Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV are to DC what Batman and Robin are to Gotham. Like a master is to a student, Tynion has apprenticed to Snyder by writing back-up stories for Batman.
Make no mistake though. This is not a master and servant style relationship. There is a real sense of brotherhood and partnership that has gone into making Batman and the back-up stories involving the Court of Owls arc a fan favorite.
“There was a lot of collaboration between us always. James is a guy I talked story with for awhile,” says Snyder.” For us, it was really about going back and forth and coming up with something that we were both really happy with.”
Taking his opportunity and running with it, Tynion began crafting his back-ups stories by carefully consulting with Snyder. “When we first found out that they wanted back-ups, I was brought in on the process,” Tynion says. “So we wanted to find something that was a little different than what was already starting to be planned with Night of the Owls.”
In order to make the back-up stories work in a way that set themselves apart from the main stories by Snyder, Tynion had to find a way to make them stand out, yet have a certain faithfulness to Gotham’s heritage.
“We wanted to dig into the history because the Court of Owls is so much about the history of Gotham City,” Tynion says. “But aside from a few flashbacks with Bruce, we hadn’t gone to one of those eras, like recent eras to see how they could’ve effected the characters that stood as they stand today.”
The collaboration between Snyder and Tynion yielded some prescient and unique viewpoints in which to tell these back-up stories by using one of Batman’s most underused characters – Alfred Pennyworth.
“The Pennyworth family, Alfred’s father, that’s a connection that we haven’t really seen a lot of,” says Tynion. “I love the idea of building Jarvis Pennyworth, which is a name from way back when. It’s not something that we pulled in there. The other Jarvis, I think, took Alfred’s dad’s name actually.”
Diving headfirst into the back-ups, Tynion’s passion to tell part of Jarvis and Alfred’s history shows when he’s asked about it. “Yeah, I loved writing that story,” Tynion says. “The Pennyworth family… I find them so fascinating. I could write an ongoing about Alfred and his family, but I don’t think they’ll let me.”
Regardless, Tynion and Snyder have been working hard to tell a story that reaches deeply into the incredibly human, emotional arc that has been Batman since the re-launch. Just as Tynion has focused on the Pennyworth family, Snyder has focused on the Wayne family and Bruce’s life outside of being Batman.
“Bruce Wayne, to me, is a fascinating part of the Batman mythology, in that a lot of the times Bruce, himself, thinks of that persona as a mask he wears because Batman is at his core,” Snyder says. “And yet at the times he does that, I think he becomes imbalanced because he sort of gives in to the more obsessive part of his personality, the pathological, and in that way, he winds up sort of leaning towards some of the stuff that the Joker is going to get at in our Joker story in some ways.”
“On the other hand, he’s been really trying to put Bruce out there as a crucial part of who he is, not just as a persona or a sort of facet that needs to be there to balance the obsession,” Snyder says, “But something he has a vested interest in because of the legacy of his family and the philanthropy that they did and the way that they socially and civically shaped Gotham.
Using this approach to distinguish himself from previous Batman writers, Snyder is working at some of the key things that he enjoys writing about when it comes to Batman.
“He wants to honor that legacy and be out there as Bruce Wayne too,” Snyder says. “The duality of that and the importance of Bruce Wayne as character to Bruce himself, and to Gotham, is something that I’m really, incredibly interested in. So, not just for what we’ve already done in the Court of Owls, but for the Joker and beyond.”
Continuing the partnership that has yielded some of the most memorable Batman stories in years, Snyder and Tynion aren’t finished with their successful collaboration of writing great stories with impressive back-ups that add to the larger story arcs.
“Yes, James is going to be writing the back-ups in Death of the Family with Joker, and they’re going to be great,” says Snyder. “They’re going to explore the Joker and his twisted sort of relationships with other villains as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Based on his success with the back-up stories, DC has given Tynion the opportunity to soar to new heights with his first solo title Talon.
Taking off from the Court of Owls story, Talon digs deeper into their history, which still remains shrouded in mystery. “The line that we keep using is it’s like The Da Vinci Code in Gotham,” Tynion says. “People are in to the mythology that Scott built over the last year in Batman. There’s so much there. There’s so much cool history to the Court of Owls that’s still left to explore.”
And with that history, there is a singular focus that Tynion wants to unpack for readers of Batman. “We’ve seen several of their core locations and artifacts, but we’re going to find more,” Tynion says. “We’re going to be able to explore that from someone that was once a part of the Court of Owls in Calvin Rose, who was originally the Talon and has spent the last seven years running from them to find some kind of freedom.
As each writer soars to new heights, Snyder and Tynion are just starting to realize the full weight of their respective success as San Diego Comic Con has put the spotlight on Batman with a huge panel that was a humbling experience to Snyder.
“There’s no greater highlight than seeing so many people excited, to sort of be a part of the story you just told and be so supportive,” says Snyder. “I mean, it really means the world to all of us that work on Batman. James, Greg Capullo, FCO, Jonathan Glapion, and Mike – everybody I mean.”
Snyder also had some shock to add to his awe as DC arranged for each member of the audience to wear an owl mask.
“I didn’t know,” says Snyder. “DC did it, man. I just tweeted out a picture and said the truth, which is I’ve accepted that my career has just peaked.”
With Snyder’s plans for the Joker, it’s hard to take him on his word when he says that his career has peaked. If anything, he has some extremely ambitious plans for the Joker’s return that will spill out into other Batman related titles much in the same way Night of the Talons did.
“Joker’s going to cross into a ton of them, man,” says Snyder. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. They’re totally self-contained in Batman, but this is really Joker’s revenge.”
Snyder isn’t throwing around the term revenge lightly. He’s pulling out all of the stops to show readers what he can do with the character.
‘It’s him coming after the family saying, “You guys make this guy fat and lazy,’” says Snyder. ‘”I’m going to bring you down. I’m going to burn your world. You’ve never faced me this way. You’ve never faced the nightmare that is the Joker.”‘
With an evil grin reminiscent of the Joker, Snyder says, “So, he’s really bringing hell on Earth to these characters for the first time ever…Now, I’m going to face them in the way the way they’re going to face their fears. I can’t wait for you guys to see it. It’s Joker completely unleashed.”
Death of the Family begins in Batman #13. Talon from James Tynion IV comes out in September.