Change is coming to Gotham City. If you’ve read the conclusion to the “Endgame” storyline in Batman, you know that both Bruce Wayne and the Joker are presumed dead after a brutal confrontation beneath the city. This leaves a vacuum that both the Gotham City government and a corporate business feel that should be filled with a new Caped Crusader. Batman writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo spoke with us recently about the newest issue of the title, out today, and what a new Dark Knight means for Gotham City.
FreakSugar: Okay, last time we spoke we needed to be cagey about this, but the cat—or bat—is out of the bag: As we learn in Batman #41, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon has taken over the mantle of the Batman from Bruce Wayne after Bruce’s apparent death while battling the Joker. He’s the new government-sanctioned Batman, using a robotic bat-suit created by the Powers Corporation. In terms of timeline, about how long after the Joker’s attack of the city does this take place?
Scott Snyder: It takes place in real time, so about two-and-a-half to three months after “Endgame.”
FS: This seems like the issue to sell the idea of a Jim Gordon as Batman, not to just Jim, but to any fans who might be skeptical, showing that even Jim is skeptical himself.
SS: Yeah, part of it for me was addressing some of the stuff that I was scared about as a fan of Batman. I had a conversation with myself, going back and forth: “Jim Gordon as Batman, that would be great!” “No, that would be terrible!” For me, the exciting part of the story and why we had to do it is because Jim is like us. Everybody takes the mantle of Batman—from Dick Grayson to Jean-Paul-Valley—and they’re ready, or as ready as they can be.
Jim, though, is us. Jim is a character who is a friend of Batman, or a friend to the extent that he can be. But he’s a human with a family and a job. What if someone came to you and said, “It’s time for you to be Batman”? That’s the joy of the arc to me and it’s the terrifying. Again, what if someone came to you and said it’s your turn? Jim understands that, they’re right, there’s no one else who can do this right now. And second, what gave me the idea for this story is Jim’s philosophy, which is pretty resonant for me: If Batman is an extension of the system that we put in place to make our lives good—police, local government, even supporting businesses—can Batman work and do a better job if he has checks and balances and is subsidized by the city government and sanctioned by the police? Can he work if he’s someone we have power over who also helps us? Can he be a better Batman? Especially in this day and age where people worry about how they’re going to be protected if things go wrong, relationships between neighborhoods, all of this kind of stuff.
So, in a way, while this arc is super-bombastic and zany and fun, it actually has quite a big heart. It’s something that’s personal to all of us on the team. It’s not just something that’s a crazy, fun ride, but beneath the surface is a Trojan horse. It’s a story about what Batman means. Can he mean something a little different than he has before, or is that possible?
FS: I feel like the story and art really sold that idea because, like you said, you start off Batman #41 with an energy monster and a Gundam-like Batman, but you really ground the story by showing Jim’s fears and worries and what would go into selecting a successor. In that same vein, Greg, I was wondering if it was fun to draw characters who weren’t necessarily street-level, human characters like the Court of Owls and the Joker that you hadn’t had the chance to touch on in the Bat-universe?
Greg Capullo: Oh yeah, it was a lot of fun. Everyone likes monsters and monsters are fun to draw as an artist! It’s nice to have the opportunity to get a little far out there. So yeah, nothing but fun. Definitely cool.
FS: This is for both of you. After Batman’s apparent death, I could see how there might be a natural inclination for the book to go even darker, to look at what happens to Gotham without a Batman to shepherd it. Instead, I like the fact that you two have chosen to acknowledge his absence, but to show that life goes on. In a way, Gordon taking on the mantle is a nod to what Batman did for the city and an understanding that there’s a time for grieving and a time to move forward.
SS: Oh, very much, completely. The title of the story now is “Superheavy” which speaks to the idea that the Powers family who has created the Bat-suit makes a lot of its money from experimentation in the dark territory of the periodic table. But one of the ideas was to call the story “Afterlife.” Another idea was to call it “Rebirth.” It speaks to all of those you talk about. Because, obviously, Bruce has to come back. The way this functions for me is by thinking of the city as a real place. One of the things I like writing about with Batman is Batman’s mortality. It’s one of the most fascinating things about him. As a person, I think daily, “Bruce, you’re not going to be able to do these things forever.” He’s obviously not a real person, but I try to write the book as though Gotham City is a real place. Like you said, this arc is meant to be a celebration in Gotham, a new life and new combinations of things that create strange and amalgams.
