Talking with Scott Snyder About All-Star Batman
This week sees the release of All-Star Batman #1 which has Scott Snyder returning to write the Dark Knight. The first issue is split into two with the first story featuring art by John Romita Jr. and the second featuring art by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.
I got a chance to talk to Scott about the new series and more!
Graphic Policy: Where did the concept of All-Star Batman come from? You’ve obviously written Batman for a while and wrapped up that recently, but what got you to want to do the new series?
Scott Snyder: Honestly, I did some soul searching when I realized that Greg and my run was coming to an end. We had been talking about it for a while, and when we got into it super heavy I knew he had been looking to try and take a break from superhero comics. I knew we could keep going. I really felt like I had more stories. But, I also felt it was better to end on a high and then come back and do something different.
So, for me it became a what do I do? Maybe I go to Marvel? Maybe take some time away from comics and do prose again? Maybe I do creator-owned work, and focus on that? What I realized was that I had a couple stories left weren’t particularly for Greg. They were more of a desire to investigate the villains I hadn’t used yet and a desire to make them personally scary for me and modern. Not that they’re not modern, but more to keep them in communication and in touch with what’s scary now. The way we tried to do the Joker and Riddler.
In that way it felt like this project would take shape and it would involve different artists and would be something that would allow me to create a prismatic series where I could take each villain, do something fun and bombastic, something personal, but something that’d fit the artist for whatever villain they’d want to do. It became something more currated, and more intimate and crazier. So I started to fall in love with the idea so I approached DC and they were great and wanted me to do it.
To be totally honest I’ve become really good friends with Tom King and was pushing for him to take Batman. James stepping up. He’s been a brother to me. What’s being done on Birds of Prey and Batgirl. There’s no weak link in the Bat line. I thought do I continue to keep doing this, what’s the point?
When I was working on After Death with Lemire, which is mostly prose, I realized there is a way to do it. The joy of doing your creator owned stuff is that you’re writing for yourself, it’s a place you can explore the things that keep you up at night without restrictions and I’ve tried to do Batman that way… some of the pressures… I feel proud of what we were able to do in that regard. Talking about personal demons, the way things are right now. Ultimately there are certain restrictions with working on something line driven like Batman. So it occured to me this series could be a place I can write for myself and throw caution to the wind with risk taking.
All of this blended together into a formula that I couldn’t be more excited that I was thinking about artists. Paul Pope, Tula Lotay, Francesco, Jock, Shawn, John Romita, who I’ve been dying to work with forever. All of these people who are friends of mine and people who I’ve been inspired by and not conventional Bat artists. It became the perfect challenge. Each of these stories will be different than the last. Each of these will take place outside of Gotham. Each will be a different villain. We’ll finish up the year with a mystery villain with this line of investigation, this line of thinking of who is Batman’s greatest villain. So, in that way its become this incredible clubhouse. It’s in continuity so I’m in concert with Tom and the rest of the crew and got involved with them and involved with me. Capullo is coming back in the summer of 2017. It looks like, we’re almost through, getting approval of the big project we’re doing together. Once that’s solidified, a lot of my friends, Tom, Steve Orlando, James, they’re all going to tale into a story that comes together at the end of the double ship year at the beginning of summer 2017.
It gave me a place to go where I could really own my own version of Batman creatively with people that inspire me creatively. I never expected the book to be competitive in sales. The line is strong. Rebirth is strong. I’m ok with that. This is for me. The fact that it’s competitive sales wise, we got the initial numbers and they’re higher than I ever expected, means the world because I feel like it proves what I hope is true about comics in that readers reward risk taking. They reward you when you try something that you show your passionate about and might take them off roading with the character a bit. If you try to make it personal, try to make it about the moment or readership in some ways, they’re willing to give it a shot. To me, that’s the validation, the sales, all it does is create a sense of gratitude on behalf of the team about how the readers are willing to follow us to crazy places. It means a lot.
GP: You touched on it a little bit in the answer. One of the things that really stands out in your career is the villains. Skinner Sweet, Court of Owls, Mr. Bloom, the creepy guy from Severed. This is a series that focuses on villains. What is it about the bad guys that appeals to you so much?
SS: Yeah I do. I feel bad. I look at all my kids stuff thinking about all the bad things bad guys do. I’ll be at a hockey game and be like “and then he cuts off his face” and then become aware, “good goal son.” It makes me feel awful. That said
That said, my best guess, even as a kid I loved horror. The first movie that ever caught me and scared me was Night of the Living Dead. It was the old black and white. I had seen all of these slasher movies. I must have been about ten and I rented these horror movies from a place nearby that’d rent to kids… what was totally shady. So was the 80s. One day I got it and I was dissapointed it was black and white. Ultimately what caught me and kept me up for days with anxiety about this was what if this happened? What if zombies attacked the world? It was a good villain. There’s no singular villain. This threat of a march death of zombies winded up this intense pressure box where people revealed their true colors. The real scariness of that movies, and horror movies in general, isn’t just the scary monster or villain, or even the psychology, but the ways in which they reflect the worst impulses of ourselves or the worst fears of the world around us. I love bad guys for that.
For me this series a celebration of that where Two-Face is making the case. He’s saying I am an extension of the worst fear you have of human nature. Before this he was sort of the Joker announcing the coming of a crazy world. A world without meaning. A world where you could be killed by a gunman on a Tuesday or a terrorist act. People are used to that now. Now we’re facing all these problems and we’re deep down afraid to face these creatures. Deep down he gets the people to look at who they really are. Batman is the opposite. He challenges people to greatness and heroism. And so the villain here with Two-Face is an extension of my fears about myself. Of whether or not my worst impulses get the best of me as a dad, husband, or person in general that I want to be. And also the world my kids are looking at. Whether
Batman is the opposite. He challenges people to greatness and heroism. And so the villain here with Two-Face is an extension of my fears about myself. Of whether or not my worst impulses get the best of me as a dad, husband, or person in general that I want to be. And also the world my kids are looking at. Whether it’s going to be a world where we’re going to be shrinking away from problems, retreating from things, and acting selfishly. Or trying to be brave and working together to work on taking on things that seem to be insurmountable.
