Just a few weeks ago came the official ten year anniversary of DC's New 52, the line-wide reboot at the publisher that was as controversial as it was innovative. The New 52 was the root of major elements for DC like the Batman storylines Court of Owls and Death of the Family, the addition of Harley Quinn to the Suicide Squad, and the return of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, but was also where many ideas started and stopped. A huge oral history about the entire publishing initiative debuted on Polygon today with many key members of the New 52 interview including former co-publisher Dan DiDio and writers like Judd Winick, Paul Cornell, and Scott Snyder.
Snyder's work in the New 52 arguably had the biggest impact on DC Comics at the time and since with the introduction of antagonistic elements like The Court of Owls and Talon assassins and the Death of the Family storyline that marked the return of The Joker. Speaking throughout the Polygon piece, Snyder opened up about the anxieties, frustrations, and fights he was party to at the time, noting that he "had a literal panic attack" after learning he would be writing the first Batman #1 in 70 years. The Eisner Award winner noticed that the enthusiasm of co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee was infectious but that the larger lack of a big picture ended up being a problem.
"That sort of fluidity, that lack of rules, of blueprints, led to issues, because between different groups there were different ideas of what was DC history," Snyder said. "So you'd do something and then you'd hear from a different group that one of the characters you mentioned [being] in the past wasn't in the past anymore, because they had a new origin. Again, everyone was working out of love of story, trying to tell the best tales in their area. It was just difficult without more set rules."
He added, "The thing that I do wish was different at the time is that I wish there was a plan. A lot of it came from, I think, the suddenness of the whole idea. I think there was an element of spontaneity to it that was exciting, there was this sense of possibility, this sense of purpose, we were going to make these characters fun and dynamic and show what we loved about them but in ways that pushed them forward! But in the long run, I think that it hurt us not to have a blueprint that people could follow group to group, because it created these silos of creators and editors that were protective of their version of what they were building."
Snyder also offered a moment where he butted heads with editorial at DC, revealing that at a certain point the publisher wanted him to alter his plans for the first 12 issues of Batman that would have radically altered his intentions with the narrative.
"We'd finished [the first Batman storyline] 'Court of Owls.' It was at the printer, and word came down from above that they weren't sure that they wanted Batman not to be able to solve the mystery of the Owls; whether Lincoln March was his brother. They wanted us to change it, to make it so that he'd definitively solved it. For me, that would have changed the entire story, because the point of the story was just the opposite. I remember standing in Target, pushing a cart of paper towels, screaming into the phone, 'You go down the hallway and you tear up my contract!'"
As we know, the Court of Owls became a major staple of the DCU and Batman's history and will even appear in the upcoming video game Batman: Gotham Knights. The Court also appeared in the TV series Gotham with the Talon becoming a playable character in Lego DC Super-Villain.