In my latest interview with superstar writer Scott Snyder, we discuss the conclusion to the Ends of the Earth storyline in All-Star Batman, where the Dark Knight goes from here and his reflections on the end of this particular arc. There are spoilers to the issue, so if you haven’t read it, go ahead and come back to read this. I know I read the final issue three times before the interview because there were so many questions that I had for Mr. Snyder that I wanted to make sure that he knew how intense and great this story concludes.
Deron Generally: I have read this issue so many times. I just wanted you to know that. I know everyone is talking to you right now about Dark Nights: Metal and I would be remiss if I didn’t talk to you about it as well, but this issue of All-Star was so dense and engaging that my mind kept coming back to it when I was thinking about questions. There a moments in those first few pages where I didn’t want to believe that I knew who the villain was behind everything. I tried to convince myself it was someone else, but no one else in the canon of Bruce’s life could have been more appropriate for this story than the Demon’s Head, Ras Al Ghul himself. I pronounce it Ras (Rashe).
Scott Snyder: Yeah. So do I. I used to pronounce it Ras (Rahs), but then James Tynion IV would get on me about it, so I pronounce it Ras now (Laughs).
Deron Generally: What makes him such an enduring and complicated foe for Bruce in your opinion?
Scott Snyder: For me, this whole arc was conceived around Ras. For the second arc, I wanted to do these one shots right? I wanted to do stories that function as singular meditations on the villains that I love and ways of showing why they’re scary to me. Why they speak to personal demons. More importantly, why they speak to things that are in the air right now. How they touch on fears that are in the zeitgeist. That was the first project, but I said if I am doing that, then each one of them needs to present something that has to do with a bigger, more expansive threat that they either pose or speak to. In Ivy’s case, she’s sort of working against it.
It would be like the end of the world and I thought of who could be the Chief Architect, but also speak to the scariest way, and I think the most likely way, the world could end. For me, that’s Ras Al Ghul. I sort of saw the way that I would use these other villains. For me, what makes Mr. Freeze scary is his detachment from the human race. Where, in some ways, he’s given up on everybody but this ideal, Nora. He wants to bring her back at all costs, but what if he stopped and looked at us and decided that the world as it is isn’t worthy of her? So instead, why don’t I reshape the world? In that way he becomes a bigger and scarier villain. I wanted him to speak to this kind of natural cataclysm. That all he has to do is push things a little farther or faster than they’re already going. That the permafrost will melt and a spore will be let loose from the arctic that will be some population reducing catastrophe.
Deron Generally: Right.
Scott Snyder: With Ivy, I knew that her powers would be able to pull these beautiful, wondrous and terrifying things from the botanical world. So I was doing research. Looking into plants that have these incredible medicinal properties that are being found in trees that are being destroyed in the rain forest, but also things that can be used for poisons and weapons. So I started getting the idea of using her for biological weapons. I would have it look like she’s trying to pull out these ancient plagues from this ancient tree, but she would actually be looking for things that are wondrous from a garden of Eden, figuratively.
With Hatter, I wanted him to speak to this third way that I think about a lot. They almost get successively dangerous in a way and more likely. Hatter, to me, is the way I think we all see around us now. To me solipsism is the sense of believing you and your life are more important than not only the greater good, but the truth of the collective consciousness. That you seek out things that support only your way of seeing things, keeping you steadfast and retreating from anything that challenges that. That you aggressively only see the world that you think fits you and your ego. That isn’t something you can’t find nowadays in all of us, myself included. I think Hatter takes it to such an extent that it’s almost like The Matrix.
For me, this fit with Ras perfectly because if I were to pick out of the four the most likely way the world could end, it would be what’s happening right now with North Korea and essentially miscommunication and the erosion of any kind of conversation or truth so that the ultimately, something will happen. It will be miscommunicated or deliberately so, some fake story planted, some cyber-attack with a fake origin trail planted so that these things will confuse both the targets and the attackers and we’ll end up fighting with each other not knowing who really did what. To me that seems really likely.
I have friends in the military who have talked to me about our capability to conduct these kinds of attacks and the fact that the Russians and the Chinese conduct these kinds of attacks constantly. Whole teams devoted to it. People who have the capability to do the things in the issue that Ras is trying to do. Destroying the oscillator in a pipe joint with a remote signal that will wind up causing power plants to overheat and the difficulty it would be in our trying to determine who did it before things started to get crazy.
