"Batman" writer Scott Snyder -- with surprise guest Greg Capullo -- began his New York Comic Con spotlight panel by immediately declaring it a Q&A session. From there, the pair spoke on a myriad of topics -- from Snyder's DC Comics work on the Batman family to his Vertigo work like "The Wake" and more. Snyder told the crowd that this is usually his favorite panel of the weekend, because it's the fans' chance to talk one-on-one about the craft, the industry and various projects.
The topic quickly turned to Batman, as Snyder described how he formulated the "Court of Owls" storyline. "I try and find a point in Batman that I really relate to emotionally," he said, noting that as a kid he knew all the back alleys where he lived. "That was our neighborhood. But what's haunting about it is that you don't know all the lives that have lived before you." The writer made the point that for this reason, there are things that Batman would never be able to understand or know about Gotham. "You don't know the city the way you think you do. Its history will always be mysterious. You'll have to accept that in be humbled." "Owls" was about making concentric rings and stating that aspects of Gotham will always be mysterious.
What Snyder really tries to do is to find the best way to work together on each book he does. "Rafael [Albuquerque] likes action scenes to do himself. Jock likes everything scripted all the way through. Greg likes having a lot of room," Snyder said. "It's a process. If you want to write comics, one of the things that's great about comics is that it's so collaborative. Ultimately, what I try to do is describe the direction of the scene. I try not to direct it."
"Well, we'd love to because we could get some money," Capullo said in response to a question asking about adding new elements to the Batman mythos.
"We've been doing more heroes -- Harper and the idea of Duke, possibly Lark, and her brother Cullen. We've tried to introduce characters to that end, and build from there," Snyder said. "But we'll definitely do more villains. This story ['Endgame'] is about the finale for the Joker and a lot of things about the status quo that we'd like to change."
The writer noted that Joker comes back differently every time -- and for "Endgame," he's going to be different once again. "Joker's -- his whole mission changes. If ['Death of the Family'] was about camaraderie and love, this is about hate."
"What's Scott's saying is, that Joker was nice guy Joker," Capullo said.
"[Greg] uses a lot of black in this," Snyder said. "It's very funereal."
The question of how they dealt with conflict with editorial came up, and it gave the duo a chance to discuss their creative partnership and how they deal with massive editorial changes. "Scott and I have formed a pact early on, and we're going to lock arms," Capullo said. "I'm just as passionate about Scott's ideas. There were a couple of times, including 'Court of Owls,' that they wanted to alter things. We would fight together... We have an exit strategy in place should we not win those battles... We definitely want to keep the integrity of what we're doing, and sometimes publishers might not share your vision... It's important to fight for those things."
"The locking arms thing -- that means the world to me on a book, that Greg is always by my side," Snyder said. The duo related a battle they had with editorial over a page turn in issue #5. They won, and Capullo was so careful to map it out -- but when Snyder first saw it, it was a PDF, not a page-turn. "When I got the book, I thought, 'Oh my God, there's a misprint!' but then I realized, that's what we wanted to do!"
Capullo was pretty freaked out, but said once he realized it's what he meant to do, he said it was "even cooler."
"We both got completely fooled," Snyder said.
"You guys really liked that issue!" Capullo said. "So whenever DC tries to get in my way about something, I say, 'Issue Five!'"
Snyder said there have been editorial fights that have been bigger and that Capullo has been "a real ally."
"The fact is, [DC] is really great to me," Snyder said. "My feeling is that if you approve it at the beginning, the whole thing is approved throughout." If there's a note to change the meaning or the end of the story, "I'll stop writing the story."
"You can change anything you want in that formative period when it's being approved... but if you try to change the end or the meaning in any way, you can't cut it."
"They're very good to us now, with everything. They let us steer the ship," Snyder said.
Concerning other characters that they might like to work on, Capullo has always been on the fence with a character like Superman. "If Scott could come up with the right angle to make that happen," he exclaimed, saying he knew that Snyder wrote a Superman story with "Superman Unchained." "But, I mean trying to give him a reincarnation."
"Right, give him the kind of edge you respond to," Snyder said.
"Yeah, but if it was old-school Lobo -- oh man," Capullo said.
Speaking about the "big Wonder Woman story" in his head that'd like to do, Snyder said, "It's just a matter of trying to find the time. But we couldn't be happier with Batman. I try and plan escape hatches for us if you guys don't like what we're doing any more. Neither of us want to stay past when you want us to stay... We try and be pretty daring on the book, but if you guys will have us, we have stories. #50 is where his contract is over, and we're linked." In fact, one of the things in Capullo's DC contract is a clause that states he'll only work with Snyder.
