Scott Snyder And Greg Capullo On ‘Batman’ #47 And The Big Reveal
If you've been reading Batman, then you already know that while Jim Gordon has taken up the role of Batman (along with a robot suit, a bat-shaped semi-truck and a giant techno-blimp), Bruce Wayne hasn't been absent from the story either. Without his family fortune and his memories of being Batman, he's been working with a charity since the events of Endgame --- and we've all been waiting for a certain set of boots to drop.
Now, with this week's issue, Superheavy has reached a turning point, and to find out more, I spoke to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo about how they set up their reveal and what it means for the story going forward. Spoiler Warning: This interview discusses the events of this week's issue in-depth, including revealing the end, and shouldn't be read until you've read the issue in question.
ComicsAlliance: I just want to jump straight to talking about that last-page reveal. I felt like it was really well-done, because there's a trick to it in that Bruce Wayne is never not in this book. Even at the end of Endgame, he's there on the park bench, and because he's never too far from the story, you kind of forget that there are two people involved in the end of that story. How did you approach setting that up?
Greg Capullo: It was planned, absolutely. If you consider it genius, it was definitely planned from the start. [Laughs]
Scott Snyder: There was a lot of thought that went into that stuff. When I pitched the idea of Superheavy to Greg, this scene coming that begins with that last page was embedded as a centerpiece of this story. For me, Joker and Batman are entwined in this relationship that extends beyond the kind of fights that we've shown them have and the diabolical schemes that the Joker has. It means a little more to us, where our Joker is a figure that really professes the meaninglessness of life all the time. He says he laughs at us because we think what we do matters. For me, Bruce, in a post-9/11 world, has evolved into a figure of meaning. He's a hero who was created out of random, meaningless violence and then said that everything you do in life matters.
I feel like on the one hand, Joker has, in every story I've written with him, been that underlying fear that Bruce has, that everything he's done doesn't matter. Here, I thought that of course Joker's going to show up at some point, I hope we can hide it from readers well enough that they won't see it coming and be like, "Of course Bruce is healed, where's Joker?! Where's Joker?!" So we do try to distract and sleight-of-hand to make you forget that he's out there.
This scene coming is the penultimate argument. Bruce is at this point where he's just had a bomb dropped on him, he's realized that the life he's built for himself is impossible to live, and yet he has no idea how he could ever become Batman again. What's the purpose of all of this? What's it all mean? And who better to have that argument with him on a park bench than the Joker?
He could argue in the way that he normally does, like, "I told you so!" Or it could be something very different. It was a lot of fun.
CA: Greg, this is one of the first times in a while that we've seen the Joker as a regular guy, to the point where you mentioned that in the script, he's referred to as "John Doe." How did you approach that when you can't have any of his identifying features, like the white skin and the green hair? The most you did was give him a purple tie and a flower in his lapel.
GC: You just take a little bit of the crazy out of his eyes, really, and soften the smile a little bit. All those muscles that cause his smile to go so wide are healed. Basically, it's like when you were a little kid and you look in the mirror and start stretching out your face. It's all stretched, but it's still the same face, and this is the same thing. It's still the same guy, same nose, same chin. Maybe you float the irises so there's that recognizable feature a little bit, but it's just toning it down and staying true to the basic structures.
CA: Was it a fun change? The Joker that you've drawn in Death of the Family and Endgame were anything but toned down, and one of them was very extreme.
GC: I think Scott's anxiety ran a little hotter than mine. He was like, "He's gotta be the Joker, but he's not the Joker that we know!" I just told him, "Yeah, don't worry, I got it. We'll do it." ... Like I said, you just stick to his features. I just do this stuff, you know? I don't give it too much thought, I just follow my gut and what feels right. That first drawing that I did was what you're seeing on that last page. It just felt right, and I ran with it.
SS: I feel like he always plays it down, too, but the brilliance of his art is in the acting. I get nervous because I know I couldn't do what he does even if I was an artist and trained for years, but I know that he's going to kill it. I think, "Am I giving him enough? Am I making it easy enough? Maybe I should do dialogue over it like 'The Joke's On YOU'" or whatever. Then I see it and it's like, "Oh, that's the Joker." It's incredible. The acting, the emotion, it's always spot-on.
GC: It's the body language. He's just crooking his neck a little bit. It adds that Joker flavor without all the crazy attached to it. Just a fractional degree, tilting the head one way or the other, really changes the tone of the emotional content and the psychology of the character. It's the little things, but you weave them all together and you get a certain effect. I'm glad you liked it.
CA: I think one of the things that really helped sell that scene was that it comes after that long conversation between Duke and Bruce, where it's not just that he forgot everything. All of Batman is still there under the surface waiting to be acknowledged, and if that holds true for Bruce, that holds true for the Joker as well. When he shows up, we don't know how far along in that process he is.
