Understanding Grant Morrison… Maybe.

Wow, never thought I would write that sentence on Geek in the City. Seriously, this is the writer I’ve both worshipped and lamented upon for years. This is the writer that pens Arkham Asylum, The Invisibles, but then goes bat-shite insane with Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. His current run on Batman has the fans scratching their heads with a collective WTF. I mean, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Batman fan and historian than your friendly neighborhood Geek. Still, even I find myself flipping through my Bat-Library to look up exactly when the Caped Crusader traveled to another planet, turned into Superman, came back to Earth, and then talked to a pasty version of Mr. Myxylplyx. (You confused? You should be, unless you’re Grant Morrison, Todd Sheets, Jett, or yours truly). Now, I won’t go into Batman’s extremely convoluted 70 years history (made even more so, considering all his pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths past is back…kinda’). Just trust me when I say I know what issues and story arcs Grant pulls all his obscure Batman knowledge for the current R.I.P. story-arc. Now, I think I know why.

He’s flaming Frank Miller.


Didn’t expect that one did you? Neither was I until I re-visited my copy of All-Star Batman and Robin Vol.1. In between moments of Batman running over his girlfriend with the Goddamn Batmobile and backhanding that little punk Robin because he almost killed Green Lantern, it hit me… Grant Morrison totally hates Frank Miller and his R.I.P. story is some meta-literary-wanking flame war. Okay, perhaps I do need to give some back-story.

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Frank Miller used to write some of the greatest comics in the world, ever. He gave us Martha Washington and Sin City. He gave Batman a much-needed shot in the arm and was the natural progression from Denny O’Neill’s darker Dark Knight. His ability to reduce characters to their most basic level, Miller gave comic book readers raw and unfiltered stories. These were hard-boiled tales for hard times. Now? Well, something happened to Frank Miller. He seems to all but hate both the characters and the readers that provided him with his lifestyle. Frank Miller transformed into the literary version of another Miller, “comedian” Dennis Miller. A mere fragment of his talented past, now writing like a child that hides from his own shadow. You can argue that Frank simply grew up and his modern work reflects that, but you’d be wrong. Besides, can you honestly tell me his run on All-Star Batman and Robin is in anyway as good or better than Year One?

Seriously, the same guy that sent Martha Washington to war is the same writer that calls you a retard for reading the Goddamn Batman.

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Anyway, I don’t want this to turn into a rant against Frank Miller. I’ve done enough of that in the past. This is all about my attempt to understand Grant Morrison’s run on Batman and the R.I.P. story arc.

Although, to continue, I’ll need to dig into Miller just a little bit more. In the pages of All-Star Batman and Robin (henceforth known as ASSBar), Miller has all but removed the character of Bruce Wayne. His Batman is all id, with little to no outside influence or control. Even when he “accepts” a ward and partner in Dick Grayson / Robin. (He actually just kidnaps the little punk; mere minutes after young Grayson watched his parents take a couple of bullets in the head). Frank Miller’s modern Batman is a Batman without a soul or a care for his fellow humans.

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I’m pretty certain Grant Morrison hates that world.

Since taking over the writing duties on Batman, Morrison’s been running hard on the remembrance train. He brought Bruce and Talia’s son back into continuity. (Okay, not just like Son of the Demon, but still). He brought back the Batmen of the World and the Detective Club. He resurrected Aunt Agatha and Kathy Kane (one more literally than the other). Joe Chill received a mention, if only in a dream, he’s still there. Hell, Grant Morrison turned Bat-Mite into a central plot-point for heaven’s sake! In short, that mad Scotsman brought back everything Frank Miller hates about Batman. He brought back all the weird and, dare I say it, “comic” elements of the Dark Knight.

Grant backs my fanboy rambling with a single line from Batman #678“The Batman of Zur En Arrh is who you get when you remove Bruce Wayne.” Right then and there, Grant drops a flame on Frank Miller. The Batman of Zur En Arrh is mean, nasty, dirty, violent, and Bat-Shite insane. (Though he does have Bit-Mate, talking Gargoyles, and the Bat-Radia to help him out). Morrison’s ongoing run on Batman is his attempt to bring back the status quo he loved as a youth. A Batman that worked at night, but also knew the day is bright. A Batman that loves his city of Gotham. True, the city took his family, but it is a Gotham worth fighting for. Hell, even Nolan’s grim version of Batman in The Dark Knight understands why Batman fights. Frank Miller? Nope, he just likes to kick cops in the junk and hump it out with Black Canary under their capes. You know, the same thing a 13-year old boy would do if he had superpowers.

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All this Black Glove stuff. Bruce Wayne finding love. Bat-Mite giving Batman advice. The Club of Villains wrecking havoc. All of it reads like Morrison’s attempt to bring back the Batman he loved as a child. I fought it for a while. I felt like Morrison was betraying all that I loved about the Dark Knight. I’ll admit it now. I was wrong. More factually, I didn’t see Morrison’s bigger picture. He’s doing what every Batman fan wants to do, he’s putting his own mark on a bigger myth. Dammit, I’m having fun watching his journey. I’ll stick along for the ride.

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Besides, if it all tanks when the dust settles, that is fine… Denny O’Neill comes back for two issues. He saved Batman in the 70s… He can save him again 30 years later.