Yesterday the news broke that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are sort of taking a vacation from the current activities in Gotham City. They're actually not going far as they're moving the title into the past. BATMAN: ZERO YEAR is set to go back to before Bruce Wayne became Batman. We got a taste of that in BATMAN #0.
What does "Zero Year" really mean? Will the story completely take place in the past? What villains might we expect? We asked Scott these questions and more.
Comic Vine: Is this going to follow the events of BATMAN #0 from last September?
Scott Snyder: Yes. That issue really does provide a small window into probably what might be the quietest section of the story.
CV: Will BATMAN #21 pick up immediately where the cliffhanger left off?
SS: No, it won't. Issue zero kind of was a tiny glimpse into the beginnings of the story in some ways. I wanted to give you...I guess it's sort of like a trailer with the stuff we felt okay showing you from it.
CV: What made you decide to move away from the present and journey into Bruce's past?
SS: For me, it's something I've always wanted to explore. I really felt like there was a period in Bruce's life, especially given the continuity in the New 52 that's been unexplored in terms of whether or not he operated in secret, whether or not the legend of Batman existed before he came out publicly. I really felt there was an area, that transformative period in his life, that just wasn't explored.
For me, more importantly, it's really a matter of trying to tell the stories that matter the most to you. The Bruce that we've been using, our Bruce and the Bruce you see in the New 52, has things and moments in his past, in my mind, we haven't shown you yet. They're really really important and key. I wanted to do a story that was where we explore his transformative years but do it in a way you haven't seen before. I promise you, it's nothing like YEAR ONE. It's nothing like Batman Begins.
It's really its own thing that's meant to be something that you open and you see that from page one. We wouldn't want to retread anything that has been done before, that's been done much better than we could ever do. You know, I can't redo YEAR ONE. I can't make YEAR ONE better than YEAR ONE. It's a masterpiece you can't touch. But I do think that one of the things that was interesting to me was exploring this period in Bruce's life in a way you've never seen before.
CV: The story was announced as taking place over eleven issues. Does that mean you sort of have it all mapped out already? You're not going to need ten issues or twelve?
SS: Yeah, I hope so. You never know. Maybe I'll get there and be like, you know what? "This massive crazy climax needs ten more pages, Greg, what do you think?"
Honestly, eleven issues is pretty much where we've mapped it out to be. I'm really excited about the scope of it.
CV: Is this the Riddler story you've been teasing since NYCC?
SS: No, I can't say. Honestly, I really want it to be a surprise who the villain is in this. It might be someone established. It might be someone brand new. This is one of the few times I really don't want to give any spoilers at all. I want you to open the book and judge it on its own merit. I completely understand the nervousness, the excitement, anger, fear and all the emotion that comes with opening up a book that revisits Batman's formative years.
We're all so excited and proud of it, I just want you to judge it on its own. I don't want to prime you with "Guess what's coming!" I would love to just know what you think of it without me hyping it to you beyond just saying...one thing I can tell you is that you haven't seen Bruce's early years done like this.
CV: So I guess you won't tell us if there will there be other familiar rogues?
SS: No, I just don't want to tell you. This one time, I just want to play it really close to the vest and say, "Just open the book and see what you think." Again, I know what the expectations, the fears and all that stuff are around Batman's early years stories. I'd love for you to just judge it on its own without me trying to sell it to you or anything like that.
CV: Is DC going to try to "sell it"?
SS: I don't know. I have no idea.
CV: I guess we'll see what gets announced.
Will the entire story take place in this time or will there be any flash-forwards?
SS: I'm not trying to be coy, dude. I just want to give anything away about what happens or how it's structured or any of that stuff except to say, the closest thing to a spoiler I'll give is you're going to learn more about the history of the Wayne and the Kane families. Again, you haven't seen these years done this way before
CV: So we won't see Bruce dressed as Batman? Or you can't answer that either?
SS: I'll venture to say that I'm not going to keep him out of costume for eleven issues. That I'll tell you. There's a spoiler for you, I promise you'll definitely see Batman in this story.
CV: Are you concerned about being separated from the rest of the Bat-universe for almost a year?
