The ComixverseScott Snyder Heroescon Interview

Scott Snyder Heroescon Interview
Published on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 by

I am sitting at table 404 smack in the middle of the well sized hall at the Charlotte Convention Center thirty minutes before the early buyers are allowed in to get a jump on meeting their favorites or hitting the various booths selling their various wares.

The genial man sitting across from me at the first table making up the left part of the circle of empty tables that make up the DC area coughs slightly and softly apologizes.

Scott Snyder: You’ll forgive me; I’ve been eating cough drops. I don’t know what I did, but it’s just not very good right now.

ComixVerse: No worries, thank you for taking this time out to talk with me.

It’s a wonderful touch of humility from the man who has reinvigorated the Batman property with his current Court of Owls storyline. Scott made his presence felt in the industry with his work on “American Vampire” the Vertigo title that has become a sensation. He took his success with that title to garner a much loved story within the page of Detective Comics that would be known as the “Black Mirror”, also penning the 6 part mini-series “Gates of Gotham. His stellar work on both Batman related titles lead him to be asked to helm the Batman title with the relaunch into the New 52.

Scott, a native of New York, has a definite passion for the subject matter he works on and he talks at length about his inspiration, process, and interest within the Dark Knight, his conversation with Geoff Johns that lead him to becoming the man to redefine the Bat, and his intention towards making Gotham a character itself. Throughout, our interview I found him to be charming, witty, and humbled by the job he has been given and rose to.

ComixVerse:I first became aware of you through your “Gates of Gotham” miniseries, which I hold as the best story written during Dick Grayson as Batman years. What I loved about it was that Gotham became its own character finally. IN “Gates of Gotham” that was intentional and with the “Court of Owls” storyline is that still a main focus of making Gotham as much its own entity as the Bat characters themselves?

Scott Snyder: Yeah very much, the thing that is so great about Gotham is that it generates these challenges and these villains for these heroes that represent their greatest nightmares. So in that way it seems that it’s a city that puts anyone that wants to do anything good there through a trial by fire.  So for me that’s really fascinating because when it comes to all of the Bat characters it allows for me as a writer to pull out what I think is their Achilles heel as well as their greatest strengths.

For Dick Grayson, it’s about Gotham telling him “your sense of empathy”, like in The Black Mirror and in Gates of Gotham as well, “Your sense of altruism, your lack of baggage and darkness, and all those things that you are not that Bruce is; those are the things that make you weak. No, I believe that makes Dick strong and I know that he knows that too. But, Gotham will pick that apart and say “look at this villain I made for you in James Jr. and except the architect that shows you how weak you are.

And so, to me, the “Court of Owls” it’s the exact same thing except Bruce is such a different psychology. The things that scared Dick wouldn’t scare Bruce. For Bruce, the thing that scares him here is the idea that the city beneath his feet that he sees as his best friend in a lot of ways, reveals itself to actually to be more of a stranger, and maybe even an enemy, and a mystery. So in that way, I wanted to be a story about Bruce being humbled a bit. I’ve had a lot of fun with it; Gotham is endlessly interesting to me. The city and the layers of history and also what it does to its inhabitants, how vicious and dark and also how inspiring it can be.

What I’ve enjoyed, it being highlighted in Gates of Gotham, and into the Court of Owls, is that Gotham finally has a history that is brought forward. One of the things I really enjoyed about Gates of Gotham, was that you get a sense of how important not only the Wayne’s were, but also the Cobblepots and the Elliots really were in the formation of Gotham and tying that in with the Court as well. Will we be seeing more into the history of Gotham in future stories as you are staying until the end of 2013.

Snyder: It’s one of the perks of the Batman mythos, just for me, is a well I can keep going back to inspirationally.  I kind of think to myself having grown up in New York, in the city, that sense of the city behind the city and the layers of history that are there. The ghosts in the city or the people that lived in the apartment before you and before them and all the stories that get lost and turned to dust in the city; some that are remembered and some aren’t. All of that stuff, to me, is part of what makes Gotham so interesting because it has a history that has largely been unexplored. But, the families that you know clearly must have played a big part in the shaping of that city so; it’s so interesting to me to build a history that’s at once informative and explanatory and says this is what Gotham looked like at this point and still leave some mystery for you. I would never want to map Gotham from the 1700’s to now and know every story and leave every stone turned.

Part of what I love about the city and New York as well, is that it’s always changing and sort of reinventing itself in different ways. So, you want Gotham to have that air of mystery even in the past as well.  So it’s fun excavating certain things and leaving other things really mysterious.

But, you definitely will see more of that I’ll say that.

