As we stand on the eve of the release of the New 52′s first attempt at a massive crossover event in Night of the Owls, our anticipation is high. DC Comics has promised that the event is not the kind of crossover that requires the reading of the many books it’s hitting, but simply one that will see ramifications throughout the Bat-books as a result of the primary story that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are telling in Batman.
It’s been a long, hard road for the Dark Knight, and it appears that the imminent dangers and insanity are not about to let up. Last week, I had the chance to catch up with artist Greg Capullo about where Batmanhas been, where he’s headed, and what terrors lay in wait for Gotham’s protector in Night of the Owls.
IGN Comics: You and Scott have both talked about how you guys had a bit of a rocky start when beginning work on Batman. Can you talk a little bit about how your collaborative relationship has evolved and where you’re at now?
Greg Capullo: Yeah, sure. Early on, as you mentioned, Scott – I would say – was apprehensive about how I like to work, which is with a lot of free range. I look at the relationship like a screenwriter and director. I think once he saw what kind of things I would do with his scripts, and what kind of flourishes I might add and whatever beats, how they complement and add to, rather than detract from, he’s totally relaxed with it now. Now, he lets me run with anything I want to do. He actually includes in a lot of his scripts: “Anything you want!” with an exclamation point and sometimes a smiley face; it’s very cool.
So now it’s very easy; our goal isn’t so much, “Oh, let me show I’m the best writer! Let me show I’m the best artist!” you know? It’s just let’s show the best possible Batman that we can. That’s how we’ve evolved. It’s no longer Scott Snyder versus Greg Capullo. It’s Capullo and Snyder against Batman. How can we bring Batman to the world in the biggest, most spectacular manner?
IGN: So would you say your progression together as collaborators has improved the overall quality of the book?
Capullo: Oh, absolutely. Once you’re trusting each other and you’re sharing the same vision – which is simply the biggest, baddest Batman that the world has seen in quite some time – then sure, you’re going to get a better product. And you know, I have to say, it’s not just me and Scott who are doing this.
FCO on colors and Jonathan Glapion on inks, we are all like-minded or single-minded at making Batman the most badass Batman you’ve seen ever. We’re all on the same page and my eyes touch all the pages before they go to editorial, so that I can help direct tone at times. But everybody’s really doing their part and putting their guts into this thing. So it’s coming out pretty good, I think.
IGN: Is there anything about the Batman run this far, or Night of the Owls in particular, that has challenged you as an artist?
I mean, every once in a while there’s a bit of a challenge. Like right now… it’s not the sexiest page of Batman, but it’ll be cool. I’m drawing like twenty people at a dinner table. [laughs] I guess you can call that a challenge. It’s not sexy, so you just have to kind of gut it out. But I would just say that the challenge doesn’t come so much from Scott’s writing as much as my desire to give the world the best Batman possible. The challenge for me is how to do that; how do I present him? So I’m just going with my own vision of what scares the hell out of me with Batman and pushing it everybody’s faces.
IGN: In a previous interview you did, you had mentioned how you felt you were sometimes type cast, so to speak, toward the grittier superhero characters.
Capullo: Right, right.
IGN: Do you feel this Batman run is still in that wheel house, or has it let you stretch your muscles a bit?
Capullo: It has a little bit, I suppose. You know, if you look at the beginning issues, they were more clean. They’re less gritty because the story was sort of open and emerging at that time. In that respect, it was closer to maybe some of my work on X-Force but with some shadow work thrown in. But as the story spiraled out of control with Batman just getting his ass whipped and starved and not shaving and filthy and not showering and everything he’s been through, it’s sort of taken me down that type cast road – which I’m comfortable in, it’s just a few more tick marks and hash lines or whatever – but yeah, it’s kind of familiar ground. It’s superhero meets my old work on Spawn. So yeah, it’s similar in that way.
IGN: One thing that I have to ask because I loved it so much and I know a lot of people did, was the book-turning aspect of Batman #5.
Capullo: Hey, thanks!
IGN: I’m just curious where that idea developed from. Was that in the script, did you guys work it out together, or was that all you?
Capullo: Like I mentioned earlier, when I get a script from Scott — or any writer, for that matter — what goes through my head while I’m reading it is, “What can I add to bring this up a notch?” So when I’m drawing this thing and he’s lost in the maze and we have all the cool drugged water and everything like that, it just occurred to me.
“You know what would be cool? If we turned the book!” And that’s been done, but what made me go all the way around is because Scott ended with a page that had Damian and Gordon on the rooftop, so it brought it back to our world, so to speak. So I thought we’d just keep going. As the madness goes, we’ll turn the book more until it’s upside down and then we’ll right the book when we’re back in the normal world, if you will.
It just popped in my head and I bounced it off of Scott. As I said, Scott and I have a great relationship now so we’re a team; he right away backed me on it. And then it just became selling it to the editors. After that, you have what you have, and it made everybody nervous. But I have to tell you, when I’m signing autographs at conventions, nine out of ten people come up and go, “Issue #5! Issue #5!” So it turned out to be a really good move.
IGN: Yeah, it really, really sold that book I think. But I’m curious if that was a hard sell on the editorial side of things.
