@’s by Writer Scott Snyder!!!
AMBUSH BUG: Hey, Scott--how are you doing today?
SCOTT SNYDER (SS): Good, man. It’s good to talk with you. Thanks for having me.
BUG: Well I had a chance to read the first issue of BATMAN: DEATH IN THE FAMILY last night and it really is fantastic. I wanted to congratulate you on it. It’s a really cool start to it. This is the first time you’ve had a chance to write the Joker, is that correct?
SS: Well, I wrote an issue with him a little bit more in DETECTIVE, so I’ve written him before, but only in a really small capacity where he was tied up the whole time. (laughs) He didn’t get to do very much. He was strapped to a board and on his back while he was in prison, so he was relatively subdued.
BUG: Yeah, well this was him all out and crazy. One of the things that I wanted to ask you about is what’s your take on the Joker? Is he crazy or is he just acting crazy? I know through the years people have treated him in different ways, but what’s your take on him?
SS: Well…I’m not sure I’d give a diagnosis as to whether he’s crazy, but I think he’s the greatest villain of all time and I feel like his mythology and everything that’s wrong with him is that he essentially wants you to believe that the worst things that you fear about yourself are true, so he’s this incredibly vibrant and terrifying villain to be writing, because all he wants is to convince people that the things they are most frightened of inside of themselves psychologically are the truth of them. I don’t know if that makes him necessarily diagnosed as crazy, but it makes him really scary and either way it’s fun to write.
BUG: I really love the scene when he’s talking to James Gordon and he’s talking about being under the bed as James is sleeping, which is pretty terrifying.
SS: Thanks. That’s actually one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever written, not just in comics, so it means a lot to hear that. I appreciate it.
BUG: Well, you are definitely a master of horror in comic books; is there ever a time that you want to write something really light or something that doesn’t have a horror slant to it?
SS: (laughs) I keep trying, but every time I try to do a happy story it ends up sort of gory and grim. I think in all seriousness the thing that has always interested me in and outside of comics are stories where people are faced with things that are their nightmares or things that are true about themselves the way that the Joker kind of epitomizes that challenge for any hero, that his whole mission to try to convince you that those things about yourself that you’re afraid are true are. Even in my fiction and the stuff I did before comics I was always interested in characters coming face to face with ugly truths about themselves or things that they have to overcome, and at the end of the day not too many things are scary or grim so much that I think those are the stories that are all the most heroic for these characters. These aren’t just challenges because they are frightening objectively, they are personally afraid of them because they represent things that touch a nerve for you in your own pathology and your own fears about yourself, so you come out stronger on the other side. That’s why, in my mind, Batman has the greatest rogue’s gallery of all time: because Gotham is just a constant trial by fire for him. It’s the city that generates these challenges for him that speak to his great fears.
BUG: One of the things that I’ve noticed in all of your work with Batman is that you’ve really made Gotham come alive and it’s a character in the story itself. How is that going to factor into the DEATH OF THE FAMILY story?
SS: Well basically, what really factors in is the Joker’s philosophy in our story, and it’s a lot of fun to come up with your own take on a character, but my take here is he kind of considers himself Batman’s court jester and Gotham is the kingdom and Batman is the Bat King. He’s travelled far and wide, Joker, to find a king kind of worthy of him. He thinks he is the greatest, and in that way we have Batman with these kinds of omens that are described and stuff, the Joker will kind of point to and revel in. They are supposed to represent that the kingdom is rotting and that that’s unnatural and that things aren’t going the way they are supposed to, because Batman has kind of forsaken his royal court and he’s become a sycophant with people who have made him weaker and softer and believes that he is something less than the Bat King he should be. So he has an axe to grind. He sees himself a servant of the Bat King and a servant of Gotham and that the kingdom is meant to be stronger, because court jesters historically are the ones who have delivered the worst news of the kingdom to the king and the Joker sees himself as someone there to make Batman stronger for surviving. He feels having all of this help and his family around him has made him soft and weak and a king not worthy of serving.
BUG: Well, in the past, the Robins especially have not really faired too well when Joker starts thinking big plans. With Damien not having a lot of experience fighting the Joker, are you going to be writing that story or is that going to be handled by others? How does that work?
SS: Well, all of the characters are going to appear in BATMAN in key ways, so you’re see Damien and Tim and Bat Girl…Damien, Tim, Barbara, Jason, and Dick all in BATMAN, just the way the Joker is going to come after them is featured in their books separately. There will be major storylines with the Joker in BATMAN and keep cutting to them, but my feeling is the writers love their characters and are better at writing them and know them better than I do and it inspires me to do big things and come up with ideas with them. What I decided with the other guys to do really is feature an independent story where the Joker is coming after your character and he’s really trying to break them. That’s one of the fun things about the story. A lot of these characters haven’t faced the Joker before in this capacity where he’s not trying to use them to get to Batman, but he’s trying to go for them. So he’s going to come after their supporting cast, their home, their friends, everything, to show them why they are not ready and he will burn their whole world down, you know?
BUG: Very cool. Well, I know that you have a couple of other projects and I don’t want to short change them, even though I could ask you about Batman all morning. I hear you are planning on tackling another superhero here pretty soon?
SS: (laughs) Yeah, I couldn’t’ be more excited. We are doing MAN OF STEEL with Jim Lee, so I’m thrilled and honored. I’m waking up being like “How am I doing Batman and Superman? I must be dreaming.” I’m living my five year old’s dream.
BUG: When is that going to be coming out?
