The Riddler and Batman size each other up in last month's "Batman" No. 32. Take a look back at what's led to this moment -- and a sneak peek of Wednesday's "Batman" No. 33, the "Zero Year" finale, in this gallery. All pages scripted by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, with inks by Danny Miki and colors by FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)Link
"Zero Year" began with "Batman" No. 21, released in June 2013. Bruce's relationship with Alfred after his secret return to Gotham plays a key part in what Snyder earlier told Hero Complex is the lesson the young vigilante picks up in the first arc, "Secret City," which "is about him learning that he has to mean something." (DC Entertainment)Link
Bruce Wayne meets Edward Nygma in a museum in "Batman" No. 22. The latter is a demented genius with big plans for Gotham, but the arrival of a man dressed as a bat "defies the machinery of the Riddler’s planning and logic," Snyder said in an earlier interview with Hero Complex. (DC Entertainment)Link
The deaths of Bruce Wayne's parents hang heavily over "Zero Year," as here in "Batman" No. 23. (DC Entertainment)Link
Gotham's new hero catches the eye of Red Hood One in "Batman" No. 24. But is this mysterious villain the man who becomes the Joker? "The purpose was to try and give you, if you want to believe that he is the Joker, an origin possibility that adds something to the mythology that makes this character a proto-Joker," Snyder said in an earlier interview with Hero Complex. "At the same time, I wanted to give you an out [laughs]. So if you don’t want to believe that that’s Joker and you have a different origin in mind, there’s always that possibility." (DC Entertainment)Link
The "Zero Year" story is also Batman's "first big detective case," Snyder said in an earlier interview with Hero Complex. Here, he tries to puzzle out what the Riddler has in mind in "Batman" No. 25. (DC Entertainment)Link
The new Batman origin story came with a new Batmobile in No. 25. Snyder earlier told Hero Complex that the creative team wanted it to be "something that’s almost in your face as if daring you to catch it." (DC Entertainment)Link
The life-changing traumatic event of Bruce Wayne's life was parsed out over "Zero Year," and Jim Gordon was woven into the story of that fateful day, as here in "Batman" No. 25, with Bruce for a time considering him "one of the roots of Gotham’s ills," Snyder said in an earlier interview with Hero Complex. (DC Entertainment)Link
Young Bruce Wayne takes in a movie, with unexpected consequences. "Our version of Bruce as a kid and as a young Batman is definitely a little bit more aggressive, I think, than we’ve seen in a while and a little bit more angry and a bit more impulsive and he’s a bit more of a peacock or a punk," Snyder said in an earlier interview with Hero Complex. "We wanted to show those impulses in him as a kid too." (DC Entertainment)Link
Alfred and Bruce converse in the Batcave in "Batman" No. 27. Snyder earlier told Hero Complex that part of making the relationship different from previous origin stories was writing conversations where "you can feel them being a little bit more prickly with each other than you’re used to." (DC Entertainment)Link
Batman and Jim Gordon cross paths in No. 27. "Usually I feel like Gordon is so suspicious of Batman and antagonistic toward him in a lot of interpretations when Batman first appears," Snyder said in an earlier interview with Hero Complex. "I was more interested in this idea of Gordon feeling a responsibility for his own mistakes and seeing Batman as a possible ally." (DC Comics)Link
Young Bruce Wayne is seen with his parents in "Batman" No. 29. "They’ve become these kind of epic ciphers … it’s such iconic imagery," Snyder earlier said to Hero Complex of Thomas and Martha Wayne. "It’s such a primal story of loss that I think the mistake I was afraid of making was to make them perfect, to make them these idealized figures of Mom and Dad. The approach was to actually make his father and mother funny and self-deprecating, with moments of true, genuine good parenting." (DC Entertainment)Link
The Batmobile wasn't the only Bat-vehicle to make a dramatic entrance in "Zero Year." The, um, Batblimp soared into action in No. 29. "The design is based on a real blimp," Snyder told Hero Complex in an earlier interview. "But we wanted to make it something also that was a lot bigger than that one and also ominous – so the second you see it you know if that’s anybody’s blimp, it’s got to be Batman’s." (DC Entertainment)Link
Gotham City has been radically changed by the Riddler in "Batman" No. 30. Though he tells its residents it's about them learning to survive, "deep down, he’s just a big egotist," Snyder told Hero Complex in an earlier interview. (DC Entertainment)Link
The Riddler challenges Gotham in "Batman" No. 30, illustrated by pictures of an evolving man and a medieval knight. "Those couple panels were a nod toward that idea that his philosophy is founded on this idea that we evolved as a species, or we survived as a species and thrived because of our intelligence," Snyder told Hero Complex in an earlier interview. "And that riddles, at core, are these aggressive tests of intelligence." (DC Entertainment)Link
Bruce hears the Riddler's challenge in "Batman" No. 30. (DC Entertainment)Link
Bruce puts together a makeshift Batsuit to answer the Riddler's challenge in "Batman" No. 31. Purple gloves are a must. (DC Entertainment)Link
The Dark Knight rides his two-wheel steed to challenge the Riddler in "Batman" No. 31. "I imagined it as shot almost from the side.... Instead, [Capullo drew it so] you’re in the point of view of someone looking up at him, which makes it so much more dynamic and heroic, or reverential," Snyder told Hero Complex in an earlier interview. (DC Entertainment)Link
Batman confers with Lucius Fox on how to stop the Riddler in "Batman" No. 32. (DC Entertainment)Link
Scott Snyder says Greg Capullo suggested the Riddlerbots in "Batman" No. 32 look "like Johnny Five from 'Short Circuit,' but violent." (DC Entertainment)Link
Batman and the Riddler are finally face to face for their final showdown – but the hero isn’t going to just slug Gotham City’s brilliant tormentor.
Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s sweeping, bestselling “Zero Year” story line, a 12-issue re-imagining of how the orphaned Bruce Wayne became the Bat in DC Comics’ New 52 reality reset, concludes in Wednesday’s “Batman” No. 33 with a battle that the Eisner Award-winning Snyder says is more about brains than brawn.
Hero Complex readers can get a sneak peek at scenes from the 48-page finale in the gallery above – which also includes a look back at scenes from throughout “Zero Year” — and via the links below.
The Riddler, a.k.a. Edward Nygma, has turned Gotham into a wild, postapocalyptic city with himself as its chief inquisitor – and has turned the heroes’ plan back on them, subverting a coming surgical aerial military strike so that it will, as Batman’s ally Lucius Fox puts it, “sink the whole city.”
Time is rapidly running out, and the Dark Knight, as seen at the end of last month’s issue, is seemingly in the grasp of the Riddler again – in the place where Bruce first crossed paths with Edward.
As he has since after the saga’s fourth chapter, Snyder spoke with Hero Complex in a phone interview about what’s transpired and what’s to come in this “ ‘[Batman: The] Animated Series’-crazy” story, including Bruce telling Alfred he loves him, the psychology of the Riddler, making a 75-year-old iconic DC character feel creator-owned, “Zero Year’s” unsung hero and what item he’d like to see packaged with a hardcover collection of his team’s take on Batman’s origin.
Hero Complex: So, Wednesday is the day…. You’ve talked about the challenge of retelling Batman’s origin, especially given the regard you hold “Year One” in – and there have been some sleepless nights and doubts along the way. With the reading public about to see the conclusion of this massive yearlong effort, how are you feeling about “Zero Year” being out there, done, complete?
Scott Snyder: It’s my favorite thing that we have done on “Batman,” personally. Because I feel it really is the project where we could rebuild Batman to be a character who feels creator-owned to us, where we could really say, “This is what we love about the character personally” and rebuild him along those lines. And at the same time, it’s also the place where I feel like we’ve been able to go the most colorful and over-the-top. It made me realize that that’s kind of our sweet spot on the book, me and Greg and the team.
We always try and do stories that are very personal to us … where Bruce deals with things that I think are elements that keep me up or that I worry about that are personal fears of mine – and at the same time we try to bring an element of over-the-top fun to the book, and make it feel contemporary and immediate and stay muscular and colorful.
The final issue, for me, is really a crystallization of that combination, where you learn about Bruce in his boyhood years and the darkest place that he went to after his parents’ death and how he struggled with depression – I mean, that’s a part of the story that’s very personal to me, obviously. I’ve spoken about it before, that I’ve struggled with depression at times. That fighting spirit that Bruce has and that sense of how dark it got for him and how he got through it is really, really important to me to have in there, on a personal level, and then on the other hand it’s the most out-of-control, over-the-top action sequence I think we’ve done on “Batman” so far.
It’s really the truest iteration of what Greg and the art team and I love doing with the book. It just feels very pure to me and very true. It’s a very sincere story, and I’m intensely proud of it.
HC: You’ve talked about how each segment of “Zero Year” is about something Bruce has to learn. What has the “Zero Year” experience taught you? Do you feel you know more about Bruce? Has it pushed you forward as a writer?
