?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.
BATMAN & ROBIN
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.
RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE
Does Return of Bruce Wayne only happen in the area that becomes Gotham City? Does that Gotham has a pirate period and a Western period?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, it’s got a pirate period and a Western period. You’ll see how that works — the Western one has Jonah Hex in Gotham, but we also get to see a bit outside Gotham as well, just to see a little bit more against a Western backdrop. But yeah, all of these things tie together, and Batman leaves messages to himself through time to try and remind himself who he is, because he’s an amnesiac at this point.
Were they any other time periods considered? Did you think about going international? Maybe Samurai Batman? Centurion Batman?
Oh I did. I’d actually written an issue that was about Gladiator Batman, and had him running across the forum in Rome in A.D. 40 or something. But then I realized it didn’t quite work, and the way the story was going it had to take place around the entire locale that Batman’s famous for, so it was a cave, and the future site of Wayne Manor, and the three islands that would become Gotham. I decided that every moment of his time journey should be in that area, and it made the story work better, to tie into his history and into the history of other characters from Gotham. But yeah, it was a bit of a let-down to lose the Gladiator and Medieval Knight Batman.
?Regarding the first cover, where does Bruce Wayne find a bat that large to wear?
That’s a major plot element that I can’t tell you about right now.
So he didn’t just get lucky and find one, then.
[Laughs] Of course not. This is serious, this is realism.
Serious caveman Batman action.
As soon as Andy [Kubert] drew that thing – because that wasn’t in the original brief – Andy drew this beautiful image of Batman with a giant bat on his head, and I thought well I have to now explain the goddamn giant bat. But I actually turned it into a really good part of the plot. I did a nice little twist. It kind of takes Batman to a particular limit that’s never been seen before. So yeah, the monster bat does actually get an explanation.
When Batman is a private detective in issue #5, is he in ’40s or ’50s Gotham?
It’s a kind of mash-up. It’s that old-time Batman, but it’s noir-ish, but you know it’s obviously in the real world that could only be 20 years ago, but it looks old-fashioned. It’s got a kind of old-time gangster movie style. So yeah, it’s the Gotham of his parents’ time.
Well, he’s going to be very chronologically close to his parents’ murder. Will he consider trying to save them?
Well, he still has amnesia so he doesn’t remember. By the time we see him piecing all that together, it might be too late. But we get to see some of the Wayne scandal that appears in Batman RIP where they try to smear Thomas Wayne and his wife as drug addicts and perverts, and we actually get to see that period and the Black Glove of that time. So it ties into everything.
You’ve discussed that you have a five-part “definitive” Batman series which includes Batman and Son, The Black Glove, RIP, Batman and Robin, and a fifth series. So what’s the fifth series going to be?
I just can’t tell you about it. I know what it is, and it’s kind of a big culmination of everything. After the return, you know Batman is coming back, obviously, and there’s a completely new status quo after that. So we’ll be building off of that to do something a bit different with Batman. But yeah, I’ve got it worked out to the very end, but it’s another two years’ worth of stories for me.
Do you have anything after that, or are you going to be done with Batman for a while?
I think by the time I get to the end of that, I’ve said everything. I’ve touched on the character and what he means to me in every possible way that I can. So after that I don’t have any plans, but you never know in the future.
What do you consider your “definitive” Batman? Is it what you were talking about before, the entirety of his career, and the TV show and everything, as one life?
Yeah, I felt that was the only way for me personally to do it. And it also gave me a lot of nuances for the character, because the idea that it could be a young man, and that young man is represented by the 1939 Batman, and he’s a bit crazy, but that’s also the same Batman from Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin, that crazy, young, laughing, lunatic Batman. So I kind of tried to fuse them all together, because I love all of them. I love the Bill Finger Batman, I love the Frank Miller Batman, the Neil Adams Batman. This story was my way of trying to tell every possible story, and every angle, and every possible place Batman could be taken to, in one big epic.