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Interview: Scott Snyder Talks Joker, 'Death of the Family' and Harper Row

The writer of BATMAN shares his thoughts on the Joker and explains why he's so mean when writing Batman.

This week we saw the release of BATMAN #16. The Death of the Family story is quickly approaching its conclusion but there's no telling what might happen. Scott Snyder has managed to deliver one crazy story after the other. With the end of Joker's story coming up and those ominous Batman-Family solicits for March, we asked Scott a few questions about what's coming up and how long is he going to put Batman through the ringer.

BATMAN #17

Comic Vine: Let's go over this again, when did you first come up with the idea for Death of the Family?

Scott Snyder: It was while I was doing A Court of Owls. I knew that I wanted to use Joker badly. When Tony [Daniel] did his first issue of DETECTIVE and they told him they wanted DETECTIVE to be responsible in some way for taking Joker off the table for a bit so he could come back later, I knew that I had a Joker story sort of in mind. It would pit him against the Family in some way. We discussed it and the way that he removed the Joker and leave his face, we were both on board with all that stuff in terms of having a couple options he came up with and that was his favorite. I told him I could completely work with that and use it thematically later in a story I wanted.

Over the course of the next seven or eight months, I started building it. I had help from Pete Tomasi, he's a great guy to run ideas and stories by. He came up with great stuff and so did the other Bat-writers. It kind of formed over that period while I was working on A Court of Owls in the same way while I'm working on Joker, I'm working on the next big story too. It's been brewing there for a while, for the last year or so.

CV: Has the direction or ending changed at all?

SN: No, it hasn't. Honestly, it's stayed very true to the outline, the same way the A Court of Owls did.

CV: How do you feel about the numerous tie ins and has Joker taken lessons from Wolverine in being able to be everywhere at once?

SN: Yeah, you sort of have to suspend your disbelief in the way that he is in many places at once. At the same time, I think that's part of the terror of the Joker. Is it really the Joker in that book or this book? Is he here, is he there? How did he get from this place to that? The fact that he's capable doing that is one of the things that makes the possibility that he got into the Batcave despite all of these obstacles and impossibilities that Bruce keeps listing about getting in. It's scary because it seems like he can do anything in this one.

CV: Will Batman ever do anything to make sure Arkham Asylum is truly secure?

SN: I think he does his best in that regard. I think part of the fun of Arkham is, like Gotham, it's always mysterious and gives up its secrets in strange ways. I would love to write a whole other story with Arkham. In fact, I've been thinking of it in the back of my head. Another story that involves Arkham more centrally that Joker. But it won't be for a while. Just the idea that it's the great haunted house of Gotham. It's something that no matter how familiar you are it or how much you feel as though you know it, it always seems to have some hallway or secret compartment that you didn't know existed.

CV: Is the fate of Alfred revealed in issue 17?

SN: Yes.

CV: How mean are you going to be to the supporting characters?

SN: Very very very mean. I feel bad. I really do feel bad. We're not being mean to be cruel but the Joker is the cruelest character there is in all of comics. He's about being your boogeyman. With Batman, he believes he's the guy that makes him stronger by bringing his worst fears to life. And that means some terrible things. We're not gleefully trying to make him awful and do terrible things. I'd never want to give the impression we're writing these horrifying things he does into the stories for shock or just to one-up things. It's meant to be a psychological and emotional attack on Batman. The Joker wants to see him survive. He believes he'll be stronger on the other side of it.

BATMAN #17

CV: How long do you think it should be until we see Joker return again?

SN: Oh, I don't know. I totally leave that up to DC. I'm strangely hands off when I'm done with a story or character, like James Jr., Joker or the Court of Owls. It's not that I don't feel a tremendous bond to those characters. I just love seeing what other people do with them once I've told my story. I don't feel possessive of them. The same way as I'm stepping off of SWAMP THING. I'm happy to see wherever Charles Soule wants to go with the character. If it were up to me, I'd probably leave him off the table for a while simply because by the end of 17 and the events of the whole story will definitely leave an impression on the Bat-Family. I think he'd probably be better to go and rest for a little bit. But I'd be happy to see him come back if somebody had a good story.

CV: Will we get to see under his face?

SN: Well, I don't want to give that away. That might be part of the story...

CV:How does he keep it from completely decomposing?

SN: It totally decomposes in 17. I'm not joking either. It's not decomposing to the point you totally see through it. In 16 you can see it starts to get really gross. It's a different color than his white skin and there's flies and stuff. In 17 it's really scary looking. He can only hang onto it for so long once it's out of that freeze chamber/preserving compartment thing it was in at the GCPD.

CV: It probably stinks too, huh?

SN: It looks awful. You'll see. It looks terrible. It's scary because his skin is white. You actually see his neck and the sides of his face beneath it, looking brighter than the face.

BATMAN #17

CV: A certain other publishers likes to do series where a character destroys the entire comic universe. Could you ever see writing a Joker story where he absolutely defeats everyone (assuming he doesn't kill everyone in 17)?

SN: Yeah! I could see that. Honestly, I loved Grant Morrison's BATMAN INCORPORATED #5. That future vision of a world where Joker did win. He's threatening in that way. I wouldn't put it past him to be the last one standing if it all came down to it.

CV: Do you plan to let up or go easy on Batman anytime soon?

SN: No way, man. Wait until you see, we're going crazy next year. But he can stand it, that's why he's the greatest superhero. Deep down, he's one of us, he's human. You put him through the ringer, you bring his fears to life, you throw these horrific things at him, all these physical and emotional challenges and he comes through. He's inspiring in that way. He can do it. He'll be okay. Don't worry too much about him but I guess worry about him because there's definitely some big bad stuff coming up.

CV: What can you tell us about the mysterious solicit for 18?

SN: All I can tell you is I can't wait for you to see Andy Kubert's amazing pages and for you guys to get to catch up with Harper Row. The issue is really told from her point of view, her and her brother. And you'll see Gotham and the Bat-Universe in the aftermath of the Joker story through her eyes.

CV: Besides being in the back up for 18, will we be seeing more of Harper?

SN: Yes, definitely. I have big plans for her in the Bat-mythology. She's not somebody we're writing to have go away. We really want her to have an important role and we have an important role in mind. We want to make sure you guys really enjoy her character and like her and want her to be part of the Family as much as we do. We don't want to shove anything down your throat. We're trying to really patiently build her up. 18 is also an issue you're going to learn more about her past and some secrets about her history as well.

BATMAN #16 is now on sale. BATMAN #17 is on sale February 13.

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Posted by akbogert

No matter how obvious you think killing Alfred is, I think we'd all probably be legitimately shocked if that's what happened.

That said, we haven't (as far as I remember) been privy to whatever horrific footage (not a blindfold) several of the family have been shown. I think it's safe to say that if his eyes truly were destroyed, his usefulness as a butler is over anyway. As for Harper's role, I haven't a clue, but I actually am very excited to hear they plan to make something of her because I really got a sense of potential from her brief appearances thus far.

Posted by Dud317

How can people have problems with the Jokers ability to accomplish so many things in so little time, or seem like he's in multiple places at once? Batman has 45 books and has been fighting crime at this pace once the dawn of time. Let's not forget, he's fighting Scarecrow and dealing with INC while this is all happening. I'm stoked I get to ready so many Joker tie-ins.

Posted by ZetaZero

Regardless of how this goes down, I really can't wait for the conclusion. The story thus far has just been beyond spectacular and although I'm not the biggest Batman Fan, this story arc has made me re-fall back in love with the jokers true nature, his psychoticness if you will. It reminds you just how truly messed up he is.

Posted by ccraft

@regrivett: that would be horrible :(