That’s how big of a window I was working with in my phone interview with Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder about their latest issue of “Batman”. Fifteen minutes may sound like a lot, and in sports it can be an eternity of eternities, but I’ve found that you rarely ever feel like you get your bearings on the type of interview you’re going to have before that time is up. Every talk is different, every one has its own rhythm, and as a fan of both these creators separately and definitely of their work on “Batman” together, I wanted to settle in for a nice, long, TCJ-style gab session. Fifteen minutes? Surely you must be joking.
Like their take on Batman’s arch-nemesis, this was no joke. So what do I do?
Luckily, Scott had just been on our DC3Cast podcast a few weeks ago, talking at great length and with real candor about not only this issue and the ‘Superheavy’ arc in particular, but about his time in Gotham in general. So with that journalist burden off my shoulders, I had license to go a little more macro. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have one of the best creative synergy’s in comics right now, and I’d rank them up there with Morrison & Quitely, Waid & Samnee, and Edginton & D’Israeli. So with my fifteen-minute window I decided to switch gears and try to shed a little more light on this duo’s particular dynamic.
Since Scott was just talking about “Batman” on our site a little while ago, let’s start with Greg. When did you feel like your’s and Scott’s run on “Batman” really became something special? When did it click?
Greg Capullo:I always have to grown into a book; that’s just the way it is for me. Some guys can hit the first issue running and it’s great, but for me personally, it takes me time to get to know the characters and know the environment to get them to become real. And once they become real, everything changes.
Here’s what it’s like: I go in with what little I do know about the characters and draw it. But when you get into drawing those characters month after month after month, they take on a different reality. I don’t know if it’s the same for other artists, but for me, the character tells me how they want me to draw them. Their mannerisms are dictated to me by those characters. it’s really an odd and wonderful thing that happens to me as I draw the book; the looks become more refined and the mannerisms become what are expected of from those characters and what they expect me to do with them.
The first issue was a nightmare for me when I started “Batman”. I was very, very scared, but after a few issues you just settle on in and do the gig. But this time I feel I intimately connected with the characters, And the same was true with my relationship with Scott. We started off like oil and water, but now we’re more like oil and vinegar, you know? So we taste great on a salad. (laughs)
Scott Snyder: I’m definitely the vinegar. I’m more nervous and bitter, worried all the time and acidic in that way. (laughs)
When we started I was really green. I’m still really green, but I was used to writing extremely full scripts and I had only worked with artists that really wanted that kind of roadmap to start with. From that point they would diverge from it and do whatever they wanted, but they wanted very full scripts to start. And Greg was used to working with people who did much looser scripts. Even from our first meeting, it was a clash because I was like, “Wait, wait…I have to write this out.”
I think where we really connected was when we got on the phone and finally talked story, and I started to see his designs for the Talons and all of these things come in, I thought this guy was so good. What I had to make Greg realize and what I had to realize for myself was that I need to write those full scripts. Not for Greg, but for me, so that I see it in my head and feel the story so that it’s real to me the way it’s real to him when he draws it. Then I can give him enough room to really be creative with it and let him go because everything that he comes up with, to a page, is better than what I have in my imagination. He’s a machine and does pretty much a page a day, sometimes more, you know? I wait for those pages thinking they’re going to be better than I imagined them, and they are. They always are.Continued below
Our working together has taught me a ton about how to work in comics and I’m very grateful for that. He’s been a terrific mentor and a big brother to me, not just in comics, but in life. I wish they would publish our emails in the Absolute Edition. The highlight of Comic-Con for me is, besides meeting the fans which is a huge part of it, getting to see Greg and his wife Jamie and hanging out with them. So we’ve become good friends by this point.
As close as you two work together, there are other parts to the team that gets the book out every month: inker Danny Miki, letterer Steve Wands, colorist FCO Plascensia. I wanted to ask about FCO specifically because the color palettes he uses are not ones you’d think would work in a Bat-book but they just kill in this one. How do you two work?
