Sneak peeks, writing from fear, and an Inkpot Award: highlights from the Scott Snyder spotlight panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019
For comics fans, one of the best things conventions offer are opportunities to attend creator spotlight panels. This year’s SDCC was no different, as I attended the Scott Snyder spotlight, which is something like the third or fourth Snyder panel I’ve been to. What makes his panels so endearing is the humility and honesty he brings, whether he’s discussing his initial fears when he first wrote Batman or regaling us with hilariously candid stories about advice from Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison.
Even though he’ll tell some of the same stories at each spotlight, he’s a natural storyteller through and through, to the point that even familiar beats are given a fresh spin in a new context.
As such, it’s no surprise that his spotlight panel in Sunday kicked off with… well, a pleasant surprise indeed: Scott Snyder was awarded an Inkpot Award.
The award is presented to different creators at each Comic-Con, recognizing a wide variety of writers, artists, and other people who have influenced the medium. In years past, the award has been presented to the likes of Jim Aparo, Greg Capullo, Archie Goodwin, Alan Grant, Scott McCloud, Amanda Conner, Jim Starlin, Bruce Timm, Art Spiegelman, Peter Tomasi, John Byrne, Nichelle Nichols, and Yoshitaka Amano, and those are just random names I pulled from the list. So, yes, Snyder is among some pretty great company, and it was a delight to see him so surprised and humbled to receive the award.
The panel itself was moderated by Comics Conspiracy owner Ryan Higgins, and it was an enlightening conversation about Snyder’s career thus far and his plans going forward.
After the presentation of the award, Snyder shared quite a few anecdotes. He came to the realization that this Con was his tenth as a professional with DC Comics, and how he was simultaneously elated and terrified when Paul Dini offered him a 12-issue run on Detective Comics. “I remember thinking ‘if only I could just take a few years and get better and better, so why am I here?’” he said, “but you always feel that way.” It’s then that he recounted a story about Neil Gaiman that is, in his words, the most Neil Gaiman thing ever: he and Gaiman were discussing the feeling you get writing, thinking that you can always get better and should have held off on telling some stories until you’re more comfortable. Gaiman told him about how he was in London at one time, visiting a shoemaker, and he discovered that they kept the lasts of all their deceased customers in a basement below the haberdashery. Walking among the “lasts of the dead,” thinking about anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, Gaiman realized that you try to get better until you just start getting worse. Which, yes, is maybe the most Neil Gaiman thing ever.
Snyder compared writing Dick as Batman with Bruce as Batman, saying that Dick was easy to write because he’s so relatable. He’s terrified of being Batman, and you’re terrified of writing Batman, so you’re both on the same page. Bruce, on the other hand, doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, so Snyder has to go a different route when writing him. Instead of “projecting,” for lack of a better term, he put Bruce in situations that he developed from his own fears. Death of the Family, for instance, came about while he and his wife were expecting their second child. That’s where the underlying idea of “are you sure you want to grow this family, or do you want to stay young and invincible forever?” came from. Zero Year, on the other hand, came about from fears his children have, as they’re growing up in a completely different world than he did. They have to worry about terrorism and climate change, so he wanted to see how Batman would respond to those kinds of issues.
From there, Snyder shared some interesting tidbits about The Batman Who Laughs and Last Knight on Earth. He contrasted the Batman Who Laughs with Lex Luthor, in that Luthor wants humanity to revert to its base urges and darkness, whereas the Batman Who Laughs wants humanity to evolve into something different… and worse.
For Last Knight on Earth #2, there are some really interesting sounding sequences. Snyder said that the “head in a jar” Joker is effectively the book’s Greek chorus, and he really, really wants to be a Robin. Snyder described an intriguing scene where Batman, Joker, and Wonder Woman descend into the underworld, which is initially completely dark. Batman can hear voices in the darkness, though, and Wonder Woman advises that they are the voices of every person whose death he feels responsible for. Her lasso can illuminate the darkness and allow Batman to see their faces, and while he demands that he be able to see the lost in the dark, Wonder Woman refuses. He doesn’t need to see it, she says, but it’s Batman. He insists.
For all the interesting story details he shared, it was a gorgeous double-page spread that elicited gasps from the crowd. Part of the next issue of Last Knight in Earth will be a “travelogue” that explains what happened to the DC Universe to lead to this bleak future. At one point, countless heroes are gathered together, which Snyder said he excitedly told Capullo “you get to draw everyone!”
Capullo was… I mean, dude’s a champ, but drawing is hard work.
That said, and as you’d expect, it is a gorgeous spread.
Awww yeah, Kyle Rayner.
Besides his upcoming Batman projects, Scott shared some details about some of his creator-owned series that are in the pipeline. He assured everyone that Wytches would return soon, along with American Vampire, the latter of which he confirmed will come next year. Some pages and details were shared from Undiscovered Country, which he describes as being reminiscent of Land of the Lost.
And while he didn’t actually confirm the title, Scott assured us that most people have been able to guess the name of the horror book he’s doing with Francesco Francavilla. It doesn’t have a publisher yet, but what he cheekily refers to as “Night of the Blank” is about a man who restores classic films and stumbles upon a forgotten horror movie. The director, he discovers, is still alive and living in a nursing home, but when the film buff pays him a visit, the director says that the monster from the film is real… and it is in the building with them.
The thing that stuck out to me the most, though, was a comment he made about taking on new projects and leaving old ones behind. Like any writer he wants to be challenged, of course, and put new ideas on paper. But that also means being aware of his own feelings toward the material. Snyder knows that if he’s not feeling what he’s writing, then readers won’t either. Because first and foremost, Scott Snyder is a fan of comics.
And so are we.