Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Grant Morrison’s Batman

26 July 2012 by Nicholas in Comics

There are two main schools of thought about Grant Morrison. I’m firmly in the “Grant Morrison is a genius” camp. And, when it comes to his superhero work, nowhere is this clearer than how he handles Batman.

When Morrison rejuvenated the JLA he did so partially by showing the value of Batman to the team. Initially the sole human on a team with people with the powers of gods, he was the character to work out who their foes were, what their weaknesses were and to defeat them pretty much single handedly. Batman the detective. Batman the genius. Batman the fighter. Batman the man who never, ever, gives up. This is the Batman I recognise: the one who should be redundant in a world of gods yet raises himself up to a point where he is not just their equal but their actual superior. Through sheer force of will.

Years later Morrison took on the Batman ongoing title. Now, over the years, Batman has had some decidedly odd adventures. For a long time he was dreadfully miscast in adventures against comedy aliens and in stories with ridiculous gimmicks. What any sane and normal writer would have done is to ignore these stories completely. Morrison, however, is utterly and completely mad and manages to craft stories that have the reader voluntarily embracing drug logic and hallucination and suspending their disbelief to a point no other writer can manage. He started with some mad ideas and got progressively weirder and stranger, incorporating disparate stories into a rich tapesterial whole.

During his run he showed a Batman who is prepared for everything, even the unthinkable and the very loss of his own sanity (a homage to a dreadful comic from the past and the utterly illogical logical conclusion of Batman’s propensity for planning and preparation). He also showed the value of Batman as an idea and brand, franchising crime fighter using his own animal based totem across cities, countries and continents.

He had Batman die, travel through his own past, appoint his successor and engage with his enemies while challenging his very convictions and presumed history. It’s been a mad ride through crazy worlds navigated with the utmost understanding of the core character and simultaneous disregard for, and reverence of, his rich continuity. He seems to be easing off a little now, having set up a richer status quo that allows for everything that has come before, and is merely content to create brilliant comics full of invention and innovation. And Batmen who are utterly recognisable and distinct as the characters that they should be.