IN HIS “ONE-MAN” war on crime over more than seven decades, Batman has had a lot of help.
There are the four Boy Wonders, three of whom are now adult vigilantes: Dick Grayson (now Nightwing), Jason Todd (now the Red Hood) and Tim Drake (now Red Robin). And of course there’s Damian Wayne, the preteen son of Bruce (and the current Robin).There’s also Barbara Gordon, who’s back as Batgirl, and Selina Kyle/Catwoman is always around to help (or hurt) Batman, depending on her mood. And who can forget about Alfred?
But it’s precisely because Bruce Wayne has built a pretty big Bat-family that the next storyline in the Bat books’ post-New 52 — titled Death of the Family — is that much more intriguing, as writer Scott Snyder (Batman) brings the Joker back to Gotham City.
Snyder — whose first Batman storyline, Night of the Owls, recently concluded to much critical acclaim — now will offer something that many fans have been eagerly awaiting since he first put his touch on the Dark Knight: an up-close look at the clown prince of crime.
In Death of the Family, Snyder (working with artist Greg Capullo) brings the Joker back to Gotham — and he’s taken notice of Batman’s ever-growing family of allies.
If there’s one thing the Joker has proved to be good at, it’s destroying the relationships that Batman builds. The Joker murdered the second Robin (Jason Tood, who has since come back to life) and paralyzed Barbara Gordon (who has since regained the ability to walk and resumed the Batgirl mantle). Bottom line: No hero in Gotham is safe.
On Wednesday, Snyder spoke with Comic Riffs about Death of the Family and how, in this storyline, everyone close to Batman will be affected by the Joker:
DAVID BETANCOURT: The excitement of this storyline is enhanced by the fact that Night of the Owls was a huge success. How does it feel knowing people are excited to see your take on the Joker because of how much they enjoyed the Owls storyline?
SCOTT SNYDER: It’s a huge honor. The Joker is my favorite villain in all of literature. To have people support with a character that I love so deeply is incredibly thrilling.
DB: Is it safe to say that in Death of the Family, the Joker is going after all of Batman’s allies? You’ve got three former Robins (Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin), the current Robin (Batman’s son Damian), Batgirl and Catwoman. Will the Joker be toying with everyone?
SS: Pretty much. He’s coming really hard after these characters in a way that I don’t think you’ve seen before. In the past, I think he’s come at characters to get at Bruce. This time, he’s coming after them individually in their ongoing books, and using everything in their lives against them. This time, he has a bone to pick with each of them individually. It will give this story a different feel.
Everything that has happened to these characters in the past year is ammunition for the Joker. He’s been away for a year, so he’s been watching them all year long, and everything that they care about is something that he can burn to the ground.
DB: Seems the Joker is pretty confident about whose face is underneath the cowls and domino masks. One has to assume that is going to lead to some major problems for the Bat-family, if they aren’t safe in their civilian guises, either?
SS: That’s part of the big mystery of the story. In Issue 14 (which hit shops and tablets Wednesday), [the Joker] makes a claim about knowing who they are, and whether or not that’s true is one of the big conflicts and mysteries of the story.
DB: In Batman #13, the Joker sneaks into police headquarters. He turns out the lights, and you pretty much know what’s coming. He even goes so far as to let Commissioner Gordon now he knows where he hides his cigarettes. Was that your way of establishing the fact that despite being insane, the Joker is super-intelligent and is always one step ahead of everyone?
SS: Yeah. I think the Joker is sort of villainy at its purest, most fascinating and brilliant form. All he’s about is convincing yourself that the things you’re most afraid of are true. My favorite villains in all of literature do just that.
DB: Fans will no doubt remember the Death in the Family storyline [when the Joker murdered the second Robin, Jason Todd]. Now that Jason is back among the living, what can fans expect when the Joker comes face to face with the Red Hood? I’m not saying they haven’t met before since Jason’s been back, but there’s still a dark history between these two.
SS: Oh yeah, and Joker is going to put him through the ringer like you’ve never seen before. He wants to say “you are why Batman is weak. You are why Batman is soft and old and no fun to play with anymore and deep down Batman wants you all dead. That’s why he allowed me to do that to you Jason ... and so I’m going to do him a favor.
Joker’s thinking in our book has to do with the notion of him imagining himself as a court jester to his Bat-king. Historically, the jesters’ role was to give the king the bad news. What the Joker thinks he does is bring the worst news to Batman’s heart to light by delivering these nightmares to him.
DB: Even though he’s living now, Jason Todd’s death at the hands of the Joker has always been Batman’s greatest failure. Now that the Joker is coming after the entire family, how will Batman handle this without losing it?
SS: I don’t know that he is going to handle it. That’s what makes the story personal for me with characters as iconic as Batman. The only way to write them is to find something that scares and excites you about where they are with their lives at the moment. As the father of children, I’m fascinated by how scary the world becomes when there are people you are [always] worried about. Joker looks at that and sees that as the greatest weakness.
That’s one of the brilliant things about the Joker: He takes things that his adversaries think are strengths and convinces them that they are actually weaknesses.