This thread is a part of our Grant Morrison Reading Project.

Though I read most of Grant Morrison's run on Batman, I wasn't paying too close of attention so I will re-read them, starting with # 655-658 (S'-D' 06), "Batman and Son".

 

#655:

Great opening. The Joker with his now signature crowbar. An imposter Batman beaten to death but not before shooting the Joker.

 

People imitating Batman was a staple in the Bat-canon since no one had to mimic any super-powers. That this poser was an ex-cop reminds me of the Secret Star, a 50s story where Gordon trains five officiers to replace Batman when the time comes.

 

The Joker's outrage at being shot by (a) Batman is like LOST's Ben Linus' when his daughter is killed. THEY changed the rules!

 

Wow! That "Zur En Arrh" graphitti sure stands out now!

 

Nice bits with Alfred and Tim. And that the Bat-suit is not just cloth and spandex.

 

Going to London is nice, especially with the line about the Earl of Wordenshire.

 

Kirk Langstrom is a wreck here, he's usually a lot more pro-active but he is SCARED!

 

The last page reveal of Talia, her son and Men-Bats was very effective!

 

More to follow! 

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Great idea! Especially as the grand saga goes into its end game. I'm really looking forward to what you have to say. I'll be reading along with the Batman issues you cover.

I'd argue that Morrison's most recent phase of his work on Batman begins with JLA:Ultramarine Corps.

The big thing is that Batman hops in his Bat-UFO and zooms off to his secret base on Pluto.

“I’m opening the Sci-Fi closet, Alfred. Don’t tell my friends in the GCPD about this.” says Bruce, letting the readers know this is no longer their kid brother's gritty "realistic" urban vigilante.

(Also, it's a much more superheroey prelude to Seven Soldiers of Victory, if you are going to jump into that.)

However, I'd really start with the Bruce Wayne installment of 52, where we catch up with Bruce during his "one year off" after Infinite Crisis..

If you can dig it out, I think it makes a great prelude to what you're embarking on here, and it lays outth epremise of Morrison's whole project and ties it much more tightly into overall DCU continuity.

It's week 30 - "Dark Knight Down"

I'll look for 52, thanks for the tip! Morrison's "sci-fi" Batman take was on display in JLA, especially its first year! He was the gadget man, the thinker, the high-tech hero.

Next, #656:

Jezebel Jet (first appearance?) --another strong, independent woman for Bruce to agonize over! Was she a homage to Jonny Quest's Jezebel Jade?

Page 3- Bob Geldoff and Sting?

The Langstroms look positively Victorian!

Battle with the Men-bats--visually great with the pop-art in the background!

Cameo by Bruce's Aunt Agatha--I don't think she looked that way and why no Aunt Harriet?

Spike through them flimsy wings--about time!!

Talia (still gorgeous) and her Man-Bat Commandos (not Ninjas, despite the toy)--if you were going to duplicate a Bat-Foe, what about Clayface or Bane or Doctor Double X as examples?

Another disavowed Bat-story back in continuity---Son of the Bat!

Talia decides to ditch the kid on Bats, to teach both a lesson.

Father & Son Reunion--a Kodak moment!

Reading this arc reminds me of the Supergirl revamp in Superman/Batman where Bats admonishes Supes for taking Supergirl at face value (plus her torso) yet he does the same for this littel psycho! Paternity test, anyone?
Philip Portelli said:
The Joker's outrage at being shot by (a) Batman is like LOST's Ben Linus' when his daughter is killed. THEY changed the rules!

!!! I just sent Jeff of Earth-J a big ol' warning to not read this thread. :)
Philip Portelli said:
I Battle with the Men-bats--visually great with the pop-art in the background!
This issue is one of my favorite Batman issues ever, because of this great scene. A Batman/Men-bat battle in front of paintings of garish (yet appropriate) sound effects? YES!
Good man, Alan!
Yikes!! Wasn't thinking there! It's just the analogy that popped up first! Apologies to all!

Alan M. said:
Philip Portelli said:
The Joker's outrage at being shot by (a) Batman is like LOST's Ben Linus' when his daughter is killed. THEY changed the rules!