"After 'Endgame,' if Batman lives, we're going to change the status and we want to do some small mysteries," Snyder said. "If you guys like those mysteries and we're doing well, that story sweeps up. There's a subplot that would make it turn into a giant epic. But if you aren't responding to it, we could end it gracefully and it could just be small stories with those characters."
"The character means too much to both of us to overstay our welcome," he continued. "I don't write them hoping to please you; I write them emotionally hoping to please me. I have to consider it writing fan fiction for myself... I don't write thinking about the response or trying to play to it. I write it how I imagine it."
"I always assure him that because we love it so much, it'll come off it on the page to the reader, and they'll respond to that love," Capullo said.
The writer also addressed why he likes putting Batman into mechs suits so much. "I was a huge fan of 'Appleseed,' 'Robotech,' 'Gundam' -- I would love 'Batman: Pacific Rim.' If I could think of a way to -- 'The Joker's jokerized a kraken!' It's from a place of fandom. I love his tech. It's the fun of it. The two things -- I need to make it fun for me, and I also need to make it personal. 'Endgame' is a celebration of everything about Batman... At the same time, it has to be something intensely personal for me to write, as hokey as it sounds. I can't do it because it's a cool plot and he has a new suit to break out. It's largely about Batman's mortality being his largest strength or weakness." Snyder said the gadgets and suits are the gravy, a nod that says, "Isn't this fun stuff?"
Capullo says the design is some of the most fun in his job -- especially when it came to some of the Bat-armor. "He wanted it to be big, but more of a humanoid kind of thing. I just wanted to do something completely different. I looked up a picture of a vampire bat's head -- I wanted it to be that, and even bigger than 11 feet. I just want it to look more like a tank... Every time I show him something --"
"It takes me a minute to absorb that it's better than mine by far," Snyder finished Capullo's thought. "He's a genius at that kind of design. The acting on the page -- nobody does the scenes, the emotional heart of the story, better than he does."
Capullo described his "massive amounts of fear" starting on "Batman." "I never thought I'd be nervous to do another project," he said. "If it was 'Batman' #733, it would be less so, but [launching #1] was a hell of a responsibility... When I started to draw 'Batman,' I told my wife, 'I think I made a mistake!'"
The artist doesn't like the way issue #1 looks because he was bound up by nerves. "Now, after all this time of doing it, I'm completely comfortable. Some artists start strong and fade on books, I'm the opposite," Capullo said. "To me, characters tell me how they want to be posed... and at this point, I feel very confident I know Bruce Wayne and Gordon and Al -- but the first issue was just gut-wrenching on me. Very hard."
In terms of influence of getting into comics, "Dark Knight Returns" and "Batman: Year One" were two projects that Snyder said "stunned" him, but in terms of other, non-Batman comics, "'Swamp Thing' was huge for me as a kid. I was a big Spider-Man guy, X-Men, all of it," but there were moments that made Snyder fall in love with Batman than any other character.
"I think that guys or girls who are destined to grow up to be writers, they tended to gravitate toward the writers," Capullo said. "I think artists go the other way. They're following their favorite art guys. There's one artist that I followed everywhere -- that was John Buscema. He did almost every Marvel character that has been in print. I still have all the 'Savage Sword of Conan's that he did." Mort Drucker's "MAD Magazine" was also a big influence on Capullo.
In terms of "The Wake," and inspirations for the world, Snyder said it was meant to be him and Sean Murphy "deciding we were going to do a book that was going to be about exploration."
"Sean is really a playful artist," Snyder said. "He'll kill me, for example, and I'll be in the background, dead -- but he's a great world-builder. What we try to do -- I'd say, 'In this part, I'm going to have it be all these mermen and it's going to be a shift in tone from pirate to adventure. Can you handle that?' and he'll say, 'Oh, I can handle that. I'm going to put the dolphin in a sonic jacket.'"
"The book is meant to be joyous and exuberant, whereas something like 'Wytches' is not. It's deeply dark and personal in a different way," Snyder said.
Snyder said he "wanted to go back to Mister Freeze" at some point, and he has a story in mind for Harvey Dent. "A lot of them are in 'Endgame,' too -- but I have stories for those characters," Snyder said.
The differences between Superman and Batman came up, and Snyder said he was always tempted to say, "Batman wins, or Batman's badass." Snyder says he has an emotional connection to Bruce because he's so human. "He puts himself out there, to sacrifice himself over and over again to make sure what happened to him never happens to another kid. That's completely [heroic], but also completely self-[destructive]."
"Clark is trying with the whole planet on his shoulder to be the man he can be. He's just a guy from Kansas with millions of lives resting on every decision that he makes and he's doing the best that he can. They're almost inversions of each other."