So, several months after his Batman run ended with Fear State, James Tynion has released his final (10th) essay “Thinking Bat Thoughts”, in which he talks about the second year of his run (Fear State), shares his thoughts for future Batman writers, and thanks all involved in his run. As he promised, it’s an enormous newsletter, chock full of exciting details from his mind about Batman and what he was thinking while writing Fear State. It is so enormous, in fact, that we’re going to break up our commentary on the information provided into several chunks. Before we get started on that, though, we wanted to include our commentary on the insights from Tynion’s mentor, Scott Snyder, who posted a lengthy essay of his own commenting on the last twelve or more years of Batman writing on the occasion of the end of Fear State. This is Scott Snyder saying farewell to the Batman Universe according to James Tynion.
For this week, I’ve been thinking a ton about Batman (not that I don’t all the time). The truth is, I have Batman stories that pop into my head. Every month, I’ll have some random idea still smash through the window like the bat of some Dark Knight story.
And there’s always a temptation to go back and do it, but I’ve really, really hung up that cowl for a while, at least. And with James Tynion IV, who’s my little brother, ending his run today with my other great friend Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey, who’s also a friend and colored our whole first arc of Nocterra—it got me thinking a lot about what it means to be in that company of other people that have finished a lengthy run on a character as beloved as Batman. It’s a special kind of thrill and it’s a special kind of terror when you wind up on a character like Batman or Spider-Man or Superman—someone who means so much to so many millions of people out there, and sort of helms a whole franchise of material. I told you this before, but it was Grant Morrison’s advice that really started letting me own that book when I was on it and letting me really get comfortable with it when they told me you need to create a birth and a death for your version of the character. And the truth is, once I had that, it gave me a different appreciation for stories of the past as well. And it stayed with me now watching other people take the mantle of Batman after me.
Thoughts: It’s very interesting seeing the next generation of Batman writers “graduate” – from the past decade, Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Tom King, and now James Tynion. From the previous decade, Ed Brubaker (recently announced as joining the writers’ room for the upcoming Batman cartoon), Greg Rucka, Bill Willingham, and from the decade before that, Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Alan Grant, and their editors like Scott Peterson and Jordan Gorfinkel. Each of these groups had their own overlaps, friendships, networks – you see here Snyder’s love for Tynion as a “little brother” – something he’s said in my memory since 2014 when he was pitching Batman Eternal with Tynion to fans.
And the thing I wanted to talk about was just sort of how great it is to see people do versions of the character that are different than yours. I think there’s a misconception that if somebody does something that you wouldn’t do with Batman, or any big superhero that you’ve worked on for a long time, that you have a repulsion to that or that you’ll be upset about that or that you’d be angry by that or that somehow you would not like that run, but the opposite is really the truth. For example, my favorite run is probably Grant Morrison’s run. So many huge ideas. So many daring decisions—Batman floating through time and affecting DC history, Bruce taken off the table, Dick Grayson finally assuming the mantle, and bringing in Damian. Just idea after idea. But there are also things about that run that I can’t wrap my head around when it comes to my version of Batman. For example, Damian. Damian was a really big problem for me writing when I was on Batman. Luckily, they told me DC didn’t want me using Damian at all because they wanted to do a Batman and Robin book that Pete Tomasi eventually helmed and they also wanted Damian reserved for Grant’s stuff. And they wanted Batman to be really singularly focused on Bruce.
Thoughts: Snyder here comments that his favorite run on Batman is “probably” Morrison’s – I’m sure this is somewhat casual, as he’s talked about how he thinks the “best” stories are this or that (usually The Dark Knight Returns) – and his main takeaway is the “daring decisions” – Morrison was clearly a big ideas guy, and made bold changes (on one famous occasion, accidentally with Talia and Bruce’s conception of Damian).
But I remember talking to Grant and joking with them and saying “I’m really sorry. Damien (sic) is one of those few characters that, at this point in my life, I can’t write really well,” I love him, and I love reading him written by other people, but because my son was eight or nine at that time, it was so difficult for me to imagine having a Robin, who was my own son next to me, getting punched in the face by grown men and shot at, no matter what his background was, no matter what his training was. And just as a parent, it was impossible for me to dive into and to inhabit that Bruce. At the same time, again, that’s my favorite run. So, I love reading it. I just couldn’t do it myself. And then over time, I think I came to a different relationship with Damian and I loved writing him the few times I got a chance. But I had real difficulty at that moment in my life approaching him.
Thoughts: Snyder has maintained this reason for not writing Damian for a long, long time. Fans have at various points accused Snyder of “hating” Damian (and also of hating Alfred, for causing Alfred so much pain and loss throughout his run), but I think that while the effect is sadly the same, Snyder’s consistency does seem to have a certain weight of truth to it. That being said, the effect of Snyder’s Batman being focused so much away from Damian and the “traditional” Bat-Family was to create a strong impression that Damian simply doesn’t belong in Gotham – an impression reinforced by the fact that both of Damian’s solo runs as Robin have immediately put him on an international, usually exotic, adventures that keeps him from Gotham for years. (One could draw a parallel with Morrison’s creation and use of Damian intentionally or unintentionally sidelining Tim Drake.)
