Interview: Scott Snyder Brings The Joker Face To Face With Batman In 'Death Of The Family'

Are you ready for the all new, all deadly Joker? Batman - and the entire Bat Family - won't be, if writer Scott Snyder has anything to say about it. Starting in issue #13, The Joker returns after a year with a new face (maybe), and a bone to pick with The Dark Knight. And not only will he be taking it out on Bruce, he's going after everyone he knows and loves. We chatted with Snyder about all this, why it was time to bring the Joker back, and whether this storyline will let us, once again, vote to kill Jason Todd:

MTV Geek: On the two big Batman stories you’ve done so far, the first one in Detective Comics, and of course the Court of Owls, you’ve been eschewing the big Batman villains. I think most writers, when they get a chance to tackle Batman, start running down the checklist of villains, but you didn’t do that... So what changed, and why was it important to tackle the Joker now?

Scott Snyder: That’s a great question... It’s the thrill of a lifetime to get to use the Joker; I used him a touch in Detective Comics, and it was incredibly exciting. It made me want to use him again immediately. [Laughs] What happened was, with the New 52, DC wanted to move some of the bigger villains off the table a bit to make room for the new villains that people were excited about. It became more of a process of figuring out when I could begin to do this story I had been thinking about for him and Bruce, and bringing him back.

They asked if Tony would take him off the table in Detective, and he had a few different ways of doing that, so we landed on this one that would tail into my story... Tony really liked that, that face coming off ending, and I knew that would work okay for me. He did that, and all credit to him creatively for that... But it definitely dovetails into the story I wanted to tell.

Here, and my feeling was, we haven’t had a Joker vs. Bruce story in a really long time. You’ve seen him pitted against him in No Man’s Land, and stuff like that, but that was so long ago. He faced off with Dick and Damian in Batman and Robin, and he played a part in Batman R.I.P., but still, as the central villain... As the guy that Bruce is fighting, not some peripheral, or secondary, those stories don’t come along very often. If we’re going to use him, we might as well use him as if we’re never going to get to use him again.

So this is really my giant, twisted love letter, or exploration of the Joker, in the central, deep, dark way we could do it. This is my Joker story to end all my Joker stories. [Laughs]

Geek: I remember you talking about Black Mirror, and how that was Gotham fighting back against Dick Grayson... And then with Court of the Owls, how it was Gotham’s “stone eye” turning to look at Bruce Wayne. So both of those stories were about Gotham City versus Batman, is the Joker story the same? Or is this going more one on one?

SS: It comes at things from quite a different angle... I loved using Gotham as the central antagonist, or both the ally and the villain, in a lot of ways, in those stories. But the thing that makes these heroes great, and strong is trial by fire. But here, I wanted to make this about the Joker, and Batman. Here, we’re coming to him with a very particular axe to grind. He went away for a year for a reason, he cut his face off for a reason, and now he’s back to make all the points in the most bloody, frightening, and grotesque way he could to the Batman, and the entire Bat Family, as to why he did those things, and what he’s angry about.

It’s really about their relationship. It’s got a lot of design elements: the court jester, and the tarot cards... All the kind of stuff that funnels up into what it means to be the Joker, and the jester in the royal court of Batman. It will be everything from weird Shakespearian imagery, all the down to the squirting flower stuff. I really hope people like it, it’s everything I love about the Joker all in one place.

Geek: You just touched on this, but in a nutshell, what would you say the character of the Joker is?

SS: My take is that I think he considers himself the court jester to Batman, to his king. The way he serves him is by bringing the greatest nightmares of his heart to life, to challenge him to be stronger. He knows the greatest secrets, the dark spaces of Batman’s heart... He celebrates those. He says, don’t be afraid of them... Celebrate the the things that make you pathological like me, because they’re wonderful. To me, that’s the Joker, he’s the demon on Batman’s shoulder all the time. He knows how to get at him, he knows what he’s afraid of... And that’s what I love about him the most, that he wants Batman to laugh at those things with him, but instead, they’re horrifying.

