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Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

Comic Books

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman’s rock ‘n’ roll summer event

Comic books have felt incredibly serious in recent years, with not nearly enough comedy books and zany titles to cheer us up a bit. Then, DC Comics dropped the bombshell that writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo were reuniting for a series called Metal which sounded insanely incredible.

After speaking to Snyder, we’re confident that it really will be.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

Check out his thoughts on this week’s The Forge, the idea behind Metal, which developed over two years, and so much more!

AiPT!: I read Dark Days: The Forge and I was getting some Mark Waid vibes from it, specifically the Tower of Babel storyline where Batman has all these secrets and he’s always planning for anything. In The Forge, this is quite a plan he’s got.

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

Scott Snyder: Yes, I love that story dearly so that’s definitely in the DNA of a lot of the things we do I think.

AiPT!: So last time we talked, I heard who your heroes were and it got me thinking, could you tell me who Batman’s heroes are?

Snyder: I think Batman’s heroes are Batman. [Laughs]

AiPT!: [Laughs]

Snyder: No, I think Batman’s heroes are in a lot of ways, in the arc we’re doing in All-Star right now, Alfred is the hero to him. For one. He has friends he really looks up to. I think Clark, he admires in many ways. And Diana. He has tremendous respect for the people he works with. I honestly think he thinks his parents and Alfred and the examples they set in their altruism and generosity. I think as much as he may not admit it, they’ve formed a pretty good compass for him when it comes to heroism.

AiPT!: A lot of your stories are very personal to you and I’m curious – how is Dark Days personal to you?

Snyder: Dark Days sets up Metal and the thing with Dark Days and Metal is it’s largely about this notion that sometimes you think you’re following a mystery, that you’re the detective that you’re the one with agencies. And, ultimately, what happens is you realize you’re just another piece of the mystery and it’s a much bigger machine that’s moving outside the scope of your control. That’s a terrifying concept. For me, that’s the thing I love about Bruce and why I love writing him so much is that he’s ever confident that he’s going to win. With this one, part of what Metal is about, in a larger way than the way The Forge and The Casting sets up Dark Nights, this time Batman starts to worry that the mystery points back to him. The mystery isn’t something he’s going to solve. There might be something that says, “This mystery is dependent on the mistakes you made Batman. You’re just another clue for somebody else to discover.” That’s what we’re going for here, we wanted it to have this big, giant, zany scope so it feels too big for any one person to solve any of it.

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

AiPT!: You’re co-writing with James Tynion IV – how does that work? How do you break down the writing process?

Snyder: It’s super easy for us. James has been my writing partner with me since I started on Batman. Before I was even in comics. He was someone I began to show stuff to when I was writing prose and who I trust very deeply with story and character. All through his time doing Red Hood and Talon and I was doing Detective and Batman we’ve always traded scripts. When we co-wrote the backups on Batman, we got into a format where we almost have this shorthand. It’s a pretty easy process where we’ll break the story down together on the phone with a white board. Then we’ll send each other the breakdown and then we choose which scenes we’re going to do. And then we talk them through so there’s a good flow.

Above all, what I think the key to co-writing is is knowing what the whole thing is about. That North Star for this one, that sense of excitement and adventure you feel following the mystery knowing you’re going to get an answer, and the terror you feel at the end when it starts to reveal itself is something that has exposed you and you have no control over anymore. That’s the thesis of it, the thing that it’s all about emotionally and psychologically. If every scene builds toward that. Once you have that, you’re sort of playing the same song together just with different parts of it. You know how they interlock. He’s a joy to write with and there’s no greater thrill than having somebody you taught–he was a student of mine years and years ago–become a better writer than you, so it’s a joy to take comfort in it. I love co-writing with him.

AiPT!: When I was reading The Forge I was thinking like, “I wonder if James wrote the captions, and Scott break down the pages” because there’s a kind of dichotomy or juxtaposition in how the story is told. You’re saying it’s all collaborative though?

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

Snyder: We each worked on every scene together in different ways. It wasn’t like I did the first half and he did the second half. It was more like we do an overlay that says this is what is going to happen throughout it. He does a pass on certain parts and I do a pass we just look at dialogue. He might say he has a good flow for the captions and I’ll be like, “Go ahead.” We’re always going back and forth over each other’s stuff. It’s pretty hard to tell who exactly did each part.

AiPT!: That’s interesting, and that’s cool you’re working with someone you’ve known for so long. That actually makes me wonder, can you remember the first moment you fell in love with comics?

Snyder: Oh yeah, for me it’s hard to think of one moment because my father read them to me when I was very young. About 9 or 10. Maybe even earlier than that like 7 or 8. We used to go to Forbidden Planet downtown in New York, we lived on 21st Street in East River, the original Forbidden Planet in New York which moved a number of times. We’d go there pretty much every Wednesday and go get comics. The first story I remember really moving me at that time, we read a lot of Neil Adams Batman, we read a lot of Spider-Man which was a huge one for me, and then I was only 9 when Dark Knight came out. That one I still have my original four issues and that and Year One were two atomic bombs dropped on me. I suddenly realized how relevant and multi-faceted and layered a character could be through Frank Miller’s storytelling. Around 10 years old I started to see it as an avenue I wanted to explore.

