SCOTT SNYDER has long said that the day would come when he would write the big return — when Bruce Wayne would go back to being Batman. But even such long-view awareness could not allay the author’s trepidation.

Snyder has crafted numerous critically acclaimed Batman storylines — including Night of the Owls, Death of the Family and Endgame — and has earned the audience’s trust. Yet when preparing to launch his current Bat-tale, Superheavy, he was wary, and told DC Comics he could trim the narrative by an issue or two if things turned really bad.

And by really bad, he meant the possibility of fans hating the storyline.

“I was really nervous,” Snyder told The Post’s Comic Riffs of the current storyline, which has wiped Bruce Wayne’s brain free of vigilante desires and placed a newly fit (and freshly shaved) Jim Gordon into the Bat-suit as the new protector of Gotham City.

“This [story] really matters to me and [artist] Greg [Capullo]. But there’s always a part of you that’s like, ‘What if everybody hates it?’ — and you’re stuck with it for a year.”

Issue 48 of Batman, which hit newsstands physical and virtual this week, brings Bruce Wayne one step closer to reclaiming his Bat-mantle. Along the way in Superheavy, fans have been treated to an older and slimmer Gordon; he’s not as experienced, but he does his best to get the job done with Bruce sidelined.

The Batman/Joker battle in Endgame left Bruce Wayne robbed of the drive and desire to be Batman. Ever since, it’s been a slow realization for Bruce that Gotham City needs more than his kindness and caring.

Master Wayne discovered other things, too: new love and new motivations.

Bruce “found love and meaning in everyday interactions,” Snyder said. “The problem is, he’s now learned that there’s a step he can take to be more than he is, and Bruce would never shy away from that. Ultimately, even though I think he’s happy, he’d never live happily knowing there was another step he could take to do more for” Gotham City.

Amid Bruce’s slow march back toward the shadow of the Dark Knight, equally intriguing in Batman No. 48 is what appears to be a reborn Joker. Just as Bruce’s mind was wiped in his Endgame battle, many readers presumed the Joker had simply escaped again. But given a conversation between Bruce and a man who appears to be Joker 2.0,  it seems that the Joker also received a mind-wipe rebirth. The catch: The Joker doesn’t want to return to the way things were. And one way to make that happen is to make sure Bruce doesn’t become Batman again.

But is this really the Joker? Is he a figment of Bruce’s imagination, or a red herring? Snyder leaves that up to the reader. But you can’t read the conversation between Bruce and whoever-it-may-be and not see the joy Snyder takes in the tricks the Joker can play.

Will the Joker be back? Is he already back? Even Snyder is amazed at how even when he’s not a part of the story, the Joker finds a way back into the mix.

“We’ve used [the Joker] in every story, one way or the other,” says a laughing Snyder, who took up Batman amid DC’s New 52. “I want you to come up with your own interpretation.

“I think the fun of the Joker is that he always keeps us guessing,” Snyder continues. “I can’t say that he won’t come back in a different way when Greg and I get back together, so maybe we’ll use him again. I think the key is if you can come up with a way of approaching [the Joker] that’s personal, singular, different and means something to you that you think you haven’t seen before.”

Capullo, who has illustrated almost all of Snyder’s Batman run, has enjoyed drawing Jim Gordon as Batman, but he said that he looks forward to the moment when Bruce Wayne must shave and Gordon once again has a hairy lip.

“I want Gordon’s mustache,” Capullo said with a laugh. “I love [drawing] that mustache man. The beard [on Bruce Wayne], I would never want to see poking out from underneath the cowl, to be honest. So I’m happy to see [Bruce eventually] shave. I’ve had a lot of fun drawing Gordon as Batman, but of course I can’t wait to have Bruce back under the cowl.”

And then, before the real Batman officially returns, there is the matter of Mr. Bloom. He is the villain currently terrorizing Gotham so badly the bat in Bruce Wayne is beginning to be awakened. Snyder said that the end of the Superheavy storyline will answer questions about the villain, whose identify remains a mystery.

“You’ll learn more about his history and who he is — his creation, all that stuff,” Snyder said. “Bloom speaks to a lot of modern-day threats [felt by] anyone that feels disenfranchised and hopeless. You’ll see him not just in terms of his origin explained, but [you’ll see] his mission and his final stage of blossoming, in his weird way.”