After shaking up the Dark Knight’s status quo and elevating former police commissioner Jim Gordon to the role of Batman, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are now setting their sights on introducing the Dark Knight’s newest adversary—a mysterious new figure known as Mr. Bloom. Little is known about this slim-and-sinister new baddie other than that he’s able and willing to give superpowers to Gotham’s already dangerous underworld, so we thought we’d ask Capullo and Snyder if they could tell us a bit more. One thing’s for sure, however. You’ll never look at a flower garden the same way again.
What can you tell us about this new villain—Mr. Bloom?
Greg Capullo: Scott had this idea for a character who’s like a weed. He’s just running rampant across Gotham, coming up through the cracks. When he talked to me about this originally he told me to picture him with a flower on his face, but flowers don’t really strike me as scary. But the first thing Scott started sending me were those painted skulls, the ones with the very ornate designs painted on them and often they have a flower motif. I looked at them, and I thought they looked cool, but actually drawing something like that and making it work wouldn’t be the easiest thing.
But when he told me about the idea of weeds—well, weeds to me can be creepy. I initially started trying to move him away from the flower idea and at one point I did something with these weeds that were interwoven on the face that almost looked like this macabre bridal veil or something—it was pretty freaky looking. But Scott kept on with the flower thing, “Something like a big sunflower with a Cyclops eye.”
What sold me was that Scott found a picture of a flower that at the center looked like it was a meat-eater. It had all these spiny teeth in concentric circles in there. I knew I could make that work, and that’s how the mask came to be while keeping the costume really simple. We had the idea that he can elongate things and one of the things that came in at the last minute were the fishnets . That was my end of things, and now it’s just continuing to try and make him look creepy and scary.
Scott Snyder: I wanted him to be kind of like a weed that grows in the cracks between neighborhoods when things don’t go well in the city. I wanted him to be this thing that’s kind of slender and unassuming, but that’s extremely deadly once he unleashes himself. Greg came up with a bunch of great designs, and any one of them would have been wonderful, but the final one I just think is just amazing. It’s really hard to design something that’s both really simple and iconic, and I think he did it.
I’m very excited. I love how deadly Mr. Bloom is. He’s really spooky to me. Growing up in the city, he kind of represents all the things that I was afraid of as a kid.
Do you prefer working with original villains like Mr. Bloom or working with established ones like the Joker and the Riddler? You seem to make both of them pretty terrifying…
Greg: I think the Batman rogues gallery is just unparalleled. I have a blast any time I get to touch those guys. I grew up looking at them. They’re just so cool and so diverse. When I get a chance to draw, say, Penguin, that’s just awesome! Or Clayface or the Joker, it’s just awesome. With all of that, I’m a little kid just having a complete ball of a time.
But Scott’s writing and creation of these other characters is strong, and if we’re lucky, they’ll have some longevity to them and people will mention Mr. Bloom in the same breath as some of the characters that I just mentioned. The fact that they’re good stories that are provided to me to draw, even though they’re brand new and unfamiliar, it’s still fun.
Scott: They’re different muscles. I love both. I think the only reason to use a classic villain is if you feel like you have something that hasn’t been done with him that’s personal to you. Visually, seeing Greg’s take on the Joker, or the version of Riddler that we’ve done, I feel like those are our takes or interpretations of them, so it’s been very rewarding in that way. They represent the things that I think we’ve come at the mythology with. Whereas, creating your own villain from scratch is so organically built from the things that you’re afraid of that it’s really exciting to see that too.
It’s almost like creator-owned comics versus working on licensed comics. Both of them are tremendous fun. I don’t really have a preference, it’s more just like zigzagging and you flex different muscles at different points.
Greg: And from an artist standpoint, which I’m sure you can relate to whether you’re an artist or not, we’ve become familiar with the longstanding rogues. We kind of know their personalities. So for an artist, it’s easier to get into them and get into their body language and facial expressions. It might be different than what another artist’s done, but it’s my interpretation based on what I feel I know of this character. However, when we create something brand new, like Bloom, it comes to life as we proceed. The more story Scott gives me and the more that I draw him, all of a sudden the character starts to take on a life of its own.
Greg, Jim Gordon’s new look is so dramatically different than what we’re accustomed to. How did you go about designing and settling on it?
Greg: Scott and I discussed how Jim’s got a military background. He’s a former marine, so he’s not a pushover. He’s actually a pretty tough guy. He’s never going to be Batman, no matter what he does. So we thought we’d give him a boxer’s physique—a prizefighter’s kind of build. Just to show that he’s really gone after this job and taken it seriously.
