BAT-Breakdown 2: MORRISON on BATMAN INC. & Bruce's Return
Grant Morrison on BATMAN, INC.
Over the last four years, Grant Morrison has taken Bruce Wayne and the entire Batman universe through several upheavals and a series of epic stories.
With this month's conclusion to Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, the writer moves the caped crusader into a new era. Beginning in November, the DC universe will have two Batmen, and Bruce Wayne will start recruiting even more heroes around the world to wear the symbol of the bat.
This month's "The Road Home" event will see several heroes reacting to Bruce's homecoming, and Morrison will introduce the hero's new status quo in the one-shot Batman: The Return #1 with art by David Finch.
As the universe adjusts to two Batmen, Bruce Wayne will wear the yellow oval symbol of Batman, appearing in both Batman Inc. by Morrison and Yanick Paquette, and The Dark Knight by writer/artist David Finch.
In the meantime, Dick Grayson will wear the black Batman symbol and will stay in Gotham City with Damian Wayne as Robin. This "other" Batman will star in Batman & Robin by Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason, Detective Comics by Scott Snyder and Jock, and Batman by writer/artist Tony Daniel.
Morrison's brand new comic will see Bruce Wayne traveling the world, teaming up with heroes in different countries as he tries to recruit them to be part of an international Batman network.
Why is Bruce trying to recruit an international team? Well, according to Morrison, Bruce has his reasons, although the writer's not revealing all of them up front. But he promises the answers will come later, followed by an epic storyline during the second year of Batman Inc. that reunites the two Batmen and puts all Bruce's plans into action.
As we continue our "BAT-Breakdown" series looking at the changes coming in November, Newsarama talked with Morrison to find out more about Batman: The Return and Batman Inc.
Grant Morrison: Yeah, I hope so!
Nrama: There have been so many twists and turns in the Batman universe since you started. Did you have a lot of this planned all along, or has it evolved as you've been writing it?
Morrison: It's evolved quite a bit, but the actual main set-up of the story — the whole thing that became Batman R.I.P. and the battle with Dr. Hurt — goes right back to the very first notebooks in 2005 when I was offered the Batman gig. So yeah, there was always an element of it that was going to be the main spine of the story.
But certainly, as it's gone on, it's grown on its own and gone in a lot of different directions, which is quite nice. It's good when a story starts to move in a way you didn't expect it to move.
The basic thread is still there. And even the fact that what I'm aiming toward now was always implicit in the beginning. The route along the way has been quite twisty and turny and a lot of fun.
Nrama: We've seen quite a few characters evolve, and one that has been the most noticeable is Damian. What were your ideas behind the character when you first introduced him, and was it always your intent that he'd be the type of hero he is today?
Morrison: No, when I first introduced him, I figured I was going to kill him off at the end of that first four-part story.
Morrison: Yeah! Really! I thought people would hate him so much. I thought I'd do one of those classic stories where the little bad guy in the last act suddenly does a wonderful thing and sacrifices his life and saves the world and you feel sorry for him. But then I thought, no, this character has a lot more potential.
Once I'd written the first part of the original "Batman and Son" story, where Damian's in the cave and he's such a brat and he's so unpleasant to everyone, and the fact that Batman had this boy with such hatred, gave me this feeling that I thought, "I'm going to make everyone love this character, because I think there's some big potential here."
It's really worked out. He's really become quite a breakout character from the series. As I said at the start of Batman & Robin, I think he's almost got the potential to be the Wolverine of Batman. You know... he's got that little feisty, tough guy, scrapper thing going on, but in a very different way, obviously. He's an aristocrat and an assassin.
But yeah, once I realized that I was going to keep the kid alive, it was always my intention to put him through a big, big story arc that would end up with him being one of the great heroes of the DC Universe.
Nrama: What's coming up for Damian next? You say he'll end up as one of the great heroes of the DCU, but do you think he's there? Or is it your intent for him to become that later in your run on Batman?
Morrison: Aaaah... well, that would be giving an awful lot away about where I'm going next. Obviously, Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason are telling the stories of Dick and Damian for the foreseeable future, so I'm kind of letting them go as of Batman & Robin #16. But he obviously gets a big part in that book, and I'll hopefully leave him in a position where he'll be able to go on and fulfill his destiny.
Beyond that, after the first year of Batman Inc., my next big storyline is going to go back to focus on Damian a little bit.
