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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All-in-all, this collection is a must have to understand Morrison's epic.

P.S. Figs, if you can, you really should get this with Morrison's introduction.

 

Thanks for the summary.  It whetted my appetite, so I'll have a look around for it.  If it has the magical properties you attribute it, maybe I'll trip over a copy on the street tomorrow?  :-)

 

Loathe as I am to criticize the Mighty Mozz in any way (heh, heh!), do you think reading the old Silver Age comics is totally essential to an appreciation of the overall epic?  Do you think that diminishes the worth of the run?  Or are they just a bonus extra that adds a bit more richness and depth to the story? 

 

I've read the whole thing from beginning to end now.  It is dense, and full of non-linear storytelling, non-sequiters and blanks left to the reader to fill in.  It took a few reads (which some might call value for money!) but I think I got a good handle on it now, and appreciate what he's trying to do.  While I love that some of the run is rooted in those weird old pre-Silver Age and beyond tales, I haven't read any of them, and don't feel I'm missing out on too much. 

 

I have a feeling that Morrison might have captured the real emotion of Batman's fears for Robin's life, and the extreme risk of what he put himself through in the isolation tank better than those old stories convey them.  Similarly the pathos of those guys who were all trying to be heroes like Batman.

 

But I will read them myself shortly.  Looking forward to it.

The old stories are the roots and foundation to Morrison's epic. He is using Batman's mythology to augment his themes and plots. Without acknowledging them, he ran the very real risk of being considered, at best, repetitive or, at worse, a plagiarist. His unique vision shines through these Silver Age sources and adapts them to his metafictional Bat-Universe.

So, no, you don't have to read them to get Morrison's story. But they do add flavor to it and Morrison himself seems to want them read!

Batman #675 (My'08): The Fiend With Nine Eyes!

The focus here is on relationships and legacy. An obviously still-injured Bruce is dining Jezebel Jet who appears to have had enough with his secrets and walls. She wants more and tells him that she knows that he is keeping something from her and that for all his charm, he has something dark in him. But it's not enough for her. "We'll never be closer than this." Basically it's let-me-in or let-me-go.

Bruce almost nonchalantly decides to end their romance. He is resigned to it. He was expecting it. All his relationships hit this plateau and they go their seperate ways. You can substitute the names Julie, Linda, Vicki, Kathy, Patricia, Silver, Julia, even Selina and Talia. It's an endless cycle of heartbreak and lonliness. Yet Bruce seems to be able to turn off his feelings, at least outwardly. It's like he's deleting a program like Data could in a similar situation on Star Trek: The Next Generation. But Bruce is not an android and he lets the emotional scarring continue and build up, bottling his pain, ignoring it until it overwhelms him.

Then there's Talia still monitoring him, practically stalking him as if she's letting him sow his wild oats with "all these ridiculous women he woos and discards, along with their Bond girl names!" She fully expects that her Dark Knight will see the light and they and Damian will be a real family.

All this takes place as the Nine-Eyed Man from 52 #30 takes Jezebel and Bruce hostage. Fittingly Bruce's and Batman's heirs, Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake) rush to his side as does Damian. These Sons of the Bat will honor, maintain and bolster the legacy of the Caped Crusader.

Yet Bruce does not need their help, but then he does not need Batman's help either. Without a costume but his face a hardened mask, he uses the shadows, the light and the kitchen to defeat the Nine-Eyed Man. But Jezebel witnesses his rage and intensity, his war against the Black Glove which he still isn't sure exists! And once again the burning glow of the Bat-Signal reveals the truth to Jezebel! Bruce demands that she walk away. That he is "a shallow, selfish, reckless mask of a man who never grew up!" Or was never fully allowed to. But she knows, she appears to understand and she stays.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I read this last week and was going to comment further on certain aspects but then I read the "Batman R.I.P." story arc first and both am relieved and regretful for doing so. Hopefully I will be able to express those feelings at the appropiate time.

I was also puzzled by Merlyn the Magician, the League of Assassins' Ace Archer, being there. I know that he was a major villain in Birds of Prey, Green Arrow and Identity Crisis but as a Bat-foe?

It seems like "Batman R.I.P." crossed over into the other Bat-books like "The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul". Since that worked out so well for me then, I think that I will stick to just Batman this time around. Of course, should anyone else want to comment on those issues, please feel free!

Next: The Black Glove Closes or I Got a Hunch!

I went out and bought the Black Casebook on Friday, Philip.

 

These are strangely intense stories.  Maybe a whole Showcase of them would quickly lose its charm, but the best of them packaged together in quality colour reprints like this were fun to read.  I only have the last few left to read.

