The just released ALL STAR BATMAN #6 may just be the perfect super hero comic for a cold winter’s night. Set in Alaska, three hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, it features Batman battling Mr. Freeze in one of the harshest climates imaginable to stop a plot that could destroy life as we know it. It’s a chilling story, both in setting and substance, and proves that when it comes to All Star Batman, Scott Snyder is thinking massive.
Issue #6 is also a reunion between Snyder and artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla, his two collaborators on BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR, the modern classic that introduced Snyder to the world of Batman and landed him as the writer of the Dark Knight’s core series throughout The New 52. Fortunately, this reunion was far warmer than Batman’s on-page reunion with Victor Fries, as we learned when we sat down with Snyder to talk all things All Star.
First and foremost, how did this reunion come together? Was it something you wanted to do before All Star Batman?
Yeah, I’ve been waiting to work with Jock and Francesco on a single issue forever. With BATMAN, there weren’t a lot of backups or opportunities to sort of blend artists. So once All Star Batman was announced or even when we started to get the idea for it, I approached them first. I think Jock was literally the first person I approached and Francesco had asked about doing something together. They were both great about it.
It feels a lot like coming home. The two of them, we have a longstanding friendship. They’re the first artists that ever took a chance on me when I was nobody and they were already really established. I mean, Rafael Albuquerque took a big chance with AMERICAN VAMPIRE, but we were both still pretty green. But [when we did DETECTIVE COMICS], Jock was already a really well known name and Francesco had built a big reputation already as well. So the fact that they took the risk and did the entire year with me on Detective was just something I’ll never be able to repay. But we’ve become kind of like family, and obviously, I have a consistent working relationship with Jock. Francesco and I have plans to do more stuff together too, so it just feels terrific to get to work with the two of them.
Did you always have the Mister Freeze story in mind for Jock, or was that something that came later?
No, I asked him. I asked who he’d like to work on. That’s the way All Star Batman has worked from the start. It’s always been about approaching an artist and asking them which villain they’d like to use. I have a notebook of ideas for each villain and ways to make them scary personally for me, based on my own worries, but also hopefully make them scary for the particular moment in time now. To make them speak to things that feel like they’re in the zeitgeist in one way or another.
So I ask the artists if there’s anyone in particular they really want to use, and if there is, I just flip through and see if I have viable ideas for that character. Jock jumped to Mr. Freeze immediately. He wanted to do something with Mr. Freeze, the cold and the ice—something like John Carpenter’s The Thing. That’s right up my alley. It was a pretty easy sell.
I was surprised to see that All Star Batman #6 is essentially a prose story that’s also told through art. There are no word balloons. How did that approach develop?
It was kind of the last stage. I was looking at it and I was doing conventional lettering, and it just felt somehow too intimate—too on the nose and too immediate. The feeling I wanted for this issue was a sense of distance. I wanted it to feel remote and cold, almost like a transmission from another planet. It occurred to me that I could do it this way. I approached Jock and Steve Wands, the letterer, to ask if they’d mind, and they were totally game. Steve is amazing.
We tried it out and I just fell in love with it. I hope it goes over well. I’m really excited about it.
Both of the stories we’ve seen in All Star Batman have taken Batman far outside of what we’d say is his comfort zone. As a writer, how challenging is it to make Batman work as something other than a Gotham City crimefighter?
I thought it would be challenging. I’d always been scared of it when I was doing Batman with Greg [Capullo], but it turns out that it’s super liberating and easy. When he’s bound to Gotham in the main series, you’re trying to find ways of putting extensions of your own fears, your personal demons and your anxieties about the world into this very grounded setting. But once you’re out, I realized you suddenly have this bigger canvas, and it can get crazier, more elastic and stranger.
We’re going to be featuring Batman in Death Valley, in the swamps of the Delta and in Washington D.C. With each one, I can explore something totemically scary because the villains have been reconfigured a little bit to embody those kinds of things. For example, Mad Hatter has a new kind of madness very much of this moment and Ivy speaks to certain fears about things now. In Washington D.C., we’re not telling a political story. There’s no commentary in terms of the political moment right now. But it’s a wargame story that kind of culminates with this backroom battle between Batman and somebody else that could end a big portion of the world. So it’s a series that lives up to its title in a way that every villain is almost reimagined as a figure that’s left Gotham for a moment to either help or hurt something that has the potential to end the world. In a way, taking Batman out of Gotham has allowed me to create even bigger, crazier stories with the same sort of pieces that I didn’t realize could become so expansive.
I love it. It’s easily the most fun I’ve had with Batman. I always loved worked with Greg on Batman, but there’s a different kind of pressure to that series that’s constantly in conversation with itself. This series is certainly a conversation with itself in that each issue is meant to sort of veer from the last and do something different. But I can be a lot more exploratory with it.
Mister Freeze and Batman have one major, core similarity in that they were both set on their paths in life by unbelievable loss. Do you see them as (no pun intended!) polar opposites in some ways?
That would have been a good title! I do see them that way, kind of positioned against each other. I think what happens to Victor is that he becomes myopic and very nearsighted about revisiting that tragedy and sort of undoing it. As much as it seems altruistic or about Nora, it’s really about himself because he’s willing to hurt anybody to get her back. In that way, it’s sort of a twisted version of a hero’s mission. Bruce, on the other hand, is willing to sacrifice anything in his own life that he cares about, outside of other people, for the greater good. So they’re sort of twisted reflections of each other in that regard.
Do you think Batman believes redemption is possible for Victor? It seems a bit like it in this story.
Yeah, he always does. One of the things about Batman—or at least our version of him—is that no matter what you do, he’ll never close the door on you. The only character that’s an exemption is the Joker. To me, Joker is the only person that’s irredeemable to him and it’s because he believes that Joker almost isn’t a person. Batman believes that he’s human, he doesn’t think he’s supernatural, but he believes that Joker was born evil. There’s something just so terrible about this guy that there’s no coming back. I think he has very little hope for characters like Zsasz and others, but he’s always willing to listen if they approached him with some impulse towards redemption. But with certain characters like Two-Face or with Mr. Freeze, I think they’re much closer to the line.
You’re now in your seventh year of working on Batman, and judging by how strong All Star Batman has been, it’s clear you haven’t run out of entertaining, thought-provoking ideas. Do you think you’ll ever really be done with him?
I don’t think I’ll ever be done with him in that he’s my favorite character. I have stories I want to do with Lee Bermejo and with Sean Murphy, Paul Pope and all these other artists. So I have at least a couple more years of Batman stories in me, but whether or not I do those now or later… I mean, I’m certainly doing them now with All Star. I have no plans to do anything but continue the series for as long as I can. But even when I move on to other projects, I’ll always return to him. He’s easily my favorite character, and I feel like Batman’s a touchstone for me writing-wise and I’d love to come back now and then to do stuff with him.
I don’t think I’ll ever take the main series again or anything like that because we had such a great turn. I don’t think I’d ever try and compete with what I did with Greg. But doing different kinds of Batman stories like this will always be something that excites me.