So yeah, I do have big plans for Damian in the future. But I can't tell you what they are! [laughs]
Nrama: I think most fans thought Dick Grayson was ready to be Batman, but we've seen his character evolve quite a bit as well. You've certainly written Dick in a way that has made readers accept and even like him as Batman. But how would you define his evolution in this story?
Morrison: Well, the thing with Dick that's been interesting is that his story arc is a lot quieter. People are really focused on Damian, because it's easier to track the differences in him. But with Dick Grayson, the way I've been playing him is that he's the consummate superhero. You know? He's the guy who's always been a superhero and he always will be a superhero and he does it really well.
So I show him in that way. But I think what's interesting is the way he deals with Damian and the way that's helped him to define his role as Batman. You know, Bruce Wayne dealt with Damian in a very strict, parental way. And Dick Grayson tried that in the first couple issues of Batman & Robin and it didn't work very well. So what he's done is very gently guided this kid. If you look at it, it's very subtle, the way he works with him.
Grayson got over his problems quite quickly, I think, because once he had his own Robin, he was forced to be Batman. You know? He no longer had someone to look up to. He was the one being looked up to. So I think he slipped into his role quite well.
Nrama: Is that why he's staying on as Batman even after Bruce returns?
Morrison: Yeah. You don't want him to lose that role when Bruce comes back. It seems such a shame to drop the Dick and Damian team, which works so well as Batman and Robin.
So we're letting him stay as Batman because I think he's earned it, and he does it really well.
Nrama: You've put Bruce Wayne's character through so much over the last couple years. And you've said that you put him in a time travel story to kind of throw him into something different. But I'd like to hear your thoughts on what's changed within him that is leading him to this very different approach to his role, traveling the world and recruiting people into Batman Inc.
Morrison: Well, his character has been taken to his limits, obviously. And that's what I wanted to do with Batman. You've got a character who's so powerful, you know? And I'm also writing Batman in his prime, at his peak, rather than at the beginning of his life or at the end of his career.
You kind of have to deal with the fact that, here's a man who knows every martial art, who studied every book on law and criminology, who knows all about meditation. That's a hell of a human being, you know? He's not just a street brawler or a playboy who's pretending. He's someone who has really made himself superhuman. I was getting into that idea.
And once you've accepted that, you're really dealing with someone who's built in a different way than the rest of us. So I wanted to put him up against problems that he couldn't solve quite as easily as he did in the past. We've seen him fight muggers or street criminals, or people like Ra's Al Ghul of international terror, or supervillains.
But to see him up against situations where he really has to struggle... you know, like time travel stories or supernatural stories. I think it really forces him into displaying his best qualities.
Nrama: Grant, when I was looking over your run, I noticed that you've emphasized how unique Batman is, with the Three Ghosts of Batman and the clones created by Darkseid. You've made the point that you can't duplicate the things that make Bruce Wayne this incredibly powerful superhero called Batman.
Morrison: Yeah, yeah.
Nrama: But how do you get from this theme of Batman being something you can't duplicate, to the concept of Bruce Wayne wanting to duplicate his efforts around the world in Batman Inc.?
Morrison: What he's trying to do now, he's realized his vulnerability, and also — as the result of Return of Bruce Wayne #6 and what happens in there — he's also realized that he is kind of a living symbol. He's almost a New God himself, in the sense that Batman is bigger than Bruce.
Yes, no one else can be that man. But he's realized that other people can represent Batman.
And then he's come back and seen that Dick and Damian have managed to keep Gotham intact while he's been gone. And suddenly it's the idea of this symbol. That's what drives him toward Batman Inc.
Nrama: By symbol, I assume you mean not only the yellow symbol he's wearing, but also the symbol of Batman himself and what he represents?
Morrison: Yeah, I was looking back at the old Tim Burton Batman movie in 1989, and the way they played that symbol, it was such a major merchandising tool. So I wanted to do something that represented that, or echoed that.
So Batman Inc. is the notion of Batman taking the symbol and saying, let's form an international army or team, or police force, which is endorsed by Batman and wears Batman's symbol.
It's not that they all dress like Batman or look like Batman, although some of them might do it, but they all wear the symbol. And it's almost like a badge, like the Red Cross or the police or the army.
And that's what he's doing now. And the reason why he's doing it will be revealed at the end of the first season. Right now, we just see him kind of stamping his mark on things.
Nrama: What's going to happen when Bruce Wayne himself — not just Batman — but Bruce Wayne returns to the world? What are the ramifications of his homecoming? And how is he involved in Batman Inc.?
