GRANT MORRISON: You Can 'Forget' Happy Ending for Damian
As Grant Morrison finishes up his work on both Batman, Incorporated and Action Comics, he brings to an end two comic book runs that laid the foundation for the heroes of DC's New 52.
With Action Comics, Morrison rebooted what was previously the longest running series in comics while also redefining Superman for a modern world. With his run on Batman, Batman and Robin and Batman, Incorporated, he drew from all the previous portrayals of the character, moving him away from his often gritty, one-dimensional persona to a multi-faceted hero who traveled through time to return from the dead.
And of course, the writer also introduced readers to the newest Robin, Damian Wayne, who last month died within the pages of Morrison's Batman, Inc. #8.
So what's next for the writer after helping establish DC's new approach to Batman and Superman?
Wonder Woman, of course.
Last time we talked to Morrison, he said he was researching "the entire history of female thought, from the days of the Greeks onwards" as he formulated his approach to Wonder Woman, in a yet-unnamed project for DC.
And of course Morrison is also defining all 52 alternate earths of the DCU with Multiversity, an event promised for later this year featuring some of the writer's favorite go-to artists drawing characters and stories from all around the universe. The project will include a Multiversity "guide book," Morrison said, that will include maps and blueprints and stories about all 52 DCU Earths.
In the interview that follows, we talked to Morrison about his current projects, including his last issue of Action Comics (out this week), his next few issues of Batman, Inc. (with his run ending this summer), and his upcoming Wonder Woman.
Grant Morrison: Yeah.
Nrama: Did the plans for his overall story arc change? Or was this pretty much what you were thinking: He died a hero's death.
Morrison: Yeah, I always thought he should go from being a really unpleasant, aristocratic brat to being the son of Batman, to be a great little superhero.
So it made it much more powerful to do it over that length of time. And I'm glad I didn't kill him off.
Nrama: A lot of other writers took the character and played around with different aspects of him by putting him in various situations in the DCU. It seemed like he had a lot of potential.
Morrison: Oh, yeah! I mean, there was lots of things he could have done, and I thought he got a chance to do a lot of them, you know?
Peter Tomasi's stuff was amazing. His last few issues especially. And what he did with the ending was brilliant.
But the effect of that was that he was more and more loved and loved and loved until the very last second when he was impaled.
Nrama: Damian died at the hands of... well, himself. A clone. What were your thoughts behind the choice of who killed him?
Morrison: The basic symbol of this story has been the serpent swallowing his own tail. And it was this idea of family destroying themselves, you know? And watching the kids having to deal with it.
And so because Damian is the child of Batman, Damian is killed by the child of Damian via Batman — this monster that Talia has grown and accelerated and turned into a monstrous warrior.
And so it just seemed right in the story of the serpent eating itself and families destroying themselves to take it from, you know, the little perfect child into this broken Frankenstein child who then destroys him. And obviously, Batman's going to have to deal with this thing.
Nrama: I'm sure you grew close to this character and started to like him early on. Was there ever any consideration of keeping him alive at the end of your Batman run, or was it always his ending no matter what?
Morrison: I've always liked him, even when he was horrible! [Laughs.] So yeah, there were moments, you know? I could have written Batman and Robin a lot longer, and Damian could have had more of a life. I would have taken him up to the age of 14, where then he sells his soul to Dr. Hurt, or to the devil, and I'd play out that story. But you know... it just didn't play that way.
So yeah, he could have done a lot of different things. But ultimately, it had to come to this moment. And that's the moment he came to.
Nrama: With all the escape hatches inherent in any Batman character's death — like Lazarus Pits and cloning — how will you feel if Damian gets brought back in the future?
Morrison: That wouldn't bother me at all, if it was done well and if someone really had a good idea for it.
But I don't imagine that's going to happen for awhile.
It's certainly not going to happen in my story. So all the people that are hoping for a happy ending for Damian can forget it.
But other writers? That kind of thing is beyond my control and beyond the scope of my story. There are always possibilities.
We try to close down a lot of possibilities before I leave. So the idea of Lazarus Pits and things kind of gets raised in the next issue.
Nrama: When you released that statement reflecting on your Batman run, you said that when you approached Batman originally, you were coming at it from the angle of every Batman story being in some way "true and biographical." You took inspiration from all the portrayals of Batman. It seems like you did that somewhat for Superman over the years. Do you think that's the way we should approach these immortal, mythical heroes from comic books?
Morrison: I think it's a good way to approach it, because it gives them more dimensions. And I think one of the things that we did was to reintroduce the color and the camp and the pantomime moments to Batman. A lot of people hated that stuff, but it was all a big part of the appeal of Batman at different times.
I think the wider the spectrum you have, then the more real he becomes.
So by taking all of his publishing history as his life, you actually get a really great character out of it, you know? You can put every Batman — even Adam West — into the life of this guy. And it makes him, for me at least, much more rounded then the kind of slice of character that sometimes gets used, this one-dimension monster.
Batman's been a lot of things, and if you can encompass all those things, I think it's much more true.
And the same goes for Superman. It's a multidimensional look at the way they have been portrayed over decades, and trying to combine them into one thing.
