Scott Snyder is a busy guy. Aside from writing his ‘last Batman story’ with Greg Capullo, “The Last Knight on Earth,” and prepping for the return of “American Vampire” next year – oh, and being a dad of three – Scott is finishing up his “The Batman Who Laughs” miniseries and bringing DC’s most bombastic stories to “Justice League.” We had the chance to chat with Scott last week about both series, including the introduction of fan-favorite characters in “Justice League,” handing off one of his creation to new folks, and more.
Plus, we’ve got an exclusive first look at “Justice League” #26, due out on June 19th. Check it all out below!
“The Batman Who Laughs” is barreling toward its conclusion here. This past issue, number five, brought the Court of Owls back into the mythos. What I think is so fun about the series, is that it’s connecting various bits of your Bat story in really unusual ways. When we started reading this book, I don’t think you could possibly have seen some of the directions that this book was going to go in. When you were plotting this all out, did you know you wanted this to tie into all these different elements of your story? Or, as you were writing it, did those things become more clear to you?
Scott Snyder: It was pretty mapped out. I mean, there are a few elements along the way, some things with Penguin and a couple things that changed. I was going to bring back a bit more “Gates of Gotham” at one point. I had an idea to bring in the Architect, who is the character from the “Gates of Gotham” book I did a long time ago with Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy.
Overall, it’s pretty much what I set out to do from the start. I wanted it to be, above all, a really personal and emotional story. It explores from sort of the dark side of the lens. A lot of the stuff I’m doing is… “Last Knight on Earth,” and some of my other stuff is from a brighter angle. This really is the kind of darkest, most tragic look at Batman that I’ve done. I want it to be fun, and I want it to be sort of nonstop gripping, but I also want it to be really painful and scary, and a horror book.
To me, it’s one of those things where it needed to be really mapped out, to be able to synthesize the elements that I wanted to bring into it. On the one hand, it kind of hearkens back to my earliest stuff because it’s gritty and it’s grounded. Jock, I think, speaks to a lot of that ‘Black Mirror’ aesthetic. At the same time, it brings in cosmic elements- a lot of bombastic, zany concepts that for me, are part of this kind of cosmic horror aspect that I really, really wanted to include that also, I think, shows a different level of confidence and maturity that I had than when I did ‘Black Mirror.’
To do something like that, that sort of pushes me as a writer and pushes Jock, I needed to have it pre-mapped out. As much as I think it brings in a lot of far-flung things from the Court of Owls to Batman Beyond suits and all kinds of stuff, it’s pretty tightly circumscribed from its original outline.
Now, I wanted to talk about your handing off of the character to Josh Williamson. He’s launching his “Batman/Superman” title in a few months, and the Batman Who Laughs is a big part of that. Aside from small things here and there, this is the first time that you’re really handing this character off to somebody else. As a creator, not just as a writer, how do you feel about that? Are you excited to pass the baton? Are you scared? Are you an overprotective dad of a character?
SS: No. I’ve always been really excited to give characters over once I’ve done my take on them. With the Court of Owls, for example, I’m not particularly protective. I think with Josh, it’s a really special place because he’s one of my best friends, and he’s also such a tremendous writer at DC. The story he has planned for “Batman/Superman” is genuinely fantastic. What he and David Marquez are going to do on that book is just out of control. I’ve read it through issue four, and I know the outline of the whole first arc, the ‘Secret Six’ arc. I can vouch for him and just tell you that what’s coming is really special.Continued below
He also uses the character in a very different way. To be clear, the story is really about Batman and Superman, and some of the other elements that are really pulled in. The Batman Who Laughs really haunts it. If he doesn’t play the kind of absolutely central role that he plays in this series, we didn’t want you to feel like we were repeating ourselves. What Josh has planned is really special. I can completely, without any hesitation, tell you that that book is going to be fantastic, and also tell you it’ll be very different.
The other thing I really want people to understand is that I never would set out to… I would never give you a “The Batman Who Laughs” that ends on a giant cliffhanger, that would feel incomplete in some way. There’s a hook at the end that definitely, I think, will scare and excite people, but I also think there’s a great deal of closure to the book. Emotionally, psychologically, plot-wise, all of it. I want you to feel like when you get to the end, this book was something that can stand with my best work and feels like a singular, individuated project.
Yeah. As the book evolves, and I said you’re pulling in all this stuff from your past Bat runs, it really keeps changing. I think what’s one of the more satisfying things about it, is that each issue, to me, while continuing the story, feels very different than the issue beforehand. When you’re putting this all together, what do you feel is most important bit of your past that comes through in this book?
