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Podcast: Scott Snyder Talks JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 and the DROWNED EARTH Event
ComicsVerse Podcast: Scott Snyder Talks JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 and the DROWNED EARTH Event
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Scott Snyder is a busy, busy man. As they say in HAMILTON, “the man is non-stop.”

In the wake of massive events like DARK KNIGHTS: METAL and JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE, Snyder has been writing the JUSTICE LEAGUE series, which ties in with the DROWNED EARTH event happening across AQUAMAN and other titles right now.

This week, the second part of the event comes out in JUSTICE LEAGUE #11. Scott Snyder took some time to talk to ComicsVerse about the event, and one line in issue 11 that I found particularly interesting.

Scott Snyder Dives In

Snyder crafted the DROWNED EARTH event with fellow writer James Tynion IV. Tynion was actually one of Snyder’s students a while back, so their relationship has very deep roots. Snyder says this absolutely contributes to the way they collaborate.

Scott Snyder
JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 pages 16-17. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

And collaborate they do. Snyder says that there isn’t a single thing in these issues that he and Tynion have not discussed. It truly is a team effort.

If you are not familiar with the DROWNED EARTH story, Snyder summarizes it quite nicely in this discussion. But basically, a group of vengeful gods has come to take Atlantis away from Aquaman, and it looks like they’ll be taking out the entire world in the process.

Scott Snyder also has a lot to say about the artists working on this event. In this particular issue, Francis Manapul did the pencils, inks, and colors while Tom Napolitano did the letters. Snyder sings the praises of the entire art team, many of whom he has worked with before.

Snyder discusses with ComicsVerse how he and the rest of the team balance DC continuity, ancient myth, and original ideas for this story. Since the DROWNED EARTH event deals with many gods, choosing which continuity to go with can get tricky. Snyder recalls an idea he had for one of the gods in the Pantheon, but he abandoned it for the sake of the larger arc.

Scott Snyder
JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 page 12. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

After discussing the event in detail, we landed on a topic that Scott Snyder and I have discussed at length before — politics. Superman delivers a line in JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 that I found particularly noteworthy: “Being a leader is about inspiring people … Reaching for the things that make everyone better in the process. Not just defense.”

To hear Scott Snyder break this line down and discuss the DROWNED EARTH event in more detail, check out the full interview below.

You can pick up JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 this Wednesday, November 7th.

ComicsVerse: Hey, guys. It’s Nicole from ComicsVerse, and I have the pleasure of talking to Scott Snyder today. Scott, how’s it going?

Scott Snyder: It’s going great. Happy Halloween. Thanks for having me on.

ComicsVerse: Happy Halloween. Love it. So I want to jump right into it. We’re talking today about Drowned Earth, which is a pretty rad event. A little Halloween-y, just because of how dark it is, I’d say, but in a good way. I think it’s great.

Scott Snyder: Thanks. We’re really having a blast on it.

ComicsVerse: Yeah, it’s really rad. Today on Halloween we have part one, but next week, on November 7th, your JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 kind of ties into it, right?

Scott Snyder: Yep, exactly. Yeah. Next week, JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 is part two. We sort of made our own chart. It’s really, it’s a five-part story. It kind of began last week in JUSTICE LEAGUE #10 … or two weeks ago in JUSTICE LEAGUE #10, which was billed as a prelude, and today, the special coming out today, DROWNED EARTH #1 is billed as kind of part one.

Scott Snyder: But I sort of, I made a chart that’s more of sort of the spiritual math of it, which is just a part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, and so technically, while today is part one, if you’re looking at the whole story, JUSTICE LEAGUE #10 was sort of the first part. This is the second. The third one comes out next week in JUSTICE LEAGUE #11. So really, really excited about everything we’re doing on this one and I hope people are enjoying it.

ComicsVerse: Yeah, totally. So my first like real deep question is when you and James Tynion are constructing something like this, when you’re kind of splitting issues, do you guys sit down and come up with the structure of the event, and then like do you share your scripts with each other later? Or do you just kind of like trust they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and I’ll do my part? Like how does that work? How do you balance it?

Scott Snyder: Oh, no, not at all. Yeah, we’re very … I mean, James is sort of my brother. I’ve known him a decade. He was actually my student when he was finishing his undergrad forever ago.

