Batman #24 the opening page isn’t an iconic image of the Dark Knight locked in battle with the Joker. Or someone knocking on death’s door. It’s a rare yet very powerful set of imagery that articulates the intimate relationship between Bruce Wayne and his butler Alfred. We see Alfred giving Wayne a hair cut.
Bruce asks Alfred, ” How do I look?”
Alfred replies, “Aerodynamic sir”.
This is a very clear example of how writer Scott Snyder has put his own take on the Dark Knight and humanised the myth (since 1939) and not since we were graced by the iconic work of Frank Miller in 1980s have we seen anything like this. Snyder has done a similar job with DC/Vertigo’s American Vampire comic. He has told his own story of Skinner Sweet and how he was the very first vampire conceived in the USA. In today’s pop culture, such reinvention is critical in how comics and their characters evolve over time. We can name some historical characters that have disappeared into the mist, Tarzan, Dick Tracy and Doc Savage.
In a phone interview Snyder says, “This is a time when comics companies are looking to bring excitement and fire to their books”. He is referring the constant evolution of characters. Its a popular thought amongst the industry.
“It’s essential, the lifeblood of our company, to reinvent cultural icons,” said Dan DiDio, DC Entertainment publisher , referencing Batman. “And Scott’s tone is unique. It has more of a horror feel. His Joker plays more like a slasher movie.”
Snyder now 37, started his career as a short fiction writer working for literary magazines like Tin House and Zoetrope. He started his career off with a Bang winning rave reviews (Publishers Weekly and Book list) for his work on the “Voodo Heart”. Stephen King drew parallels with T. Coraghessan Boyle’s debut collection, “If the River Was Whiskey. Comic books were were the heart laid.
“There hasn’t been a better time in comics,” Snyder said. “There’s a more literate readership now.”
Snyder’s Batman is iconic and fresh because he has the ability to layer the multidimensional history of Gotham City and the Wayne family. “History is a touchstone of everything I do,” said Snyder, “And with Batman, he can never know the whole haunted history of the place.”
His first two Dark Knight graphic novels in “The Court of Owls” and “The City of Owls,” Batman is involved in a complex conspiracy and fight with the court of owls which almost kills him. This version of Gotham has been built and set in a structure that allows the court of owls to form a very powerful position “ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime.”
Snyder’s grandparents would take him to antique shows in Westchester City which in turn helped fuel his passion for history and story telling. Snyder says, “If you got something, you had to make up a story about the object.”
Jim Lee who is also a DC publisher is an admirer of Snyder’s work. He says, “It feels so elegant and organic the way Scott has added new concepts to a decades-old mythology.”
The strategy he employes of mixing old and new is evident in “Batman: Zero Year”. The focus here is how Bruce Wayne becomes “the Batman”. The series can be brought now in comic book shops and online with a graphic novel due out in May. In spring we can expect a new Batman weekly series that Snyder will be responsible for called Batman Eternal.
Snyder showed he had what it took to write comic material when his work on American Vampire won a 2011 Eisner Award for best new series. This was coupled with the awesome art work of Rafael Albuquerque. Snyder’s take on vampires is quote unique, when King was asked for his opinion on Snyder’s approach he said, “The American aspect of it. The ambition of it. He wanted to use the vampire the way Coppola used the mob in the ‘Godfather’ movies.” King was such a big fan he wrote Sweet’s origin story with Snyder.
On the topic of keeping pop culture evolving, King states, “These archetypes are what we have to hand down to the next generation.”
Snyder’s unique use of language and how he expresses the very core behind his stories sets him apart from other writers. He achieved a master’s degree in fine arts from Columbia University and also teaches “how to write comics” at Sarah Lawrence College.
An example of his writing in the opening of “Batman: The City of Owls”
“I’ve always believed the best way to know a city is to stay close to the ground. To feel the cracks in the sidewalk under your shoe. The strange bright silence of the park under snow. The hissing sparks that come down when the elevated train passes overhead on Third Avenue.” So long, Bam! Pow! Zzzttt!
Snyder merges his own personal thoughts and real life feelings with his work, the mixture creates the unique experience we read in his comics. Snyder said that his recent work in “Batman: Death of the Family,” in which the Joker goes after everyone Batman cares about, grew out of the vulnerability he felt when his wife was pregnant with their second son. He goes onto say, “There’s a lot of my own deep anxieties in my work,”
“You bring your own interests to a book, and then use the character to explore those interests. You can remake them as long as you’re true to their core.”
Source: The New York Times