Scott Snyder’s pen is no stranger to most of your favorite DC characters and some of the publisher’s biggest cosmic events. Take Justice League as of late— reality is slowly eating away at the fringes of the universe. The source wall has a big ol’ hole in it after the events of Metal. Planets are being torn apart. The League’s evacuating civilization after civilization. Ancient cosmic energies are flinging themselves onto Earth.
There’s a lot happening on the page, but none of that wild, cosmic, comic book stuff is the League’s biggest battle, according to Snyder. The real fight is continually having faith in human nature, he told io9 a few months back at New York Comic Con. “That’s what Justice League is about.”
Snyder kindly joined us in our studio at NYCC for a wide-ranging conversation about rebuilding Justice League and the JSA into DC’s mega-narrative, what lies at the core of Batman’s existential purpose, and how he made Jarro so damn irresistibly cute.
io9: Within the cosmic scale of a story like Justice League, how do you make room for intimate stories?
Scott Snyder: We’re really trying to do that, as well. For us, we build it around those intimate stories, so the biggest personal relationships we’re exploring this arc, in Doom War—Kendra Saunders, Hawkgirl, and her son Shane, Martian Manhunter, the legacy of Martian Manhunter and his possible return. Lex Luthor is going through tremendously emotional turns of character in ways that, for us, are meant to feel intimate, meant to feel personal and affecting. Each arc we’ve tried to design around different characters.
We did a “Drowned Earth” arc that was largely about Aquaman and Mera. We did one, “The Sixth Dimension,” that was about Superman and Batman. We’re trying to have this huge, crazy, almost lunatic, bombastic, cosmic stage that Justice League demands. These big set pieces, and big stakes, and big cosmic concepts, and yet really only build those around the emotionality of one or two characters an arc. That’s the goal. We want it to almost feel like crazy, wide screen, over the top, epic action, but when you drill down it’s actually quite a personal soap opera.
Why was now the time to introduce the Justice Society back into the fold?
Snyder: We wanted to wait until they were properly reintroduced by Doomsday Clock. But spiritually, the reason why I think they make sense now—and why “Doom War,” sort of brings them in and it also brings in the Justice League of Justice League One Million, Justice Legion A—We wanted to show in a way that sometimes we look back and say, “Oh the fight against evil was so clear cut. Morality was very black and white back in the JSA’s time. They just punch Nazis and that was it.” Or in the far future, there’s these synthetic brainiac robots and they’re very easy to determine that’s evil. But the truth is, when you look at the entire span of time, being good or believing in justice, believing that our nature it not cruel and selfish and taking that leap of faith is never easy. There’s never a time when that doesn’t come with tremendous anxiety and tremendous adversity and pressure.
Even when the JSA were young, and that’s why we’re showing them when they were young in the 1940s, we didn’t know if we were gonna win. There were people here who didn’t want to get involved in the war. It was a total miasma of conflict. What I want to do with that, by showing the entire span of the DCU, on the one hand is have fun and say, “This is a giant cast, it’s everyone you’ve ever wanted to see from Kamandi to Batman Beyond.” What it’s really trying to say is that it never ends. The fight to be good, the fight to even have faith in human nature, which is what Justice League is about, it never gets easier.
Was there something about the JSA’s introduction in Doomsday Clock that was particularly exciting to you?
Snyder: I think what would I like the most is that we’re building something really architectural at DC right now. “Doom War,” what we’re doing now in Justice League is the culmination of three to four years of planning. When we began Metal, back in 2016/2017, we pitched to DC a plan, an ecosystem of story that would roll out of that, if it worked. If it didn’t work, then we’d say our goodbyes and be done. But luckily, Metal went over well and we’re very grateful to fans for that. That launched a bunch of new directions for Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League Odyssey, Superman/Batman. All of that stuff was planned as a fan of story that would go outward and then come back together at this particular moment with “Doom War” crescendoing the Justice League part of it, Batman/Superman bringing the Batman Who Laughs part of it to a head, and then all of that crashes together in the Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen or HA, as we call it, that James Tynion is writing.