Nrama: Is that going to be your approach to Wonder Woman?
Morrison: Well, Wonder Woman is more... unified, I think. The original idea of Wonder Woman was pretty sound. And I think the other great idea of Wonder Woman was her TV show with Lynda Carter. So I'm going to try to do something that's got all of that.
As I told you, I've been working my way through the entire history of feminism, and I'm doing my research, and I'm talking to everyone, and my wife is leaning over my shoulder. So I really want to make it a particularly good book.
It's different from Superman and Batman, because I think Wonder Woman... there have been different Wonder Womans — you know, the mod, 1960s, Wonder Woman. But we're trying to unify everything into a...
I don't know if I can answer this one, Vaneta. I think this is more like All-Star Superman than how I did Batman, you know?
Nrama: Well, I know this interview is supposed to be about Batman and Superman. But you mentioned that your approach to them was similar, so I was curious...
Morrison: No, no. You just got me thinking, you know? [Laughs.] Because I actually took a really different approach to Wonder Woman than I did with Batman, where I was combining all the ages into one man's life. And I worked it out on a 15-year timescale... when he was 25 and met Talia, and on from there. And I had all that worked out.
But with Wonder Woman, I kind of read a bunch of stories and then ignored them all. This is like a completely new version of Wonder Woman.
Nrama: OK, then maybe we can talk after that's out, about why she gets that unique approach. But getting back to Action Comics, now that you're no longer part of the editorial/creative New 52 team, do you believe in it long-term? Because comic book fans are always looking over their shoulder for what was done to be eventually undone.
Morrison: In terms of Superman?
Nrama: The changes to the whole universe, because Superman was a big part of that, as the first superhero.
Morrison: I think the changes will remain and will be improved upon. For me, who's been around now for three universes, I feel like one of these Monitor characters, who are watching universes rise and fall.
The New 52 feels strange because I was so used to the old 52, or whatever it was [laughs]. But the great thing about it is it belongs to a new generation of creators, and they're building it up brick by brick. It's got a definite feel to it. And I think the changes will stay, because they've become the foundation of something that will seem a lot more substantial given more and more bricks.
That's a terrible metaphor. But I see it as belonging to this next generation of guys, and they're just starting to map it out.
Nrama: It seems like you're backing away from in-continuity stuff. Do you feel like you've laid a foundation with Action Comics, and now you want to just let the younger guys do the heavy lifting?
Morrison: Yeah, there comes a point where suddenly you're Pete Townhsend and you're looking at Johnny Rotten, and it's just... OK, you guys... I just want to see what you do. I don't want to be part of this. I've done my bit. I've built my corner of here. But it's more interesting to see what everybody else does now, and to see where it goes now. And I think that's what makes it fresh.
variant courtesy CBRI want to say, I don't think it's going to go back, because who would want it to? It would be horrible.
A lot of new people came in because of that stuff, and I think they want to see the universe that they grew up with develop.
Nrama: The fact that they're using Multiversity, which you said has blueprints for all 52 Earths, also points toward you laying the foundation for others to then come and build upon. Is that what interests you?
Morrison: Yeah, but if you're contributing to a universe like DC and Marvel, you're handing stuff over. And someday — whether it's not today — some kid will read one of my stories and he'll bring it back in 15 years.
But that's what's exciting about these ongoing universes. You can come in and you can add a little piece of a mosaic, and someone else might do something even bigger and better with it.
You know, Geoff Johns is doing Vibe now. I bet you the guys who came up with Vibe didn't think he would come up again in a story by Geoff Johns. [Laughs.]
Nrama: We talked last month about what this last issue of your Action Comics run was going to be, and you said it's "psychedelic in the literal sense." Can you expand on that?
Morrison: Well, it's Superman of the "impossible."
For me, Batman fights death, and Superman fights the impossible.
I wanted to do something only comics can do, which is the impossible. It wouldn't fit in a movie. You just wouldn't get away with it in TV either.
But in Action Comics, Superman can come to the reader and say, if we all do this one thing, we can kill the devil. And you have to just accept it. And you take sides in it. And it couldn't happen anywhere else. That's why it's psychedelic to me, you know? I want everyone to read it. It's like doing a magic spell, because Superman is up against magic, and the fifth dimension. So that's what it's kind of like, it's that moment when Superman asks us to do the impossible.
Nrama: You've had your hands on Superman for so long, between all these different Superman projects you've done... and I know you told me that this run ended up being longer than you originally intended. Are you going to miss him, now that you're ending it?
Morrison: Yeah, no, no, absolutely. You kind of feel a hole. You know? These guys have a specific energy. You notice them when they're gone.
Nrama: Then as a last question, what are we going to see over the next few months of Batman, Inc.?
Morrison: Batman, Inc. is now the vengeance of Batman. This is what happens when you push him too far. He underestimated Talia, and now Talia has underestimated him.
But yeah, all the Batman, Incorporated characters come into it, and the world is threatened. Everyone's in trouble.
And find out where Batman goes when his son dies. What kind of Batman emerges from that?Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!