What Would Happen If Batman Died And Bruce Came Back? Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo On ‘Batman’ [Interview]
Ever since the events of Endgame, when Batman was presumed dead in a final battle against the Joker, Commissioner Jim Gordon has stepped into a giant robot Bat-suit as Gotham City's new protector. Bruce Wayne, however, isn't quite as dead as it may have seemed, and has turned up working for a charity in a neighborhood hit hard by the Joker-fueled riots.
At the end of last month's Batman #42, the two characters finally came face to face for the first time since Gordon became the new Batman, and it raised a lot of questions. Now, with Batman #43 on the horizon, I spoke to writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo about the new direction for Bruce Wayne, why they've taken almost four years to introduce a love interest, and whether Capullo prefers drawing bone monsters and Bat-Tanks to the smaller, more emotional moments.
ComicsAlliance: The big element of Batman #43 is that we get to find out what happened to Bruce Wayne since the end of Endgame, including the idea of what Bruce would be like if he didn't have the anger of watching his parents' murder to drive him. When did you decide that you wanted to show that version of Bruce?
Scott Snyder: For me, it was about a year ago, and it started to occur to me that with the way Endgame was headed, and the way it was going to end, it would give me a chance to tell this story. If I brought Bruce back in a certain way, I could get this whole exploration of who he would be if he never witnessed his parents' death, if he never had the scar that made him Batman. I was talking to Mark Doyle and to Greg about it, and we all realized that it was a story that we'd never seen, you know? When you come across something like that, when the mythology is 75 years old, you feel like you have to do it.
The other side of the story was about asking what would happen in the aftermath? Who would step up and be Batman? This idea that we've created a human Batman that was flawed and vulnerable, it was part of a system of things that they wish would replace Batman. The things that would protect them, the police, the local government. It felt hopeful and right to do this story with Jim Gordon, because it's all about one thing.
Duke Thomas, Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne are all asking the same question, and the stories are all about that same question, which is, "what would happen if Batman died and Bruce Wayne came back?"
CA: We also get to see Jim Gordon talking to Bruce for the first time since Jim became Batman. I really like the visual of them standing next to each other, the jacked, mohawked, mustache-less Jim Gordon standing next to Bruce Wayne with his casual beard.
SS: I love that image. I have it on my phone as the background. But the thing about that image is that when Greg sent it, I sent it to all my friends, being like "hey, check this out." For a while, we've watched Jim Gordon getting big, lifting weights, and then he stands next to Bruce and you're like "oh, that's Batman." He looks so huge! I love the way Greg draws him, he's intimidating even when he's just there in a shirt with his beard.
The other thing about that is that when I was writing Dick Grayson for Detective Comics, I always got these emails and DMs that were like "more butt shots, please!" "More bare chest shots!" And you're like "This is a very serious murder mystery I'm writing here, there's none of that!"
And then writing Bruce Wayne, like, you can't do it enough. You do it and nobody cares when he's bare-chested or anything. It got to me, all the love that Grayson was getting, and I remember joking around with Tim Seeley and Tom King and just being like, "I'm going to give you this early, we're changing Bruce's look." We sent it to some of the artists and other creators and they were like "LumberBruce!" They really liked it.
For us, again, these characters are so tried and true. Even our versions of Bruce and Jim here, but part of the fun is just showing how they're really adaptable, too. Bruce Wayne is still Bruce Wayne, even though he doesn't have that scar, and Jim Gordon, even though he has all these other components to his character, is still Jim Gordon. That core is a lot of fun to keep there, even when you're exploring fringe elements of the characters.
Greg Capullo: Scott had the idea for the beard, and I'll tell you a funny story about it. Scott, in all the time that we've been working together, unknown to me, has been sending me photos that he's harvested from the internet. He's been including them with every script. For whatever reason, my computer never saw any of those pictures, I'd just get a blank screen. And yet, after all these years, he's continued to send me them, despite me never using them as reference at all. He never thought, "He never uses these, why do I even bother?"
I finally got a program that could see these pictures, just recently, about three issues ago, and I go, "he sent me a picture of a beard." Like I don't know what a beard looks like! We all know what a beard looks like! You could've been bouncing your kid on your knee, kissing the wife, having a candlelit dinner, instead you're going, "I'll be down in a second, honey, I just gotta get a picture of a beard to send to Greg!"
I figure it's Scott's way of trying a different slant and making him sexy, and it's been a hit. Guys and girls are both talking to me about Bruce Wayne's beard. They just love, love, love Bruce Wayne's beard.
CA: We've also seen that you brought back Julie Madison, who, for a long time, was one of Bruce's most overlooked love interests despite being the first to show up in the comics. We've seen her before, but you included her in an interesting role in Zero Year, and you've brought her back now. Is it just that she represents Bruce's life before he became Batman?
SS: Yeah, it is sort of that. In some ways, for me, it was this idea of someone who understood him back then, before he was Batman but was still tormented by what happened to his parents. Someone who knows him very well, and also is forgiving of certain elements of his past, but who is also someone he admires. She's come to Gotham, and she has a role at the Fox Center, and she does things that he really admires.
For us, instead of building someone brand new, or giving him someone like Selina or someone from his mythology before, part of the important thing was to create a Bruce for whom all of that stuff is burned. There's no one from his past in the story except her. No villains, no allies. There are only characters that are sort of organically circling this Bruce.
