SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains MAJOR spoilers for "Batman" #10, which is on sale today from DC Comics.
Nearly a year ago, DC Comics' Dark Knight was ready to take on the worst Gotham City threw at him. Today, the worst comes home to roost.
In today's "Batman" #10, the penultimate issue of both the "Night of the Owls" event and writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's year-long story with the New 52 series dropped a surprising bomb on fans. Lurking in the shadows behind the invasion of the Court of Owls was Lincoln March -- the mayoral candidate from early in the series run -- who also claims he's Bruce Wayne's long lost brother Thomas Wayne, Jr. Armoring up as a new take on classic DCU villain Owlman, March represents a number of threads both from Snyder and Capullo's long-running arc and a number of threads from Batman's long history. Is this Thomas Wayne, Jr. the character introduced and then abandoned in the '70s? Is the Owlman fans are meeting today secretly an alternate universe villain from Earth 3?
To help unpack the reveal and get to the heart of both "Night of the Owls" and the Wayne family history, CBR News spoke with Scott Snyder for the latest installment of THE BAT SIGNAL -- our continuing discussion of all things Dark Knight. elow, the writer explains how the germ of a story about Gotham City built into the conspiracy epic on the stands now, shares which bits of Batman's comic past fueled the creation of the new Owlman and teases what secrets still lie ahead in issue #11 and beyond.
CBR News: Scott, I hate to start this interview with a bird-themed pun, but I wanted to ask what was the chicken and what was the egg in terms of the Court of Owls? Did you start this story looking to work Thomas Wayne, Jr. or even Owlman into the modern DCU, or did you start with a shadowy organization attacking Batman and find your way there?
Scott Snyder: For me, it was absolutely without a doubt the idea of Gotham itself and its history. That all came before the owls. I was working on "Detective" and had started to work on "Gates of Gotham," and even though Bruce was dead at the time, I started to fall in love with the idea of the city bringing its history to bear against Bruce. He's this character with so much knowledge of the history of the city, yet the past itself is both a somewhat knowable but also vastly unknowable thing. All the time, those secrets are right beneath our feet. So I started to come up with this idea for a secret society that would have been laced throughout different layers of Gotham history and had assassins that worked from nests in various buildings. That was where it all came from, and when I asked myself, "What could be the name of this group?" it hit me immediately. I've always loved the mythology of the owl, and I wanted it to be a rival symbol to Batman.
From there, I felt that while I wanted this to be a faceless organization, at the same time I wanted it to have someone step out from behind it eventually. It needed to be someone looking for some kind of retribution unless you're going to have a story where Batman makes almost no progress at the end and winds up having the Court remain faceless. So it became a question of who would rise up and betray them, and historically Owlman is a character that's worn the mantle of the owl, and in versions of him that I've loved, he's always been a scary reverse Bruce. So all those pieces just clicked into place. The Thomas beat -- or Lincoln claiming to be Thomas, because I should mention to the readers that the story isn't done. There's more in #11, so you'll have to wait and see if he's telling the truth. But even a character claiming to be Thomas gave me that final emotional beat.
At the end of the day, the way I constructed the story for myself was that I wanted Gotham to reveal itself to Bruce by saying , "You've become too complacent. You think that you can take on the rogue's in issue #1 and narrate over it talking up a newspaper column. You think that in issue #2 you can jump a motorcycle over a helicopter and still be home for dinner in five minutes. If you think you know me that well, I'm going to show you how little you know me." So the Owls aren't the force behind it all so much as it is Gotham saying, "I'm always going to be a stranger to people. That's what makes me special." The story became about the Court revealing this idea to Bruce in a way that would become concentrically closer to him -- almost like a reverse ripple effect. First he realizes the Court is real in history, then he realizes they're after him, then he realizes there's a maze beneath his feet, then he realizes there's a connection to the Bat-Family through Dick Grayson supposed to having been a Talon...and now there's the final revelation: someone claiming to be a part of his family themself. We wanted Gotham to say "There are mysteries about my past you don't know, and ever time you try to deny them, they get closer and closer until they're right beneath your feet and in your own blood."
