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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I've read these Batman stories a few times each, and I normally only write about stuff that occurs to me with the most recent reading, so I was kinda stuck about what to say. Jumping on your bandwagon is more fun.

This issue is called 'Absent Fathers' in the TPB. Another big theme overall.

His murder of the Spook goes against everything Batman values and he gets a lecture and a rocket ride!

I guess its the exagerated comicbook version of the 'keep loving them til they crack' theory of rehabilitating problem children!

I love the conversation on the journey to Gibraltar. Morrison can say so much about a character in just a line:

"Hh. Didn't know about the rocket." deadpans Batman, showing his love of impressive toys. (Of course he loves showing them off. Just because he doesn't say it doesn't mean he doesn't think it.) Also his love of surprising and impressing people. And getting one over on everyone at the same time. The little shared joke is also Batman's way of slowly letting Damien see that Batman is on his side and even cares for him, in his gruff manly way!

The conversation also hints, despite Batman's denials, that he sees a lot of himself in this dark, driven, isolated little boy, which also explains his leniency.

I read the series but I didn't connect the dots or place the puzzle pieces in the right spots.

Almost impossible to do with this run just by reading each issue once and filing it away to wait for the next issue in a months time (or 6 month's time, as here!) The long gaps between storylines (or in the middle of storylines) did it no favours while it was being published, but its all out there now...

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

Yay! bats
Philip Portelli said:
Quick responses:
1) He looks like Constatine but not Sting? Is that even possible?

Early on, John Constantine sometimes looked like Billy Idol ... depending on who was drawing him.
Philip Portelli said:
His name is Damian. That's original, but then he can't be "Bob, Son of the Bat!"

What? Why not?
The Baron said:
Philip Portelli said:
His name is Damian. That's original, but then he can't be "Bob, Son of the Bat!"

What? Why not?

Trademark conflict. Bob, Son of the Bat is the team mascot for the Seattle Mariners.
I read 52 #30 last night and will foucus on the Batman scenes.

The cover is awesome. Like St. George, Bruce slays his dragon, the Mantle of the Bat, with the Eye of God/Brother Eye watching him!

Shown one after another, we realize that the Post-Crisis continuity put Batman and his allies through all kinds of Hell, physical, mental and emotional!

The Joker's non-lethal phase reflected the brightness of the Dynamic Duo's adventures, a simpler and happier time, when the crooks were just crooks, not demented fiends. Some see the 50s-60s Batman as a lesser, watered down version but it was and is a valid interpretation of our hero and the times.

One quibble: Dick leaving for college is depicted as a traumatic event, instead of part of his maturation. Unless Bruce thought of it as being abandoned which would be under the heading of "His Problem"!

Dick's reluctance to the idea of taking over as Batman makes sense as he has done all he could to create his own destiny as Nightwing but destiny has its ways.

Bruce in the desert, an act of violent cleansing and frredom from the guilt, paranoia and control issues that have overwhelmed him. We know it won't last but it may strenghten his resolve and ease his pain.

The Ten-Eyed Surgeons of the Empty Quarters are inspired by extremely minor Bat-Villain, the Ten-Eyed Man who fought Batman twice and Man-Bat once in the 70s. He was killed off in the Crisis on Infinite Earths's last issue, a fact I (and probably most) didn't even realize until we read Amazing Heroes's Crisis aftermath book!
Another very perceptive and enlightening reread.

You mentioned in your Ultramarines Corps thread, that that series wasn't really pushed as a prelude to SSoV. The same could be said for how this seemingly unrelated chapter of 52 is a very real prelude to Grant's whole Batman project.

It lays out the themes of dealing with his past and all his traumas (which go beyond just seeing his parents gunned down!) The ten-eyed men appear later. (Fantastic visual - great that Grant rescued them from obscurity.) A lot of his trauma stemmed from letting the controlling, driven, almost superhuman 'Batman' persona overwhelm the human Bruce Wayne, and the flashbacks show this. As you say, the beautiful cover shows Bruce defeating Bats. That's a huge theme of the later comics.

I think this comic was downplayed as a lead-in to a huge Bat-epic because Grant is very aware he is writing in the internet age. To trumpet something as 'important' is to invite very sophisticated and story-savvy readers to dissect and analyse it to the extent that even telling the rest of the story becomes redundant. If I might cite my poor flagellated whipping boy Geoff Johns, everyone knew the White Lantern was going to show at the end of Blackest Night (even me, thanks to the internet, and I have yet to read a page of Blackest Night!) However, I think Grant deliberately wrote towards confounding internet speculation. NO-ONE realised that Batman's troubles going all the way back to #655 stemmed from that scene with Darkseid in Final Crisis, which Grant had shown us over 2 years ago! Maybe he cheated to do that, with ultra-minimal clues, but arguably it was worth it for the effect.

