Filed under: Interviews | Tags: American Vampire, Batman, KAPOW!, ScottSnyder, Severed, Swamp Thing
It’s Sunday afternoon of Kapow! 2012 and Scott Snyder sits down to chat to us in a ‘WWBD’ t-shirt (with the bat logo below it) – we’re probably the last people he wants to be chatting to, since he was out to the small hours of the night before with his Detective Comics buddy Jock, drinking and eating hot dogs. ‘It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time’ – at least we know he got a taste of the UK comic scene at it’s best. Hangover aside, Scott was nice enough to answer the many questions we had about all the titles he’s working on just now.
In the space of only a few years, Scott Snyder has made big name for himself as someone who can write a damn good comic. Starting with a few one-shots and mini-series’ for Marvel, Snyder got his big break in 2010 with the release of American Vampire through Vertigo – a series following a new breed of vampire born in the American West during the late 1800s and jumping through different time periods telling the tales of the first of their kind – Skinner Sweet. Although this was an idea Snyder had been holding onto for some time, things could have turned out very differently for his career had he not changed path:
I wanted to be a comic book artist growing up and I had a portfolio that I made all the way through high school, but when I got to college there just wasn’t a lot of opportunity for that kind of story telling or art. It was sort of only conceptional art, modern art, so I fell more into the writing side of things. I really fell in love with prose and there was a lot of opportunity to do that where I went to school. So I studied prose and got my masters. After college I wrote a book of short stories called Voodoo Heart, which came out about 2006.
Soon after, Snyder was asked to contribute to a comic anthology where literary writers would write superhero strips. At its launch, he was approached by some comics editors who gave him the chance to pitch for the Human Torch one-shot and the Iron Man Noir series’ he wrote for Marvel.
DC approached me and asked me if I wanted to pitch for Vertigo because they were open to literary things – so I pitched American Vampire. It took a little back and forth with them but we went through. For me it was an idea that I’d been playing with in my head a lot and I didn’t know what fomat to do it in. I had thought about it as short stories, I had though about screenplays, I didn’t know what would fit. And then as soon as I had an entry into comics I realised this was the perfect story to do in comics, this was the right medium. I hadn’t really developed it as anything yet, I had just been thinking about it. I had sort of planned it out as a novel a little bit but it didn’t feel right.
What’s so great about the series is that, because the characters don’t age and can live forever, the book can move forward through time pretty quickly and tell stories set at really interesting times. I was interested to find out what came first – the time & location or the plot:
It’s actually kind of surprising. When we started I thought it would be the former, it would be ‘I really want to go to Las Vegas in the 30s’ or ‘I really want to see mobsters and jazz of the 30s’. When I started writing it though I realised I had actually planned on jumping around more from character to character through the years, but what happened was I really fell in love with the characters beyond those initial arcs. I knew I was going to come back to Pearl, and Skinner would be a big main line, but I had planned to cast a wider net first. Falling in love with those characters and realising I wanted to stay with them has changed that process so that now I try and figure out where they’re going to be at their most interesting moments in history themseleves as characters. I pick those moments and then figure out what makes the most sense for them in terms of setting and context.
Throughout the weekend on some of the panels Scott talked a bit about the arc that American Vampire is about to start – one he describes as a ‘huge turning point':
The story we’re doing right now, in the next month, I’m super excited about. Pearl and Skinner [are] teamed up in Hollywood killing vampires in the 50s – and the reason I really wanted to do it then, was because I knew that by this period Henry was going to be older and people are starting to mistake him for Pearl’s Father. He’s coming to the end of his human life in a lot of ways and they have a big decision to make whether or not to turn him into a vampire. Whether or not Pearl can resist the pull of the blood, in a way, to keep being who she is with or without him. Skinner is in a very different place emotionally than anyone expects – which will come out next issue, [along with] why he is where he is.
Not content to stop at a new and original take on the vampire genre, Snyder was handed the reigns of Detective Comics in 2011, creating an absolutely amazing story with Dick Grayson as Batman. Anyone who’s met me in person will know that the one book I’ll continue to recommend people go and read, if they haven’talready, is Black Mirror. It’s by far my favourite Batman story ever, however Snyder recounts that DC were a little reluctant to start:
It was a little harder pitching the original idea because I think there was some resistince or trepidation [around] bringing Gordon’s son back as a bad guy. They were worried I was going to [make him] a super villian, where he comes back like… I dunno what he would have been… like ‘The Something’. Once they saw what I was going to do they were very open to that.
The series had Jock providing art for the main section of the comic and Francesco Francavilla starting with the back-up story – however the two pieces began to work harmoniously throughout the arc. In his relatively short comics career, Snyder has shown that he is fully aware of the importance of a back-up story and can utilise it to enhance the reading experience:
Back-up is just something I really like to play with. I love the way that the back-up can tell pieces of the story that you need, but you don’t know you need. Or that aren’t necessary to understand the feature but enrich the feature. I really have no business doing the back up in Batman – given all the stuff I have on my plate, I should let someone else write it. I’m writing it with a good friend of mine who used to be a student of mine in a comic class I would teach. In the next arc we do you’ll see the back up playing an integral part to the feature. I love that interplay – I have a lot of fun with that. And the Batman back up lets us try different art styles as well – I got to bring Rafael from American Vampire. There are a lot of exciting artists that we’re going to use for these.
