The next big Batman storyline, titled "Endgame" and beginning in issue #35 of DC Comics' "Batman," has been under wraps for months. What was it about? Who would it feature? And whose endgame is on display?
With the issue now on stands, everything stands revealed: the Joker is back after ripping off his own face and seemingly tumbling to his death, and he's turned the entire Justice League against Batman.
This is actually the third part of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's Joker trilogy, after "Zero Year" (the origin), and "Death Of The Family" (the whole face/tumbling to death thing), and promises to bring Bruce Wayne's ultimate adversary back in a big way.
And to help guide you through all the emotions inherent in watching a Jokerized Superman beat the snot out of an armored Batman, we talked to Snyder about the issue, what's coming up next, and whether this story will seep into the rest of the Bat-line.
MTV News: Let's start at the end of the issue… What led to the decision to bring back The Joker?
Scott Snyder: It was always part of the equation. When we were working on "Death Of The Family," I mentioned to Greg [Capullo] that the story would need a second act, as we were telling it, something that balanced out that story.
Joker, for me, has been a mirror to Batman in our entire run. He was there at the very beginning as the Red Hood in one form or another. "Death Of The Family" is the second act of that story. For us, this is the third act of that same arc.
In the end, we knew this was a story we need to do to feel closure for the Joker, for us in that way. He has a very specific arc with our version of Batman.
MTV: The last time we saw Joker he had a very specific mission he wanted to enact upon Batman. I know we're just at the beginning here, but what's his plan in "Endgame?"
Snyder: He just wants Batman to suffer and die. [Laughs] The Joker, to me, is a figure who tempts Batman with the possibility that everything he does, and has done, means nothing.
At his most allied with Batman, what Joker thinks is, "We've entered a pact, you and me, where we transcend our human bodies. We are not these people who walk around in the city and think their lives mean something. We have become larger than that, we've become eternal. You are the Bat-king, and I am the court jester, and my job is to make you stronger. Beneath my face is more jester, beneath yours is more bat."
When Batman rejects that in "Death of The Family," and says, "No, this human family around me, not my villain family, is what makes me stronger," he's rejected Joker in a way.
Here, Joker says, "Let me show you who I really am. Because I'm the one who is forever and transcendent, and your life is a joke. That's the greatest joke of all. You think that what you do matters, and it doesn't. I'm just going to burn it away and let you see the truth."
MTV: Your Batman run, it's not that it's exactly been insular, but it's focused on Gotham City and the Bat-family to the exclusion of the other parts of Batman's life, and the DC Universe. Here, we're bringing in Batman's other family, the Justice League. What led to the decision to open it up in that way?
Snyder: Joker is trying to send a message which will become clear in issue #36. Ultimately, the decision was because we wanted an opening shot that would announce how big, and how out of control the Joker's plan was going to be this time around.
"Death Of The Family," he does a lot of horrible things, but it's also a very claustrophobic story, it's a funhouse mirrors story where you feel trapped in a maze of the Joker's making. You reach specific locations around Gotham and they're very dark, and frightening.
This one is the opposite. This is meant to be an inversion of that story. If that one was about love or comedy in some ways, this one is about tragedy and hate. This one is about, let's blow it up. The entire city is in play, the entire cast is in play. Villains, heroes, people you might not expect to see, people you do expect to see, with the stakes very, very high.
MTV: So Batman spends a good portion of the issue fighting each member of the Justice League, which is an insane proposition. So when you as a writer say, "Okay, I'm Batman, time to take down the Justice League…" How do you plan out something like that?
Snyder: [Laughs] It actually took a long time. It's intimidating, you step into Bruce Wayne's shoes, and you imagine you're him in that scene. You have the strongest people in the world coming after you, they're essentially these gods versus a man with no powers. So what do you do?
You see them coming down from the sky, running down the streets… So it took quite a while. I hedged a bit, said, "Well, they're infected, so they'll be a little slower." Which made me feel better! [Laughs]
But what it really came down to is I wanted to show how Bruce could take them down in a way that ultimately wouldn't last, but he has a way of stopping them in their tracks for a moment, to try and bring reason to them in this situation.
