TR Interview: Grant Morrison

By Rob Bricken in Comics
Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm
Tuesday before last, poor Grant Morrison was forced spend an afternoon talking to nerds about Batman -- specifically, his current hit Batman and Robin and upcoming Return of Bruce Wayne comics. Sites like Comics Alliance, io9, and others had an opportunity to interview Morrison, and for some reason, I did too. I actually own more Grant Morrison-written comics than any other non-Japanese author (Doom Patrol, Marvel Boy, All-Star Superman), so I was pretty excited -- plus, I've actually been reading Batman and Robin, so I had real questions and everything! Read on to learn how Damian Wayne almost died, how Bruce Wayne almost did a stint as a gladiator, and what his plans are beyond Bruce Wayne's Return.


Rob: You made Damian canon in Batman and Son, which is probably the biggest shake-up the Batman mythos has had since the introduction of Robin. What was the appeal of Bruce Wayne having an actual child as opposed to Robin?

Grant Morrison: I guess I always liked those old "Bat-Boy" stories where you would see another kid coming in and taking Robin's place and Robin would sob in the background, that kind of thing. I wanted to do that story where suddenly Robin was confronted with a very real threat to what he was. So it was the idea of taking the various kind of versions of Batman's child that we'd seen before, and doing a new one, a real one.

There had obviously been characters like that [...] Son of the Bat from Kingdom Come, and you know there was the Son of the Demon storyline, which showed Batman and Talia having a baby, but was kind of taken out of canon. I based my version on a completely misremembered sequence in that book, so it ended up being completely different, and then Damian became his own character.

But yeah, to try and actually do something with Batman that felt significant, as you say, and I found that we were able to give him a son and that doesn't really mess up his mythology too much; it seemed like something Batman could have done and still stay true to the integrity of the character. I was quite surprised it worked, because we planned to kill Damian off in the first four issues, and then he seemed too full of potential.

Did you know you'd end up doing RIP and Batman and Robin and that he'd be working as Robin to Dick Grayson's Batman even then?

I knew I'd be doing RIP, but I kind of figured that was the end of the line for my story, and then the idea for Batman and Robin came along and the team just seemed such a great dynamic that I had to keep on with it. So no, it wasn't planned. As I mentioned, we originally intended to kill Damian and do a poignant four-part storyline where he starts out as a really bad kid and ends up as a good kid but dies tragically. Then I realized it was a waste of a good character. I think it was a good idea that we didn't kill him because he's become very popular.
It's a nice shake up to have a fun Batman and a brooding Robin.

Yeah, it was fun to reverse the whole dynamic and have this little scowling angry kid.

You've incorporated Silver Age craziness into modern comics better than anyone, especially in your Batman comics. Is this out love or just to reconcile these stories that writers and fans have tried to ignore for so long?

It was more the latter. I wasn't a Silver Age fan. I grew up in the seventies, so my Batman was kind of dark, '70s, Neal Adams/Denny O'Neil Batman.

When they gave me the Batman job, I decided to treat old Batman's history as the life of one man, the biography of one guy. Suddenly that gave me lots of new stuff to play with, because I figured, okay, when he was 24 or 25, Batman was Adam West, and he was in a Gotham City that was a lot more colorful, and the villains weren't killing people. The Joker was just a crazy clown. Then two years later, suddenly Robin has left the nest and Batman is on his own, and the Joker has become homicidal again. So it was kind of squashing all those years of Batman together, as maybe fifteen years in one guy's life.

As you say, then I had to reconcile some of the really stranger elements of his history, like the 1950s sci-fi type stories, where Batman would be up against aliens, and all kinds of ridiculous things that didn't really suit the guy but were very popular at the time. So because no one had looked at that era before, because it really didn't seem to suit the general tone of Batman, and they missed a lot of really good material that was lying about to be developed and turned into new stories. All you had to do was take some of those old, crazy concepts and expose them to the kind of modern, more believable light of logic that the Batman stories have, and suddenly you get something quite different.

Is there any Silver Age story or concept that you love but is too insane even you couldn't make it work?

No, I think any of them can be made to work. But yeah, there were some really weird ones, obviously -- Zebra Batman, and Batman being turned into a two-dimensional paper version of himself. A lot of those I just kind of assumed were drug trips after he'd had one too many lungfuls of Joker gas.

Did you choose the title Batman and Robin to redeem it from the taint of the movie? Or was that just a side benefit?

I'd like to say that was true, yeah. I hope that's what happens. But it wasn't even my idea. The whole concept came off kind of suddenly and we wanted to make it a new book, and there has actually never been a comic titled Batman and Robin before.

Even that terrible movie... I mean it's pretty shocking, but the colors in it are great, the whole four-color sensibility of it... if only it had been a better movie. So yeah, we took some of the elements of that, the psychedelia, and looking back at old '50s covers, where they used very bright, primary colors and backgrounds, and it was so unlike modern Batman, which was all very dark and brooding. So again, all of that gave us a new kind of way into the comic, and it made it very bright and colorful, and gave it a kind of carnival atmosphere, which I think suited the creepy carnival atmosphere of the stories inside.

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