‘The Joker Is The Devil’s Tongue’: Scott Snyder On ‘Batman’ #17, And What’s Next For The Bat-Family

Scott Snyder’s Death of The Family arc wrapped yesterday with Batman #17, an issue that’s got some far ranging implication for the Batbooks and a truly troubling ending.

Snyder was good enough to sit down with us in the middle of last week’s blizzard and answer a few questions. He had charge of his eighteen-month-old, but despite the added responsibility (and the cat video he was forced to watch over and over), he was genuinely excited to talk about the book. Here’s what he had to say about the Joker, working with Greg Capullo… and what he and Capullo have coming next.

Gamma Squad: What’s under the cloches is… well… really, really disturbing!

Scott Snyder: Thanks!

Gamma Squad: What made you decide to come to that conclusion?

Snyder: For me, I think the idea was really, it was tempting to mutilate or off somebody. A lot of theories online were so gruesome it was inspiring and terrifying, people want some really horrible things to happen to these characters. From go, it was really about the Joker trying to prove a point: At the end of the day, you love me more than you love them. And you will do the wrong thing because your deepest desire is to not have them around anymore.

Not that that’s true at all, but as a father, you can relate to the notion that you wish once in a while you didn’t have to worry about your family, and the Joker takes that kernel of truth where “God I wish I had one day if I didn’t have to worry about them” and says “I’ll give you that day, but for your whole life.” He does scare you with the truth in that way. To him, it was about proving he could drive a wedge between Bruce and the rest of his family, to say “Your relationship with me, if I show you the way you’ve acted, the way you love me, I’ll prove to the family you’re not the great father you think you are.” And that way he exposes Batman to a shocking criticism from them, he really does drive a wedge between them.

Gamma Squad: Does Batman actually know the Joker’s name, or is he just messing with the Joker for once?

Snyder: I don’t want to give it away, only in that I like people to make their own decisions. In my personal subjective opinion, I feel strongly about at least suggesting that if Batman knew who the Joker was, to not tell the rest of the family would show he hasn’t learned as much as I’d like him to have learned, about trusting them and allowing them to make their own decisions.

I really believe what Bruce says, that if he tried to figure the Joker out, Gotham will never let him. If you believe he knows, in your reading of it, that’s OK. That could be true. I believe in everybody getting their own truth out of these stories, but that’s mine, that Gotham wouldn’t allow him.

Gamma Squad: What are the implications of this going forward? The book ends on a note that hints that the Bat-Family is severely divided.

Snyder: It’s definitely going to have far-reaching implications into the book. We wanted to do something that wasn’t quite as sensational a scar, like Alfred getting his limbs chopped off, but that would really have repercussions throughout the book, and a deeper wound that makes it harder to bring them all together.

Gamma Squad: There are a lot of subtle Satanic motifs throughout the book. How do you make the call with Greg Capullo to bring that in and to what degree?

Snyder: What Greg brings to the table is this incredible creativity. What I told him was that in a lot of ways, the Joker is the Devil’s tongue. He’s a villain who is telling you these things that you hope are not true about yourself. And that’s why he’s such a great horror monster, he makes you afraid of yourself. It goes beyond just his being a scary clown.

So Greg came up with the idea of those visual motifs, especially flies. The fly in the ointment, flies as a symbol of pestilence, the fly in your ear buzzing at you, never letting you go, that torturous hint of the Devil.

Gamma Squad: One thing I noticed when I went back and read the arc that I didn’t notice before was the Joker’s face rotting. That was gross, in a good way.

Snyder: [Laughs] Super gross! We aimed to inspire and terrify, and also completely gross you out.

Gamma Squad: What can you tell us about what’s coming up next for Bruce?

Snyder: We’re not going to sit back and do small stories, we’re going to do the nuttiest stuff we can do next. What’s next is the boldest thing we’ve done and it touches on things that in some ways I’ve been reluctant to go towards, but I think this is the place and time. And on top of that, I get to use one of Batman’s classic villains, and it’s definitely going to be something you haven’t seen. I promise you, you see issue #21, you’ll realize I’m not you. What’s coming up feels at the same level of importance as Court of Owls.

I try to put a lot of myself in these stories, and when I can’t do that, I’ll happily pack my bags and leave Gotham.

Batman #17 is out today, and highly recommended.