 

I thought it was ironic that of all the Batbooks on the shelf in the shop (a lot!) this book looks the most adult, serious and worthy.  Illustrates the ambivalence DC feels about the stories of this period, and their demented four-coloured fantasies.

 

  • "A Partner For Batman!" Batman #65 (Jl'51) - the first appearance of Wingman in a horrendous costume and Robin breaks his leg and cries like a little girl! Wertham would love this story!

 

I can't resist!

 

 

and...

 

 

Isn't it wonderful how they just invent new heroes at the drop of a hat in this period and then discard them as easily?  It was a very different attitude.  We've mentioned a few times recently how Morrison just picks up characters and concepts that were already there, but it takes a certain type of genius to use the long defunct Wingman and Club of Heroes in modern stories the way he does in his Bat-epic.

 

I liked that the characters are able to cry and despair in these stories too.  Beats the standby position of emotional constipation that we get these days. 

 

  • "Batman-Indian Chief!" Batman #86 (S'54) - first appearance of Chief Man-of-the-Bats andLittle Raven though they do little. Batman and Robin perform in red-face. Seriously.

 

I'm pretty sure that the story was re-colored so that the 'redskins' didn't have...that.  Morrison says here that Man of Bats and Little Raven have potential, and I think he reached that and more in the Batman Inc issue that he focused on them.

 

I'll comment on the rest of the book later.   It's certainly an enjoyable read.

Far be it from me to question the motvations and judgements of any comic book creator, past or present, but man, what were they thinking? I know it was a "more innocent" time but they had the same sexual preferences then as now. Batman craddling Robin, a young boy gadding about in short pants, with his hand on his thigh, and in the same panel, commenting on how "gay" Bats is trying to be? Were they kidding? Bored? Seeing what they could get away with?

And then have Batman strolling with an adult male gadding about in short pants! The mind truly boggles! And worse, at the end, he carries Robin into the Bat-Cave, their friendship reaffirmed! Egads!

Anywho, I always enjoyed the 50s Batman stories and thought they got a bad rep by too-serious fanboys, clearly enamored by a grim, loner, near-psychotic Caped Crusader.

Well, I suppose every era has its neuroses and blind spots.  Those of the 50s are well documented.  Don’t tell the Commander, but he has a point about us jumping on them to feel superior. 

 

But our own age has its neuroses and blind spots too.  Awkwardness around men showing genuine affection for each other in a non-sexual way is a big one!  As you perceptively point out in your comments on Batman #675, Batman is suffering psychologically in part because modern heroes can't share and emote anymore (nor have innocent life-affirming relationships with barely adolescent boys! Hee hee!)

 

Batman is the exemplar of the modern hero, so he has to carry the burden of keeping his emotions under wraps more than most, as your commentary on Batman #675 points out. It's part of the metacommentary that Morrison is working into his overarching story.  Batman is in a bad way.

 

The sensibility of these stories - and not just in matters homo-erotic - is so strange to us, that I have to admire Morrison’s chutzpah in finding a way to mesh them with the modern mode of Batman story.  It’s almost as if he set himself the near-impossible task as a sort of intellectual, artistic exercise.

 

Reading the collection makes me want to reread the whole Bat-epic again from the start, now that I know the starting point that Morrison was using for Zur-En-Ahhr , Man-of-Bats and the rest.  It’s certainly made me look forward to rereading Batman RIP.  Strange that they left out those two stories you mention.  Also strange that they left out the covers, as some of them were even more striking than the stories themselves.   We are even told that Morrison included two of the stories based on the covers alone.

 

As diverse as the stories are, it’s strange how they cover the same ground thematically as Morrison’s epic.  It’s another reason the collection fits in well here in our readthrough.  They all illustrate the theme of replacement.  Robin and Batman are both replaced in the partnership at different points. The undercurrent of the Thomas Wayne story is that he will eventually be replaced by his son, who will be a much better “Bat-Man”.   Normally, I’d be annoyed at a writer’s attempts to make everyone connected to a superhero into a similarly-themed hero themselves.  These stories, however, work with such an entrancing dream logic that there is a profundity in this simple tale.  The son has been trying to copy the father, even subconsciously.  There’s something of the child being father to the man here.

 

Batman is replaced by what he transforms into in the final story and Robin goes through the most terrible transformation/replacement in the whole book in the story before that.  He dies!  Robin Dies at Dawn really is the high point here.  There is some complexity to the tale, in two parts, and with all that juicy psychology in there.  It does seem like a transitional tale too, with the first half being set on the strange alien planet, and the second half spent catching crooks in the streets of Gotham, as you noted (albeit Gorilla-suited ones).

 

Am I really Batman? and Batman the Superman of Planet X are both wonderful in and of themselves, but do tie together nicely by way of Morrison’s little fanw@nkery regarding the latter being a psychological reaction to the former.

