A panel from "Batman" No. 25, shows the first Batmobile in the "Zero Year" telling of the hero's early days. (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
A panel from "Batman" No. 25. Snyder says of the art team, "I feel like they’ve done a terrific job making something that doesn’t look like any Batmobile prior." (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
A panel from "Batman" No. 25. (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
A page from "Batman" No. 25. (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
Previously released art for Pages 4 and 5 of "Batman" No. 25 show dirigibles that Bruce Wayne has loaned Gotham Police. The vehicles are a tribute to "Batman: The Animated Series," Says Snyder, "I remember going to college and seeing that series begin on my little TV in my dorm and being like, 'This is something that’s going to keep me in Batman for the next four years, easily.'" (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
Cover art for "Batman" No. 24. (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
Page 29 from last month's "Batman" No. 24 shows Bruce Wayne -- who finally donned the cape and cowl in this issue -- taking on Red Hood Gang members as the leader -- who could be interpreted as the future Joker -- looks on in fascination. (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)Link
“Batman: Zero Year” is writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s ambitious 11-part comics event exploring Bruce Wayne’s beginnings as the Caped Crusader in DC Comics’ New 52. Starting today, Snyder will join Hero Complex each month for an exclusive preview of the next issue and conversation about the story so far. Part 5 of the saga arrives Wednesday with “Batman” No. 25.
Batman barely had time to catch his breath after defeating the Red Hood Gang and seeing its mysterious leader fall into a vat of toxic liquid at the A.C.E. Chemical factory before the Riddler plunged Gotham into darkness.
So ended last month’s “Batman” No. 24, which also saw Bruce wearing a cape and cowl (and purple gloves) as the Caped Crusader for the first time. The next issue of the hit series features the “Zero Year” debut of another icon: the Batmobile. Hero Complex readers get the first look at the Dark Knight’s wheels in the gallery above and larger in links below.
In a recent phone interview, Snyder discussed the early Bat-suit and Batmobile designs, what to make of the green-eyed man under Red Hood One’s pill helmet, a dark past between Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon — and the Eisner Award-winning writer’s fondness for “Batman: The Animated Series.”
Hero Complex: Issue 24 is notable for a number of reasons, one of them being that readers are introduced to Bruce’s first Batman suit. How did the development of that look go between you and Greg Capullo?
Scott Snyder: The idea was to try and do something kind of modern and rebellious and young and fresh and a little bit garish – almost kind of peacocking a bit. So when I spoke to Greg, I was saying that if I was 25 and I’m Bruce and I’m back in town and I finally have developed this persona that I’m Batman … I would want it to be something both militaristic and almost kind of bad-ass in a way that screams motorcycle racer or race car driver, someone not afraid of dying in that way.
Greg came up with this idea of this kind of flexible, almost Kevlar paneling on the sides and these more military boots. … We wanted it to also be an echo of the original Bob Kane costume with the purple gloves and the curved ears and the flatter mask.
That’s what we’ve been trying to do with a lot of the story is to remember some of the most classic iconography from the Batman mythos of the last 75 years and at the same time do something that feels bold and daring.
HC: Bruce gives that memorable speech to the public about why he loves Gotham. What was the importance to you of having him deliver that message?
SS: To me, that’s the heart of that whole section of the story. That speech, or that idea, was there before the story was fully plotted. The way I approach the sort of arcs that we do on “Batman” is to try and figure out what they’re about with me personally and what they’re about for Bruce personally and emotionally, so this one really was about – if we’re going to do the origin, or show him transforming into Batman, we didn’t want to do something that was just derivative of what had been done before, even when it came to the reasons for his doing what he does and evolving into this superhero.
I tried to think back to what it was like for me growing up in New York City and why Batman’s origin was so potent, and I think a lot of it had to do with this notion that Frank Miller’s “Year One” made Gotham seem so real and so immediate and so contemporary, where the issues and the problems you see in that Gotham, from gangs and prostitution and urban rot, were right around in the Lower East Side where I grew up, or more centrally in Times Square. That city was my city.
So the challenge here became to make this about what Batman means to a city today. … We were trying to really transform or at least do our own take on what Batman is supposed to mean, what his mission is about – so it’s not necessarily just about scaring criminals, but it’s about inspiring people to see, “I came to this place where I might die on a sunny Tuesday afternoon because of an explosion, because of random violence. I struggle day in and out. And why? I struggle because I come here to be transformed into the hero that deep down I know can be and the person I want to be but I’m afraid that I can’t be because of my own fears and the things that people have said to me.”