Scott Snyder: So in terms of how we work, I mean, there’s no separation. I talk to him multiple times pretty much every day, more than really like anybody work-wise, and when we’re building something like this, he’ll come out to my house or I’ll meet him near his, or go into the city and meet up, and we’ll just spend a couple days with a couple of whiteboards, just planning everything visually and just being like, what are the emotional arcs of these characters during the whole event, what is it about, what is the purpose of it, what are we getting on the other side? And then sort of doing the math of building it to a big, three-act structure. What’s the inciting incident, what’s the turning point, all that kind of stuff.

Scott Snyder: So we really map it out together, and then when we sort of divvy up the actual workload. We always trade scripts right and left. So there’s nothing I’ve written for JUSTICE LEAGUE that James hasn’t written and given me notes on, and there’s nothing he hasn’t written for LEGION OF DOOM, and JUSTICE LEAGUE as well, or of the event here that I haven’t read and given him notes on back. So we’re constantly very sort of fluidly working in tandem that way, where there’s no… It’s never like, oh, I didn’t see this, and now I’m reading the issue as it comes out. It’s always like every piece of every script is sort of a joint effort in some way.

ComicsVerse: Totally. That completely makes sense, and I love hearing how you guys all collaborate on stuff. Like, you know, I love hearing about how you writers collaborate with their artists, so tell me a little bit about your art team on this one. You’ve got Francis Manapul doing a bunch of stuff, the pencils, inks, colors, and you’ve got Tom Napolitano on letters. So how do you work with those guys?

Scott Snyder: Oh, they’re great. Tom and I go way back, and Francis as well. I mean, Francis and I became friendly back when he was doing DETECTIVE COMICS, so we’ve sort of been pals for quite a while, and we were looking for things to do together for years, and then NO JUSTICE came along. We had such a good time that I wanted to make him a real mainstay on JUSTICE LEAGUE as well. So we have a lot lined up together, but you know, I think he has this incredibly effortless way of bringing this kind of majesty and grandeur, and sort of huge, over the top superhero visuals to a story like this, like everything it needs. And yet at the same time, he’s so intensely emotional, I think, in the quieter moments.

Scott Snyder: And Howard is the same way. Howard Porter is on art duties for this special, and then he does half of our finale as well, which is another big 38-page special. So Howard, again, same kind of thing where I feel like he’s so good at the moments that are just like comic book crazy with like thousands or hundreds of fish monster DCU characters attacking a flying pirate ship over an alien ocean with the moon broken and all of that kind of crazy stuff, but he can do those really intensely emotional moments incredibly well.

Scott Snyder: So I feel really, really lucky. I mean, we’re working with people that I think are perfect for the job, but also friends, and just great, great creators. So I’m very, very grateful to them, and I’m very proud of what they’re producing for it.

ComicsVerse: Yeah. I’m happy you brought up the grandeur aspect because there is a page in this issue, and I’m not getting into spoilers. I’m not going to be that person. But there is a page in JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 that has to do with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Poseidon. It’s a full page image. I’m sure you probably know what I’m talking about, and it smacked me on my, like smacked me across the face. It’s gorgeous. So when you’re writing that in a script, and then you see the ideas manifest when you see the art, does that ever get old, or does like, is it amazing every time? Because to me, that would be incredible.

Scott Snyder: Oh, no, it never gets old. It’s probably the best part of the job, is when you give somebody that you trust the bones in a script that allows them to do something that elevates your story and gives them whatever room they want or need to transform it into something better than you could alone. And you get something back that’s so imaginative and inspiring. Like this chapter in particular, JUSTICE LEAGUE #11, if you’ve been reading the story, or if you haven’t, I’ll catch you up really quick, in general, anyone listening to this.

Scott Snyder: Basically, our story is about Aquaman discovering that Atlantis, back when it was sort of this great civilization at the dawn of sort of culture, and it was still above water, sent out a call to any and all life almost across the universe to band together in this almost oceanic kind of union. And instead, what came here were these sea gods that tried to steal Poseidon’s trident and seed life on oceanic planets that really didn’t have anything but the beginnings of life at that time. And the great hero of Atlantis, Arion, struck down these Gods with Poseidon’s help and sent them to this place, the Graveyard of Gods, where all dead deities go.