 

I don’t think Prof Milo appears in Morrison’s epic though?  That’s surprising, because the logical explanation for Milo looking different in each of those stories is that he is a baldy who wears different wigs as the mood takes him, and Morrison loves writing baldies.

 

I’d recommend this collection to anyone who has enjoyed Morrison’s Bat epic, but I'm probably the last such person to read it!

Batman #676 (Ju'08): Midnight in the House of Hurt! Batman R.I.P.--Chapter One

We open with a flashback from six months ago where Doctor Hurt gathers his Black Glove team, including M'Sieur Le Bossu, the Hunchback, I think. Murder and death are games to them, a way to prove how clever they are and how easily they can get away with it!

In the present, a recovering Batman and Robin unleash a new Batmobile as per "The Batmobile of 1950!" and the numerous convoy of cars that the Caped Crusader is so fond of. The Urban Legend with the Tricked Out Car! They quickly defeat the Green Vulture, a wannabe psych-job who wants to "battle" the Dynamic Duo. It could symbolize the chaos that infects Batman's life and remind us through his ineffectiveness, how deep the Black Glove has to go to strike at him.

It could also be a subtle dig at the Green Goblin with whom Marvel had been portraying as insane as the Joker and just as dangerous.

Afterwards Bruce returns to the Manor where Jezebel is waiting for him in almost marital bliss, sharing his secret life. This freaks out Tim a bit and Alfred drops Silver St. Cloud's name as a previous example, though that ended badly. Tim is also worried that Bruce may not be 100% sane anymore though Alfred tries to mitigate this by explaining Bruce's quest for human perfection while admitting no one could understand his decision-making process. This quest may be rooted in his growing fear of finality. Tim unknowingly embodies this as he has suffered several great losses by this time: his father in Identity Crisis, Stephenie Brown, the Spoiler in Robin and Superboy (Connor Kent) in Teen Titans.

Worse, it's the fact that he may be stuck with Damian as a "brother". Here is mentioned the paternity test I was asking about since #655 but its results are left purposely vague. Was it to give future writers a way out? Or to show that it doesn't matter to Bruce either way? He has raised father-less boys before, y'know!

Bruce takes Jezebel to his parents' graves, feeling symbollic, romantic and guilty at the same time. She brings up that he may win his war one day and find true happiness. Then she tells him that they got an invitation to a "most outrageous party" by a wealthy group called....the Black Glove! (Cue ominous music!)

At the same time, Le Bossu pulls the Joker out of his homicidal fantasies to invite him to Batman's "Dance of Death"! The Grinning Ghoul looks truly demonic, splattered with blood and still scarred by his bullet wound from #655!

The forces of evil are surrounding him!

Wait Wait Wait!

 

The short chapter in the 2008 DC UNiverse #0 Free COmicbook day fits in as the lead up to The Black Glove (at least in my expensive hardback book!), which re-enacts the key Batman vs joker prison scene in Killing Joke.  I was going to post on Batman #675 later, but I won't have much to add beyond your own insightful commentary.

 

 

I'm waiting! I'm waiting! I'm waiting! :-)

Sadly, I don't have that part so please give details!

BTW, do you know how often the Joker appeared from 2007 to 2009? In non-Morrison comics?

If you can't post tonight, maybe I'll work on my Norman Osbourne opinion tomorrow.

(Foreshadowing!)
Figserello said:

Wait Wait Wait!

 

The short chapter in the 2008 DC UNiverse #0 Free COmicbook day fits in as the lead up to The Black Glove (at least in my expensive hardback book!), which re-enacts the key Batman vs joker prison scene in Killing Joke.  I was going to post on Batman #675 later, but I won't have much to add beyond your own insightful commentary.

 

 

More on Batman #675:

 

Bruce almost nonchalantly decides to end their romance.

 

"Perhaps I should cancel the tempura" is a laugh out loud way to go about it...

 

I think you've nailed everything Morrison is doing here.  Insightful stuff.  I reread these four 'Black Glove' issues yesterday, and they do get better and better each read.  Morrison is really pushing the character to the very edge here, and doing it with all that backstory that Bruce has accumulated.  Normally writers are trying to work against those decades of outlandish, tortuous events, and even deny most of them, but Morrison uses it very deftly here, with much more to come.

 

The four issues are somewhat let down by the art, I've decided.  Better art and storytelling would have allowed me to appreciate the stories virtues more easily, I feel.  It would seem Morrison keeps the artists on a fairly short leash, though, so they do get across pretty exactly what he is aiming for, but the pages just lack that final "jenny say kwa?"

