‘Batman: Zero Year’ 29: Scott Snyder previews Crime Alley, Bluebird

March 10, 2014 | 12:30 p.m.
batman29coverds Batman: Zero Year 29: Scott Snyder previews Crime Alley, Bluebird

Batman is caught in the catacombs of Gotham as part of the Riddler's dangerous game on Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia's cover for "Batman" No. 29, out Wednesday. (DC Entertainment)

batman29p4 Batman: Zero Year 29: Scott Snyder previews Crime Alley, Bluebird

Page 4 from "Batman" No. 29, written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Greg Capullo, inks by Danny Miki and colors by FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)

“Batman: Zero Year” is writer Scott Snyder’s and artist Greg Capullo’s ambitious 11-part comics event exploring Bruce Wayne’s beginnings as the Caped Crusader in DC Comics’ New 52. Snyder is joining Hero Complex each month for an exclusive preview of the next issue and conversation about the story so far. Part 8 of the saga arrives Wednesday with “Batman” No. 29.

Scott Snyder wants you to feel young Bruce Wayne’s pain.

“We want you to really hurt,” he says of his and Greg Capullo’s version of the murders of Martha and Thomas Wayne in Crime Alley.

Their take on that pivotal moment arrives Wednesday in the 40-page “Batman” No. 29.

After jumping into the future of “Batman Eternal” last month with the “spoiler” (well, make that Spoiler) issue  No. 28 — where the whip-smart, crafty and determined young Gothamite Harper Row appeared in the new guise of Bluebird as a Batman ally and Stephanie Brown (a past-continuity Batgirl and, briefly, a Robin) made her New 52 debut in her original Spoiler identity — the Dark Knight’s flagship title returns to “Zero Year” this month.

As seen at the end of No. 27, the Riddler has Batman trapped in Gotham’s catacombs as the villainous mastermind, who has already plunged the city in darkness, prepares to transform it into a sort of wild, deadly meritocracy. And a superstorm approaches.

No. 29 is the end of “Zero Year’s” second arc, “Dark City,” before the final part, the tellingly titled “Savage City.” Hero Complex readers can get an exclusive look at several pages from the issue in the gallery above or in larger versions via the links below.

“Batman” No. 29: Cover | Variant | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6 | Page 7

In a phone interview Monday, Snyder discussed Harper Row, Stephanie Brown, Crime Alley, superstorms, the inspiration for the name Bluebird and more.

Hero Complex: You began seeding Harper Row into this Batman series from the beginning. She’s proved herself very capable, though until 28, Batman hadn’t necessarily approved of her efforts. I know that in “Eternal” we’ll see how she became Bluebird, but can you talk about how you see her and Bruce’s dynamic, and why she’s right to launch a new generation of the Bat family?

Scott Snyder: She wasn’t created with that identity in mind, and she wasn’t really meant to be the sort harbinger of a new generation of Bat allies. She was really designed to be a character who gave us a lens with which to see Gotham that was really everyday people – working class, struggling to support herself and her brother in rough-and-tumble Gotham. I’ve always loved those stories that you get to see in “Gotham Central” or the animated series that show Gotham through the eyes of everyday citizens. The challenge was to create a character that would be likable and engaging enough to be worth coming back to a lot in the series. And luckily, people seem really supportive of her. As I started doing more and more stories with her, I realized that there was an opportunity to have her become a character that also would sort of lead the charge in creating a new set of allies for Batman.

Here's an exclusive look at a panel from "Batman" No. 28, by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Dustin Nguyen, out Wednesday. Click through the gallery for more from No. 28 and the reveal of the cover for "Batman" No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

A panel from “Batman” No. 28 shows Harper Row as Bluebird with Batman. (DC Entertainment)

I think partly the reason of why her and why now is she’s a very different kind of hero. Her priorities are really different, as you’ll see. Her attitude, her style. Her mission is different than someone like Robin, who is more of Batman’s sidekick, where as I think she’s more independent. The idea of doing that in Batman’s 75th anniversary was really appealing. As incredible as Batman’s history is, I feel like his future, the things planned for the next coming years, are so exciting and really aim to revamp and do new and exciting things with his mythology in a way that I think will bring him to a new generation of readers.

HC: I ran across the cute story of the Batgirl cosplayer and her young daughter/ comics creator, Blue Bird. I wanted to ask if Harper’s hero name is a tip of the hat.

SS: It definitely was. It was very moving meeting her. I have her comic here. I was going to send something privately to her – it wasn’t something we really intended to publicly acknowledge, but I’m happy it was. I’m very proud to be able to give something back to her and, more than just her, I think what she represents is this new generation of readers that grow up loving comics and want to see characters that reflect who they are as well, women and people from different demographics that aren’t usually represented. I think it’s important for us to create characters that speak not just to our own interests and the things that we grew up with but also characters that speak to a new generation of readers. It’s exciting.

HC: At New York Comic Con, your announcement that Stephanie Brown would make her New 52 debut in “Batman Eternal” was met with shrieks of joy. She had seemed to have fallen out of favor at DC the last few years. Why is this story and this time right to bring her back, and what does that character mean to you?

SS: She means a lot. I was a tremendous fan of Bryan Miller’s “Batgirl” series that featured her. Part of it was trying to find a story where we could bring her back that wouldn’t just be sensational or wouldn’t be done just to get to say we did it, but that had a real big place for her and a way of relaunching her story that would honor what came before but create something new for her.

