"Zero Year" is a bit of a departure from the Batman storyline. Was there a reason you did this story in the main book, rather than its own standalone series? What were some of the challenges in telling this story in the flagship comic?
Scott Snyder: We knew there were risks in taking a full year and doing a story that took place in the past. All of us were terrified about doing the origin in general. It's incredibly intimidating, given how large "Year One" looms for all of us and how favorite that material is.
Ultimately, we just felt if we were going to do it, we wanted to make "Zero Year" really central, and make it as big as we could. We made it take place in the main series so that it felt relevant and felt really grounded in terms of the continuity we were trying to build.
We especially wanted the finale to crescendo to happen during Batman's 75 anniversary. We felt it was a good tribute to the character to have the culmination of the story of his origin happening then.
So far, the "Zero Year" timeline has seen a lot of the Riddler (working with Poison Ivy, a bit). Of all the iconic Batman villains, why the Riddler?
SS: The idea with this story was to really show how Batman becomes the superhero that we all know and love. For me, the Riddler is one the great rivals for Batman, because ultimately, if Batman does have a super power, it's that he's the greatest detective in the world, and the Riddler constantly challenges his intelligence.
Like Batman in this story, we're trying to make our version of the Riddler really modern. He's out there claiming that riddles have, historically, been these great battles of wit between two foes. All different cultures have myths and tales about heroes that have to answer riddles to prove their worth, to rescue the princess, to save the kingdom – and so riddles become these great battles between two antagonists.
The way the Riddler sees it, he's turned Gotham City into this huge, incredible riddle where he's used Poison Ivy's research to make everything overgrown and post-apocalyptic. He's taken over the electric grid and he can control all these different devices remotely – big machinery, elevators, buildings – and nobody can come or go. What he's saying is 'until you guys can figure out how to stop me, I'm not going to release this city.' The city itself is a microcosm for all the riddles we face today – we're running out resources, we're facing climate change, the economy is running on fumes, giant issues with terrorism – so he's saying 'why don't I just speed all those things up and make Gotham this horrifying death trap, and if you guys can outsmart me and get me, you'll prove that we're evolving, and we'll be able to escape the great riddles of our time.'
Ultimately, the Riddler believes that we're creatures that only survive due to our intelligence. We're these pink, soft, careless things with no fur, no claws, no fangs – and yet we've become the dominant species on the planet. The only way we've been able to do that is by getting smarter, so he's the perfect foil for Batman, because his motto is 'get smart or die.' So for Batman, in terms of his big, first adventure, to have to outsmart the deadliest intellect in Gotham is a fun choice.
So obviously Gotham City is a mess because of everything the Riddler has done. Are we going to see a lasting impact on the city?
SS: Very much. For everyone reading "Zero Year," the first two sections are about Batman becoming Batman. The first section is his parents' deaths and him taking on the symbol of the bat. The second section is about him learning to trust Commissioner Gordon. This section really is just meant to be a huge, fun, bombastic, over-the-top reward. By turning the city into an overgrown playground, we're giving readers something they've never seen before, so even if they don't normally read Batman, if you ever wanted to see the Batman version of The Last of Us or I Am Legend or something like that, where Batman is going around sleeveless and survivalist on a motorcycle, where Gotham is full of flooded streets and shattered windows – this is definitely that story.
Between "Court of Owls" and "Death in the Family" and now the conclusion of "Zero Year," you've definitely put Batman through quite a bit. What's next for him?
SS: These last few issues of "Zero Year" will definitely have the craziest stuff we've ever done in Batman – from F-16 attacks to the city going completely tribal – so after that we're going to try to do something that focuses on the detective work for an issue or two and do something quiet.
Then for Batman's 75th anniversary starting in the fall, we'll launch into a story that's going to be the biggest game-changer that we've ever done for the Batman book since we began in 2011. So there's definitely a lot of huge, crazy stuff planned.