At the 2012 New York Comic Con, Jordan DesJardins and I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to chat with Scott Snyder on behalf of Comic Booked. Our conversation with the star writer of Batman, Swamp Thing and American Vampire (not to mention the upcoming Talon) covered everything from fan reaction to his work to the recent Batman #13. But enough talk, let’s get to the interview!
Comic Booked: You’ve been a huge hit the past couple years; American Vampire’s blown up, you’ve been doing Batman, Swamp Thing. How do you feel about the reaction you’ve gotten? It’s been kind of crazy, right?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I feel like the luckiest guy in comics, man. You know, I didn’t get into this to be writing the iconic characters, I just got into it because I love doing it, and the reaction has been overwhelming, honestly. I try to block it out most of the time when I’m not at a con and just pretend I’m writing it for myself and no one’s reading it, you know? It can be pretty paralyzing just because the characters mean so much to you since you’re a kid. I have a five year-old and he wears Superman and Batman stuff and my wife is a big Wonder Woman fan and you see all these kids wearing the characters you love and that you’re working into your stories and it can be really intimidating, so thank you to the fans for all of the support. Because it means the world, even though it’s terrifying.
CB: What’s the transition been like going from something like American Vampire to Batman? Was that difficult?
SS: I thought it was going to be, but it actually isn’t, because the trick with Batman or any iconic character really is to write them like you made them up. At first it was very hard because I was trying to write versions of the character that I loved from other writers. There was a moment when I was writing Dick Grayson where I realized – when I was starting The Black Mirror – that the only way to do it was to make it my Dick Grayson and not Pete Tomasi’s or Chuck Dixon’s, but to do it the way I’m going to do it and to assume that the way I’m going to do it has those versions I love in the DNA enough that other people will like my version too. So it’s really the way I approach Bruce for Batman so it isn’t that different from writing Skinner in that way or Pearl because it’s my version of him so I feel like I know him better than anybody in that regard, even though he’s this iconic character that so many people know and we all have our own version of him that we made up and we write as though we created them.
SS: Well thanks! Again, I’m so grateful to everybody. We all slaved on that story and it was something we really cared a lot about. Greg Capullo and Jon Glapion and FCO – the art team – those guys put in so many extra hours making sure everything was as good as it could be, and you know the fan reaction just overwhelmed us. There’s no guys in comics, I swear, that are more grateful than those guys. Greg always talks about it, Jon and FCO and me too, obviously. But we’re all just really bowled over by the support of the fans and the we promice to just turn in 110% on every book because the trust you guys have put in us means everything.
CB: Now that the Court of Owls story is wrapped up, you’re bringing Joker back with Death of the Family. What can you tell us about that?
SS: Well, it’s going to be like the craziest, biggest story we could do that really has Joker coming at the Bat-family in an intimate and terrifying way, where he has an axe to grind that’s very particular where SS: he believes that Batman has become soft and weak by accumulating this family around him that essentially is false because they make him believe that he’s human and not the Bat King. And to be that is something that’s not worthy of Joker in his opinion. So he’s like “I could have had any superhero be my king, but you are. I’m your court jester, you know? I came to your kingdom. And now you’ve forsaken me and the real royal court. So I’m going to punish you and punish them and show them why they’re not worthy.” And so in that way it’s a very intimate and terrifying, I think, storyline that in each book what he’s going to do is very particular to that character. So it should be really fun. I’m very proud of what’s coming up in Batman, but also I’m inspired by what’s coming up in Batgirl and Nightwing and Batman & Robin and Red Hood as well, so I’m really excited about it.
CB: This is all one big Bat-family, with all the different books tht tie-in. Have you had any trouble collaborating with the other writers, getting things to sync up right?
SS: No, I actually haven’t. I mean it’s not like I’d throw anyone under the bus if I had trouble, but I’m telling you the honest truth that I haven’t had trouble and we really are friendly in Gotham. I’m sure that there are different variations of those relationships in different neighborhoods around comics, but for us I genuinely am friends with Pete Tomasi, and Kyle and my wife? We all hang out, I love Kyle, and James is one of my best friends, and Gail I’ve become really close with and the same with John Layman. And Scott Lobdell as well, you know, so all of us genuinely like working together, and that’s not PR or, you know, it’s not bullshit. We really like each other, and in that way these events become really fun because it’s like “What are you going to do? Oh yeah, well I’m going to do something that tops that!” and it becomes really fun going back and forth like that.
