Batman has not always had the opportunity to simply, but writer Scott Snyder is making sure the Dark Knight’s micro-naps are fewer and farther between in All-Star Batman. Following the conclusion of his battle for the soul of Harvey Dent in “My Own Worst Enemy” in ASB #5, the Caped Crusader is out of the frying pan and into the refrigerator in All-Star Batman #6, part one of “Ends of the Earth.” Bruce Wayne races against time to stop the somewhat tragic Mr. Freeze from transforming the world into a frozen deathscape, and it’s uncertain whether Batman will be able to curb his plans this go around.
I spoke with Mr. Snyder recently about Batman and Mr. Freeze’s relationship, how the two are mirrors of one another, and how Mr. Snyder incorporates science into his stories.
FreakSugar: Bruce has had a rough go of things of late. Where do we find Batman, emotionally, at the beginning of All-Star Batman #6?
Scott Snyder: Well, for me, with issue 6, he’s still ragged from his battle with Two-Face and now he’s up against something even bigger and more world-shattering in this arc. This arc is really about looking at our totemic villains: ice and plant life and madness, these things that really loom large and haven’t always been explored in Earth-shattering ways with the villains. Sometimes they have and I love those stories with Poison Ivy and Mad Hatter and Mr. Freeze, but I wanted to do a new twist with each one.
Here, we have Freeze [Victor Fries] is on a new mission. Instead of just trying to bring [his wife] Nora back, he wants to change the world into a place that Nora would like. So in that way, it’s a new take on his thesis statement about the world. It’s a lot of fun to try to take these iconic characters and make them scarier in ways that are both personal to me and hopefully speak to the current moment.
FS: You’ve evolved Bruce and Victor’s relationship since Batman Annual #1 a few years back. Where does Victor’s relationship with Bruce stand when we find them together at the beginning of issue 6?
SS: I think, in some ways, Batman sympathizes with Victor, but feels that he’s operating out of a place of selfishness. Even when he’s acting in a way that makes him sympathetic—to bring back the person he loves—he’s still doing it in ways that harm exponentially larger amounts of people. So there’s always that myopic tunnel vision with Freeze. I think on some level, Batman sees himself reflected in Freeze: He’s a man of science. He’s someone who’s obsessed and on a mission. But there’s a tipping into nearsightedness with Freeze that’s dangerous and dark.
And Freeze sees Batman in much the ways. He thinks that Batman thinks too narrowly, too idealistically. He thinks Batman should be more flexible and adjust to the world, making of it what he can instead of what he thinks it should be.
FS: The issue had a very 30 Days of Night vibe and creepier than we’ve seen. Where is Victor’s state of mind in this issue? He has a desperation about him that we haven’t seen a while. You mentioned that he’s taking a new tactic this time, creating a world that he thinks Nora would want. That’s a bit reflected in the poem he recounts at the beginning of the issue. Or do you think that’s a justification and a rationalization he’s making so he can do what he wants to do?
SS: I think there’s something of that in him. I think he’s also been altered by his accident so part of it is that he exists on this side of death. He’s like a ghost in our world so he’s longing for something that can probably never happen with Nora. In that way, there’s part of him that wants to drag the world through death to the other side, into this phantom un-reality he has in his mind that he thinks is a beautiful thing.
So I think, in some ways, he’s a sympathetic character, but there’s something deeply creepy about him to me. Death is cold. You have a body that’s blue. On the other hand, he’s a reminder of how wrong all of our passions can go.
FS: You’ve worked with the team on #6 quite a bit in the past, from the interlude issue during your Mr. Bloom story in Batman to “The Black Mirror” to Wytches. What’s the process like working with these folks? Have you developed a shorthand in how you handle scripts because they know what you expect and vice versa?
SS: Yeah, we’re family at this point. Jock and I have been friends for seven-plus years. He and [artist] Francesco [Francavilla] took a chance on me when I was nobody. I’ll always be grateful to them for that. “Black Mirror” is one of the books I’m proudest of in my whole career, both as a prose writer and as a comic writer.
So, we’ve stayed in really close touch. Obviously, Jock is a consistent work partner with Wytches and other stuff. And Francesco, I’m talking about doing other stuff with him as well. We just got through talking about doing more projects. It’s so easy with them because we worked for a year together on “Black Mirror.” Jock and I have worked together so many times since that we have our own language and it’s super easy.
FS: Are there types of scenes you like to deliver that you know they’ll like to render, as long as they still serve the story?
SS: Yeah, that’s one of the fun things about this series for me. I didn’t want it to just have different artists, but a completely different feel, issue to issue, arc to arc, villain to villain. So, one of the reasons to pair villains with particular artists because a) certain artists wanted to draw them and were excited about them and wanted to revamp them. But b) because it allows me to change up my style and do something that is organic to that villain and that story.
