After the dramatic revelations about the return of the Joker in Scott Synder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #35 and #36, Snyder has given interviews to both IGN and Comic Book Resources discussing the return of the villain and his plans for the rest of the “Endgame” story arc. (Warning, the rest of the article as well as the interviews include spoilers for those not caught up on the most recent issues of the title)
As it turns out the Joker was hiding in plain sight as an orderly at Arkham Asylum named Eric Morder, first introduced in Batman Annual #2 from back in July 2013. Now, the Joker has revealed his identity to Batman along with his new frightening visage. Below are some excerpts from both interviews as Snyder discusses the new “Endgame” issues.
First, the IGN interview:
IGN Comics: Before we get to the Joker, I wanted to talk about the fight Batman has with a Superman who has been drugged with Joker toxin. Batman has a bit of meta commentary on his fight with Superman. As fans, we bring up that question a lot: Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman? But Batman says here, “If we’re fighting, nobody wins.” So what was your approach to the outcome and Batman’s feelings about it?
Scott Snyder: I wanted it to be fun, first of all, and I wanted it to be that kind of thing where it is that fanboy moment and you crack your knuckles and you’re like, “Alright, here we go. This is going to be a fun one. Partly the story is a celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, and I wanted as many elements in there that really affirm him as this incredibly fun superhero that we all love. So putting him against the Justice League makes sense. On the other hand, it’s a story that really turns into the Joker saying, “Your party’s over. It’s my party now. My 75th anniversary starts once this year ends.” And it is. He appears in Batman #1 in 1940, so by December, it’s really now his party starting. So for me my thinking was that you show a really fun way that Batman can win, but you remind people that deep down, even though it’s hard for us to be like, “Who would win in a fight?” it’s terrifying for him. Superman is one of his best friends. He has a special bond with Clark. To have that person try and kill him at the Joker’s hands, there’s almost nothing more nightmarish in some ways. So to bring it back to Earth and say, “This is pretty scary,” we start to get into that mode.
IGN: My next question is more of a technical question. Batman has this shield that blocks Superman’s heat vision, then two pages later Superman uses his heat vision again, but that time it works and melts his robot arm. So why did the shield not kick in the second time?
Snyder: Because he dropped a building on him. [Laughs] So the idea is that when he drops the building on him, it damages the suit. It’s meant to be like the system of the suit is now pretty badly dented. So in that way he’s not capable of making a shield around the knuckles anymore.
IGN: Understood. I did like the “Red Giant” fist with the mini-suns in the knuckles. That was pretty cool.
Snyder: Thank you, thank you. I love my Bat-pseudo science. My wife is a doctor, and I love going to doctor functions and you’re talking to physicists. It’s all like, “Well, sir, when it comes to red sun technology in your gauntlet…” [Laughs] I am an expert in comic book science. I don’t know real science whatsoever.
IGN: I have another picky question for you. We see the Joker has what appears to be his rotted face with him. But last we saw, Joker’s daughter had sewn his face onto her face. Can you address how he has it now?
Snyder: That’s the thing. I think it’s going to come out, not in Batman itself but in — I can’t say where, because as with most Joker things, those things usually bleed into other Bat-books and you get to see some stuff in other books once things get really crazy in Batman. So without giving too much away, it’ll be something I’m pretty sure will be addressed elsewhere.
IGN: Okay. I could see that happening in Batman Eternal, but I’ll wait and see. What was it like redesigning the Joker’s look with Greg? It’s not every day you get to literally start over and give him a new face. I like his hair .
Snyder: Thank you. I like his hair too, right? For me, the idea was to try and make him, first of all, really scary. Nothing is comical, as he is classically, but a little more shaved down at the chin and the nose, but still very clearly the Joker — and a grin a little bit wider rather than longer; more gum showing, bloodshot eyes, wrinkles around the eyes and stuff like that to give him a little depth. We’re really trying to spook you out when you see him coming out of the shadows. We thought about a purple suit, but honestly it’s just very hard to make that scary. We tried a couple designs, but if you’re not going to have it be rotted — and everything about him was kind of rotted in Death of the Family — here, we really wanted him to step out almost reborn and say, “I’m starting over. I’m done with you. Everything between us is over. You and I played this game for awhile and then you showed me you’re too boring to play with, so we’re just finished.” So I wanted to have kind of a slick look, so we decided to make the suit black, with a purple handkerchief to give it a little bit of color. Then everything he uses is black. So the flag that says “BANG!” instead of it being a red flag with an explosion it’s a black flag, you know, skull and bones. You’ll see the boxing glove too, and the flower; they’re all black. There’s a sense of him saying, “Time to say goodbye.” To me, there’s something spooky about him. Especially when he’s in the shadows and wearing black, all you see is his face and hands. There’s something really creepy about that to me — like he’s under your bed or hiding upstairs, and then you see him coming out of the shadows; all you see is that face coming at you.
IGN: Yeah, that’s definitely creepy. In Batman Annual #2, when that was written, did you guys really plant that character there as the Joker?