But my point is simply that Grant’s model of Batman is cerebral and expansive and all-encompassing. And mine is much personal and Batman as someone who I wanted to change from a figure of intimidation to a figure of inspiration. I wanted it to be something that was really laser-focused on one villain at a time. Each thing was an exploration of Batman’s relationship to Gotham and Gotham being the stand-in for my fears and anxieties about that moment, or about myself, or about the world, all of it. So, our runs are wildly different. But I love the fact that my predecessor and one of my idols did something completely different than me. And I’m proud of the fact that we found our own voice on that book.
Thoughts: It’s very interesting that Snyder sees his Batman – a Batman who in his hands had one of the biggest examples of power creep, and about whom other writers would tell stories of how Snyder would always insist in conversations in the office that Batman always beats every other hero in a fight – as a figure of inspiration, rather than one of intimidation. One could see Morrison’s Batman – a Batman who conquers Darkseid and time-traveling demons, and in a way, even death itself – as intimidating – but he’s also a Batman who remains a child in the end, one who fails utterly to save his son, his love, and his city from his love’s own self-destructive insanity and malice. And Morrison’s Batman is the Batman who inspires and empowers men and women all over the world with Batman Incorporated – from a poor tribal doctor on a reservation to an Algerian Muslim immigrant in Paris.
Similarly, James’ Batman is so family-focused, and that book is so much about his relationship with other Bat-characters, which was always one of James’s great strengths, I think, on Batman Eternal, and Batman and Robin Eternal. And James creates a very big tent. He loves all of Gotham, he loves every corner of it. And so that run has been such a joy to read, because it’s so different than mine in the way that it’s so young and fresh and brings in new characters—Miracle Molly and Punchline and Ghostmaker (sic) and Clownhunter and all of it, like just one after another of these great, great new figures. But that’s not my Batman. That doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with that. I do actually see myself inhabiting James’s Batman more easily than other versions. But I am just saying that our version of Batman was focused on different things.
Thoughts: Snyder highlights Tynion’s love of Batman as a family figure – both with the new and old. He also mentions that he finds himself closest in many ways to Tynion’s Batman – unsurprising, given their close collaboration over the past decade on nearly every project that Snyder’s done in Gotham. But he also draws a distinction – though I’d say that Snyder’s focus on Bruce’s relationship with Alfred, with Dick, with Harper Row, Duke Thomas, Julia Pennyworth, and other “newer” or less traditional members of the Bat-Family, indicates that the difference between Tynion and Snyder isn’t something clean-cut and easy to define.
Then there’s Tom King’s version of Batman—wildly different, and there are lots of things in that run that I felt like I couldn’t wrap my head around in terms of my version of Batman. His relationship with Catwoman to me has always been something that was exciting to play with, and a temptation of normalcy in his life and of happiness and all of that. But it’s never been one of the things that really drew me, not that I don’t like reading about it. I love reading about it. But again, for me as a writer, that relationship has always been secondary to his relationship to Gotham, to his own heroism, to his responsibilities and legacy as a hero. I see it as something that’s always kind of doomed, not because he couldn’t get married and be happy, but because it would always be something that would eventually fall apart. And I tried to explore that idea a bit in Superheavy with another character who I felt like there was less baggage with based on Batman’s earliest romances from continuity. But anyway, the point is, there was so much I loved about Tom’s run. I thought it was so different than mine. It was so dark and introspective and it made Batman vulnerable and flawed. And for me, reading that again, there was such a sense of appreciation of someone taking this character and doing something wildly different than I would do. And just always surprising me in that regard.
Thoughts: It’s very interesting seeing Tynion and Snyder comment on the run that separates them, especially considering how controversial that run is. King’s focus on Catwoman, of course, is the defining feature of that run, and Snyder highlights King’s argument in the work that Batman should grow up, choose to be happier in a marriage relationship with Catwoman, adding to his mission – whereas Snyder highlighted in his run that in many ways, Bruce is dead – he can have moments of happiness, but they are fleeting, rooted in things that cannot build into the future with him being part of them. The way Snyder points to Superheavy, which is the most literal statement that Bruce is dead to “normal” relationships (not that King’s writing of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship was anywhere close to normal) as his exploration of the same territory that King tread is extremely telling.
So, yeah, huge, huge, huge hats off and kudos to my buddy James Tynion IV, and Jorge and Tomeu, and also to Becky and Michael and Jorge, they’re on the backups, which have been great, for just sticking the landing on an epic run and leaving a mark in Gotham. I’m very proud, as I said in a tweet, to be in the retirement home beside you guys and so many other great writers and artists. It’s always an honor. So, yeah, Batman Forever!
Thoughts: It is very nice to see Snyder so honestly and sincerely pleased for his student and partner Tynion.