Grant Morrison. Just the name conjures up true creativity and unique brilliance. Most of my favorite stories have been written by him, including “All-Star Superman”, “Arkham Asylum”, “WE3”, and his run on “Animal Man.” I could talk for hours about the stellar works in his oeuvre. “Arkham Asylum” was one of the first Batman stories I ever read as a child and it was one of the books that changed my way of thinking and showed my young mind what a great piece of art could accomplish. When I began reading comic books, after a hiatus that went on for too long, he was in the third act of his run on Batman, a character he’s written consistently since 2006. I was told by the owner of my comic shop to get Morrison’s Bat saga in order of release by purchasing the trades and catching up. I would purchase one trade a week along with my new comics. Not too far into my reading, I realized I was consuming one of the greatest Batman stories, nay, one of the greatest stories ever told. Period. This was Morrison’s love letter to my favorite character, one that I believed I knew inside and out. He blew my mind yet again and enlightened me and other readers to who Bruce Wayne really is and what Batman means to the world. Now that it has come to an end with the release of “Batman, Incorporated” number thirteen this week, after almost seven years, a thank you to and appreciation of Morrison and his artfully crafted run on the character of Batman is deserved.
From the very beginning of his story, with the emergence of Bruce Wayne’s son Damian, we knew DC Comics editorial was allowing Morrison the freedom to explore big ideas and take the character of Batman to places he had never been over his long rich history. DC was taking a chance on Morrison and allowing him to do things that other creators would not have the audacity to attempt on the comic page. Because it was Morrison, DC knew the epic saga he had planned would be carried out in a masterly fashion.
The breadth of Morrison’s knowledge of Bat-history and his reverence for it, including the far-out stories from the 1950s and 60s, stood out for me right away. His inclusion of such characters as Bat-Mite, the return of the “Club of Heroes” (a Silver Age era concept of heroes from other nations inspired by Batman, such as Knight and Squire), and the son he had with Talia al Ghul (mentioned briefly in the out-of-continuity book “Batman: Son of the Demon”) were brought into current continuity without ridiculing them. They now belonged and fit perfectly in the Batman mythos of today and that reverence for history is just one part of Morrison’s epic that resonated with me. That he could incorporate (pun intended) every facet, even those long-forgotten, of the Dark Knight’s history into his Bat-chronicle affirms Morrison’s genius and the versatility of Batman.
I was intrigued to see how and why Batman was killed in Morrison’s “Final Crisis” event. To sacrifice himself was appropriate for Bruce and the fact that he fought his way through time to return to our world demonstrated his resilience. He has never given up and uses his surroundings to his advantage. He is not only the greatest detective, but the greatest survivor. In the epic “R.I.P.” storyline, my mind was rocked like an earthquake. I thought “Arkham Asylum” was the most intense and mind-blowing Batman story. Boy, was I wrong. I know that multiple readings over the course of my life will be needed to fully appreciate Morrison’s epic Bat-run, and I look forward to delving into his masterpiece until my dying day.
Morrison also illustrated that life in the shadows could also be fun and exciting for the character and his cohorts. Dick Grayson, the first Robin, became Batman when Bruce died. While Dick was in the costume, he proved worthy of temporarily taking up the mantle of the Bat and Morrison built up the beauty and individuality of not only Dick, but the entire Bat-family. Bruce’s supporting characters are just as powerful and dynamic as Batman himself. The teaming up of Bruce’s first adopted son and his biological son Damian was a joy to behold. Dick’s positive character contrasted with the grim perspective of Damian, demonstrating the dichotomy the characters had as a unit. Morrison created Damian Wayne and wrote his journey, over the past seven years, from an impetuous brat into a hero that deserved to be admired as much as any of Batman’s family. The idea of the Dynamic Duo could never die, no matter who were behind the cowls. Batman and Robin must live, not die. Morrison must also be acknowledged for adding other characters to the Bat-lore. Without Morrison, we’d never get Bat-Cow, who I pray with all my might will continue living in the Bat-Cave to memorialize Damian.
Special mention must also go to the impressive roster of artists who helped express Morrison’s vision. Names such as J.H. Williams III, Frank Quitely, Andy Kubert, Tony Daniel, Philip Tan, J.G. Jones, Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke, Frazer Irving, Yannick Paquette, Chris Sprouse, David Finch, and Chris Burnham all contributed to the brilliance of Morrison’s run on Batman. Without them, Morrison would just have resplendent words on paper. His imagination came alive in unison with the imaginations of this merry band of artistes.
Superman sums up the idea of Batman so succinctly in “The Return of Bruce Wayne” miniseries: “He can survive anywhere. Anytime. Surviving is what he does.” Morrison has shown that Batman will always endure and survive the past, present, and future. He is part of human mythology, someone to look up to and emulate. Someone to love. I was thrilled, baffled, made to ponder many deep concepts, and sometimes moved to tears while Morrison wrote Bruce Wayne. I’ll miss Morrison’s words but I know Batman is perennial and his mission is never-ending. My love for a fictional character is not irrational, and Grant Morrison deserves my appreciation and admiration for demonstrating his love for Batman as well. Although the writer may be finished with his adventure of Batman (for now), we’ll always have his lasting impact on the Bat-mythos. The Bat-Signal shines much brighter because of you, Mr. Morrison. You were, and always will be, correct in your assertion that “Batman and Robin will never die.”