And so in that way we wanted to transform him into a symbol of inspiration and hope as well – as sort of someone who can feed criminals their own kneecaps when he needs too. [Laughs]
HC: Alfred starts and almost ends Issue 24 by giving Bruce insights into Gotham – that Batman is the kind of madness the city rewards, that people will want to believe so much they won’t want to know who’s under the cowl. He seems to have come around from his early skepticism about Bruce’s vigilantism.
SS: I didn’t want him to be so skeptical of the idea of Batman itself, just because I feel like we’ve seen that and also you know he’s going to come around.
So again it became about doing a different take on it, where he’s not necessarily critical of the vigilantism – partly because his own history has been revamped and amped up in his modern iteration at DC where he has this past with MI6 and he’s much more OK with that sort of activism that Bruce engenders with Batman.
I wanted it to be that he’s arguing that, “You’re doing it wrong because you mean nothing. If you do this it has to mean something to the world. It has to inspire people. It has to leave a legacy. That’s what you’re shaming your parents over is that they did everything they could to be examples of civic responsibility and altruism and hope. You know, your father was a doctor and got his hands dirty even though he didn’t need to and your mother set up schools for needy children. … And for you to do this in the shadows is irresponsible.”
I wanted him to be able to be one who when he comes around – or once Bruce comes around and sees that Alfred was right and becomes a bigger symbol than a shadow and nameless thing fighting in the hidden corners of the city – that Alfred sort of anoints him and says, “Now I’m here to help you and assuage your fears: Don’t be afraid that they’re going to figure out who you are, because you’re giving them something they’re so happy exists they won’t want to know who you are beneath it.”
HC: In an issue of powerful pages, one that really popped out was Page 29, which has Batman swooping into action in the large top panel and in the lower panel that sort of love-at-first-sight look in those green eyes as Red Hood One says, “… Hello … there.” Anything you’d like to say about that moment, and the art team’s execution of it?
SS: I can’t say enough good things about the art team. Greg Capullo has become one of my closest friends outside of comics at this point. In comics, you couldn’t have a better partner or mentor. He really helps me be a better storyteller with his own determination to make his own work better too. Honestly, there’s nobody better in the whole industry, in my opinion, or more inspiring. And FCO [Plascencia], the colorist, is great. He’s terrific. He’s a magician, as is [inker] Danny Miki. …
In terms of the execution of that page, often pages like that come back and they’re better than the way that I scripted them. I think I did three panels or something like that. Greg changes it – he always has license to do that and is encouraged to do that. …
Throughout the whole arc I know people are wondering, “Is this guy going to become 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. … The whole idea of the Red Hood being that he believes that Little Red Riding Hood sort of courts the violence of the wolf and acknowledges that all we can be do is be eaten up by it and welcomes that. He is meant to be a symbol of how meaningless our lives are, and an acknowledgement of that.
So once he sees Batman, I wanted it to be something where … with that strange combination of that chemical potion he falls into and this kind of philosophy he has that “If I ever found something to believe in in this crazy world, it would drive me insane,” he would become so driven and so purposeful it would be an inversion of the character he is before.
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. …
HC: Turning to 25, Edward Nygma has taken on the Riddler persona and has shut off power in Gotham City. What can you say about the challenges he’s presenting to Batman?
SS: At heart, to me, Batman is the greatest detective. He first appears in “Detective Comics.” That’s sort of at core what he is even beyond being this incredible fighter and this incredible genius and engineer … so what better way to challenge him, I thought, than putting him up against the guy who creates these mysteries that are practically unsolvable. … [The Riddler] sees himself as someone who honors this tradition of battles of wits being the way heroes are supposed to be tested. He sees riddles as the purest, burned-down form of those tests. … So here, the blackout is meant to be the first part of a riddle he’s posing to the city.
And Batman really sees that but he can’t figure out the other side. He’s saying, “I know, I’m trying to prepare” – he’s creating a signal jammer, he’s trying to monitor the Riddler’s movement, he’s looking for him everywhere, he’s trying to figure out what he’s up to next because he knows better than anyone else that the Riddler has another move planned that Batman can’t quite see yet, and that it’s going to be even more crippling to the city. …
The Riddler has said, almost explicitly, “I dare you to turn the city back on and see what happens. Let the games begin.” So this is really the beginning, the first shot, in a big volley between the two of them in this arc.
HC: Batman and Jim Gordon are not on good terms after their confrontation in 24, and at New York Comic Con you said 25 focuses on that relationship. What are the opportunities and responsibilities of reworking that particular relationship?
SS: They’re huge. … I’ve never worked as hard on anything and nothing has caused me as much excitement and also anxiety. It has definitely weighed on us tremendously, both me and Greg, the responsibility of reworking the origin and this material. We wouldn’t have done it at all except that Batman in the New 52, in the new world DC has created for him, doesn’t have a viable origin. When DC came to us and said can you do this … my first response was to try and reclaim the original pieces of “Year One” and put those into this story. And then, little by little, it became apparent that would be doing a disservice to that story, and the best way to honor it is to try and follow the example set by pioneers like Frank Miller and do a story that’s modern and your own. So it might not be able to approximate or come close in quality to a masterpiece like that, but you’d be doing an even worse thing if you repeated it. So, that said, it’s caused us huge stress and me personally a lot of sleepless nights, as Greg can attest. And a lot of psychological challenges, I think, to be able to do it. But it’s always been the same thing where I’ve tried to really tell myself that you’re telling this story to try and tell your own favorite Batman story to yourself. That’s the golden rule of the writing class I teach: You can only write the story that you’d like to pick up and read. …
With the Gordon material, the idea was similarly to try and do something that has nods to classic moments in their relationship – so you’ll see in an upcoming issue a moment that echoes something from “Year One” and you’ll see things that echo some of the classic moments between the two of them in their first year together. We wanted to do a story that really gave you a new iteration of their relationship – and it’s much darker here.
This second section in the dark, the beating heart of it has to do with the night Bruce’s parents were shot and the mystery around that. Core things are not changed – Commissioner Gordon didn’t shoot his parents or anything insane like that. But at the same time, the things that happened around that night, the day of the shooting, the reasons that no one was there that night, all of that kind of stuff is now part of the story in a big way. His relationship with Gordon is hugely changed. He really thinks of Gordon as one of the worst people in Gotham … and he vows never to work with him, and sees him in the police force not just as an obstruction but as an open enemy.
Part of this section is really about why that is and the mystery behind that, and part of it is about getting over old wounds and the things that could grow out of control if bones aren’t set properly, how they can become malformed and monstrous, even.
HC: What can you say about this first Batmobile readers will see?
SS: [Laughs] We wanted it to be something where you’d see it and be like … “What the hell is he driving this showy car?” in a way that both said race car and almost rocket and something that a young person would make with all kinds of tricks to it and something colorful, not something black and dark, something that’s almost in your face as if daring you to catch it. …
Greg Capullo, I think, did some amazing work on it. We did a lot of drafts. … [Laughs] I actually asked FCO to try coloring it yellow with black details and bats, and it just looked so crazy that we killed it, because it looked like he was driving a bee. … We had to cut a little bit closer to convention. But we feel like we’ve done a good job. I feel like they’ve done a terrific job making something that doesn’t look like any Batmobile prior.
HC: At the Batman panel at New York Comic Con, you said the blimps that we’ll see in 25 are a tribute to “Batman: The Animated Series,” and you’ve tweeted about your fondness for that show. Why does that version of Batman’s world appeal to you?
SS: Outside of Frank Miller and the visionary worlds he created both in “Year One” and “Dark Knight Returns” … “The Animated Series” and Paul Dini’s work and Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, that’s the fullest vision of and most robust world of Gotham that I had ever encountered, the most coherent and enveloping vision of it. And the way that they re-imagined it as this kind of almost futuristic Art Deco blend was so brilliant. … I remember going to college and seeing that series begin on my little TV in my dorm and being like, “This is something that’s going to keep me in Batman for the next four years, easily.”
There’s so many origins of villains or seminal stories that were in that series that people attribute to comics or they’ve become so engrained in our consciousness as the stories of those characters that we just assume that they were done in comics, from Harley Quinn to Two Face to Mr. Freeze in “Heart of Ice” to Ra’s Al-Ghul, just down the line. There’s just so many classic stories that took … characters in the mythology and imagined them in ways that made them vibrant and modern and interesting and pathological and tragic. … To me, it’s just one of the greatest works ever, not just of Batman, but of anything comic-related. I would swear by that series and “Batman Beyond” … as some of the greatest comic work ever done.
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