All-Star Batman is by far one of the most anticipated comic books of the year. The all-new series not only brings in comic book legend John Romita Jr. on art duty, but it’s also Scott Snyder’s first endeavor with Batman since the conclusion of he and artist Greg Capullo’s epic 51-issue run.
Considering the new format – with a new artist on each arc – and a new direction that puts Batman outside of Gotham there’s plenty to talk about. We discuss All-Star Batman with Snyder and Romita Jr., talk about a modern Batman, globalization, movie directors, and more! You can read our review of All-Star Batman #1 here.
AiPT!: Scott, how does your previous DC work inform us about All-Star Batman and what you’ll be doing with it?
Snyder: Well, I think, above all, the challenge when you’re working on a series like Batman, is to do something that challenges you personally. I had a teacher with a very important motto: write a story that you would like to pick up today that would change your life and it doesn’t matter if it’s the best, funniest or the smartest but it has to be personal to you.
So, on some level I try to approach Batman where, for each arc, if I only had one chance to write this character this would be the story that matters to me. With All-Star Batman, I approached it the same way, saying, “Well what’s something I’ve never done on the book that I want to try and I can do differently?”
From another standpoint, it was about creating a story that’s maybe more deeply personal or more intimate. So it has this interesting blend, I hope — where on the one hand it’s almost this over the top bombast, high octane kinetic action but it’s very deeply about, at least for me, whether we are the makeup of our personal demons, our uglier parts, or whether we have the potential to be heroes we hope we can be.
And that between Batman and Two-Face it’s very high stakes. As they travel the country they have to figure out whether or not we as individuals, as a community – are we more prone to our heroic or villainous impulses?
AiPT!: Would you say it’s going for a road trip vibe?
Snyder: Oh yeah.
AiPT!: Does taking Batman out of Gotham make him harder to write?
Snyder: It was really liberating actually.
It’s funny, because mentally when I started working with John my first thought was, or when I started thinking of doing this format, I kept thinking “Well I’ll do a big Two-Face story in Gotham, I’ll do all these villains of Gotham.”
This was over a year ago, but when I started getting down to brass tacks on it and how to tell the story I realized that I’ve done so many stories with a relationship between Gotham, Batman, his villains, and the communities in Gotham itself; it almost felt too easy. So then it became, well what kind of story justifies taking him outside of Gotham? Then I realized that the core of what I wanted to do here was largely about Two Face’s belief that deep down we are selfish, ugly creatures; which was the perfect take as a catalyst to get us out of Gotham because a trip not only forces you out of a familiar situation but it also forces you to sort of look at yourself from very different angles and it gives you this different perspective. There’s a kind of stark loneliness to this arc where Batman is completely isolated, vulnerable, and on the other hand I think it lends itself to — not to get too abstract with this — the story is very much about this moment in time. It’s not overtly political and I’m open about my political beliefs in social media, but it’s not what I bring to Batman.
Snyder goes on to speak about how All-Star Batman is influenced by global threats of today.
Snyder: What I’d bring instead is a more general experience from my kids. This moment being one where I think a lot of us are terrified because of the challenges that are facing us, not just as individuals on a personal level, but seemingly insurmountable problems with globalization or institutionalized discrimination – these things that we’re all suddenly connected to; villains or people that are threatening us because of ideologies and there’s this constant sense of overlap and crowding and the planet is heating up and there’s nervousness that we’re all sort of in an elevator together somehow. And what Batman says is, that’s potential for greatness. The world changes – and those are tremendous challenges – but those challenges present opportunities for the best of the human character, but Two-Face says, “No no no no, it’s the end of the times and we’re just waiting to finally give up the goat; throw off these silly fallacies and kind of become these selfish, wonderfully evil creatures that we’ve always wanted to be. So, let’s revel in it.”
So in that way I think taking him out of Gotham underscores a more modern Batman, or a Batman of this moment where we’re out in the middle of nowhere and it’s very much like villains are particular to Gotham, but they’re not, they can come to your town, to your place, to your little home in the middle of nowhere, because they do every day now. We’re all concerned with things that are national and global problems. We’re hoping a hero will show up.
Disturbing realities come face to face with Batman. From All-Star Batman #1
AiPT!: This seems like a perfect time for this comic to come out; we have politicians accusing each other of lying and having a very different public face than their private face and in All-Star Batman Two-Face seems to be bringing up this idea of “Who is our true self?”
You probably wrote this when the Republican and Democratic debates were going on which was what 6, 7 months ago?
Snyder:Yeah, pretty much, yeah.
AiPT!: So I imagine this was all influencing you. It’s great when you’re reading a comic and it’s clearly speaking to you — it’s aware of the fact that things are going on in the world that are potentially changing your children’s future.
Snyder: Yeah very much, the whole idea is sort of, again, not necessarily overly political, because I think I’m pretty vocal about my beliefs — but Batman isn’t necessarily a place I go to fight so much on a soap box because I feel like beliefs are baked into the DNA of the story. I try to go for certain more personal convictions that have less to do with particular political policies like hot button issues, but I do have a general sense of – I think – anxiety or hope about the climate or the zeitgeist of trying to encourage certain things that are general – I think – tenets of the human character instead of pushing people one way or another on a particular issues. That said, I think that’s what Batman’s exemplars lead in a post 9/11 world.
Snyder: I think the work Greg and I did on the character sort of helped to bolster that sense of Batman being less about Gotham and provincial issues that I grew up with.
