Following up the success of his first completed story arc on All-Star Batman, writer Scott Snyder teams with artist Jock this week for a sixth issue that both slows down the frenetic pace of the series without reducing the stakes at all.
The episode, which reads like an homage to John Carpenter's The Thing, takes place in Alaska but, as Snyder says, "There's very little of Alaska in it. It's mostly just snow. It's a substation where the oldest ice cores in the world exist outside of Barrow. Mr. Freeze goes there to melt them and release spores into the air and kill all of us."
(What a jerk.)
Snyder has talked about the series as being both a villain showcase (the first arc was as much about Two-Face, a character Snyder didn't cover in his fifty-plus issues on Batman, as it was about the Dark Knight himself) but an artist showcase as well -- and after almost five years working primarily with a single artist (Greg Capullo) on Batman, that means a little adjustment on Snyder's part.
"Issue 6 is Jock, and then Francesco [Francavilla] picks up the backups. The style changes hugely," Snyder told ComicBook.com. "I think by issue 6 you'll really get a picture of what I'm thinking for All-Star as an ongoing series. It's actually done as a story almost in prose over the art, the Mr. Freeze story. It hugely changes the way that I write to know who I'm working with in terms of what I think they get excited by, what they're inspired by, what their Batman looks like. They're all really chosen specifically for the characters that they gravitate towards, so I asked Jock, who do you want? 'Freeze. I want the cold. I want that remove, that distance, that strangeness.' I was like, 'Well, how do I replicate that with writing?'"
Snyder compared Jock's approach to that of John Romita, Jr., who left Superman and took on a pair of Batman stories -- first Dark Knight III: The Last Crusade, and then the first arc of All-Star Batman with Snyder.
"Johnny really wanted it to feel cinematic and kinetic and wanted that sense of epic, sort of Cape Fear final battle on the rainy bluff," Snyder explained. "I was like, 'Great, let's do it.' Well, I wouldn't do the same arc for another artist, but if I was writing a Two-Face story for Jock, it would be a completely different story. I'm sure it would be much more paranoid and small."
Snyder said that working with a rotating team of superstars isn't better than working with a master like Capullo in a full-time capacity, but that the resultant books are totally different animals, thanks in no small part to the way Snyder has to adjust his scripts to suit the artists on any given story.
"I'm working with Giuseppe Camuncoli right now on the Mad Hatter one, and his style is so elastic and kinetic and action and tech, so different than Jock and to Tula Lotay on Ivy," Snyder said. "It's a joy, because I go to work and I have to reinvent myself. I think that feeling, where you keep the character extremely fresh, to me, right now, at this point, after having done so many issues in a row with a single artist, to be able to now go through the carnival of every issue doing something really different with a different artist is a new challenge. And it's all one big story. The Two-Face stuff winds up coming back in the second arc, and in the second arc looks like one-shots with villains, but it all culminates in the fourth issue that Afua Richardson is doing, which you see is all one big plot. There are links, but I want it to each be a real artist showcase and just collaborative stories that kind of redefine these villains in ways that I hope are exciting to people and feel modern and speak to some of the fears that I think are really specific to right now in the zeitgeist."
While Snyder's book hasn't fit into the neat box of DC's Rebirth initiative -- it's got stock covers, a higher cover price, and ships monthly, as opposed to the twice-monthly schedule of most of the publisher's biggest series, the writer is totally on board with Rebirth as a philosophy.
"I'm really proud of the Bat line in particular, but I'm not built for that at this rate, this year, at this stage," Snyder said. "I'm sure I could do [double-shipping] in another year if I had less on my plate, but with the teaching and planning for the Capullo event, it would be too much to do that on top of this. I feel like the quality would suffer a bit for me."
The series it the culmination of a lot of thought and a lot of discussion between Snyder and DC. The writer had wanted to work on a title that was a rotating showcase, somewhat insulated from the practical constraints he sometimes had to work with on Batman, being that it was one of the pillars of the company's publishing infrastructure. Snyder says he debated the relative merits of doing the series as a new creation or trying to pitch DC on taking it over to Detective Comics, which ended up instead being written by Snyder's friend James Tynion IV.
Ultimately, though, Snyder took on a new, monthly Batman series -- that's not something everybody gets offered, after all -- and has used it to be as broad and sprawling and larger-than-life as he can.
"I've been a huge Western fan since I was a kid," Snyder told ComicBook.com. "My dad is a huge Western fan. We took a trip together to Monument Valley a couple years ago and all of that, the big John Ford vistas. Ultimately, the thing I love about the Western is that huge, mythic quality of these characters that feel larger than life and that the struggles are almost these big morality plays set against this vast, grand landscape. This story does, I think, have that baked into the DNA in some way, where Gotham is itself so dwarfing. People are huge on the frontier. There's nothing to see for miles, so you just loom large, whereas Gotham, you're living in the canyons and shadows of these giant achievements and buildings....All-Star circles the country throughout, like the Mr. Freeze story takes place in Alaska and the Ivy story takes place in Death Valley in Nevada, and Mad Hatter story takes place down in the Florida Everglades. It kind of moves all over the country."
All-Star Batman #6 is in stores today. You can pick one up at your local retailer or pre-order a digital copy on ComiXology.