Scott Snyder: The Legion of Doom breaks the doors open on the Graveyard of Gods and they find its location, and so now these sea gods have returned to Earth at the start of our event. They flooded the entire planet with this alien ocean that turns anybody that it touches into sort of a fish monster under their control, and they’re here to reshape the planet in their image and get their revenge.

Scott Snyder: So Aquaman, they’ve captured Aquaman. They put them on the place where they were killed by Arion. It’s called the Blood Reef. It’s almost like a cosmic barrier reef. It’s really beautifully designed by Francis. And with Wonder Woman’s help, he escapes, and the two of them now are headed for this Graveyard of Gods to see if Poseidon, who’s been missing since the beginning of the event, is actually there, and whether or not he can help them. So that’s kind of where we are in the story, and the Graveyard of Gods, when I described it to Francis and I said to him, “Listen, we just want it to be something that’s magisterial and sort of Kirby-esque in its sort of lunacy. We want it to feel like this is the place where almost every God that’s forgotten or killed goes.

Scott Snyder: And so Francis took a day or two, came back, and made this design that almost looks like hands holding hourglass sand, but everything sort of palatial and gold and huge and sitting in space like this floating space station. It’s so perfect, and you get those things and you’re just like, “I’m so lucky to be working with these people, and they’re making me look good. I could write the phone book, and it would look great.” So yeah, I’m really just thrilled.

Scott Snyder: I mean, Francis’ art gets just better and better and better on the series too, so this arc really is about — this issue, I mean — is really very much about Wonder Woman and Aquaman discovering what happened to Poseidon, and the secrets that he hasn’t told them yet about these sea gods. Because he has a very dark story and a very dark past about sort of what really happened with them back in the days of Arion, and whether or not sort of everything they know is true is really called into question.

Scott Snyder: So the Graveyard of Gods we really wanted to be a place that felt overwhelmingly kind of cosmic and overwhelmingly regal, and the kind of place that you could imagine almost any deity inhabiting. Part of the goal, and then I’ll shut up about it, is that we really want JUSTICE LEAGUE to be a series where every arc is about expanding a couple characters’ mythologies.

Scott Snyder: As the Legion of Doom is kind of unlocking these seven cosmic forces, and we’re trying to sort of push the boundaries of the DCU itself by breaking the Source Wall and going beyond it and all that stuff, we also want it to be a really personal and intimate series where, especially now that the first arc is done, which has to kind of be all-inclusive and be an arc that has everybody in it and every ambition and every sort of new element, every idea, just to show the reach and the kind of, I think the mission statement of the whole thing.

Scott Snyder: Now that we’re past that, we can still go for that kind of huge, over the top sort of comic book storytelling and still have that ambition, but I can drill down a little bit and have the arcs be more focused on one or two characters. So this one is very much — If the first arc focused, even while it included everybody, a bit more on Flash, John Stewart, and Martian Manhunter, this arc really focuses on Aquaman, obviously, but also Wonder Woman.

Scott Snyder: And so the things that we wanted to include, like the Graveyard of Gods, are sort of an expansion of the DCU’s cosmology around, or theology, really. So it’s very much about sort of the ways in which faith, divinity are sort of changing now that the Source Wall is broken, and that there are things revealed about sort of the forces behind that or the energies behind those things here that play out in huge ways as we go forward in the story as well.

Scott Snyder: So yeah, the Graveyard of Gods plays a really big part and will play a part going forward, and so will the sort of reveal the Aquaman’s powers are connected to sort of energies that are also sort of some of the underpinnings of the Multiverse as we know it.

ComicsVerse: That’s a lot.

Scott Snyder: Sorry, yeah.

ComicsVerse: No, no. In the best way.

Scott Snyder: I’ll try yes and no from here forward.

ComicsVerse: It’s a lot in the best way though. Like really, you’ve got a lot going on in this story. And actually, that actually somehow perfectly leads to my next question, which is how do you balance like the mythology of you’ve got Poseidon, and whenever you have Wonder Woman, you’re dealing with Greek gods and the Pantheon and all of that. So how do you balance mythology, and what’s canon there versus DC continuity versus original ideas you’re bringing into it? How do you kind of streamline and say, “We’re going to take some of this, some of this, and some of that, but maybe ignore this other bit?” You know what I mean?