In the city there was very much a sense of it being sort of plagued by gangs and graffiti and urban sort of rot and corruption in government that were very New York-esque problems; which meant Batman needed to take back the city and scare bad people away. That was extremely effective, but nowadays I feel like he’s much more about – instead of obscuring bad people into the shadows – it’s about inspiring good people to be brave and come out into the light in that sense of, not just taking back your city but standing up to bigger, more abstract, retractable problems when it comes to things that aren’t going to be easy to solve or punch. In some way we were always trying to be in conversation with things that are keeping us up at night, you know, but that said at the same time again, we want him to be a hero for everyone and for it to be a story about the best element of the human character versus the worst, as opposed to it being about any one political issue.
AiPT!:You used flashbacks a lot…
[A click is heard then…]
John Romita Jr. Hey, sorry I’m late.
AiPT!: You used flashbacks very intentionally in the first issue of All-Star Batman. I was curious why you used that tool or if you have rules about using that literary device? Will it be an element present in future issues?
Snyder: Yes, 100%, I’m using them strategically here because what I wanted to do was create an issue that felt like you were dropped in the middle of action always from the beginning and Two Face says, “No I’m a mirror of the times right now. I’m a reflection of things that people are most afraid of.” One idea I had was to structure the issue in this kind of mirror format where it moves backwards in time–breaking a literary convention and kind of doing flashbacks deeper in flashback and deeper in another flashback–(something I always taught people not to do) and then it comes back to the present. So like a ‘V’ shape in terms of time it’s almost like like you’re looking closer in a mirror and then coming back into the present. So the second issue has a similar format, and then in the third issue it begins to fall away because as you look deep enough [in a mirror] you don’t want to look anymore so it becomes more present tense as it goes on.
AiPT!: John, you’ve had quite a year drawing Batman. By my count you drew five variant covers that featured Batman, including Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade and now you have All-Star Batman. Has drawing the character changed or developed in any surprising ways for you?
Romita Jr.: I honestly, I’m not conscious of doing anything differently. I’m kind of reactive as opposed to being proactive. There is a distinct difference between Last Crusade and I was going with the flow, fortunately the writers are both distinct, strong, fantastic writers so if I have any problems with anything there’s always someone to ask and then there’s the editors and so on. So no, there’s no attempt at doing anything differently other than doing as well as I can. There’s such a history of artists that have done this character, it would be pretty presumptuous of me to say, “Well I’m going to do the best in the history of this character.” That’d be kind of tough. Whenever it comes out on time–I call it deadline style–I’m happy. If Scott is happy, the editors are happy, the DC folks are happy…if a few readers are happy, I’m happy.
A beautiful cover (and also a panel) by John Romita Jr.
Snyder: They posted a preview this morning of the book and–you’re not really on social media but I wanted to show you the love for your art–you and [All-Star Batman inker] Danny [Miki]’s work is all over the place. I felt really happy.
Romita Jr.: Glad to hear that.
AiPT!: That’s awesome.
Romita Jr.: Especially [colorist] Dean [White] and Danny. They’re definitely the unsung heroes.
AiPT!: Let’s say an All-Star Batman movie is in the works. Who is your dream director for the project?
Snyder: [laughs] Wow, that’s tough.
Romita Jr.: Ridley Scott! Ridley Scott.
Snyder: He’d be pretty awesome dude, I’d do that just to meet him, I need to think of people I want to meet, like James Cameron, tell him, “You don’t know how much Terminator 2 meant to me!”
Romita Jr.: [Laughs] Yeah!
Snyder: Yeah man, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, I know he did all those Batman stuff but at the same time I’m such a huge fan of his work outside of Batman.
Romita Jr.: One guy that I think is great visually is Michael Mann, the guy who did Last of the Mohicans, but that’s another director. I’m a Ridley Scott guy, but James Cameron would be stunning for a Batman film.
Snyder: I think one thing, to just riff on your question for a bit, I think one of the things we’re going for with this book is we’re going for a brighter more colorful tone. Really kinetic, and Danny and Dean are a huge part of that too. Just bringing in really crazy colors and really sort of kinetic angst in the sense of movement, being outside of the shadows and all of that and you know filmically too, I think part of the fun is we’ve seen so many dark Batmans and they’ve been terrific, I’m a huge fan of sort of all the current iterations of Batman in so many ways from the Nolan films especially, but with this I think one of the fun things we can do with comics is being able to push against those a little bit. It can be dark, but also crazy fun and funny. And out of control. To have him wink really early in the issue is sort of deliberate to be like, alright we can be grim and dark but beneath the surface is really a darkness to the story that becomes more and more apparent as the story goes along.
Romita Jr.: Absolutely agree.
AiPT!: The medium allows you to do more with it than a movie or TV show would.
Snyder: [laughs] But no budget.
AiPT!: Yeah the budget is just ink, paper, and time. I know we’re out of time but would you mind answering three quick questions?
AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Snyder: Ugh, there’s so many. [laughs] There’s too many ways to procrastinate. Honestly ummm I help my kids with Legos.
Romita Jr.: Work. More work and work, work, work.
AiPT!: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Romita Jr.: Oh oh, about my life, huminah-huminah, I don’t know. Tony Danza when I was younger but I don’t know. Right now, I can’t think of any middle aged Italian tough guys that could pull it off. I don’t know who to pick. Maybe Stallone when he was younger. Someone Italian with a broken nose.
Snyder: Greg Capullo.
AiPT!: What talent or superpower would you like to have?
Romita Jr.: I want to be Superman for one month. Fly over the Earth, get every asshole I can find and crush them.
Snyder: [Laughs] I’d love to have a super memory. I feel like that would be the key to so many problems that I have. Time seems to pass so fast, when you have a kid especially. I always think that if I couldn’t remember more of the days with them I wouldn’t feel as complete. Super memory.