SS: Thank you. I appreciate you asking that. Honestly, I think that the most important part of my past is the question that’s at the heart of the book. I’ve tried really hard to explore certain aspects of Batman’s mythos and Bruce Wayne as a character, over the years. I think central to that exploration is this idea about what makes him who he is, and is it a good thing or a bad thing to be Batman.
This story brings in a lot of ideas that I’ve had for a very, very long time, and been waiting to open up in a robust way. Everything from what Batman Who Laughs says in this issue itself; he talks about the meaning of the bat and how the bat is the only mammal that flies, and how it’s meant to show us how to do things that are impossible. That was an idea I had back on ‘Court of Owls,’ but I’ve been waiting for the right villain to launch that at Bruce and say, “You do the exact wrong thing.” For me, I think the thing that’s most gratifying in terms of the elements that I’m using that are from all the things that I’ve done over the years in the “Batman” series, is really the emotional and psychological and conceptual elements that I’m getting to really explore in depth, in a way to me that’s more brutal and personal than I’ve gotten to do it in a long time.
Shifting over to “Justice League,” it was just announced a couple days ago, whatever it was, that you’re going to be reintroducing the Justice Society into “Justice League.” That is a huge deal for a lot of us, for a lot of reasons. Take us through how this came about. When did you realize the Justice Society had a part to play in this Doom War story?
SS: Well, we knew it from the beginning. If you look in “Justice League” issue one, you see a quick glimpse of Ted Knight in one of the visions that Martian Manhunter has of this future that’s coming. It’s been in the works from the very beginning, but the important thing to us was to coordinate with Geoff Johns. “Doomsday Clock” has been such a monster book for us, and the things he’s doing in that are really fantastic and inspiring, and we’re all really proud of it at DC.
I think what we wanted to make sure of was that he really got to introduce them the right way first, and then we’d be able to kind of integrate them into the mainline continuity in a way that really fit with our story. Luckily, it worked out and the coordination all synced up. The effects of that book, I think, will be exciting to people, as they see how they roll out over the DCU. We’re really honored and thrilled to get to work with the JSA in “Justice League,” and we have our own big plans for those characters. I really want to get to explore them beyond “Justice League.” They play a really big role in ‘Doom War,’ the story that we start in issue thirty, where the Justice League really, finally has its big battle with the Legion of Doom in a way that definitively ends this two year long story that we began in “Justice League” #1.Continued below
But I also have wanted to explore these characters and the team for a long time. My maternal grandfather was a naval officer in World War II. He was at Pearl Harbor until pretty much the end of the war. I was very close with him, and a lot of that relationship is reflected in some of “American Vampire.” I’ve wanted to use these characters for a very long time, for personal reasons, and get to tell stories about heroes in a moment when the world was really unsure, and nobody knew which side would win, good or bad, and do them in a way that you haven’t seen before. There are surprises about how the team was formed.
There are surprises about why certain characters joined, surprises about characters that might have been on the team, that you didn’t know about. All kinds of stuff, but I want to show them when they’re young and things are brutal, and they’re the first superhero team in the world. There’s both. There’s them in Justice League, and then there’s a longer project that I’m working on for myself, that’s really more about exploring the team and its origins and nature.
It’s interesting that you’re taking the book now into the past, into a different timeline, as you’re just coming out of a different dimension. From a writing standpoint, is there much difference between changing timelines versus changing dimensions, or changing alternate Earths? Do you have different rules you impose on yourself for those things, or is it all sort of under the same Elseworlds, for lack of a better term, banner in your head when you’re writing this stuff?
SS: To me, it’s pretty different. ‘The Sixth Dimension’ was really about showing the Justice League the only way forward, the only possible future that would allow them to win. It was less of a Elseworlds or time travel story than it was an argument being made on a cosmic level to them that, “You must compromise your values to win this one.” With this story, it’s a very, very different mass. Essentially, the Justice League realizes that the only way they’re going to beat the Legion of Doom is to go find the pieces of the Justice Totality, the same thing that Luthor has but that applies to the forces that they use- the Speed Force, the Emotional Spectrum- and that those pieces, like the pieces Luthor found, are scattered throughout the DCU and throughout its timeline.
It’s less about going to places and finding crazy altered worlds than it is about going to the different corners of the DCU, connecting with heroes and trying to rally the troops, and all these great superheroes that we have in our stable, to help in this massive fight, just as the villains are doing the same thing on their side. You’re going to see heroes and villains in this one that span the whole cast of the DCU, and see locations that span the entire time and space of the DCU.
