Things are never gumdrops and teddy bears for whoever chooses to don the Batsuit, and the events in Batman #46, in stores now, written by Scott Snyder with Greg Capullo on art, are no different. At the beginning of the issue, the next chapter of the “Superheavy” story arc, the villainous Mr. Bloom is attacking an assemblage of Gotham City’s elite and wealthy, gathered to see a formal unveiling of the new robo-Bat suit by the Powers Corporation. This puts Bloom in the cross-hairs of former police commissioner-turned-Dark Knight Jim Gordon, who hopes to stop the villain’s madness. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne, who still doesn’t know he used to be a Caped Crusader, looks to take his relationship with current paramour Julie Madison.
With all of these developments sprouting up, I recently spoke with Mr. Snyder and Mr. Capullo about how Gordon sees the mission of Batman, how an army of robo-Batsuits plays into the Powers Corporation’s plans for the world, and why wedding bells aren’t ringing quite yet for Mr. Wayne.
FreakSugar: Something that didn’t occur to me until last issue is how much the Powers Corporation [which is funding the new Batman and bat robo-suit] idea of Batman ties into what Bruce had in mind: legacy. Whereas Bruce was training his various sidekicks, however, [Powers Corporation CEO] Geri Powers has made it more of a streamlined, ordered affair, plucking out what she perceives as doesn’t working as she goes along. Did you have that parallel in mind when you started the “Superheavy” arc?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I think there are two opposing ideas. I think, for Bruce, when he was working on the “final invention” machine [that, if it worked, would clone him], he’s willing to die over and over for Gotham City. He wants to be the only one to bear the brunt of that punishment. It’s Batman bursting into Batman and on and on; it’s sort of a strange, unnatural genealogy. But, at the same time, he can stand time, Bruce can stand up and say, “I’m nothing but the savior of the city and I can fight these impossible things that nobody could beat that are so ridiculous so you can fight the things in your own life.”
Geri, for me, wants it to be real. In the world of comics, superheroes exist. She looks at it as, “We can all be superheroes. We can create things so powerful and scary and inspiring that we can inspire each other. And it’s a noble idea. I think, ultimately, it’s flawed. Her intentions are good and she wants to take back responsibility from these superheroes and fight impossible threats. What she has to realize is that it’s our job to fight possible threats as people that are human and culpable and have their faces exposed.
So I like the idea of Batman as something real and unreal. Both Bruce and Geri are both figures that are trying to figure out ways of perpetuating it as fictional characters and as real-world corollaries.
FS: That ties into the scene where Geri proposes cities reclaiming their lives for themselves throughout the country with several robo-Bats. Do you think Gordon has the reticence and apprehension that Bruce would have if he knew about her plan? He doesn’t seem totally on-board with or sold on the idea?
SS: Yeah, here’s the thing about Gordon: Gordon knows what he’s doing is wrong. But he’s willing to sacrifice and fall into that role because he lets himself believe for a moment that it’s possible. But he falls into something that is almost too idealistic. It’s too easy. It’s almost lazy. Jim has fought his whole life to show that the police and the local government can keep people safe. And they’re flawed systems. They’re human systems. Batman is a fictional thing. He can always keep you safe.
In the aftermath of the “Endgame” storyarc, Jim wants so badly to prove to the people of Gotham that he can keep them safe and be safe and live vibrant lives. But he steps into the cowl and, in a sober moment, he knows it won’t work. So, in that moment of seeing the robo-Bats, he sees the full extension of what he’s bought into and says, “It’s too much. Let me do this one thing. And then I’ll step away or you can fire me or whatever. It can’t go further than this. It can’t go on.” I think you see a flaw here in his thinking.
FS: That scene made me wonder if he understood Bruce a bit better now. Bruce always had his own parameters about what he felt was too far and not far enough in terms of executing his mission.
SS: Yeah, I think Jim sees Bruce as someone who’s a phantom. The person he stands next to on the rooftop is real and not real. The rules that exist for that person exist only for that weird entity that is Batman, which is outside the real structures of life.
FS: We didn’t get to talk about this last time, but I was wondering about the design for Mr. Bloom, which is fantastic. While we’ve seen villains with lanky silhouettes before in Batman’s rogues gallery, the shape that Mr. Bloom cuts has a slinky, all-reaching vibe to him that’s downright creepy. What went into your character design for Bloom?
Greg Capullo: Well, Scott always gives me the seeds. [laughs] Sorry, bad joke. But Scott always gives me the seeds and it’s a matter of how we get it there. And so, when Scott approached me with the idea of Mr. Bloom, it was an idea of a creepy flower. I just couldn’t wrap my head around flowers as creepy. And then he mentioned that Bloom was weed-like, so I was like, “Okay, weeds I can see as being creepy.” They can be thorny and spindly and so on. So my design went in that direction. Scott mentioned sugar skulls and masks which is awesome and isn’t seen in traditional comics that much. And these things take on lives of their own. Once he showed me a creepy flower, one that looks carnivorous, with the eye in the center.
It sort of evolves. When Scott told me Bloom can grow and evolve and be spider-like, that’s when the freeform fun comes in. It’s growing. As time goes on, it becomes a great experience. That’s one of the fun things about drawing monsters in the first place and creating your own characters. They take on a life of their own and tell you how to draw them. Bloom is still in a state of flux. He’s still developing. He’s still changing.
FS: I say this without a hint of kiss-assery, but Bloom is probably my favorite Bat-villain of the past ten years.
GC: Wow, thank you!
FS: With Bloom, “Superheavy” feels so much like a horror story.
GC: Let me just say something at this point. I was doing Spawn, which has a horror slant, but I wanted to do superhero comics, too. But after Spawn, I got typecast in a way. After that, I worked with [The Walking Dead creator] Robert Kirkman and it was a bloodfest.
And now I have a little boy and I went back to superhero mainstream comics that I can share with him, and he’s very young. Oh, and I’m going to be on Batman! Kids love Batman! And who do I hook up with? Scott Snyder, horror writer! [laughs] Again, I’m in the horror pit! [laughs] So I guess I’m destined to do horror stuff, saddled with Scott and Bloom and doing horrific things. “I keep trying to get out, and they keep pulling me back in!” [laughs]
FS: Back when “Superheavy” began, you mentioned the shower scene we finally get to see in this issue, which have Julie and Bruce talking about their future together. While Julie seems reluctant to totally embrace this new Bruce as here to stay, how do you think she is easing into the idea that the relationship might actually work?
SS: Not to give a big spoiler, it’s not really hard to figure out that Bruce is Batman. When we did [the Batman origin storyline] “Zero Year,” Alfred says to Bruce at one point, “It’s an act o f will for people in Gotham not to believe Batman is you because it’s so obvious.” They want to believe in something bigger than themselves that is everywhere always and immortal. It’s a collective power of belief.
So, Julie has an inherent understanding of what Bruce was doing before she met him. I think she understands in some ways that Bruce’s whole gravitational pull was to be something bigger than his body and something bigger than his life. She’s hesitant to accept this new Bruce. She sees that this is a Bruce who has been forgiven and apologetic to and given back by Gotham. It’s redemptive and she’s willing to take a risk on that.
We joke around about the sex and say that we haven’t given Bruce any love in five years. [laughs] But actually, in that way, it means a lot. When I sent the script to Greg, I told him to make the scene sexy and he did a great job. But Bruce as Batman as we knew him before “Superheavy,” he was happy, but he was a ghost. He was happy in a way that is completely unhappy. He’s not a real person. He’s just completely a samurai. He’s totally devoted to his cause. Anything that’s a distraction to that makes him unhappy. But that is not a real way to live your life or to live in the real world as a person because you become entirely obsessive. That’s one of the fun things to read about Batman, but, as a real person, it would be completely self-destructive and miserable.
So giving Bruce love and romance here isn’t just a fun thing. I think it’s pretty revelatory for him to connect to somebody in a way that’s real.
FS: I was praising and cursing you as I read the issue because it’s such a sweet moment to see Bruce get some sort of gift back from the city. Obviously, I don’t know how you’re going to end the arc, but, of course, there was a hitch in my stomach, thinking, “This is not going to end well.” [laughs]
SS: [laughs] No, it’s going to work out great. He’s going to have kids, he’s going to get married, and have a wonderful life. [laughs]
FS: You’re such a liar. [laughs] Greg, I’ve mentioned this scene already, but I loved seeing the robo-Bat army. Did you have any suit you absolutely had to include in that line-up or any you want to see again?
GC: You don’t get a lot of time to design these. A lot of it was on the fly because of deadlines. One of the things I was thinking was, to save time, let’s have a bunch of giant ‘bots in the background! It’d be cool! I want to draw a Godzilla-size Batman robot. [laughs] I want to draw a Pacific Rim-style Batman robot.
SS: If only you knew what you started, Greg. [laughs] Wait ‘til Bruce takes over that ‘bot.
FS: We see that the Penguin has assembled crime lords at his lair, discussing the problem of Bloom. At the end of this issue, we also see that things aren’t wonderful for Gordon. Is there anything you can tease for next issue?
SS: This issue was the quintessential middle issue, setting up things with the Batman robots and the seeds as Bloom explained them to people. All of that will come into play later. So next issue is the end of the second act. When you see the end of the issue, you’ll go, “Oh God, this is going to go really bad.” [laughs] There are surprises for everybody. Bruce comes face-to-face with something really bad, not realizing he’s Batman, that I think will surprise everybody. Gordon does, too, and so does Bloom. At the end of next issue, all of the players realize that this is much worse than everyone thought it was going to be. The final issues past #47 go insane.
I know we’ve done a lot of crazy things to Gotham where we’ve made it post-apocalyptic and flooded it with zombie Owls. [laughs] But I promise you that at the end of #47, what we see is the biggest, craziest threat to Gotham we’ve seen.
Batman #46, written by Scott Snyder with Greg Capullo on art, is in stores now.