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Last Knight on Earth: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on their final Batman story
Together, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have created some of the great Batman stories that made The New 52 era of DC Comics significant. From "The Court of Owls" to "Zero Year," readers knew that this run would be a memorable one. After Rebirth, Snyder and Capullo joined forces for Dark Knights: Metal, which altered the course of the current DC Universe with the introduction of the Dark Multiverse and helped celebrate Batman's 80th anniversary in Detective Comics #1000.
Now, nearly eight years since their first Batman story, the illustrious duo close the book on their take on Batman in what is their final story in this saga, the miniseries Last Knight on Earth, which goes on sale May 29 under the Black Label imprint.
For Snyder, it was a thread that begun back when they were working on the "Zero Year" storyline. Fellow writer Grant Morrison gave some advice to Snyder that if he wanted to own a run on a character, to create a birth of your version and a death. So if "Zero Year" was the origin story to their version Batman, Last Knight on Earth serves as the end of this magnificent opus. SYFY WIRE has the exclusive preview of the first seven pages of lettered art and goes behind this highly-anticipated story that aims to challenge readers about what they know about Batman, the Joker and their relationship to Gotham City by dropping both of them into the unknown.
This feels like a Mad Max version of Batman. How was Last Knight on Earth conceived?
Scott Snyder: I'm very proud of what we were able to do on Batman, to take risks and push the character in ways that felt resonant emotionally to us but also dip into new territory aesthetically, that you might not have seen before. So I wanted this to go beyond anything we had tried — its tone, landscape and concepts. It's been a long time coming and I hope it puts a fitting cap, a final statement on everything in a way that it's an opus.
Greg Capullo: Visually speaking, I wanted it to be a great end cap to what we'd been working on for almost 10 years. I wanted to leave the fans with something that almost makes them sorry we're still not on the book, but also satisfied and wanting more. We want the fans to go, "wow, that was really good." I just try to do my best work, as I always do in in bringing Scott's great ideas to life, and want the fans to be happy.
The first issue is a mystery that grows and disorients the reader, could you discuss this approach?
Snyder: I wanted it to be to be something that was really experiential, where the reader is lodged in Batman's point of view in a way for the first time, at least in our record, where he has no idea what's going on. We've done things where he's been tricked or lost his sense of self, like in the labyrinth in "Court of Owls" but I've never done it where the mystery is what the situation is entirely like, that successively disorients Batman in a way that makes him feel confident that he knows his position in the world, at least at first. The case that he's on is the type that you've seen him on before, then suddenly, bit-by-bit, it becomes more mysterious that he doesn't even know who he is anymore.
There's a point in the story where Joker says, "I have a lyric poem, it's everything I've wanted to say to you and it took me years to compose while I've been hanging here, it speaks to why I care about you." Of course he says a dirty limerick instead because he's forgotten because he forgets what the poem is, but that's me, speaking through Joker's disembodied head. I'm bringing in all of the statements about Batman that I've been waiting to say about Batman and I structured (the first issue) around this escalating mystery to reinvestigate what it means to be Batman.
So Greg, visually, how do you convey that disorientation or add to it?
Capullo: When I read Scott's script, a movie plays in my head and I just try to take shots from that film and put them on paper. We have discussions of course about the visual approach on things like Batman's straightjacket. Scott will say as the story goes along let's have it look more like a conventional bat suit. So he breaks some glass and from that makes the gauntlets. I just let my gut lead the pencil and get inspired from whatever Scott's writing. It's completely instinctual as opposed to having some formula. I just don't work in that way.
Snyder: I don't think Greg has understands how much he inspires my storytelling though. I wouldn't try half half of the things I try if I didn't know he was going to deliver above and beyond what I'm even pitching. Half of the time, I think I know half of what I'm seeing or want, but I know he's going to figure it out and do it better than I'm beginning to sketch out in my mind. A lot of what winds up in the story is because I start imagining how amazing it's going to look after his pencils, even if I don't have the clearest idea of how to visualize it. It gives me a lot of bravery and inspiration just to be able to know he's drawing it. There's things that I try with him that I don't try with many other artists.
Capullo: We feed each other too. Certain things will just occur to me, that are not necessarily in the script but I think it's additive. I'll put it in and Scott sees it then starts writing to that. We just keep going throwing in our ingredients and there winds up things being in there that weren't initially planned by either one of us. As Scott says, that's part of the fun of it and it's like two kids playing on the floor with their paper and crayons.
There is a Justice League element in the first issue that paints a great tale already took place, but it eventually boils down to a solo Batman story. Is there a larger DCU scope or is Last Knight on Earth a more intimate Batman story?
