With the who’s who of sequential art descending upon the Big Apple this weekend for New York Comic Con, CBR News tracked down one of the event’s guests of honor, Grant Morrison, to discuss the superstar writer’s work at DC Comics and to help fans get geared up for all of the weekend’s fun and festivities.
Yesterday, we kicked off our three-part presentation of ALL STAR GRANT MORRISON with a detail-heavy preview of the hugely anticipated Final Crisis, and follow-up today with an equally candid conversation about Batman and specifically, the controversial “R.I.P’ storyline. Tomorrow we wrap with a look at “All Star Superman” and a few tidbits about the return of the quirky fan favorite Seaguy.
With Final Crisis fast approaching, readers are preparing themselves for DC Universe post-Morrison -- or for lack of a better term, DCU R.I.P. The latter would have been a good tagline for Final Crisis if the popular creator wasn’t using it already for his upcoming Batman arc, which, Morrison confirmed for CBR News, would mark the end of Bruce Wayne’s run as the Dark Knight.
Morrison, who also writes the Eisner Award-winning All Star Superman, said penning two titles featuring the World’s Finest for DC Comics is the “paramount” of his career.
“Batman and Superman are the primal superheroes,” Morrison said. “It’s almost like climbing your way up the tree. You work through the Justice League. And you get closer and closer to the top, to the paramount. And up at the top, there is Superman and Batman. And it’s light and dark, absolute duality. And beyond that, there’s only The Source. If you could add one name to those, it would be Wonder Woman for the female side of it but basically between them, those characters form the inspiration for every other single superhero that we know. They are just powerful, basic ideas. They are so much fun to play with.”
Morrison launched his popular run on Batman two summers ago in 2006 with his four-issue “Batman & Son” story arc in issues #655-658, which introduced the Dark Knight’s son, Damian Wayne. Damian is the offspring of Batman and Talia al Ghul, daughter of his mortal enemy Ra’s al Ghul.
But while “Batman & Son” was Morrison’s first storyline to find its way to shelves, it wasn’t his first idea. “The first story I came up with when I got to do the book was 'Batman R.I.P.’ I came up with this cover image of Batman kissing a girl and the costume being discarded and that was the idea that just came into my head,” Morrison said. “So I came to [Executive Editor] Dan DiDio back then and said, ’Okay. I am going to work towards this big storyline called 'Batman R.I.P.’’ And he said, 'Okay. Go for it. But it just can’t be 'R.I.P.’ and nothing happens, we have to do something with him.’ So he encouraged me to take it more literally and that’s where it has ended up. This is the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman.”
If one includes Kal-El’s ever-approaching end date as depicted in All Star Superman and the demise of the DC Universe in Final Crisis, one may conclude that Morrison is all about death these days. “I’ve been on this death kick for a while,” he laughed. “It either means that I am going to die next year or else, the way I see it, I’ve just been tapping into something, especially since 9/11, this sense that the whole culture feels quite dark and threatening. It kind of feels like the end of western civilization and like we’re somehow all to blame for it.
“I had Superman saving the little Goth suicide girl in All Star Superman #10 as a representative of that feeling. A lot of sensitive young kids out there are carrying the weight of our culture’s dark side of guilt, self-hatred and barbarism. When those kids cut or harm themselves they’re expressing and contextualizing an entire civilization’s unconscious death wish. They’re acting out the pain and shame of a whole society and acknowledging all our darkest impulses because ultimately someone has to. When Superman hugs Regan, he’s hugging us all.”
Morrison continued, “Superheroes are a good way of confronting this stuff head on. They’re designed to deal with evil and darkness and fear and all that so it can be helpful to take these incredible, powerful characters and subject them to all of our worst fears and nightmares given form. And see what they can tell us about surviving that because superheroes always find clever ways of getting out of trouble.”
Opening the door with “superheroes always find clever ways of getting out of trouble,” CBR News asked Morrison to clarify, one more time, if his story is definitely the end of Bruce Wayne’s run as Batman.
“Yes,” he said. “But like I say, it’s so much better than death. People have killed characters in the past but to me, that kind of ends the story! I like to keep the story twisting and turning. So what I am doing is a fate worse than death. Things that no one would expect to happen to these guys at all.”
Holding the keys to the Batmobile firmly in his hand, Morrison wasn’t about to share who would be wearing the cape and cowl next but did handicap a few of the frontrunners.
