How to create an Owl Ninja with the skills to defeat Batman

When writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo took over DC Comics' Batman last autumn, they quickly went to work crafting one of the most phenomenally creepy Bat-tales in recent memory.

And starting next week, the duo kicks off Night of the Owls, a story that spans across the Batman books. In this arc, Gotham City is besieged by a mysterious cabal known as the Court of Owls and the Talons, their nigh indestructible assassins. io9 spoke to Capullo about building a Gotham where Batman's getting dog-piled by martial artists of his caliber.

When you came aboard Batman, how did you devise your take on the Dark Knight?

As far as comic influences go, I found myself drawing a lot from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. To me, it's all about the shape and silhouette. That's something I played around with a lot on Spawn. I really enjoyed the scene in Dark Knight Returns when Batman has a flat-faced Bat-helmet when he's wired up to fight Superman — that obviously influenced the way I draw Batman's cowl.

I wanted him imposing, monolithic, angular, and as scary as possible. If he knocks into you, he might accidentally fracture your shoulder. I came at him like an emotion — how should Batman make me feel?

And what sort of design cues went into the Talons, the assassins for the sinister Court of Owls?

Scott came to me with his vision. It was almost like Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe: very slick, all blades. What he didn't want was Owlman. As soon as he said the word "assassin" to me, an executioner's hood popped into mind. We then discussed adding the goggles and making his silhouette similar to Batman's. The sweeping seams are also reminiscent of a Great Horned Owl, and we gave him plenty of knives. Not too many, as we didn't want to go too Nineties.

How to create an Owl Ninja with the skills to defeat Batman

Were there any sequences for Night of the Owls that were you particularly psyched to illustrate?

The thrill for me is seeing the artists in the other books [Night of the Owls is crossing over with] handle my Talon designs. Without giving a spoiler, I had to draw several of these Talons on the fly. I had to draw a whole bunch of these guys. It was pretty labor intensive, illustrating, say, nine assassins each with different costumes and elaborate weaponry on one page fairly quickly.

This story line really sees Batman on the ropes. He doesn't even have time to shave because he's too busy getting the shit kicked out of him. People have been asking me, "When is Batman going to give these guys what's coming to them?" Issue #8 is just the warm-up. Issue #9 is when the ass-kicking really goes full-tilt, and Issue #10 is when things get even crazier. It's going to be beautiful.

Both your work on Batman and Spawn feature plenty of gritty urban landscapes. What's the appeal of drawing this setting?

To be honest, I freaking hate drawing cities. It just so happens that the books that I do happen to feature them! The great thing about Gotham though is its funky architecture. It's not like Spider-Man where you model the buildings after Manhattan. In Gotham, some of it's art deco, and you can put all that you learn about architecture and toss it in a blender.

How to create an Owl Ninja with the skills to defeat Batman

Might we see your own spin on Batman's more familiar rogues in future stories?

Following the Night of the Owls, yes, I'll put my hooks into one of the most broad rogues in the Batman gallery. The most I can tell you is that it will be maniacal, twisted, grotesque, and bloody. So of course, I'm very much looking forward to that.

Illustrations: The covers to Batman #6, #8, and #9 by Greg Capullo. Batman #8 hits stores Wednesday, April 18.