So I get very excited if Jock is doing Mr. Freeze, I’m not going to do it in Gotham, I’m going to do it remote. And I’m not going to do it in an urban center of some kind. I want it to have an end-of-the-world feel, which he loves to draw. And when Tula Lotay draws Poison Ivy [in issue 7], I know the things that she relates to about the character: the scientist aspect of it, the passion the character has not just for the botanical world, but every living thing beyond humanity. And so I try to create a story that will fit her style, but also fit the character in a way we haven’t seen before.
It’s a constant challenge for me in a way that Batman wasn’t. Batman was a whole other set of challenges, which I loved, with Greg. But this is a whole different animal, which allows me to flex a different set of muscles, which lets me do something unique and special with each arc.
FS: Judging from the start of this new arc, the tone of ASB is still very over-the-top, high octane as in the initial story, but with the emotional impact you’re known for. That’s not to say you didn’t have huge tales in Batman—like the city battle with Mr. Bloom, for instance—but do you feel there are stories you can tell more easily tonally in ASB that might not have fit in your Batman title?
SS: Oh sure. I mean, Batman is about protecting his home, protecting Gotham, from everything. That’s his lair, that’s his headquarters, that’s an extension of himself and everything he believes in. Taking him out of that is incredibly liberating because he fights thing that, to me, are larger than life, the way he couldn’t in an arc like with Bloom, where the entire city is transformed and under attack.
With these stories, I’m able to create that sort of threat tenfold in different ways. As you’ll see, what Freeze was doing filters into the next issue and the next issue, until you get to issue nine, where you’re dealing with war games that could end the world. It’s Batman in Washington, DC. Spoiler. [laughs]
In Gotham, I’m always trying to do metaphorical expressions of what I find exciting or terrifying in the world, but they’re limited by that grounded, urban setting. When I get him out of Gotham, I can almost have him face anything that I think is a mirror for the kids or the world or myself. It’s a bigger stage. It’s a crazier stage for me. I think having done Batman in Gotham for so long, it’s really freeing and exciting.
FS: You inject a lot of science in this issue, discussing biological agents and bat homeostasis and temperature concerns. How much research did you have to do to prep for this story? Is there something that you know about already that you want to incorporate into the story or is it a reverse-engineering process?
SS: It’s usually the first. I usually hear about something that I put in a notebook later for that villain. Like for Poison Ivy, it’s these bristle cone pines. I got obsessed with the idea that the oldest living things on the planet might these trees in the desert. So I thought, why wouldn’t she go there to experiment to create cures for things, almost the opposite of what Freeze is doing? Why wouldn’t she see what happens and what forms as a result? So the story forms out of that idea. With Freeze, it was the same. It was learning about these living things in the ice that, if they melt, could become deadly viruses, new forms of life, and how terrifying that is.
And other times it’s like learning that the bat is the hottest mammal because its temperature goes so high when it flies. That’s what makes it resistant to diseases. That’s a reverse-engineer. I was like, how does Batman get out of this one? What’s the biology of bats? And was like, oh, it’s death versus death! It’s cold death versus hot death and who’s going to win? Well, hot death is going to win because it’s Batman.
FS: We also see a continuation of “The Cursed Wheel” backup story, with Duke feeling his way as to what type of crimefighter he’ll be. Each part so far seems to have an almost Joseph Campbell feel to it, with confronting his past and reconciling the state of his parents to his encounter with Daryl. Was that intentional?
SS: That’s a really good way of thinking about it. I think, at the end, what we’re trying to do with him is make sure he really goes through sort of something that pits him against every conceivable obstacle in sort of that round robin of training. So, for us, it’s something where we wanted to go full circle and have him face off with villains he saw or he was paired with when he was first introduced: the Riddler, the story of his parents culminate, the Joker, and all sorts of things that made him who he is. That way he can confront and stand down some of the fears that will make him an effective hero in Gotham.
The end of this arc should land him in his new role and I’m really excited about that. It hope people are really excited about it, too.
FS: What can you tease about what’s coming up in 7?
SS: Issue 7 is focused on Poison Ivy with Tula. It picks up where issue 6 left off. It even has the same opening, with Batman emerging from the landscape. Batman realizes he did something wrong in this story or someone is behind it that made him think he did something wrong. What Mr. Freeze released is starting to get out and it’s spreading across the entire southwest of the United States. Batman doesn’t know how to stop it so he has to go to some his worst villains to figure it out.
All-Star Batman #6, the first part of “Ends of the Earth,” written by Scott Snyder with Jock on art, is on sale now from DC Comics.
From the official issue description:
“Cold to the Core”! Batman travels to Alaska to confront Mr. Freeze as he attempts to extract the world’s oldest ice core and bring humanity to a new Ice Age! Powerhouse artist Jock joins Scott Snyder to bring you another of the Dark Knight’s rogues like you’ve never seen him before.