That’s really fun. One of the things that I think has been a cornerstone of the Justice League books since the New 52 started was this idea of “Justice League” as being the core DC book, in terms of big stories emanating out of it, and big characters, and feeling like this bombastic book. I think that your “Justice League” title has really taken that to a new level now. It really does feel like it’s at the front lines of what DC is all about. I know that we’re in the middle of the ‘Year of the Villain,’ and that’s a big plan and there’s a lot going on there. I wonder, because you also write really personal, really intense, small stories so well, do you ever want to just take a break from the bombast in that book and do a “the Justice League has dinner together” kind of story? Or does that not have a place in your run right now?
SS: I get to do that. The two issues that I’ve done… We’ve only had, actually, when you think about it, twenty-five issues. James [Tynion IV] is the one that really handles some of the slightly quieter connective tissue, emotional connective tissue. He’s so good at that and I really enjoy the texture it lends our series. Issue nine was a special issue for me that way, and also issue twenty-nine is a special issue that’s quiet that way, as well. It’s called ‘Jarro’s Dream.’ It takes a breather as well, to kind of catch you up emotionally with all the characters.Continued below
For me, the series… I do think it’s important to keep it running at full steam, but I understand also that you can’t guitar solo the entire song. My hope is that what we’re doing with arcs like this, with nineteen through twenty-five and with ‘Doom War,’ is that there’s breathing room within the arc itself. Also we’re trying to give you a bit of connective material with the issues in-between. Twenty-six, twenty-seven and twenty-eight are a slightly quieter arc, as you’ll see. Then, twenty-nine is a quieter issue, and thirty really explodes.
As we’re steering this ship into the Year of the Villain, you’re getting to write a whole lot of really interesting characters. We mentioned the JSA, we mentioned… Luthor’s putting together not just the Legion of Doom, but now expanding it beyond that. Who’s been the most surprising and fun character for you to write as the story keeps growing?
SS: I think the two… Honestly, Jarro is the one that I didn’t even know would exist, but I had such a fun time writing Starro during “Dark Nights: Metal” in a way that I didn’t think anybody would like, but was just for myself. I’d always imagined him as this sort of pseudo-tough guy villain, that I didn’t want to give him up. Then we decided, all right, we have a way of bringing in this fragment of him and kind of regrowing it and having it think of Batman as its father. I was like, “I have to try it”, even though there was definitely some resistance internally at first, like, “That sounds like the dumbest idea ever.” I enjoy writing the character so much because he’s so emotionally vulnerable, because he’s telepathic, so he sees everybody’s thoughts and as much as he tries to be the tough guy, he actually cares deeply about everybody on the team. He’s been a joy to write.
I knew Martian Manhunter was going to be a blast, and that Hawkgirl and their relationship was going to be really at the core of the book, in a big way. That’s been a huge thrill. Getting to use Batman a little bit as comic relief has been a thrill, too. I tried to give him some really deep, emotional material this arc and really throughout the series, but I’m so used to having these punishing, really intimate, probing stories with him, that having him take a little bit more of a backseat to some of the characters like John Stewart and Kendra and J’onn J’onzz is a lot of fun for me. I really enjoy that, and I’m excited to write more of Wonder Woman as we go forward.
That was actually what I wanted to sort of wrap up talking about, is Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman’s been an interesting piece of this new Justice line of books, because she’s straddling between your “Justice League” book and “Justice League Dark.” I think that, in her solo book, we’re seeing such interesting stuff happening with Diana right now. Where do you see her role on your team? Is she more the liaison to the Dark side? Is she more the third pillar of the trinity? Where do you see Diana’s role on your team going in the future?
SS: I see every character as having sort of a jurisdiction, so her jurisdiction to me is magic and the supernatural, all those things that she covers so well in “Justice League Dark,” a book that I adore and am so inspired by. I’d also say that aside from having a jurisdiction, the way that John Stewart has space and everybody has their own territory, they stand for things. They make each other better and imagine bigger, because of the values they carry with each other and the way they see things. For me, Wonder Woman is sort of the complete, utter devotion to the truth. Meaning she is is going to see the situation with an emotional honesty and objectivity and a compassion that brings a different level of clarity. She looks at everything and she’s never going to lie to you, and that, to me, is something very, very special on that team, you know? Everybody looks at things differently. Batman’s going to look at them as the skeptic. Superman’s going to look at them as the optimist. Wonder Woman looks at them with the clearest eyes on the team.Continued below
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Javier Fernandez
Colored by Hi-Fi
Lettered by Tom Napolitano
After being off-planet for so long, the Justice League must try to pick up the pieces of their lives—but Lex Luthor has other plans. If he has his way, he’ll show all of humanity that the Justice League will never be there in the world’s time of need!
Thanks to DC for the preview, and make sure to pick up the issue on Wednesday!