What was the challenge in making this specific reveal work on the specific terms you wanted to build in this story? Last week, Dan DiDio told me that he thought "Night of the Owls" worked as an event because it didn't reach outside the Batman titles. But Owlman is a character who's so often been portrayed as a universe-spanning villain. It always involves Earth 3 or the Justice League. How hard was it to really ignore that and make him a pure Batman villain?
The way to do that was to build the Owls from the ground up. That was the only way I could see to do it. You can't just introduce a character and have him put on a suit and go, "I'm the new Owlman, and I'm your brother." It had to be something where there was a symbol that was repositioned in a way that's new -- something that revealed itself layer by layer. That's what we were trying to do with the Court -- not just an idea to support Owlman because they obviously still have their own story going forward in "Batman" and in "Talon" the book that starts in September with James Tynion IV and Guilliem March, but also the idea that the Court is part of a larger movement in history that culminates in a moment for Batman where this guy says, "I'm the answer. I'm the final part of this mystery that's based solely in Gotham. It's a mystery about Alan Wayne and the architecture of the city and the stuff that haunts you." All of that funnels into what makes this Owlman scary. It started from scratch and was built up through the history of Gotham until he's part of a mythology we've created for ourselves. The owl is a symbol of death in a lot of folklore. It's the bird that leads you into the world of Hades. That notion of a character coming back from the dead with these regenerative abilities and a frightening look who can say, "I'm from the other side of the mirror. I represent everybody that came before you that you'll never know. I'm the ghost version of you." That idea will hopefully excite readers in the same way it excites us. This Owlman is based solely in Gotham. He doesn't come from a portal to another universe or has a Crime Syndicate. He was pulled out of the twisted DNA of the story from the very first pages.
You mention that "I'm from the other side of the mirror" line which struck me as the possibility of that alternate reality idea. But you're saying definitively that that additional twist isn't coming?
Well, until you read #11 I don't want to take things off the table, but I'll at least say that no alternate universe is coming. This is a villain who can be an Owlman in our continuity. I adore the Crime Syndicate, and I love the notion of alternate universes or Elseworlds characters. I loved doing "Iron Man: Noir," and I'd love to do a Rockabilly Batman story at some point. No one loves things like "Red Rain" and "Gotham By Gaslight" and "Red Son" more than me. That said, I thought for "Batman" #1, what thing would be scary and totally different from anything you've seen before? What's a symbol we could build up to rival the bat? For me, that was the owl. So this really is about trying to construct from the bedrock of Gotham where the labyrinth is up to the tallest towers the notion that someone runs the city that Batman doesn't know. And ultimately, someone has to step out and say, "This all happened because you only look at what's in front of your nose. You only look at the present and never the past. If you'd look at the past for one moment, you'd see me. I come from all you don't know, and I wear the owl on my chest."
So really, we wanted to create a villain that took the pieces of villains from the past or owl mythology from the past to make something new and scary and permanent. I have a story in mind for Lincoln should he survive issue #11 for a year from now or so. I'd like to bring him back and show what a formidable foe for Batman beyond his origin story here. We're all really proud of the story itself, and I can't tell you how proud I am of Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion and James Tynion and Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig and everyone who's worked on the story. They've poured everything they have into this. And I know that people will be shocked at the idea that Bruce may have a brother. But know that we would never do something like this if we didn't think it was the best story we could tell out of passion and love for the characters and the stories that have come before while still telling something new that can carry forward.
How did Greg work to make the design of this Owlman come together? It feels like he's using a little bit of every piece of the Owl mythology he's been working on from #1.
