There’s a new Batman in town—and he’s ready to save the world.
After 40 issues, and in the wake of last month’s Divergence special, the creative team consisting of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have done the unthinkable: they’ve killed Batman. But in the masked man’s stead, there’s someone else who has been given the title, and it’s none other than Commissioner Jim Gordon.
“The idea came to me last year. And really, I think the impetus for it was that we were coming to an endgame,” Snyder told EW. “I knew we wanted to take Bruce and Joker away and have this really be their kind of last fight.” But Snyder went on to explain that when he started to think about who would take over the iconic title, it wasn’t a choice he made lightly.
“When it came down to who would step up and be Batman, there were a lot of superhero choices,” he said. “There were all of his friends from the Justice League, and all of his allies in Gotham, but the thing that really intrigued me about Jim—aside from the fact that he has an awesome moustache—he’s sort of one of the few characters who readers can really identify with as a normal person living in Gotham trying to be heroic. And he’s been there from day one.”
Snyder went on to explain that it was Gordon’s non-superhero nature that made him a viable candidate. “What became fascinating to me is this idea of, well, what if somebody came to you—a normal person, somebody who loves Batman, who knows Gotham—and says to you, ‘now that Batman’s gone, we need you to step up and be Batman.’ And you say, ‘Well, I have some talent but I’m not Batman. I don’t come close to his fighting skills. How do you expect me to be Batman?’ So for me, it becomes a story about what it’s really like to be Batman if that mantle kind of came to us at this moment of desperation for the city, and suddenly we realized we were the person who needed to step up and do it.”
As a creator and a fan of books, Snyder was acutely aware of the momentum surrounding his storytelling decision, and was the first to maintain he would never do anything this big if he didn’t believe it was worth exploring. “For us, we would never make these kind of changes to the mythos or play with these pieces that are so iconic to so many people, these characters and legends, unless we had story that we really thought was better on the other side of that change,” he said. “So for us, this was a way of looking at the whole mythology of Batman through a completely different angle.”
“Unless you’re AC/DC, you can’t rewrite the same song over and over again and have people love it,” added Capullo. “You have to try different things.”
The desire to try different things isn’t out of the norm for DC, or the comic industry in general, as companies such as Marvel and Image have been taking more liberties with their storytelling, from changes in well-known books to the debut of original characters. “I don’t know if it’s the movies or the digitization of comics, or the rise of the independent industry, or just the sudden popularity of the characters for all these different things,” Snyder said. “But the readership has grown so exponentially over the past few years that the exciting thing is, it’s a readership that seems to want us to try new things. As long as you stay true to the core of the characters, nothing you’re going to try is going to break them.”
Snyder and Capullo admitted to being nervous about how Gordon’s new role would be received, but positive responses across the board have made it clear that their audience is ready to embrace change. And according to Capullo, when you’re writing a series like Batman, change of any kind is imperative to keeping your book interesting and fresh. “I think ultimately, the only way to do new stories on a character isn’t really to come up with new plot twists,” he said. “Even though this is a big plot twist—having Gordon in the suit—it’s more about finding ways into the mythology in the characters that are personal to you. And I feel this Gordon story very strongly. For me, it’s how the city would fall apart after a big disaster and come together and rally around a certain point, and whether or not Batman is part of the system that can work.”
For Snyder as well, the recent issue was one that the writer felt deeply connected to. “#40 was very personal in the way that it’s sort of what Batman means to me,” he admitted. “Zero Year was sort of what I hope he would mean for my kids, to try and create an origin that would speak to some of the fears they have for the way the world night be. Endgame is about saying, ‘We’re all afraid our lives might not mean much.’ We live with all these fears. And so #41 is really, in the wake of that, again: who’s going to step up and be Batman? What if it was you? It asks us, ‘can we each be Batman in our way?’” And whether readers are on board with the change or not, when it comes down to it, Snyder said the point he hopes to get across is that sense of personal connection.
“We’re just going into it and making the stories we know we’d like to read at the end of the day, and that would move us.”
Below, EW premieres pages from Batman 41, due out Wednesday, June 10 in comic shops.