GC: With ‘Zero Year’ Scott said he wanted it to be a dramatic departure from what we’d done: more youthful, more vibrant, more wild. We always used the term ‘punk rock’ to describe what we set out to do with this book. So I just took that to FCO and said, “Here’s what we want to try and shoot for. Go as free and as wild as you want.”
It’s funny because I hand-picked FCO. I’ve known him a long time and his work and what he’s capable of. The kid is not your average comic colorist; what he knows and understands about color is amazing. So when he started to stretch his legs on ‘Zero Year’, he would send me his stuff before he sent it off to DC and ask, very very timidly, “Is this cool? Is this too much?” And I’d say “No! This is fantastic!” And then once he got his confidence, he just exploded on the stuff we saw from him.
Even as we’ve moved away from ‘Zero Year’ I’ve stayed out of FCO’s way because I think you get the best out of any creator if you stay out of their way and just give them their elbow room to do what you hired them to do. You can see he’s retained some of that adventurism in his colors now that he had been doing in ‘Zero Year’. It’s not quite as bright and popping, but he keeps some of that stuff. Everything he does, all his color choices, are all him. He’s influenced by fine art and movies more than comics, and that’s what he brings to the table.
And obviously, Danny and I have worked forever together on “Spawn”; he knows my work and it’s all come together and gelling.
Was there any hesitation with editorial on taking such an unusual Bat-palette? Was it an easy sell?
GC: Well, one of the things I have behind the scenes at DC is saying to them, “Listen, you hired me because you like what I do. My art team is connected to me; WE are the team. You’ve given me this job to do the best book I can for you, so then you gotta just get out of my way.” Right?
So then there were a couple of times my previous editor would talk to me about FCO. “Are you sure about this and that?” he’d ask. And here’s what I said to him: “No creator does things exactly as you see them. Sometimes they do things that maybe could have been better. But the thing about it is, you cannot stifle a creative guy. Because if I had been nitpicked on some little detail then that’s gonna put this kid into his shell and you’re not gonna get this great creativity out of him.”
So I just think it’s not even worth it. If I see a little something-something, I let it go, because for the few times FCO has something miscolored or wasn’t quite hitting the particular vibe I wanted, which are both very rare, he ends up delivering some far better than I’d have imagined from myself.
SS: That story [‘Zero Year’] is still a watershed moment for us, too. That’s still my favorite thing we’ve done the book.Continued below
It was really where I felt like we were making Batman OUR version of Batman; rewriting his D.N.A. and saying this is our version, our iteration. We hope you guys like it but we’re going to go to the most sacred place, Year One and the origin, and do it our way. It might be one hundred times inferior to Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli, but that said, it was time for it. It’s time to do it in a way that’s personal, where this is a story about Batman facing the fears I have for my kids: terrorism, random gunmen, that post-apocalyptic zeitgeist, resource depletion…all of it.
There’s a note at the beginning of the first ‘Zero Year’ script saying if we’re going to do this, we gotta go off the rails. Just have it be ours and go one hundred eighty degrees from anyone’s expectations. So the fact that fans responded so well to it after they had been so vitriolic about when it had been announced and it’s become so popular was really, for me, the breakthrough moment. Now we know that they know we love the characters as much as they do, and they want us to take them on a journey that’s unexpected and honors these characters in new ways. So that’s why we’re doing ‘Superheavy’ now, you know?
You certainly do honor these characters in the way you integrate all these past Bat-ideas into your narrative. Like Geri Powers and some possible “Batman Beyond” homages, a real “Batman Incorporated”-kind of feel to this new Jim Gordon arc…
GC: Scott is a freak! (laughs) Scott knows so much about Batman, it’s absurd. He pulls things from every little nook and cranny of Batman and gathers it into this tapestry and I’m never not blown away by these things because for a lot of this stuff, I have no clue. I didn’t know about the purple gloves being a throwback to the first Batman stories. He just knows so much and just as it is with art, it all goes into your blender and it comes out based on your personality and who you are. So Scott Snyder has so much stuff in his head and it’s gone through his blender and come out as this wonderful, delicious Batman drink.
