SPOILER WARNING: The following interview discusses major plot points from "All Star Batman" #7 by Scott Snyder, Tula Lotay and Francesco Francavilla, in stores now.
Scott Snyder is the self-professed luckiest dude in comics. While the superstar writer has undeniable talent, it's his ability to tap top artists as creative collaborators that ensures nearly every one of his releases is an industry-wide event.
For "All Star Batman," his latest from DC Comics, Snyder has assembled what he calls a murderers' row of artists to illustrate Batman as the Dark Knight faces off against reimagined versions of some of his greatest rogues, including Two-Face, KGBeast, Mr. Freeze and this week, Poison Ivy.
Following issues drawn by John Romita Jr. and Jock, Tula Lotay illustrated "All Star Batman's" main story, with Francesco Francavilla delivering the art for the backup featuring Duke Thomas and the Riddler.
Snyder discussed the events of "All Star Batman" #7, as well as the personal joy he feels working on his new series with such an incredible group of artists. The New York Times best-selling writer also shared how "All Star Batman" is very much a continuation of his run on "Batman" with Greg Capullo. Snyder also teased upcoming projects at DC Comics, as well as new creator-owned titles, with Francavilla.
CBR: When you were writing "The Wake" for Vertigo, we discussed your love of science and how sometimes, real things that happen in nature are often times stranger and more compelling than anything that can be dreamed up by a creator. In "All Star Batman" #7, you're telling the story of Poison Ivy and her study of dendropharmacology – using trees to develop medicinal drugs and possibly, bioterrorism. Why do you feel grounding these villains in the real world makes for such a scary threat to Batman and the rest of the world?
Scott Snyder: I try to write these stories for myself. I obviously keep the young readership in mind too, and try not to write NC-17 craziness but at the same time, I am trying to make the villains – and Batman himself – speak to personal fears and fears and anxieties that are in the air right now. The best way for me to do that is to make these villains very real. I am afraid of that intersection of speculative science and real science. [A place] where you can't quite tell when things are just off the rails from what's really happening.
Every one of the stories in "All Star Batman" has that theme in it. The technology that Mad Hatter uses in the next issue speaks to something that Harvey mentions back in the first arc where he talks about a lens that, when you wear it, you can look out at the world and skin things the way that you want without affecting any superstructure. Your wife is a different person if you want. You can see your car differently if you want, but it's still there. You just don't know what the objective truth of it all is unless you switch back to clear setting.
In that way, every story from Freeze to Ivy to Hatter and then to the final story in "All Star Batman" #9, all speak to different technologies or phenomena that could end the world in some way or another. That's why this arc is called 'Ends of the Earth.' In a lot of ways, it's one big story about the fragility of the world right now from an aerial view without getting too political from any one side. The mystery keeps coming until "All Star Batman" #9 where it culminates. It's a large story about the demons in the air.
And those "demons in the air" are something that we often talked about during your run on "Batman" with Greg Capullo as you also wanted to ground that series in real-life threats.
Yes, that's right. And we're doing that again here. Each one of these stories shows Batman a different way that the world could end. The first one [with Mr. Freeze] is through natural cataclysm. There's an ancient spore that is released from the permafrost. Even though it's Freeze's plot, the idea is that Freeze says that this will happen soon enough once the permafrost melts, which makes it this inevitable international calamity. The second story with Ivy, even though she's not doing this, there is this mention of these terrible biological weapons that can be pulled from this tree. That fear is baked into the DNA of the story. And the third issue, "All Star Batman" #8, really shows the complete collapse into subjectivity. It's this idea that you retreat to your own world, a world of your own making, so deeply that the world itself collapses around you but that's okay. And the fourth one brings it all together in "All Star Batman" #9.
I really love this series. I love this arc. It's the most fun that I have had in superhero comics, I think. As much as I adored working on "Batman" and loved working with Greg and can't wait to work with him again, there is always a heavy pressure on that series, namely "Batman" proper, because it has to hold up so much of the line. I always given tremendous freedom and I am still very, very grateful to DC for getting to do those stories. But there is still this propulsive quality to this machine that has to keep moving. It's always in conversation with itself, and there is not a lot of room to experiment and try different things and slow it down. It was wonderful for six years, but for me, to get to do this now, feels so invigorating. It feels like when I started on "Batman" - I had all of these new resources. I love them equally as jobs, and again, I can't wait to work with Greg again, and I wouldn't trade any of it for the world – it was the best ride of my life – but I don't miss the intense pressure of being on the main book.
Your rogue for this issue is Poison Ivy and while she's never been as romantically linked to Batman as Catwoman, there is certainly a high level of sexual tension and even compatibility between the two characters. What is it about Poison Ivy that attracts Batman? Because he often tries to redeem her when they face off, and in this story, he even says that he's come to the desert to save her.
