Scott Snyder has been the bad boy of Batman at DC Comics for years, and is now releasing the grand culmination of his Batman run with Greg Capullo, Dark Knights: Metal. We sat down with him right before the penultimate issue to discuss crafting an event, working with other creators he admires, and tackling how to leave your mark on the iconic history of the DCU.
STBC: Tomorrow Metal #5 comes out, the penultimate issue to your big event. But this isn’t just the one story you’ve been writing, you’ve been building this is up since your whole Batman run. Before the new issue coming out, let’s talk about crafting that event. How early when you’re coming up with Batman do you come up with Metal?
SS: Well that’s a great question, it was really on Court of Owls I started to get the idea of doing a story that would have Batman picking up a mystery that had been left behind by Hawkman in some way. Court of Owls gave me like a real taste for that sense of how much might be hidden in the history of Gotham, and so I got excited about the history of the DCU. Is there sort of a thread that can be left behind by an even older and more legacied detective? In terms of how many generations Hawkman, you know, Carter Hall has been active for. And then what happened was that [DC] was like “Joker’s on the table now!” and I was like “Joker!” So it sort of took a back seat at that time. But then once I was writing Death Of The Family I realized it was a two parter, you know? I was pretty early in it when I knew one would be kind of a comedy, one would be a tragedy. And the way that we would get Joker back, and the face back, would be through this metal, it came back to me.
So it’s been something that’s been in the back of my head one way or another pretty early on in our batman run. But it really kinda coalesced I would say during our second Joker story. I had already had in my head like “A big mystery, Carter Hall, Metal,” but the idea of a Dark Multiverse, the idea of the scope of it, how big we could go started to come around when I was working on Endgame. Barbatos, that’s why you see mentions of Barbatos in Endgame, that kind of stuff, so for quite a while. It was really during Endgame that I started to pitch it to Greg [Capullo], and then when we knew we were gonna take a break from Batman, it was well before we took a break that I pitched it to him as a thing we’d come back to. So I had this whole pitch in my head where, you know, I was going to walk him through the whole story, and Plastic Man, and this and that and everything. And he came out here with his wife actually to my house and we were hanging out for the weekend, having drinks and I was like, “Ok let me pitch it to you. So, the title is gonna be Metal.” And he was like, “I don’t care what it is, I’m in. That’s it.” and I was like, “No! But I have like an hour long presentation!” But he was like, “I’m doing it, I’m doing it.” So it was good. So you know it’s been a long time in the making. We’re very very grateful that all you guys have been so supportive and DC have been so supportive, so it feels like something that allows us to kinda get where we’ve been hoping to go for a while.
STBC: So you developed this as you were doing Batman with Greg, was this originally going to be like a big story in Batman that brought in the rest of the DCU? Or did this always have to be a main event?
SS: I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. I knew that it was something I wanted to do as a Batman story initially, and then as we got further into it I realized it was more of a Justice League story. So I was kinda just biding my time waiting to see if it was better to do as an event or like a Batman and the Justice League, or Justice League: Metal, or if it was something I could do in Batman but bring those books in as sister books somehow, the way we did with some of the Bat-events. I wasn’t really sure. And then when Greg said, “You know, I need to take some time, we’re coming to issue 50,” I was like, “I totally understand.” I was getting a little bit- you know, the grind was hurting us both at that point, and we were like, “Let’s’ do it.” I went to Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and was just like, “Look, what if we do this thing, I’ve been talking to you guys about it, you know what I’m talking about, this Metal story. What if I take a year, I’ll do All Star Batman? I’ll be able to sort of play in my own treehouse with that, step off the main book, step off the double shift. I’m prepared to do this thing that’s like the culmination of what Greg and I have been doing.” And they were like, “Great.” So then I knew it was going to be an Event event. But when I was planning it, it was more about just what the story was, and it wasn’t really about what sort of shape it would end up in.
STBC: So when you were developing this story while doing your Batman, how as a storyteller do you, sort of, balance these things? Like when you’re sitting down to do an issue you’ve got certain things you want to see that you know are going to come back in Metal later, but you also have to do your Joker story, or your Jim Gordon story in Superheavy. How do you balance telling two stories at once, or one and a half stories at once?
SS: Well I really need to compartmentalize, so i’ll just work separately. So if I’m working on Metal or I’m working on All Star [Batman], you know, I’ll just take a full week and a half to two weeks to do each one, and just go back and forth like that. But you know with Metal there are so many pieces in it that are sort of working at the same time, some of which are in the main series, and some of which are out of it, that it’s really collaborative. Like it winds up being something where I get to talk to James Tynion, Josh Williamson, the Benson sisters, just everybody that’s been involved in one way or another is involved in stuff rolling out of it. And it’s been great with Tom King. It’s been great to be able to to sort of have multiple whiteboards going at once, because you know the people who are working on the pieces outside of your piece are not just capable, but probably writing it better than you could.
STBC: I’m glad you brought up a few other creators, because you have a reputation at DC for being a collaborative person. You’ve worked with James Tynion a lot, and Marguerite Bennett on that spectacular annual a few years ago, and even Grant Morrison on the upcoming Dark Knights: Wild Hunt story. Are there any big creators that are on your collaborative bucket list?