I can't even sing Greg's praises enough. The funny thing about Greg is that we couldn't be more different on the surface. He's more rock n roll and huge, while I'm more neurotic and small. [Laughs] He's become one of my good friends in life. Certainly, he's a huge collaborator for my comics, but he's also become a real friend and a big brother. So at first, I was trying to be pretty controlling about design things. I was saying, "This is how I picture the Court. This is how I picture the Talons." And he would add little things and say, "What do you think of this?" For example, the Talons were originally going to have masks similar to what the Court wears, but then he added these executioner hoods. I was like, "Oh man, that's not what I wanted" but before I wrote him back on it, I realized his way was like 100 times better. [Laughter] It really is! He puts so much of himself into these things. The Talons from different eras were all based on his designs, which he did one after another. He designed the Court and the idea of Batman being all Hulked out when he was captured and how his mind's eye would see him that way. He came up with the idea for the page turns in #5. He's just a huge creative force on the book.
So when it came time for Lincoln's costume at the end, I really just stayed out of his way. I just said, "I want him to look like none of the Talons can take him down. When he steps up, it's high tech and modern. It's kevlar, and it flies. It's going to kick your ass." You need to look at him and say, "How the hell can Batman beat this guy? His suit is more high tech, and beneath the surface he has regenerative abilities." It's this undead monster of an owl flying at you. So I thought it was brilliant the way Greg designed him in that he looks like the King of the Court of Owls, yet when you see him in silhouette he has these ears from when the armored mask come up, so it's a mirror of Batman. And when it comes down, he's like the Court. He's just spooky because he's a shadowy Batman with these bright eyes. Greg's a genius, and we just got off the phone this morning talking about the designs for the next arc.
You started this story in issue #1, and it ends in issue #11. But you told us last week how threads like this will continue to play out, for example, when the character Harper appears in Becky Cloonan's issue #12. What's your conception of how "Batman" as a series moves forward after this? Are you going to do some smaller arcs, or is another epic in the offing?
I'm going big again. I should just do a three-parter or a four-parter, and I sometimes feel like DC is saying, "Why don't you take a breather?" [Laughs] But I feel like even though I can slow it down, I'm only going to get one chance at this before I die, and this is my favorite character in the world. I've got a lot of stories in my head, and a few of them are BIG ones, so part of the fun is to only tell stories that matter as much to me and are as bold as this one. I can tell you that what's coming up in #12 and in #0 do that, and then in the big story that launches in #13 features one of the big bad guys -- one of my favorite bad guys of all time. And he's probably easy to guess because he's a lot of people's favorite bad guy, I think.
Well, that's got to be the Ten-Eyed Man.
Right. It's actually a Killer Moth story. [Laughs] But the idea is that I want to get up there and swing for the fences. It's not to be sensational, but it's to make stories that matter to me personally. All the stuff I've worked on from "American Vampire" to "Swamp Thing" are all about how I've had a real love for and fear of history. That's where monsters are and hauntings. From a ground view, you get to know yourself from looking backward and then trying to move forward past it. For me, this "Court of Owls" story is incredibly personal. The next story that Becky is drawing is very similar. It's about what it would be like to grow up in Gotham in a bad part of the city and see Batman. It's about what it's like to grow up looking up to Batman, which I think a lot of us can related to. #0 I don't want to give too much away about, but the story coming after that is my big exploration -- the biggest thing I can do -- with another character I love. It's going to be twisted, I can tell you that. And there will be lasting repercussions. It's not meant to just be bombastic or sensational. It's something that creates more cool stories for the characters and pushes them to the limit.
And it's fun to try and keep yourself fresh on the book by bringing new blood into Batman's world, which we're trying hard to do, and for me to try new things structurally. My arc on "Detective" was really about small mysteries. Even though it was eleven issues long, it was broken up into these smaller arcs and smaller mysteries he had to solve which lead up to one big mystery. The idea was, "You've never been challenged by Gotham, and it's changing itself in front of you to be a better villain for you, Dick." With this Court of Owls story, I wanted it to be one giant arc that was just relentlessly punching at Batman over and over until the finale had a much bigger scope with huge action. The next story will be totally different. It's straight up horror. It's as scary as we could make it. I think it'll be the most twisted and dark thing I've done with Batman so far.
"Batman" #10 is on sale now from DC Comics.