I think Poison Ivy is a completely redeemable character, and I think he relates best to her through an appreciation of science. She is a brilliant scientist who has done groundbreaking research and she was so determined to get her point across about the importance of exploring the wonders of the natural world that she has almost turned herself into a villain or a monstrous version of who she wants to be but it doesn't mean that she isn't an anti-hero a lot of the time.
I think that she's interesting to Bruce because she exists very low on the scale of villainy out of the people in his Rogues Gallery. If there is a long spectrum from 1 to 10, Joker would be 10 – completely irredeemable and black – and Ra's would be about a 9.5. [Laughs] Ivy exists a little bit further along than Selina, but not as far as Freeze, not as far as Penguin and not as far even Harley [Quinn]. There is camaraderie there, where I think that Batman, who himself could be seen as falling on that same spectrum to some people, sees a connection with someone like her. She has a mission and a purpose that she believes in, but is just too tunnel-visioned about it to understand the ways in which she has overstepped and become sort of the villain of her own story.
Let's talk about dendropharmacology, the science that Poison Ivy has mastered. I love this idea of studying the trees and their possible medicinal properties by taking the tree back to its beginning, from bark to pith. You describe it as a form of time travel, but you've also told this story with Poison Ivy from front to back. Why did you make that choice for this character and this story in particular?
The nature of Ivy's research is slowly working backwards from the bark to the outer and the inner rings of the tree and finally to the pith to find the most medicinal properties in it, because the greatest potential for discoveries lies at the very pith of the tree. The idea was to tell a story about the girl who begins at the darkest, roughest part of it, the bark, which is incinerated after being blamed for this plague and then take it backwards to this moment of wonder that started it all at the beginning. And I also wanted to use that as a parallel of the journey that Ivy goes through even if it's just in a very small, echoed way in the issue too.
I was not overly familiar with her work but I must say, Tula Lotay did a superb job on "All Star Batman" #7.
Oh, my God - I can't even tell you how much I love her as a person and an artist. I am so honored and grateful that she agreed to do this one with me. It's one of my favorite issues that I've ever done, visually. I really hope that I did it justice.
To me, between Jock doing Freeze and Tula doing Ivy and what Camu [Giuseppe Camuncoli] is doing next with Hatter, I am just so grateful and so lucky to be working with this murderers' row of artists. No one on this series other than Jock and Francesco [Francavilla] on the backups is someone that I have worked with before. For me, getting to work with everybody from Declan [Shalvey] to [John] Romita to Afua [Richardson] and the people coming up like Sean Murphy and Paul Pope, it's just so exciting and just so invigorating. I hope it comes across in the pages. It's some of my favorite stuff that I've done. I really want to say thank you to the readers for being so supportive and making the book competitive when really, all I am doing is have a good time with my friends and show readers why these villains and why Batman are so potent and interesting and awesome right now.
It's not like I forgot about your run on "Batman," but with Riddler featured in the backup and specifically mentioning "Zero Year," I was reminded that these aren't Elseworlds stories or starring a Batman from another Earth in the Multiverse. "All Star Batman" is in continuity, and everything you did on "Batman" is in play.
Oh, yeah. It's there too for sure. There's going to be mentions in the next arc after this arc about things that happened in "Batman" with Greg and me. There is a mention of the final machine that Bruce was working on. There is a lot of stuff coming up, especially in the event that I am doing with Capullo that looks back and walks through that we seeded into our run that we didn't get to explore so we are building that into this story, as well. That run, in some ways, is a closed book in that writing that issue ["Batman" #51] was such an emotional experience. Getting to finish and say the book will forever be done in terms of, "You did it," and, "You finished it," and, "You made something that you are proud of with somebody that you love and a team of people that you love." There was that feeling that you can't really ever describe.
At the same time, it's a living part of the conversation that I am still having about Batman and his mythology with myself and hopefully with readers. [Laughs] Certainly, all of those thoughts and all of those ideas about what he means and what he represents here in "All Star Batman" is a bit different for me than from "Batman" because I no longer feel tethered to Gotham. Tom [King] is working so heavily in Gotham, so I can take Batman out of the city. By not taking him to Europe, like Grant [Morrison] did, and because I have such a love for Americana and American folklore and history, it's been such a freeing experience to set him on these epic stages against these classic villains. I love that aspect of it. "All Star Batman" has this different feel, and yet at the same time, a lot of the material that we were exploring in "Batman" comes back to bear in this series.
Finally, I have to ask you about Francesco because, damn, he's good.
He's alright. He's alright. He's an up-and-comer. [Laughs] You have to understand, Francesco and Jock were the first big superstar artists that took a chance on me when I was nobody, for "Detective Comics." I still remember begging them both to do that story, and they were both immediately awesome about giving me a shot. They will forever be family to me. I just spoke with Francesco yesterday on the phone, and it wasn't even about work. It was just about family stuff, but also stuff that we are going to do together in the future for creator-owned and at DC, as well. I love him dearly, and again, I am in awe of what these people that I am working with are able to do. I am the luckiest dude in comics.