This week sees the release of Batman #51 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia, the final issue of a nearly five year-long collaboration. The team's run has seen them take Batman and Gotham to strange new places and revolutionize some of the key characters in Batman's Gotham, including Bruce Wayne, The Riddler and The Joker.

To mark the imminent release of the team's final issue, ComicsAlliance caught up with Snyder and Capullo to talk about how their collaboration process has evolved over half a decade, their proudest achievements, and the story behind Batman's new costume.

ComicsAlliance: Batman #51 brings everything full circle as a throwback to Batman #1. Did you sit down and do a re-read ahead of the final issue?

Scott Snyder: I actually went back and re-read most of the run not long ago just to catch up and take a look back and see what to pull for the final issue. One of the funniest things is when you go back, and you read, and you forgot you did things. So I'll be reading it and I'll get to "The Court of Owls" where there's photos on the wall and I'll be like, "God, that's really good!" and it's always a nice surprise when you like what you did and can take credit for it yourself.

Yeah and I went back and looked for this issue, and it really is meant to be sort of an echo to that issue, but more than anything it's a "thank you" to the fans who've been so great to us over the last five years, and to the mythology itself, and to the character. The run really has been sort of what Gotham is, and for me it's really been a chance to explore the things that keep me up night. What I'm afraid of for my children, and for myself, all those things. Ultimately when you stop and look around as a creator, you realize all these people have come along on this journey with you and your partner.

So it was a way of saying this is the city we've all come to and lived in for five years together, and having grown up in New York, it's a special feeling seeing the people you shared your neighborhood with for a while, even if the neighborhood changes. The issue is meant to have that feel. It's a tribute to the people that have supported us over the years.

Greg Capullo: For me it was great fun revisiting all these things we did together right back to issue one. The big giant shot of the Batcave, and the Arkham scene. My colourist FCO [Plascencia] shot me an email saying, "How cool is awesome is this! We're back doing this scene again!" So that was really cool.

I will tell you when Scott gave me the big Batmobile scene, I wasn't going to work that out again, I wanted it be familiar. So I first introduced the new Batmobile a while back, and it was going across a bridge, so I took that to Photoshop, thank-you-very-much. I flipped the image, thank-you-very-much. Knocked out the background, thank-you-very-much, and I light-tabled that Batmobile.

SS: Wow! That looks just like that shot!

GC: Yes, and it is! If you hold it up to a mirror, it's that exact shot!

 

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CA: Your entire run gets bigger and more bombastic, from "The Court of Owls" through to "Superheavy". Was it difficult to dial it down for the more somber finale?

SS: No, I mean ["Superheavy"] was always about pushing things as far they could go, and trying to tell a story that was contemporary, or relevant and personal but doing it in a language that was the most bombastic possible. It was honestly, in some ways, a relief to come back to a grounded and quiet Batman for a bit.

It is strange to shift gears, but when you work with somebody as adaptable and inventive as Greg, and FCO, and Danny [Miki] it's fun because you start thinking, "Oh man, we get to do something different again!"

Every arc, we've tried to switch things up. So "The Court of Owls" was a mystery, "Death of the Family" is horror, "Zero Year" is much more action-adventure in its colors and its dynamism. This is one of those, where it's life after all the stuff we just did in #50, can we do something that's more of a lullaby, and it was just a joy to watch them bring that to life.

CA: You’ve both talked a lot about how your personal relationship has developed since the first issue, but how has your collaboration process changed over fifty issues?

GC: Well, in the beginning, I don't think Scott trusted me very much, because he didn't know me at all. He was very, very protective of the work he had done and was doing. In the beginning he wanted to control every shot on the table and I was from a background of having complete total freedom, so that was something I was gonna reject.

I think once the trust got established, he started to ease up and was giving me all kinds of flexibility and freedom. If an idea occurred to me while I was reading the script and drawing the story, he's open to it like, "Oh, that's a great idea, let's do that!" So it became a matter of just only caring solely about making the best Batman comic by whatever means we got there.

It wasn't like my ego was going, "Oh, well I wanna take credit for that"; there's been plenty of times in other interviews where Scott would mistakenly credit me for flourishes that he had done, because it kinda blends together. We're not keeping track, we're not keeping score. It was about, "Wow, we did this, we came up, put our heads together" and we were open to anything as long as it brought anything up a level.

SS: The best part of it was sending over a script knowing that Greg was going to surprise me, and the team was going to surprise me and change it. Honestly, it's the best part of working in comics, you have collaborators and you feel like your work finds a whole new life through the way they interpret it. It was always exciting to see it reborn that way.

 

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CA: Do you prefer creating new parts of Batman’s world such as The Court of Owls and Mr. Bloom, or digging and redefining classic characters like The Joker and Jim Gordon?

SS: There's joy in both. For me, I love seeing Greg's interpretation of the classic villains, and knowing that our Joker was our iteration of him. Then at the same time, creating things that become part of the mythos, big or small, whether it's The Court of Owls, or Mr. Bloom, or Duke Thomas, it's so hugely exciting. They're different joys, and there's different pleasures to them.

CA: There’s been multiple new Batman costume designs throughout the run, from "Zero Year" to "The Rookie" to the new duds; how do you work together to come up with a look that fits the story?

