If there's been one creative theme to writer Scott Snyder's DC Comics, it's been a lucky streak for matching with his idea artists on projects from "American Vampire" to "Swamp Thing." And this August, Snyder will team up with a hand-picked fan favorite artist again when he welcomes Becky Cloonan to "Batman" #12 for a special stand-alone tale.
"I just go in there and threaten [Editorial] until they do what I want," joked the writer who's currently embroiled in the massive "Night of the Owls" event. "With Becky, what happened was that I've been a huge fan like everyone has who's seen her work. I've followed her for a long time from 'DEMO' through to her recent work on 'Conan.' When I was in London at Kapow! Con, she was there. And I'd mentioned to [Editor] Mike [Marts] that I really loved her stuff, so he said to ask her about it at the show. She was busy with 'Conan,' but she said she might have time to do it, so I gave her the script and essentially said, 'I think you're really cut out to do this.' Because what I love about Becky's work is that she can get incredibly dark – and even incredibly violent with things like 'Conan' – but it's always expressive. It's always so character-driven and driven by the psychology of the piece. It's almost deceptively quiet."
"This issue is very special to me. It's the big story that explains and explores the character you met in issue #7 – Harper," Snyder revealed. "That's the young woman who saved Batman when he tried to escape the labyrinth and ended up in the freezing Gotham bay. The mystery of who she is, why she knows Batman and the secret of their relationship...Becky read the script on the way back from the show, and just did some character sketches of Harper and her brother and the villain of the piece. She was totally on board, and I'm just over the moon about it."
Snyder said that #12 will show off a different side of his run on the book. "It's been really fun for me to do because I wanted to do a story that shows what life is like in Gotham from that kind of 'Gotham Central' standpoint," he said of the story. "This story is not about a supervillain or told from the point of view of someone in Batman's inner circle. It's just what it's like to live in a neighborhood in Gotham called The Narrows, which is basically a dump. It's part of the initiative that Bruce Wayne mentioned in issue #1 when he talked about rebuilding certain neighborhoods in Gotham. You'll hear more about that initiative coming up in future issues. But revitalizing that neighborhood comes into play in this story as well because this story shows what it's like to live in Gotham as someone who's struggling. Harper is a character I'm super excited to present to readers. She's someone who's a real fighter who's been through a lot and is very independent. She's a teenager who's emancipated from her parents trying to make a living and go to school and help her younger brother out. She's someone who's very important to me and important to Gotham in the stories I want to tell moving forward."
The writer also mentioned that the cover for the issue gets to the heart of the comic's shocking nature. "One of the things it's about is Harper working for the city's Electrical Engineering Department, working on the power grid. A lot of the story surrounds this idea that the city is run on this old power grid that could give out at any moment. She's fascinated with that and horrified and amazed by all at the same time. People have seen the cover and been like 'Are you introducing the DC version of Electro?' or 'Is it lie TRON? Does he get sucked into a computer?' It's nothing that sci-fi. As much as I like 'TRON,' you'll see no light cycles or flying discs in this issue."
As with "Batman" issues past, the comic will have a back-up story drawn by another visiting artist. "Andy Clarke is doing the backup, which is part of the same story. We think they'll both bring an incredible, off the beaten path style to the issue that isn't classic superhero and isn't Greg's style," Snyder said.
And speaking of regular "Batman" penciler Greg Capullo, the writer noted that he wouldn't be gone for long. "Greg is such a beast on 'Batman.' Is is my big brother – my total friend and mentor on the book – and I'm totally excited to have him back with me for our next major arc on the book, which starts after #12," he explained. "Greg and I were in Barcelona together talking about what was coming up, and I could tell that there were things he wanted to do this year – travel to certain cons and spend some time with his family. So I said, 'We have this one-shot issue coming up. If you want to take a month off, that's the perfect time.' So he agreed to do that, which is hard because he's like me in that he invests so much in Batman that stepping away even for a moment is very difficult. But I think it'll be a wonderful break for him to recharge his batteries and flex his muscles artistically. So he'll be back in no time."
Snyder added that as much as his "Batman" run has become known for epic stories like "The Black Mirror" and "Night of the Owls," he also wants to temper those tales with stand alone issues and mysteries. "That's the way I like to work on every series. I don't want it to just be big, over-the-top, bombastic stories. I love those to death, and 'Night of the Owls' is the kind of thing I'd be writing if I never ever got to write another Batman story again. It's everything and the kitchen sink that I love about Batman. But similarly with 'American Vampire' and 'Swamp Thing,' I come to them from a background as a short story writer. So I love one-shots and quiet stories that show Gotham from a different perspective. This is almost like what we're doing in 'Swamp Thing' #10, which isn't exactly a stand-alone but is a character study of Arcane that shows almost needlepoint storytelling. For me, it's all about going from big arc to quiet character study. That texture is what I love reading in everything from 'The Walking Dead' to other superhero series. I'll continue that tradition in 'Batman.'"
"Batman" #12 is on sale in August from DC Comics.