The Legacy of the Bat

<p>It’s been a few years since Grant Morrison spearheaded the adventures of DC’s caped crusader, but now, Morrison is returning to Batman in a new iteration of <i>Batman: Black & White</i>, which he promises will feature “unusual versions of Batman.” <p>But this won’t be the first time Morrison has gone out on a few limbs with the Dark Knight. Over the years that Morrison shepherded the franchise, he added numerous aspects to the character’s make-up, some of which were big departures from the way Batman had been portrayed in the years leading up to his run. <p>So, with <i>Batman: Black & White</i> on the horizon, we thought it high time we revisited some of Morrison’s Batman legacy. Here are ten things Grant Morrison added to the Batman mythos.

Bruce Wayne, Social Crusader

For decades, the public face of Bruce Wayne was "disinterested fop" - A persona so unlike the serious, sincere Batman that no-one would ever connect the two, no matter how many philanthropic causes that the Wayne Foundation put money towards. Now, thanks to Bruce Wayne's public sponsorship of Batman, Inc. - and the reasons he gave for funding the organization when it launched - that idea of Wayne is no more, at least until a future writer comes up with a convincing way to put that particular genie back in the bottle. For now, however, the citizens of Gotham have an idea of just how concerned, and involved, Wayne really is in what happens in their city.


By resurrecting the silver age concept of the "International Club of Heroes" - Superheroes inspired to fight crime by Batman - and transforming it into the more organized, more directed Batman, Inc., Morrison not only created a superhero community removed from the more familiar, more insular American characters that we read about on a regular basis, but placed Batman right at the center of it. Within the pre-<em>Flashpoint</em> DCU, that may not have seemed like such a big deal - That world was lousy with superheroes, after all - but in the New 52, it's far more of a rarity. <p>With the first superheroes having only appeared five years ago, the idea that Batman could have inspired multiple heroes all around the world to take up their own crime fighting personas in such a short time demonstrates just how well-known - and well-respected - he is in the current DC Universe. No more is he the shadowy urban myth of old, clearly.


Let's face it: If someone had told you a couple of years ago that Batman would not only have a Bat-Hound but also a Bat-Cow and a Bat-Kitten in the New 52, you'd probably have laughed in their obviously silver age-loving faces. And yet, by the end of <em>Batman Incorporated</em>, that's exactly the case. <p>Bat-Cow, famously, appeared in the first issue of the second volume of <em>Batman, Incorporated</em>, and gets his own solo strip in next month's <em>Batman, Incorporated</em> special. The kitten was a gift from Alfred to Damien in <em>Batman, Incorporated</em> v. 2 #6, and even thought Titus, the modern Bat-Hound comes from Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason's <em>Batman and Robin</em> instead of Morrison's run, he clearly fits in. Time for a <em>Legion of Bat-Pets</em> one-shot, perhaps?

Who is? What is? SPYRAL

The mysterious organization at the heart of <em>Batman, Incorporated</em> - headed, at least initially, by Otto Netz - Spyral ends the series almost as much an unknown as it was introduced. We know, at least, that it used to be a United Nations-sanctioned spy agency, before falling into seeming disrepair… but we <em>also</em> know, thanks to a certain someone in <em>Batman, Incorporated</em> v. 2 #12, that it's still a "higher power" that considers its expertise taking care of "international super-criminals." <p>Whatever Spyral is, it's an organization that has continually confused and outthought Batman, managing to place multiple agents in his own organization without his being aware. Things have changed somewhat with Dick Grayson now acting as an agent of Spyral, yet aspects of the organization remain as mysterious as ever. Never mind the Justice League or even Amanda Waller's A.R.G.U.S.: Is Spyral the true face of power in today's DCU?

That Other Batwoman

And while we're talking about Spyral, let's take a moment to consider the fact that, thanks to <em>Batman, Incorprorated</em>, the original Kate Kane - Sorry, <em>Kathy</em> Kane, former love of Batman and the first Batwoman - is firmly back in continuity (or, at least, as much in continuity as anything in <em>Batman, Incorporated</em>, a series that has played fast and loose with New 52 continuity throughout its run. I see you, Metamorpho). <p>Quite what this means for the greater New 52 remains to be seen. Does the Kate Kane that stars in <em>Batwoman</em> every month know about the predecessor that shares both of her names? In the compressed timeline of the New 52, how long was the original Batwoman even active in Gotham? Will anyone ever mention this Kathy Kane ever again, or will it just be quietly agreed that we should blame Superboy Prime punching reality walls in a different reality altogether because, otherwise, it just gets really weird?

