The Spotlight on Scott Snyder panel was packed with fans, anecdotes and some surprises on Sunday morning at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
The biggest surprise was perhaps experienced by Snyder himself, when he was presented an Inkpot Award on behalf of the convention to start off the panel. The Inkpot Awards are annually bestowed to creative professionals by the convention as recognition for their contributions to the industry.
Following the presentation, and Snyder's heartfelt acceptance, the panel started in earnest, moderated by Comics Conspiracy owner and podcaster Ryan Higgins.
Snyder first mused about the significance of this particular Comic-Con by looking to his past. “It was 10 years ago this weekend I was convincing Jock to work with me on Detective Comics,” Snyder said. “It was my first time I was invited to San Diego Comic-Con as a professional. I didn’t know Jock at all then, but now he’s like a family.”
Snyder and his wife had their third child in May, which led to some uncertainty about whether he would attend this year's show. “I was going to stay home, but my wife told me I should go," he admitted. "This weekend has been about reflecting for me. You guys have given me my dream job for years, so I wanted to come here and thank you.”
Snyder was then asked about his feeling switching over from Detective Comics to Batman. “I was terrified,” Snyder replied, succinctly.
“I had always wanted to get into comics,” the writer continued. “I wanted to be an artist, but I wasn’t very good at it. So I started writing stories, and then eventually found my way into comics. I thought it was going to be a slow climb, but then I was asked by DC if I wanted to write Detective. Up until then, every gig I had, I thought I’d get kicked off. For the New 52, I almost said no to switching to Batman – I had a lot of anxiety, and the success of Detective had only compounded that. Previously, I was always getting into fights with my editors – it was like I wanted to fail. But what I’ve learned is, it’s always the same terror – it never goes away, especially writing these characters you grew up with.”
“At a Vertigo dinner back then, everyone saw I was freaking out. Neil Gaiman noticed, and asked me what was wrong. He then, for whatever reason, told me this story about some shoe store that kept plaster cast footprints of dead customers underneath the store. That was not the kind of story I wanted to hear at that moment.”
“I said to him I’d never be good enough. Neil said, ‘Well, in a few years, you’ll know you were better.’”
Snyder was then asked if crafting the multiverse-spanning event Dark Nights: Metal was even scarier than taking on Batman. “Metal wasn’t scary,” Snyder said. “I was doing the kind of over-the-top comic I loved reading growing up. Metal was all about coming out of the bunker of your own fears, to overcome your problems.”
“I had this whole pitch made up for Greg Capullo. All I had told him was the title was Metal, and he said, 'I’m in.'”
Byond anxiety, Snyder talked about the personal emotions driving his run on Batman. “I promise you, I’ve never done a Batman arc that wasn’t personal. I wrote ‘Death of the Family’ while my wife and I were expecting our second kid – it came from the terror and anxiety of being a dad. And 'Zero Year' was based on my son’s fears. He was part of a school shooting lockdown drill and was accidentally locked out of the room, and has had a fear of being stuck in the hallway ever since. 'Zero Year' – for all its crazy rock ‘n roll punk origins - is based on what my kids are worried about.”
The finality of Snyder and Capullo’s current Batman story – the Last Knight on Earth miniseries – was also touched on by Snyder. “This story isn’t about closing up shop – it’s about coming full circle. This is about Greg and I saying our final piece. I bumped into Grant Morrison at this con once. He said you need to create a birth and a death for your Batman. 'Zero Year' was that birth – Last Knight is that death.”
Snyder also talked about his other current Batman series – The Batman Who Laughs – and how it represents the fear of oneself, and the differences between him and the characters he’s stemmed from. “The Batman Who Laughs represents Batman’s fear that he will turn into a predatory version of himself. Batman says everything you do in life matters, and that everything you do should make an impact in a good way. The Joker says nothing you do in life matters – life has no meaning. The Batman Who Laughs says no one’s life matters, except for his. He just wants to win. He’s just out to be the last man standing – to have the last laugh.”
“I can’t believe I’m writing this character,” Snyder said with a chuckle. “I must be the most evil dad there is.”