SS: Yeah, I'm concerned about it. I definitely feel like those guys are my family and yeah, I'm nervous about being in the past. I talked to editorial and I talked to my friends like Jeff Lemire and James and the other guys about it and said, "What do you think?"
The conclusion I really came to Tony, and everyone out there reading Comic Vine, is just that this is a story that really matters a lot to me. If you're going to be on BATMAN, you might as well take the risks and just do the stories that you want to do, that you love. You have to trust that if you love a character enough, in the DNA of the Batman you write, fans will follow you and agree. Otherwise, what the hell's the point? Do you know what I mean? What am I going to do, stay in the present and do stories that I like but matter less to me than this one? Or go back and do a story that I think is maybe the best thing we've done on BATMAN so far. It could be the thing we're proudest of. Or do I avoid it just out of fear that sales will go down or for fear that we'll be in the past and everyone else will be in the present? You have to take those risks if you're going to do stuff that matters to you, personally.
This isn't some gimmick. This is really the story I want to tell. DC's been really generous about letting me do it. I hope you guys will follow us through it because it matters a tremendous amount to us.
CV: You know I'm really excited about the past, seeing what has happened or hasn't happeed. What do you think will be your greatest challenge in this?
SS: Honestly I think the greatest challenge with it is...at the end of the day, for me as a writer, a lot of the time it's just believing in yourself. Believing that if you love Batman enough and you have a story you believe in enough, you should do that story as opposed to playing it safe. I struggle with that all the time. So everybody out there, that's the truth. There's a lot of sleepless nights about should I do this earlier story that people might hate me because I'm going back to his transformative years or should I do a two-part Poison Ivy story or a three-part Mr. Freeze story that I know is safer. Or should I do something that I like but love less? At the end of the day, the challenge is to try and be bold. I take my example from that, from writers like Grant Morrison, Frank Miller and the guys you look up to that you know you mihgt not ever be as good as. But at least you can try to be as fearless as they are in some ways. You might fall on your face but at least you tried. That's what I'm trying to do here.
And to readers, I really want to make it clear, this is not an attempt to rewrite YEAR ONE. No one loves YEAR ONE more than me. I brought back James Jr, you know what I'm saying? YEAR ONE is sacred to me. There's no touching the hem of that book.
But in the New 52, that continuity doesn't track anymore. James would be six-years-old. Jim has a daughter, Barbara. Selina Kyle has a different origin. The Falcone Family has a different history. None of it tracks. Instead of trying to play Frankenstein and be like,"Which pieces of it can I save?" For me personally, I've tried to keep as much of Batman's history in tact as possible, and you guys know that. At some point you have to be able to say, "You know what? It's time for a new story that examines that," if you have one that you believe in. Not one that is respectful and tries to build on the stuff you want to keep from a story like that but isn't beholden to the past. One that tries to do something you haven't seen before.
That's really what this is an attempt to do. It's an attempt to give you something you haven't seen before about Bruce's transformative years while being respectful and keeping in tact the things we love the most about those things that are possible without being beholden to them in a way that hobbles the possibility of a story like this.
CV: And we are going to see him working on the Batcave and all that?
SS: Yeah! One of the things I've pointed out, in continuity, one of the things I love about YEAR ONE is it's a relationship story about Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. I've actually argued that it's more about Jim Gordon than it is about Bruce Wayne. There's a lot that isn't explore even in that. For example, how he built the Batcave. Did he float things down the river into the cave itself? What was his first Batmobile? All those sort of fun things that actually matter to the history of the Wayne Family and his legacy. Those are things we're going to explore, the fun stuff but also the dark and interesting stuff about why Bruce does what he does.
I thing I can promise you is you're not going to see anything you've seen before. At the same time, I want you to understand that the things you love, the core of Batman and the stuff about his origin that matters to you, we care about that stuff the same way. We're not going to try to change and make you upset. Just know that we love this character more than anything in the world. We just want to let you open the book and see what you think.
CV: My daughter had a question. I think she's getting this from TINY TITANS. She wanted to know if you could address the rumor of penguins being in the Batcave.
SS: You can tell her I will try to stick in some sort of penguin symbolism or something somewhere as a tribute but I can't promise. I will do my best to stick a penguin somewhere in the Batcave at some point for her.
BATMAN: ZERO YEAR begins in BATMAN #21, on sale June 21.