SS: It’s coming out in April and it’s going to be a big story. It’s self-contained. It’s really going to be a large and kind of epic take on the character. I’m basically approaching the way I approach all of these characters, where I kind of go into it not actually believing that I’m writing it in the first place or I feel like “They are definitely going to kick me off after this one. There’s no way I will ever get to write this guy again, so I better throw everything I’ve ever wanted to write about him and everything I think about him and everything I care about into this one story, because I could never get the chance to write him again.” This is that kind of story where it’s a big kind of epic, bombastic, but also very intimate look at Superman and it’s going to have a lot of American history. It’s going to have new characters and all of your favorites and I’m writing the features and the back up to it, so I’m very excited.
BUG: Is this going to be an ongoing series or a limited series?
SS: It’s an ongoing series, but the way I’m approaching it at this point, and Jim is approaching it--I have to say I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled to be working with him. I have the best position in the world between Ray doing our Batman, which blows me away every week, and now to get to work with Jim too, I’m just thrilled. We are planning on approaching this story that we are going to open with as an almost big, standalone kind of Superman arc that will lead to an ongoing, so it’s a really epic kind of independent take on the character. Even though it’s functioning in continuity alongside the other books, it really is sort of our own thing.
BUG: Obviously you’re a Bat Guy, and people like to say that they are either a Batman fan or a Superman fan: what’s it like crossing over there and trying to write the other guy?
SS: It’s like Elvis and the Beatles, I think. I’ve always been a Superman fan, myself. I think my writing leans towards Batman in general, but when I started reading Superman I realized they are so much of the same stuff. It’s not making Superman “dark,” but when you start writing a character who has these incredibly heroic and inspiring qualities, but he also makes mistakes. There are things about him…because a lot of times he seems so perfect, things get overlooked or we don’t get the chance to explore them too much, which are his failings and fears about himself. So I started writing and he came to me very naturally. I hope everybody likes it as much as I do. I’m having a blast.
BUG: He seems like the hero everybody wants to be and Batman is more like the hero that everybody is, I guess, or can be. And then you have another series coming out through Vertigo, is that correct?
SS: Yeah, I’m pretty excited about that one too and it’s going to be a new series called THE WAKE and I’m doing it with Sean Murphy, a dear friend of mine, but also one of my favorite artists working today. It’s basically going to be an underwater sci fi horror epic that explores the roots of human evolution and also has a whole lot of post-apocalyptic elements as well. We are really excited.
BUG: Cool. That sounds really awesome. How do you juggle all of these projects? You’re doing a lot now for DC with BATMAN and AMERICAN VAMPIRE and now the SUPERMAN and THE WAKE. Is there a point where you’ve got to say “Alright, this is enough” or can you handle it?
SS: Well, I think I can handle it. I mean I think part of the thing that makes it manageable is that each one is a dream job, so in that way you feel like it’s a flood of good things. But you know, we are announcing some things at the Con too, but we are going to be taking a little bit of a hiatus from AMERICAN VAMPIRE so we can get ahead on that book as well. Raphael will be doing a few different projects and I’m very excited. So I’ll have a little bit more breathing room with THE WAKE and all of that. I’ll try to make a little more room, but overall it’s hard to complain about having that much work when each one is a job you pinch yourself when you have.
BUG: I know you've got to go, but I did want to ask you just one last thing about DEATH OF THE FAMILY. This is your second crossover that you’ve coordinated and helped spearhead. What did you learn going into this second one that you learned from the first one?
SS: I’ve learned how to write scary people. When you see the stories I’ve come up with for Joker, I think you’ll agree. What I learned, honestly, is for me the best thing about doing a crossover is not doing the kind of crossovers that I grew up with where their books depended on each other for different pieces of a single story. For me what I’ve learned is it’s inspiring more than anything to be working on this story parallel to each other. These writers that I admired and grew up reading, like Scott Lobdell…watching them do their things on these characters and these stories makes me want to write better and so it’s a really complimentary and inspiring set of circumstances to work under, so what I learned was not to try to direct the stories for those characters, but have them do what they want to do and then sit back.
BUG: Yeah, I was wondering how that works, if they look to you as the boss of this crossover or is it just all of your guys working together to do this sort of thing, since you have the main title, I guess.
SS: Yeah, well, the trick is just keeping everything as independent as you can, so each story honors what’s come before in the books so far. For Batgirl, not knowing the Joker has been watching over her for the last year and it’s like the Joker went away for a year, he cut of his face deliberately and the reason for that will be revealed in a story, even though that was…it ended right there and we’re going to start up with it here and he sort of took off his face and said “I’m done with Gotham” and “I’m going away for a year. When I come back, I’m going to be bringing something to take all of you down,” so in each book the Joker is coming after that character in relation to what happened to them over the last year, so the writers can use anything they want. The Joker can come after any character you’ve seen in that book because he’s just been watching for the last year. He has this incredible arsenal to come after these characters in very terrifying and challenging ways and independently, so that the books are standalone and then at the same time you see the Joker doing the same thing.
BUG: Very cool. Well, just wrapping things up, and I hate to get into gossip and everything like that, but I was able to check out some of the tweets that were happening there during the Rob Liefeld debacle and I think you handled that very tactfully and very well. It made me kind of laugh out loud, but also feel bad about what was going on. Do you have anything you want to say about that whole fiasco?
SS: All I would say is that at the end of the day we misunderstood each other and I really wish Rob the best and his work in creator-owned comics is something that I think inspires a lot of people and all I can say is I really do wish him the best and I’ll be rooting for him and for the books that he’s involved in.
BUG: Okay, well thanks so much. I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk with me today.
S: Yeah, man. Have a good day.
BUG: BATMAN: DEATH OF THE FAMILY begins this month through the Bat Books from DC Comics!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G