Geek: The title of the arc is Death of the Family, which is obviously very evocative for Batman fans... How much should we be going back to that book to look for clues?

SS: I don’t want you to have to feel like you could get back to read anything. A lot of it is predicated, for fun, on the Joker’s past with Batman... This is not Batman meeting The Joker for the first time in the New 52, as though he hasn’t met him before. This is really about the rich history between Batman and The Joker. That said, you don’t have to have read anything in the past to pick it up, and enjoy it.

That said, it’s meant to evoke that storyline, because it’s so emotionally resonant that group of us who grew up in that period with Batman comics; but also because in a literal way, he’s going after the whole family here. It’s a storyline that’s going to be completely self contained in Batman, the back-ups, and the features, and seventeen is going to be a double sized issue, so it’s almost seven issues packed into five. It will be those big five issues in Batman, but because the story is so big, kind of Night of the Owls, you will see The Joker featured in the Bat family books as he goes after them in his own ways.

You’ll see the Joker in Nightwing, you’ll see The Joker in Batgirl, in Batman and Robin... And even in Teen Titans where he goes after Tim, because Tim is obviously an important member of the Bat family as well, and Jason in Red Hood. It will be this huge, broad Joker story where he’s out to burn the whole house down in every way possible.

Geek: Are we going to get to call in again, and determine whether Jason Todd lives or dies?

SS: [Laughs] I wish! If they would do a stunt like that, I’d do it. I remember vividly, calling from a pay phone near the playground near my parents place in Waterside, in Manhattan. I literally paid my money to have Jason die, and then I felt so bad I called back and paid to have him live, to cancel out my own vote. I really did.

Geek: Do you think you’d change your vote now? Or unchange your vote?

SS: I don’t know! I really love what’s happened with Jason since... I’ll be honest with you, I was against him coming back from the dead when it happened, but the way Judd did it, I really appreciated. And the mystery told in Under the Hood was really good. I’m happy where he’s gone since then, he’s in good hands. But my initial, gut reaction was to kill him. I did vote first for him to die.

Geek: You and Greg Capullo have developed such a great writer/artist connection over the course of your run... What will you two be unleashing with this Joker arc, and what horrible stuff are you forcing him to do?

SS: Greg is just a creative force unto himself, where I’ve never had a greater collaborator. He contributes so many ideas to each story. From the page turn idea in issue five of Batman, to visual memes like the eyes that repeat in the Court of Owls storyline. There is no better guy to work with in comics, he’s become like a brother to me. It is no secret that we didn’t get along when we first met, because we’re really different people, but the truth of the matter is, once we got into this, and started talking story, we became really close. We went to Spain, to a Con there so we would get to hang out with our wives, and now I really genuinely love the guy. He’s one of close friends in life now, and a mentor to me.

But now he’s doing the Joker, he gets to be completely unleashed. It’s really fun to be able to write it, and say, “Any kinds of crazy panels you want to do, whatever you think to make this scene really unsettling and tense...” Because we don’t know where the Joker is in the darkness. We see in Jim Gordon’s flashlight, a flash of white hand, and a flash of green hair. You don’t see his face yet... What does he look like, does he have a face? Is he wearing his face? Is he wearing a mask? Is he wearing someone else’s face? What are we doing?

All of that, you get to play with, and Greg just goes to town. I really think it’s going to be the craziest, scariest Joker story in a long time. I’m very proud about what Greg’s doing already with the iconic look of him. He does look different! He’s losing his face, in some way he’s going to have to look different! But, the way that he’s been reinterpreted with me and Greg, and the way he will look consistent throughout the thing, it’s going to be something that harkens back to his iconic look in a way that you recognize immediately, all the things I love about Joker are there. At the same time, he’s scarier, he looks different in a way that will be really unsettling.

BATMAN #13 hits comic book stands in October from DC Comics!