It seems this week everyone is talking about BATMAN #17 and conclusion to Death of the Family. There's been a slight mix in the reaction to the outcome. Many have praised the final issue while other question the fact that certain things did or did not happen. The issue was clearly full of suspense and Joker's plan played out on a deeply psychological level. It's definitely an issue you should read two or three times to catch all the meaning and detail.
But what does Scott Snyder himself have to say? You may have heard his (spoiler-free) discussion on last week's podcast but today we're getting down to the facts. We asked Scott about the conclusion and he doesn't hold back. He also gives an idea what he has planned in coming issues.
There will be some spoilers for BATMAN #17. Make sure you read that issue first.
Comic Vine: How does it feel having completed this epic story?
Scott Snyder: It feels great. We're incredibly grateful to everyone for how supportive they've been on the story itself. None of us expected it to be as big as it is or as it got. With something like this, you just try to tell a story that's really personal to you and hope people like it. It's been a huge overwhelming and wonderful surprise. I'm really grateful for it.== TEASER ==
CV: If it's been a year since Joker got his face cut off, does that mean a year's gone by in the New 52 Universe? Are we now six years in?
SS: Well it's hard for me to say because you know a lot of books have different things happening at different times. Even though we're in a shared universe, the events of Death of the Family really only took about a week or a little over a week. In regard to other books I know that move faster in time, in different speeds than we have. Some have stories that cover months. I think we all kind of meet and find each other but I don't want to speak for any other books in the DCU. But I like to think we're about a year off of what happened with the Court of Owls and that story, in Gotham at least.
CV: For years the big question has been does Joker know Batman secrets? You finally answered this. What made you decide to go the way you did?
SS: Decisions I made in the beginning, about what Joker would know and what the ending would be…I thought really hard about what if he did know. What if he was using that evidence…my feeling was it just felt untrue to character. The Joker really finding out who they were, more importantly, who Batman was, it just felt, to me, it would ruin his fun. It felt completely against to the relationship that I love.
My feeling was that in this way, he could say, "I know who you are." Bruce, because he knows Joker well enough would say, "I know that's not true." But he has no evidence to back it up to his family except for a deep knowledge and understanding of this horrifying villain. Even admitting that he understands him well enough to know that is difficult to do. It's especially difficult to do when he's coming at all of your allies and your proof is simply this familiarity with him, that you're almost horrified to say you have.
To me, that was a much more interesting route to go. If he knew, I felt like it also moved him forward. It would leave a legacy for those characters, unless you wiped his memory, it would be very difficult to make stories from this after. The stories would be such a big challenge and that wasn't something I wanted to leave behind. Mostly it just didn't feel true to the core of the characters.
CV: This will definitely go down as one of the greatest Joker stories, besides THE KILLING JOKE, which other ones stand out for you?
SS: There's so many. I always loved ARKHAM ASYLUM by Grant Morrison, "The Five Way Revenge" (in BATMAN #251) his interpretation in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Mark Hamill's Joker in the animated series has been a tremendous favorite for me all the way through to the Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker movie, his interpretation in The Dark Knight movie…It's hard because there's so many wonderful interpretations and they're so different from one another. It's one of the things that makes the character so interesting and rich. I guess my very very favorite would be his interpretation in THE KILLING JOKE and in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and in the animated series. Those three are the constellation I think we fall somewhere between.
CV: What's been some of the best or craziest rumors to the ending you've heard?
SS: I think the craziest rumor was Joker would pull his face off and it would be one of Bruce's parent…again. I feel every time we do a story with a mystery Bruce's parents become the theory. One that was most prevalent this time was that Alfred would die. I just want to say because I haven't really addressed this in other interviews yet, with people starting to read the issue now as retailers get it, while some of the comments are generous, I know there's going to be a vocal contingent of people that probably were expecting someone to die. They expected someone to be horribly hurt in a way that would be permanent.
I thought really long and hard about that before we began the story, I promise you. I really thought about what it would mean to kill Alfred or what it would mean to kill one of the Bat Family. As much as I understand the desire for that kind of lasting impact and for that kind of tangible consequence, for me, I really felt as though it was such a negative legacy to leave.
On top of that, I just didn't think that was what the story was about. I felt it would really overshadow the damage that the Joker has done to Bruce and to the Family in exposing this kind of deep distrust that I think Bruce has for them. He distrusts them only to protect them from things like the Joker. The exposure of that and the damage that the Joker has caused is so bone-deep that it will have a lasting effect in their relationships. This will come back up in the story lines. That would be compromised by a more bombastic death or mutilation.
That's my thinking on it and I understand if people, the blood-thirsty wonderful fans out there, wish somebody had died. For me, it just wasn't what this was about. I know there was so much speculation about it and I love the speculation. We're very proud and excited by the way this ends. I feel it's where the story has been headed since the very beginning. I really hope that everyone enjoys it as much as we do. We're very grateful for the positive response so far.
CV: How did the dinner scene in the cave come to you? Were you having dinner with the family one night and thought how you could make a really twisted scene for Batman?
