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In Comic Relief, Paste chats with some of the most influential writers and artists in comics about their work and the comics that inspired them.
Paste was originally scheduled to speak with comic scribe Scott Snyder the second week of October, and then New York Comic Con happened, delaying the interview and opening a host of new questions. If there was any question whether Snyder’s star was rising, that seminal weekend on Manhattan’s West Side answered it. The mind behind Swamp Thing, Severed, and the relaunched Batman was announced as the writer behind a new Superman title pencilled by DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee as well as The Wake, an ambitious sci-fi horror opus with art from American Jesus creator Sean Murphy. Aside from Kryptonian aliens, the only thing traveling faster than a speeding bullet at the DC Offices is Snyder’s career.
Snyder, who holds an MFA from Columbia University, didn’t begin his career scripting flying blue men, though. The New York native’s first major work was the ornate short story collection Voodoo Heart, an engrossing assembly of romantic and historical fiction that captures twenty-something male desperation with surgical precision. Of note was Snyder’s skill at marrying fantastic settings, including renegade blimps and female penitentiaries for elderly serial killers, with intimate characterization. Horror laureate Stephen King not only included two of the entries in 2007’s The Best American Short Stories compilation, but also collaborated with Snyder on American Vampire, a labyrinth comic that weaves supernatural intrigue throughout American history and beyond.
One thing became incredibly apparent during the 45 minutes that Paste spent chatting with Snyder: the man is incredibly passionate about comic books. If you cut him, he’d probably bleed Lichtenstein panels. In the QA below, Snyder explains the seminal work that inspired him as a child and his approach to complex characters like Joker (“our court jester to Batman”) and Superman. He also plants some generous hints at where his future story arcs are headed, including the return of Swamp Thing’s absent daughter Tefe, and speaks to the larger movement of writers straddling the line between mainstream and indie properties.
First Comic Written
Snyder: When I was a kid, I used to write them for myself all the time. I wanted to be a comic book artist, so I’d write and draw them. I had a cyborg character named Vengeance who was a complete rip-off of three other characters. I spelled it wrong by mistake; I remember on the cover I left out the ‘A.’ So someone told me and I was like, ‘yeah, that’s because he writes it in blood above that.’ He scribbles in the ‘A’ with a little arrow that points up to it, and that’s a cool signature. It’s humiliatingly bad to look at. But the first official comic that I wrote was a Human Torch one-shot of the original Human Torch for Marvel, for their Timely imprint a few years ago.
First Comic Read:
Snyder: The first comic I ever read?I can’t even wrap my mind around it because I literally used to read them with my Dad, who used to read me comics in bed. The first comic book series I remember consecutively reading was Spider-Man. I was a big fan as a kid.
Paste: Whose run was it?
Snyder: I can’t remember all the way back then. I was literally talking about when I was six or seven. The stories that I remember being really seminal were from when I was nine or so, when “Kraven’s Last Hunt” came out and Spider-Man gets buried alive. I remember that being one of the very first dark stories that caught my attention. It was one of the first stories that shook me up and made me realize how psychologically layered some of this stuff could be, like with The Dark Knight Returns. I still have my four issues at my parent’s house. And Batman took over my imagination from Spider-Man with all of those seminal works coming out in a row between Year One and The Killing Joke.
Paste: “Kraven’s Last Hunt” seems like a fairly intense comic for a 9-year-old.
Snyder: I remember being very spooked out by it. But they were always just there. I used to read them with my Dad, and we didn’t live far from the original Forbidden Planet in New York. I grew up in the Lower East Side in Waterside down on 23rd Street, and Forbidden Planet was down on 13th Street. I’d watch Godzilla movies on Sundays on Channel 11, and Forbidden Planet would have all of the best Godzilla stuff like the models. And Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was on during the weekends with Super Friends, so I became immersed in the whole wonderful geek culture pretty young. So there wasn’t any one specific comic I remember reading more than another, except for reading Spider-Man with my Dad at night. And there were other particular comics. A friend of mine had the Creepshow comic. That one was a big deal. It had Bernie Wrightson off the Stephen King movie. That just completely freaked me out. I remember reading that and hiding it from my parents.
Favorite Comic of All Time:
Snyder: The Dark Knight Returns.
Favorite Current Comic From a Publisher You Don’t Currently Work For
Snyder: I’d say The Walking Dead from Image.
Paste: Issue #100 made me want to vomit and cry in equal measure. That was intense.
Snyder: Oh dude, I know. I couldn’t believe it. Glenn! I’m completely caught up. I’m really interested to see how this plays out. I’ve become friendly with (Walking Dead author) Robert (Kirkman) over the past couple of years, and it’s exciting when we talk, but I always say ’don’t tell me anything.’ It’s just one of those comics I love picking up, not knowing what’s going to happen.
Artist You Haven’t Worked With That You Would Most Like To
Snyder: I feel like the luckiest guy in comics with the artists who I’ve got to work with so far. I’d love to work with J.H. Williams III, and we’ve become friendly. I would write anything to get to work with him.
Paste: Have you ever discussed any characters or projects you might work together on?
Snyder: We actually have a couple of times. We met this year for the first time on the Con circuit and really hit it off. We talked about a couple of characters, and I’d do anything with him, from a Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman type story to a creator owned.
Favorite Comic Book Movie
Snyder: The kid in me loves Superman II more than anything in the world. I saw that in the theater with my Dad and had the poster and everything. As an adult, I’d say The Dark Knight.
Craziest Fan Story
Snyder: There have definitely been a couple crazy fan stories over the past couple of years. One guy came up drunk at San Diego and asked me to sign his arm, and I said sure. He replied, “that’s cause I’m going right over and getting this tattooed on, man.” And then he asked, “what do you write again?” I said “no, no stop, please, you’ll regret it!” I don’t think he understood who I was. He was just completely off his rocker and his friends were encouraging him. That hopefully did not happen. I just called my protests as he was walking away, but then there might be somebody walking around with a blurry Scott Snyder tattoo on his arm.
You write these things as though you’re writing fan fiction a lot of the time. It’s the only way to proceed because the characters mean so much to you personally, in terms of your childhood. Batman is my 5-year-old’s favorite thing in the world. And so you have to write it as though the fans aren’t there and you’re just writing it for yourself. And then you go to the cons and on social media, and the fans’ passion for the characters is really inspiring and invigorating. I went to New York and a fan brought me a hand-made stopwatch made of brass with the Court of Owls symbol on it, and it actually works. And they gave (Batman artist) Greg Capullo cufflinks with the same symbols. The support and devotion fans have to these characters and to the mythologies have been incredibly overwhelming. All of us on Team Batman are just so, so grateful to everyone out there for being so supportive.
Click over to Page 2 to read about Scott Snyder’s job as Buzz Lightyear, his new Superman comic, and the return of Tefe to Swamp Thing.