The heartbreak for me was removing his signature mustache. Behind the scenes, when I was first drawing Gordon, I would still draw the shape of the mustache and then erase it, so that I got the exact same facial structure that I was accustomed to giving Gordon. So that took a bit of getting used to.
I’ll tell you another little inside argument that Scott and I had was that he wanted the marine cut, and I’d given Jim such a receding hairline that it looked more like a mohawk. It didn’t please him very much, but to me it’s just a haircut, not a big deal. We finally agreed to just run with it because even if I gave him more hair, he’s so receded on the sides that it wouldn’t look much different.
Then there’s the armor, again we were trying to keep that slender Gordon look to it. Not like a bulky, armor tank-like thing like we’ve done with Bruce. We wanted the aesthetic to match Jim. We took our razzing on that , but all the time we knew we were going to have the under armor suit because he occasionally leaves the armor. Scott just asked for something really stealth-looking, so to me the biggest thing was giving it a different symbol, something I hadn’t seen before. So that’s where we see that it kind of expanded onto the shoulders, and lines up with the collarbone a little bit. I also gave it fangs. Something must have struck Scott recently about asymmetry because initially he wanted different-sized ears on the bot and he wanted a patch or something on one shoulder. So I told him I’ll mimic the stripes on the internal suit to the stripes that we had on the external suit, which I designed to call back to the striping that you see on police cars. So that’s kind of how that happened.
Apart from that, whenever I design a suit, seam lines that I choose are basically just my feelings regarding what that thing is supposed to be—in this case, a bat. I just go where the lines seem to flow and where I kind of feel them to be. So that’s how the suit came about.
So of the three designs—the robot suit, the under armor and Gordon’s new military-like look—is there one that you’re having the most fun with? One that maybe you like drawing best of the three?
Greg: I’ve gotten used to the “bot-suit.” When I design this stuff, I don’t really do turns or anything like that. I’ll do one or two shots, that’s usually it. But then when you get to the action, especially with those shoulder rocket launchers, then I go, “Okay, well how will those be placed at this angle or when his arm is in this position?” So there’s definitely a learning curve. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, but it’s probably the most challenging of the looks.
I think drawing the slick undersuit is fun, but I’m going to be completely honest, I like him when he’s out of the suit and I get to draw him as a normal guy because I’ve always loved Gordon as just himself. So any time I get to show the buffed-up old guy a little bit, it’s still great fun, even without the mustache.
Scott, if any readers were expecting Bruce Wayne to return to the cowl anytime soon, this issue pretty definitively dispels that notion. What journey would you say Bruce is on now?
Scott: Now that the secret is out that Bruce is part of this story, the thing that we can finally talk about is how the story was never conceived as a “let’s kill Bruce Wayne” story. It was conceived as a story about what would happen if Batman died and Bruce Wayne came back.
One of the questions that I’ve always had since I started writing Bruce, and really even before, is who he would be if he didn’t have the scar that had made him Batman. This story gave us an opportunity to both explore that singularly, as well as the flip side of the question that Commissioner Gordon is asking himself, which is if the original Batman went down, is there room for a new Batman that’s a reflection of the old one, but on the other side of the mirror? Is there room for a Batman who works within the law, within the system, who’s human and not legend or folklore? They’re both kind of asking themselves the same question. Bruce finally has a chance to be this person that he could have been had his parents never been shot. To me, that was always fascinating, that idea of who Bruce would be without this specter of Batman hanging over him.
So it was always conceived as a dual story with Bruce on the one hand, Jim on the other and Batman somewhere haunting the middle of this story. Batman almost is a third main character who might sort of come back to take over in his own way.
I feel like when we put Batman in a death trap at the end of the issue, you know that he’s not going to die. It’s not like we’re going to kill him and show a decomposing corpse for ten issues. The fun of it is always how he’s going to get out of it. What is the journey we’re taking you on? Hopefully it gives you new angles on the character and new glimpses into the psychology and mythos of the character. That’s really what we’re trying to do here. It’s less a story about whether he’ll ever become Batman again than it is about who he would be this way, and what tragedy would need to happen to make him suddenly lose all of that again to once again become this thing that haunts him.
BATMAN #43 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia is available this week in print and as a digital download. For more on this must-read new comic, be sure to catch tomorrow’s DC All Access interview with Snyder and Capullo!