In the next storyline, starts at {issue} 13, you’ll see some of it is in issue 0 actually and then you’ll see some things about the Wayne family and then in issue 13, issue 12 with Becky Clunen you’ll see the power grid, the history of the power grid in Gotham. Then in issue 13, that will be our next big storyline which is not about history as it is about my favorite villain in the Batman mythos.

Then after that the story that starts in {issue} 18 and 19 will very much delve into a lot of history in Gotham. There is a lot of it coming.

CVerse: I will refrain from asking who you’re favorite Bat-villain is, I want to be surprised. That’s on e of the things I think that readers and I myself have enjoyed with the Court of Owls are the surprises. Issue #6 was the most surprising to me do to how vulnerable Batman became through that issue.

For so many years, to me since Zero Hour, Batman has been defined as this unstoppable force, through No Man’s Land and War Games especially when all hell is breaking loose and it’s chaos he shows up and is in firm control before too long and he never appears weak through any of it and in issue six him coming apart in the maze was the most disconcerting thing to me. I wanted to ask; Was there any hesistation about putting him though this or did you say “No I’m going to put him through this personal hell to build him back up”.

Snyder: That’s a really good question. There wasn’t so much hesitation because my favorite stories are the ones that do that to him. You know, like “Year One” or “Dark Knight Returns” where he is so broken. Even stories like “Arkham Asylum”, the “The Killing Joke” where he’s at his wits end with the Joker. I mean, those stories to me take him to a place where- and even a book like the Cult (I think I am the only one that like I love the Cult). But, those books where you can break him or you can turn him into basically a human being because he is so much bigger than everything. If you can find a way to make him hurt emotionally and psychologically. To me, that makes him a stronger and more heroic character when he overcomes those things. it’s really , really important in my opinion to tell stories that exposes your character’s greatest fears about themselves or what you perceive those to be and then show them how those things are strengths as well but, If it doesn’t really hurt, I wouldn’t really want it do it.

So, we’re going to be punishing Bruce for awhile. Issue #11 that comes out next month is one of the craziest, most punishing action sequences I’ve ever written. I can’t even get into it, but with {explosions) and planes and buildings and all kinds of crazy stuff happening. Then, in issue #13 we’re going to be putting him through the ringer all over again with my favorite rogue. It’s someone who has been planning something for awhile, so he’s coming back big to hurt anybody.

CVerse: Are we going to see anymore of Harper? The woman with an apparent connection to Batman that we don’t know about.

Snyder: Yeah, issue #12 is totally devoted to Harper and explains who she is. It’s a one shot with Becky Clunen and Amy Clark at the end. I’m really proud of their work. I come from a short story background so, I enjoy doing those one shots. Then, the zero issue is going to be about a time in Bruce’s life when he first got back to Gotham and he had a different approach to crime fighting. It happens in between the pages of Year One. It doesn’t step on those things at all but that story jumps from month to month. So there is a possibility that things happened in between some of the episodes that you saw, that are important moments as well. So for me, it’s about creating a Gotham and a moment where Bruce isn’t mature yet. He’s in Gotham only a few months from traveling around the world learning his skills and he’s not there yet. This is a Bruce you’ll see is a little too angry, impulsive. You’ll see a Gotham differently than you have, the villains in it are a little different than you’d expect. I’m really excited about it.

CVerse: If I may back up a second about making Gotham its own character. While reading “Gates of Gotham” it had me thinking that you were doing for Gotham what James Robinson did for Opal City in his “Starman” series. Was that an inspiration for your approach towards Gotham in that you created a real live city?

Snyder: I’m sure it was, not necessarily a conscious thing. But Starman, I’ve re-read that so many times, I love that book and I love James’ {current} work as well. So, I’m sure that’s in the DNA of what I’m doing in some way. It’s better to have that genealogical connection because I love his stuff and I love that book.

CVerse: In your talk about bringing in more rogues. It would be a crime not to bring up the {Batman} Annual and the redefining of Mr. Freeze. The Paul Dini {story} “Heart of Ice” redefined that character in a more sympathetic light and made him more interesting, but it also made him very hard to write as a villain. So, to take that sympathetic story and to turn it on its head was real nice. How long was that idea germinating around before the annual or was it more of a Paul McCartney “Yesterday” scenario where you woke up and the song was there?

Snyder: It was something that I was thinking about, I mean “Subzero” and “heart of Ice”- in case it’s not clear to people, Batman: The Animated Series and Beyond are bible to me. I’ve seen every episode; I study those episodes. I love The Animated Series. My son is five years old and I we watch them together, so I get to watch them all over again.