SS: The scene with Duke was something I was so excited about. He's a character who's so inspired by Batman, and his parents are, too. The lesson of Batman that he's lived by ever since we saw him doing a crosssword puzzle to try to beat the Riddler back when he was a kid in Zero Year, is that when things get tough, you get bigger than yourself. You become the impossible. You become a superhero. But here, when he gets that text from his parents, he knows it's terrible news.
Immediately, all of that comes crashing down, and what he sees is the guy who has told him things are going to be okay at the worst times, back during Zero Year or during Endgame. Here, it's Bruce saying it again, but this version of Bruce, in this iteration of himself, is so little compared to who he was that Duke just can't handle it. For me, at least, emotionally, it felt like a perfect moment, psychologically, to see who he really was through Duke.
CA: Was there a moment in putting this story together where you got to the moment where Bruce hits someone with a baseball bat and thought, "Well, that might be a little on the nose."
GC: [Laughs] It's funny. Scott was going for one of those gags where you see the guys with the guns, and they're bearing down on him, right? And then you hear the "KRACK" and think, "Was that a gunshot?" You're led to think that it's a gunshot, and then there's the big reveal of Bruce standing there with a baseball bat. The point that Scott may or may not have realized is that when you use that instead of something else, well, there's the bat-man. It's a funny scene.
CA: The reveal at the end is obviously a big deal, and it's the kind of thing that could've easily overshadowed the story at the center of Superheavy, which is Jim Gordon as Batman, but there's a balance there. Jim gets the big set pieces, he's almost chopped up by a helicopter and fights a monster flower man. Was that something that was tough to pull off?
SS: A hundred percent. When I pitched this to Greg and to [Batman editor] Mark Doyle, I said that this could easily be the one where we jump like ten sharks. Every part of it is a challenge for me as a writer that I haven't tried. To a fault, the stories that I've done so far have been punishingly singular for Bruce. It's always Bruce up against one person, he's the main character and there's very little cutting. Sometimes, in Zero Year, that was the closest I've gotten to having a more plural cast with Jim and Lucius, and that was a tremendous amount of fun.
This story was such a difficult narrative because you have three characters going at once, who all have to hit certain emotional epiphanies. They're all about the same thing, but they're coming at it from different places. The nature of the story for me is that it's about what superheroes mean for us in the real world, and even in Gotham. They conquer none of the systemic or bigger problems that we face.
For us, obviously, Batman solves nothing because he's fictional, but even in Gotham, when you think about it, he doesn't solve systemic racism or class stratification or any of those things, so what does it really mean when he fights these giant metaphorical figures? These huge monsters and villains that, symbolically, represent these problems? Joker can come out and be like gun violence in his randomness, and Riddler can be like a terrorist in Zero Year, but what does that mean?
They're all coming at it from different angles, so it's important that no one of them, especially Jim, gets sublimated by the others. It's Jim's story above all, but we're also at the end of Bruce's arc, and we're ramping up to the end of Duke's arc coming up. It's all looking at that question through a prism. Duke is someone who says, "We need to do more, we need to be superheroes," Jim is someone who says, "When the system fails and when Batman is gone, maybe we can have a superhero who exists within the system as a symbol of everything that should work to keep us safe," and Bruce is someone who says, "I'm going to live my life to the fullest as a hero, but in a real human way, and hope that's enough." All of that's going to crash together.
Which is a longwinded way of saying, "yeah, it's tough," but I'm so proud of this story for the work that the whole team has put in. I love this one so dearly, Superheavy and Zero Year are my absolute favorites for how challenging they've been and how rewarding they are.
CA: Was there a moment where you thought about splitting them up more? Wrapping up Jim's story and saving this reveal for later so there was no risk of overshadowing it?
SS: There's a conversation coming, and I cannot rave enough about what Greg's been able to do with this next issue. These two men are talking together on a bench and having a conversation about the nature of... without giving too much away, it gets crazy between them. That conversation is at the heart of the entire arc. Jim is going through stuff at the same time as they're talking about it. Everything is coming to nothing, Bloom is unraveling all of it, and it's worse than he ever thought. Bruce has his life unraveled, Duke, when he sees what that text is about, his life is unraveled.
And here, you have this character who has always said, "Exactly. That's what it is. You do everything you can and it all comes to pain and nothingness. What a joke that you felt it didn't." Now, what is he going to say? That's the suspense here. Is he going to say what he normally says, I told you so, or is it going to go a different way?
So for me, it felt perfect to have this here as a keystone of the arc. It's a balancing act, it always is, juggling, balancing, plate-spinning. I'm certainly not perfect at it, but I'm really happy with how this one turned out.