Scott Snyder has contributed a great deal of good to the Gotham mythos in a very short amount of time. It’s all the more astonishing when you consider that we’ve yet to see hide nor hair of the Joker during his tenure on Batman (aside from a cheeky Dick Grayson disguise) and only echoing cackles prior. So, where is Batman’s addled arch nemesis? For his hide, we look back to the final page of Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics #1. There’s the face, but where’s the face-off? In a few months’ time, eager readers will learn the ugly truth. The clown prince of crime makes his triumphant return in Batman #13 and “Death of the Family.”
In addition to your first look at the chilling cover of Batman #13, we spoke to Scott Snyder about sending in the clown.
iFanboy: So, the Joker! Talk to us about your take on the character and his relationship with Batman.
Scott Snyder: Well, for me, the Joker is my favorite villain since I was a kid. He’s the one that also, for me, began to give me a glimpse at how rich and psychologically deep and dark the Bat mythos could be. I grew up with the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams stuff. What he means to me is, he’s the villain that exposes the darkest corners of Bruce’s heart. He’s the one that revels in that. He loves his relationship to Batman in that he sees himself as having a special bond with him. He loves saying to him, “You and I are similar and that’s wonderful.” He loves pointing out the pathology in Batman in saying, “This is what makes you special. This is what makes you like me. This is what makes you wonderful. That’s not something you should be ashamed of.” In a way he’s like a demon on Batman’s shoulder. He brings these horrifying nightmares to life for Batman and for Bruce because, in his mind, he’s sort of serving him. He’s saying in some way, “I’m doing this to show you the great things about yourself.” And in that way I think he’s an incredibly rich and wonderful, wonderful villain. As terrifying as he is, he’s everything I love about creating a villain in one package. To me, the greatest villains are the ones that really are your greatest fears about yourself come to life. the Joker revels in that in a self aware way. He knows you inside and out. That makes him consistently dangerous and deadly, both psychologically and physically.
iF: Now, this promo image that we saw from Greg Capullo recently, and the great cover we’re looking at now. It all seems to harken to that really shocking image from the end of Detective Comics #1 from last September. So it looks as if this has all been in the works for a while. Can you speak to the genesis of the idea?
SS: Well, I’ve been hoping to do a Joker story from before there was a New 52. The same way I think if you want to do Batman, you just gotta go for the material that means the most to you and do the biggest story you can that touches on that–not ‘biggest’ in the sense of a summer blockbuster, but ‘biggest’ meaning the most piercing story in that regard. For me, I’ve been hoping to use the Joker for a long time. When [DC editorial] said they were interested in keeping him off the table for a while in the New 52 after his [scheduled] appearance in Detective #1, Tony started thinking of different ways to remove him and he had a couple of ideas which we talked about and this was one of them, with the face. I thought about it there were a number of different ways it could have worked to set up the story I had in mind at that point. When the decision was made to go in that direction I realized it would work perfectly. It didn’t begin with that idea. It began before that. But Tony was gracious enough that that idea was one that could work with what I wanted to do. The story in Batman is really going to explain why that happened. You don’t have to go back and read it; you’ll get everything you want from this Batman story alone. It’ll explain the Joker’s reasoning behind allowing that to happen, and it will build on it to show a bigger point that he’s trying to make now. There’s this huge, bloody axe he has to grind with the Bat family. That face and how he looks–the redesign of him here–is part of that mission.
iF: The Joker is known for that iconic clown face. Without giving too much away, how do you get around portraying without that signature look? Without, ya know, a face?
SS: [Laughs] It’s tricky! But I’ll tell you the truth…the way he’s going to look…it’s almost like if you think about what he’d do if that was the case, it’s so scary and so iconic in its own way to me, I’m actually more excited for fans to see it more than I could even begin to worry about it. I really believe it’s going to be this very resonant and terrifying image of him that will both satisfy people looking for the iconic Joker and at the same time be startlingly spooky and different. All I can say is that I’m really excited and enthusiastic about how he’s going to look in this one. He’s the scariest looking Joker I’ve ever seen. Straight out of horror movies. Straight up horror.
iF: You mentioned the Joker having an axe to grind with the extended Bat Family. Dick Grayson had a prominent role in the “Court of the Owls” storyline this past year. What other characters can we expect to see spotlighted in this next arc?
SS: In Batman you’ll see, basically, the extended Bat Family in terms of Damian and Dick, and Tim will actually play a role in it. Barbara. Jason. So, you will see a lot of main Bat Family characters in Batman. But, one of the things we’re really excited to announce today is that Batman will be 1000% self contained. You will not need to read anything else to get the full story that I’m planning for Joker here. But because the Joker does have an axe to grind with those characters and part of his plan is tearing them to shreds, he will appear in a number of those books after the story gets going in Batman. Those stories will be self-contained also, so you’ll be able to pick them up and read them and see the story lines continue in those books you’ve been reading. In some cases they will feature things the Joker has been planning for a long time, while some will be more abrupt where he destroys what’s been going on. But the point, really, is that the Joker has been watching Batman and the family for the full year he’s been away and he’s been setting his traps and sharpening his cleaver and waiting to spring those traps. Now, Halloween, a year later, he’s ready.
iF: Can we expect to see more backup stories from James Tynion IV during the “Death of the Family” arc?
SS: Yes. Backups for the Joker story are all about Joker and tell secret pieces of the story. We also pit him against other rogues. Going to be twisted. Written by James and me both.
iF: So many celebrated writers and artists have contributed to the ongoing character study of the Joker. What do you hope to bring to the table that maybe hasn’t been explored before, with regard to this really complex character? What makes him tick?
SS: Part of it is that his psychology is really, really particular. He believes he’s doing something–and I don’t want to give too much away–but he has a secret, also, that he’s keeping, that’s he’s holding over Batman and the Bat Family. That’s part of the engine of the event. He has something to prove. “This is who I am. This is how I see myself. This is me in relation to Batman and you’ll never get away from that. It’s always gonna be there. I’m going to rub it into your faces in the bloodiest, craziest way I possibly can.” So he does have a very particular psychology that I’m really proud of, honestly. The way I’m trying to write him here is a love letter to all the versions of the Joker I’ve always adored, but re-imagined as a singular, new thing that’s hopefully my own.
So, here’s the run down:
Batman #11, the conclusion of the “Night of the Owls” storyline hits shelves this week. Next month, guest artist Becky Cloonan steps in for the return of Harper Row. Then in September, Greg Capullo is back for a tale of young Bruce Wayne in Batman #0. In October, the Joker springs his traps with Batman #13.