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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Oops, I see that Club of Heroes does indeed come before Ra’s Al Ghul. In the collections, Club of Heroes is packaged in The Black Glove with the Morrison stories that follow the Ra’s Al Ghul crossover. I’ll have to amend my reading list, or the Anal Retentative Police will track me down!

That’s good because I much prefer to read a clever story with Williams’ great art right now, than a large unwieldy multi-author crossover.

Speaking of which, here is the running order of my hardcover collection: (A whopping 256 pages, it seems.)

Batman Annual #26, Ra’s Al Ghul Origin (Milligan)
ROBIN ANNUAL #7, Short Damian Prelude (Champagne)
Batman #670, Prelude (Morrison)
Robin #168 Part 1 (Milligan)
Nightwing #138 Part 2 (Nicieza)
Detective Comics #838 Part 3 (Dini)
Batman #671, Part 4 (Morrison)
Robin #169, Part 5 (Milligan)
Nightwing #139 Part 6 (Nicieza)
Detective Comics #839 Part 7 - Conclusion (Dini)

...maybe these monsters are not taken in by his persona and just pound on him!

Good point. It’s hard to play mindgames with someone who has virtually no mind. I do think it’s a commentary too, on where Batman stories stayed for many years after DKR, and how Batman wasn't at his best in those stories.

Evel Knievel (please tell me you know who that is!)

Of course! He was a GOD when I was a kid (thanks to US cultural imperialism)! I still hold it against my cousin that he had the stunt bike with the action figure, and I didn’t.

When I mentioned Alfred's imaginary stories, it hit me. That's Batman & Robin!! Dick as the Dark Knight and Bruce's son as the Boy Wonder!

Morrison does a good job of disguising the fanboy allusions he stuffs into his DCU stories.

Is this what he is heading for or is it a homage to Alfred's Batman II and Robin II stories where Dick is Batman and Bruce Jr Robin II?

Both! Part of Grant’s compressed style is to do 2 or 3 things at one stroke. Even leaving out the later Batman and Robin comics, there is a hint of respect in how Damian refers to Dick during Batman #666, and there is also the first tableau of costumes Damian walks past when he returns to his Wayne Tower base in that story. There are two Batman costumes and one Damian costume, presumably those of Bruce, Dick (with the extra-large Bat-symbol on the chest) and the young Damian. Barbara doesn’t understand Damian’s affection for Dick and thinks Damian is responsible for her ex-lover’s death.

All they need are the Roman numerals "II" on their chests!

They had ‘II’ on their costumes? How tacky. That’s like the way some Italians christen their second son ‘Secondo’!

More on #666 shortly.
Barbara Gordon is the Commissioner, like she was in Batman Beyond but in a wheelchair. How could she get that position, I have no idea!

It’s funny how this ties into Batman Beyond’s appearance in Batman #700, and maybe how DC recently started publishing his comics. It looks like Morrison has a Crystal Ball. Is anyone reading the latest Batman Beyond mini-series? Does it tie into the cameo in #700 in any way? Is the new series supposed to be in continuity (for now anyway, maybe?)

Damian battles the third Bat-Imposter who considers himself the Anti-Christ (apropos for #666)

Lots of Christian references here – Opens in a church, Hotel Bethlehem is the setting of the finale. Damian ‘dies’ and rises again at the end. The Anti-Christ Batman is cast down burning from a height, to his doom, like Lucifer.

“The Anti-Lennon” - I like that.

This is tied with The Clown at Midnight as my favourite episode so far. The first time I read it I was completely bewildered as to what was happening and what the (15 year?) jump forward in time was about. It must have thrown lots of the ‘fairweather fans’ too. The baddie Damian must fight had only been hinted at in the previous two issues, and the big baddie, apparently the ‘Devil’, seems to be a shadowy character that isn’t going to become clear in the main narrative for a few issues yet, and is only really coming into focus now, nearly 3 years later.

I also enjoyed all the references in the story to things that only turned up in the Batman and Robin series long after this was first published. Pyg and the Dollotron and his allies, as well as the hints about Dick and Damian’s career as the Dynamic Duo.

What a crazy way to write a comic! I think it is partly to do with Morrison ‘internet-proofing’ his stories. Giving you the mad future he’s working towards without doing any of the setting up that would have allowed internet code-breakers to predict where he was going. The other thing he’s doing is trying to break through the aspect of modern superhero comics where we are in a permanent ‘now’. He’s showing us how the city and the characters might grow and develop. A worthwhile endeavour now that we’ve passed the laudable phase of DCU history when it looked like the old guard were starting to fall away and the young guns like Kyle and Wally were stepping up to replace them.

