At NYCC, I interviewed Scott Snyder about one of my favorite single issue comics of the year, Justice League #9, and the personal themes that were explored. This was my second time interviewing Snyder, so I had the chance to get more specific.
Black Nerd Problems: Justice League #9 is a single issue between two major arcs. Issues like this are often forgettable, but you made sure it wasn’t. This was the closest we’ve gotten to these characters during your run. What made you get personal?
Scott: I felt like that first arc had to be sort of stuffed to the max to leave you thinking “Oh my God, Justice League is gonna be insane!” But I didn’t really get a chance to kinda pair off the characters, show you the Hall of Justice, give you a sense of what the team’s about, what some of the inner conflicts of the characters are that we’re gonna be exploring going forward. So to me, this issue is really a launching pad for a lot of the emotional threads that we’re gonna be building in the coming arcs. The stuff between Aquaman and Wonder Woman that plays out in Drowned Earth. The stuff between Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl really plays out in the following arc called Hawk World. It’s a three issue arc that takes place on Thanagar Prime. You meet the Martian Keep, you see Shiera Hall. Surprise, surprise. I probably shouldn’t have said that. So there’s a lot of groundwork that we’re laying in issue 9 that’s gonna pay off later.
The Hall of Justice
BNP: Why is it important for readers to see the Hall of Justice?
S: Well—that’s a great question. I think for me, Grant (Morrison) introduced the idea of the Watchtower, which I think at the time was so great because it made these heroes feel larger than life. There hadn’t been a big seven Justice League. But they’ve been larger than life for so long, in the movies and everything, that I wanted to make them, especially at this moment– you know, everybody is really anxious. It’s really contentious out there right now. Regardless of what side you’re on. My politics are relatively obvious but regardless of what side you’re on, everyone feels stressed out. Everybody feels worried. So I feel like in this moment you want the Justice League to be here on Earth with us. Their hall is accessible. They’re our heroes. They’re in it together. We’re all in it together. And that feeling to me was really important. To make it feel inclusive. That you could walk in and be inspired by your heroes. Because right now we need that. We all need reminders how to be the best versions of ourselves constantly. So in that way, it’s really important to have the Hall of Justice in that regard. It’s really the heart and soul of the series.
BNP: A highlight for me this issue was getting a glimpse of everyone’s living space at the Hall. Was there any character’s bedroom that challenged you?
S: Yeah, actually the weirdest one was Wonder Woman. And that’s why part of it was — I felt like she wouldn’t really care. She would be thinking about everybody else in a way where she would want them to have a place to go. Find a center. And then I realized that is her. She would set up the chapel, she would set up the non-denominational space god place for people to go to try and find their truth. Because she’s about truth. So I loved that aspect of trying to figure it out. Batman was easiest.
BNP: Batman’s killed me! That was great.
The Trials of Batman
BNP: Speaking of Batman… he was basically obliterated by Lex Luthor. I feel like injuries like that in comics usually get brushed over and they’re rushed back to the frontlines—
S: Yeah! He’s in a body cast all throughout Drowned Earth!
BNP: That’s so dope!
S: It’s one of my favorite things. And he actually becomes quite close with — When Starro died, a tiny piece of him fell out, and they captured it. So you’ll see in the next issue, they call him Jarro because he’s in a jar and they’re afraid of him. And Batman actually becomes quite close with him. He calls Batman Papa, and Batman is in a full body cast that’s sort of a moving battle chair. And he’s in that through the entire Drowned Earth arc, which I really love. In fact, at one point, he goes up against the Legion of Doom in the chair and it’s one of my favorite things. He’s like “My weapons have weapons, you don’t wanna do this.”
BNP: Was that a decision you made to sort of give him more adversity?
S: With Justice League, I want it to surprise you, I want it to be fun. I want it to be bonkers. And I want it to be emotional and the way to do that is to try things that haven’t been done. Emotionally what happens is, you know he’s gonna get back on his feet. He’s back on his feet in the arc after this. With that said, he’s really laid low by the fact that Luthor beat him. That’s what haunts him all throughout Drowned Earth. So as fun as it is to see him in like a battle chair with missiles that pop out of it, he really is hurt emotionally by the fact that he lost to Luthor. And this might be too big for him, this whole thing. And it affects him in this arc and arcs after this, where he goes into conflict with Superman about some stuff. Not in a way where they physically fight. But in a way where they’re arguing over what they need to really do to stop the Legion of Doom.
BNP: Yeah that’s what I really appreciated about it. I wrote about that in my review for the issue. Like I said, sometimes in comics when a character’s out of commission, they come back unrealistically fast. And with Justice League, it feels like it’s happening in real time.