The sense of the fragility of things and how they can fall apart if attacked and the confusion both during and after led me to this idea of demonology. A time when science, as we know it, was in its infancy and how blame for what happened wrong in the world was levied at demons and folklore. Ras Al Ghul fit perfectly into that because he’s a character who fights with truth. He tells Batman that the population has to be reduced in order for us to survive. He’s a doctor. He looks at things with a clinical eye. But he’s lost to Bruce so many times that he’s going to reclaim his title as the Demon’s Head and usher in a new era of demonology thanks to Batman’s example.
Deron Generally: That’s interesting that he’s embracing Batman’s persona as a positive and twisting it to his own ends.
Scott Snyder: Yeah. He’s trying to create havoc across the globe with no one knowing who is doing what and everyone blaming each other and pointing fingers at the wrong people because of his machinations. It will be like a Tower of Babel. Everything will fall apart and that’s why he’s in, what he considers a fake Tower of Babel (The Washington Monument). I know it’s not how he’s fought in the past, but it really came together like that for me. I know some people might not like it, but it’s one of my favorite issues I’ve ever done. It’s everything that I want All-Star to be. It’s personal. It’s about things that I think are relatively urgent right now. It’s a very emblematic issue for me and I’m really happy with it in that regard.
Deron Generally: You should be. I know you were talking about people not liking it and I don’t see how. The way you’ve evolved both Ras and his plan is so disturbingly possible in its simplicity that it can be almost fear inducing in a way.
Scott Snyder: Thanks. I really did want it to speak to the fragility of everything. One of the things I loved about it is Ras telling Batman that he’s always fought him with fiction. That he’s this great lie. That’s he’s everywhere. That he tells people how we can we get through things together. That there will be a way of overcoming these things, but all of that is false. He’s telling Bruce that he’s the villain that he can’t even see. That’s why I wanted Ras Al Ghul to look different in this issue. He’s in a suit. He’s standing with other wealthy and important people amid these protestors. He looks like a power broker.
He’s shifted positions from wearing a cape and being a typical moustache-twirling villain. Don’t get me wrong. I love that aspect of him too. He’s one of the only villains who can grandstand that way (Laughs). He can stand bare-chested with a saber and still be awesome, but I wanted him to be almost coolly detached. Like he’s almost outgrown Batman. He doesn’t call him “Detective” anymore because he feels Batman doesn’t seek out any empirical truth anymore, he tells stories that fool us into thinking that we’ll be okay and Batman has to grapple with that. He has an answer for it, which is that Ras is right.
The things he says, the way that he fights and who is are all a story. But he acknowledges that and that he became the thing that he imagined that he would be someday. That’s kind of the enduring beauty of Batman. He says “I suffered a tragedy and I will turn myself into this thing that no one thought was possible”, and he does. He tells Ras that he realizes it’s ridiculous, but the stories that are enduring are the ones that tell us who we WANT to be and give us maps to the places we want to get. So they aren’t lies like the ones Ras tells to scare us back into the dark times, into the shadows and make us fear each other. Those are the real demons and the things that don’t last.
Deron Generally: You talked before about stripping things away from Bruce during this storyline and I thought you were talking about psychologically. The story even points out how this isn’t a Batman story and this issue kind of confirms that. What gave you the idea to basically have Bruce fight the rest of this issue without his suit?
Scott Snyder: That was a big discussion we had editorially. There’s always that discussion that nobody wants to see Bruce (Laughs). They only want to see Batman, which is fair. By the way, everyone wants to draw Batman, no one really wants to draw Bruce.
Deron Generally: (Laughs) I guess so.
Scott Snyder: Jock and I have worked so long together at this point that we understand in the stories we want to tell and can look past that stuff. Having these two opposing figures in this tower on top of the world seemed more like something for Bruce to do versus having Batman in costume. It made it spookier to me to have them both unmasked.
Deron Generally: I can understand that. I enjoy the fact that the artifice has been stripped away from them. They’re not surrounded by the trappings of their identities and can deal with each other as men.
Scott Snyder: Agreed. That’s exactly what I was going for. That sense of them being unmasked, stripped down and being on equal footing. It was meant to be these two people laid bare. Two completely different ideologies at war with each other.