!!! I just sent Jeff of Earth-J a big ol' warning to not read this thread. :)
#657: with SPOILER ALERT UP

Boy, he takes this kid to the Cave really quick! Talia probably told her son Batman's secrets but a little prudence or paranoia is warranted here.

His name is Damian. That's original, but then he can't be "Bob, Son of the Bat!"

Damian's confrontations with Alfred, Tim and Batman reveal his pride, his anger and his insecurities. He clearly trying to assert his dominance over the Wayne household and the Bat-Family. Too bad he tried to intimidate the Master Intimidator!

The Spook was actually a recurring villain from the 70s with a neat gimmick of hidden tunnels throughout Gotham's prison system. He appeared more often than the Penguin, Mister Freeze and the Mad Hatter during that period only to be seen later in mob scenes. His gruesome death was disturbing as his killer!

Damian is clearly as smart and clever as his father as he is as cunning and devious as his grandfather. He commits both murder and attempted murder all to prove that he deserves to be Batman's heir and to be by his side as the new (or next) Robin.

batman seems to be dismayed by Damian's behavior yet does nothing about it! This bears repeating: he knows Damian MURDERED the Spook without mercy or remorse and does NOTHING! That just doesn't align with his values. Yes he wants to give his morally corrupted son a second chance at life but at what cost!

The casualness of his final attack on Tim and his motivation suggest this exactly what Talia wanted. For Batman to be so focused on reining in his son's anti-social (to put it mildly) behavior, that she can follow through with her agenda.

Obviously the secret son returning for his birthright is the stuff of legends and myth: Zeus, Theseus, King Arthur and Luke Skywalker as examples. Batman now has to deal with a personal dynamic that he has no experience in. More than being a mentor, a trainer or an authority figure, now he has to be a father. And who can predict the consequences if he fails?
Morrison's "sci-fi" Batman take was on display in JLA, especially its first year!

A good point, but the thing about that take, was that it didn’t …take. Crime, murder, rapists, terrorists and such were Batman’s lot in most of his other comics since JLA #1.

Regarding that over the top opening scene in #655, I know there is nothing funny about ‘vulnerable, disabled children’, but I can’t help smiling at the deliberate ‘pushing of the envelope’ of the grim and gritty here. Not just any old children being threatened, but….

Dirty Harry himself couldn’t have had a sicker opponent.

Grant plays with images of the ultra-violent and/or gun-wielding Batman so often because it is something lots of fans want to see, or think they want to see. A lot of his series have content in the first issue that is expanded or developed later in the run, and this is one example here.

That this poser was an ex-cop reminds me of the Secret Star, a 50s story where Gordon trains five officers to replace Batman when the time comes.

Does it now? Grant’s story behind this series is that he had a few ideas about stories he wanted to tell when he got around to doing Batman, but when he started researching those ideas, he found that just about everything he could think of had been done before. He mentions in particular a previous story about 5 officers being trained as replacements, and you’ve probably put your finger on the one he meant. In some ways you are probably Morrison’s ideal reader. A heckuva lot of stuff he puts into these comics went over the heads of the rest of us!

In any case ‘replacements’ is a major theme of this run. Already in the first issue we have 2 Bat-sons and a Man-Bat as well as the replacement Batman.

Regarding the trip to London, I’m a little confused as to how everyone knew Batman was going to be there! It looked like a last minute decision to me.

Other Stuff: I liked the reference to the growl in Batman’s voice. Am I right that this was an innovation of the Michael Keaton Batman? Moviemakers would have had to give more thought to how Batman would sound than comics creators, who are working with the convention that a mask is enough to disguise someone who’s having a conversation with people who already know him…

I like that this run takes up where James Robinson’s leaves off, where Batman has pretty much cleared Gotham of crime. (It never lasts.) That’s an interesting starting point for his life to spiral out of control from. Obviously he NEEDS adversaries!

(Let me know if you can’t put your hands on 52 #30. There are some things in it worth noting here, not least how it ties this run with the Batman of the last 20 years.)
Issue #656

Rob Staeger said:
Philip Portelli said:
I Battle with the Men-bats--visually great with the pop-art in the background!
This issue is one of my favorite Batman issues ever, because of this great scene. A Batman/Men-bat battle in front of paintings of garish (yet appropriate) sound effects? YES!