The fun of it was also to get to show, for the 75th anniversary, and for the sense of celebration that's hidden in this story – because it's a very dark story, it gets very dark. But it's also celebratory in bringing in Batman's cast, and his history, and the mythology we've brought to it, and some of the characters before us…
To open with a chapter where you get the kind of thing that as a kid you always wondered who would win in a fight, was part of the fun of saying this story is going to be cruel and dark, and mean in some ways. But it's also a celebration of what makes Batman the most eternal and badass superhero of all time.
MTV: What kind of power level is the Joker playing with that he can corrupt the Justice League?
Snyder: You'll have to wait and see! If he's Joker-ized the Justice League to attack Batman in issue one… The story isn't going to get smaller. [Laughs]
The story isn't about Joker-izing the DC Universe, I don't want to misdirect people. But it's about a plan that begins with a certain flair, where he says, "I'm sending a warning short across your bow, and it has a specific message." It says, essentially, friends are now enemies. "I was your ally, and now I'm not. I'm coming after you and there will be no mercy."
How do you send that message, a message of pure hatred? Of betrayal, saying, "It's over, whatever bond we had is dead, and I'm coming to get you." That felt right to me.
MTV: One thing we don't touch on in this issue is what The Joker looks like. When we last left him, he was literally missing his face, but also Greg gave him a costume that matched his mission – he was trying to fix Batman in "Death Of The Family," so he dressed in handyman clothing. So what's his look this time?
Snyder: He has a very distinctive look this time around too. I will say he's not running around without his face. That's a big spoiler I suppose. But I don’t want to give too much away because his look is significant.
We're going for something that's at once very classic, and at the same time saying, "I'm not who you think I was. I'm something different, and something darker than you imagined."
There's something slick, and cold, and mean about him, as funny as he is. But we never got to do classic Joker. This is sort of our version of the physically classic Joker, but modernized as if he was there to say, "Game Over."
MTV: And it's his 75th Anniversary too, not just Batman's.
Snyder: Exactly! One of the jokes I wish I could make in the arc, but is part of the theme of the story is, "It's not your 75th anniversary, it's my 75th anniversary. I created you more than you created me." He definitely believes that. It's a battle of whose birthday it is in some ways.
To me, Batman is a testament to how much your life can mean. You take something that's meaningless, your parents' death over a little bit of money and a wallet – and you turn it into a life full of purpose and meaning.
And then you have a villain who from even when he was under the hood, is saying, "Life is meaningless, it's a joke. That you think anything you do matters." That's why he was inspired by Bruce Wayne's parent's death to be born the same way.
So now this is the final battle between them, that sense of, does it mean anything, what you do? Or is it just ripples in the ocean?
MTV: "Death Of The Family" started in "Batman" and then seeped into the rest of the line. Is this more of a contained story, or will we see spinoffs?
Snyder: The way I've tried to design every story we've done, and it's my actual, physical mission statement I hand the other Bat-writers when we start doing a big storyline, says, "If you feel like tying in to this, you're more than welcome. And if you don't, don't, it's completely up to you."
When it came to this one, we're launching a bunch of new books – and new directions – at the same time. "Batgirl," "Arkham Manor," "Gotham By Midnight…" Me and [Editor] Mark Doyle just felt it would be unfair to say, "Hey, start! And then join a crossover."
This story takes place a little bit after their first arcs, so they will reflect it after their first six-issue arcs are done. And there will be books that address this story for some of those characters. So one-offs, but will not interrupt the series themselves. We're not going to have "Batgirl #40" be the Joker book.
Maybe we're leaving money on the table in some way, but we really wanted to maintain the integrity of the Batline, and we were really excited about these books like "Gotham Academy." Instead of making them play ball with a giant Joker story, it would be easier to let them get on their feet and do what they're doing. If they want to tie in, they can do a one-shot on the side.
"Batman #35" is on stands now.