I think, ultimately, we all know that Bruce has to come back. This is one of the things I love about superhero stories, though, like Superior Spider-Man when Doctor Octopus was Spider-Man and when Dick Grayson was Batman and Bucky was Captain America. In a lot of ways, it’s like you’re taking a vacation. You know you have to come home after seeing new places that are exotic and exciting and wonderful, but it also gives you a brand new angle why home is so important. It makes it even feel better when you eventually get back home.
FS: We’ll talk about the elephant—or bunny—in the room: I thought it was hilarious that you both winked at some fans’ objections the robot suit Gordon is wearing has elements of a bunny. We saw that the suit can change colors, but will we see any evolution to the suit as Gordon continues? Except for the ears, of course!
GC: The thing with the ears: Number one, we wanted to poke fun at it because the fans are poking fun. Why not? [laughs] When I first drew the suit, I never saw the ears like fans did when they first saw the suit. In fact, one of the things Scott said to me initially was to have asymmetrical ears, and that didn’t grab me. But as we go forward, though, I see the ears going back as Jim’s attacking. One goes up for better communication. Depending on the story element, who knows? I’m free with this sort of thing. Drawings change on the fly, we’ll adapt. We’ll make it all work.
FS: As you go along in the issue, I didn’t see them as bunny ears. Having them move around really helped sell what you just described.
GS: Aw, thanks! And when you see one picture, it’s not the whole picture. You have to see the suit in action. And it was a learning curve for me, figuring out the angles to draw it, three-quarter turns, all that stuff. Everything is subject to change when you’re in the field.
FS: Scott, you discussed how you two felt that this story really delved into what it means to be Batman at the heart of the character. After his initial outings as the Dark Knight, what is Jim thinking about what Bruce’s role when he was the Batman? Is he gaining an appreciation of just what the Batman did for the city?
SS: I think Jim has always appreciated what Bruce has done for the city in a way that he’s Batman’s biggest fan, despite his complicated relationship with him. Ultimately, I think, now that Jim has stepped into the suit, his goal is to define himself against that Batman. In the first issue, issue #41, the thing for Jim is “Am I Batman and is this the right thing to do?” The argument, too, though, is that “You know the city better than anyone else. You know it like Batman knew it. You need to do this.” The way Jim solves this is in that issue. In issue #42, the second issue of the story, it’s really about a struggle for him thinking, “Okay, I can do this, but can I do it as well as the original Batman?” And the lesson in that is really comes from surprising places. He can’t do it the way Bruce did it. He has to do it his way. And the only way Batman can work is for Gordon to be Gordon in the suit, and do it a different way than Bruce did it. So his relationship with Bruce and the suit and how he has to come to define himself against the legacy of the Batman that came before him.
FS: Will we get the opportunity to see reactions from Bruce’s extended Batman family on this new Batman running around Gotham?
SS: In issue #43, we’ll get to see reactions from the Bat-family. How it came to me, last fall, DC had a Bat-summit with all of the creative teams of the Batman titles: Batgirl, Gotham Academy, everybody. When I pitched the idea, I told the teams that if they didn’t think they could incorporate our story into their titles, I could just write it in Batman or we could just scrap it. But if they had stories they can do, let’s do it and I said I could be flexible with them and how it works for their books. The great thing was that all of the teams for those books—Grayson, Batgirl, everybody—were very enthusiastic. Batgirl just had a great story dealing with Jim, Barbara’s father. Over on Grayson, the team said it gave them great stories, since Dick Grayson no longer has Bruce as a home base and he’s just a spy out in the cold. And Damian will have something to say to Gordon, wanting to tell him that he’s not Batman. So we see the Bat-family’s reactions in all of those books.
FS: I’d like to do a little Bat-word association. Alfred.
GC: Hand. Too soon? [laughs]
FS: What can you tease about next issue, if anything?
GC: In issue #42, Gotham comes to life in a way you’ve never seen it before.
SS: Yeah, and it has one of the biggest surprises of the arc toward the end. And really, every issue of the story has a moment where you’ll go, “Wait, what, they’re going there?” And issue #42 has one of the moments where I think you’ll be very happy.