When you mention Batman to a comic book fan, a number of creators probably come to mind immediately. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Frank Miller, Paul Dini, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Bruce Timm. However, if you ask a modern Batman fan about which writers and artists come to mind immediately, they’re likely to say Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
Joining the Dark Knight’s book upon the launch of the New 52, Snyder and Capullo have delivered some of the most memorable ‘Batman’ stories in recent history including ‘Court of Owls’ and ‘Death of the Family.’ Basically, their run on the series has defined a whole new generation’s idea of the Caped Crusader.
A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to talk to Snyder at New York Comic Con about his work on ‘Batman’. Now, during this year’s Baltimore Comic Con, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Capullo to get the other half of the creative equation. After he joined an all-star panel of the company’s finest on stage for a general discussion about the state of DC Comics (and after I happily waited in line with his legions of fans to get my copy of ‘Batman’ #13 signed), the veteran artist spoke to us about contracts, his process, the Joker, and some initial “performance anxiety” when he first boarded the series:
SF: How would you describe your run on ‘Batman’ with Scott Snyder so far in one word?
GC: Lucky. Definitely lucky. I grew up a Marvel guy and I never thought that I’d work with DC and it’s because of Batman. I didn’t even know he was a DC character when I was first introduced to Batman when I was a little kid, so that’s why I say he transcends it all. You go anywhere on the globe, and people will know Batman whether they even know DC or Marvel exists. But they know Batman exists.
SF: In your spotlight panel, you mentioned having “performance anxiety” when you first started on the book. Do you get that feeling when you start with any new character or is that mostly because of the magnitude of Batman?
GC: It was a combination. Certainly there was some pressure anytime you start a new character, but the fact that it was the relaunch was the biggest mindfuck because it was setting a precedent. It was starting from scratch and what ever I was laying down was going to be this generation’s Batman. That’s a big responsibility, you know? I’m more relaxed on it now. I still get a little uptight, as Scott does, whenever we start a new arc because the pressure is on since so many people like what we do and you don’t want to disappoint them. You don’t want to fall from grace, so to speak, so every time we start a new arc it’s [deep breath] hope they like it.
SF: One thing that fans really seemed to like was your take on The Joker. We know that Jim Lee designed the heroes of the New 52, but did you have more input on creating the Clown Prince of Crime for his return in ‘Death of the Family’?
GC: Nah, Jim wasn’t involved in that, but it was kinda out of necessity that we had to do that because Tony Daniel did that thing in ‘Detective Comics’ with his face cut off, which I found out recently was a Snyder idea that he gave to Tony. So anyway when Scott said that we have to bring the Joker back, but he has no face, he says that we could reattach it with belts and hooks and stuff. I just want him to have the biggest smile ever. After that it was just taking out the sketchpad and thinking of cool ways to do that. It was just out of necessity coming up with the design. Jim had nothing to do with that. Otherwise it would be armor lines on Joker’s face. [laughs]
SF: Also in your panel, some people misunderstood and said that you’re leaving Batman soon, but really you said that you have a couple of years left.
GC: Yeah, I have sixteen issues, which probably, when you factor in breaks, is gonna shake out to about two years. Now I’m not saying that I will or won’t. I mean, it could be that I renew the contract. Maybe I’ll take a second to do ‘The Creech’. Scott has a contract where even though he’s exclusive to DC, he has some kind of clause where he can do the things that he’s doing at Image, so maybe I’ll work out one of those deals. Who knows? I could be dead. The Earth is struck by an asteroid and we’re all gone! So yeah, it was inaccurate reporting as far as that they made it etched in stone. You know what? I etch nothing in stone, which should tell you that it’s not true because when you ask me what my plan is, I say here’s a tentative outline, but I’m old enough to realize that life is going to take you on whatever course it’s going to. So who goddamn knows? Maybe DC is gonna offer me so much money that I’ll go and add a 30 year contract, which will probably outlive me, and it’s an offer I can’t refuse. Sixteen issues is all I have to do to fulfill the existing contract, but in context, before I signed this two year contract, I was only half way through my previous contract. So in an interview you’d go, “How long?” and I’d say that my contract is up in sixteen issues. All of a sudden they call up and say why don’t you sign on for two more years. You just caught me at a time where it’s sixteen issues.
SF: How does it feel to know that fans freak out when they hear that you might be leaving?
GC: I’m happy about it! It shows that they really care about me and the art that I do. Of course, it’s every artist’s dream to have the fans support them and want them. I’m humbly grateful for each guy and gal out there who doesn’t want me to leave ‘Batman’. I’m a blessed man and I’m just thankful.
SF: Before you wrap up on Batman a few years down the line, are there any characters that you absolutely hope to incorporate into your run more?
GC: I had a few opportunities. I love the Penguin and I got to draw him a little bit. It would be cool to do someone big like Killer Croc. It was fun doing Clayface because he’s big. Catwoman would be fun. I only got a brief headshot cameo of her. Poison Ivy would be fun so I could do a sexy female here and there. Here’s the thing: Batman’s rogues gallery is filled with awesome characters, so any of them I’d be happy to do. Bane. Just throw them out there and I’d say yes, yes, yes. Any of them would be a blast to do.
SF: You made a really interesting comment that seemed to blow moderator and fellow artist David Finch’s mind about panel design where you said that you would try to use panels that fit the character. If you were to work with someone like the Flash or the Fantastic Four, how would you change up panel layouts from your stuff on Batman?
GC: I can’t really spell out a formula. It’s more like something that I feel. I’ll just give you more examples. If you were to do Swamp Thing or Man Thing, you got all that swampy stuff that’s just hanging and wet. You could make very interesting artsy panel borders to compliment that. In contrast, something as neat and clean as Superman, you’d play a little more straight. I don’t know until I get to that bridge what I’m going to do. I let it inspire me as it rolls. And it doesn’t go for every single book. A lot of them draw similar lines. But then there are things like Spawn. It’s crazy in Spawn. You’re dealing with the metaphysical and all this other stuff. Like I said, I just let it inspire me.
SF: Finally, it’s no secret that you’re a Marvel fan. What do you think about what they’re doing over there these days? Are there any projects out now or coming soon that you wish you had a chance to work on?
GC: To be honest with you, since I’m so busy drawing the books, I don’t know what’s going on at the Marvel camp right now. I mean, I’ll hear things through the wind like Thor’s gonna be a girl and stuff like that, but I haven’t looked through any of their books. I draw 12-16 hours a day and I have a family, so there’s not much time to do things like that. I can’t really comment too much on what’s going on over there sadly.
SF: But there’s definitely a lot of exciting stuff coming up on ‘Batman’.
GC: Always exciting stuff! Snyder a while back was concerned that he wouldn’t have big Batman stories left in him and he goes, “I dunno if I should sign another contract because if I don’t have big stories, I don’t want to do it.” But all of a sudden he goes and has this idea and this idea and I’m going, “It’s gold! More gold!” So he’s got some really exciting things. We got ‘End Game’ right now, but after that I know of some really cool things coming up. Big stories that are coming out of him, so yeah, the well is not dry.
This conversation with Greg Capullo was certainly high-octane. If you didn’t know who he was, then it would be hard to imagine that he is a comic book artist, but that adds to his charm. I also found it interesting that he’s so different from Scott Snyder, yet their work meshes so harmoniously on ‘Batman’ to create something so incredible that they are widely acclaimed as one of the best creative teams in comics today.
What do you think about Greg Capullo’s work on ‘Batman’? Are you glad to hear that he’ll be sticking around for the time being? And after reading this interview, what did you think about the look into his creative process? Let us know in the comments below.