I love this as well. It’s so clever. An added bonus, is that Kubert sketches in those paintings just in the background in the early scenes before the actually start popping as part of the story. I also have a feeling that Kubert ‘blocked out’ the room in terms of what pictures will be where once the fighting etc starts.

Page 3- Bob Geldoff and Sting?

If that’s meant to be them (it is a fundraiser for Africa, after all) then it doesn’t look anything like them! Maybe one of them is John Constantine, sneaking over from the Vertigo-verse?

Cameo by Bruce's Aunt Agatha--I don't think she looked that way and why no Aunt Harriet?

I didn’t pick up on the different names of Bruce’s Aunts. Obviously Morrison is rubbing it in that according to continuity, Bruce had not none, not one, but two Aunts! It’s a deliberate effort to make us appreciate that in this story everything is in continuity.

Man-Bat Commandos (not Ninjas, despite the toy) – Wha? You’re losing me here. Why can’t they be ninjas? What toy?

… if you were going to duplicate a Bat-Foe, what about Clayface or Bane or Doctor Double X as examples?

I guess they’ll have to get around to them all eventually. We’ve talked about how genuinely new Bat-villains aren’t too plentiful these days given how things stand between the creators and DC.

I loved the suspense that Morrison generated by counting down the Man-Bats as they are defeated, only to have a bunch more appear once they’ve been floored.

Reading this arc reminds me of the Supergirl revamp in Superman/Batman where Bats admonishes Supes for taking Supergirl at face value (plus her torso) yet he does the same for this little psycho!

That’s a good point. It is easier to judge people who aren’t your family – and who haven’t the destructive capability of a nuclear bomb. I was surprised too, that he brought Damien back to the Bat-cave so quickly.

Still, I’m a great believer in the spaces between the panels, which are particularly eventful in Morrison comics. Who knows what thought processes Bruce went through before bringing the kid back, or how Damien’s knowledge of who Batman really was played into his decision?

Friends close and enemies closer might be part of it.

Paternity test, anyone?

On the one hand, Batman is of course, way ahead of you. The paternity test is mentioned later on.

On the other, Bruce works on a different moral plane to the rest of us, or he’s supposed to.

He describes Damien thus:

Brutalised, indoctrinated, then used as a weapon in his mother’s insane war against me.

“If he is my son -- even if he’s not -- he deserves some love, and my respect.”


When readers complain about Damien, they don’t get that he’s only 10 years old (seemingly) and knows very little other than violence and brutality. Batman, as ever, is a much bigger man than those fanboys. He’s gonna save this kid.

Batman dealing with a rebellious proto-teen is funny and entertaining. Look at Damien’s posture on his way up the Bat-stairs! Still, although Morrison doesn’t beat us over the head with it, Damien’s story is a tragic one, and Batman is trying to save him.

Have you seen the third season of The Wire, where the ex-con is trying to get the deprived kids into boxing? They are an unlovable lot, who seem to throw everything he does for them back in his face. He’s about to give up when wiser heads tell him to just keep reaching out to them so that they start to get over their distrust of everyone. They have grown up expecting only to be used or betrayed.

Batman is on a similar path with this kid, constantly reaching out to him. Luckily for this particular abused, deprived lad, Batman has more compassion and depth of character than the whinging fanbeards.

Batman trying to reel in a disturbed and abused child, and unlock that kid's potential to be a fully responsible and moral member of society is a much more genuinely dramatic and engaging story than some JSA teen superhero throwing a tanty.

Strategically, playing a long game to bring Damien over to his side will bring rewards and boost Batman’s war on crime in the long run.

#657

Damian's confrontations with Alfred, Tim and Batman reveal his pride, his anger and his insecurities. He’s clearly trying to assert his dominance over the Wayne household and the Bat-Family. Too bad he tried to intimidate the Master Intimidator!

That’s a great reading of what’s going on. I agree with you about the necessity for a little paranoia and suspicion too, but, Batman must have his reasons! He’s Batman after all.