Deron Generally: So many of these issues have been about Bruce going it alone in a sense. Even with Duke on the periphery, it was always Bruce’s journey for the most part. At what point did you decide to bring in Selina?
Scott Snyder: One of the fun things was being able to coordinate with Tom (King) and James (Tynion IV). I know Tom is doing so much with Selina right now and James was doing Ras, so I just wanted to kind of nod to those characters in All-Star. To let fans know that we’re having those conversations with each other. She was in there from the beginning and I actually had her with Duke (Thomas) in the Freeze arc, but there really wasn’t any room for her. Part of the fun is showing that we all coordinate with each other.
Deron Generally: With this arc being about so many things that have made you afraid in the world, what have you learned personally from putting those fears down on paper? Do you find them easier to compartmentalize now that you’ve confronted them on the page?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I think. For me the challenge is trying to find a way to put your fears in front of these characters and have these superheroes face them. That’s what made me love them as a kid and as an adult. When I was reading DKR (Dark Knight Returns) and Batman was fighting things that I saw as extensions of what I was afraid of. The mutants being the personification of my parents telling me that I can’t go out because there’s crime everywhere. What you try and do is find a way to pit these characters against your own personal fears and that’s always a challenge.
You’re kind of teaching yourself to be brave in the face of things that really scare you. That’s what makes these characters so enduring is that they’re vessels for those things. Each hero has something unique in how they face a problem and it allows you to step into that place emotionally or psychologically and say “This is the perfect hero to face this fear for me.” Batman happens to be the one who speaks to a lot of mine. Which makes it really exciting and fun for me to write.
Deron Generally: I love how you were able to tie in elements of all three previous villains in Bruce’s final solution for Ras. Was that how you originally concluded it or did it evolve as the story was being written?
Scott Snyder: The fun for me with penultimate issues like this like Batman #50 or Batman #11, those are my favorites. I like the finales the most. Working on this one, I really wanted Batman to go “You showed me these three things. Here’s how I use them against you.” you know. “The same ways you tried to show me how they were going to end the world, I’m going to use them to end your plan.” It was always going to end that way in a sense, but I had many different types of scenarios in mind. It was really operatic. It took editorial to step in to tell me that I was talking way too much because everything was taking too long to explain (Laughs). I’m always the more in more guy and my editors have to pull me back sometimes and tell me it’s enough.
I did want it to play out like it was a little quick and ambiguous in the end with the phone going dead in the last panels like Ras said they would. How the Blackhawks are real and how they play into…….(No spoilers). I wanted those ominous notes because Ras isn’t completely wrong in a sense.
Deron Generally: I love the call backs to the previous issues and how this really was a culmination of everything you have stated previously. When you finished this arc, did you get the chance to take some time to reflect on what you completed and submitted or was it on to the next thing right away?
Scott Snyder: (Laughs) I wish I had the time, but it’s also healthy because the few times when I’ve had time between arcs, I wind up obsessing about the thing too much. It’s the old adage of a work of art not being finished, just abandoned. It’s healthy for me to break away from it, but I’m really proud of this arc. I’m honestly as proud of this as I am anything I’ve done including working with Greg (Capullo) on Batman. I love the opportunity Batman the character has given me to evolve as a writer. I love the elasticity and adaptability of him and the mythos. The fact that I can tell a story like Court of Owls and a grounded type of story and then a story like (Dark Nights) Metal that have parts that take place at………….(No Spoilers). I can also do small stories as well.
I’m just grateful that people have been supportive and wonderful to me personally as a writer and the community as whole giving me the opportunity to grow. So I love an arc like this as much as I love those other stories. The demand of telling these stories is to push yourself to places you might not be comfortable with and every arc forces you to try things that you haven’t tried before as a writer.
Deron Generally: Once again. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about this issue. I really enjoyed it and I can’t wait for what’s next.
Scott Snyder: Always good talking to you man. Until next time.
Author’s Note: What’s next is a conversation we started about Dark Days, Dark Nights: Metal and more info about this summer’s huge event. He talked about some of those things during the course of our conversation and I decided to cut them out of the story both in deference to Scott Snyder, but also to tempt you to come back and read the follow up interview next week. So go pick up All-Star Batman #9 written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Jock and let me know what you think.