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Interview: Scott Snyder Talks 'Return of the Joker: Death of the Family'

"This is the Joker bigger, badder and more twisted than you've ever seen him before."

Last week DC Comics announced the return of the Joker this October in the pages of BATMAN. The story will be by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo. This isn't just another Joker story. And something that was really emphasized last week, this will indeed be a story that will spill out of the pages of BATMAN and into other titles.

We had the chance to talk to Scott about this art and the Joker in general.

Cover to BATMAN #13 by Greg Capullo
Cover to BATMAN #13 by Greg Capullo
== TEASER ==
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Comic Vine: How will your Joker differ from past versions? Similar or different from his appearance in Black Mirror?

Scott Snyder: It will be similar to his appearance in Black Mirror in some ways. For me, that's sort of the genesis of the Joker I consider most my own. In the way that he there, for example, doesn't need his grin and have his iconic face in that issue to be who he is at his core. He's just scary and sort of out of his mind.

More importantly I think that the Joker that really represents the kind of thing I love about the character is he like the demon on Batman's shoulder. He really seems to know things about his enemies or the people that he's going after and what unnerves them. It's his job, as he sees it, to expose the darkest corners of Bruce's heart. He feels he knows them better than anyone else. He serves him as almost a court jester to his king in that way. In that, he makes these horrifying nightmares to life to make Bruce stronger. He feels he has a very special bond and relationship with him that way. It's something that only the two of them share.

That Joker, to me, is something that's built on a lot of versions that have come before but is also important to me in a personal way. It's my own take on the mythology of this event that we'll explore in this event. It has to do with the symbolism of the court jester, the tarot card of the joker, Peter Pan and all kinds of stuff that I'm going to roll into it to make it something that's different even if it's built on the legacy of the character.

CV: What's your favorite Joker story and why?

SS: My favorite Joker story is more of a constellation of things. THE KILLING JOKE is probably my favorite simple because when I first read it, it blew me away with its psychological complexity and the richness of the relationship between Batman and the Joker. The ending of that where they're sort of laughing together is one of my favorite scenes in all of Batman. There's an homage to the opening of THE KILLING JOKE in the opening of this story as well with the rain. That would have to be my favorite even though I'm not a humongous fan of the comedian part of it. I do think the brilliance of that is the ambiguity that's introduced at the end. The Joker says he doesn't quite remember if that's how it happened. So the idea that that might not be his origin is something that really saves that part and makes it really brilliant.

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Close behind would be Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS where the Joker was just catatonic until released was just genius. Similarly, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker [animated movie] is another favorite and behind that is ARKHAM ASYLUM by Grant Morrison.

CV: What's the most underrated Joker story?

SS: I think the Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker. Honestly I think a lot of the Denny O'Neill/Neil Adams stuff. I don't know if it's so much underrated but more that we don't talk about it as much as we could. For the level of darkness and complexity of the Joker that was introduced there. Also in the animated stuff, again, I don't know if it's necessarily underrated but at the same time I feel, for me, it holds a lot more resonance than I expected it to when I first saw it. So I think I probably underrated it myself.

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CV: If Joker did die, as he almost did in his first appearance in BATMAN #1 (1940), who would be Batman's top villain? An existing one or a new one?

SS: I think no matter what, he'd come back. It's impossible to think of Batman without the Joker. He's sort of his dark twin. If I had to pick another villain…to me, Joker is the product of Gotham. Gotham is both the greatest ally and villain of Batman. There are others. I love Two-Face and so many of the rogues. Two-Face would probably be next on my list of interesting villains to explore.

CV: Should Joker be used sparingly in stories?

SS: Yes, definitely. Believe me, I really feel Joker is the greatest villain of all time. There's no reason to touch him unless you're really going to do something that you feel is a game changer of a story with him. Something that's really relevant to who he is. I've tried to be very cautious about using him and setting it up over the past year and taking him away from the table so he could come back in this big way.

When you think about it, he is used very sparingly, that's the irony of it. People seem to think he's around a lot in other mediums but in comics. Before No Man's Land, I think the biggest stories with him was in the 80s. I loved his role in BATMAN R.I.P. and I loved his role in GOTHAM CENTRAL but as the central villain of a story he's not used that much. Here we wanted this to be his big giant return. This is the Joker bigger, badder and more twisted than you've ever seen him before.

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CV: Speaking of R.I.P., it was mentioned in the announcement that Batman will be fighting to protect his secret identity in this story. Will there be any clarification over events in RIP? Did Joker become aware of Batman's identity?

SS: It's not going to reference R.I.P. at all, honestly.

CV: Do you feel Joker knows his identity…or maybe you can't answer that right now...

SS: I loved the way Grant handled the Joker where he seems to know more than he lets on. There will be the question of how much the Joker knows.

You won't have to have read R.I.P. to understand what he's claiming to know or how he seems to know what he knows. It will all be completely contained in this story.

People should read R.I.P. because it's fun and brilliant but if you're out there and haven't but there's no connection and this isn't predicated on that at all.

CV: Is there any other comics we should read first like DETECTIVE COMICS #1 where Joker's face gets cut off or SUICIDE SQUAD #7 for more on Joker's face and Harley?

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SS: You don't have to read anything. Of course I would say go read those. I love Tony [Daniel] and Adam [Glass] and you should pick up their series because they're doing great stuff in them. I don't want you to feel you have to read anything else to understand what's happening in BATMAN ever. That's what I meant with R.I.P. also. I would never write a story that was dependent on another story

CV: Will you be touching on Joker's past or origin at all?

SS: Not really, no. It's not really about that. I could tease the fans and say, "Oh wait and see, maybe we're going to redo his origin." Honestly it really isn't about that. It's much more about the Joker having a big mission and a really big point to prove and an axe to grind. He's coming back and saying, "There's a reason I got my face cut off. There's a reason I've been away for a year. There's a reason I'm setting the traps I am for you guys. There's a reason I'm as violent and angry as I am coming back and how I'm different. Why I'm dressed the way I am, why my face looks the way it does, why all of this stuff is happening…" There's a really big point he's coming at Batman. It has to do with how he views himself in the Bat mythology and how he views Batman and the twisted logic that he has.

Part of the fun will also be to see how he's going to burn down the whole house. That means he's going to take on all of the other Bat-characters as well. Part of fun will be you'll have something completely self-contained.

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This is something that's going to pit the Joker against the other members of the Bat Family in their books. This isn't something I've really had a chance to talk about too much. You will see him go after Nightwing and Batgirl, Damian and Tim even in TEEN TITANS. Also Jason in RED HOOD. Even though those stories will be completely self-contained and you won't need to read them to understand anything in BATMAN, Batman will also be 1000% self-contained.

You'll get to see Joker square off with all the members of the Bat Family in ways you've never seen because part of the fun is in that even though he's fought Barbara or went after her because of what he did in THE KILLING JOKE, he was actually going after Jim Gordon. He hasn't actually squared off with her. He's very happy to say that to them. To Nightwing he'll say, "I've never really faced you. I've only used you as a pawn."

He can say the same thing to Jason. "I only used you to get at him and now I'm looking at you. I'm coming for you and I'm going to burn your world down."

None of them have really taken on the Joker in this way. The arc is called, "Return of the Joker: Death of the Family."

Joker's return begins in BATMAN #13, on sale October 10.

Tony Guerrero is the Editor-in-Chief of Comic Vine. You can follow him on Twitter @GManFromHeck. He still remembers being confused over Kasey Kasem voicing both Shaggy and Robin in Scooby-Doo Meets Batman.