Readers of DC Comics may already be familiar with writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo from their groundbreaking, horror-filled collaborations set in the world of DC's Batman, but the duo take things into even more bold territory with Batman: Last Knight on Earth, which asks the question: what if Batman woke up one day and discovered that he was never actually Batman?
With the first installment of the three-issue miniseries coming out this Wednesday, Daily Dead caught up with Snyder and Capullo to discuss the long-gestating origin of the Last Knight on Earth story arc, the creative freedom of working under DC's "Black Label," their unique takes on Wonder Woman and Joker, and they also give advice to aspiring comic book creators and talk about how they have many future collaborations outside of the Batman universe for readers to look forward to.
How long have you been planning this out, Scott? Have you had the idea that you kind of started out on Batman, or just about finding the right time, or is it something that came up more recently?
Scott Snyder: I started thinking about it back when we did [Batman] Zero Year. It really came from this notion that Grant Morrison expressed to me when I was really freaking out and nervous about being on Batman. It was early on in our run and he was saying to me, “If you know just how your Batman begins and ends, if you give him his own origin story, your version of how he ends his time as Batman, you will own that interpretation.” I started coming up with it all the way back then; it must have been 2012 or 2013. It has been in my head a really long time and it has changed a bit, but the bones of it are still the same.
Can you talk a little bit of the two of you working together on this series under DC’s “Black Label” versus the monthly grind you had previously on Batman? How did the extra time benefit the creative process?
Greg Capullo: You think that if you have been doing it for decades you should be getting faster and faster. In fact, you are getting slower and slower because [the art] gets more meticulous to the point that my wife just goes, “I think you are losing your mind,” and she might be right. As an example, the tilt of a person's head in relation to the shoulders can totally nuance and change the motion that is coming off that figure. The more time you give me, I will change the head of that and draw it perfectly and then go, “It is not right.” Then, I’ll erase it and change it by less than an eighth of an inch and it’s the perfect emotion I am trying to portray. Giving me this extra time just allows me to feed my illness.
Scott Snyder: It is amazing to watch him because he is so right. He will hand in something that I think is fantastic, it has happened so many times over the years on Batman and Metal, then I say, “It is better than I hoped,” and he will erase one little thing, change it and it is even more expressive in some ways. I have always trusted his judgment and the beauty of being on “Black Label” is that you just have so much more latitude and so much more time to be able to make it what it should be.
Tell me a little about the creative freedom that you have jumping to “Black Label.” Obviously, I have a high level of understanding of it. Specifically for our readers who may not know, what kind of restrictions did you have when you were working on a monthly book that was in canon verses what you are doing here?
Scott Snyder: Well, we earned a lot of trust with DC, so to be totally honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way [than how we’re doing it], but if we had stayed on Batman, eventually I would have tried to do the story on the main book in some capacity. The problem, if you are wondering out there what the restrictions are in doing something [like this] in the main line, is that Batman is sort of the big driving book. Between Batman, Justice League, Superman, and Wonder Woman, they all really hit the high point for DC Comics and sales.
If you want to do something that dives out of continuity or dives out of the timeline that most books are in, you can actually do a disservice to the rest of that neighborhood of books. Having Wonder Woman look really different or having Joker as a head in a jar, those things are more difficult because when you are doing them in the main book, the people will pick it up as their first comic book and it can be really contradictory to what you see as the classic ones.
I will say this: I do not think this is much more racy, salacious, or violent than the stuff we did on Batman. It requires a different level of emotional maturity from a reader than the others because it is darker and more exploratory. I think it is a good “Black Label” book in its maturity level, even if it does not have quite as many faces cut off, but there are a lot of things cut off later. There is a lot of violence coming, but we are not trying to take advantage of “Black Label” for the opportunity to go really gory or sexual or anything like that.
I read the first issue and can’t wait to see where things go, but I don’t want to spoil anything that you don’t want me talking about. You already teased Wonder Woman and Joker’s head. Is there anything else you can tell our readers about the story?
Scott Snyder: It begins with Batman on a case where somebody has been drawing a chalk outline of Batman over a portion of Gotham City over the course of a year. He figures out that they must know he is Batman because they placed the heart in the chalk outline where his parents were killed. He goes there and finds the body of a dead boy and that begins the mystery where suddenly Batman wakes up in Arkham Asylum, and he finds himself strapped to a table. Alfred shows up and says, "I am sorry to tell you this, Bruce, but you have been here over a decade ever since you killed your parents…" That is the beginning of the whole thing.
It is deeply about the end of Batman; what happens when the world does not want Batman anymore, and how he reacts to that, how he soldiers on and makes himself something that is needed regardless. Every section of it is a different take on that idea. Why Batman is eternal, why he is always coming back and returning both in character because he is determined, and also just as a folklore hero that is so important to all of us in different ways.