Scott Snyder: It’s hard. Yeah, because there’s so much you want. I think the biggest problem, honestly, is that it’s so rich and so robust that you want to use everything. I often have to be kind of tempted back from the ledge by James, our editorial, when I’m like, “And another thing.” But the great lens through which to look at all of it and sort of the thing that sort of, you know, whatever figurative monocle you use to kind of look at all of it and decide what works and what doesn’t really is the emotionality of the story.

Scott Snyder: So here, there’s so much I wanted to bring in about different sort of aquatic races that have appeared at different moments in DC history, and also like you’re saying about Pantheon. I had an idea to bring in Hera at one point, all this stuff, and ultimately you have to sort of look at it in terms of the emotional arc of the two or three main characters that you’re focusing on and say, “Is this buttressing that? Is this supporting that? Is this propping that up, fueling that, all of that kind of stuff, or is it just something I want to put in?”

Scott Snyder: You know, every once in a while something will sneak in just for a fun touch, but to me, that’s really the strainer that you use, is that, is this adding to or elevating sort of the emotional trajectory of the characters throughout the story?

ComicsVerse: Cool. Yeah. Yeah. And it makes sense, and speaking of character, because you also touched on the individual character story, I’m reading this issue and I keep — We check in on Batman once in a while, your old friend, you know.

Scott Snyder: Yeah.

ComicsVerse: He’s kind of not, I mean, literally sitting on his butt the whole time. He’s doing stuff.

Scott Snyder: He is.

ComicsVerse: But he’s not in the action. How is he dealing with that, like emotionally and mentally? What is that doing to Batman?

Scott Snyder: Well, on the one hand, there’s like the sort of, I think, the levity of Batman in a full-body cast that sort of allows for a bit of humor, and also I think humility for him as a character, which is a lot of fun to play with because later on you’ll see. Spoiler, but at the end of the issue, the Legion of Doom attacks while he’s alone in his body cast inside of the Hall of Justice. But next issue, one of the fun things is he’s like, “You know, this body cast has weapons, and those weapons have weapons, and they all have the bat symbol on them, and I’m going to kick all of your asses. There’s no way you’re going to take me down.”

Scott Snyder: So, you know, but on a more serious note, it impacts him greatly emotionally. The fact that Luther beat him inside the Totality in arc one really scars him, and so as much as I play it a little lately with Jarro and all this kind of stuff here for fun because this isn’t his arc, that stuff really comes back to haunt both in February and in March.

Scott Snyder: I’m doing an arc. Spoiler, but I’m doing an arc about the sixth dimension as the heroes realize that their attempts to sort of patch the Source Wall and put the Multiverse back together — which happens in our big annual in January — as those attempts don’t come together the way they want it and the Multiverse starts spinning towards what seems to be its doom, Batman takes a lot of punishment from himself, like internally, because he realizes. Or because he starts to feel that Luther might’ve been right.

Scott Snyder: That he’s always thought of himself as somebody who may not be the leader of the League, but as sort of its most confident person, the one that knows he can solve anything. He always wins, is the joke about him. And the fact that Luther kept saying to him, “You’re just a street detective and this is a cosmic problem, and at the end of the day, you’re the Achilles heel. I’ll always win if I come after you out of the people in the League,” it starts to really hit him.

Scott Snyder: So I’m doing this arc, this sixth dimension with Jorge, which is a really, really ambitious, big arc that starts in February that’s about the heroes going to the sixth dimension, beyond sort of Mister Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, to try and find out if there’s kind of a control room to the Multiverse in a certain way. That’s where a lot of those emotions with Batman and Superman, who takes center stage in that arc, really come to a head, where Batman’s sort of insecurities and the concerns that he’s had about himself and his own fallibility really come to the surface. That was like a crazy spoiler, but there you go.

ComicsVerse: I forgive you. No, that’s super exciting, and I know we’re on a, you know, you’re always busy and everything, so I’m going to let you go soon. But I have one question left for you about one of the first topics we actually spoke about, which is politics. I got to bring it back. I always do, man.