AiPT!: So you were thinking you wanted to get into comics some day?

Snyder: I wanted to be a comic artist all the way through. I thought I’d write and draw my own comics. I had a portfolio all the way up to college. I had comic art in it. I’d go to cons, the old New York cons at 10 Plaza across from Penn Station, and have artists draw my characters. I had a whole portfolio.

AiPT!: You need to release these. The world needs to see this.

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

Snyder: My parents still have it – I should post some of it. It’s good. It can’t touch the hem of the artists I work with now. For a 17-year-old kid, it wasn’t bad. What happened is when I got to college there just weren’t a lot of opportunities to pursue comic art. There really was only sexual art. So I fell more into the writing and there was a really big Renaissance going on. The writing community for short stories, there were a bunch of great writers revolutionizing the form at the time. George Saunders and Dennis Johnson … it was really exciting and I had a lot of great teachers so I got more into the prose writing aspect of it. I happened to find my way back into comics right as I was getting out of grad school and working on stories that were a little more comic-like. Some supernatural stuff in them. It was a full circle trip for me.

Honestly Metal is the most full circle I could have come. Metal is the kind of summer event in the stories I grew up loving. That sense of bonkers, out-of-control DC crazy fun. Marvel usually has a bit more grounded elements. They can be a little more slow burn and then you’re in it. DC was always going, “Oh there’s this thing you never knew about from dark space and it’s coming near and it’s a ship filled with magic and it’s really bad.” I want that. I want that. I want Batman riding a dinosaur. Just out of control and when you open the book you’re a kid again. Ultimately, this story is very personal. I don’t want to get too heavy with it, in terms of the way I’m framing it. The same with All-Star when we started the first arc I wanted it to feel out of control death race road trip. It was written during the election and it was about how people become incredibly ugly to one another regardless of what side they’re on. This is similar. It’s crazy sugar-coated and meant to make you stand up and cheer but it’s about the way in which you can suddenly find yourself in a story you didn’t think could be possible. The scariness of not knowing where this thing is going. The importance of taking back control of your sense of agency with it.

I want this to be like [Frank] Frazetta and [Jack] Kirby had a baby to a heavy metal soundtrack and it is like that.

AiPT!: The story is grounded in a symbolic sort of way?

Snyder: Yeah. I want it to be first and foremost the child-like summer fun we all want. Regardless which side you’re on the political spectrum, it’s scary times right now even if you’re pro-Trump or against Trump, everyone is angry at each other now and it’s a scary moment. That being the case, I’m of the mindset we speak to that–at least the way we want to for a summer event–is to bury you with fun and have you have a good time. Slowly it’ll come to light this is about more than a bonkers attitude, lasers, robots, space, black hole travel, and all this craziness. It’s about something and the kind of anxieties that I think we all have right now.

AiPT!: So basically, Metal is the valve to distress us.

Snyder: [laughs] Yeah well, above all I want everyone to go there and feel like, “You know what it has been a rough year let’s release our inner rock god and go crazy this summer.” You’re not going to believe the first images from it, the first cover just came in and it’s one of those things where you’re going to say, “I can’t believe DC let them do that.” I just want it to be like that. Balls to the wall and have fun. Surprise you. It’s not about who is gonna die. It’s not that. Spins out a bunch of new series and stories and celebrate how crazy fun comics can be this summer.

AiPT!: This is really good timing too because Greg Capullo just came off Reborn and there are laser weapons, monsters and dragons. He’s going right into Metal.

Snyder: Oh yeah. [laughs] I want this to be like [Frank] Frazetta and [Jack] Kirby had a baby to a heavy metal soundtrack and it is like that. It feels almost like you can hear the soundtrack in the background. Everyone wants to play a rockstar and be out there and just shred. Who doesn’t want to see the Justice League in crazy space armor in a Mongol death pit fighting death machines? I want to see that!

AiPT!: It’s funny the last 10 or 15 years of comics people have forgotten that comics can and probably should be fun.

Snyder: And that’s part of it. On the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby, as well, you want to lean into that and remind people the inventiveness and energy and spirit of comics are always going to be something that’s pertinent in terms of what they’re about.

