‘Batman: Zero Year’: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

June 23, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
bm cv32 ds Batman: Zero Year: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

"Batman" No. 32, the penultimate issue of the "Zero Year" saga, is out Wednesday. Cover art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)

bm cv32 1 25 var Batman: Zero Year: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

Tony Moore ("The Walking Dead," "Fear Agent") created this variant cover for "Batman" No. 32. (DC Entertainment)

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Jim Gordon speaks over radio with Batman in a scene from "Batman" No. 32, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, with inks by Danny Miki and colors by FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)

bm 32 7 Batman: Zero Year: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

Things aren't going according to plan for the Dark Knight in this scene from "Batman" No. 32. (DC Entertainment)

batman 31 6 Batman: Zero Year: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

The Riddler challenges Gotham while Batman prepares to meet that challenge on Page 6 of "Batman" No. 31, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, with inks by Danny Miki and colors by FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)

batman 31 7 Batman: Zero Year: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

Batman dramatically arrives to face the Riddler on Page 7 of "Batman" No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

batman 31 lion1 Batman: Zero Year: Scott Snyder on Riddler, teen Bruce, Batcycle

Batman comes face to face with lions after the Riddler drops him into a pit in "Batman" No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

“Batman: Zero Year” is writer Scott Snyder’s and artist Greg Capullo’s ambitious 12-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 11 of the saga arrives Wednesday with “Batman” No. 32.

If Bruce Wayne were normal, what hope would Gotham have?

In last month’s “Batman” No. 31, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo wove together two tales of the hero at different points in his young life — as a high school student and in his early days as Batman — in which he was tested by an authority figure and responded in a way no one normal would.

Where the teenage Bruce is working through his childhood trauma as amplified by adolescence and ultimately answers technically correctly (though maybe not rightfully) — still learning to turn his negative emotions into a positive, Snyder says — the adult Batman’s response to the Riddler has given his city some hope of emerging from Edward Nygma’s choking grasp.

But with two issues left in “Zero Year,” the Riddler may still have more tricks up his sleeve. The penultimate episode of Snyder’s and Capullo’s sweeping exploration of how a boy became the Bat will be released Wednesday, and Hero Complex readers can get an early peek at some scenes from it in the gallery above or via the links below.

Cover | Moore Variant | Gordon | Climbing | Solo

In a phone interview Friday, Snyder discussed teenage Bruce’s pain, Batman’s new alliance with Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, that dramatic Batcycle entrance to face the Riddler, fighting lions (and horses), and more.

Hero Complex: Both Batman’s appearance before the Riddler and the flashback of Bruce in high school before a teacher demanding he answer a question show him responding to a challenge not how the challenger expected, and yet ultimately correctly. Can you talk about the importance of that aspect of Bruce’s personality – and the changes in the way it’s expressed from that teen Bruce to the adult Batman?

The Riddler challenges Gotham while Batman prepares to meet that challenge on Page 6 of "Batman" No. 31, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, with inks by Danny Miki and colors by FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)

The Riddler challenges Gotham while Batman prepares to meet that challenge on Page 6 of “Batman” No. 31, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, with inks by Danny Miki and colors by FCO Plascencia. (DC Entertainment)

Scott Snyder: We’re really trying hard with “Zero Year” to not just modernize his childhood years, but I’m trying very hard to make them personal to me. And try and assume in some ways that if I can get onto the page why I relate so deeply to young Bruce that other people will as well or that many people hopefully have sort of the same connection to him as I do.

For me, with young Bruce the idea is that he suffers this tragedy and afterward he’s greatly traumatized in a way that I think a lot of us can relate to, in that he really believes he’s going crazy. He can’t think straight. He’s having all sorts of panics and depression and anxiety — he really just can’t function. He feels as though in some ways there’s no getting past this – this is sort of the black pit for him. But at the same time, the thing that’s so wonderful about young Bruce and I think older Bruce too is that he’s resilient. He makes a decision at some point that he has to fight through it, and he finds a way, no matter how crazy that way might be and how individuated, to get through the miasma of depression and guilt and fear and come out the other side. And that, to me, is what makes him such an enduring character.

I think what he learns from youth to maturity in the story … is that he can’t let his anger and his rage get the best of him. I think in the past, even though he answers that question correctly, he burns it onto the teacher’s lawn [laughs] – which is so unacceptable and winds up being self-destructive. So he’s still on a path in those young years, and you’ll see this especially in 33 where he crosses a line into a dark place where he just has not figured out how to use his anger and his depression and his guilt and fear as motivation yet. He’s trying, and sometimes he kind of comes out on top like he did in terms of answering the question. In the bigger picture, I think he’s still on a pretty self-destructive path at that moment.

HC: In that high school flashback sequence, which begins with Bruce quietly repeating “You’re normal” to himself like a mantra, the teacher’s question – about a projectile being fired at a target – is insensitive, but I don’t think the teacher is aware that it is. Bruce is clearly stressed – he’s envisioning his classmates with head-shot wounds. With the way he finally responds, was there any worry that was going too far? And did you have a conception of how long this is before he leaves Gotham to go train?

SS: You’ll learn how long it is before he leaves Gotham to train in 33. It’s quite close to when he leaves. And yeah, I always worry with these things that maybe we’re cutting too close to dark material. But it feels very right for me personally with this character. He’s not angry and violent and explosive in that way. He’s tormented. He wants to get through this kind of black cloud of fear and depression and anxiety that he’s feeling. He wants to just believe badly that things will be OK, and he can’t see through it at that moment. It’s more for me about his mental health and that sense of going through a dark period that I think a lot of us have experienced at one point or another where it just seems like everything is coming to an end or that you won’t make it through this time and that you’ll never feel normal again.