 

The artist on #675 has too much of the 90's Image scratchmeister about him, and I would love to have seen these pages drawn by a Williams, or even a Kubert.  It was poorly drawn, but that frame with Nightwing and Robin bursting in with the Batsignal lighting up the whole room through the doorway was still effective.  More due to the writing than the art though, I feel.

 

Anyway, with RIP now begun, I have to ask how you will be dealing with Batman RIP: The Missing Chapter?  In terms of Bruce's timeline the first part fits in between RIP and Final Crisis, and the second part I seem to recall takes place mostly during Final Crisis, but the original readers didn't read it until nearly the end of The Return of Bruce Wayne.  If you are very familiar with their contents it might be fun to read them in the proper timeline order, but if we are going for how Morrison structured them in the first place then it would have to be published order.

 

As for Final Crisis, this is me formally requesting that it gets its own thread, and includes the non-Batman bits like Superman Beyond and Submit (but nothing that the Mozz didn't write himself).  However, I'm happy to run with whatever you decide to do.

 

I'll post on DC Universe #0 very shortly.

DC Universe #0 - prelude to Batman RIP



 

This was only 3 pages from the middle of DC Universe #0, a 50c promotional compilation from 2009.  I wanted to dig it out, just to see how RIP was being positioned amongst the other big stories DC were about to commence at that time. I just didn’t have time last night.  I'm pretty sure the framing sequence - a mysterious bolt of lightning descending from the heavens to the DCU Earth, was written by Morrison, and was a prelude to Final Crisis, so perhaps deserves a mention here.



 

Blackest Night and the Geoff Johns' Superman/Legion of Superheroes crossover are also teased.   I'll definitely have to dig it out.  It'll be interesting to see if the Final Crisisprelude is included in the hardback collection.
Flash Fact: It’s thematically relevant. 

 

Anyway, extracted from that strange portmanteau comic, the RIP prelude looks a bit strange. Only 3 pages, with no design elements normally associated with the beginning or ending of a short strip. 



 

There is no action as such, but it is a wonderful mood piece, that works very effectively as the "pre-credit set-up" to RIP in my deluxe edition hardback. 



 

In a callback to The Killing Joke, Batman visits the Joker in prison and tries to pump him for information on the Black Glove: who he is and what his plans are.  Morrison captures the strange ambivalent intensity of their relationship, as the Joker tries in his demented way to make Batman see how much trouble he's in. 



 

The Batman gets to the crux of the matter by saying that the Black Glove is doing the Joker's job better than the Thin White Duke of Crime himself.  By this Batman probably means getting under his skin rather than killing him, which isn't really the Joker's aim at all.



 

If this Bat-epic is Morrison's ultimate statement on Batman, the Joker, has strangely been a background figure so far.  As other commentators have pointed out, however, the Joker haunts this series from the beginning when the false Batman shot him in the head(!) to end.  The idea of some Johnny come lately doing his job better than him is surely what motivates the Joker to put in such a virtuoso performance by the end.



 

The key phrases in the piece are "Red and Black.  Life and death.  The joke and the punchline."  Note that red was apparently just as important as black and white in medieval symbolism.  It's life (red) that stands between good and evil and which is the opposite of death.



 

We see Batman trying to make sense of the red and black patterns that his adventures are throwing at him, and trying to make sense of whatever coded message the Joker might be giving him in the Dead Man's Hand that he deals out.



 

Batman has always been the world's greatest detective by spotting hidden patterns, but the post Killing JokeClown Prince would be the first to tell him that there are no patterns except what we choose to see.  This question is particularly central to this particular arc.

 

This is a great little lead-in to RIP for those who bought into the huge hype of the time and bought the hardback as their introduction to Morrison's run.  As part of the widely purchased DC Universe #0, as the lead in to the next arc within Morrison's longer run and as the prelude to the supposedly stand-alone Batman RIP, this little sketch has many masters, but thanks to Morrison's skill and professionalism it serves them all pretty well.

It does echo Batman #663, Morrison's prose Joker story "The Clown At Midnight!" (see Page 2 of this thread). It deals with the red and black and a mystery about the Clown Prince's true motivations, if they do not change moment by moment. Is he warning Batman? Taunting him? Rubbing it in? Worried about him?

He may want Batman dead, but on his terms. The Joker does not share. His near-death at the hands of (a) Batman may have had him think about his own mortality. With no Batman, can there be a Joker? Does he want it to end in an epic battle like Holmes and Moriarty in "The Final Solution"? For a creature that deals death so nonchalantly, the Joker seems so reluctant to do in his arch-foe. If the Batman can die, then so could he. For years he has been immune to repurcussions and revenge, justice and punishment, that the concept of actually dying has become alien to him as if he is above it. And that, my friends, is crazy!

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