Regarding the scene with Dick leaving for college, even your quibbling is a perceptive reading. The thing about conflicting continuities is that, like schroedingers cat, either version is possible until the story we are reading ties it down. Elegantly, the frame here allows for either interpretation of Dick's leaving. Maybe Bruce is just distraught because of empty nest syndrome and the recognition that even he is subject to time and change? Bruce is only human, after all.

Dick's reluctance to the idea of taking over as Batman makes sense as he has done all he could to create his own destiny as Nightwing but destiny has its ways.

I think this question isn't settled at all yet in the current Bat-storylines. Is Dick a good substitute Batman? Better in some ways? The story is still working that out, and I for one, can't really make up my mind yet. (I need to read Morrison stories about 5 times before I decide what I think about them!)

Just as an aside, maybe this was a particularly strong chapter, but I was impressed all over again with 52, just from this one comic. Those are great, thoughtful scenes between Montoya and Kate Kane, and Montoya and Vic Sage. Those relationships have depth, and Vic's encroaching death gets real respect as a topic. Dick, however, with his chat-up lines to Kate, comes across as a buffoonish Alpha-wannabe. Still good writing, but it doesn't reflect well on Dick. (Sometimes his first name just suits him!)

I'm really looking forward to rereading 52 down the road a little. Once the current Morrison-flurry has passed.
Is Dick a better Batman? Hard to say but he's definitely has a different style as Batman. Given DC's current treatment of Wally West and Kyle Raynor, it may not last long enough to matter.
Batman #663 (Ap'07):

Morrison goes the prose route with this one featuring the Joker. Usually when writers "go novella", the results aren't that good as the subject matter is better visual than verbal. However, when I read it, instead of scanning it, it's true merits emerge.

First my silly trivia: the story is a homage of sorts to the classic O'Neil/Adams Batman #251 (S'73) which returned the Joker to his homicidal roots yet made him more insane than eccentric. That tale, [The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!], also dealt with the Clown Prince of Crime killing off his former henchmen. It reintroduced his Joker-venom and the death-grins. It also informs us that the Joker escaped from the state hospital for the criminally insane, perhaps a precursor to Arkham Asylum. The patron saint of comedians, Saint Genesius, is mentioned in both stories!

Then there are the references to The Killing Joke with the circus freaks the Joker used to torture Commissioner Gordon after he shot and paralized Barbara Gordon.

There's even a mention of Nanda Parbat!

All that aside, it is a gripping tale of the Joker re-inventing,re-imagining himself after the traumatic events of # 655. Confined to a wheelchair, he almost forces himself to be "reborn" after the audacity of (a) Batman daring to try to kill him. That changed all his rules, all his self-perceptions and all his self-deceptions. In order to cope, to move on, he must destroy his past and become worse than he was before, a horrifying evolution.

He has his former henchmen killed off and goes on a rampage at Arkham, nearly killing the person who least expected it. Batman wasn't his target, he needed his straight-man! In the end, the staus quo seems to be maintained but...

As Morrison postulates that ALL of the Batman canon happened to one man, here we see the same theory applied to the Joker. All era Jokers are the same Joker (Golden Age, Silver, Bronze, etc). His origin stays intact and he can be whatever type of villain the times call for. His ability to constantly revamp himself allowed him to escape the campy TV version and become a truly frightening figure. If only one writer controlled the Joker, this could have led to a more unique view of this classic clown but everyone wants to write the "ultimate" Joker epic!
As ever, your re-views are succint and thorough, so I don't have much to add.

Although I've read the Joker's 5-Way Revenge, I'm much more familiar with The Killing Joke, so I originally saw the shoutbacks to Moore's work more clearly. (This story and The Killing Joke are both framed with the imagery of raindrops falling.) Highlighting the connections to the two old stories isn't 'silly trivia' but part of Morrison's whole schematic. These characters 'circle in gyres', coming back to the same point again and again, but changed by having gone around another time.

I loved how we got whole backstories for the pointy-toothed dwarves, even though they were just there for atmospherics in Killing Joke.. The way Morrison tied them into modern celebrity culture gave it a 21st century spin, rather than just being about old comics. A culture that has embraced Marilyn Manson would obviously love the little bald couple!

Reading it this time, I marvelled at how the black and red checkerboard motif worked both within this story as a pointer to the victim, and as part of the broader run. Red and Black, Life and Death, the Joke and the Punchline.

