After 40 issues, garnering unheralded acclaim the past four years, some creative teams would pack it in after killing off their lead character and leave it to others to pick it up. Not the Batman team.
Writer Scott Snyder and penciller Greg Capullo have taken the legend of Batman to a new level with last month’s Divergence special, leading into the creation of an all-new Batman — Commissioner James Gordon. Snyder sat down with Comicosity in advance of this Wednesday’s Batman #41 to share his thoughts on Jim’s inaugural adventure, how he fits for him as the next Batman, and just what it’s like to have written three men under the cowl in his career so far.
[Preview images are for this week’s Batman #41, courtesy DC Comics.]
Matt Santori-Griffith: Scott, always exciting to be able to sit down and talk Batman with you! Jim Gordon is actually the third guy in the Batman suit you’ve written in the last six years. How have they each been different for you?
Scott Snyder: It’s been strange. I feel like I’ve been really lucky that they’ve almost followed my own chronology or aging.
The first guy I got to write in the cowl was Dick Grayson. When he was Batman, he was sort of bewildered by it and excited and terrified, and that’s how I felt coming to Gotham when I was so green. He was really easy to write under the cowl for me because he was like, “I can’t believe I’m Batman!” and I was like, “I can’t believe I’m writing Batman, Dick. We’re going to get along great!”
And then with Bruce, I felt pretty ready to try it. It was still pretty intimidating, though.
With Jim, I think the thing that’s so much fun about it is that Jim worries he’s been through too much. That he’s too old. He’s still not old. He’s only 46. But at the same time, to be Batman, you have to be in your prime. The idea that he’s got to step up and take on a super-villain that Gotham is going to throw at him — presumably of his own making and a perfect antagonist for him — is the challenge of his life.
For me and Greg, having been on the book for four years, we feel like, every time we finish a massive arc like “End Game,” we have to ask, “Do we have what it takes to get back into the ring again?” So, Gordon I relate to really well at this point in my career. I have tons of energy left for the book, but he’s someone who speaks to that fear, deep down, that maybe I don’t have it in me to do another big arc, as opposed to the smaller mysteries.
The other thing that’s interesting about Jim — and I hope this speaks to people who are reading the book for the first time, or longtime fans — he’s also the character that’s closest to being us. He’s a fan of Batman. He’s an ally to Batman, but he’s intensely human. He has flaws, he’s mortal. He has a daughter and a son. He’s got a marital history. He works for a paycheck.
He’s the closest thing to a mirror to the people who read the book and enjoy Batman as a character. What if you got to be Batman? What if someone came to you and said, “You need to step up and take this.” Me? You’re crazy. Then you think about it and realize, yeah, maybe I am the only one who can do this.
There’s a tremendous exuberance to this arc, where it feels really fun to write Batman as though I got to be Batman. Or someone reading the book got to be Batman. It’s all the things Jim Gordon worries about for himself.
And ultimately, the real reason why this story is so exciting to me is because Jim has a belief as to why Batman must work this way, and it’s really compelling to me and Greg. He believes that it’s possible Batman would work better if he was an extension of the system — an extension of the police, local government, and business. All the things that form the infrastructure of the city that is culpable. You can have a system of checks and balances over Batman this way.
This is sort of the culmination of things Jim Gordon has fought for his entire life. In that way, his whole belief system is on the line.
I think it’s a pretty resonant question for me right now. If you had a city like Gotham, that’s had its trust in the police, local officials, and business officials wrecked over the years — including because of the poor job they did in “End Game,” which you’ll hear more about in the story — is there a way for Batman to restore that? To get them to believe not just in outlaws, but in people who work within the system to try to be heroes?
MSG: That’s an interesting point, because we’re seeing a bit of a blend between civic organizations and business in Gotham. Can you talk about the role businesswoman Geri Powers is playing here?
SS: Yeah, I want to say upfront: Geri Powers is not a mustache-twirling villain. To me, Geri is someone who has the best of intentions. She believes, like Jim, that the city needs a Batman, and also like Jim, that Batman needs a system of checks and balances. She just believes that having someone out there, masked and unidentified, waging a private war, is just wrong. And will hurt people.
This isn’t Robocop. He’s not a privatized policeman. For her, the Batman is a personal project subsidized by the government. The people who need to know who Batman is, know. Funding can be pulled from it. The company itself is responsible for Batman. The idea is also that he works with the police, so he’s subject to police review and all of this stuff.
It’s not that they created their own Batman to be an arm of private sector business. She truly believes, as did Bruce Wayne, that these companies need to be sources of economic responsibility in Gotham City. Batman is an extension of that too.
MSG: And Gordon has gone through a physical transformation to become the Batman, too — from mustached, bespectacled guy to hard core marine. How does this all work from Jim’s perspective?
SS: On the fun side of it, in talking to Greg, we were like, “He’s going to have to work out.” As you know, Greg works out a ton. [laughs]
The idea was that we had to build Jim Gordon up in a way that would be convincing? He can’t just be Jim Gordon in a robot suit. One of the big secrets is, he’s got to step out of that suit sometime. And when he steps out, he has to look good. So, part of the fun was wondering if we could transform him physically into someone who would look formidable. Greg just did a fantastic job of making him realistically slim the way you would imagine he would be if he worked out and got into peak condition. He looks good.
At the same time, he still looks like Jim Gordon, which is a huge triumph. It’s more than just real, it’s fantastic.
MSG: One of the things we’ve noticed in the book as it’s moved on from arc to arc is a growth toward the more fantastic. Stories have gotten a little more “day-glo,” both literally and metaphorically. Is this new arc the natural progression to that?
SS: Yeah, that’s very conscious for us. We just don’t want to repeat ourselves. I think the elasticity of character is something that is really exciting to me.
“End Game” is really twisted and dark for all of its bombast and fun. I think it’s much more colorful and celebratory than “Death of the Family,” as kind of an inversion to that story. But it’s still the Joker and has a lot of horror in it. In the same way we dealt with “Zero Year,” which is our over-the-top, colorful, almost punk rock origin, this story is meant to be a complete zig-zag from “End Game.” That was deeply about what Bruce needs from the city as Batman. This story is about very different things.
It also has a very different feel. It’s about monsters and robots and zaniness. That said, by the time you get to issues #43 and #44, you’ll see that it has quite a heart. For me, the story is very personal in a Trojan horse way. Issue #41-43 is just surprise after surprise, settling into this new version of the mythos. #44 goes back to a mystery Bruce faced about four years ago. It deals with the origin of our villain, but comes out of left field as an explanation for things that are done in a more comic booky or cartoonish way in our story. It kind of cuts through the heart of those things in a grittier way.
It’s the same kind of thing we did with “Zero Year.” That story was deeply about my hope that Batman will mean to my kids what he meant to me growing up in New York City in the 1980s. Batman: Year One and Dark Knight Returns made him very real. In “Zero Year,” he’s facing the threat of random violence, the gunmen, bombers, and the Red Hood Gang. He’s facing terrorism in the way he’s facing this madman, the Riddler. He faces resource depletion in the way the city is post-apocalyptic. It’s supposed to speak to that fear in a comic book way, that are going to be the zeitgeist for my kids.
This story, though, is about what’s going on now, and whether Batman can mean something to any of those things?
Jim Gordon’s first flight as the Dark Knight takes off as Batman #41 hits comic shops and online this Wednesday, June 10 — written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia.