Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Well, its certainly different...

So Grant Morrison recently announced in an interview the direction his Batman run will take following the Return of Bruce Wayne. Batman, Inc. is the new flagship book of the Batfamily where, according to the LA Times Hero Complex blog, “essentially the dark knight of Gotham City drafts, trains and commands a team of heroes who will wear their leader's colors.”

Says Morrison, “The first 12 issues of the book will be team-ups with Batman and different characters as he traveling the world and kind of training people. And at the end we found out what that's all about; it's not just habit or routine. He actually has a big agenda. That leads into where I'm taking this. At the end of the "first season" I want to wind up with a really enormous Batman story. Everything is building up to that kind of climatic arc.”

Now, this sounds like a strange take for a Batman book. Its the kind of thing that would happen in a single issue of a silver age book and never be spoken of again. But that’s been the theme of Morrison’s run, that every Batman story has happened, and putting such a silver age idea in a modern context is perfectly in line for what he’s been doing. Fittingly, as part of this story, the yellow circle is returning to the Bat costume. I personally like the circleless look, but the circle clearly recalls a time when Batman was more of a superhero than a detective or vigilante, which sounds exactly what Morrison is going for.

If it were up to me or Jim, Dick Grayson would stay as Batman and Bruce Wayne would be given a rest for a while, but I wish I had a solid gold toilet too, and that's probably not going to happen either. At least it looks like we’ll at least sort of get Dick as Batman in this direction. However, I’m pretty happy that this is where they're going with the Batbooks. I thought we’d return to the former status quo and maybe just get Damian as Robin with Bruce as Batman. This status quo, at the very least, is different. And that has me excited.

The idea of turning Batman into a franchise across the world could easily go wrong. Yes, this probably isn’t a sustainable status quo, but its something unique for superheroes and its definitely unique for Batman, who too often devolves into an ongoing homage to Frank Miller’s 80’s work. Morrison’s run on Batman has run hot and cold for me, but I can’t deny that I’ve been impressed by his willingness to take such a different approach to the character. Its such an odd approach to the book. I mean, is he just using this to tell a wider variety of stories? Is he trying to do some meta commentary on how comics constantly just slightly alter existing character to create new ones? Is this a bold prediction about how super corporations will absorb us all into a gestalt collective that drives us all in a need to increase their own wealth and expand their corporate brand? Or does he just want to do crazy sci fi silver age batman stories?

I don't know how much I'll like it. I basically hated his run through RIP (excepting JH Williams III's black hand arc) and have loved Batman & Robin/Return of Bruce Wayne. Hopefully this'll keep his winning streak going for me. If anything though, after he leaves the book, a down to earth, crime centric approach to Batman could feel like a refreshing change of pace, and who thought we would ever say that about a Batman book?


  1. Damn you beat me to this one. I feel the same way you do about the idea. It sounds like a train wreck, but it is different and Morrison is taking the character places no one else would. Some of the idea will work and some will fall flat, but we will all be watching and waiting and that is something that has happened for me with the Bat books for years. At times I feel like Morrison is perhaps going to go down as the best comic book writer of all time.

  2. Not to give Morrison too much credit, but the minute he leaves the Bat-verse, this idea falls apart. Guaranteed.

  3. That is one thing that drives me nuts about these heavily creator defined books. Batman, Inc. needs to last as long as Morrison's on it and not a day later. I'm also convinced that the world does not need Batman and Robin to survive his current story arc. Waaay too many Batman books at the moment. I predict a bit of a train wreck period for Batman after Morrison leaves and DC tries to keep all these plates spinning.

  4. Jim-

    Morrison best writer ever? I don't think so. One of the best yes, but best... no. He has always been an idea man with better than average execution skills.

    Very, very good, yes. Best, no.

  5. Lee- I said perhaps, who would you vote for?

  6. There is only one best, Alan Moore.

    Too influential.

    After that...

    Eisner, Ellis, PAD. Morrison is in the discussion but, as stated, there are better.

  7. I disagree regarding Alan Moore. I would make the case that it is Stan Lee.

  8. Stan Lee???? Oh please. A good idea man. A great marketer and shameless self promoter but little else.

    FF was just as much Kirby as Lee.
    Spidey was just as much Ditko as Lee.

    The arguement can be made that both series were more by the artist than the credited writer.

  9. True, but read Ditko and Kirby without Lee and they are not the same. Lee pushed comics away from writing for 8-12 year olds and that ultimately got us to where we are today.