Snyder also explained how his personal mindset impacts upcoming DC events he’s involved in. “Without selling you on Year of the Villain, the thing I hope you’ll all walk away realizing that everything I write have these deep themes about being afraid of what might happen to my kids. There’s a pull in my stories towards helping others. This is the kind of thing I worry about the most.
“There’s been this huge social shift of humans as a species,” Snyder continued. “Everything used to be about preserving and helping mankind, now it’s become all about oneself. Year of the Villain is all about that. Perpetua originally made humans as predatory creations, but mankind was wiped out and remade. Lex Luthor believes that we’re supposed to be predatory and selfish and cruel – not follow heroes into the light.”
“The Batman Who Laughs has different take on all that. He’s believes we might start out as good, but that we’re supposed to evolve into something evil. Evil that’s unique to mankind – it’s never displayed in animal kingdom.”
“Year of the Villain and 'Justice Doom War' lead to something even bigger in the fall,” Snyder teased.
From there, Snyder moved away from Batman and started talking about some of his early unintended inconveniences he caused for his artists. “As a young writer, I didn’t understand giving an artist something crazy - like drawing dozens of characters – isn’t really the gift I thought it was. In Superman Unchained, I said to Jim Lee, ‘You get to draw every single Batmobile!’ – and he fell completely silent. In The Wake, I told Sean Murphy, ‘There are a thousand mermaids in this scene - isn’t that great?’”
Murphy ended up creating a mermaid stamp to accommodate the script, according to Snyder.
But these inconveniences didn’t get in the way of great friendships. “Sean put his hand on my shoulder at dinner one time and asked, ‘When are we going to be real friends?’ I was so offended, I was determined to be his best friend, and he’s become my best friend. So many friendships have started at these cons.”
“Having partners who are your friends is the only way to collaborate,” Snyder added. “You need to know that someone else believe in this.”
“When I started with Greg, I gave him full scripts, and picture references. But he never told me his computer wouldn’t show him the pictures. And when I saw his art, my ego flipped because he wasn’t using any of my references! When we did ‘Superheavy’ in Batman, Bruce Wayne had a beard, so I sent him a photo reference of the beard I imagined. Greg said, ‘You do realize I’ve seen a beard before? Did you actually think I’d give Bruce Wayne a ZZ Top beard?’”
“Greg taught me so much,” Snyder professed. “I’ve learned to write in all different kinds of styles. Jim Cheung likes full scripts, but Jock and Rafael Albuquerque like a mix.”
Snyder then shifted away from his DC work to his upcoming creator-owned projects. Among them, Snyder announced the return of his and Albuquerque’s American Vampire series. The new series is scheduled to launch in early to mid-2020.
“I’m at a point where I can do more creator-owned material,” Snyder said. One of those efforts is the upcoming Undiscovered Country from Image Comics, announced Friday at the convention. The series is co-written with Charles Soule and drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli and takes place in a dystopian future 30 years after the United States closes off its borders.
“I love working with co-writers,” Snyder said. “It makes me do things differently then I normally would. It makes me think in new ways. As a writer, you have to keep trying to discover what excites you most. If I wanted to write Batman for five more years, I could have written mystery stories easily enough. The reason I left is because if I can’t stay exciting to myself, how can I stay exciting to you?”
Snyder is also working on a horror comic drawn by Francesco Francavilla titled Night of the (something). The “something” was a part of the title Snyder declined to reveal. No publisher has been yet found for the series.
“I want to keep doing creator-owned material because I want to be the best writer I can be,” Snyder said. “I feel I’ve done all the event-superhero-team-type books.”
Snyder circled back to his own self-doubts before taking questions from fans. “For me, The Joker is that voice in your head that wont stop talking to you when you’re down. He’s all these doubts and fears in your head. He’s the voice of anxiety, telling you nothing you do matters. The words said by Batman in 'Zero Year' – ‘I want you to change me.’ – that’s how I was feeling at the time.”
“The message of ’Endgame’ (Snyder and Capullo’s final arc in Batman) was, ‘You look into the face of death, and laugh.’ That was me telling myself, ‘I’m going to matter.’”