PHOTOS: 75 enduring images from Batman’s first 75 years

HC: Bruce learned earlier in Zero Year that he can’t do it all alone, that he needs allies. And this issue shows him working with a team that includes Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox. Within that team, I noticed that Batman addressed Gordon as “Jim” but Fox as the more formal “Mr. Fox.” How do you see the difference in how Bruce sees those two?

SS: [Laughs] We actually had a big discussion about that – Mark Doyle (the editor), me and Greg. I think the idea was that Jim asking him to call him Jim was the beginning of that relationship with Batman that’s so familiar to us, where they trust each other above almost anyone … that it was important to establish the beginning of that. At the same time, I think there’s a deference to Lucius as a friend of his father’s, and as someone who’s sort of a father figure that parallels the way he addresses Alfred, sort of formally, he wants to be called Master Bruce because that satisfies kind of what Alfred wants. So here there’s a deference to Lucius similarly where he calls him Mr. Fox both as Batman to sound less familiar, so he doesn’t realize he’s Bruce, and at the same time to give a degree of formality that always seems very professional for him.

Batman dramatically arrives to face the Riddler on Page 7 of "Batman" No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

Batman dramatically arrives to face the Riddler on Page 7 of “Batman” No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

HC: Last time we talked, you teased Page 6 – with the Riddler talking about a knight coming forward while Batman is armoring up, after a fashion. And then, in reading the issue, you flip the page and there’s that dynamic Batcycle splash on Page 7 of sort of the knight on his steed. Could you talk about how those two pages came together with the art team?

SS: When Batman returned to fight the Riddler in earnest in front of the whole city in full view, we needed something really spectacular. It was a shot that I had mentioned to Greg before we started “Zero Year” altogether – and that’s why in the cold open [in “Batman” No. 21] he’s on that motorcycle.

I said, “What if when he goes to fight the Riddler we do some kind of Evel Knievel move where he jumps over people watching the Riddler on the screen to face [him]?” Greg loved it and did sketches of it before we actually began the issue…. For me, that page was one of the ones I’ve been looking forward to for almost a year, and it did not disappoint at all. Greg and Danny [Miki] and FCO [Plascencia], their choices when it comes to the storytelling are always very inspiring to me. It never quite looks the way I imagined it … and yet it’s always better, like exponentially better, for coming back the way it does.

I imagined it as shot almost from the side, where he would be jumping over and you’d get the height of it. Instead, you’re in the point of view of someone looking up at him, which makes it so much more dynamic and heroic, or reverential. I just love that shot. I want it on a shirt. I asked [DC], and I think Greg and I are going to make a shirt out of it for each other.

HC: So, back in “Death of the Family,” Batman infamously punched a horse. And, now, in “Savage City,” he blows fire at a lion and apparently throws his sort of Batarang bike ornament at it. Have you taken any heat over the lion scene like you did over the horse?

SS: In a playful way. I have people threatening to wear lion masks and picket me at cons the same way they did with horse masks as a joke. I would just say that remember that no real animals were harmed in the making of “Batman.” Only fictional animals and many fictional people, unfortunately. But I love animals – we have a cat. I’m a big cat lover. Our cat, Fergus, is 19 years old, actually. She’s right here…. She meows kind of like an old frog.

Batman comes face to face with lions after the Riddler drops him into a pit in "Batman" No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

Batman comes face to face with lions after the Riddler drops him into a pit in “Batman” No. 31. (DC Entertainment)

HC: Editor Katie Kubert, who has been with yours and Capullo’s “Batman” run from the start, and whom you also worked with during “The Black Mirror” at “Detective Comics,” is departing. Is there anything you’d like to say about her contributions?

SS: Kate is a huge, huge part of the Batman team and always will be. For people like her and Mike Marts, who’ve been there from the beginning and gave me my gig, basically, on “Batman,” their work and their support is written into the DNA of the run. She’ll always have a tremendous place in all of our hearts of all of us that are on the Bat-team, and she’ll always have a place in Gotham. I know that she’s going to go over there and do a terrific job, and I can’t wait to see what she works on next.

We’re all good friends, and I think we all wish each other the best all the time. I’m sure we’ll all get to work together at some point [later in our careers]. Again, there’s nothing but love between Mike and Katie and all of us on the Bat-team, and it’s exciting too just because of Mark Doyle coming in for Mike – Mike couldn’t have done a better job – but Mark is also a very different editor, and he and I go way back. He got me my job, really, at DC Comics with “American Vampire.” He and I are used to working together on everything, and he and I are very close friends…. So as much as I already miss Katie, I’m super-excited for her for everything she’s going to do in the future, but [the Batman] line also is in very good hands. We’re really, really thrilled about [what’s coming up].

HC: What can you tell readers heading into Issue 32?

SS: It sets up the final confrontation between Batman and the Riddler, and you’ll see how high the stakes are. This is sort of the Riddler’s big game, where Bruce, Lucius and Jim think that they have Edward cornered, when in fact he’s about to make his biggest move yet…. It brings all of the bombast and muscularity and color of the series, and then some, to the issue. There’s even a page that Greg and FCO and Danny and I are calling “Disco Batman.” You have to see it – it’s just totally nutty. It gets crazier and crazier. [Laughs] This is definitely the craziest Batman story I think I’ll ever write. I’m intensely proud of it for being as out there as we’ve managed to make it.

– Blake Hennon | Google+ | @LATHeroComplex

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