Snyder & Capullo Reflect on a Half-Decade of Reinventing Batman
“We want to give them our best up until the last page.”Art by Greg Capullo Comics Features Batman
Exceptional comics aren’t a rarity in the present day, but rolling them out through a five-arc, 51-issue run is a sight as uncommon as a well-adjusted Bruce Wayne—and somehow, with the 2011 relaunch of DC’s Batman, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo managed to present both. Through the pair’s run, fans saw Gotham’s terrifying underbelly (“Court of Owls”); modern, horrifying takes on the Joker (“Death of the Family”, “Endgame”); a classed-up take on Batman’s origin (“Zero Year”); and, yes, Jim Gordon taking over the Bat-mantle while an emotionally rehabilitated Bruce Wayne sits on the sidelines (“Superheavy”).
Through the half-decade of issues, Snyder and Capullo built a dedicated core of readers who’ve consecutively buoyed the title near the top of Diamond’s Top 300 charts. And readers, in turn, grew up with the title themselves: In recent months, Snyder and Capullo have received pictures of babies—clutching early issues of Batman—who’ve grown up into walking, talking, comic-literate people. The duo’s heard from kids who tamed the sting of young adulthood with help from their comic.
But with “Superheavy,” the latest hardcover collection of Batman issues with additional contributions from writer Brian Azzarello and artist Jock, fans have been given a signal that the end of this duo’s epic run is nigh. The set collects issues #41-45, which introduce Gotham’s newest heir to the Batman cowl, Jim Gordon, who takes over Bruce Wayne’s duties with the help of a mech suit. There’s a noticeable lightness to the issues within “Superheavy,” partially because Bruce Wayne’s past damages died with the rest of his memories in the “Endgame” battle. But the meat of “Superheavy” is in seeing Gotham through the recently knighted Gordon, who tries to untangle the meaning of Batman through his own ethos.
With “Superheavy” hitting comic shelves this week and the duo’s Batman run ending in a few months with issue #51, we spoke to Snyder and Capullo about Batman’s past, present and future.
Paste: With “Superheavy” setting up the end of your Batman run, what’s it been like processing the end?
Greg Capullo: Wow, that’s a big question. [Laughs]
Scott Snyder: From my end it’s hard because I still haven’t been thinking about it that much. It’s hitting me more now that I don’t have another issue to write for Greg, but we both stay so focused on the task at hand and making sure that it’s good. People will come up to us at cons and ask how it feels to be doing the book for so long, and both of us are more like, “We have to get the next issue done.” There hasn’t been that much time to reflect yet. One of the things I’m proudest of is that we’ve become such good friends and partners creatively, I don’t even see it as something that’s ending. I know we’ll get back together and do stuff in the near future.
Capullo: I agree with Scott. You’re busy working, so you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. But as I’ve drawn some pages, it’s in the back of your head a little bit. But the biggest one that puts it in my face, I interact with fans a lot on Twitter. You get a lot of people going [mimes crying]. There are people crying, screaming “please, no!” You understand that in a lot of people, there’s a lot of really high emotions tied to this thing. I don’t tie it so much to the end, but it really sends home this overwhelming support that the fans have graced us with throughout this run. We gave them 50, and they want 50 more. It’s humbling and it’s rewarding. From my end, we want to give them our best up until the last page.
Snyder: A couple things hit me really hard the other day. One person went online and showed a picture of their kid when they were a baby. They were showing the baby the Joker book, and now the kid is almost six years old [and I’m] seeing the kid holding one of the comics now and being an actual child. There was another boy who wrote to us saying, “I started reading this when I was 10 and now I’m turning 16. It got me through hard times in school.” Those emails and tweets are extremely affecting, and you realize how far we’ve come together. Charting the book has been like charting one of the best friendships I’ve ever made and ever will make, and you see it in the work. I feel like when I read “Zero Year,” I remember what I did wrong, where things went off the rails, where I learned a lesson about how to not overwork a team. I look at “Death of the Family” and see where I learned how to not be so anal about this and that. I see it as the evolution of our friendship. It means a lot that we’ve been able to do it for this long.
Batman: Superheavy Interior Art by Greg Capullo
Paste: For this arc, Jim Gordon’s shift surprised a lot of casual readers. Was there any hesitation to wind down the series with Bruce so far out of the spotlight?
Snyder: I’m always really nervous and anxious about how fans are going to react. I think in some ways, Greg has kept me true to some of the ideas I had on the book and believe in. The first person I call is him. I say, “This is what I’m thinking, and this is why it would give us a story that we wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise. This is how special the elements would be.”