Greg, were there any major inspirations for the art direction or character designs that we see, since you’re taking Batman to a very different setting?
Greg Capullo: There’s inspiration from stuff like The Road Warrior, but here is the thing I tell people, if you sat ten artists in a room and told them to draw a still life of a bowl of fruit even, the bowl of fruit is the constant, every drawing will look different because it is coming through that particular person’s own filter in how they have experienced life. They see that through that prism.
It is no different here. We all love this kind of stuff and have encountered the same things within the genre and we all have our own lives. All that goes into a blender and comes out. It is pulling from the well that is all of me; whatever comes out is influenced by my own feelings toward all of those feelings that have absorbed since I was a little boy up until now.
Everybody asks, “What is the formula?” There is not really a concrete formula that I zero in on. I just draw from the well that is in me. What comes out is the magical part of what I do. The part as a little boy on the floor letting his imagination run wild, that simple joy is the thing that runs the engine for me now.
Scott, what were your reference points or inspirations when coming up with this story?
Scott Snyder: Really, I was trying to pull mostly from our own run and pull from Batman folklore, or pull from the earliest stories that inspired me from Batman, and even things that were just fan theories, the “what ifs?” when you are a kid. What if Batman is really crazy? What if he finally kills the Joker? What if Joe Chill did something other than what he really did? All those kinds of things are in the story. It is almost like going back to the very things that excited me as a kid about all the different possibilities that would never be able to be written.
A lot of the ideas that I have been circling and exploring, and all the stuff I have done with Greg from Metal, Batman, earlier stuff in the Justice League, it is all in this book. I am writing it as though it is not just the last Batman story that we are doing, but a big final statement on the character and also on superheroes. We still have more [we’ll do with] superheroes, do not get me wrong, but I wanted this to feel like the closure to the kind of saga we began with Batman. For me, Batman is my favorite character and is always a stand in for why I think superheroes matter.
This is your last Batman story, but what’s next for the two of you? Have you talked about your next collaboration?
Scott Snyder: We are not allowed to say…
Greg Capullo: I wish I was 15 years younger. I will die before we complete all of our great mastermind ideas. Scott and I have so many ideas. We still have some big things planned at DC. We have a whole bucket full of creator-owned ideas. Scott is very prolific as everybody knows, and I am not a slouch myself. I have a few ideas and tricks up my sleeve. Scott and I are still attached at the hip.
So, for any Snyder / Capullo fans out there who are worried that we are parting ways, since we said that this is our last Batman story, you can just ease your minds. Scott is the Elvis fan, so he will not like this as much as me, a Beatles fan: we are like Lennon and McCartney, but we are not ready to break up anytime soon.
I’m very happy to hear that. Before we wrap up, what advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers and artists that are trying to break into the industry?
Scott Snyder: I would just say that right now is an incredibly exciting time for storytelling because the medium is changing so much on all different fronts, where the kinds of platforms that you have a storyteller are just expanding. There is such a demand for original content, for stories. Everything from the way we watch things on Netflix all the way down to the way comic books are being restructured.
The most important thing is to tell a story that matters to you, to know that your voice counts, and to actually produce it. You have the means nowadays to make a comic, if comics are what you are interested in. You can find artists online, at places like DeviantArt, or conventions, and you can put a comic together and have it digitally exist. That is very different [than] when Greg and I were breaking in at different times. Nothing is stopping you from going out and making a story that matters. There are more and more avenues to drive that story than ever before.
Greg Capullo: For me, I would say that when you are on the outside looking in at comics, it is a magic thing taking place. Then you get into the business, and you realize what a tremendous amount of hard work it actually is. I do not just wave a magic wand, and the stuff just materializes, so I would say to be prepared to be hard-working because just from an artist's standpoint, there are a lot of people who can draw really well and make pretty pictures. If you cannot produce on a timely manner, then you are kind of worthless to any of the companies who might hire you.
Be prepared to be very hard-working and to know that there is a lot of sacrifice that goes with this. You sacrifice time with your friends, you sacrifice time with your family, you sacrifice hobbies. Some of us sacrifice our health because we are trying to make those deadlines. The other thing I would say is have a thick skin, because when you put yourself out there as a creative, all the things you do drawing, writing, making music, whatever it be, is personal to you. You are public now because you made it into that spotlight. Then people are going to have their opinion on it, so know opinions may not be what you want to hear. You are going to take it hard sometimes because you care about what you did. So, develop a thick skin, and as long as 51 percent of the people like what you do, then you own the company. Just go for the 51 percent. That is the best way I can tell you to handle some of the rough stuff that may come your way.
You can view preview pages from Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1 below, and to learn more, visit: