Batman issue 44 shifts focus to an interlude, pulling attention away from the present in the current storyline “Superheavy” and looking instead to the past. In “Superheavy,” former police commissioner James Gordon has taken to guarding the streets of Gotham City as Batman, donning a mech suit and working in conjunction with Gotham’s long arm of the law in the absence of Bruce Wayne. However, while Batman #44 takes place during Bruce’s early days as the Caped Crusader, the issue very much impacts Gordon’s present, both in terms in how he views the city under his watch and the emergence of “Superheavy”’s antagonist Mr. Bloom.
In our interview with writer Scott Snyder and fill-in artist Jock (Mr. Snyder’s collaborator on Detective Comics and Image Comics’ Wytches), the creative team discusses Gotham City as an organism unto itself, how Gotham’s people are influenced by the economic disparities existing in the city, and how real world events impacted the tale.
FreakSugar: Issue #44 is an interlude for “Superheavy,” instead focusing on a story post-“Zero Year.” Before we get into details of that story, I was wondering why the interlude and why you thought of Jock to bring in on this issue in particular? He’s no stranger to the Bat-world, working with you on Detectiver Comics’ “The Black Mirror.”
Scott Snyder: I knew I was going to do this issue for a while. The rest of the arc is very bombastic and colorful and zany. But really, at the core of the story, it’s about Commissioner Gordon bridging the gap from the events of “Endgame” and looking at the elements of the city and what things are intended to keep Gotham safe. So for this issue, for me, was the heart of the arc in a lot of ways. When I knew I wanted to do it, I started talking to Jock quite a while ago. So it worked out perfectly.
Jock: When Scott asked me to do it and told me what the arc was about, I was completely on-board. And I knew what kind of art I wanted to use, a gritty art that would complement the origin story. And the story is so timely that I hope it resonates with readers and that they enjoy it.
FS: The art was absolutely gorgeous and I felt like the extended length of the issue gave the story a chance to breathe; not only because it’s an intricate story, but also the larger landscapes and the smaller moments you brought to the issue, Jock, were able to be on full display.
Without giving away the ending for readers, much of the violence we see in this issue seems to speak to a lot of what we’ve been seeing in the news lately, with almost every day another senseless act of violence hitting the airwaves. We know that these aren’t isolated incidents, but the news has made viewers more acutely aware of the situation. When writing this issue, was any of that in the back of your mind?
SS: Absolutely. It was one of the reasons I reached out to Brian [Azzarello, who co-wrote the issue]. We’re good friends, but we’ve never collaborated before. For me, I wanted to bring him also because of all the contemporary issues that we bring to this chapter. Brian is excellent at bringing in those issues and handling them the way they need to be handled.
When reading the issue, you’re very aware that it’s something that’s very potent right now and is part of a larger contemporary conversation. But, as a writer, it’s not built a story that’s built in any way to exploit to touch that third rail and written for the sake of being contemporary. It’s meant to serve the whole arc of what we’re writing. It’s built around this idea that Batman is something a lot of us care about. Of course, Batman doesn’t exist in our world, but we look at why a kid in that world, where there’s disparity between the rich and the poor and the shakiness of political systems, what would Batman do? We talk about this with this teenager Peter Duggio and the officer who shot him, which does hit close to home what we’re hearing about in the news so much recently.
With all of these systemic problems, what is something that would happen? Bruce Wayne develops housing [to revitalize neighborhoods after destruction in Gotham City], essentially pushing people out of the neighborhood, raising property values, which was not his intent. The Penguin and politicians all try to seize on that, too. For me, it’s about keeping that focus, even when there are elements that are seen in the real world, and being sensitive to be a bigger part of the story, without being derailed.
FS: Jock, after being away from the world of the Batman for a while, is there a way you approached drawing the character or the world of Batman in general? [Note: The last time Jock collaborated on a Batman title with Scott Snyder on the story “The Black Mirror,” Dick Grayson, Nightwing, was under the cowl, not Bruce Wayne.]
J: One of the interesting things to me working with Scott on “The Black Mirror” was that Dick Grayson was Batman. For this issue, I tried to do my own thing, to which Scott was very encouraging for me to do. Scott and Greg have been doing so great on the series. For Bruce-as-Batman, I stuck more with being iconic, with big, black shapes, whereas Dick was more acrobatic and lithe. I tried to make sure Bruce looked grand.
SS: I wanted to say that, big credit to Jock and colorist Lee Loughridge. ONe of the things that I thought was beautiful about the book was how the scenes set in the past were colored vibrantly by Lee, while the present was colored grey. The thing about Lee and Brian and Jock was not only did they bring their best, they brought a creativity to it that was a joy to see.
J: Because of the nature of the story, I think we all had to serve the story as best we could. Scott’s script was phenomenal.
FS: Throughout your run, Scott, there’s this thread that addresses that maybe Bruce doesn’t know Gotham City as much as he would like to think he does. At one point, while Batman is interrogating the Penguin about the murder investigation that is the thrust of the issue, Cobblepot mocks him, telling Bruce that he knows nothing about Gotham. And we see that run through the “Court of Owls” and “Endgame” storylines as well.
At the end of the issue, Batman seems to suggest that everyone has had culpability in the death of Peter Duggio. Was it your intention to tie that into what the Pengun says and everything that’s gone on in your run so far?
SS: Yeah, I think, for me, Gotham is the thing that keep me coming back to Batman every arc. Growing up in New York, it’s fascinating that I’ll never know everything about the city.
The beginning of this issue starts after the events of [the storyline] “Zero Year” [in which Bruce Wayne saves the city early in his career as Batman]. He’s overconfident. He already knows what’s best for Gotham. That’s the thing, though: Any time you think you know a building or a street or a neighborhood, things change constantly. You can go away for a month and it’ll change. You can’t know the city.
For me, that’s what Bruce has to learn about Gotham City initially, beyond scaring criminals into the shadows. He knows how to do that. In this story, it’s about him learning how to inspire people to be good and better. That’s what’s wonderful about Batman and what keeps me coming back.