But there is a line in JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 that I can’t let you go without talking to you about it. It comes out Superman’s mouth. It is phenomenal. And the quote is, “Being a leader is about inspiring people, reaching for the things that make everyone better in the process, not just defense.” And I’ve read that, and I read it like three times, and I was like, my dude is saying something here and I love it. So if you want to take a second and talk about that line in particular, please do. If you just want it to speak for itself, that’s also fine.

Scott Snyder: Oh, yeah. No, well, I mean, look. I mean, for me, the heroes are always in conversation with what’s happening in the present. It’s important to me that they don’t, unless their characters are sort of designed to be completely engaged with particular political issues, take open sides on things that are happening in the present day unless you’re doing a story that’s about that, and it works.

Scott Snyder: But what I do think is intensely important for characters like Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and the heroes on the League and Martian Manhunter and Kendra, everybody, is that they remind us of our best selves and our best impulses. I think what Superman is really saying there — I mean, Mera is upset because she feels like the first duty of a queen of Atlantis is to protect Atlantis, and the thing that she thinks that she failed at was that she wasn’t sort of looking at its defenses and protecting it in this way, and instead she was thinking of how to make it better than it has been all these years when it’s been this hunkered down sort of city.

Scott Snyder: And to be honest, again, like with what you’re saying about what Superman says, it’s a lot of the thesis of the arc has to do with that. It has to do with this idea that, at moments when things get very frightening, regardless of what political side you’re on. You know, I wear my politics pretty openly on my sleeve on my social media, but still. Regardless of what side you’re on, we tend to sort of retreat into these entrenched, really subjective, and bubble wrapped kind of positions on things, and ultimately, the challenges that we’re facing are going to need some kind of bridge or connectivity between even the most kind of, I think, sort of antagonistic poles in some ways, you know?

Scott Snyder: And there’s certainly people that I think are too far gone in ways of anger and hatred and all that stuff. But for the majority of us, like the idea has to be there’s a way to overcome even things that seem insurmountable, big global issues, together, and Superman is voicing a piece of that. But really, what Aquaman is going through in the story and what Mera is going through in the story really reinforced that idea. Aquaman learns that his powers are very much about connectivity, that it’s not just about talking to fish. Fish communicating with each other and working together as a group is one of the primal sort of examples of the way in which life survives by banding together, and in that way, it’s deep in our sort of core selves.

Scott Snyder: So he’s connected to something that goes beyond just fish, that every sort of living a creature on earth is part of one system, and that’s what he’s seeing, all people are part of one system and that his powers are a reflection of that. Not that he can talk to people and animals and everything like that, but that they reflect a bigger ideal, they’re a tiny piece of a bigger ideal, and that that needs to be remembered.

Scott Snyder: Both that Atlantis has become something it wasn’t supposed to be, he has become something that could be better. Mera has become something that could be better, and all of us could as well. And that’s what the heroes are there to remind us of in the face of these threats that constantly come there and say you erred by reaching too far, you erred by extending an olive branch, you erred by being open or welcoming or inclusive to people outside of your sphere.

Scott Snyder: And suddenly you have to be able to, at least here, I think, see the heroes as examples of our best selves. And that, to me, it is and it isn’t political all at once. You know? It’s something that I think a lot of political leaders and political figures all over the place aren’t benefited by, but at the same time, it’s who these heroes are to me. It’s them saying we need to get through this stuff together, and Superman saying that it’s not about sort of defending what you have against people outside of it. It’s about reaching to be — That being a true leader is about trying to make the people that you are governing see themselves in the best light and become better than they thought they could be.

ComicsVerse: Yeah. Yeah. I absolutely love it, man.

Scott Snyder: I hope that makes sense.

ComicsVerse: It does. No, it totally does and I love it. You know, we’re aligned on a lot of this stuff, man, so I appreciate it. Cool. Well, I’m going to leave it there. JUSTICE LEAGUE #11 is out November 7th. Thank you so much, Scott, for taking the time. I appreciate it always.

Scott Snyder: Oh, it’s a pleasure. No, I appreciate it. You guys are always so great to us, and anyone listening, you got to go support ComicsVerse because they’re awesome.

ComicsVerse: Thanks so much, man. I appreciate it.

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