SS: Heh heh, I just imagined them without faces? The way it came to me, the story is about the Joker saying that, "I know you better than anyone and you know me better than anyone. Knowing each other beneath these faces, these masks, beneath my superficial grin and beneath your cowl, it's just more of the same. I can cut my face off and beneath this face I"m still grinning. I'm still your jester, still your clown. And I know beneath your mask, because of your actions, you're still my Bat-King. You're still just Batman. You're not just whoever it is you're supposed to be. Your family is trying to convince you of that."
I know that what I wanted was some kind of exposure because he had his face off, I thought this would be perfect. I would just take their faces off and have it be this big moment. I'm not gonna lie, I did think about taking their faces off. I did have that discussion with DC. I said, "I'm thinking about this" and I think they would have been okay if I'd gone there. I really felt that would've been too grotesque. On top of that, how are you going to function with five characters with no faces? They would have to come back from that.
It was more true to form of the Joker, and this is why I'm so proud of the ending, to play a joke on them. The joke that he's playing is essentially to say, "I could pretend that I know who you are and I could pretend to expose you this way. I'm exposing you more deeply and more truthfully than if I did do these things for real. I don't need to cut your faces off. I don't need to kill one of you. I don't need to do those things to create the rift between you that's going to last and show that there's truth to what I said about Batman loving me more than you. Even if it's the tiniest sliver of truth, a 99.9% lie, I've proven that there's that barb in there." In doing that, he plays a terrific joke on them.
CV: If you did cut their faces off, you could have introduced Hush, Thomas Elliot, into the New 52.
SS: Ha ha. That was another theory, actually, that Joker was Hush. I saw that one, that it was Hush wearing his face and Joker would be tied up some place at the end. They're great theories, honestly, it was like during Court of Owls I thought maybe we should have gone that way. At the end of the day, I'm proud where this went being the culmination of where the story was headed emotionally and psychologically from the beginning. I would feel weird if he pulled his face off and it was another villain. If Joker was tied up somewhere and this was all a big fake out, I would felt really uncomfortable with the massive mutilation.
I would feel that if we would've killed off Alfred. Maybe I'm wrong, my feeling is I may want something like that to happen on the surface because you want change and you want something big to discuss. Deep down, it would break my heart for Alfred to die, as a fan. To have Batman grieve for issues and issues and issues about that, to be alone in the Cave and all of the fallout from that, it's not something that I would want. It's not something that I would want to write or read. It doesn't mean that things like that won't happen on my watch. It doesn't mean that we might not do a story soon where something massive like that happens. For this story, it just felt, for lack of a better term, overkill.
CV: What happened to Riddler, Two-Face and Penguin since 16? Did Joker just let them go or keep them locked up?
SS: They're locked up. They got caught. But you're going to see the really really soon. You're going to see them really soon again.
CV: Even though Batman sorta wins the battle against Joker, do you feel Joker sorta won in forming a wedge between Bruce and the others?
SS: I definitely feel Joker won. If you had to score who won more, the Joker is the victor in this one. Batman definitely stopped him and he saved his Family. I think Joker did what he wanted to do, even if he didn't end up killing all of the Family. He made his point. He really drove a knife between all of them and it's going to hurt for a long time. Batman won on the surface but I think Joker won beneath.
CV: Will we be seeing another big crossover soon?
SS: Not from me, honestly. The next story we're going to do starts in issue 21. It's truly our most ambitious story and I've been planning and gearing up for it for a long time. I want it to be the first time. With the Owls we crossed over and Joker we crossed over. I wanted to get to do more of just Batman on his own. The next big story is really solo Batman. When we finish that, we have a story, we're talking literally a year from now, when we're done with that, we actually have a big story that's going to reel the whole Bat Family into it. A big horrifying event. Ha ha.
CV: Do you have plans on how you're going to top this story?
SS: I try not to think of it that way or I would just get completely nutty, you know? The way I try to think about it is to try and approach the story like you have to do the one that's most important and personal to you. This one was incredibly important to me. It's my most personal story on BATMAN by far. It's about being a dad and the feelings that Bruce has about the family he loves and if they make him stronger or more vulnerable. How he wishes he could stop worrying about them. The next one is bigger in scope. It's more sort of A Court of Owl size. It's also one that, to me, is deeply personal. I'm really really proud of that. I really can't think about topping them sales-wise or in terms of popularity because I would just be chasing that. I just have to turn a corner and say I'm just giving this story…it's the same thing I tell my students in my class, I'm just trying to write the story I would most like to pick up as a comic book fan and read myself. I just hope you guys feel the same way as you read it.
CV: Well, each time, you do manage to top it. So I don't have any doubt.
SS: Well thanks. This one is definitely our most ambitious coming up. I will say that. It goes towards territory that I've kind of steered cleared of so far. I'm really really eager to see what you guys think. It means a tremendous amount to me. It is the boldest thing that we've done without a doubt.
And thanks to Comic Vine and everyone reading the books. We really appreciate it.
BATMAN #17 is now on sale. Issue 18 is on sale March 13.