SS: Oh, yeah. I mean both. As a writer I think the challenge was to constantly keep it different than anything you’ve seen both structurally and narrative-wise. To have the book look and feel new and exciting, and that was a big challenge.
There are a lot of things that I normally use in “Batman” that I tried to give up here, like narration, for example, linear storytelling … and the structure itself is something I’ve never really tried, where the story is 12 issues but it has these kind of strange chapter breaks that are very succinct.
I think what I’ve learned about Bruce and Batman – I love the character so deeply after this story. I mean I loved him before, as much as you can love any fictional character – he’s always been my favorite character in all of literature. So when you build him from scratch and you see him as a boy and you write him with his parents and you do a take on why he does what he does that’s personal to you, the kinds of fears that he stands up to in Gotham — his reasons for doing it are slightly different than I think Frank Miller’s interpretations or other interpretations — when you do that, he becomes like your son or your brother in a way. My affection for the character couldn’t be any greater.
He’s like a family member to me and Greg, as crazy as that sounds. And I think we both hate punishing him and yet have to punish him terribly in each arc. We love him.
HC: To dive back into the last issue, 32, on the subject of punishing Batman: Those Riddlerbots — what can you say about that design?
SS: Greg was looking at this, trying to design, and I remember being like, “What if they’re kind of like spidery?” And he was like, “What if they’re more like Johnny Five from ‘Short Circuit’ but violent?” And I was like, “Do it.” They’re also all these sort of childhood things turned evil – they’re meant to be toy like almost because the Riddler is so playful, but at the same time very menacing.
HC: That interaction with Lucius on Pages 13-15, with Batman at first saying that heavy line, “I see us losing,” then that they have one guess and 40 minutes, and inspiring Lucius to try to figure something out…. Can you delve into building the Lucius-Batman relationship?
SS: I think Lucius is a character who had a very close relationship with Thomas, Bruce’s father, and that means a tremendous amount to Bruce, and I think he sees Lucius as a figure whose respect he wants to earn and someone he respects…. You’ll see in 33 when he – spoiler alert – gives the company to Lucius to run, I think you’ll see that sense of admiration that Bruce has for him as a leader and a figure for Gotham that people can look to publicly.
HC: So the Riddler has turned Batman and company’s plan against them. He can now summon that military jet strike and start a chain reaction of explosions that, as Lucius says, will “sink the whole city.” You’ve talked about how ego-driven Edward Nygma is, but it seems like his pleasure is mostly from having the city in thrall to him. He’s certainly caused major damage to Gotham, but is it in him to go that far?
SS: I think it is, in the way that I think he really has fooled himself in our story into believing … that he is proving a point to the world, which is that none of you are smart enough to save this place. That means you are going to have to get smarter to save the human race….
When you look around and see the horror that he has created, I really think so because I think he … sees himself as a kind of god – not literally a god – but he sees the battlefield that strategists see, the game board, and he thinks that there’s certain men that exist above human experience, and they’re not on the street, they’re minds in the sky that see the design of things better than anyone, and they should be ruling. He feels slighted by the world – and feels as though this is really something that he is doing to prove a point. You don’t have to scratch the surface very deeply to see that he’s doing it out of spite and egotism, but I think he would keep that argument up until you beat him to a pulp. [laughs]
HC: As Batman is heading toward the museum and that confrontation, he makes that recorded transmission to Alfred where he talks about the idea that Batman isn’t about winning, but about failing again and again but always getting back up…. But what stood out most was the end of that message, when he says “I love you, Alfred.” What was the importance to you of having him vocalize that?
SS: Honestly, it was the one line I went back and forth on. I didn’t want it to read too sentimental, and at the same time I felt like the whole speech that’s what he’s saying. So I didn’t know if I should keep it subtext, and then at the end I just realized, I can’t remember when he just says it: “I love you.” So let’s just have him say it, and go there — and if it’s sentimental, so be it.
Our Batman thinks he’s about to go down in flames, and he doesn’t want … to go out without Alfred knowing. It isn’t playful and it isn’t kind of manly or a veiled way of saying it; he wants him to know: “I love you. You’re my father and I love you.”
It meant a lot to me to put that in. It was very funny to see the fan response to that, where I was expecting people to say it was sappy, but I’ve never gotten more affectionate responses on Twitter and everything to a line. I got more sort of screen taps with that saying “The feels!” and “Finally, he said it!” than anything I’ve written.