Morrison: He takes a much more proactive role in the idea of Batman, as you'll see in Batman: The Return. He's much more dialed up in the mix, I guess — a lot more. Bruce's voice is louder in the Batman concept than it may have been in the past.
He's come to understand who he is. He's not just a shell of a man. He's not just a mask or a face. He's realized that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same. So now he's allowing Bruce Wayne's business expertise to influence Batman's crime-fighting work.
He takes a much bigger role.
You'll see Bruce Wayne as almost a Tony Stark figure, using his money in a very different way.
Nrama: So will his money be involved in Batman Inc. in a big way?
Morrison: Oh yeah. Definitely. And WayneTech will be providing a lot of new equipment for the Batman operation.
Nrama: You've talked about Bruce's team-ups as he recruits new members to Batman Inc. around the world. We've seen you play with this idea of an international team before in your Club of Heroes stories and even the more recent stuff you've been doing. Who are some of the first international heroes we'll be seeing during Batman Inc.?
Morrison: Well, the first one is set in Japan, and we're introducing this idea of a Japanese Batman. The idea came from Bat-Manga book that Chip Kidd did — you know, the Japanese Batman strips. And I wanted to bring that in, in the same way I've brought all these other elements in from Batman's history into the one, unfolding storyline. I kind of wanted to incorporate some of that Japanese Batman manga stuff. So this is kind of the story of that Batman, as he's recruited and begins his work.
And we've got Catwoman in there as a guest star. It's a big kick-off for how the concept works with Batman traveling around the world to different destinations and recruiting people.
Nrama: Will we see the Japanese heroes of the Super Young Team you introduced in 52?
Morrison: We see a little bit of them, actually, in the second part of this story. But they're not a big part of the story. They're just there in the background. We actually have a new Japanese crimefighter called Mr. Unknown, who's involved in this one.
The second storyline... and this is because Yanick Paquette is drawing this stuff, and he draws these fabulous macho men and beautiful women. So the second story is set in Argentina, and it brings back the Batman of Argentina from the Club of Heroes story, a guy called El Gaucho.
It's kind of a big old macho man story, you know, with these two guys. Maybe Gaucho doesn't want to wear the bat-symbol. He's happy to be influenced, but he doesn't want to be taken under the wing. It's just a nice macho man story set in Argentina with a bunch of new villains, and I guess influenced by the old Kathy Kane Batwoman in a flashback.
Nrama: You mentioned new villains, but will we see any established Batman villains in Batman Inc.? Or are you mostly creating new ones?
Morrison: I'm trying to make up new villains, mostly. I think that's what we should be doing right now. I'm sure some of the other writers will tackle some of the old favorites. But I kind of feel like, as I push forward, I'm making a bunch of new characters.
So mostly, in Batman Inc., the villains are new. And a lot of them are international villains. We may have seen some of them before, in the Club of Villains thing in Batman R.I.P., like Scorpiana, who's the Argentinean assassin girl. So stuff like that will appear.
But generally, I'm going for new villains. I want to make it feel fresh. I think that's one of the things that helped Batman & Robin. People really seem to respond to the new characters and the new villains.
Nrama: You also did pretty short story arcs with Batman & Robin, usually doing three-issue stories. Is it the same kind of approach for Batman Inc.?
Morrison: Yeah, but it's going to be even different again. It's going to be even more stripped back and pulpy and fast-moving. So the first one's only two. It's really tight. It's like reading about six issues in two. I'm very pleased with the way we've been able to cut this. Yanick's work is just so great. His work is so visually dense and so detailed that you can do a lot of tricks with it, that you couldn't do with some other artists.
So yeah, we want to do very short, punchy stories in it. We may do some that are only one issue, and some that are three issues. And that will be the first year of the book. I call it the first season. It will be 12 issues of one- or two-part stories.
Nrama: And then you mentioned that after that first year, you'd be coming back to Damian. So are there big plans for what comes after this recruitment period, as Batman Inc. is put into action?
Nrama: Grant, then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batman: The Return or Batman Inc.?
Morrison: Just that, with Batman: The Return, it's all very intricate. I've been working on this for the last six months, with 11 different artists simultaneously. For me, it's the big payoff of a lot of hard work. So I hope the fans are really going to get into how it ends.
With Batman Inc., we're moving forward in a completely new direction, which I hope is going to take everyone by surprise. It's nothing like the conclusion of The Return or Batman & Robin. So yeah, I hope everyone enjoys the ride.