SS: Oh yeah there’s tons! I mean, you know I’ve been lucky enough in this one to get to work with Neil Gaiman a bit, and Grant Morrison. And Wild Hunt, wait till you see, it’s really like a story that I outlined and then when he expressed interest in being involved in Metal when I bumped into him in New York. You know I was like, “Hey, I’m working on this issue that’s like a total tribute to your Multiversity stuff.” And he was like, “Well we should collaborate!” And I was like, really? And we’re friends at this point, but I sent him a thing just saying, hey do you think you can do this, and in the response the subject line was “Klang! Metal” and I was like, this is gonna be awesome. So it’s definitely like a story I outlined translated into the amazing inspiring chaos magic that is Grant Morrison, so I just couldn’t be prouder of it. But anyway, we got advice and permission from Frank Miller for some stuff, just tons of collaboration on this one has been a part of the DNA of it in a way that’s just been continually inspiring. I mean the story is very much about how in darkest times when all you see are the worst versions of yourself on every sides of you, you need your friends and the people you rely on to pull you through. You can’t kind of do it on your own. And the fact that so many people in the community that I have been inspired by agreed to be a part of it, and were just so helpful sort of speaks testament to that idea I think.
But people coming up, Brian Bendis, I was just collaborating with him. He’s probably one of the people at the very top of my list. I’ve heard such good things about him at Marvel. We became friendly about a year and a half or two years ago over family stuff. Outside of comics, I called him about a thing that I knew his kids were in, and my kids. And he was like, “I knew this call was either about family or Spider-Man.” So we’ve been friendly for a bit. But having him over, I’d always heard what a kind of beacon he had been at Marvel for sort of a supportive, collaborative environment, and this weekend was the first weekend we actually got to do kind of a mini summit together. And it was just above and beyond what I had even hoped, where he had the editors in, and just as we were giving- He gave a big talk just about, you know, how much he wanted them to share ideas. And it was the kind of stuff I was doing on Metal, and to see it writ large with the things he’s planning, it’s great. So I just- he’s somebody I’m very very very excited to sort of crossover with between the book that I have planned after Metal and the book he has planned after Metal. So I put him up there.
STBC: So it sounds like we can be expecting some Snyder/Bendis Batman coming up soon, or soonish?
SS: Yeah, or Snyder/Bendis something. I don’t wanna give away what he’s on or what I’m on, you know, post-Metal, but you’ll definitely see collaborative stuff. We’ve already been collaborating in terms of sharing all our scripts and all that stuff. But in terms of the actual books crossing, we’ll give each other a little room to get going and I think hopefully we’ll start to sort of join in together. Because we certainly both get along and we have similar sort of sensibilities about it.
STBC: Now you mentioned Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller, and that’s something that you’re doing in Metal, as you say you go back to the history of the DCU. So what’s that like, dealing with these things that are so classic and iconic? Like the infamous “bat flying through the window” scene that you turn into Barbatos, and then the great library in the Dreamworld that you change from forgotten to forbidden stories. How do you tackle changing these big, iconic things?
SS: That’s a great question, I mean it’s really intimidating, and you almost have to think of it as you’re not changing them, you’re just giving your version of them. Ultimately- when people say to me sometimes, “which version of Batman is the real one?” I point back to- I was sitting on a panel with Frank Miller for Batman Day, and he gave the best answer. He was asked by a child, like a young girl that she was like, “which one do you think is the best?” And he was like, “whichever one is your favorite.” And that’s the truth and that, you know, ultimately these stories don’t make sense in a continuity. Batman would be, what, 90 years old at this point or whatever? You know, I mean- And there’s no way like Superman could have died, come back and no one would remember that, that he was red and blue! I mean there’s just so much crazy, at some point if you were trying to say what is the definitive history of this character, you’re going to hit some snags.
So my feeling is more the way you approach those moments is to say, “Do I have a story that means something to me that makes this worth doing?” Not usurping what was there before, because people will always say, “Oh no, the real origin is Year One. No, the best story is the original, the one I first read in Batman number one.” All that stuff. That is always gonna be sort of their choice, but it’s only worth it to do if you feel you have a story that you can sit back and say, “That’s the version that if i picked it up on the shelves would mean the most to me right now,” you know, or, “I want to mean the most for my kids because it addresses the things that I know they are afraid of.” So Zero Year, for example ,which has probably the most radical changes to Batman’s mythos and all that stuff because it deals with his origin. And with Metal too, you know, it goes back and sort of posits a history before Gotham as we know it. And then the changes coming out of Metal are pretty big and fun. All of that stuff you just have to sit there and say, “is this the story that I would like to pick up and read, and it would mean more to me than if I didn’t do it?” And that’s- You know Zero Year, doing that sort of story that was about his origin was very much about saying, you know, Year One meant everything to me when I was eleven years old and picked it up and it was about New York being a place that I recognized, and Batman facing the things that looked real to me. How would I do that to my kids? Well I tried to put in gun violence, and super storms, and all the kinds of stuff that they’re worried about, and have Batman be brave in the face of those in a way that was heroic, you know? So you have to sort of step back and just do that for yourself, you know? Otherwise you just get paralyzed immediately. If you’re worried about, like, even if you have a story that mattered to you, what fans were going to think at some level, you’d stop every single time. Because there’s always going to be a contingent that doesn’t like what you’re doing, there’s always going to be a contingent that likes it even when you don’t like it, you know, all of that. And all of that is testament to how much they love the character. It’s a great thing to have fans who hate you for doing what you do because that just means they’re passionate about the characters still. And hopefully you have more that love you, but ultimately it just speaks to the enduring nature of these characters and how much people love them. That’s how you have to think about it. At least me, otherwise I would just kind of crumble in a ball and be like, “I can’t even write The Batcave.” Because I vividly remember my first panel ever writing for Batman where I was like “Panel 1: The Batcave.” You’re like I have to walk away from this because it’s just too much.
Dark Nights: Metal #5 will be in stores January 31st.