Capullo: Well… [laughs] Not initially. Initially, my editor and Bob Harras, they said, “Yeah, cool!” And then after we got it all done and it was ready to go, I get an e-mail from Mike Marts, my editor, and he says, “You know, we’re worried the people are going to think it was a printing error and we’re thinking maybe just go horizontal and then go back the other way again.” And I said, if you do that… well, I said this in a real aggressive voice; not very nice. [laughs]
Capullo: But I said, “It’d be stupid then! Just to go horizontal and then switch it back up is pointless. It will just look like I’m doing a stupid job. It doesn’t matter if they get it or if they don’t get it. Most of the smart crowd will get it.” And then I pulled a Steve Jobs quote out of my butt and said, “Stay foolish!” And then I tried to hit him a little bit low and said, “You just had the balls to launch 52 books at the company, and now – and now — you’re going to neuter yourselves on me? Now you’re going to lose your nut sack?” So I gave him that kind of thing and the Steve Jobs quote I think hooked Bob Harras who said, “You know what? People say I’m as foolish as they come, so we’re going to do it.” But it didn’t end there.
So then I get the hard copy myself. Up until now, I’ve just had my art boards in front of me spread out. So I get the book, and I get to the page where the owls come pouring out of Bruce’s parents’ mouth, right? And it appears to me on the wrong side. Before turning the page – that’s when you have to start turning the pages in reverse – I had a knee jerk reaction and raced to my computer really boiling mad. I’m saying to my editor, “I was so meticulously careful doing this thing! How can you allow this to happen?! The printers made a mistake!”
And so, then I went back to the book and realized that it has to do this. I didn’t count on that particular move, where you had to turn the pages in reverse. But then when it hit me it was like, “This is even better!” So I’m glad that I didn’t foresee it, because I felt what readers felt. I was just as surprised as all of the readers, it was really, really cool. So that part was accidental on my behalf.
IGN: That’s awesome. I’m glad to hear that you got to enjoy it beyond actually drawing it.
Capullo: Dude, I gotta tell you. My heart and soul is into this every single day. I work a lot of hours, man. I mean a lot of hours. A short day is 12 hours. And then I tell myself, “I’m drawing freakin’ Batman!” I could be putting on a roof someplace. I could be digging a ditch to lay pipe. It’s all love and energy.
IGN: That’s really great to hear. Now, Night of the Owls starts next week with issue #8 [on sale tomorrow!], so I’m curious if there’s anything fans should look out for during their second read through of your run that might drop a hint or two at the influence of the Court of Owls in Gotham City?
Capullo: I mean, the big one is out there. They’ve been entrenched in Gotham for about 400 years or so, I think Scott has said. I don’t know if there are other hidden clues, and if there are, I don’t want to say because Scott might want them to stay hidden for now. But I mean, everybody’s pretty much seen some of the other Talon designs that I’ve come up with, which show the hundreds of years that these guys have been around. So we’ll be seeing those in these other books that are having this crossover event. They’re all deadly in their own regard. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed, and I like that.
IGN: Is there anything you can tell us about Night of the Owls that we don’t know yet? What should fans be expecting from this story?
Capullo: There’s going to be some shocking reveals. Again, I can’t say too much because we don’t want to spoil the fun. But the Bat-family has their work cut out for them. They’ve ruled the roost, so to speak, for a while and right now they’re getting their asses handed to them. I think fans are going to be shocked and go, “Wow! Our big tough guys who have been running the show for so long and protecting us so well… even they can receive a pretty hearty beat down at the hands of these Owls.” I would just say to expect a fun ride that’s going to grab them by the throat and make their heart pound in their chest. Hopefully we don’t crack too many ribs when that happens!
IGN: [laughs] So avoiding spoilers obviously, is there anything coming up in Batman that you’re looking forward to drawing that you maybe haven’t had a chance to yet?
Capullo: Issue #9 features a new Batmobile design. That’s really cool. There’s some battle armor that’s showing up and that’ll be out in this next coming issue. So that’s all been great fun stuff to create. In the issue I’m working on now, which is issue #10, we’ve got yet another monumental reveal and so I got to design some pretty powerful stuff for that one too. That’s pretty much all I can say; my hands are tied, not my tongue, so we’ll put a period on that one. [laughs]
IGN: My last question: can you say how long you’ll be sticking around on Batman with Scott?
Capullo: Well, when I signed up it was certainly just for a short duration. But Batman is a lot like crack. Not that I’ve ever done crack, and I want to put that out there right now. Never done crack! But I have done Batman now and I imagine it’s similar to doing crack in the fact that once you pick it up, you don’t want to put it down, you know? You just want to suck on more Batman crack pipe.
Capullo: Geez, that sounds so bad, I need to watch that. [laughs] Now I’m really wound up. So anyway, Scott knew that I was coming to an end with this Court of Owls thing, and he goes, “I would love to keep working with you, it’s great.” And I go, “Yeah, I’m having a good time with you.” And so he pitched me his next idea, and it’s just so awesome and so dark and so twisted – I guess I am type cast, I’m going right back into it – but I just had to do it. As a matter of fact, my nipples are getting stiff right now just talking to you about it.
Capullo: The most I can say is it’s one of everyone’s favorite rogues and it’s going to be… well, you think the Court of Owls is dark and twisted, this is going to transcend even that.
Capullo: Mild-mannered Scott Snyder is a really sick puppy. But I like that about him, so it’s all cool.
IGN: Awesome. Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Capullo: Yeah, man, I’d just like to say thank you to everybody for accepting me as an artist into the DC fold. I know it’s kind of like a special club and I didn’t get paddled too bad, I passed through the gauntlet, and now I’m part of the family.
I just want to tell them that I can’t promise you that I’m going to give you the very best Batman you’ve ever seen ever in your entire life; what I can tell you and what I vow to you is that I will give you the best possible badass Batman that I possibly can muster, and it’s coming to me from the lead of my pencils. There’s burnt wood, there’s burnt erasers littering the floor, along with a few blisters and blood and I’m going to deliver the goods to you.
IGN: Thanks so much Greg, and I really appreciate your time today.
Capullo: My pleasure, Joey.