And then from that, we get to the thing that we’ve been planning since Metal #1, which is the biggest cosmic showdown between everyone and that addresses a lot of the connectivity. What we want to do is do a story where everything matters, where at the end you say, “Oh, the JSA was introduced in Doomsday Clock that way, I get it. Now it’s over here, it makes sense why that happened, what the timeline did, why it buckled the way it did, why it’s being fixed the way it is.” All of that stuff is meant to come together in one, big, singular plan. That’s our job. That’s what we’re trying to do; working on Justice League, our team, and Josh Williamson, as well, we’re trying to build you something that says, this is one big immersive narrative.
Everyone loves Jarro. What is it about the character folks are identifying with?
Snyder: He’s sort of a breakout star, which we never expected. I’ve just loved writing Starro in Metal because we wrote him as kind of a punk. And I was like, “Alright, I miss him. What if a fragment of him was still around but was even more kind of irreverent, but also sort of a softie, and then want it to be Robin. It was one of the ideas that I didn’t even really pitch to DC because I was afraid they would just hate it, so we just kind of stuck him in.
I love him, and the reason I think that maybe fans respond to him is that he’s sort of like the lunacy that comics should be able to enjoy and celebrate; a psychic, martian starfish that is supposed to be a world conqueror but is also like this big. He’s also really emotional, he wants to impress Batman and he thinks of him as his father. He wants to be the best Robin of all time. And there’s something like...I think it’s that weird intersection of heavy, soapy sentiment and emotionality where he’s like, “Look at me, dad! I’m the best Robin!” And you’re like, “I’m looking at a one-eyed, purple, alien starfish” And that’s comic books to me. That’s what’s wonderful about them.
What’s happiness to you and Batman, and why do you feel like people don’t think Batman’s happy?
Snyder: I think sometimes, we think that Batman isn’t happy being Batman, or that he would make another life choice. And there are versions of Batman that I think do feel that way. We’ve seen them in different medium, but for me, I was speaking just sort of personally about the version that I love the most that’s the one that some of my heroes have written and we try to create a version of as well, which is a Batman who’s really content to be Batman, because he’s dedicating his life to an ideal, and a belief about preventing what happened to him. Making sure that he sets an example for making your life matter every moment. That if he ever slept, would allow him to sleep well at night. But what he sees, the horrors, the terrors, those things prevent him, I would think, from being happy in a conventional way.
Being Batman gives him the most solace. I think when people say to me, well, wouldn’t he be happier if he was doing something else? That, to me, is always no. Like, Batman, for us, or for me and Greg Cappullo, and some of the creators I’ve worked with, is Batman is the highest form of contentment or peace or solace that he’s going to find in life because he knows that that life, and his actions as Batman, are leaving a legacy in a way that’s going to matter...in a way that is what he cares about from childhood, from cradle to grave.
How do you stay so nice on the internet?
Snyder: I’ve had my knock-down, drag out fights with my bosses, who would probably tell you...you know, not that I’m not nice, I think I’m nice, but that I’m...I can be passionate about things in ways. When it comes to the internet, the way I try and approach it, honestly, is just that everyone is out there because they’re really passionate about these characters. They’re gonna approach you and say things they wouldn’t say to your face, and that’s okay. I just try and kill it with kindness and be like if there’s something constructive that they say I do try and listen. And if it’s something that’s just trollishly nasty, I just avoid it. It’s ten years of building up a thick skin for it has helped.
You know, when you’re on Batman, everybody has an opinion of whether you’re the worst writer ever or you’re amazing. And there’s like hardly an in-between half the time when you’re writing a character that’s that important to people. What you have to eventually do is be like I’m blocking it all out and just writing for myself. I’m writing a personal story for myself. And almost pretend that you’re writing fan fiction.
Charles Pulliam-Moore and James Whitbrook contributed to this interview.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.