when we started, my process with Raphael on 'American Vampire' was full script. So the script would say 'Page 1 -- We're in space' which is a spoiler for our next arc if you're reading.
"But I did that for Greg, and he wrote back to me on 'Batman' #1 and said, 'Dude, I respect you, but I think your story is going to get in the way of the art...we went back and forth until I was a total dick and said, 'Well, the reason I got to write Batman was this.' And he said, 'Well, I hope your mom is proud of you.'"
Snyder said that eventually DC's staff made a truce happen, and once Capullo started turning in work, the writer realized that they would be a perfect fit and became fast friends. "My process with him is to write the scenes much more loose -- like Marvel style. It's not necessarily something I like more than full script, but the point is to get the best work out of your artist as possible," he said, noting that every artist is different. Albuquerque likes full scripts with loose descriptions of action while Jock prefers full scripts.
"And a lot of time you'll get editorial notes from the people you work for that you really want to fight...so you have to foster a sense of 'It's us against the world' and do work you really believe in," he said finally. No matter the book, Snyder tries to make the best book he can with his artist. "At the end of the day, you're going to have to stick up to it. It has to be your idea of the best book on the stands."
Another attendee asked about the Vertigo series "The Wake" with Sean Gordon Murphy, and Snyder said he went out to dinner with the artist to get a feel for what he wanted to do. Murphy had a lot of leeway in drawing the Grant Morrison-penned "Joe The Barbarian," and so Snyder let Murphy cut loose and add odd details like a sonic dolphin that he would have to respond to in his scripts.
Snyder then told his origin story as a comics writer where he had previously been signed to a major deal at Random House to write a novel, but as the economy crashed, his payday was contingent on whether the publisher accepted the novel -- something they would never do unless they were sure it would be a best-seller. He hit a wall creatively thinking his career would collapse until a friend offered him a chance to write a short story about superheroes for an incoming anthology. While most of the stories were funny, his was more serious, and at the launch party/reading for the collection, two editors from DC and Marvel -- Mark Doyle and Jeanine Schaefer -- were in the audience and asked if any of the writers loved comics. He soon started working for each, and would occasionally complain about either editor to the other -- not realizing the pair were dating. Despite that, he pushed through to find success in comics rather than hitting his head against the wall with the book that would likely not be published.
Another fan asked about infamous "Arcane Monster Penis" story from his run on "Swamp Thing," and Snyder explained how some mis-coloring made a tentacle look a little too much like a piece of the male anatomy that doesn't get printed in DC comics. The resulting images meant that the entire issue of the comic had to be pulped -- destroyed after printing -- so things could be corrected. At first, Snyder thought the move was ridiculous, but after seeing the art, he realized the move had to be done. "There was this tentacle coming out of Arcane that was just pink and...it was coming out of him!" he laughed. What's worse, Snyder was the one who had asked the artist to add more tentacles to the image as it was being drawn. "It was like 'We need more cowbell!' and I realized it was my own needs that lost DC a lot of money."
The story was a strange counterpoint from his early days at the company. "I used to be a much bigger dick with DC than I am now. We had big fights on 'Court of Owls' and 'Black Mirror' where they wanted to change things. And I understood their points, but I didn't want to change them...so at one point we had this fight over 'Court of Owls,' and I said 'If you change that thing, you can rip up my contract because I can go writer Spider-Man!'" Luckily, his brinksmanship often led to him getting his way, though today he fights far less often with his publisher.
"Batman" #40 -- the incoming finish to the Joker-centric "Endgame" arc -- was on hand, and Snyder allowed fans to come up and read the finale. He said that he didn't mind spoilers making it out to the internet -- even though he does care for them himself -- so long as fans can go and enjoy the books the way they want.
Another reader asked about DC Comics Editorial's move to Burbank, California. "It was hard. I had a lot of friends who didn't move with," he said from Vertigo Editor Wil Dennis to the receptionist who would encourage him to hound editors in his early days. "Now I feel like the energy at DC on the West Coast is very exciting...there's a lot of people going out there that I am excited to work with. I'm no shill for DC; I promise you that. But what I will tell you truthfully is that we went to this weird talent conference at Burbank. I've been to these before. Like we went to one in Charlotte that was pretty much telling us how not to say things wrong...and I appreciate DC trying that because at the time, everyone was worried about whether they were getting too many notes.
"But this meeting in Burbank, which I expected would be the same kind of thing, was very exciting. They said, 'You know what we want? We want you to do whatever the hell you want on this book. We want you to feel like we picked you to do this book because you had a vision for it.'...it's exciting!" He said he's not only enjoying the atmosphere, but he's also excited to see some of the new books he has had no connection to through the pipeline like "Black Canary" and the Damian Wayne-focused ongoing.
He also said the new Burbank office is exciting because "it looks like a spaceship" and is connected to all the other things going on with DC Entertainment on the Warner Bros. lot. The goal moving forward is to make the print division of DC a very unique and original take on the characters that is very different than what fans are seeing on TV and in film.
For he and Capullo's part, they want to turn their new take on "Batman" into an exciting and different version of the character because they know it will only be temporary. "Batman #50 is coming, and it comes at the same time as the 'Batman v Superman' movie. If you think the status quo is never coming back...come on. So let's try some things that are a love letter to Bruce and the mythology. You have to return things to center eventually, but let's get out there and tell a new story about what makes Batman great," he said comparing their new take to Dan Slott's "Superior Spider-Man" or Ed Brubaker casting Bucky as Captain America in that those stories only went to prove how the original character is the only face meant for the role.
Snyder also said that in "Batman" #40, he wanted a final battle between Batman and Joker that was "Frank Miller/Geoff Darrow brutal" to really complete the story started in "Death of the Family."
The story of how Snyder teamed with Stephen King for the first arc of "American Vampire" came up, and the writer explained that he initially reached out to the horror legend for a blurb on the cover to the first issue. King then offered to write some of the story with him after he sent along the pitch. "The thing that was so inspiring about him is that he'd basically say 'Scott, I think I'm going off the res on this, do you mind?' and I'd say, "No, go ahead, Stephen King.'
"The funny thing is that when he likes something, he writes like he never wrote anything before. He writes like a hungry young writer, and what you realize about him is that great writers love story and love to be inspired," he added. The legend did get a good joke on him at the end of the run when he finished one script having a character turn into a bat and fly away -- not the kind of thing American vamps do -- and Snyder had to nervously tell King not to do it only to hear, "I'm just messing with you."
Snyder revealed that he would love to write Wonder Woman at some point, describing his take as "Hellboy meets Captain America" in a way that would "give her shoulders" and really explore why she is an equal plank to the foundation of the DCU with Superman and Batman. He joked that the name for his series would be "Wonder Woman: Badass."