Snyder talked about his recently released hardcover, The Black Mirror, at Midtown Comics’ downtown store last Friday. A New York Times #1 bestseller, The Black Mirror collects Snyder’s run on Detective Comics with Francesco Francavilla and Jock on art. In the last arc before DC’s New 52 reboot, Jim Gordon’s son, James Jr., was a main villain.
A penchant for telling big stories is ultimately what enabled Snyder to get the Detective Comics job.At a C2E2, Snyder met with Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio, after the first American Vampire hardcover came out. Snyder was nervous, and snuck into a neighboring kitchen convention to find beer before the meeting. He couldn’t find any, but almost stole a bottle of wine instead. Fortunately, he didn’t.
“I saw a picture of myself being dragged out of there,” Snyder said, putting his hands behind his back.
Once he finally got to the meeting, Johns and DiDio asked him what Batman story he would tell, if he could only tell one. Snyder pitched his James Jr. story, and said he was surprised when they told him they liked it.
Snyder’s approach has remained the same through all four books he’s writing. In Batman, American Vampire, Swamp Thing, and Severed, his process is similar. He tries to tell the biggest, scariest story he can. If there ever comes a time when he’s no longer doing that, Snyder says he’d “happily be fired.” He also tries to write a few issues of each book at once, which lets him stay in the same mindset for a few weeks at a time.
In creating villains such as The Talon and James Jr., Snyder says that thinking about creating a scary villain is essentially doing it wrong. Instead, he says you should think of what scares you most about the character, and build the character out of that. That way, you’re not just building a character that looks scary; you’re building one that actually is.
Snyder also explained his choice for using James Jr. as the main villain on his first full arc on a superhero book. He said that James Jr. is a perfect villain for Dick Grayson as Batman, but not for Bruce.
“Bruce would just take him down,” Snyder said, “but Dick is more emotional.” James Jr. could “cut up Barbara” without feeling anything, but Dick “can’t even look at her without having feelings for her.”
In that way, Snyder saw James Jr. as the embodiment of one of Dick’s greatest fears, that he’s not emotionally strong enough to be a hero for Gotham.
Artist Greg Capullo draws the post-reboot Batman series that Snyder writes. Snyder said that at first, their collaborative relationship didn’t work.
“I almost told DC that one of us might have to go, and it would probably be me,” Snyder said, laughing. He can look back without hard feelings though, because they’re now good friends.
The day Batman #5 came out, with its sideways and upside-down pages, Snyder was worried everyone would think it was a misprint. He tweeted that everything done in the issue was on purpose. Not long after he posted it, he got a call from Capullo, telling him “not to be a f–king p—y.” Once Capullo saw the physical issue, though, his thoughts were the same. He posted a similar tweet, and called Snyder again.
“If I wasn’t such a manly man, I’d tell you I love you,” Capullo told him.
While he thought he gave the artists a lot of freedom in both Detective Comics and American Vampire, Snyder said he finds that since he started working with Capullo, he gives them even more freedom. He also wants his artists to participate in talking about what they like and don’t like about the script, and to talk about any ideas they have. He sees the artists as being just a big part of the creative process as he is, and he gives them the creative freedom to do what they want.
Snyder recruited all his own artists for his Detective Comics run. Despite having an unorthodox style, he got Francavilla to draw the backups for the book. The problem was that he liked drawing Batman with goggles. He sent Snyder some Batman drawings to show DC, but they all were wearing goggles, or flying some kind of steampunk plane. After a while, he sent Snyder a Batman without goggles, but with a blue costume. Snyder finally got him to draw a normal Batman, though, and he ended up drawing the backups.
Snyder also talked about how he got Jock to be the artist for Detective Comics. DC would let him use Jock, if Jock agreed to be on the book, so Snyder met him at a pub to try to convince him. Snyder said Jock could handle his liquor much better than he can, though. By the end of the night, Jock agreed to draw the book. Snyder was so excited that he went to email DC when he got home, but fell asleep mid-sentence, with his hand on the keyboard. The result was an email that said “Jock is innnnnnnnnnnn” when he finally woke up.
Although he got his start writing prose, Snyder said he loves the collaborative aspect of writing comics.
“I’d love to say I miss it, but I don’t,” he said about writing prose. He says writing prose is lonely, because you’re stuck inside your own head, without anyone to bounce ideas off of. Specifically, he says writing Batman is the biggest honor he’s had in his career.
This was Midtown Comics’ twelfth book club, finishing a year that began with Scott Snyder’s American Vampire as the first featured book. The crowd this time was much bigger, though. A line formed outside their Fulton Street store over two hours before the event was scheduled to start. By the time 6:30pm came, there were more people in line than there was room for them in the store. But everyone who waited in line got in, and got their books signed. The store was scheduled to close at 8pm, but by the time the last books were signed, it was almost nine.
Midtown Comics’ next book club is Johnny Wander Volume One, a collection of webcomics about life after college, published by Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn. It falls on the last Friday of every month with the next one taking place on February 24.