Legacy! Definitive! Iconic! These are bold words to assign to a creative team after only five years working on a character who has been around for 77. But those words will certainly be attached to the Batman run of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo -- just as those colorful sound effect bubbles Pow! Bam! and Zap! will always be intrinsically connected to the 1966 TV version of the character.
Since re-launching the DC Comics title Batman as part of The New 52 line in November 2011, writer Snyder and artist Capullo have succeeded in honoring, while enhancing, the story of the Caped Crusader. While they did not exactly take Bats out of the shadows, they certainly shed light into the darkness the character has been dwelling.
Over the course of their tenure, the team unleashed the mysterious secret society The Court of Owls; re-introduced the Joker with a creepy new look and convincingly psychotic agenda; re-told the story of Bruce Wayne putting on the mask for the first time; and accomplished the daunting task with aplomb and derring-do (while putting the Riddler in the spotlight for a fun villainous arc, and introducing a whole gang of Red Hoods). Plus, they pulled off insane feats like pitting the Joker against the entire Justice League, chopping off Alfred’s hand, killing Bruce Wayne and Joker, and placing Commissioner Gordon in a souped-up Bat-suit.
The result of their work not only led to memorable (and cosplay-ready) characters, but also helped keep the Batman title at the top of the charts as DC’s consistently bestselling, ongoing book (and, according to Diamond Comics Distributors, 10 issues of the comic were among the top 100 best-selling comics of 2015). However comic book history judges The New 52, the Snyder/Capullo years of Batman were an undeniable critical and commercial success.
And with Issue #51, available now, their time together in the Batcave comes to an end. Batman will be re-launched once more under the Rebirth banner (with a new ongoing series written by the exceptional Tom King, and drawn by Tom King and drawn by David Finch and Mikel Janin). Capullo is taking “a little break” to work on a creator-owned project with Mark Millar, and Snyder will write the new title All-Star Batman.
Following the events of #50, concluding the “Superheavy” arc, Bruce is back as Batman after taking on Mr. Bloom (in a cool mech-suit vs. kaiju type of throwdown). In #51, he is fully healed, his memories restored, and he heads out on patrol for a quiet, introspective night in Gotham City.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo joined me for a conversation about their final issue of Batman, and their work together. We also touch discuss their legacy, while teasing their reunion down the road (Court of Owls, anyone?). Read ahead as we bid farewell to this creative dynamic duo.
The final shot of the book is Batman facing the dawn, and the entire book is relatively upbeat. Is your parting message that Batman makes us better, and he is a character of hope?
Greg Capullo: I think that’s a fair assessment.
Scott Snyder: Instead of a figure of intimidation or driven by demons and pathology – a version I always loved growing up, and important in the ’80s in terms of reclaiming the city, and the kinds of issues people were afraid of at that particular moment -- we tried to make him contemporary and modern, in the sense of being a symbol of inspiration, and for problems people are afraid of in a city like Gotham, or New York, or Baltimore. The problems are much more national and global. They’re afraid of things abstract and huge, like terrorism, gun violence, resource depletion, super storms, racism. For us, Batman had become a figure who says, "I can fight these incredible monsters and things that are larger than life to show you that you can take baby steps to problems that seem impossible to overcome – both as individuals, and as cities and communities. I hope that’s part of the legacy of our run, because we tried hard and deliberately to hit that note.
How far in advance did you know what this issue, this finale would look like?
Greg Capullo: Scott mentioned that to me quite a long time ago. I don’t know if it’s been a year or less, but for a long time he’s been saying that after we do this big crazy bombastic stuff, we’d end with a quiet night and give him a night off.
Scott Snyder: Yeah, it was about a year. It was when we were gearing up to do “Superheavy” and I started thinking about ending the run when Greg was thinking about going to do other stuff for a bit. I figured this love letter to the fans and the creators that came before us would be a lot of fun. Also, it was an issue where I let Greg draw more without so many captions, and let him go crazy. One of the things I wanted to celebrate was his art.
Greg's version of Batman will be definitive for this generation of readers. He is their Batman artist. - Scott Snyder
So, Bruce is refreshed, and no longer has his scars. Does this wipe the slate clean for the character narratively? And does it also serve as a clean slate for the next creative team?
Greg Capullo: To me, it was really a moment about Alfred. Because we all know what’s coming. Alfred, above all people, knows what’s coming. He just had his dream realized with Bruce not being Batman, and having love in his life again, and for him to see that light go out? He has already been down this whole road. It is like Bruce starting the journey all over again, and Al already knows the chapters that are coming. What you said makes sense, but to me, it was about Alfred and what that means to him. The nightmare is just beginning again.
Scott Snyder: I’ll echo that. Giving him the night off was the big theme as a thank you to him. It is the moment before he gets the scars, and a way to hand the character over to the next team, restored, with all the toys in place.
Issue 51 has so many little nods to your work on this book. What are your personal favorites?
Greg Capullo: I liked drawing the Arkham scene again. That was cool, and probably the thing I liked the most.
Scott Snyder: I think, for me, it was fun revisiting the Court of Owls, and having it all flooded. I started thinking about how I was going to use that again, and I was starting to get the idea for a big story, and it got me really excited for when Greg comes back. I was like, hey, I want to run the idea of these character by him and stuff. But it can wait. It can wait.
You can’t go to a comic con without seeing a Court of Owls or skinned-Joker/Joe’s Garage cosplayer. When did you become aware that these contributions had been embraced by the fans and became part of this legacy of yours?
