With DC Comics' relaunch of its entire superhero comic line currently under way, there are dozens of books for fans to choose from. There are action titles, espionage titles, comedy titles, and a whole plethora of other tones and genres to cater to any taste. But there is one comic book writer who has so completely mastered the medium that it doesn’t matter what he writes because you know it’s going to be good. That man is Scott Snyder, and he is the writer of Batman and Swamp Thing for DC’s “New 52” initiative.
Snyder broke onto the scene in 2010 when his creator-owned series, American Vampire, debuted at Vertigo Comics. Since then, he has written some of the best comic book stories of the past decade, especially with his recent run on Detective Comics.
Snyder seamlessly blends horror, both physical and psychological, with the type of beautiful prose that could have easily been plucked from a 19th-century gothic novella. He is one of the only writers out there that uses a gentle touch with the comic book medium, but also isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and present a story that will shake you to your core.
So what is the thought process that Snyder uses to pick apart these comic book icons? Complex got some insight from the man himself.
Interview By Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Complex: So, basically you’re rebooting Batman from issue #1, during the most important time in the history of DC Comics, with a blockbuster Batman movie coming out next summer. Were you intimidated at all about that?
Scott Snyder: You’re making me intimidated right now rehashing all of those facts. It’s a huge honor; it’s a huge thrill. The story that we’re telling is a story that I have been working on for a while and it’s a story I would do, relaunch or no relaunch.
The way DC approached me about the relaunch was that it was a way to tell any story that you wanted about your favorite character, no holds barred. And the story I wanted to tell was one that was already really rooted in what’s already happened in Batman, but is accessible to anybody that hasn’t been reading Batman. It’s a big epic, ambitious story about Bruce Wayne and the way he thinks of Gotham as his friend and this kind of ancient evil under Gotham that exists, or may exist, that he has somehow overlooked as Batman. So it has to do with the history of the Wayne family and the Grayson family, and there will be big revelations about this enemy from the past, and this enemy is going to bring all the weight of history against the Bat family and try to crush them.
So it will be a big game changer of a story, but it will also be something that, if you haven’t been reading Batman, you can jump right on, even though it will also have fun references and Easter eggs for people that have been [following]. So at the end of the day, DC was saying you don’t have to design a story that is a #1 that starts everything over. We just want you to tell the best Batman story that you can and the thing you would tell if you have carte blanche on the character. So this is that story for me; it’s the absolute best I can give to Batman.
It’s a story that I have been dying to tell and Greg Capullo, the artist on the book, is just killing it page after page. We’re really excited about what we’re putting out there. So as scared as I am when you tell me it’s Batman #1, I’m also really proud of it and excited. It’s a huge honor to be able to do it.
Are you shying away from familiar villains at first, or are you diving in to Batman’s classic rogue’s gallery?
A little bit of both. The story is really about Bruce being back in Gotham after events in other books like Batman Inc., although you don’t need to know anything about those books to pick this one up. The feeling is that Bruce is the most badass Batman that you’ve ever seen right now. He’s super confident, has the best tech. He’s just completely reinvigorated; Gotham is his city, it belongs to the Bat.
So, little by little, these murders begin to unearth this conspiracy that has been there for a very, very long time. For 300 years, 400 years. No matter how long Bruce has been Batman, the city is 300 years old. So what if there was some sortof symbol that the city belonged to before Batman, that’s actually a rival symbol to the Bat in some way? What if there are enemies that he never knew existed that are coming out of the woodwork right now to bear against him and his allies?
With issue one, what I wanted to do was celebrate all things “Batman” and have it be an issue where everything you know about Batman is there, so that you see Bruce’s world and how comfortable he is in it. You’ll see the whole rogue’s gallery, from Joker, Two-Face, and Clayface to some of the newer villains like Professor Pyg and Flamingo. You’ll see the Batcave new and improved; you’ll see Alfred; you’ll see Wayne Manor; you’ll see Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damien [Batman’s son].
So we really wanted it to be something that, for fans, was a celebration of all things “Batman” and a return to form for Bruce. For newcomers, it also establishes a status quo in a way that was exciting to them and brings our love for the character, and everything the character encompasses, to the page.
For a while, the character was depicted as too dark and psychotic. Are you bringing a more sane approach to the character, instead of the maniacal version of the past?
I know what you mean. My son is four and we watch all of the animated stuff together, so the lighter version of Batman is always in my head all the time; although, the ['90s animated series] is pretty dark, but we like Batman: Brave And The Bold and all that kind of stuff too. For our take on Bruce is a bit of both. Everyone has their own version of him, and for me some stuff has been a little too dark and critical and highlighted the pathology of his character, I think more than the heroism of him.
So one of the things that makes him an enduring icon is that sense of darkness. He’s a guy that has all these resources; he’s one of the only superheroes that all he has is money. I mean, even Iron Man, who is similar, has a repulsor in his chest, so he can’t really bestow his power on other people. Whereas Bruce can really just set up a bunch of anti-crime programs around Gotham and probably do a lot of good, but instead he goes out there and punishes his body and punishes himself over and over and over again. There is something both incredibly noble and heroic about that, and also something self-destructive and pathological about that.
What we’re trying to do is to explore both sides of that. We really want it to be something where he is the greatest superhero in the world, in my opinion. But at the same time he’s someone whose obsessive nature and commitment to being Batman, at the expense of everything else, is also a vulnerability. That’s part of what this story is all about. Really Bruce is so great at being Batman and so devoted to it that, what if there was a conspiracy that has been lurking there for longer than he has been Batman, and he investigated it but just missed it?
To me, that would be foundation-shaking for Bruce because he’s the greatest detective in the world. If he didn’t find it, he doesn’t believe in it. We’re going after a little bit of both where it’s not completely dark, insane Bruce, and at the same time it’s not totally Bruce as a shiny, heroic guy.