Snyder: Yeah, like, a thousand-percent yes. I was hoping it would be really clear just from his name and everything, but yeah. Marguerite [Bennett] will tell you, when we started talking about the annual, his purpose was always to be the Joker. His name was designed that way. She actually helped me come up with it. Having him interrupt whenever anyone says “Joker,” we were trying to have things you could go back and see and say, “Oh, I see this.” Similarly, in the issue she wrote with Joker’s daughter, he’s in it, and it’s the first time you ever see any sign that the Joker might be around — at least in our 52 continuity — since Death of the Family when Joker’s daughter gets a note from the Joker essentially saying at the end that he’s around. Eric’s in that issue. So the fun was supposed to be if you look back you go, “Oh, I see. That was him, and he sent her the note.” So to me I was really paranoid, honestly. To be embarrassingly truthful, I was worried that people would guess he’d the Joker. So I really didn’t want people using him as much. Everyone wanted to use him once they knew he was the Joker, and they wanted to do things where they’d make a pun about the Joker, that kind of stuff. I was just worried it would be given away, so I tried to play it a little closer to the vest. But I can guarantee you that he was designed to be the Joker all the way back then. Maybe when we get a trade, I’ll push DC to publish Marguerite’s notes and my notes on the script, because it was a lot of fun. She was much more risky about it than I was. I don’t know why I was so scared. I just thought everyone would start looking for the Joker in Death of the Family, but she was more gung-ho about it. But I’m going to ask them if maybe we can try and do that, because it was a fun exchange where she was like, “Don’t worry so much!” I’m like, “I’m worried.”
IGN: Last question, what do you want to say to get fans excited for what’s coming up with the rest of Batman Endgame.
Snyder: To get them excited I would just say, honestly, it’s pretty much the last time we intend to use the Joker. So for us this is everything we could do with the character. For me, this is really the conclusion to the story that started in Zero Year with that character, if you believe that’s him as the Red Hood. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but if you make it one big psychology — and it’s up to decide — that psychology really begins there and ends here. So for me it’s one giant arc that’s been going through our run. It’s a story that’s probably had the most lead time out of anything we’ve done, where we thought about it way in advance. So it’s been a lot of fun to get to do. We’re going to go as big as we can for it. I hope people enjoy it. Above all of that, in terms of hyping it, I would say to people at IGN and the readers just thank you. I’ll speak for myself, because I don’t want to put words in Greg’s mouth, but for me I never expected there to still be such support for the book this far in. I started writing Batman in Detective in 2010, so I’m going into my fifth year really on Batman. I never thought that it would be as popular as it was when we began. I never expected it to be doing as well as it did then. To have it doing that well now, I just have to say thank you. All I can tell you is that I promise we will try and treat each arc as though its Batman #1 and challenge ourselves to surprise you each time. From this point forward, it’s really the bonus round, where I didn’t think I’d get to be on the book this long. So I’m just trying to do stuff to challenge myself and challenge you guys and have fun on the book and say thank you, honestly. We’re both really, really grateful. I’m really overwhelmed by the support. It means a lot.
And now the CBR interview:
CBR News: Last week we spoke about “Superman Unchained” and I have to ask — after reading that finale and “Batman” issue #36 back-to-back — did working on “Superman Unchained” play into your decision to bring the Justice League and Superman into the beginning of the “Endgame” arc? I mean, going from the end of “Unchained” right into the Superman/Batman fight in issue #36 bridged together pretty seamlessly for me.
Scott Snyder: Thanks! [Laughs] No, the beat in “Endgame,” in #35, was there for a really long time. It sort of was the way it was when writing “Death Of The Family.” I knew that the story, when I did it, would have this kind of opening. It was there around the same time I was working on “Superman Unchained,” at least that basic idea that the Justice League became Jokerized. I’m glad that it seemed confluent, though! [Laughs] I love writing them both in the same book. I would love to write a Superman/Batman book someday.
You did get Batman in “Superman Unchained” for a bit.
Yeah, and he always gets the best lines. [Laughter] That’s definitely one of his powers. He has to have the best one-liners, right? He doesn’t have superpowers!
In issue #35, the big reveal was the Joker’s comeback, and here in #36 we get another big twist in that an ancillary character we thought was Batman’s ally — Arkham’s Eric Border — is actually Joker. Now, Eric’s shown up in “Arkham Manor,” and was the centerpiece of the second “Batman Annual” last year. How far back does planting the seeds of Eric being Joker go? Was this planned from the start, or did you discover pieces as you went along?
No, he was designed to be Joker — that was his whole purpose from the moment go. Marguerite [Bennett] knew that when we did the Annual together, and James Tynion knew that. I told Gerry Duggan as I went further, and in the Bat office, we told the other writers as we got closer. So everyone on “Eternal” knew he was Joker as far as a few months ago, but for [me and Greg], he’s always been Joker. That’s why we chose his name the way we did. I was worried that people would figure it out — I don’t know why I was so paranoid, but I was so worried people would figure it out all the way back in “Batman Annual” #2! At one point, Marguerite had him talking more about the Joker and I actually had her cut it, which I feel badly about — it would have been a nice throwback. Where I compromised is, when someone’s talking about the Joker and he interrupts; it always gets interrupted when the Joker comes up. In “Joker’s Daughter,” he’s in that issue, and I think you can start to see it. There’s little things like that, I think, where you can see by design he’s been lying there the whole time, if you look at his appearances. My only regret, the only thing I do wish is that I had been a little less scared about teasing it more. I really was scared, honestly. I don’t know why. I was scared that people would hear the word “Endgame” and know that it was Joker! I really was sure the story was going to get blown; from “Batman Annual” #2, I started to worry that people would know that Joker was back, and then I started to worry that they’d know about “Endgame” when I said “Endgame.” The fact that we made it all the way here and nobody guessed any of it has really been something of a relief! [Laughs]
That’s definitely something where, when I read the issue, I went back through all his other appearances to try to piece it together, like a couple of issues ago when he’s shocked Batman makes a joke.
“Endgame” is set at the end of “Batman Eternal.” Now that people know who he really is, will Eric/Joker start appearing in “Batman Eternal” to give you a chance you fill in some of those sparser spots in the pre-“Endgame” timeline that “Eternal” and other books are set in?
You’re going to see that in “Arkham Manor” quite a bit, actually. Coming up, you’ll see Eric pre-Joker [reveal], but you know that he’s the Joker, and you’ll get to see when he was doing there. It’s a lot of fun.
Obviously, the other big thing for Joker is that he’s got his face back — or a face back.
Yeah! He has his face back!
What was your and Greg Capullo’s thinking behind that and how he appears now versus “Death Of The Family,” or even that very first “Batman” issue when Dick was pretending to be him in jail?
The most important thing is that he looks scary, you know? The other most important thing, when we were talking about him, was that he looks reborn in some way. Classic, but a little bit darker. We talked about different possibilities. We talked about the purple suit, and then we realized, no matter how you cut it and what the suit is, it just makes him not scary in a lot of senses. So for us it became about giving him the black suit with the purple handkerchief, give him a more funeral look. Make the hair shorter on the sides, make sure his eyes are very wide, very bloodshot, the wider grin with the clownish chin and nose. Make him a little less witchy and a little more scary, someone who is in the shadows, looking at you, who is clearly a Joker, young and restarted. He’s come back saying, “This is it. If I’m moving on, I’m starting over without you.”
Thematically, so much of what you’ve done on “Batman” is Batman realizing he doesn’t really know Gotham the way he thought he did. In “Death Of The Family,” even though Batman was going up against Joker he kept insisting that he really did know who Joker was and he knew the roles and what was going on, but here it’s all blowing up on him.
Right, basically you’re hitting on something the Joker is saying. “You used to know me, or at least I let you think you know me, and we played a game together where we sort of understood each other. But who I really am and what I would really do to you, you have no idea. I’m just a stranger to you, and welcome to that status of things.” That’s what he’s saying. He’s saying, “You don’t know anything about me anymore. But I know everything about you.”
I know you’ve been leery about people figuring out what’s been going on, but if we can look ahead a little, in the first issue we’ve got the Jokerized Justice League, and in this second one we’ve got the Joker identity reveal — where does it go from here in this story and the Batman/Joker relationship?
Well, it’s the end of it for me! [Laughs] This is Joker saying, “There is no more relationship! There is no more game between us, it’s all done, and I’m going to show you how small you are and how you never understood anything about me, I just let you pretend or think you did just to let you play along. But I’m bored of you, and that’s it.” To me, that’s burning everything I can with it to build something else with Batman and Gotham. It really is the last time I intend to write Joker; for me this really is everything I have to give to the character! [Laughs]
“Batman” is consistently a top seller, and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk and analysis over this issue. Is there anything else you want to tease or say to the fans that have followed you and are now watching the Joker/Batman break-up?
[Laughs] Honestly, all I can say is thank you! I started writing “Detective [Comics]” in 2010, so I’m coming into my fifth year on Batman and the world of Batman. The fact that readers have followed us through all of this as energetically as they have, I never expected it. Greg will be like, “Of course I expected it!” because he likes to be really confident about stuff, and I’m a little more insecure. The fact that the readership has followed us this far and is this enthusiastic about “Endgame” with sales and all that, I just don’t know how to say “thank you” enough. All I can say is that we promise we’ll do our best on this book for as long as you guys will have us, and we’ll always try and do something surprising, we’ll never spin our wheels. After “Endgame” comes a very sharp left turn from the kind of stuff we’ve been doing with the different characters and a different tone and all of that. We’ll stay as long as you guys will have us, and we promise to try our best to do stuff that surprises us and you, and to be a book that feels like the first issue of a run, every arc.
So “Endgame” is not just the end of Batman and Joker, it’s also the endgame of how you’ve been approaching “Batman” as a writer, taking it in a new direction.
It is! That’s actually a very good way to put it. After “Endgame” I’m going to move away from some of the big cinematic arcs we’ve been doing and try to do something more textured and that leads to big stuff and has big stuff at the end of it, but is a little bit more mysteries on the ground kind of stuff, so it feels different. It’s burning certain elements of the mythology down to build something else, absolutely.
Batman #36 is in stores today.