Morrison is breaking these Bat-characters out of a meaningless cyclical paralysis.

Whereas other Post-IC writers would have brought back Batman II and Robin II just the way they’d been left in the Bronze Age(?), Morrison makes them almost unrecognisable, and very strange. These are comics that amaze, shock and perplex, like they used to, rather than merely provide the comfortingly familiar.

Morrison's version of 'Dick and the Batson' lends an irony to the scenes in the old comics where we can't see who Mrs Batman is! Turns out it was Talia Al Ghul playing at housewife! Hee hee! It's yet another example of Morrison is building his Bat-saga mainly from the stories that were previously dismissed as out of continuity.

Isn’t the 2-page spread ‘Who he is and how he came to be’ a very standard old-school DC template for origin stories? Morrison has huge respect and affection for ‘the old stuff’, but he breathes new life into it in all kinds of ways. This origin is very ‘official’ looking and is another sign that, as you say, Damian is NOT a throwaway character.

There is a point also, to the news segment that Damian takes in. Global warming is a stressful fact of life in Damian’s future and so is xenophobic terror. This is further commentary on how the various incarnations of the Batman have reflected the times they played to. Morrison is suggesting here, that as things in our world will probably get worse before (if we’re lucky) they get better, then ugly violent times will give us a violence-prone, cheating, compromised Batman like Damian grows up to be.

If we don’t mend our ways, we’ll get the Batman we deserve!
It looks like Damian is joining the Teen Titans. Will he claim leadership as his "right" as Robin? Or will he be regarded like Guy Gardner was in Justice League? We all know how well he plays with others.

And the mothers of the Super-Sons from World's Finest were kept a mystery. However, in Alfred's stories and a couple of other "imaginary" tales, the mother of Bruce, Jr. is the former Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman. She had supplanted both Catwoman and Vicki Vale as Batman's love interest in the late 50s and early 60s. She was written out by the New Look period as cliched and detracting. Most considered her an unimportant and unworthy part of Batman's history. Yet now, there is a new, dynamic Batwoman. "The road goes ever on and on...."

Batman #667 (Au'07): The Club of Heroes

I was pretty stoked about this arc and still can't believe it was actually done. As I stated somewhere before, in my early teens, I bought from a second-hand book shop Michael Fleischer's impressive and influential Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, Volume 1: Batman for $3 and practically absorbed it. It was the history of Batman, Robin, their allies, enemies and world from 1939 to 1964. It treated Batman as one character, not a Golden Age one and a Silver Age one. There I read about The Club of Heroes and its members.

The Knight and the Squire debuted in Batman #62 (Ja'51) as "The Batman of England". This was the end of the Golden Age and the start of the lull period for super-heroes until 1956. The Earl of Wordenshire and his son, Cyril, rode motorcycle-"horses" and answered the rectory bell to fight crime in Great Britain.

The Legionary of Italy, the Gaucho of Argentina, the Musketeer of France and the Ranger of Australia made their first appearances by teaming with the Knight and Squire in Detective #215 (Ja'55) as "The Batmen of All Nations!" This happened before the Martian Manhunter's start. I finally read this when I bought WF #180 (D'68) where it was reprinted. It was a pleasant surprise.

In WF #89 (Au'57), minus the Ranger, they, with Superman, Batman and Robin, join millionnaire John Mayhew's "Club of Heroes". Why Superman would need the help of any of them was politely not addressed. This was the last appearance of these international heroes at the dawning of the Silver Age. Perhaps they could be considered a prototype for the JLA, but perhaps not. Ironically this was reprinted in WF #179 (N'68), out of order with their previous appearance.

Wingman came from Batman# 65 (Jl'51) as a hero from Northern Europe (later from Sweden) being trained by Batman, something he had and would do again. Remember, "Ride, Bat-Hombre, Ride!"

In Batman #86 (S'54), the Caped Crusaders meet their Native American rip-offs counterparts, Chief Man-of-the-Bats (also known as Great Eagle or Man-who-ignores-Copyrights) and his son, Little Raven.