{DC} asked if there were villains we wanted to approach and I had this idea for him for awhile. My concern, it seemed to go over well. People were generally positive about it. But, some people are resistant that he’s not quite as sympathetic as he was. To me, he is sympathetic. The problem is the Nora story is done so beautifully and so well to completion when you follow it into Batman Beyond, it’s a closed book. Why would I restart it? I don’t want to redo these great stories. I want to take it into a direction that offers new stories.

So for Mr. Freeze, it was trying to honor that whole canon of stories and then give it a new tributary where you could draw off of that river and it’s still a part of the same system- still the same water but it goes in a bit of a different direction.

I would say also to fans who are worried that he’s just a psycho, my feeling wasn’t that. It was supposed to be that there’s something really tragic about someone that falls in love with an unattainable possibility and believes that this person is their perfect person. I think all of us have done that at some point where you create a fantasy of someone to where the reality of the person can never measure up to. In that way I think it makes him very human even if (Nora) is not necessarily a person he was married to.

I would say that when I look back at continuity there aren’t really that many stories where she’s awake and says “Yes, I was married to him” she’s always kind of screaming and running away; It almost could work with that canon story and all those stories that happen with him even if he didn’t know her and only thought he knew her in some way, it could almost still be intact. That’s not a good defense, but I’m very proud of it and excited about the direction we took him in. It was either; change Nora or re-tell the story somehow.

For me, it was changing his relationship to Nora in way that it wasn’t supposed to be just a change. It was to make him a better Batman villain because, yes he was sympathetic the other way and he had his own story. In some ways though, in my opinion, there was {certain} schizophrenia in the villain where sometimes he just wanted to freeze the world and sometimes he was all about Nora.

What I was trying to say (in the story) was that he loves Nora, but he loves her because she’s a representation of the cold for him. How it preserves and how it keeps things from aging and turning. In that way, he loves her in a new way that allows, hopefully, for the compatibility of the Mr. Freeze that wants to freeze the world and the Mr. Freeze that wants his Nora. When Batman says to him, “you’re really just in love with the cold.”, and as Bruce says “I understand what it’s like to love an {unattainable ideal}”. In that way they have more in common and for me that makes him a more potent villain for future storylines.

CVerse: I’ll wrap it up by talking about your taking on of Swamp thing. Swamp Thing, like Watchmen, having had Alan Moore attached to it all those years ago and once you attach Alan Moore’s name to anything it automatically becomes sacred in a lot of minds. How did it come about that you got the reigns to Alec?

Snyder: I had my own idea and told DC; (DC) knew that I loved the character because I had been sniffing around at Vertigo to see if there was a possibility of using him again. Geoff Johns called me up, it was one of the first times I had spoken to him, and I was so nervous.

He said that he had heard I had a take on Swamp Thing and what was it? He was incredibly gracious and helpful about letting me do the take that I had originally planned and dovetail it off of “Brightest Day” and into a way that would make it work well.

I was extremely nervous, I get really scared by the legacy of these characters (Batman and Swamp Thing) but, at the end of the day if you turn that on its head and what you think about is the people that you admire on a character like Swamp Thing; everyone that’s taken it on has done something radically different with it. The same with  Batman (though not to the same extent),  the stories I love (Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, and Gotham Central) they do things that touch Batman’s world in a way that leaves an indelible mark and it’s particular and shows him in a particular light.

It’s like in the next story I’m doing is a straight villain story but, it’s my particular take on this villain in Batman’s Rogues Gallery and it’s a very particular explanation (as you’ll see) of his or her psychology and in that way if you aren’t going to go: “I’m going to do my take on Swamp Thing or Batman” then what’s the point in trying?  So many people love him; you have to swing for the fences otherwise what’s the point? The moment I don’t have a story that means as much to me or is as big as {Batman or Swamp Thing} then I won’t do those characters because there’s no reason to do them.

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  • BigIV

     http://thecomixverse.com/?p=41097
    The day before your interview I caught Snyder as part of the Vertigo panel. It was interesting hearing how he started in comics almost accidentally. He has an MFA in Creative Writing and had published a book of short stories. A friend helped him land a comic anthology. He was the only writer to write a serious story where everyone else wrote spoof tales. That was enough to get him comic work. Snyder also had a novel deal that he dissolved in favor of writing comics because the comics made him happier.

    Snyder also mentioned that he pitched American Vampire before S. King came onto the project. If he knew King would be interested in writing for the series Snyder quipped that he would have asked for more money.

    Snyder and Willingham had very similar story telling approaches for their Vertigo work. That was mentioned in my earlier post.

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