COMIC CON — ‘Batman’ comic book reboot a joy for Greg Capullo
BY MISHA DAVENPORT August 8, 2012 6:48PM
Batman No. 10 cover | COURTESY DC ENTERTAINMENT
Updated: August 9, 2012 8:31PM
If you’ve recently seen the final entry in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” film series featuring the character of Batman, you may find yourself wondering how the Dark Knight could possibly get any darker.
The answer can be found in the pages of the monthly “Batman” comic book currently being written by New York Times bestselling author Scott Snyder (Voodoo Heart, and the creator of the comic book “American Vampire”) and artist/penciller Greg Capullo (“Spawn”).
Capullo and Snyder are a dynamic duo who have nearly garnered as much press and attention recently with their reboot of the Caped Crusader as Batman and Robin. Capullo will be a special guest at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con Aug. 11 (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Aug. 12 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
His acclaimed work on the “Batman” book almost didn’t happen. Capullo was approached with two high-profile projects from rival publishers.
“Marvel was interested in me working on ‘The Avengers vs. X-Men’ and DC offered me ‘Batman,’ ” he says. “It was a bit of a struggle deciding which one as both are grand projects. In the end, the little kid in me won the tug of war.”
Some might call his choice fate.
“One of the first things I drew was Batman when I was four,” he says. “My mom still has the drawing somewhere. It was from the animated opening from the ’60s TV show and I’ve come a long way since then. I had Robin’s ‘R’ emblem written backward.”
DC hired the pair to handle the reboot of one of their most recognized titles, “Batman.” Though the series was getting a fresh restart, Capullo says he recognized that any changes he made to the character couldn’t be drastic.
“You can’t really alter him significantly,” Capullo says. “Certain aspects of his character are entrenched in our culture. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to. My Batman is the same Batman that I was exposed to as a kid. I would never think of changing him.”
While many other artists have drawn Batman with the kind of physique that would make award-winning bodybuilders jealous, Capullo says abs and ripping muscles were out.
“My Batman doesn’t look like he’s wearing a suit made of spraypaint,” he says. “My Batman is monolithic. When he is standing still, he looks like a wall. Just because you are big doesn’t mean you’re slow and clumsy, though. He’s like Mike Tyson with a thicker neck.”
Capullo says that Snyder was equally hamstrung in terms of changing the character’s backstory. That didn’t mean the pair couldn’t explore what it meant to be the Batman. Snyder began his run on the book with two simple words: “Gotham is…” and for anyone who knows anything about comic books, the answer is seemingly obvious: the fictional city of Gotham is Batman.
Still, even fictional characters can go through an existential crisis. In the first 10 issues of their “Batman,” readers have discovered that a sinister cult of wealthy elite have been in the shadows running the city.
In his review of June’s “Batman #10,” Popmatters.com’s Michael D. Steward signaled out the pair for high praise. “Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo were presented a monumental task of creating the opening story arc for the New 52 Batman,” Steward wrote. “To summarize the last year, they have carried that burden on their shoulders with a strength and fortitude that is all too rare in modern comics.”
Capullo has literally turned the comic book industry on its head. In issue five of the series, the titular character found himself trapped in a mind-altering maze and Capullo found an interesting way to convey a sense of hopelessness, anxiety and loss of bearings by having the panels of the comic book continually flip 90 degrees.
“I was trying to figure out how to visually show that Batman’s world is turned upside down,” he says. Some have called it a gimmick, but I’m not a gimmick guy. I saw this as another way to express the story to the reader so that you could really, really feel what he was feeling.”
While DC editors initially expressed concern that readers might think the stunt was a printing error, Capullo, backed by Snyder, stood his ground.
“I pushed hard for it. I told them the smart people in the room will get it,” Capullo says “When I’m signing, fans overwhelmingly mention how much they enjoy it. It turned out to be a great thing.
This October’s “Batman #13”is also one of the most highly-anticipated comic books of the fall. The yin to Batman’s yang, the Joker has been missing from the DC universe since last September, and the clown prince of crime will return in the pages of issue #13. Capullo is currently drawing the issue and was tight-lipped when pressed for details.
“He had his face chopped off in Detective Comics. He’s scary,” Capullo explains. “This is the Joker thrown in blender with Leatherface from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ His mission is over the top; he is angry, and his malice is amplified. It’s a frightening story that is going to curl some people’s toes.”
And since Chicago has stood in for Batman’s Gotham City twice on film, Capullo says he hopes to find time to take in the architecture for inspiration.
“I don’t have a ton of time, but any free time I have will be used to take photos of the architecture,” he says. “That, and eat the food. Chicago has great food, and I can’t wait to get there and eat it.”
Misha Davenport is a local free-lance writer.