Interview: Scott Snyder On His 'Bold' 'Batman: Zero Year' Story


"...I'm trying to take an example from writers I admire like, Grant Morrison or Frank Miller, or so many of them that you watch being fearless, and you think, I might not ever be able to achieve what they've achieved, but at least I can try and be brave. And that's what we're trying to do with this story, so I hope that you'll give it a chance. Because we really believe in it.

When DC announced that the next arc for Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Batman" would be an early days of Bruce Wayne story titled "Zero Year," I reacted in the -- admittedly -- cynical way by questioning, "we're simply getting another Batman origin story? Especially one with a title so similiar to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's iconic "Year One"?" But after speaking with Snyder over the phone, the intentions for the narrative became more clear. Well, as clear as they can be considering how tight-lipped Snyder was about the actual contents of the 11-issue arc.

But what Snyder did assure both me, and more importantly, you readers, is that "Batman: Zero Year" is the boldest story he's told thus far in his tenure as current Bat-centerpiece (a position he's not comfortable being considered). Read on for Snyder's thoughts about "going big going home" on "Batman," what he has to say to fans who might doubt the power of "Zero Year," how the story will fall in line with current continuity, and his thoughts on Harper Row, the character he created who is leading the fan-speculation pools as being in the run to don with red and yellow tights as the next Robin.

MTV Geek: What led to the decision to tell this "Zero Year" story?

Scott Snyder: A lot of fans and readers have been asking me and all the Bat writers, "how does 'Year One' still fit in continuity if there's these discrepancies, if James Jr. would be five years old or six years old. Selina Kyle has a different background. The Falcone family has a different background." And it became more like, you know what, "Year One" is one of my two favorite pieces of graphic literature in the world, the other being "Dark Knight Returns" so, there's nobody who wants to preserve it more than me, but it really becomes about saying, I have an idea for a story that shows Bruce's transformative years.

It works around "Year One," but instead of showing pieces of "Year One" and retread them, and show what's there. Let's give you guys, the readers a brand new story. That's respectful of what came before, but shows it in a way that you haven't seen. Without giving too much away, we wanted to do this big story that is personal to us -- me and Greg [Capullo] -- that gives you a brand new take and brand new look at a moment in Batman and Bruce's life that you've never seen before. And does it in a way that you haven't encountered. One this I can promise you is when you open the book, you'll know it's really different than anything you've seen when it comes to Bruce's early years.

Geek: Will the whole series take place in the past, will it be flashbacks? How's it going to work?

SS: Well I…You know a lot of the time I've said that stuff before it's come out, like how it'll be structured, or what the backups will be, or any of that stuff. With this one, because I feel that people are so, kind of…I totally understand their nervousness or their excitement or their apprehension or their fear or anger that we're doing it. I think, I'd rather just let it speak for itself, just this one time, and just say, hope you'll open up the book and just see how it's structured, and see what happens in it, without me trying to sell it to you.

Geek: It's kind of tough to ask some of these questions, without giving too much away, but we saw some of Bruce's early years set up in the zero issue, is it safe to assume that you are going to revisit some of that?

SS: Yeah, definitely. That I can definitely say…although, we didn't want to do anything that you've seen before in any way, but even the stuff in the zero issue you won't see again, in this…but, that zero issue probably a preview or a trailer of some of the quietest stuff that happens in this story [laughs]. But that continuity tracks with the continuity of this story. So, the Red Hood Gang that you'll see in ours is the Red Hood Gang in that, the moments that happen in that are part of what happens in this story, but you will not see that story happen in this. Meaning, that's kind of secret moments from the quietest part of the story you're going to get.

Geek: You've been talking about The Riddler for a while, you just finished The Joker, and in yesterday's announcement you mentioned we're going to see batman take on his first supervillain, I feel like we're going to see Red Hood, or we're going to see The Riddler, or we're going to see both.

SS: Again, I'm not trying to be coy, but I will say that his first supervillain might be somebody brand new, or it might be somebody old. I would just rather…this one time…I feel like I've tried to be, and DC has definitely has been on my case about giving too much away beforehand before. I've tried to give you as much as I could ahead of time. With this one, I'd love for you to just open it and not know what's coming at all. And just be surprised, and we'll hopefully catch you off guard with everything in it.

Geek: Since this is going to be a story about the beginning of Batman, we also have the other Bat-books dealing with the death of Robin, "Batman Inc" is ending. Your Batman has typically been the centerpiece of the Bat-universe, is it still the centerpiece?