Overuse by all those writers that want to write their own Joker story, has made the Clown Prince familiar and unthreatening, but Morrison has a good go here of making him truly horrific. Morrison used the prose form to give us something that couldn't really be done in comics. We get the Joker's hazy internal madness from his point of view, and as a contrast with the Joker's attempt to communicate with Batman at the end of Killing Joke, here we get the gap between what he wants to say and his inability to speak properly.

(The head wrapped in bandages might be a reference to Nicholson's Joker. Morrison has paid tribute to the 1989 movie before.)

I thought it a pity that DC continued to use the Zoot-suited classic version of the Joker after this in other stories, but it is a bit much to expect other writers to be stuck with Grant's version. At the same time, this is probably one of the best (if not the best) Joker stories of recent times, so we have to shrug our shoulders and be flexible about it. The most recent appearance of the Joker in B&R seems to have reverted to the classic Joker in any case...

These outlandish characters and encounters become more real somehow when written in prose, even if the prose is very stylised. I loved the art here too. Something a bit different.

Finally, the very notion of superhero stories in prose is something that UK readers would have been familiar with, as our Christmas annuals each had at least one. I see this story as a nod to that tradition. Back in 1985, Morrison himself even supplied the text for the 1986 Batman Annual. His style has come a long way since that effort!
Batman #664 (My'07):

Bruce starts his romance with the beautiful, rich, smart and adventurous Jezebel Jet. With a name like that, you know she's not a throwaway character. She has two over-protective bodyguards, Jaburi and Diallo who give off an Ubu-like vibe. Unlike past interpretations, Bruce is considered a dangerous, reckless risk-taker, not a lazy playboy. Something new, I think, is the awareness of the Wayne murders which makes sense. The notoriety would have generated books, true-crime documentaries, perhaps even moreso now than when it happened. It would have followed Bruce, had he stayed in Gotham growing up.

Line of the series, so far: "I got over it!"

Back in Gotham, we see a Luthor reference and more "Zur-En-Arrh" graphiti.

There are more corrupted cops, another recurring theme.

Batman--friendly with the hookers. It gives him a "private eye" aspect and shows his compassion for these "disposable" women.

Is it me or can Deshawn be Penguin-as-a-pimp?

Another Bat-Imposter, this one a hulking, Bane-ish monster who treats hookers like Lennie treated puppies!
BTW, by this time, Bane had become slightly heroic in Secret Six.

Batman thinks about the Black Casebook, at the worst time!

#665 (Ju'07):

Batman gets beaten up badly. For all his dreaded, unstoppable persona, he is still human and gets hurt a lot more than other DC heroes.

He needs one of the hookers to get to safety. He returns to his penthouse, a logical choice, far closer than the Manor.

He has A Christmas Carol nightmare with Damian as Marley with the Three Bat-Imposters, including a third he hasn't encountered yet.

Waking up to a worried Alfred and Robin, he had taken precautions to prevent another Bane attack, an acknowledgement of his vulnerabilty and mortality.

His theory that the second Bat-Imposter had taken Professor Hugo Strange's monster serum (from Batman #1, itself a takeoff from a Doc Savage story!) as well as Bane's venom.

Bruce looks so frail and.....human! No need to be insulting, Saavik-kam!

Bruce discusses the Black Caesbook, which related events that could not be rationally explained. Bruce ponders these three "alternate" versions of himself.

Batman asserts his dominance as a Alpha Male Prime, which is the foundation of all his interpersonal relationships, much to his allies' regret!

Robin gets injured, the second time in Morrison's Bat-work.

The corruption of the GCPD is more widespread than previously thought and even Commisioner Gordon is helpless to stop it.

We then see Talia order that a seriously injured Damian (from the explosion?) to be surgically repaired with new organs. Apparently she has relies on biological replacement instead of the Lazarus Pit!

She is jealous of Bruce and Jezebel, who are being stalked by paparazzi and someone else?

#666 (Jl'07):

Morrison heads for the future with Damian Wayne as Batman. 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?

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!

And another Luthor reference.

Damian battles the third Bat-Imposter who considers himself the Anti-Christ (apropos for #666) and also the Anti-Lennon, complete with followers.

The violence is ultra-high, Damian is the embodiment of the anti-hero with his own corruption for a good cause. The Devil makes no appearance but his prescence is felt as is his father's!

Damian's "Be-Good-Or-Else" philosophy is the extreme offshoot of Batman's protect at all costs mantra.