  10. I don't disagree that Lee changed the industry. His influence cannot be understated.

    BUT, that doesn't make him a great writer. It makes him a great idea man... much like Morrison.

  11. Greg-

    Since I'm here let's harp on you too. How is setting up franchises unique to Batman?

    Avengers West Coast (and West Coast Avengers), Teen Titans East & West, JL Antartica, DL Detroit.

    Lots and lots of franchise books.

  12. Those are spin offs. I'm talking about a superhero literally turning his identity into a franchise, or, alternatively, a brand.

    Also, while I think Morrison is unquestionably a great writer, Lee or Moore have been far more influential. Spider-Man has been the template for virtually every superhero since. Watchmen (and to a lesser extent Miracleman) set a tone for superhero books that still exists today and Moore's Swamp Thing essentially created the Vertigo imprint.

    By contrast the only thing I can think of that Morrison did that was widely influential on other comics was what he did on JLA, which influenced the next five years or more of team books. Also, bringing "New" into use for books' titles. Morrison's a great writer, but I don't think he sets the trends of the comic industry.

  13. The question becomes are we talking influence or writing. Influence it has to be Stan Lee. Best all time writer, I might still give the nod to Morrison as he has had more seminal runs on different books then any other writer. Moore would come in second on influence and certainly I'd even give him first since the eighties. Frank Miller can't be discounted in that discussion either since DD is still a Frank Miller book in many ways. Of course we could even say Seigel was the most influential of all time.

  14. If you want influence, there's always Neil Gaiman, Mike Carey, and Jamie Delano to add to Alan Moore, but I'm partial to Vertigo and the non-superhero trend that has developed since the '80s. Of course, that started with Moore and Miller's superhero work in those halcyon days. The creation of Vertigo brought non-superhero books to more of the superhero focused comics world and led to such greats as Scalped.

    All that being said, I think the seminal writers in the history of comics were Siegel, Lee, Moore and Miller. The latter two are better writers, but the former two created two major bench marks in comics history. The former two should also share more credit with the artists who helped create those icons than Moore or Miller, who were more singular in their work on both their own creations and the new directions they took existing characters.

    Finally, to get back to the original question of who's the best writer, I vote for Gaiman for the non-superhero stuff, but he's closely followed by Jason Aaron and Bill Willingham. In the superhero world my vote for best is Robert Kirkman for what he's done with Invincible, Astounding Wolf-man, and what's developing in Haunt. Of course, he's in the tops in the non-superhero area for Walking Dead, too.

  15. I should mention Paul Chadwick's work on Concrete, too. Probably a lot more I've forgotten.

  16. I think influence v. writing are two completely different topics.

    One could argue that Eisner was far more influiential than Lee was. But, it really comes down to Lee, Eisner, and Siegal/Shuster as most influential.

    Your arguement for Morrison basically equates to volume. If I were to compare Moore's top three works to Morrison's top three works, Moore wins easily.

    It's not volume, it's quality.

  17. Not to mention, if the criteria is volume, then I would argue that Peter David is better than Morrison.

  18. Thomm - You still have to name a best, not a list of favorites.

    Lee - I'm not talking volume, I'm talking runs that are events in the life of a book. Morrison has had more of those then any other writer with Doom Patrol, All Star Superman, Batman, X-Men, JLA, Animal Man and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Hell by volume Bendis is cranking out so much crap in the last five years he might win the volume race.

  19. Let's not forget Geoff Johns for volume.

    Since we're limiting it to one person, I'm going with Alan Moore as the best writer. Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Top 10, and Miracleman alone would have to do it, as 3 of those 4 are in my top 5 comics. Frank Miller's a close second with Daredevil, Sin City, 300 and The Dark Knight Returns, but those were all the same sort of tale, really, so Moore wins for a greater variety to the writing, all at high quality.

  20. Let's look at Moore. He was hugely influential in the life of Swamp Thing, Miracleman, and "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" is one of the most revered Superman stories ever. He created John Constantine and his work on Watchmen and V for Vendetta was hugely influential on comics as a whole in the 80's. That's not even counting the quality stuff that's less influential like From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    Morrison is one of the best writers of my lifetime and has undoubtedly had a lot of defining runs on a lot of books, but his influence beyond those books, throughout the industry, hardly has the influence of a Moore, Lee, or Eisner. The closest thing he has had to that is JLA, which sort of predated the whole Widescreen Comics phenomenon, but it was really Ellis' work on the Authority that set that trend off.