SS: [laughs] I don't know, I've never thought of it that way. I try to think of it as one book among all the books in the Bat-universe and that some elements are more prominent in other books. For example: I tried with our issue 18, I tried to really steer clear of how Bruce was experiencing the grief of Damian's death because that's something that's been much better explored, and masterfully explored in Pete Tomasi and Pat Gleason's book, "Batman and Robin," so they're the centerpiece book for that, do you know what I mean?

Geek: Yes.

SS: Where as, the fallout of the Joker stuff, we're probably the centerpiece book for that, so in a lot of ways, we tried to be a collective, like me and Peter and Kyle and Gail and Scott Lobdell and all the people working in the Bat-universe to try to say which book feels the impact of which the most. In that way, I guess, what I hope is that you'll just believe that if you've loved Batman so far, if you've liked the series so far, if you've just been thinking about giving it a try that, this is definitely me and Greg taking a risk and saying, "This is a story that I've talked about with Greg since the moment we came on Batman in some capacity or another, and we've been thinking about doing it and been nervous about doing it and been excited about it, and what are we going to do? Are we going to tell safe stories in Batman and do stuff that's safe? Are we going to tell stories about Calendar Man or tell a story about Mad Hatter that I know I would have fun doing, or are we going to tell a story that we've been talking since go. What if we did this crazy story?"

And I hope you guys out there will follow us there if you've liked "Batman" or give us a chance if you've been thinking it. Because I can tell you honestly from the bottom of my heart, it's a story that we care a tremendous amount about and trying to take a risk for the readers that is hopefully bold. And we're trying to do a thing…I'm trying to take an example from writers I admire like, Grant Morrison or Frank Miller, or so many of them that you watch being fearless, and you think, I might not ever be able to achieve what they've achieved, but at least I can try and be brave. And that's what we're trying to do with this story, so I hope that you'll give it a chance. Because we really believe in it.

Geek: I'm glad to hear you talking about that this is a bold story, because I think I'm probably not alone in thinking, that when yesterday's announcement happened, that it feels like this is just Batman's origin story again, and we have seen that a million times, how do you feel about how readers can initially react to that sort of thing?

SS: I totally understand. I would react the same way. That's what I would say to anybody reading MTV Geek, I would read it and think, "That a&#hole Snyder, he's just going back to the same well, he's playing it safe," but what I'm telling you guys, and I mean it, is where trying to do it in a way that you've never seen, that it's a story that's really personal to us, and if you've seen something before that's in this, tell me. Because for me, it's sort of taking a completely different tack, while trying to be respectful of Bruce's origins. I can promise you that we're not trying to revisit a well, and we're not bored and bored and going back to his origin. It was a difficult decision, it was about me and Greg sitting together, literally, on the phone saying, "are we going to do this thing that's like the scariest, craziest thing that we've done? Or are we going to say, I have a three part 'Mad Hatter' story or I have three-part Ras story, or that kind of stuff, are you going to do that?" And Greg has been great about, "F*$k it, let's just go big, let's do the story as if we've been talking about forever." And I totally understand being jaded about it, and I totally understand being cynical, and I would be too, as a fan, and I'm telling you, this is us being as fearless as we can be, and I hope you'll follow us. It really means a lot to us, and I'm being honest with you. I really am.

Geek: I just read "Batman" #18, which was really good by the way…

SS: Oh thanks, dude, I appreciate that…

Geek: You're welcome. So Harper Row is totally the next Robin, right?

SS: [Laughs]: No! I feel badly that everybody is assuming that just because she's there right afterwards, we were trying to position her as the new Robin. But I can tell you honestly, everybody reading this…she's not designed to be Robin. I'm not going to give away what happens…whether she would BE Robin or not. But, what the creation of Harper Row was really about was creating a lens for me personally that I could relate to in Gotham, that would be like, a kid, or somebody struggling, as a young person, you're trying to make ends meet, you're in this place that's really tough, nobody believes in you and you have this incredible superhero in town that's doing these things that inspire you.

So, the genesis of that character has nothing to do with the mythology of Robin, it really is, the reason that we use her in this issue -- I just want to be clear -- is to give Pete Tomasi room to deal with Bruce's grief over Damian. Because, for me, this isn't about let's use Harper to sort of hint that she's going to be Robin or something like that. This really is about trying to move from Bruce's personal experience with Damian's death so that Pete can handle it, because he's done that book so beautifully and masterfully and worked so well in terms of the richness of the relationship between Bruce and Damian, that we wanted to give him all the pieces on the playing board to be able to tell his story to show what I wanted to do with Harper was to show how when Batman is in pain, the whole city is in pain, and that's it.

Geek: Thanks for taking the time, Scott.

"Batman: Zero Year" begins in "Batman" #21. On shelves June 12.