S: Thank you. I did a run on Batman. But because it was monthly and because the pressure was so high on every issue, it was very much arc to arc. Like in a way it wasn’t cumulative. Until I got to Endgame, I didn’t make it cumulative. I did the Court of Owls, moved past it. Death of the Family, moved past it to Zero Year, which was contained. Justice League is a different beast. The scope of the story and the fact that Justice League has to be so big that everything that happens, I want to feel like that. Like it pays off, it pays off. So for example, what happens with Black Manta and Cheetah pays off post-Drowned Earth in a way where they bring in a new member of the Legion of Doom. Everything is sort of one thing to the next. I want you to feel like you’re being rewarded for everything you’ve read. Not just on Justice League. But it’s one giant story we’re telling. From Metal, to No Justice, the three Justice League books, and it goes on to Batman Who Laughs. It’s gonna be in another book we’re gonna announce soon. Each book can be read alone. But we’re gonna culminate in something very, very special about a year from now. A little under a year.
BNP: So the major themes that stuck out in this issue were perseverance and change. There’s a point in the issue where Superman is trying to put the Moon back together after the aftermath of the Totality arc, and one might say he’s working harder not smarter, as he’s doing it by piecing it together pebble by pebble. This becomes a point of contention between him and Batman as Bruce feels that Clark should improve upon the Moon instead of just putting it back the way it was. That’s when Superman asks Bruce why he never uses magic to heal from his injuries. It’s the same logic. Why do things the old-fashioned way when you can do them better? It made me wonder, why do you think Batman is so hell-bent on trying to come up with bigger and better ways to stop the Legion of Doom, but when it comes to himself, he doubles down on sticking to the way it’s always been?
S: I honestly believe that’s probably the biggest struggle of Batman. It boils down to the struggle of him having to face his own mortality at some point, which is the running theme of my entire run of Batman. And here I think it plays out really acutely. Bruce is a character who would be completely compromised if he wasn’t human all the way through. If he used magic, if he used cosmic rays to heal himself, it would ruin the idea of Batman because Batman is us. He’s mortal. He’s human. He shows us that no matter what the challenge is, we can overcome it with willpower and fearlessness. So he doesn’t cheat, and yet at the same time, I feel like he’s tempted to a lot because how the hell is he gonna beat his own mortality? How is he gonna age? How is he going up against a cosmic giant when he’s a human being? And so, here’s it’s a general reminder from Superman that we do change and we do adapt and we find ways to fight but we don’t change who we are. The same way he’s like “I will not make the moon, this thing that inspires people to see, a weapon. We can do it another way.”
BNP: This was a great issue for Jorge Jiminez. Between your issues and the Legion of Doom issues, how do you guys choose which artist is on which issue number?
S: We have it really plotted out a long ways away. With double ship, you have to be ahead because artists are fed at different times, so James (Tynion IV) and I have a thing. I should post the board one day. I’m literally writing right now issue #21 of Justice League. That arc is for Jorge, it’s about the 6th dimension. With Mxyzlptlk and all that stuff. Total spoiler. But it’s a Superman arc. That’s how far ahead you work. So you know, James is writing Legion of Doom all the way out at #17. So we’re way, way out. We try and really make it textured. I want you to feel like you get Jim Cheung for an arc. He’s gonna be doing an arc that’s really special coming up too. I want you to get a Jorge arc. I want you to get Francis Manapul, who’s amazing. We just have the best artists. I feel so lucky. I feel like I could write the phone book and Justice League would be great because these artists are so good. I’m very, very grateful to all of them. But I want you guys as readers to feel like the arc shines in ways that really reflect what this team and what this book is really about. I’m trying to stay out of my own way.
Note: Light Spoiler Ahead!
BNP: What can you tell us about Drowned Earth. What’s coming up?
S: It’s our big Aquaman story. It crosses over with Aquaman itself. And essentially what Aquaman learns is that long ago, the great hero of Atlantis, Arion — it ties back to Metal actually. There’s a scene in which he goes to the center of the Earth and that ties into the story. But Arion fought off an attack by Sea Gods that were at war with Poseidon. And those Sea Gods are coming back to not only drown the Earth but drown it with an alien liquid that changes anyone who touches it into a fish monster. It’s gonna be totally insane. Batman is in a full body cast. Flash starts turning into a fish monster. Superman gets an eyepatch. It’s a space pirate Justice League. There are Space Krakens in it. It’s gonna be out of control. Starro is in it. Everybody’s in it. I want it to be like the most fun book on the stands. The most personal, the most emotional, and it’s building to something really, really big so that’s Drowned Earth. Also, I want to plug Witching Hour. James Tynion IV is knocking it out of the park. It’s all about Wonder Woman’s origin to magic. It changes her status quo. It’s gonna play into Justice League in a really big way.
S: And last thing too, I’ve gotta put out a plug for Batman Who Laughs. I’m so excited about that book. It starts in December. It’s me and Jock. It’s like a spiritual successor to our Black Mirror stuff. It’s like the darkest, scariest Batman story I’ve done easily. Even though it’s like self-contained, it also builds stuff that’s gonna feed back into our story in Justice League. I feel like this is the most fun I’ve ever had at DC. Most fun I’ve ever had on a book so I’m very grateful to everybody out there for showing us incredible support.
The Drowned Earth arc starts Wednesday, October 17th, 2018.
Reading Justice League? Find BNP’s other reviews here.