Obviously, Damian is NOT a throwaway character either!
I read The Joker’s 5-way Revenge this morning. It is indeed a touchstone for The Clown at Midnight. One of the reasons it’s a classic is because it is about the (re)birth of a new Joker, and there is a powerful ritual significance in the fact that during the story, Joker sets out to kill 5 of his ex-henchmen. The reason given in the issue is that he thinks they betrayed him, but nevertheless there is power and significance in the conjunction of rebirth with death and sacrifice.

In The Clown at Midnight, Morrison strips away all the narrative ‘cladding’ of O'Neil's story, and just gives us directly the loaded idea of the Joker sacrificing his former henchmen, and his ‘one true love’ to boot, on the altar of his transcendence/transformation. That’s a more ‘distilled’ version of the kind of thing that makes some superhero stories mythic and resonant.

Just to add to your comments:

#664 Three Ghosts of Batman

Jezebel Jet is a great name, but there's a lot of negative biblical connotations there. Jet=black=bad too. Which is problematic, as the main thing that separates Jet from her predecessors is the fact that she's a black African woman. One who is very politically aware too. What games is Morrison playing with us?



Reading it this time, I wonder if part of Bruce's very public romance with Jezebel is in order to draw Talia into the open?
That conversation with Jezebel is hard to figure out, isn't it? "I got over it" is a funny thing to say. Perhaps someone in real life may have thought they got over it, but would have sublimated their grief and trauma into other behaviour (drug addiction, self-sabotaging etc). Bruce is unusual in dealing with that tragic night so directly every day of his adult life.





Ironically, you seem to be quicker to adapt to the ground rules of this run than I was, Philip. I was like "what's with endangering the lives of hard-working paparazzis?" and "Shouldn't Batman be able to take that big lunk?" 



It’s really hard to figure out what's going on in Bruce's mind during his conversation with Jezebel. In fact he is especially gnomic and mysterious most of the way through to Final Crisis in this run. It’s hard to identify or sympathise with someone so closed up. I think that detracted from a lot of fans' enjoyment of the series. It's one way to tell a Batman story, I suppose.



#665
The Black Casebook

Where the hero isn't giving much away, the reader needs to be quite sensitive and I think you got the whole 'vulnerable and only human' thing quicker than I did. Morrison makes Bruce’s vulnerability more explicit later, so of course it explains the events here too.



However, there is something a bit strange going on in these 2 issues. It might be a bit meta. Batman is fine up against aliens and superpowered baddies, but traditionally he doesn't have much luck against hulking ‘grim n gritty’ type brutes. Bane and the KGBeast are two examples. When Batman stories become about manly men asserting their machismo, Bruce gets a beating, and thus he gets stomped by the 2nd 'Batcop'. (Where the stories involve imagination and general panache, Batman is on safer ground)



The terse tough guy narrative draws attention to the type of story this is. In fact the first time I read this, I thought the guy getting stomped wasn't Batman at all, he seems so different to how Morrison usually portrays the Caped Crusader. These two issues wallow in 'grim and gritty', and perhaps Morrison is commenting on how Batman's life tends to go downhill when his stories are all about street-level threats and criminal hoodlums and strongmen.


I'm also wondering about the Zur-En-Ahrr graffitti. I wonder is it possibly weakening Batman and making him an easier victim of his enemies.

The idea of using his used ‘boardroom shirts’ to apply extra testosterone is fun, and may also allude to grim n gritty's glory days in the mid-eighties when money and power were all.

Since the spectacular financial crashes of the last few years are sometimes put down to the posturing of Alpha males, perhaps Batman should assert his Alpha Prime status sparingly.



The conversation with Gordon is recalled later in Batman #702. Perhaps this portentous conversation is a kind of 'summoning' of the greatest evil – ‘as old as time’.

I'll follow up on your Batman #666 comments later. That's a key issue in the run.

So having reached the end of Batman and Son, how are you going to read The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul? Do you have all the issues? Do you need the running order according to the trade collection? I found it kinda hard to read when I bought the collection, but I'll have to jump in again now. (Keeping up with Batman means I'll be slowing down a bit with JLA, alas...)
I do want to do Club of Heroes first. I don't have the TPBs but I do have the issues. If you can give me those so I can did them all up, that would be great.

It is strange that Batman can defeat FIVE super-powered Martians and everyone says he can take down the entire JLA solo but gets his cowl handed to him by these bruisers. Maybe he's not at his best on his own cases, maybe he pushes himself to another level when he's with the JLA to compensate for his "non-powers" or maybe these monsters are not taken in by his persona and just pound on him!

Morrison seems to portray Bruce as a combination of Richard Branson, George Clooney and Evel Knievel (please tell me you know who that is!) which would help explain his constant injuries. I would even say that, when people get too close to him, they are driven away by his apparent death-wish. Is that planned or is it just the way he is?

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

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