The Sons of Batman

Perhaps the most famous legacy Morrison will leave Batman is Damian Wayne, the late, lamented Robin who added much more than many expected to the series, and to the Batman mythos as a whole. Damian, however, was far from the only son of Batman in Morrison's run: He was, after all, killed by his own clone brother, who had been created to take over as Batman following Bruce Wayne's death. <p>The idea of "Batman's sons" ran through Morrison's run in its entirety, from his first storyline - with Damian and Tim Drake fighting over the right to consider themselves Bruce Wayne's son - through Dick Grayson's time as surrogate son continuing the family business, all the way to the last page of the final issue. Many people had previously talked about Batman surrounding himself with a "Bat-Family," but Morrison took that metaphor and made it literal in a way that seemed ridiculous at first, and entirely natural by the time he was done.

The Wayne Lineage

Another long-running theme that Morrison played with was the recurring nature of bat iconography throughout the Wayne family history. In the past, it's been played off as either a grander destiny or simply coincidence, but thanks to the <em>Return of Bruce Wayne</em> mini-series, Morrison made it into more than that: Bruce Wayne was, himself, responsible for its reoccurrence throughout history, as he jumped throughout time pursued by a demon created solely for him alone. <p>Beyond explaining away many coincidences and tying up narrative loose ends, this conceit also resulted in the idea of a corrupted Wayne line thanks to the Darkseid-created demon - Something that not only has Morrison played with, but also fed into Scott Snyder's Court of Owls storyline in a tangential manner. Gotham, it seems, may be corrupted for a reason… and that reason may be Batman himself.

Batman as Immortal Icon

One of the primary themes of Morrison's run across all of the titles was of Batman as an undefeatable idea; as exclaimed at the start of "Batman RIP," "Batman and Robin will <em>never</em> die!" It wasn't that the actual people in those personas couldn't die - Morrison fake-killed Bruce Wayne and really-killed Damian to prove that - but that someone, somewhere, would take up the names and costumes after them to keep that particular dream alive, as Dick Grayson's stint as the Dark Knight and the very idea of "Batman, Incorporated" illustrated. <p>As Morrison writes in the final issue, "Batman always comes back, bigger and better, shiny and new. Batman never dies. it never ends. It probably never will."

Batman as Super-Hero

An idea that Morrison brought back during his run - and it was a particularly welcome return, in my opinion - was of Batman as a <em>super-hero</em>. Morrison's Batman dealt with things on a scale that the character had pretty much successfully avoided for decades up until that point, for the most part. Multi-dimensional alien sprites! New God invasions! Traveling through time! <em>Surviving death itself</em>! <p>After years as a character that seemed, at times, embarrassed about his past and origins, Morrison returned Batman to a character who could (and did) stand side-by-side with Superman, the Justice League and the stranger parts of the DC Universe without embarrassment or apology. In the process, he opened up countless possibilities for Batman stories that had seemed impossible - or, at best, extremely unlikely - just a short time before.

Batman as Human

There's a glimpse of this in the final issue, with Wayne saying that "There are people whose hurt feelings can trigger <em>wars</em>. People whose <em>broken hearts</em> become <em>grand opera</em>, on an international stage." At the heart of all the sturm-und-drang of the Leviathan storyline, Morrison is pointing out, are two people with a particularly bad relationship whose actions take things way further than the real world tends to allow. For all Morrison's rebuilding of Batman as super-hero and immortal icon, the most valuable gift the writer gave the character may have been on a more personal level. Morrison's Batman storyline, especially in its second half, was an emotional story for a traditionally unemotional character. Throughout the Morrison years, Batman grew into the role of father, and realized that he didn't have to work alone - The traditional Batman default position - in order to get the job done. This was, at least for awhile, a kinder, gentler, more <em>human</em> Batman than we're used to seeing. If we get more Batman with a heart as a result of all of Morrison's work, then we'll all be better off as a result.

10 Things GRANT MORRISON Added to the BATMAN Mythos

Date: 31 July 2013 Time: 09:00 PM ET