The whole legacy thing. Time will tell, but it’s still hard to imagine that word. - Greg Capullo
Greg Capullo: But Scott and I are thrilled when someone comes up. Whether we’re at a show together or not – Scott will take a picture and send it to me. It started with Court of Owls, Talons, Commando Zero Year Batman. Now we have Superheavy showing up. I think Scott and I are both thrilled. You can’t believe people love it so much to put this time and care into these elaborate costume. It flatters us.
Scott Snyder: I remember the first time I saw Talon. We were doing “Court of Owls,” and someone came dressed in a homemade Talon costume. The next time I saw a little kid dressed as a Talon, and I went to take a picture, and he pulled out a little plastic knife and held it to my neck as I was taking a picture. It’s still my Twitter profile. It was such a thrill.
What has been the best toy or merchandise based on something you created in this book?
Greg Capullo: Any time they’re making merchandise of your stuff it’s all flattering and you pinch yourself a little bit. As a guy who wanted to do comics since he was 8 years-old, you don’t factor the other stuff in. You don’t factor in fans, or certainly cosplay, and never dreamed there’d be toylines with stuff you created together. But I would say Talon because he looks so bad ass and cool. He is probably my favorite and I’m proud we created that character together.
Scott Snyder: I love the Joker mask [from “Death of the Family”]. I love seeing that thing, and when kids wear it it freaks me out. My other favorite is they sent us a Joker lawn ornament based on “Death of the Family,” and it looks like he’s crawling out of the ground. So, I put it in our fireplace for Christmas, like it was Santa crawling out of the fireplace.
Scott, do you think there’s a difference in writing a Batman story, or Batman’s voice, in All-Star Batman vs. this long arc on the Batman book?
Scott Snyder: It is still my version of Batman, but it is a little more confident. The last couple years with Bruce, he’s been down and out. After taking down Joker, he’s done a lot of soul searching. Now, he’s back, and stronger, faster than ever. It gives me a chance to bring a lot of enthusiasm and joy to the character. There is a humor to it, a kind of dynamism to it, a sense of adventure to it. The first arc is a Two-Face Death Race road story that goes cross country, so it’s nothing I’ve ever tried, and nothing that’s been done on Batman before. So, I’m going for a completely different feel. The whole year is about writing all the different villains I never gotten to write, but really re-inventing them in continuity the way Greg and I were able to with Joker and Riddler. The designs we’re going to do for the villains are going to filter down into continuity as well. It gives me a chance to work with different artists, and not be competitive with what Greg and I did. At the same time, it’s something that hopefully will be a monster book.
Give me insight into the Greg and Scott language that only you two will understand, that you might miss on the next project.
Scott Snyder: Greg, will you miss my blank emails?
Greg Capullo: That’s an inside joke! Scott will explain that.
Scott Snyder: For some weird reason, when Greg sends art and I reply on my phone – one out of every two times, even when I write a long email – my phone sends it blank. So he’ll get these blank emails. Especially when I feel like it’s a great page and I’m really effusive, my email disappears, which drives me insane. But he’ll go, “Oh, it looks like I did a good job; I got a blank email from you!”
Greg Capullo: I got one this morning on the [creator-owned Mark Millar] project, and I got a blank email. I go, “Blank! Yes, I still got it!” One of the other things I’ll miss is in Scott’s scripts, and he’s done this for the longest time. He will describe a scene and suggest some things, and then go, “or whatever you want!” with an exclamation point and a smiley face. His smiley faces never fail to bring a smile to my face.
In your opinion, what is the best finale, from movies, television, etc?
Scott Snyder: I would say a couple things. I love the Batman: The Animated Series finale that echoed “On Leather Wings,” the first episode. But my favorite show was always Breaking Bad. That finale is something to shoot for. That was always one of those shows that had some of the same priorities that I hope to sort of aspire to. It has a big plot, big character, but also layered. And it’s full of fun. That show has a real soft spot for me.
Greg Capullo: Amazing you said that. That’s the only show I watched religiously. So, same answer.
Scott Snyder: Next time we do Batman, he’ll become a meth dealer!
What were your thoughts as you were putting the final touches on this issue, and what’s the parting message on this run as a whole?
Greg Capullo: For me, I have been doing it for a while. I was excited to do something different and fresh, and recharge my batteries or whatever. My wife said to me that I was going to be really sad, and I said, “No, it’s going to be awesome.” Then, I’m a few pages in and it hits me in the stomach. I would brush that off, but every once in a while I’d get that twinge. Definitely sadness would try and creep in once in a while. But Scott and I now, we talk to each other, text each other: “I miss you! Virtual hug!” It is a bizarre feeling to be both out of the book you’ve been drawing for five years, and to be away from your partner you’ve worked so closely with. It is a little sad, but we have to celebrate what we did on it, and celebrate the fans for supporting our entire run. You try and push out the sad, and focus on the positive, great things.
Scott Snyder: I was teasing Greg that DC literally had to chase me down for my lettering script because I was putting it off for so long. I didn’t want to do the polish on the final letters. The truth of the matter is Greg – to me, once in a while you have a partner for life, and Greg is the person that, no matter what he wanted to work on, he has become a brother to me. There is nobody I learned from more creatively, working with that makes me a better writer. I honestly was getting to the end, and as much fun as our other projects are, I know there isn’t a character I wouldn’t work on with him. Whether another DC character, Wonder Woman, Justice League, or Wolverine, or Captain America, or creator-owned. This was an amazing chapter for us. But, in my mind, it’s taking a vacation or taking a break. I will work with this guy for the rest of my life.