Scott Snyder: All the Forces of History

A comics interview article by: Nicholas Slayton

At the San Diego Comic-Con 2011, Scott Snyder was a busy man, running from panels to signings and to the Eisner Awards. But he managed to work in time between the events for a quick interview with Nicholas Slayton. The writer, whose American Vampire won Best New Series at the Eisners, talked about his run on DC's relaunched Batman title and how to draw in new readers to the legacy-heavySwamp Thing.

Nicholas Slayton: Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview. I'll try not to take too much of your time because I know you're busy.

Scott Snyder: No problem man.

Slayton: Oh, and first of all, congratulations on getting the full Batman title.

Snyder: Thanks so much!

Slayton: There's obviously a difference between Bruce and Dick, but is there a difference in how you're approaching the series because of this?

Snyder: Absolutely. This was a story I had in mind for a while about Batman as Bruce Wayne that really has to do with Bruce's sense of Gotham being his closest ally and oldest friend, even more so than Alfred or Dick Grayson. And I pitched it to Mike Marts about six months ago and he told me then that Bruce was probably going to come back to Batman in the fall and did I want to do Batman? I talked to Tony Daniel, who I'm friends with, and he said he'd be interested to get off Batman and doDetective [Comics], so we decided to switch. 

And in terms of the kind of way the story is different than the story about Dick, I really want each story to be very character driven. This is very, very much about Bruce's Achilles' heel. The same way that Dick's story in Detective is about why Dick is sort of untested by Gotham because he's never been Batman and what it means to be Batman for the first time –- even though he was Batman in "Prodigal," but be the anointed Batman -– this story is really about Bruce overestimating his own friendship with Gotham. 

The story is about Bruce coming back to Gotham with the events of Batman Inc. having happened, and him being comfortable in Gotham and confident in the first couple issues, then slowly realizing that Gotham is centuries old as a city. It dates back to the 1700s. And I love stuff about the history of Gotham, obviously. The idea is essentially, what if Gotham has not been paying attention to Batman as Bruce in the short time that he's actually been Batman? And now it sort of turns its evil stone eye to him and says "You know what, you've never actually been challenged by Gotham. I've never been paying very much attention to you. What if I bring all of the forces of history to bear against you and show how small you really are in the scope of evil in Gotham's history?"

Slayton: So in a way, it's kind of similar thematically to the "Black Mirror" story you wrote in Detective?

Snyder: Yes.

Slayton: I mean, in a way it's different, because this sounds like it's about Gotham stepping up to the plate with a challenge for Batman, rather than just reflecting itself off of him?

Snyder: It's very different in the way that it's not so much about making Gotham change to give new villains that are appropriate to the hero the way it is in the black mirror. It's much more about the history of Gotham, it's almost like the reverse or inverse of the "Black Mirror." Bruce does not realize the weight of history his own family has almost as an enemy of Gotham and it's about creating a rival symbol against the bat that's a natural predator of the bat that's actually been at war against the Wayne family for many, many years. And then bringing that to bear against Bruce as Batman, bringing the full weight of history against Bruce.

Slayton: One of the things you did that I loved in Detectivewas that you gave it a very modern feel. I mean, Jock's art really helped, but there was a cool tech thing every issue. But even with that you managed to keep a very gothic atmosphere. Is your approach to Bruce similar, or is it going to be slightly less modern?

Snyder: Oh, very similar. Bruce has the best tech of anybody in the universe. In the very first issue -– and the second –- you'll see his absolute top of the line tech. I'm very excited about the tech that gets displayed, especially in the second. Every issue I want to foreground how advanced his technology is. 

When you think about it, if you decided to devote your life to crime fighting, and you had no other job but that and you had endless resources you would be so incredible. And sometimes I feel that him with a magnifying glass is silly. He has better tech than most hospitals, and it's all privatized. And it's important to me to show how advanced the technology is that he has at his disposal.

Slayton: Another one of the big series you're handling this fall is Swamp Thing. Now, for me, I'm 20 years old, I missed out on Alan Moore's run. All I know is the reputation of the series. It has a great history, and all the writers have been big names. But for people like me who are younger, and for people who are trying to get into comics and have no prior knowledge of the character, how would you pitch it?

Snyder: It's meant to be a story you can come into with absolutely no knowledge of Swamp Thing. It's about a man who wakes up from essentially being dead to find out that while he was dead, he was a monster. He decides that all he wants to do is live his life and forget about this legacy that's coming after him, but it is coming after him. 

But slowly it's coming after him because what he learns little by little is that it wasn't an accident that he became this monster. So in a lot of ways it's not only a good jumping on point. If you've been reading the series it's fun for you because it builds on the mythology and explores why Alec Holland is the person that's so important to be Swamp Thing.

Secondarily, the other thing that's important for me is that it's a good jumping on point for anybody that hasn't been reading the series. So the point of the series, empathetically, is that it's somebody who's a young guy, he comes back, he's Alex Holland, he's human, and now he's wrestling with this legacy, this mantle of history and this mantle of kind of being haunted while he was almost asleep. 

I feel these are the kind of feelings and emotions that are very accessible to most people. Everyone is afraid of the some of the things they will become at some point, or their capacity for violence and their capacity for evil. That's really what the book is about, coming to terms with your own destiny and being okay with who you are, whether that thing is sometimes monstrous or sometimes heroic.

Slayton: One of the most famous characters of Swamp Thing has always been John Constantine. Now that he's back in the DCU, can we expect him to show up in the book?

Snyder: I didn't want to use him in Swamp Thing, I'll be honest with you. I really wanted this to be about Alec Holland and the legacy of Swamp Thing instead of Swamp Thing learning to be Swamp Thing the way he is with Constantine. Constantine, because of the way I've been framing the mythology and expanding it, he didn't have as big of a place as I wanted him to. But he'll be well taken care of in Justice League Dark

Slayton: Okay, one last thing. Will we see the hipster cops [a pair of recurring background characters who Snyder noticed show up in multiple comic books] in Swamp Thing?

Snyder: I actually mentioned it to Yanick [Paquette], so maybe we'll see them. You've got to keep your eyes peeled, maybe they'll be covered in ugly vegetation.

Slayton: They were in Gates of Gotham #2, right?

Snyder: They were. I didn't begin that though, it's not my fault.

Slayton: But did you figure it out? It's kind of your big real life case.

Snyder: I have not. Someone told me that they know the answer and were like "Do you want to know?" I hesitated and then they kind of disappeared from Twitter.

Slayton: You've got to figure that out.

(Photo credit: MTV Geek)

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