GP: A thing that stands out and is topical about the issue is the use of data and information by Two-Face. With the recent DNC hack and Wikileaks, it’s just really good timing. How long have you been thinking about using that in the story? You have to have a smile on your face it’s in the news as the comic comes out.
SS: Yeah, it’s weird. This is an idea I’ve had ever since I’ve thought about using him. He’s a sense the side of you that you don’t want to show the world. He knows everything that’s happening behind close doors in Gotham. He has this information. He’s not like a tech genius. He’s a lone wolf and a scary guy. He’s an incredible study of human character from when he was Harvey and now. He has all of these mechanisms in place and knows what people do behind closed doors, he has this incredible intuitive sense as to what people are going to do. So he sees himself as a mirror.
One of the reasons the issue is set up the way it is as far as structure and breaks conventions with flashback upon flashback, is to try to give it a sense of a mirror where you’re looking back. And what he’s saying is “You don’t want to look at who you are. I’m in the mirror and love who you are. It’s ok. Go out and be that person. Be that villain. Be Two-Face. Go out into the world and be presentable, be the one that you really are behind closed doors. Revel in the fact you’re a monster because we all are.”
GP: In the comic there’s two stories. The second one really focuses on Duke. We haven’t seen him in action, we haven’t seen him in his suit. There’s also a hint that there’s a sidekick we might not know about in Batman’s history. I was thinking that there’s 75 years of Batman history. How does it feel for you as a creator and writer to add to it and have to navigate it?
SS: It’s challenging. I have to remind myself I’ve done this before. I’ve gone to the Batcave. You’ve worked the console. You’ve driven the Batmobile. Relax.
It never stops being scary on some levels. Some of my favorite literature involves this character. Not just comics, but books. In that way you look at it as how can I add to this? How can I explore something?
On the other hand, you put your horse blinders on and say I made that up, I made these things up, and you write it like your own book. Where you understand that your love of the character is baked into the DNA and the elements are true enough in the core where even if you’re trying something far fetched that you love a character enough that you’re not going to go so far out of range fans will hate it. You just try.
That’s the way I deal with it. You block it all out and say you’re writing fan fiction, what would you like to see in the end? I have a lot of trouble writing Damian because he’s close to my son’s age
I have a lot of trouble writing Damian because he’s close to my son’s age. It’s a personal thing and hard for me because having a boy that young that’s next to me fighting crime and getting punched… I can’t get my head around it. Even though I adore reading about the character in other places and I want him to remain Robin and be Robin. With that said they don’t want a Batman and Robin right now, because they want to establish him over in Teen Titans and give him an identity outside of Gotham.
That presents an opportunity. I’ve loved Batman with an ally, a Robin, Spoiler, Cassandra Cain whoever he’s next to. Duke is a character we’ve talked about for a long time and I love what was done with him in We Are Robin. I talked to Geoff Johns about different possibilities about where he can land, what his personality was, and what he could offer. We came up with something that I’m really excited about.
My hope is he’s not just some hero that we can create and leave, but one we can create a series for. A main series where we can bring in new talent, maybe from my class. I have high hopes. We’ll see. I’m excited about it. I might fall on my face, you never know.
My only thing with Duke is to justice to the character. I love that character. I just really want him to be someone that’s integral with the DC Universe and be special.
GP: It really stood out to me in this issue of how much of an inverse he is to Batman. Where there’s black on Batman there’s yellow on Duke. Where there’s yellow on Batman, there’s black on Duke. And there’s background, skin color… they’re very much opposites in many ways an inverse.
SS: Very much. Some of that is built in as to where Duke might land. His mission. He’s going to fill a role Bruce really needs. I’m excited for that. I think he has a lot to teach Bruce honestly and they fit well together too. There’s the story that’s going to be the back-up in the first five issues it’s Declan and Jordie and Zsasz. The next one is Mr. Freeze and Francesco. Each has a color correspondent which is meant to have a corollary in human psychology. So black is the first one has to do with the past and the darkness towards motivation. White, the second one is about endurance and the evil we do to each other. Green is Poison Ivy and red and so on.
GP: The two stories are interesting in how you tell the narrative. They both jump back and forth with time and use flashbacks within flashbacks. Why’d you go that route instead of a straight narrative?
SS: Honestly, with flashbacks and the structure of time, it’s just one more tool I feel like you think about what the story is about and you decide if that tool is enhancing or applicable or not. It even comes down to captions. You figure what the story is about and you make these decisions.
For me, this story is largely where I wanted it to feel head spinning where Batman is alone and alienated. So I don’t want narration in that stuff. At the same time he’s largely haunted about things in the past and driven by them. I wanted you to feel like you’re on the road. You’re in the middle of nowhere and alone. So the structure of it allows you to go back further and further in an unconventional way in almost a v shape, a mirror. Two-Face says “I’m the mirror you look you and the man on the other side.” And the v shape to me speaks as to what the story is about.
And in the background it’s much more about Duke wrestling dealing with his new life and his own life. Just a few months ago he was with this group of Robins. His story isn’t straight forward as far as structure. It’s a struggle as to who he was and who he’s going to be.
GP: Very nice. Thanks so much for chatting.