Though these heroes are consigned to Comic Book Limbo, they do inspire another story. In Adventure #250 (Jl'58), with Jack Kirby artwork no less, we meet "The Green Arrows of the World!" with masked archers from Britain, France, Japan, Mexico and other nations all paying homage to our Ace Archer. Too bad they never did a Brave & Bold where they confronted each other like the Jets and the Sharks. (Singing optional!)

As I said, after WF #89, there is no mention of them again. But after the Crisis, Roy Thomas revives them as heroes from the 50s who were influenced by the Justice Society, not the no-longer existing Golden Age Batman. They were gathered by Doctor Mist as predecessors to the Global Guardians as seen in Infinity, Inc. #34 (Ja'87).

Later, or earlier depending on your point of view, Roy had the young Knight appear in Young All-Stars #22-26 (Ja-Ju'89) as the Squire to the (wait for it).....Shining Knight. He mentions his infant son Cyril and even is ret-conned into a 7SV tale, as yet another possible member.

More to follow!
Man, that's a LOT of exposition! Obviously, now Batman is now a contemporary to the Club of Heroes from the beginning of his career, figuring it to be 10-12 years ago.

We are introduced to the Black Glove who's running an international game of Good Vs Evil. Batman and Robin are flying to billionnaire John Mayhew's private island for a reunion of the Club of Heroes, a group of non-powered heroes from other nations that Batman was briefly involved in their even briefer time together. We meet/are re-introduced to the former allies, each embodying a different role in a hero's life.

John Mayhew: a one-time character, now appears to be what Bruce Wayne would really be like, if he wasn't Batman.

The Knight II and the Squire III: favorites of Morrison and the ongoing continuation of a heroic identity. They are bound to the past yet look towards the future.

The Musketeer: the real consequences of being a masked hero. Arrested, put in the nut-house then becoming a media sensation.

The Legionary: the Hero in his declining years, out of shape and no longer driven.

Chief Man-of-Bats and Raven Red: the generation gap between father and son. The Chief is a doctor like Thomas Wayne was.

The Dark Ranger: the grim and gritty hero, an urban warrior.

The Gaucho: a man trying to prove his greatness to others.

Wingman: desperate to be the equal of Batman though he denies it.

The Heroes receive a chilling message that Mayhew was murdered and then their planes are destroyed! While searching for their nameless foe, the Legionary is gruesomely murdered as Caesar was but at least gets one last strike at evil, a poignant touch. The others are now trapped on a mysterious island in a haunted house!

While Andy Kubert gets his (rightful) share of credit, J. H. Williams III does a masterful job here. Realistic, moody, intense artwork highlight these issues and he has a fair respect for the past as well.

#668 (S'07):

In a flashback, we see the beginning of the end of the Club, from the Knight's (then the Squire's) point of view. Something bad happened.

In the present, something worse is happenning. The Knight is missing and is now a suspect. The events of JLA: Classified #1-3 are brought up. The others resent Batman for not staying with them in the past. "Sorry guys, I gotta meet the Flash and Green Lantern. I would hang with you but Wonder Woman....do I have to continue?"

And yet Batman does respect them. He does not see them as mere imitators, like he does Green Arrow (Zing!), but as true heroes. It always made no sense that Batman was a great hero who protected Gotham City yet these guys had to watch over their entire countries!

Wingman has become a Batman double complete with forsensic tools.

The Knight is found. Someone forced him to swallow a bomb! And worse, that's how his father was murdered!

The others face armored death-traps, Robin, Squire and Raven Red are captured, like all good side-kicks should be.

And Wingman is also gruesomely murdered, the Heroes are taunted by the Black Glove!

#669 (N'07):

One theory given is a Club of Villains, enemies of the heroes like Charlie Caliluga, Spring heeled Jack, Pierrot Lunaire, scorpana, El Sombrero and King Kraken. More of Morrison's great concepts fired out at a rapid pace.

The three younger heroes are placed in their own death-trap by El Sombrero (if it was really him).

Batman, of course, figures out the truth and reveals the murderer. It was one of them, working for the villain, a Morrison mainstay.
The motivations were in plain sight and believable.

There is another big reveal but the Heroes escape with the Knight knowing his father was redeemed.

This was a great character study, a great story arc and a great murder mystery. The Club of Heroes deserve a place in the DCU. I wouldn't mind seeing the Gaucho, a dangerous man on the edge, again.

Well I'm going to focus on finishing Seven Soldiers for now and do a couple of "Fan of Bronze". I'm a bit burned out on Batman but will add to this when I can.