CB: What I found especially striking about Batman #13 was the way you just kept ratcheting up the tension and the suspense, in particular the scene where Joker visits the Gotham PD. As a writer, is that something that comes easy to you?
SS: Well that might be one of my three favorite scenes I’ve ever written, not just in comics but ever. And that was actually the scene that a lot of the issue was built around. I knew that was going to happen and the joke that he tells, I must have done literally eight or nine drafts of that scene, over and over again, because I knew if I didn’t nail this scene, no one would buy into our Joker. So it was difficult in terms of I’m totally neurotic about getting it right, or as close to right in my mind as it can be. But it wasn’t difficult in the way that… It would always have been the heart of that part issue and it was there from the beginning. It was more the variations of it, like at first I had him sort of telling a “knock-knock” joke, then I was like “I don’t want to do that, it’s too on the nose.” So I took it out and changed it to the “man walks into a bar,” but thank you for saying that, that scene really means a lot to me, so I appreciate that.
CB: And how do you approach scripting a scene like that? In particular, things like layouts and pacing. How much of that is you and how much do you leave to Greg?
SS: Well, in a scene like that and in general, honestly I like to leave a lot to the artist. What I like to do is I try to explain at the beginning of each page what the page is about. So in that scene for example, I’ll say “Greg, here are some panel suggestions, but throw them out if you’d rather do it a different way. The point is , this scene is about the Joker moving through the darkness, breaking the necks of these police officers and what the feeling is, is we need to feel like we’re with Commissioner Gordon, helpless, terrified, angry, everything. Here are my panel suggestions, throw them out the window if you have a better way of doing it.” And the way I suggested it was pretty different to the way he wound up doing it. And it’s exponentially better for him doing it his way, so that’s the way I love to work with anybody, whether it’s Greg or Raphael or Yanick, and they always do that, where you toss it out if you can do it a better way and I couldn’t be happier, I want them to do that. So that’s what I do, I sort of envision it and I write full script but they always have the caveat of using that as a way to get to what’s better.
CB: I also caught several nods to past Joker stories throughout the issue, from Death in the Family, all the way back to his first appearance.
CB: Is there a particular incarnation of the character that’s really shaped the way you view him?
SS: Well, not one in particular. I mean I have my favorites, from The Killing Joke, but also from Dark Knight Returns and also from the animated stuff. I mean Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is like one of my favorite Joker stories of all time.
CB: I could hear Mark Hamill’s voice in my head!
SS: I know, right? I want to shake his hand! I feel embarrassed though because I’m more excited to meet Mark Hamill for Joker than Star Wars! Someday… But you know, you have to do the same with Batman, you have to do your own version. So this is really a very particular version that’s our own. But the DNA of all those, hopefully, is in it. And the story is very much about Joker saying to Batman “Look at all the great times we had together, old buddy!” And so you’re going to see references to everything from Five Way Revenge, Joker Fish, Emperor Joker, all these great Joker stories from the past, where he’s saying “Look at all the great things we’ve done together, how could you possibly have forsaken me for these losers? Know what I mean?” So yeah.
CB: Do you have a dream character you’d love to write but haven’t yet?
SS: There are a lot, man! I’d love to write Superman. I’d love to write Wonder Woman someday, I mean there are tons. I don’t know, I have a long laundry list of characters. But Batman is… You know, I’m not going anywhere. Batman is near and dear to my heart. I just sort of imagine myself having actually bought a place in Gotham for a while, you know? So I’ll be there for a bit.
CB: That’s good, I’m sure fans will be glad to hear that.
SS: Well thanks, man I appreciate that.
CB: One last question. As a writer, what would you say is your biggest inspiration?
SS: Well, I guess I could just say the stories I’ve always loved the best, whether it’s Stephen King or John Steinbeck or anything are stories that just really are about characters that are forced to face their worst fears about themselves and the things that they worry are true coming to fruition in front of them and then having to see if they can overcome their worst nightmares about themselves. So that’s kind of the way I approach everything in my own writing. I try and take a character like Batman or Swamp Thing and figure out what I think he’d be most afraid is true about himself. “Oh, you’re not as good at knowing the city as you think you are. Oh, you don’t love the family the way you should.” And then go with them that way and give them a trial by fire. So I hope that answers that, but that’s the best answer that I can give.
Thanks again to Scott for sitting down with us! Be sure to pick up his books, including this Wednesday’s Talon #1, they’re well worth it. And as always, be sure to check back with Comic Booked for news, reviews, and more, including additional interviews from NYCC!