“Ultimately, Tim Drake deserves it, but it’s not necessarily the way that it is going to work out,” Morrison said of the DCU’s Robin since 1991. “Of all the characters, he’s the one that actually deserves to be Batman, because he has put so much effort into it. And it wasn’t an accident for him. It’s something he actually chose to do. Tim would be very much like the original. He would try really hard to live up to Batman in a way that would actually suit his own personality but I think he'd wind up being quite grim and determined.
“Dick Grayson would be a very different Batman,” Morrison continued, speaking of the original Boy Wonder, who now protects Gotham City as Nightwing. “The way I always compare the two of them is that Bruce Wayne was a little rich kid who was quite weak and sickly until the moment his parents were killed and then he decided to become strong. But Dick Grayson is a tough little circus kid. He was born tough. And he was probably quite poor. He was a carny. He spoke strangely. He didn’t sound like a rich person. I like playing with those things that people don’t think of all of the time, the class aspects of it all. So Dick Grayson would be kind of a circus Batman. He’d smile a lot more. He’d be really fun.”
And, as most Nightwing fans would point out, Grayson would play great opposite the Joker. “Yes, you would have a great different dynamic there,” agreed Morrison. “You’d have someone who could out laugh the Joker. And he’d wisecrack. Suddenly, we’d have a Batman who would be a lot more like Spider-Man, which I think would be really funny to see.”
As for Damian, who appeared as the Batman of the future in Batman #666, Morrison offered, “Again, he’d make a pretty good Batman but he’d be the hard-ass Batman. He’d happily pull your head off, if need be. Actually, a lot of people would probably like to see that.”
Morrison believes most fans of the Bat-franchise would likely want Dick Grayson as the next Batman, but that he’d never speak for the readers. “I think at times, it’s probably fallen to Dick Grayson because it seems like he has waited long enough,” the writer said. “Now I can’t speak for today’s fan because they are quite happy to speak for themselves. Maybe we should run that in the CBR forum?”
The Scottish scribe said he had plans for Batman through the end of 2009 and added he would know when it was time to leave the title. “I am on it indefinitely until I get bored and so far, I have planned quite away ahead to the end of next year so it’s going to be quite a while,” he said.
Not included in Morrison’s plan is melding the title with Paul Dini’s Detective Comics in a similar fashion to that of Action Comics and Superman, both of which will crossover regularly beginning with James Robinson’s run in June.
“It’s fun for me to read Paul’s Batman which is quite different than mine,” said Morrison. “He does the done-in-one issues quite a lot, some really nice little mystery stories. And some great twists. And that brilliant Joker story. For me, it’s great the way it is and I would hate to have us merged together. I think for the fans, as well. It’s great to have 'Batman,’ which is a great big, long Batman novel almost and then go over to Detective Comics and pick up short, snappy Batman stories that you can read every month. I think they work better like that and I wouldn’t want to get too involved in big crossovers.
“I think it’s better for the fans to have different type of Batman, especially with Batman having so many viable interpretations. It’s hard to do Batman wrong actually. I like to see all the different versions of him. I think it’s great that the All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder version is out there as well because he is another take on it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything [writer] Frank [Miller] is doing with it but I think it’s great. And I love the way that he just takes no prisoners. He just does things that he knows are going to drive people mad. But he does it with such obsessive determination and style. You just have to eventually roll over and say, 'Cool, I just want to see more of this stuff’ because it’s good to be shocked. Batman could easily be like that character.
“And you can kill him if you want to. But there is no way Green Lantern is that stupid.”
Asked if writing All Star Superman allowed him more leeway to create because it was set in its own universe as opposed to “Batman,” which is knee-deep in nearly 70 years of continuity, Morrison answered, “For me there is not too much difference because I consider All Star Superman to be kind of in continuity. It’s the last Superman story, wherever you want to place it. It’s at the end of his life. That’s where it takes place. So it kind of incorporates everything.
“And the approach with 'Batman’ was to explore every single event that has happened to him, so I kind of took the same approach on both of them. In my own head, I imagine all the adventures happen to these guys and if you sat down and interviewed them, they’d be able to tell you about them. Batman would talk about when he fought the Monk, and when he fought Hush and it would all have happened in the same life. And Superman would have fought Doomsday and fought Luthor and fought the Ultrahumanite all in the same life.”
For more on All Star Superman check CBR News tomorrow for ALL STAR GRANT MORRISON Part III.
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