All comments are appreciated!
Man, that's a LOT of exposition!

That's great background to what Morrison is doing in this arc. The first time I read Club of Heroes, it took me a long time to get a handle on who each of them was. I read it twice before I realised that Wingman and the Knight were seperate people, and that one group of heroes were in one room while Batman talked to another few in another room! Beautiful art, but maybe it needn't have been so tricky for a new reader. If it wasn't for the art, I wouldn't have reread it 2-3 times to get what was happening. On this read, I just enjoyed every bit of it.

Morrison calls that good value for money...

I loved Batman's costume in this. That looks like a silk cape and fine leather gloves. This is the outfit he wears to weekend soirees rather than showdowns with heavily armed drug-dealers!

You've schematised what each guest represents very well. As ever in this run, everything is about Batman, in this case showing us what he isn't. His respect for them shows his largeness of spirit and his compassion.

There were hints about the Gaucho, but he seemed a pretty impressive vigilante. I thought Man-Of-Bats being a doctor might have been a pun on the idea of a witch-doctor. They are all tough, admirable figures in their way, but we are seeing how awesome Batman is in comparison to them. They only look bad set against him.

In a whole run about 'absent fathers', it might be said that these guys have gone a bit wrong in the absence of their mentor and inspiration for all these years.

Ollie might be a bit of a tool, but he too is in a different league to these guys. Batman's ribbing of him is slightly more like the joshing of equals. These guys would snap if Batman started to run them down.

This was a great character study, a great story arc and a great murder mystery.

Another high point in this series, and perhaps Grant's nod to the Agatha Christie school of 'Detective' stories. Have you read much commentary and analysis around this series? Some, I'd guess from the acuity of your insights. Anyway, JHW III's thinking behind the different art styles he uses is quite fascinating, and well thought through. You might notice in the scenes with Robin and Squire especially, he is drawn with depth and shade, whereas she is drawn in a more cartoony style. Williams writes about it here.

I have a feeling we're going to see more of the Club of Heroes when Batman Inc comes around.

I'm a bit burned out on Batman but will add to this when I can.

I'm getting a bit burnt out myself, and I am only nodding my head at your very perceptive insights! I figured you were going at it a bit over zealously, on two fronts. I've really enjoyed these Batman posts. There's new stuff here for anyone who thinks they know whats going on in each issue.

You might decide The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul is too rambling and unweildy to cover in total here, so you may want to just summarise the non-Morrison issues and look closer at the the two he wrote. Sometimes these multi-author crossovers amount to less than the sum of their parts.

Anyway, y'all come back now! (But only when you are ready...)
Speaking of Club of Heroes and Batman, Inc., I'm probably the only one that would say this, but I think Crimson Fox (I know she's been killed like a million times) should be the Batman of Paris. Her first appearance in Justice League Europe all those years ago cites Batman as her inspiration. I'd like to see something serious be done with her.
The thing about Crimson Fox is that originally there were TWO of them, wealthy sisters who alternated with their heroic identity. Sadly, both were killed, at different times, of course in JLE and Starman.
Philip Portelli said:
The thing about Crimson Fox is that originally there were TWO of them, wealthy sisters who alternated with their heroic identity. Sadly, both were killed, at different times, of course in JLE and Starman.

Which is not to say to either or both of them might not be brought back, with or without explanation.
Or a third, previously unmentioned sister could appear!
Speaking of previously unmentioned sisters, I've just read Death and the Maidens. Written by Greg Rucka, it was the last Ra's Al Ghul story before The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul. (You'll never guess what happens to him in the Rucka story!)

Anyhoo, I was just wondering if you were going to pick up your mega-Batman reading anytime soon, Philip? Perhaps the fact that the overall story was concluded recently has cooled your enthusiasm?

Meanwhile, R'as is currently sitting patiently by my bed, awaiting his resurrection...
"Just when I think that I'm out, they pull me back in!" said while chewing up much scenery!

I read Robin Annual #7 (2007) which had a moody and grim main story. Remember when Robin was supposed to bring a light to Batman's world?

