The pop sensational author Grant Morrison is nearing the end of his run on Batman. A writer who created a groundbreaking new kind of experience in comics while paying homage to his childhood fantasies and adult fascinations, Morrison embraced his cult of followers who saw him progress from anti-establishment apocalyptic drama to mainstream superhero comics. His Batman run has been a fusion of the two approaches with an added element of intensity and reinvention.
But it all comes down in just four issues.
Via DC Comics
Little did I suspect when I accepted the BATMAN writing assignment back in 2006 that I’d wind up spending the next six years writing the longest continued comic story I’ve ever attempted. I thought I’d said most of what I had to say about the character with Arkham Asylum, Gothic, and Batman’s appearances in JLA. Clearly, I was wrong.
The original pitch was for 15 issues winding up with BATMAN R.I.P. but something happened along the way and, as I was researching his rich history, I became fascinated by the idea that every Batman story was in some way true and biographical – from the savage, young, pulp-flavored “weird figure of the dark” of his early years, through the smiling, paternal figure of the 1940s and the proto-psychedelic crusader of the ‘50s, the superhero detective of the ‘60s, the hairy-chested globetrotting adventurer of the ‘70s, to the brutally physical vigilante of the ‘80s and snarling, paranoid soldier of the ‘90s.
By taking his entire publishing history as the story of his life, I was able to approach Batman from a different angle and the multifaceted character that was revealed became the subject of my story.
What would such a man be like, realistically? This was a man who had saved countless lives, faced innumerable perils, and even prevented the destruction of the world itself. This was a master of martial arts, meditation, deduction, yoga and big business. This was a man who had tamed and mastered his demons and turned personal tragedy into a relentless humanitarian crusade.
Taking that man seriously meant I had to throw out a few of the accepted ideas about Batman as a semi-unhinged, essentially humorless loner struggling with rage and guilt. The totality of his history and accomplishments made that portrayal seem limited and unconvincing, so instead, my Batman was a true superhero at the height of his powers and the peak of his abilities, surrounded by a network of friends and associates, all of whom had been inspired by his lead.
I chose to build my story around the basic trauma, the murder of his parents, that lies at the heart of Batman’s genesis. It seemed to me there would be a part of Bruce Wayne that resented his parents for leaving him and especially resented his father for not being Batman that night, so the principal villains were an archetypal bad father figure in the form of Dr. Hurt and a dark mother in the form of Talia, our villain for the concluding chapters of the story.
This master theme of damaged and ruined families was nowhere more in evidence than in the creation of Damian, the first “Son of Batman” to be acknowledged in the canon. In many ways this has been Damian’s story as much as it has been the story of Bruce Wayne and it’s a story that had its end planned a long time ago – for what son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?
And so, via Batman, Batman and Robin, Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman Inc. this epic tale has finally reached its finale.
Thanks to all the artists who helped realise the story – Andy Kubert, JH Williams, John Van Fleet, Tony Daniel, Ryan Benjamin, Lee Garbett, Frank Quitely, Philip Tan, Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke, Frazer Irving, Scott Kolins, Chris Sprouse, Ryan Sook, Yanick Paquette, Georges Jeanty, David Finch, Scott Clark and of course, Chris Burnham.
Thanks to the inkers, colorists and letters and to my indefatigable editors.
Thanks to the readers who joined in the fun and contributed to the thought-provoking debates and analyses online.
The conclusion is finally here, with only four more issues to go. Four issues which take Batman to dark places he has never had to visit before. Four issues and I’m done, while Batman himself continues into as yet unimagined future adventures. He’ll still be here long after I’m dead and forgotten; long after all of us have come and gone, there will be Batman. It’s been a joy and a privilege to spend so much time in the company of pop culture’s greatest character but it’s going to feel weird waking up and not having Bruce Wayne’s calm, commanding, ever-so-slightly cynical voice in my head.
Scotland, December 2012