We all have trouble living up to our old man, but you have to have some sympathy with Damien too. Who’s going to live up to Batman? No wonder he’s bewildered!

I’m kind of vague as to what Talia’s agenda is. I’ll have to read closer this time…

Obviously the secret son returning for his birthright is the stuff of legends and myth: Zeus, Theseus, King Arthur and Luke Skywalker as examples. Batman now has to deal with a personal dynamic that he has no experience in. More than being a mentor, a trainer or an authority figure, now he has to be a father. And who can predict the consequences if he fails?

This is great storytelling material. Obviously there were reasons no-one’s explored this fully before in a Batman story, but as I’m loving this Damien tale, it would seem they weren't very good!
Quick responses:
1) He looks like Constatine but not Sting? Is that even possible?

2) Aunt Harriet was Dick's aunt, not Bruce's. She was portrayed much younger in the comics than the TV show.
BTW, did you know Dick has/had an evil uncle George who got custody of Dick away from Bruce (thanks to his playboy image) and then tried to sell him back to Bruce for $1,000,000 (a lot more in the 40s)? So they were far quicker to add relatives then as oppposed to now!

3) Really quickly after this arc, DC Direct put out "Batman & Son" action figures based on Kubert's artwork. There was Batman, Robin, Damian (in his black & white outfit--no need to be subtle here), The Joker (in case no one has one) and Ninja Man-Bat. I was just commenting that they were never described as ninjas in the story as they are, en masse, really noticeable! Granted not a major point, but something I noticed.

4) I realize Bruce is trying to save Damian who clearly was not raised in a loving enviroment. It is to his credit that Damian's well-being is important as he didn't know he existed beforehand. But even though he's only 10, he is also a trained killer. Morrison does not downplay how dangerous Damian is, he is a threat to everyone around him. He wants his way and he is testing Batman to see what he can get away with and it seems to be an awful lot!

5) I don't know what Talia's agenda is, either. I'm just assuming she has one!
Thanks for clearing up the Agatha/Harriet business! Uncle George sounds like the kind of fella that gives carny folk a bad name...

Batman does underestimate Damien's dangerous and destructive potential, doesn't he? It's because he's young and small. The dangers of underestimating youth is another recuring theme with Morrison.

Perhaps ultraviolent ninja-skilled Damien is how 10 year old boys have always seen themselves when they imagine being Batman's sidekick, rather than the laughing happy-go-lucky Robin that was foisted on them by DC?

BTW - I've added this thread to the Morrison overview thread. Let someone else set the pace for a while...
I am honored that my little effort here is going to be part of your project, one in which you have more insight and exuberence than I! Hope I don't let you down!

Well, onward!

#658:

The Final Chapter (as if)!

Now they're called Man-Bat Ninjas! My bad!

Batman's rage at Damian's near-murder of Robin is silent and radiates from the page. Damian's attempt to justify it proves he wants Batman's approval, almost like "See what I can do! I AM WORTHY!"

Damian's actions against Robin are criminal. His murder of the Spook against everything Batman values and he gets a lecture and a rocket ride! Talk about mixed messages! How about consequences!

Talia's agenda(the Men-Bats, the kidnapping, using Bats as a summer camp and now taking over Gilbraltar) seems to be wanting to be a family. This is what Damian wants as well. Too bad that's not how Batman operates. He tries to give both of them second chances. Talia responds by giving him a last chance: Be a family or be enemies! Batman rejects her which leads to Talia's harsher attitude elsewhere! She and Damian appear to be blown up but we know better!

Morrison shatters Batman's status quo with this arc. He literally can't be the same after this which was why the two graphic novels that spawned Damian were considered out of continuity in the first place. Now I said I didn't read these Batman stories at first. But I realized that I did read them and finally see the seeds Morrison is planting. I read the series but I didn't connect the dots or place the puzzle pieces in the right spots. And Yes, I was confused by Final Crisis but maybe I just went into it ill-prepared!

The next issue was supposed to be a Joker story that didn't arrive until #663 (Ap'07). Not a good omen as I recalled.

BTW, I did find 52 #30 and JLA: Classified #1-3. Will read them tonight!

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