The second story, "The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts" by Keith Champagne and Jason Pearson, features Damian, Son of Batman. Was this Damian's first time being written by someone other than Morrison? It takes place in China where the Agressive Offspring encounters an aged shopkeep who asks him to come inside to protect him from marauding ghosts. Damian is unimpressed and callously swats the tea out of the old man's hands with his trademarked "sneer of contempt". The old man chastises the Heir of Good and Evil by telling him of the shame that he has brought to his father ("he must mask his eyes in shame!" ) and how he lacks in manners (Big Shock there!). To prove him wrong or just to spite him, our Uncouth Understudy drinks from the teapot and immediately collapses. The old man smiles, though makes a great catch of the teapot.

Damian wakes up in a cemetery, never a good sign and encounters a weird man with a riddle and insect imagery. Then the ghosts arrive, trying to convince him forcefully that he is dead and that his grave is waiting. Angrily he eludes them, all the while harping on his parentage and demands their respect! Then he is attacked by four sword weilding Robins in different versions of the costume. Ironically he too is clad in mainly red. This is oddly reassuring to him, as he can deal with them which he does violently and permanently. As soon as it starts, it's over and Damian declares victory, reaffirms his disbelief in ghosts and practically dares them to try that again! All the while, a mysterious cloaked man with a bandaged face has been observing him and we're off to the races (and Batman #670).

Was the League of Assassins behind this? Were there real ghosts or mere tricks? Was it a test of worthiness, a rite of passage or a way to prepare for what will come? Damian still comes off as an unlikeable character though I would not bet against him.

I was going to read The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul all at once and then comment on it but I decided to read each installment seperately and respond accordingly, if that cool. I know our focus is on Morrison's Batman but all chapters should be examined.

BTW, I forgot to read Batman Annual #26 first. I'll try to get to that soon if only to see what's been set up. By this time, I had dropped both Robin and Nightwing though I got the necessary issues but am not sure of their subplots at the time, so apologies if I get anything wrong!
Wow! Ninja fast reaction there!

I'll get stuck into RoRAG tonight!

I read Robin Annual #7 (2007) which had a moody and grim main story. Remember when Robin was supposed to bring a light to Batman's world?

I've seen a TV interview with Frank Miller, where he stated that as he got into his Batman-defining DKR book, he found that Batman really needed a Robin. This is surprising, as Miller is the patron saint of those fanboys who want Batman to be a lonely, driven vigilante, the darker and more violent the better! Further he said that he found the dynamic duo worked better the bigger and darker he made Batman, and the smaller and younger he made Robin.

However, having a young colourful Robin in today's Batbooks would seem to be a very tall order, what with the intense violence and mortality that have been part of the fabric of the Batverse for the last few decades. The deaths and reversed-deaths of several sidekicks shows how tall the order is.

Morrison found an ingenious way to square that particular circle by introducing a very young ninja-trained death-machine as the next possible Robin. Clever, as always, and further proof of how much thought Morrison puts into these things.

Of course Damien is very unlikeable at the beginning, but even today, his arc is only starting. Can his new life at Batman's side bring out the laughing flibertigibbet in him?

I decided to read each installment seperately and respond accordingly, if that's cool. I know our focus is on Morrison's Batman but all chapters should be examined.

I think it's a good opportunity to compare Morrison's Batman with that of other writers and also this kind of crossover can throw light on how Morrison's Batman fits into the Batverse generally. Working closely with other creators has been an important part of Morrison's DC career, for good and bad, so this is another chance to see a major collaboration in action. Looking forward to what you have to say on the different chapters.

Champagne is one of those writers DiDio depends on to connect high-selling work by DC's best creators with the stuff that Didio puts out to make a few more bucks on those popular books. I think he does a good enough job here, considering he doesn't have a lot of pages to work with, and much of what's going on has to remain a mystery for now. It is a landmark first solo outing for the Brat of Bats.

Damian still comes off as an unlikeable character...

I think monthly superhero comics can be hobbled by how it's hard to start a character in an unpleasant place personality-wise and show their journey. Readers confuse the characters with the story, and decide they don't like the latter based on their attitude to the former. As if it wasn't tough enough producing good superhero comics as it is...

By this time, I had dropped both Robin and Nightwing though I got the necessary issues but am not sure of their subplots at the time, so apologies if I get anything wrong!

Morrison's Batbooks outsold Robin and Nightwing by a factor of at least 3 to 1 back when these comics came out, so you'll be in the same position as most of the rest of the readership of Resurrection. I found the Nightwing and Robin segments to be interesting little peeks into how those books were being written and how the characters were being handled, but didn't feel I was missing out by only reading the RoRAG issues of them.

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