For this one, I knew it would be far-flung, but I also knew that when you’ve been on a book that’s been around for 75 years and you’re about to do something that no one’s done before, it gives you a way to explore characters from angles that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Bruce is free of the demon of Batman, and Jim Gordon is trying to be a very human superhero in a city plagued by very real problems. You have to do it. It was one of the most rewarding arcs that we’d done in that regard. I remember telling Greg before we started: “This might be the one where we jump 10 sharks”. [Laughs] But the funny thing is, seeing the sales—not that sales are that big of a deal, but considering fan support, the fact that the book is still above 100,000 even at Issue 49, going in with nine issues into a Jim Gordon story—it means the world. These fans will follow us down every rabbit hole, and they’re the best fans in the world. I don’t think I’ll have as great an experience in comics as I’ve had with this comic and with Greg.
Paste: Greg, do you remember what you said in that conversation when Scott presented the Jim Gordon idea?
Capullo: Scott goes through this thing often where he’ll go, “I think I might be out of ideas. The day I’m out of good ideas, I’ve got to walk away.” All of a sudden, we’ll be together walking or on the phone, and he’ll go, “Okay, I’ve got this idea.” I think this one might’ve taken place on the phone, but when he presented the idea, I said it was cool. First off, the way we left “Endgame,” Bruce Wayne might’ve been dead. So Gordon seemed like the most natural guy to promote to the cowl, and Jim Gordon is my second favorite character that I draw in the book. It made perfect sense. Al is too old, so that makes it too tough. I was excited about it. The only thing I miss is the mustache.
Batman: Superheavy Interior Art by Greg Capullo
Paste: I was going to ask, what kind of restraint did it take to not just dash a mustache on his face in every page?
Capullo: [Laughs] I’ll be honest with you, I drew the mustache in the beginning to get the position of his mouth correct as it would fall, and then I erased the mustache. I drew the mustache through the first issue.
Snyder: We were joking that the mustache would be the villain at the end of the arc.
Capullo: Our version of Mr. Hankey or something… Hidey-ho!
Paste: I remember reading the first arc, “The Court of Owls,” and just being rattled by how little information I had about a Batman villain for once. Now, I’m experiencing the same thing with “Superheavy”’s Mr. Bloom. Was it important to both of you to bookend this run with villains that were your own creations?
Snyder: I feel like, for me, it kind of zig-zags. It comes off of a story that involves all of the villains and all of the mythology. So if we were going to do Jim Gordon, it would have to be an enemy that would represent his biggest fears in the city, what lays beneath the surface. It’s more that, it happens more organically as opposed to a more strategic aerial thinking. Well, if you’re doing a story with a new Batman, he’s got to have a new nemesis.
Paste: I wondered if you could share your favorite Batman issue from your run.
Snyder: That’s like picking from 51 children…
Capullo: If I’m going to cast a vote, I would say issue five. That was the most commented issue by fans, and I think it was one of the most fun things we did. It contains a lot of fun moments. That’s the issue I would probably call.
Snyder: That would probably be mine, too. It was also where we stuck up for ourselves as a team together for the first time, really, to DC editorial to make sure that happened. It was in the early days of our friendship on the book. The other one is probably in “Zero Year.” Greg first reveals the costume in a double-spread as Batman first appears, and it’s a remake of Detective #27. To me, I saw how he was able to completely reinvent this character in a way that was totally ours and modern. It was the first time that I saw Batman and was like, that’s our Batman. Even through “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” it was ours, but he still looked like the 52 Batman. This was the first time we had full ownership of that character, and FCO and Danny’s work… It was so unique when I saw it. It was strikingly ours.
Batman #5 Cover Art by Greg Capullo
Paste: Are you guys still staying quiet about any future projects together?
Capullo: It’s going to be a special project that’s under wraps right now. But I think it’s going to have more impact than when we first did our first Batman issues together. It’s going to be a bigger deal. That was a relaunch, and that was a big deal, but there were 52 other titles relaunching. This is going to stand out in the crowd a bit more.
Snyder: I agree. I think my feeling is that I’m already working my schedule at DC and outside of DC next, because I’m anticipating when Greg comes back, giving enough room to do something special with our project. I think it’s fun. It’s one among many things we’ll get to do in the future. There’s nothing I wouldn’t work on with this guy. If he wanted me to write the phone book and draw it, I would. Any time he puts his bat-signal up and wants to do anything together, I’ll do it.
Capullo: Thanks man, that’s cool.
Snyder: It’s true.
Capullo: That’s what I call job security!