GC: I came in Batman #1 using Jim Lee's designs, they'd just go, "Here's the suit, and you have to draw it this way" so that was that. When "Zero Year" came along, Scott had his overall tone written and I remember very vividly him going, "It'd be cool man, we could even have racing stripes on Batman's costume" it was that crazy. I was like, "Wow, racing stripes? That's cool, I've got a vintage Fender Mustang that has a custom racing stripe going down it, so I'm down for that!"

So we tried to go down that way, he also said he wanted to give him the purple gloves to give a nod to the original, so that was all great fun. This opportunity here to come up with a new design after "Superheavy," that's been the most tickling thing, because who doesn't want to put their hand on that a little bit?

So what I tried to do was something I wished I had in the beginning, which was a very specific cowl design that I've always wanted. A lot of guys have done the really wrinkly, paper-thin mask and I get that, they wanna portray Batman's emotions. I've always been a fan of Frank Miller's armor when he fights Superman in The Dark Knight Returns and since I was a little kid I've loved Space Ghost so I guess that entered my blender. I always saw the cowl as being mostly featureless and very bull-nosed like Frank had it.

So the first thing was getting to do that cowl I've always wanted to do, and I pay attention to what fans have said and a lot of people really miss the yellow oval on the chest and I can't do that, but hey coincidentally in "Superheavy" Gordon has the yellow outline around his emblem, so we'll keep that.

That adds in a splash of yellow and it's familiar, and we've had these different colored capes, like the blue cowl or the blue cape, so I can give a nod to something like that, but instead we'll do a throwback to "Zero Year" with the purple gloves, and we'll give it a purple lining inside the cape, and that's cool because it's a compliment of yellow.

The other thing is, I've seen the yellow utility belt my entire life, so if there's one element I can play with without really changing Batman's overall look, it's that belt. To me, when I'm doing design work I want to give it a distinct flavor, whether it's the owls when I developed the Talons or what-have-you. So here it's Batman, so how do I make a belt like a bat? So I gave it odd shaped pouches to make it look like fangs, and then sweep up like the wings of a bat. Then let's make it black, because it'll create some balance and I kept some yellow with the yellow piping, which echos the emblem on his chest.

That's how I thought about it, giving a nod to everything Scott and I had done along the road together, but also trying to not change it so much that it doesn't look like Batman. He was created so perfectly that you don't want to much it up too much.

 

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CA: Does the new costume have a catchy name yet?

SS: I don't know, do you have one for it, Greg?

GC: A catchy name? I don't, I always leave that to you Scott. You always name them after I draw them.

SS: When I think it up I'll tell you. It should be named after you!

CA: You two have done the two big Joker stories of the past five years, and there’s another big Joker story coming in Justice League #50. Did Geoff Johns consult with you at all about the upcoming reveal?

SS: He's doing his own thing. We've spoken about it, and I wish him the best, and I'm a big fan of his stuff, and he's been very kind to us. It's a totally separate story.

CA: Are you two already planning on collaborating on anything in the near future?

GC: Even before I had the plans to do what I'm doing with Mark [Millar], Scott and I, and DC, were talking about what we're going to do next. We definitely have big plans on that. The thing of it is, it's hard to wrap you mind around it, because our Batman run has been so overwhelmingly successful thanks to all the beautiful fans who've had our backs and been in our corner, is we think that the project that we're going to launch will eclipse our success on Batman.

It's big. It encompasses a lot, it's exciting stuff, and I think people will go, "Wow! I didn't think you could do any better, I didn't think you could top yourselves," but I think we just might have the plan that could do that.

SS: I'd follow this guy anywhere. I know that what he's doing with Mark is going to kill, it's great. The art looks incredible, what I know of the idea sounds fantastic, and I'm going to be first in line for it. I also know that when he comes back, for me there's no-one I'd work with before Greg, and I can't wait to try and blow the roof off when he gets back.

 

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CA: Finally, I don’t want to ask you what your proudest moment in the series is, but do you have a particular moment of collaboration that you’re proud of?

GC: From the moment I signed up with DC, one thing I get to do is pick my own art team. So I pick guys I can trust, guys who I think do great work, that's how that goes. Especially as the penciller I know how I want things if I got to do it myself, and you're never going to get that with another inker, but that makes you fussy on who you will entrust to do things.

There's a lot of people out there, talented people, but you go, "Well, what separates those from one another" and that's the intangible bit. They've just got something, this extra spark, and they bring it to your work, and they bring it up a level. There's so many fantastic color artists in the game right now, and to me FCO looks different to all of them, so I want that guy. You want to set yourselves apart from the rest of the books on the shelves. I think that we assembled a good team from the get-go, with Scott writing all these great stories, we had all the right pieces for that model.

SS: For me, there's so many moments, because I look back at the run and I see all the things that were private, like, "We came up with that when we were in Boston together", more friendship moments. Even in those terms, the moment that we point to a lot is in Batman #5, where the reader has to rotate the book.

We were still really new to each other, but we both really stuck up for something that we both believed in. It was Greg's terrific idea and we both thought it would make the issue better, and DC sort-of resisted it at first. It was the first instance of us banding together with the art team, with color and ink, and say, "We really want to do this thing." Having it go through, and having them admit that it was a good idea, it felt really good.

 

Batman #51 is on sale this Wednesday, 27 April 2016.