Snyder: There are underpinnings of a lot of folk tales and road trip stories. So in a way, it feels almost inclusive and primal. I wanted it to feel like you know the form of this story, and yet, everything is – hopefully – surprising along the way. You'll see a lot of characters you wouldn't expect us to include. It's a Batman-across-the-DCU story and see what happens to it to get back home to Gotham. You'll see a lot of Bat-family and the Bat-villains and what happened to Gotham, but it's also an expansive DC story in the way that asks why Batman matters in the way that he does, and what his place is, both in the superhero pantheon but in the broader, popular culture, in our own imaginations as readers. It has to be deeply intimate about Gotham and Batman but also encompass everything about the DCU that we can bring in.
Why did you choose Joker to be Batman's companion on this journey?
Snyder: I wanted to do something that was really different than what I've seen in their relationship so having Joker be a literal head in the jar seemed like something I hadn't encountered [laughs]. But more importantly, their relationship has been the cornerstone of our run. Batman's relationship with Gotham above all, is the core, because it always reminds him of his smallness, mortality, and stability.
But Joker's the one who challenges him constantly to re-examine why he does what he does, to find meaning in it. Joker is always saying, "There's no meaning in anything you do and I'm going to show you why. So here, I have Joker in the role of narrator, but also like the Robin.
To me, that really repositions him in a way that speaks to what this story is about, because they're facing something that's so much bigger than the two of them, that really redefines what I think what Batman is meant to be. That means you have to redefine what Joker is too, because they're yin and yang. The whole world changes and their purpose changes, so they're going to change too. I've also never written a story where they're buddies [laughs], so why not?
Greg, how much fun did you have with this idea of a Joker in a bottle, and visualizing this buddy story given that they're oil and water?
Capullo: When Scott pitched me it I got excited because that's just a thrilling visual. I never wanted to be a horror guy and I started out on X-Force, then I went to Spawn, and the The Haunt with Robert Kirkman, then I said, okay, time to get away from that because I got a little one at home and and I want to be able to share my work. Then they stick with me a horror writer, on Batman. I was thinking I got away from it and instead I'm with Scott Snyder. Now I'm here with a head in a jar. That's not too gory, right? Don't feel bad, the kid is now 17. Scott gives me all this fun stuff to draw whether it's a Joker dragon or Joker's head in a jar. People get into comics in part because of the crazy, bizarre stuff we come up with.
You've taken Batman out of Gotham, how does that amplify the story?
Capullo: At first it unseats him because you're taking him out of his familiar element, and so not only are you disoriented, where you're not sure of what's going on, but you're taking him out of his comfort zone, wouldn't you say, Scott?
Snyder: Yeah, 100 percent. Batman is the most confident and has been around for 80 years, so it's hard to shake him up. One of the best ways to do that is to remove everything he's familiar with and I love seeing Greg draw him in situations you don't expect. You have to push him into situations that you don't know if he's going to win because it's so strange and challenging. For this, you're going to see him all over the place–the air, the desert, the ice–it's an all-encompassing odyssey.
Was it always going to be a Black Label book or did you organically get to the finish line and realize that was the best place for it?
Snyder: For me it was just doing the story on its own terms. No matter what. I didn't even know if DC had a place for it back when I was first thinking about it. Because how could you do it? Could we do it in normal Batman? It would be hard to do a seven or eight issue "final story" but I definitely would've tried it. But once they formed Black Label, and Mark Doyle who was our editor for a lot of our original Batman run, was running that imprint, it felt like a natural home. I know it's a mature label, but I think it's consistent with the maturity of our Batman run. There are a few curse words, but above all, the maturity or what requires more patience is the conceptual framework, and the idea that pushes your expectations of what these characters can and will do, and where they might wind up. It requires more emotional maturity than any kind of R-rated or X-rated salaciousness.
This is the latest way you're dissecting Batman, and you've done so recently. in a different way with The Batman Who Laughs. So what itch are you trying to scratch with Last Knight on Earth?
Snyder: The end of our saga. What would Batman do when everything that he tried to accomplish failed? As he was getting older and the world was changing how would he find a place in it? Or would he be able to? I tried to find something that would make Batman perpetual, that was really the purpose of this. Is there a story you can tell, that shows the end of your Batman and the birth of that same Batman all over again? Can you close the door but show it will never close?
I will say the world of Last Knight is very, very dark. It doesn't imagine if all the villains ganged up on one. I love those stories, but this isn't that. This is the world turning on them, on everybody, heroes and villains too. The world doesn't want them, but it wants to be villainous itself, so it has no need for people like Batman or Superman. The time of the heroes is over, so what do you do with that world? Is it over or is it not? We're putting a fitting end on our Batman's life and show why even when that happens, that same Batman has reason to start all over in an exciting way.
Be sure to check out our exclusive seven-page preview of The Last Knight on Earth #1 in the gallery below and let us know what you think.Then be sure to look for it in comic shops and on digital May 29!