The origins of DC Comics Batman will soon be going under the microscope with some new results expected. And the story that will make that happen went under the microscope Friday evening at WonderCon in Anaheim as Scott Snyder took the mic for a "Batman: Zero Year" panel.
The proceedings were led by DC's SVP of Marketing John Cunningham, and joining Snyder on the stage was "Talon" and incoming "Red Hood & The Outlaws" writer James Tynion IV.
Cunningham kicked things off by noting that people who were expecting spoilers for the entire eleven-issue run would be disappointed, but then Snyder coyly promised some spoilers might slip out.
The discussion soon switched to the start of Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's run on "Batman" and Snyder's time with the Dark Knight as well. The writer said a huge part of the draw for him is the way in which Gotham City provided a unique platform at DC. "When you try to be a hero in Gotham, it creates villains that are extensions of the worst things around you," he said citing heavies like Joker and Two-Face. Snyder brought James Gordon, Jr. back into the fold to give Dick Grayson a polar opposite. As Dick is a very empathetic character, James has no empathy or any living human being. When Snyder shifted to Bruce Wayne and "Batman," he looked for a similar way for the city to attack the hero which led to the Court of Owls.
Snyder said when he first hooked up with Capullo, he was nervous since the artist had typically worked from plot outlines rather than full scripts. His nervousness over whether DC would make him write simple outlines rather than long scripts led him to write a script for "Batman" #1 that was 46 pages long "That was totally a bad move, obviously, but I was a bit worried!" he laughed. He and Capullo soon spoke on the phone and realized that each was worried about the other getting in the way of their own work. Both thought they might have to quit the book until they got on the phone and begin to talk about the story – particularly the Court of Owls. Capullo's first drawing of a Talon sold Snyder on the collaboration, and now the two are so close that they're going on vacation together.
"He came up with the page turns for #5 and so many story elements along the way," Snyder said of how they collaborate now. "He is so dedicated to this book and to Gotham."
"With 'Zero Year' we're absolutely, 100% [doing new takes on old ideas]," the writer said of the new story, promising that he's not at all trying to rewrite Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's "Year One" story. He said at the start of the New 52, all the writers worked to keep all the original Batman history in place, but eventually it became apparent that there were too many hiccups in the world of the Dark Knight due to the five-year time period of the relaunched universe.
"What happened was other stories came along the way like Selina Kyle's history being different, James, Jr. would only be six years old...Gordon was different, the Falcone's were different." Snyder said when DC asked about doing a new take on Batman's origins, he had a moment where he realized, "I could rewrite 'Year One' for you and say 'Everything that happened happened' and make a poor imitation of it, or we can try to do something f-ing new...let's try to give you an origin you've never seen, characters you've never seen, moments you've never seen, tech you've never seen...a Gotham you've never seen before!" Snyder promised to never change the elements everyone knows of Batman from the pearls in the alley to Joe Chill on down the line, but the book will feel very different than what's come before.
Capullo recently re-signed with DC and stipulated in his contract that he's allowed to draw Batman and Batman only for as long as he wants, Snyder said. The pair have ideas and possibilities to go for 40 issues or more on the title.
The writer went on to describe the process by which he wrote the recent Joker event story "Death of the Family." The driving focus for the writer was thinking about his own children and wishing he could stop worrying about their safety. While that's impossible, the desire led him down some scary paths to how Batman would relate to his own family and how the Joker could terrorize him based on that.
Tynion came into the discussion explaining how as a student of Snyder's, he wrote his teacher a long essay about superhero comics when he learned his teacher loved the comics medium. The pair soon began to discuss stories on the phone even when Tynion spent a semester abroad in Ireland, which racked up some phone bills that upset the young writer's father. "When you meet somebody who views story the same way you do, it's priceless," Snyder said.
The relationship led to "Talon" where the younger writer felt the potential for the series was off the charts. "This is an idea that could be around for decades and decades. It's an idea that can just continued to be explored," Tynion said. "I'm incredibly excited to be telling [those stories]." Snyder initially turned DC down on doing the spinoff until Tynion sent him his own pitch about where the new character could come from and then go in the DCU, and that turned Snyder around on the idea of a spinoff on the whole. Snyder said that in issue #3, Tynion started coming into his own as a writer and that his solo voice has continued to develop on each new issue.
The panel then showed the new cover to "Talon" #7 where the gatefold cover reveals that the person who has defeated Talon at the Court of Owls' request is Bane. "It's going to blow your mind what happens with Bane," Snyder said. Tynion added that the story will spin out of his work on the backup for "Detective Comics" #19.
Snyder's work with Jim Lee on the incoming "Superman Unchained" then came up. "You're going to see Superman coming up in 'Batman' very soon, and you're going to see Batman in 'Superman Unchained,'" the writer revealed. "This story involves what I think is great about Superman, which is his moral compass. That's something I think is great about Superman, but I think it also makes him very alone." The writer said the main villain in the series will be new, but Lex Luthor will also show up. Apparently, Lee is drawing Luthor like writer Grant Morrison, and Snyder is now nervous to see the pages come in since he likes Morrison.
The panel then showed off a foldout poster Lee drew as part of "Superman Unchained" #1. The image came from Snyder's call for a splash page that showed the scale of the threat Superman faced. When Snyder asked how they would fit this giant, four-page spread into the book phsyically, Lee said they'd "figure it out later" – i.e. let it be Dan Didio's problem.
Finally, the writer talked about "The Wake" – his Vertigo series with Sean Murphy which focuses on the legendary creatures of the deep ocean in a way that both confirms the existence of everything from mermaids to the kraken while also serving as a modern horror book. Snyder said that he needed to write the series to have a place to be weird while he was working on icons like Batman and Superman, and that the first issue opened with a splash of a woman with wings talking to a dolphin in a space helmet. When he described the scene to his artist for the first time, he said, "Sean, just stick with me on this" to which Murphy replied, "It's cool. How many lights do we need on the dolphin's helmet?"