I’ve written on numerous occasions about how much I’m enjoying Snyder’s current run of the DCNew52 Batman. With the Court of the Owls arc we’ve been treated to a wonderful mystery, with twists and turns in ever issue, but as that arc now draws to a close everyone is keen to know what’s next:
I’ve got a really big story planned afterwards with my favorite Bat-villain. [Now revealed to be The Joker.] I’m very very excited. Greg Capullo is going to be staying with me as well. Right now we’re focused on the ending of the Owls story – I’ve been really excited by all the theories that have gone up online about what’s going to happen in the last issues – maybe it’s Alfred, maybe it’s Martha and Thomas. It means a lot that people are willing to put so much thought and analytical thinking into our stories. We’ve got a special issue coming up after that – it features Harper the girl that was introduced in issue #7. Then we go onto our next big story.
I’m sure like most people, if I had my way, I’d never let him leave his writing duties at Batman, however it’s good to hear that he’ll only continue in this position if he has a good story to tell.
Batman is my favourite character – he’s always been, ever since I was a kid. With me, if I don’t have an idea that I don’t care as much as Court of the Owls or the next story line we’re going to do, if it’s not as important to me or as deeply personal as these stories are, I won’t do Batman. I’m not going to stay on Batman past that point where I have a story that, to me, isn’t as important to my character and to myself as the one I’m doing now. So that’s the way I perceive Batman – I joke that ‘you’ll have to kick me out of Gotham’ – but I would happily leave Gotham if I don’t have the story for it.
If you thought that writing world class vampire and Batman stories was enough to keep one man busy, then you’d be wrong. Snyder has another DCNew52 book which is getting just as much positive feedback – Swamp Thing. He wasn’t a character I’d read before the New52 but Snyder’s story has totally sucked me in and left me with an urge to go back and soak up Swampy’s extensive comics history. Fans of the pre-52 Swamp Thing are curious to see when their favourite characters are going to make an appearance:
I’ve always loved the whole cast of Swamp Thing. We’ve just got to the end of an arc and we’re begining this new one with Arcane. With the first one I really wanted to give people some breathing room and get to know Alec Holland without that whole supporting cast – because he’s trying to avoid them too – he doesn’t want to be Swamp Thing. In that way I thought there would be a time and place to reintroduce those characters down the line. We’ve got plans for all those characters. I’m really excited about using them all. Those characters are a really rich part of the story line and I just didn’t want to bombard people with them all.
The series has done an excellent job of pleasing fans new and old and has been building towards a massive crossover with the equally excellent Animal Man title, written by his good friend Jeff Lemire. Both writers were keen from the outset to start planting the seeds (pun intended!) in both series relating to the upcoming events:
There are things that have happened in the storyline that will play out already in the crossover that we’re doing. So you’ll go back and you’ll see some stuff that happened between Abby and Alec that wind up playing a very big part of Animal Man. The same with some stuff Socks has said to Buddy – anything like that has potential to come back in a big way. The big thing we want you to feel as a reader is that we’re not flying by the seat of our pants – not meaning that’s a bad way to write, I have friends that write that way, but my feeling is that readers respond well, and I respond as a reader to that feeling, like when I read something by Geoff Johns, and he’s laying an easter egg into the story that’s going to come back – I can tell in like 6 or 7 issues. And when it does it’s so rewarding, there’s such design and scope. I’m eager to do that with my series. Jeff was exactly the same way. You guys know when you’re reading it that there’s a big plan and if you stay with it things will pay off later. That’s one of the joys of serialised story telling.
If you didn’t already have enough things to add to your reading list following this interview, it’s also worth checking out the recent mini-series from Image that Scott collaborated with Scott Tuft on – Severed. Its grisly horror style is a far departure from the antics of Batman or Swamp Thing with each issue leaving you with a chill running down your back. Our final question to Scott was about the prospect of seeing more creator owned work like this in the future:
Right now I have plans for independent stuff down the line with my friend that I wrote Severed with, but it’s still sort of nascent. We’ll definitely do something again, either a follow up to that book which we have a story for, or something else original. Right now I’m really 100% on my DC and Vertigo stuff because we’re in such important parts of the stories. It’s not just that it’s taking up my time, it’s just these stories are so important to me, and they are at such important place in thier trajectories – I don’t really have enough energy to do other things.
If you’ve not read any of Scott’s work up until now then I urge you to check out any of the books mention here – and even if you’re not already familiar with some of the characters, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had from them. Personally I know that I can trust anything with the Snyder name against it to be a quality product.
Craig – @hastiecraig
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