For me, even though clearly Bruce's parents were killed when he knew Julie in Zero Year, he wasn't formed as Batman yet. It was before that. But here, she plays a big part in his story in a way that I really love. She's the first true love interest that I've been able to write for Bruce.
I think that a lot of the time, my problems with love interests, the reason I've avoided them in Batman is that they're always either the turncoat villain or the person who gets killed or kidnapped to motivate Bruce or make him go and save them. It's almost impossible to imagine him having a real love interest because he's so driven, so obsessed with saving Gotham that there's no room for that. It always feels false.
This version of Bruce is incapable of being Batman in that way, and to me, does have room for it. It is a character like Julie, who does have a connection to his home, that I thought would be the perfect foil for him. I love writing her, she's a lot of fun. In #45, Bruce is looking out at this area behind the center --- I won't ruin anything for you, because there's important stuff there, but there's this trashed area behind it --- and she'll just come up and take the piss out of him. She'll tell him what he's thinking even if he doesn't know it himself. I like her a lot.
CA: Plotwise, you're also doing a lot of connections to Zero Year. Gordon even says that something in the plot is connected to something that happened years ago, and there's really only one Batman story you've done that took place "years ago." Is there anything you can talk about that might have a connection?
SS: Yeah. In #44, you'll see a fill-in issue that takes place right at the end of Zero Year, and the reason that I go back to that stuff is that, for me, that was the birth of the Batman that Greg and I have been doing. A lot of his mission and the way that he is were solidified for me during that story. The story has a lot to do with Endgame and how the city was treated during that, especially the Narrows in particular, but it traces back to Zero Year.
Zero Year was the first time that certain neighborhoods were really neglected by the police in Batman's era, and during Endgame, the same thing happens in a big way. There's a link between those things, there are neighborhoods that aren't treated as well, that aren't protected or represented, and in that way, Mr. Bloom is taking advantage of those discrepancies.
CA: Along those same lines, one of the things I liked about Zero Year, and you and I have talked about this, is how much of a superhero story it is. In this issue, there's a full-on brain-cloning machine. How did that come about? How did you decide that this very serious story about identity and the consequences of erasing trauma from your past would also involve a clone machine?
SS: Well, I mean, there's also a giant police robot, and a stretchy man, and a blimp that drops him to the Earth, and an energy monster, and a Bat-Truck. What I want to do with Batman, and maybe this is because of The Animated Series, is to always make the story as personal as possible or emotionally real to me and Greg, to make them psychologically and hopefully intellectually exploratory and serious. They matter to us, and it is a very serious story to me.
It gets more and more grounded as it goes, because part of what we're asking is how Batman would function in the real world. Does Batman need anything to fight against the problems that Mr. Bloom is taking advantage of, that happen between neighborhoods, between race, between class. It comes into relief in #44 and beyond, but part of that is translating the stuff that you're talking about into comic book language in a way that makes it, I think, novel and fun and different.
Zero Year had gun violence, right? People picking up a gun and shooting a place up. To me, the Red Hood Gang was meant to have parallels to that, this gang that happens out of nowhere for no reason and celebrates violence, that has no ideological basis except one that's very private and bizarre. The parallel is there, but the Red Hood gang wears funny masks and has the proto-Joker and all that stuff. Riddler is large-scale terrorism. You just try to find ways of making it cartoonish and fun and bombastic and all the things you love, but it doesn't mean anything if it doesn't have that connection to what it's about and why it matters to you.
The cloning machine is really meant to be the core tragedy of Batman, to Alfred. Bruce Wayne not only died in that alley, but this monster arose, and this Batman gives birth to Batman, over and over and over again, and every time that happens, Bruce Wayne needs to die. Who Bruce Wayne would've been, that man dies in the alley with his parents, and this terrible creature raises him with endless tragedy and pain. Now that chain is broken and this new Bruce is born. Leave him alone.
CA: Greg, do you prefer one aspect of the story over another? Do you like the big weird stuff, or those quieter, emotional moments?
GC: I'll be honest with you: Everything that makes a kid want to grow up and draw comic books about superheroes is in the great big fights, right? I still love that. That's great fun. But even from the very beginning when I was trying to get to Marvel, I was conscious about the acting. Editors would go, "oh, this kid knows how to act." It turned out, some may say, that I'm pretty good at it. Now that I'm an older guy, and you've experienced life a little more and you've dealt with your own emotions, I like that a lot.
Early on in my drawing career, I'd go downtown and watch the bus stop, just to get the natural poses down. That was the beginning of my love affair with it, so whenever Scott sends me these emotional scenes, and we've had some real good ones that are real tearjerkers sometimes, I really do enjoy that.
I've always worked from a very loose plot. When I was at Marvel, we had Marvel-style plots, and when I worked with Todd McFarlane, it was basically a phone call where he'd give me the key moments of dialogue and where the scene was building to. Working with Scott, I get all all that dialogue up front. Initially, it was a pain in the ass, and in some ways it still is, because now I have to put another section in my brain where all the words have to flow a certain way and occupy this much space, so it's another step, but it really allowed me to take the acting to the next level. I can get really nuanced with things.
I read Stan Lee's book on overacting in comics, and I have the exact opposite approach. I'm always looking for the most subtle changes. Having Scott's dialogue provided for me enables me to do that, to the point where I can work on the tilt of a head. I've drawn and erased it just so I can tilt someone's head, it gives you a whole different emotion. I can go on about that longer than I could go on about those big, bombastic action scenes that we all love in comics.
Batman #43 is on sale Wednesday 12 August.
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