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Scott Snyder

The Psychology of True Horror

Jan 19, 2012 DC Universe Bookmark and Share

Scott Snyder had a very successful year in 2011 with his creator-owned American Vampire comic, Batman: Gates of Gotham, and his excellent Black Mirror run for DC Comics’ Detective Comics series. He now writes for Batman and Swamp Thing in DC’s New 52 universe that rebooted last fall. The rising scribe started his career as a short story writer. You should definitely seek out his Voodoo Heart collection.

Snyder also has plans to intertwine his Swamp Thing story with Jeff Lemire‘s Animal Man. We chatted with the writer about the overall tone of Batman and Swamp Thing, how to create true psychological horror, his first short story, and the struggles of making the jump from creator-owned projects to writing for DC.

Kyle Lemmon (Under the Radar): Jeff Lemire told me that you plan on collaborating even more with him for an Animal Man and Swamp Thing crossover story. What’s it like working with Lemire?

Scott Snyder: It’s great working on this shared mythology together. His imagination is so great. It’s fun to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with original stories that are built off the history of these iconic characters.

In addition to Swamp Thing, you’re also writing Batman. You obviously have a plan for the story arc this old character that digs up some of his demons that longtime fans may not have realized were there. How do you make this character fresh?

It’s a good question. With a character that is so iconic, part of the challenge is making him face something that he hasn’t faced before. On the other hand, one of the things about Batman is that each writer has put their spin on the character over the years. I always was drawn to how confident he was as an overseer of Gotham City. From that standpoint, I wanted to create a story that brings new fears and nightmares into the character’s life. As long as you have an exciting starting point story wise, you’re able to create something that is your own. It’s really intimidating and incredibly exciting to be writing a Batman story.

Do you remember one of the first things you wrote as a kid?

[Laughs] Yeah! I was about 10 and had this writing class in fourth grade with Mrs. Hayworth. I wrote a story that was totally a Stephen King-type story, because I was really into at the time. I still am, of course. It was corny short story about a priest who goes to confession and there’s this little girl that turns out to be a demon and she comes after him and turns him into a demon, too. It was very deep and very profound. I’m kidding, of course. I was afraid of being laughed at because it was a scary story and even at that age you already think that what you’re supposed to write is To Kill a Mockingbird. My teacher was really supportive. I still remember her. You could write about anything in that class. It could be funny, scary, or whatever. That’s the rule I follow now for all of my comics and stories. As long as you find it exciting, you can write about anything.

Being funny and scary in written form is sometimes a hard thing to pull off. Do you struggle with that?

Yeah, they’re both very objective. It’s hard to convey what’s scary to you to other people that are reading your story. I just go with what’s scary for me. I did struggle with that notion as a young writer when I tried to incorporate eclectic subject matter or if the plot is really out there in some way. My short stories were about crazy stuff such as fat farms. If you love your material, other people will love it, too. As this point, I feel confident enough to put on the page what’s scary for me. I’m doing well so far. Fingers crossed.

Both Lemire and yourself come from creator-owned backgrounds. Was going to DC a tough transition?

It was nerve-wracking. I kept wondering whether I was any good at this. It was something I always wanted to do and try. Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Even through high school, I thought I could write my own stories, but once I started getting into writing that started to whiter on the vine a little bit. I’ve been a lifelong fan boy and I had things I wanted to pitch. It was less painful than I thought it would be. I really loved prose, but I enjoy this as well. I hope to go back to prose in the future. Prose is so isolating and time-consuming. With comics you have so many sounding boards with your editor and your artist. The material can be just as rich and layered, though. It’s nice to have that social feeling of making stuff with people as you get older. I love coming to work every day. I thought I loved prose, but I enjoy this 10 times better.

You obviously talk to Lemire on a regular basis, but do you talk to any of the other Bat writers? In Batman & Robin #3 Peter Tomasi references your book’s villain. I like how the books feel connected on some level.

Yeah, we’re definitely in a shared universe and some of these Batman titles will crossover at some point. They won’t be things where you have to read the other book to understand the other. We don’t want to do that to a reader. They will enrich each other. There will be a lot of crossovers coming up.

In the first issue of Batman, it sets up Nightwing as a possible killer. And the next issue you kind of just went away with that. Are you immediately resolving cliffhangers in the next issue or does that story go further?

Well, with that cliffhanger it’s not a literal one. That one is coming off the idea that Nightwing [Dick Grayson] might have darker notes than Batman [Bruce Wayne] can understand at this point. Dick might not understand this about himself either. It’s something that will return in Batman as we go further. I wouldn’t put in that cliffhanger at the end of the issue just to be sensational and not return to it. He might have been disproved as the killer in that case, but the notion of tension between Bruce is there. Things will be revealed about Grayson’s family’s past in upcoming issues. That will show that he is connected to darkness in a way we don’t expect. That’s coming up soon. It’s not an entirely dropped story thread, it’s just a warning shot across the bow.

Did it take awhile to get used to working with an artist (in this case Batman’s Greg Capullo)?

It took awhile, because we’re very different people. He’s a larger-than-life guy and wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s outgoing and I’m a little more standoffish or neurotic. Before we began our collaboration, our preliminary story discussions helped us fall in love with each other’s stuff. There’s no one better to work with right now. We’ve double-dated with our wives. He’s a really close friend in the comics industry. He keeps getting better and better with each issue.

I know you enjoy watching Batman stuff with your son. Has he read any of your books?

[Laughs] No, he’s too young. Even some of the Batman: The Animated Series stuff is too scary for him. He really loves Batman: The Brave and the Bold and some other kid-friendly comics and animated shows.

What were your thoughts going in to the New 52 and how have those evolved after a few months of actually working on your titles?

It’s great to be a part of it, because I don’t think any of us realized how many new readers it would bring to comics. I certainly didn’t with Swamp Thing, having the readership that it does. I thought only longtime fans of the character would buy it. I never expected this many people to be picking up Batman. I’m excited about introducing so many people to these characters I’ve loved for my whole life. I was lucky that for both books I started working on them before there was a New 52. I was going to tell these stories with or without a New 52. I’m glad fans can find characters to dig into across the board. It’s a really exciting time in comics and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.



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February 19th 2012

I rmmbeeer when I thought Bob Kane was the coolest comic creator ever because he created Batman. Now whenever I see him credited in a reprint collection, all I can think is,  Are you sure he drew it?

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April 9th 2012

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Mark waugh
April 9th 2012

Thankful segment. I’m pretty pretty satisfied to know about this interview update. Really batman is my favorite series. Thanks for sharing this view with us.

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