On the opening day of New York Comic Con, Batman and Swamp Thing scribe Scott Snyder caught up with io9 to discuss Death of a Family, a new story about The Joker exacting revenge on the Dark Knight's pals. (Also, The Joker's face has been completely carved off and affixed to his head with a belt. He really must stop stealing Carrot Top's act.)
First off, Death of a Family debuted yesterday in Batman. This crossover arc — which runs in books like Catwoman and Nightwing — sees The Joker launching a calculated criminal spree against all members of the Bat-Family. How did you coordinate Death of a Family with all these creative teams?
Scott Snyder: I like doing this the same way I did Night of the Owls. I come up with the story and halfway through I realized that The Joker was going to target the Bat-Family in very intimate and terrifying ways. The two options are A.) I could write those characters into Batman; or B.) knowing that those books' writers can write those characters better than I ever could, let them go crazy and tie in if they like. And luckily, the writers — like Gail Simone, who I admire and grew up reading — were all in.
Joker has been watching these characters for a full year and is going to use that as ammunition against these characters. So if you've been reading Batgirl, you can read it without reading Batman and have it organic to that series. The Joker is just going crazy on the entire city.
When did you and Batman artist Greg Capullo know that The Joker was going to be the antagonist of your second big arc on Batman?
Scott Snyder: I had started thinking about an idea with The Joker way back when I was writing Detective Comics, but I wanted to do Night of the Owls first. I heard that DC wanted to remove The Joker for a year so that writers would have a chance to bring in new villains. So I talked to [Detective Comics author] Tony Daniels and asked him how he was going to take The Joker off the table. The option he liked the best was "The Joker having his face cut off." What I then did was come up with a story about why that exactly happened.
What differentiates Death of a Family from the grand tradition of Joker stories?
Scott Snyder: The Joker has a very particular mission in mind. He's very unpredictable. One of my favorite monologues in the series comes from Batman in issue #15, when he talks about The Joker's eyes and how inscrutable he is. But he does have a purpose and an axe to grind. And that axe has to do with Batman building up a family that he relies on.
In his mind, The Joker is the court jester of Gotham. He could've been Superman's court jester or "The Joker of Star City." Instead, he came here to be Batman's jester, to bring his worst nightmares to life. What he's saying essentially is, "I've served you as your jester and you've forsaken me for some false royal court. That pisses me off, and I'm going to kill them all to show you why they're not worthy of you." There will be massive ramifications of this psychology.
And over in Swamp Thing, you and Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire are entrenched in Rotworld, a story about an apocalyptic future where the planet's been overtaken by The Rot. How did you and Jeff coordinate these stories?
Scott Snyder: Jeff and I are best friends, so we knew we wanted to begin with very independent arcs, but make them dovetail together through The Rot. We've been planning it forever, and the events will completely change each of these series.
As far as the zaniness, you'll see stuff like a 200-foot-tall Swamp Thing. It really is Swamp Thing and Animal Man unleashed. Everyone is a nightmarish version of themselves. You'll see characters like Starro, Superman, Chemo, Catwoman — everybody will be completely whacked out.
Final question! In my bag, I have a stack of Silver Age comic books with deranged covers. On the cover image alone, please explain immediately how YOU would write this story. [io9 pulls out an issue of World's Finest #174, at left.]
Scott Snyder: Okay, this plot looks to me like... [Pauses] Wow, that is so Silver Age. I suppose this plot is something about Batman and Superman going back in time to the 1940s and not wanting to alter the past so that they don't accidentally change the future horribly. They don't want to affect reality, so they just beg to be executed. [Pauses again] Man, that would be a horrible comic!