HC: Back in “Secret City,” Bruce Wayne came face to face with Edward Nygma in front of that Sphinx in the museum, and figured out that riddle to escape from unwanted attention. Now, it’s Batman face to face with the Riddler in the same spot, with so much more at stake. I was struck by Batman first standing before the Sphinx, that round of applause Riddler gives him, and then especially by the way Capullo drew them standing before each other, that top left panel. Can you detail developing those pages, and the art team’s work on them?
SS: Greg is just a master of emotion on the page. I think every artist has their talents, and I think one of the things Greg is just literally the best in the business at is the acting, the actual emotional expressions the characters make and the interaction and dialogue paces – he just gets how … to put what they’re feeling on their faces in a way that makes me actually change the dialogue a lot because it becomes superfluous.
With that, I was just saying to him – I didn’t give him that direction – I said, “Finally, face to face. Here they are standing face to face.” But he put them a lot closer together than I expected, and he put them really in profile, face to face. And when I saw it, I was stunned, because I was like, “Why doesn’t he reach out and hit him?”
Then I realized it’s perfect because it’s just the two of them looking at each other as rivals about to go into the final battle, and it speaks to a lot of what the Riddler has challenged Batman with, saying it’s not a battle of physicality, you can’t beat me up – this is going to be two men in the purest form of battle, a battle of minds….
And the thing that Greg pointed out … was he said that he wanted it to be that the Riddler finally sees Batman as an adversary…. I adore that whole sequence. I wrote it in a way where I said, “Greg, I want it to be that the Riddler claps for him as he comes in. He doesn’t reveal himself at first, and then steps out after the applause.” And the amount of blackness he put on that page from when Bruce first comes in, the sense of drama there – that’s all Greg. He’s just such a master.
HC: And looking at it now, I just noticed – both with purple gloves.
SS: Yes! Purple gloves are like the legacy of “Zero Year” now. They were obviously part of the Bill Finger and Bob Kane design, but now it feels like everyone makes fun of them all the time, so we just lean into them.
I hope that DC will give purple gloves with the collected edition – that’s my biggest hope, is that it comes with purple gloves.
HC: I was going to ask about FCO Plascencia, because the color work on the final page certainly is striking, and also because of DC’s change starting this month of crediting the colorist in the list on the cover.
SS: I would love to speak to that, because FCO is the unsung hero. Danny Miki too – his inks are just incredible…. [Plascencia’s] color work on this series is part of not just what makes it what it is but elevates it to the level of something that I think hopefully people will read for a long time. There’s no overestimating his contribution whatsoever.
When we began, I said to him … “FCO, I just want to make it clear with this story I want you to be unleashed, unchained, just go crazy. We want it to be something where it feels punk rock, colorful, try and not use any colors that we use on ‘Batman’ in general.” Like that’s a small order, right?
He came up with this palette that’s just dazzlingly colorful — and the way he pulls it off so it doesn’t look silly. The sky being yellow; oranges and greens and hot pinks – I’ve always joked that this is the only origin where hot pink is one of the major colors. He has made the book what it is as much as me or Greg or Danny, and he deserves all the kudos in the world for all that.
And I really am very proud of DC for coming around and giving credit and royalties to colorists.
HC: Colorists were on my mind because of the policy change – I certainly didn’t mean to give Danny Miki short shrift. What characterizes his work?
SS: Danny is razor-sharp. The guy brings everything to such crisp lights. I really hope that they release something that just shows his inked pages without color as well. He’s so crisp. He’s like a laser. It’s just incredibly tight.
We have a great team. I’m the luckiest guy in comics to get to work with these guys.
What we have coming up too with “Endgame” – wait till you see. Totally different tack. We try to do every story zigzag to keep you guys on your toes and keep us on our toes as creators. I promise you this one is totally wild – biggest cast we’ve ever used, certainly incredibly over-the-top.
HC: But first – No. 33. What can you tell readers about what’s in store in those 48 pages? I saw Greg has No. 34 off. Did he draw all 48 pages?
SS: Yeah, it’s all Greg – no one else in this issue at all. He’s just a monster. He has No. 34 off, and then we’re back to the big story line.
What’s in store for 33.… It’s the marriage of the elements I think I’ve learned through this arc, the things that we have to offer readers on the book in a way that’s more ours, a blend of kind of hopefully deeply personal, emotional story lines with Bruce that are dark and exploratory and then on the other hand over-the-top action and fun on the surface…. It’s got everything that I’d hope you would want from the end of this story.
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