"Batman: Eternal" is a yearlong, weekly series launching in the spring. (Jason Fabok / DC Comics)

“Batman Eternal” is a yearlong, weekly series launching in April. (Jason Fabok / DC Comics)

The reason I thought this would be the right place was because she has the opportunity to play a huge part in the giant plot of “Eternal.” The reason that she’s perfect for the role is because we needed someone that trafficked in secrets, someone that was almost completely overwhelmed by the terrible truths that she has found out about what was coming and the plot that was going to unfold in Gotham, but also about her own legacy and her own family. The idea of Stephanie and how that would give us an opportunity to build her in a new way but also go back to some of the things that were core about her and who she was before the 52 felt like a perfect opportunity.

And to re-imagine the idea of what that name Spoiler means. Before its modern iteration, I feel like it was used to show how she ruined plans. Nowadays, “spoiler” is more aligned with the idea that you’re giving away secrets before you’re supposed to, you’re ruining the ending of something, you know where a story is going before it happens. For us, there was an also opportunity to use her in a way that would give her a whole new purpose but also tip our hat to who she was before the 52.

HC: You’ve talked before about how growing up in New York has influenced your writing of Gotham. And with the arrival of Superstorm Rene in 29, I wondered if there was any memory of Sandy that came into play.

SS: That was really the whole impetus of using the storm. I live out on Long Island, and our neighbors across the street, the tree in their front yard – this huge, huge monster tree – was just torn out. The whole street was torn up. Every house here – we had no power or any of that stuff. It was harrowing. I’m sure we escaped a lot of the worst of it compared to other people. But there isn’t anyone I know who wasn’t affected by that storm in a big way. And that idea of not just the storm but of climate change and the threat of greater and greater storms coming is a big part of this arc.

Basically what the Riddler is saying is, “We live in a dangerous time, and the only way that we’ve survived in the wild, evolutionarily – we have no claws, we have no fangs, we’re just these weak, hairless things – but the way that we’ve survived and become the dominant species on the planet is by outsmarting our circumstances. Let me create an environment for you that just speeds all that up, Gotham. Let me create a wild, overgrown, climate-change-ravaged city run by terror…. Let me speed up the entropy of all of it, and you have to figure a way out of it by catching me.”

To me, that’s the point of what he’s doing, and it’s meant to be a modern take on that character. Even though he’s really only doing it for his own ego, ultimately the way that he at least explains it is supposed to speak to some of the things we’re most afraid of now.

Page 7 from "Batman" No. 29. (DC Entertainment)

Page 7 from “Batman” No. 29. (DC Entertainment)

HC: “Zero Year” showed the first Batmobile, and the preview pages for 29 hint at maybe another vehicle.

SS: [Laughs] There’s definitely a reveal of a very fun vehicle in this one. There’ll be a new Bat-something.

HC: We’re getting to Crime Alley. So far “Zero Year” has shown parts of that day leading up to that night when Bruce’s parents are killed – and certainly the fallout from it – and now, after all these months, readers are going to see yours and Greg Capullo’s take on it. How are you feeling about your version of that transformative event in Bruce’s life finally getting out there?

SS: I feel great about it. Believe me, there’s nothing that caused us more stress and anxiety than the Crime Alley scene and when Bruce decides to become Batman. Those two sort of sacred moments are more than intimidating and almost paralyzingly so. But we really were excited by the way that we were able to redo the bat flying through the window and his decision to become Batman. And here, with the alley, the challenge is to do something that’s new and your own but doesn’t dishonor the stuff that came before. So to try and be true to the core but do something you haven’t seen before.

The way we do it here, it’s not something that I think will shock anyone: Bruce doesn’t steal a gun and shoot his parents. There’s nothing bizarre or completely surprising for shock value. That said, it is done in a different way, and it’s meant to be really brutal to see. We want you to really hurt. We wanted you to leave the arc feeling the way Bruce feels at that moment, which is entirely hopeless and terrorized.

"American Vampire" No. 28, set in the 1950s, kicked off the last arc before the series' planned hiatus. (Rafael Albuquerque / Vertigo)

Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s Eisner Award-winning “American Vampire” has been edited since its beginning by new Batman group editor Mark Doyle. (Rafael Albuquerque / Vertigo)

HC: You seemed eager to talk about this last month but couldn’t just yet. And the announcement came soon after that Mark Doyle, your “American Vampire” and “The Wake” editor at Vertigo, is the new Batman group editor. You’ve expressed your excitement about that. What I’d like to know is what works about your writer-editor relationship.

SS: He is easily one of the best editors I’ve worked with in my life, both in books and in comic books. The reason I think our relationship works well is that he loves getting his hands dirty when it comes to story. He’ll read a script, and he’ll come back to me, and he’ll challenge me by asking questions that I know I need to ask myself when telling a story: Is this turn of events at this particular page something that’s pushed as far as it can to really challenge Bruce? Is there a better way to end the issue that leaves us in a better place, given where we’re going to go next issue?

We have a very similar sense of story. Sometimes you have an editor … where you have tremendous respect for what they do and you work well together but you have different priorities. Maybe they put more emphasis on theme or symbolism or they put more emphasis on plot than you do. And for us, our priorities really match up. I like to be extremely character-driven and build the arc around what I think Bruce has to look at about himself and learn. And Mark is incredibly insightful about that sort of storytelling. He keeps you honest.

And we also came up together. He brought me over for “American Vampire.” He gave me my first real DC gig. There isn’t anything I’ve done at DC that I haven’t showed him. I couldn’t have had a better experience with Mike Marts. I mean, he was just terrific. But Mark is one of my best friends in the world too. It’s become like a dream job within a dream job.

HC: Is there anything else you’d like to let readers know about 29?

SS: We want to, first of all, say thanks for keeping up with us to this point. This, I really believe, is one of our best issues. You’re going to see that Batman doesn’t always win. It’s larger than life. And for us it has the scope that we were trying to go for with the extra pages. And also tune in because it really begins the final act where Gotham will be completely, completely transformed and changed into an environment that I think you haven’t seen before.

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon | @LATHeroComplex


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