DC’s ‘Batman Eternal’ team talk exploring new corners of Gotham City

(CBR) Emerald City Comicon 2014 is officially here, and DC Comics started its programming slate Friday with “The Eternal Batman,” a panel dedicated to soon-to-debut weekly series “Batman Eternal.”
On hand were Scott Snyder, Dustin Nguyen, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV and Ray Fawkes; all part of the “Eternal” team.
The panel opened with the creators asked for their favorite Bat-moments. Seeley picked “JLA” #41, where Batman tells Superman he'll “hound him through the afterlife” if Superman doesn't succeed. Fawkes selected the fourth issue of “Dark Knight Returns.” Tynion chose the Neal Adams-illustrated swordfight between Batman and Ra's al Ghul. “That whole sequence, the scale of it, the scope of those stories have always stayed with me.”
Snyder also picked “Dark Knight Returns.” “I was only 10 or 9 when that book came out,” he said. “To see a superhero approached with such pathos but also with such incredible respect and dignity, you knew Batman would be around forever.” Nguyen picked a “Batman Beyond” moment where Bruce Wayne says he doesn't think of himself as “Bruce.”
Turning to the “Zero Year” story that's been running through “Batman,” Snyder addressed his apprehension in revisiting Batman's early years — he and artist Greg Capullo were “terrified,” he shared — before realizing the creative potential. Speaking of the story's climax, Snyder said, “We want it to be a culmination where the Riddler essentially says, 'We live in this unprecedented time. We've got no fangs and no claws, and the only way we survive is to evolve our minds. So why don't I speed the circumstances up in Gotham, and make it this end of time city?'” Riddler turns the city into his own “post-apocalyptic playground,” Snyder revealed. “This is the fun part, where [Batman] faces off with the Riddler in a completely transformed Gotham.”

Snyder said he's used “Zero Year” to confront some real-world fears, like terrorism and climate change. After a shorter detective story following the end of “Zero Year,” Snyder said he's planned “something that's going to rock Gotham in the craziest way we've done so far. You have to go big for the 75th.”

“Batman” #31 contains a face-off between Batman and the Riddler — Snyder said the issue also has one of his favorite splash pages by Capullo. Fawkes chimed in to express his fondness for the Riddler — even though, he said, his friends as a kid tried to convince him the character was lame. Fawkes said he doesn't think anyone will think that of the Riddler after “Zero Year.”

Transitioning to weekly series “Batman Eternal,” Tynion said it's set to explore corners of Gotham City that haven't gotten much exposure yet in The New 52. Snyder said readers will see “Leslie Tompkins and the extended Bat-family.”

“You have so much room, that you can tell the craziest, most over-the-top stories that change the whole city,” Snyder said. “We're telling a story so big and so nutty that you need 52 issues to do it.”

Talking of the collaboration process involved with the series, Seeley said, “It's very fluid, because it has to be. I talk to you guys way more than I talk to my mother.”

“We're all working on aspects of Gotham and Batman's universe that we all personally love,” Fawkes said. “For me, I love the darkness of Gotham. It doesn't take much for me to get these guys excited about something really creepy and strange happening.”

Nguyen debuts on “Batman Eternal” with issue #4. “This is my first time working on a weekly,” Nguyen said, speaking of the important of coordination. “I could be working on issue #15 or #16 — someone's still working on issue #6 or #7.”

“This is something we've been working on non-stop since almost September,” Tynion added. Commenting on the recently released “Batman Eternal” #4 cover, Tynion described it as, “Batman and Batgirl having a minor disagreement.”

Tynion said he'd like to do 52 more weekly issues after “Batman Eternal” wraps. The panelists said they've become like a “club” through the experience.

“Batman Eternal,” Snyder said, is the creators exploring their favorite aspects of Batman while “always clicking that big machinery forward.” “You're going to see all of your favorite villains,” he continued. “Basically everybody's status changed, mythology turned on its head.” The story, he said, will “shake things up in a good way, that's true to the core.”

Turning to fan Q&A, the first audience member up to the mic asked how having young kids influences Snyder's work. “I don't write it for them,” Snyder said. “I don't let them see it.” He was proud, however, when his older child drew a picture of a kitty being eaten by a giant squid. “That's my kid! He's definitely displaying some really interesting tendencies.”

Continuing, he said while he doesn't let his kids read his comics, he doesn't try to make them “overly grotesque,” but instead as dark “emotionally and psychology as it needs to be.” Snyder said the stories are “deeply personal” to him and influenced by his own fears and anxities, and that he hopes his kids, “would be proud of me one day, that I was trying to be honest on the page with it.” Seeley said there are a lot of important father relationships in “Eternal.”

Nguyen is also a father. “I did 'Lil Gotham' out of spite, because my kid is a huge Green Lantern fan,” Nguyen said, to laughs.

Another question concerned the current status of Red Robin, Tim Drake. “Tim Drake is my favorite character in all of comics,” Tynion said. “One of the stories I've taken the lead on is the Tim Drake and Harper Row storyline that's going to run through the whole year. That starts in issue #5, I think, when he's going to start coming in front and center. I think he is a very important lynchpin in the entire Bat-family.”

“The fact that he just called himself Red Robin out of the gate, that kind of fits, because he makes his own way,” Tynion added.

Next person asked for more details behind the collaborative process. “[Snyder and Tynion] laid out this skeleton document that we all began with, and that document had the endgame of this story,” Fawkes said. “I can't write a story without knowing the end.”

Will Ra's al Ghul be in “Zero Year”? Snyder said no, “but you will definitely see him in general.”

Speaking more of the broader world of “Eternal,” Tynion said, “I like world-building. It's one of the reasons I was really drawn to 'Eternal.'” One of the things that interested Tynion was finding out more about things like the Gotham Gazette, and what crime writer in Gotham wrote a bestselling book about Joker. “Because that book has to exist.”

An audience member asks “Why would anyone want to live in Gotham at this point?” Fawkes said there are answers to that in “Eternal.” Snyder said that's something he wanted to address in the first arc of “Zero Year.” “They know it's this great adversary,” he said. “Similar to places like New York — you live in a place because you know that it's going to challenge you to become the thing you really want to be, but aren't sure you can be. That's the only way I can justify people living in that city.”

“The Gotham City police department must be the highest paid police department,” Fawkes added.

When asked what “z-grade villain” the panel would like to reintroduce, Fawkes said he's reintroducing Ten-Eyed Man as a “David Lynchian” villain in “Eternal.” “I have a Crazy Quilt idea,” Snyder said.

Answering the last question of the panel, Seeley said a lot of the “Batman Incorporated” characters will show up in “Eternal.” “Major characters, major villains from that series, will be in key parts,” Tynion added.

“Batman Eternal” #1 is out April 9 from DC Comics.