On that note, let’s talk about the latest glass of that Bat-drink. Obviously without spoiling, what can you tease us with about issue #42?
SS: We’re ramping up our latest arc ‘Superheavy’ which takes place in a Gotham where Bruce Wayne/Batman has died fighting The Joker and Jim Gordon has now taken up the mantle of Batman. This issue really introduces both the hints of the first supervillain that Jim is going to have to face throughout the story a big way: Mr Bloom. It also has kind of big revelations about Bruce and whether Bruce is back. What’s going on with him? What happened to him? Can he be Batman? All of those questions are seeded here for later so it’s a really big issue for us. It has a new Batmobile, which admittedly comes and goes fast, but it also has a lot of the sort of surprises that will pay off later as well. As a reader I hope you’re beginning to get a better sense of what we’re thinking about for this arc and how deeply it’s about Batman’s mythology, including Bruce and Alfred and a character that I think people didn’t expect to see in this arc.
GC: First off, as I say every time, who doesn’t love monsters? And Scott is giving me a great monster in this. In the last one (issue #41) it was just so much fun because I got to pull apart buildings! Some of this stuff happened, Scott will write the story and I’ll have no idea how I want to convincingly convey this stuff. I got to the one scene where I made it like a tornado was circling the character and I go, “That just looks cool!” This stuff happens by accident so it’s a fun ride for me; it’s fun reading it and then when I’m trying to compose it all of a sudden the brain flash comes to me and goes “do it this way” and then I see the finished product and then go “wow, that’s fun!” And so if I think it’s fun, then chances are readers are going to think it’s fun.Continued below
So the only disappointment was putting all this effort into designing this Bat-mobile truck (Snyder starts laughing) and I get to do it with one, maybe two panels. One where it’s revealed and the second where it’s crashing into something.
SS: It might come back!
GC: It might! But these are some of the most fun issues I’ve drawn in a while because I could draw bigger, larger-than-life super villains and stuff. And that’s always a good time, right?
You talk about bombastic sort of things to draw, but Scott has teased you may be going smaller scale before your “Batman” run comes to a finish. Is that something you would be as interested in or that excites you in a different way?
GC: Well, here’s the thing about that. It does excited me in a different way, like you said. The monsters and the stuff about the buildings and all that stuff…that’s great stuff. That’s what makes a little kid want to grow up and draw a comic book, right? That’s what turns you on. But I’ll tell you, one of the things that I personally enjoy a great deal about drawing are the character moments. And not even just the main characters; I like the supporting cast. So when I get to show their emotion and their interactions, I enjoy that just as much as I do all that big crush-y stuff. So to do a little story will be more of that stuff and I find that just as rewarding.
Because, for me, I reject the notion that you have to overact, like everyone always says. I don’t do that. I try and bring subtlety to my facial expressions and the hand-gestures and the body language that I’m the opposite of that. How subtle can I get to give the reader a familiar emotion so they go, “I know that feeling. I know that mood.”? And I know that if I’m doing smaller stories, Scott’s going to ladle in tons of that stuff. So I’m excited about it as the big cool stuff.
SS: This guy, to me, is the best actor in all of comics. When you see his acting, character to character, it lets me be subtle because I see it and know that I can even do a silent panel because he’ll just kill it on the emotion. So I would love to do smaller stories together, too. Every time I threaten DC with doing smaller stories next we get there and then never do it because I have an idea for something bigger. But the truth of the matter is I think, at this point, whether it’s big stories or small stories, on “Batman” or other books, my relationship with Greg and the fact that I feel like I’ve learned so much from him means I would work with him wherever and whenever. Whether it’s Marvel or DC or Batman or another character; for me it’s the joy of getting to work with someone you learn from and you admire.
GC: He always says such nice things about me! It’s so great. (laughs) If I’m ever having a down day, I just need to call Scott to cheer me up!
SS: Start being more of an asshole and I’ll be quiet! (more laughs)
“Batman” #42 is on sale now.