Capullo Draws on Past for BATMAN & Joker's Big Future

SPOILER ALERT! Major Spoilers for BATMAN #14, released this week, are ahead (As well as Court of Owls spoilers for you trade waiters). If you haven't read BATMAN #14 and don't want to be SPOILED, this would be the time to go read one of our other wonderful articles. You have been WARNED!

With this week's Batman #14, readers began to experience the haunting details of The Joker's twisted plan.

  The "Death of the Family" story by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which is getting even more attention for the top-selling DC title, is also affecting other Bat-family titles, as Bruce Wayne's arch-nemesis starts targeting the Bat-family.

In our lengthy interview with Scott Snyder about the storyline, he said The Joker sees himself as "correcting" the weakness that Batman suffers by having a family. He sees himself as Batman's self-appointed "court jester" of fear.

In issue #14, The Joker revealed that he knows the secret identities of all Bruce's allies. And he's already attacked both Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth.

And while the story of Joker's diabolical plan is plenty twisted, Capullo's depiction of The Joker has added a new level of horror, giving the villain unpredictable movements and a redesigned "detached" face.

The artist is also providing a series of die-cut covers for the "Death of the Family" tie-ins, including last month's Batgirl #13 and Catwoman #13, as well as Suicide Squad #14, Batman and Robin #15, Detective Comics #15, Nightwing #15, Red Hood and The Outlaws #15 and Teen Titans #15.

  Newsarama talked to Capullo about what's coming up in next month's Batman #15 and how Joker's promise to revisit some of his past encounters with Batman played into his visual approach.

Newsarama: One of the reveals in this week's issue was that The Joker wants to recreate some of their past encounters. What's your approach to drawing those?

Greg Capullo: For The Joker, it's definitely a stroll down "memory lane." Everything that seems like the worst nightmare for Batman, those are fond memories for The Joker.

It's like a bad relationship with lovers, you know? The guy who's knocking the hell out of the girl goes, what? It was all good, right? So yeah, it's a trip down memory lane.

But you're also going to see some really hardcore stuff happen to one of the beloved characters who is very close to Batman.

So it's just starting to get amped up, if you can believe it. Once you read it, you're going to go, "oh my God! How can it get worse?" But it does get worse.

Between the macabre stroll down memory lane and seeing one of everybody's favorite characters getting taken down is going to be quite a shock. 

Nrama: Are you going back and doing research on those scenes, or were you always enough of a Batman fan that you know what those places are like?

Capullo: I am the most comic illiterate comic professional. So no, the editors have to send me reference to, like, everything. They sent me all the key scenes that I'd be recreating.

So I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage. Part of it will look fresh because it's sort of new to me.

But what FCO, my colorist, is doing with the flashback scenes... it's just so digitally beautiful. It really gives you a feeling that you're looking through an album of old photographs. He really handled it in a magical way that really brings it to life so much more than just black and white art could do. So I'm really excited for people to see it. 

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: Having seen how you portrayed the emotions as Batman went through the shock of learning the mastermind behind the Court of Owls attacks might be his own brother, how would you describe what you're portraying as Batman is now being forced to harm the people he loves?

Capullo: When I'm doing this stuff, it's a lot like acting. You know? What you have to do -- and the better you are, the more successfully you can do it -- is put yourself in the position of all the characters, all the players, so that you can play the part and feel the kind of things that they're feeling.

And so Batman's got this layer of control over him, this facade. But we all know, deep down inside of his chest beats the heart of a man who's subject to the same thoughts and emotions that we all feel.

So I'm just getting inside his head going, "if I was in this position, faced with these kind of things, what would my reactions be, given that I also have this iron facade over me that goes, 'Oh, I don't feel anything. I'm unaffected.'" So it's all about doing that, you know?

Right now, I'm just living through his eyes. And where I'm working, when someone comes into my workroom when I'm immersed in doing it, it's like a frustration. Because after they leave, I have to go and sink back into that realm, that world.

And so when I'm doing this, I'm living it.  

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: The scene where The Joker had Batman tied up in issue #14 was just disturbing, the way you drew it. Are you living within The Joker's thinking too, when you're drawing those scenes?

Capullo: [Laughs.] No, that would be more of my mom's thinking. She was a wild one.  But yeah, no, I'm familiar with some of the crazy. And I've gone through my own periods in life. So it's all drawing from the well, you know?

Obviously, I've not killed anybody. Or at least, I'm not going on the record as admitting to it, at any rate.

But yeah, it's all a good time. Just drawing from life experiences and how you feel about this stuff.

Nrama: You mentioned to me before the interview started that you're drawing issue #16 now. As you've delved into the story, I know there have been times when the story just spawned an idea on a unique layout or character design, particularly on issue #5 when you had the layout turning. Has anything like that come about as you've been working on this story? 

Batman #15 pg 19 Capullo
: Yeah, there's no conscious thought that goes, "Hey, we need to come up with some cool gimmick!" Everybody liked issue #5, which was not a gimmick, but came out of my efforts to tell that story in the best way possible. When I'm on this assembly line, working on page after page, what pops up pops up.

One thing I've done is try to give it a little bit of a metaphor in some of the stuff I'm working on now. It's like, we were trying to decide how to play The Joker in a long, drawn out scene where you don't actually see him, but he's talking over stuff. We were discussing, should we cut to flashes of him?

But I mentioned early on that, because Joker's face is no longer attached, it should be decaying. And when something's decaying like that, it attracts flies.

And I said, for these type of scenes, how about you just start seeing flies around?

So you see the caption, and you know you're getting closer to him because every once in awhile, a fly buzzes past Batman.

That's the kind of stuff that just naturally evolves as I'm going through this work that I go through every day. It's just like, whatever props you can come up with or little touches you can add to accentuate detail. A picture tells a thousand words, so you go, all right, here are the words. Why kind of thing can I ladle in here that brings that more to life? That's my approach.

: Have you seen the die-cut covers? And what do you think of how they've turned out?

Capullo: Not bad for a rush job! I was at a convention and my wife came to me and said, "Did Dan tell you anything about these covers?" And I'm like, "No." And then over dinner, he goes, "Yeah, I need you to do these things. But I need them in, like, two days." So I was like, "OK!" So I just went home and blasted them out. But yeah, they came out pretty cool! It was a clever idea!

And the thing that I noticed too, which is unintentional, I'm sure, Dan DiDio and Chiarello, they go, "Ah! People will love it because they're putting their face up behind it and posing with it." And that's dead-on true, because people tweet me those pictures constantly. But once I got to autographing them, I noticed -- because a lot of people want them on the inside -- but you look at it from that angle, and it's the Owl mask! When you turn it over, you've got that almond shaped eye against a field of white. So you go, "They're still with us!! They're everywhere!!"

Nrama: Are you able to reveal what scenes might be revisited soon? Or can you at least describe what's coming up with Batman #15?

: Oh, yeah. Let me look at issue #15. Because I do so many pages, I can lose track of where I am in the issues, so I'm going to look at some of the content right now.

[Laughs.] I don't know if you're a fan of the I Love] Lucy show, but there's one where she's working in a chocolate factory on an assembly line, and she can't keep up. The chocolates just keep rolling faster down the conveyer belt.

That's what comics is like.

So let me see some of these pages. OK. We've got some really cool, bombastic stuff here. Some explosive stuff.

And one of the things that The Joker is good at is getting inside people's heads, right? And so, if he can get in their heads and start to divide and conquer, how much easier is it for him to execute his plan? Which is to destroy the Bat-family.

So we're going to start to see the seeds of destruction come to fruit here in this issue.

And as we saw, The Joker has possession of Alfred. There's a very disturbing scene in this issue, carrying that ball forward down the field.

So... that's the teasers [for issue #15] I will give to you today.

Nrama: Thanks for taking time out of your busy assembly line schedule, there, Greg, to describe some of this stuff for the fans. I know we're all pretty excited about seeing you draw these things.

Capullo: Aw, thanks. You know, I'm just having the time of my life. So I'm glad you feel it too. It's great fun.

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