I don’t believe in escapist art. In that, no matter how escapist it seems, if it speaks to you, it’s speaking to something important. It might not be a particular political issue at that moment but it’s teaching lessons that you feel in your heart. Even if you think, “oh this is a Disney movie about whatever,” or reading something from 20 years ago and it seems to have no relevance to now in terms of political agenda, anything that hits you, it’s important. At the end of the day, you don’t have to worry – if you love something you’re reading, is it escapist or not, if it matters to you then therefor it’s not escapist. Something meaningful to you. Given I don’t know how to write something that isn’t personal, Greg doesn’t know how to write something that doesn’t have an element that’s personal to him, it’s going to have that heart. But we want you to remember comics are supposed to be crazy fun. It’s supposed to be transportive to a stage that’s much bigger than you’re own life. In a way that you open it and feel like, “bigger budget and bigger scope.” Just like some of the great Marvel movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or Wonder Woman, you’re transported and even if it doesn’t seem to be about right now they are in their own way. That’s what we’re going for, that big, over-the-top, bombastic, explosive, pyrotechnic lead guitar shred fun. Yet, having it be something that has a lot of heart in the end.

AiPT!: If you attached a song to Casting and The Forge and Metal, what would they be?

Snyder: Oh, well Greg and I are making a Spotify playlist. He’s always putting stuff on there. Like Black Label Society, Five Finger Death Punch, Hell Yeah … all that stuff is out of control, shred and melt-your-face metal. For The Forge, I’d have to ask Tynion too – I don’t want to speak for him, but for me it’s a little less straight-up metal and a little bit more punkish. I love that band Thunderbitch, which has the Alabama Shakes frontwoman Britney. He was listening to the new Tribe Called Quest album. All kinds of stuff. Anything that feels a little bit, we’re taking things you know and love like classic rock and doing something a little edgier and different and surprising. The Forge is more of a crazy jam piece. Metal is more like going straight for your throat.

I want Batman riding a dinosaur. Just out of control and when you open the book you’re a kid again.

AiPT!: The funniest thing, when the promotional material came out I was like, “Oh this is heavy metal music,” but then reading The Forge metal is actually part of the story so it goes two ways doesn’t it?

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

Snyder: Metal played a huge part, as a physical substance, since Forge and Casting, hence the titles. The whole thing is metallurgy, it’s called Metal because we wanted it to have an attitude that says let’s rock the f--k out this summer and have fun together. Go crazy and throw the horns up and say, “No matter what kind of music you like, what kind of comics you like, hopefully, this is something you can be reminded of the fun that summer often brought when you were a kid reading comics. A zany Kirby, out of control spirit of things.” And yet it was born out of an idea of cosmic metal in the DCU. I got really into Hawkman, I thought about writing Hawkman series while I was writing All-Star. It’s fascinating to me Nth metal has all these properties that don’t reconcile with each other. It can make you live many lives in a row, it can power your helmet, like Doctor Fate, or be incredible armor like Deathstroke, it can make you fly or be impervious to heat … none of which have anything to do with each other. [Laughs] There’s no reason why it has these abilities and so in that way I wondered what if Hawkman, through all his many lives, started believing this metal was not from our cosmos – it’s from somewhere else. What if Batman picks that up, the Justice League pick it up too, and they all sort of find their way to a doorway that opens something bigger. I was like, “That’s it, that’s metal.” That was two years ago. If you go back and read Batman #51, our last issue of Batman, the Owls start talking about the dismantling all kinds of stuff and that’s in Metal. So there’s Easter eggs that go all the way back.

AiPT!: All-Star Batman is introducing a lot when it comes to Alfred’s past. Do you have to run that by people to get it in the comic or can you do what you want?

Snyder: I would say I do, in that I would never do anything like that without running it by my editors and also the other Bat writers. I’d want to make sure they like the idea. So everybody, Tom, Tim, James, obviously, Steve Orlando, Josh Williamson on Flash, I share all of those things with all of those guys. Sometimes people like Jeff Lemire, which I’m not supposed to do anyway, but I do anyway. Just to be like, “You guys like this right? This is strong?”

Rediscovering the fun of comics: Scott Snyder breaks down Batman's rock 'n' roll summer event

AiPT!: Is there a part of the comic-creating process you love the best and a part you don’t like?

Snyder: The part I love the most is the collaborative aspect of it. I literally love getting on the phone–almost to too much of a degree with other writers, but especially with artists–that’s different of writing prose and writing comics. Which is why I never really looked back on prose, but I enjoy getting on the phone or emailing back and forth. You feel like you’re making something together with somebody who’s vision makes it better than you can make it alone. That is at its core what makes comics so much fun to work in. Constantly collaborative. Not only collaborative in that way, but they come out really fast so its’ collaborative with the readership. You’re not working for a year like with a book and then it comes out. It’s a constant give and take. with the community which is so vibrant and responsive. It always feels so thin. it’s like a collaborative way of creating stuff.

AiPT!: And a part you don’t like?

Snyder: What I don’t like? Hm … deadlines. It’s a grind. The older I get, the harder. When I started, I had one kid, I was a lot younger, now we have two kids and I’m slower. You’ve done a lot. You want to be more ambitious and try things you haven’t and yet the grind can be hard. That’s like my diamond shoes are too tight. You’re asking me to fish for something I dislike and I would take deadlines over … this is the job I’ve always wanted and I adore it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s a minor complaint.

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