This year is the 75th Anniversary of Batman, and DC Comics isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to celebrating the Dark Knight on the page. Starting today (April 9), they’re releasing a weekly comic titled “Batman Eternal” which includes every hero and villain associated with Batman — and promises to redefine Gotham City as we know it.
The first issue’s story and script is by current “Batman” writer Scott Snyder, and his frequent collaborator James Tynion IV; but to tackle 52 weeks of Batman, they also called on three other writers for a “brain trust,” Ray Fawkes, John Layman and Tim Seeley.
With the first issue now on stands, we talked to Snyder about three key moments in the issue, and what they mean for the series — and Batman — going forward:
NOTE: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE ISSUE FROM HERE ON OUT.
MTV News: Let’s talk about that first page… It looks like you wanted to start off with a nice, quiet character moment to open the issue.
Scott Snyder: [Laughs] We wanted to go extremely small.
MTV News: Kidding aside, this is insane. You’ve got Batman tied to the broken bat signal, a bat carved on his chest, Gotham consumed in flames and a villain taunting him with his secret identity’s name, Bruce. It’s obviously “the end” of the yearlong story, but what can you tell us about what’s going on here?
Scott Snyder: The truth is, it’s the opposite of going small. We really wanted to immediately announce the scope, the stakes and the consequences of the story we wanted to tell over the course of this year. Without giving too much away, who’s talking to Batman or anything like that: all of this is real. There’s no dream, the city really is going to be in that much jeopardy throughout the series.
If you could imagine a plot, and a plan of that level against Batman and his allies that unfolds over the course of literally 50 plus issues, double everything I’ve written on “Batman,” it gives you a sense of the scope and the breadth of the story.
That was the purpose for me and James Tynion, getting involved and creating a spine for the whole thing. The only reason to do the project was if we had a story that was big enough that we could only do it in 50 issues, and have questions that justify the sheer volume of pages.
MTV News: Did you guys start with this image? Did you think, what’s the absolute worst place we could put Batman in and work backwards, or was it a natural progression of the story?
Scott Snyder: I’m always looking for the worst ways to punish Bruce Wayne. ["Batman" artist] Greg Capullo is always teasing me, you hate him, don’t you? I don’t! I love him dearly.
We started with, what challenge could Batman face in a yearlong story that would really shake him up in a way we haven’t seen yet. In our run, or in recent memory. So we tried to think, what if we put together certain villains, certain heroes, and concocted a story to essentially take the entire city away from him. To put all of his vulnerabilities and flaws on display.
When we got to that, we realized the best way to open was with an image that showed you the beginning of the end. I try to start every Batman story that way. You look at where he is in his life, and think about something I find intensely heroic about him… And usually, there’s a flip side to that where there’s a vulnerability in there.
So you try to do a story that exalts the great aspects of that character trait, and also completely dismantles them. Here, we wanted to give this sense that Batman is eternal, that Bruce believes his legend will live on. Bruce believes — and the city does too — that Batman is bigger than one man.
MTV News: Jason Bard — a new detective working for the Gotham City Police Department — shows up right on the next page. He’s a character pretty steeped in Batman lore, but being introduced here for the first time… Why was he important to use as our window character for the issue?
Scott Snyder: The flip side of the idea of the series being huge and bombastic, and larger than life with massive plot twists and city shaking events, was the fact the other lure of doing it was the intimate aspects of the series. We could do things that were more like “Batman: The Animated Series,” or “Gotham Central,” follow regular Gothamites through their day and make the series something that’s extremely experiential.
It was really important in this issue to set up that twin pronged approach. On the one hand you understand that this isn’t going to be a granular, small intimate story. It’s going to be something that rocks Batman and the city to its core. On the other hand, we want you to feel like you’re walking the streets of Gotham. That you just arrived there. These are the neighborhoods you get to explore that you can’t in a monthly series.
You’re going to meet the guy who wrote the crime book on The Joker, and now is worried The Joker is following him around. You’re going to meet janitors late at night at Arkham. You’re going to meet the head of the special crimes unit. All the people that make up the fabric and tapestry of Gotham, from its craziest rogues you all know and love, to the Ten Eyed Man. All of those people are part of the series.
So Jason Bard was really important as an entry point. He is one of the major protagonists of the whole series, so it’s exciting to have him there as a conduit into Gotham City.
MTV News: Later in the issue, Commissioner Gordon hallucinates a crook is holding a gun, shoots him, ends up destroying a train and killing hundreds of people. It’s a small mistake that has colossal repercussions; which, based on what you’ve saying is somewhat the theme of the series, right?
Scott Snyder: That’s part of the idea of “Batman Eternal.” Batman, and these larger-than-life figures like Commissioner Gordon… What they do lives on in legend; but they also lose, they can make mistakes with big repercussions.
With Gordon, we wanted to start off as something that would be the crime of the century. It would be up there, all of the headlines for weeks and weeks. It would be something that would dismantle the power structure in Gotham that Batman is used to.
MTV News: And then at the end of the issue, Gordon is arrested. Given you’ve set up corruption — as usual — in the Gotham City Police Department, what does eliminating Gordon from the equation do to Gotham going forward? Not to mention Gordon himself?
Scott Snyder: Both are facing stories that you have never seen before, at least in my memory. One of the big lures for us on the series was this plot of Gordon in jail. To me, everybody is going to want to kill him. [Laughs]
How is going to live in Blackgate [Prison], is he gets sentenced to Blackgate? Who are going to be his allies? Is he going to form alliances with criminals like Black Mask? Is Batman going to be able to sneak in and protect him? How is going to survive even to trial?
That plot, even of itself has always been enticing to me, and the other writers of the series.
On the other hand, the police department itself is completely open game for anyone who wants to take it over, now that Gordon is gone. You’ll see that struggle play out, and it has tremendous repercussions for Batman and all of the main characters.
We want to feel, reading the series, that actions in one part of Gotham have echoes in another. And for your feel that it’s the interconnected city. For example, you saw in “Batman #28″ Selina Kyle becomes this new figure in the crime world. She becomes our Wilson Fisk, our Kingpin.
A lot of that has to do with what happens on the police force. Gordon isn’t there any more, and the way crime devolves spawns these big status changes for major characters like her.
“Batman Eternal #1″ is on sale now from DC Comics. Be sure to head back to MTV News next Wednesday (April 16) for a post-game on “Batman Eternal #2″ with Snyder.