Exclusive Interview: Grant Morrison on Batman Times Three

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The next few months will see a whole colony of Batman comics written by Grant Morrison. Besides the ongoing Batman and Robin, whose most recent issue ended with one of those classic Morrison twists that are obvious only in retrospect, he’s writing the six-issue miniseries Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (which launches next week), as well as three issues of Batman dealing with the Batmen of the past, present and future. Morrison spoke with us this morning about his plans.

So Oberon Sexton is actually Leo Quintum, then!

(Laughs) Is that how it works?

Or maybe Xorn. Was the plan from the beginning for the last panel of Batman and Robin‘s first year to be that revelation?

Always, yeah. The Joker’s been kind of haunting the book since the beginning. The next issue’s even better, because it’s a different Joker than anything we’ve seen before. It’s a black mass for Batman, basically, from page one on.

You’ve mentioned that the next Batman and Robin storyline, “Batman and Robin Must Die,” will reflect the themes of “Batman R.I.P.”–can you say a little bit more about that?

I got the basic idea for this new version of the Joker, which I don’t want to say too much about, because I hope the next issue will be quite exciting to read, but it came from the notion that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce; this is “R.I.P.” as farce. But how do you make farce even scarier than tragedy? That was the idea that I built this story on. Each issue’s got the title of a different painting: the first one is “The Garden of Death,” the second one’s “The Triumph of Death,” and the third one, best of all, is “The Knight, Death and the Devil.” So, that said, it’s based on how far you can take the gothic feeling of “R.I.P.,” beyond ultraviolet, beyond humor… it’s everything about Batman going wrong and upside-down. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

You’re also writing three issues of Batman this summer–what’s going on there?

Well, #700 is my version of a traditional anniversary issue, so it’s a kind of done-in-one story. Tony Daniel is doing the Batman of the past, which is Bruce Wayne, Frank Quitely is doing Batman & Robin of the present, with Dick Grayson, and Andy Kubert is doing Batman of the future, which is Damian. And there’s also a final section with David Finch doing the Batman of the far future, right up to Batman 1,000,000. It’s three Batman, one impossible crime, and there’s a time-travel story involving Professor Nichols, who vanished from Batman around 1964, and it’s got the Neal Adams Batman and the Carmine Infantino Batman… it’s a mindbreaker of a story. It took me two months to write this monster. I hope it works. It’s a stand-alone celebration issue–it’s got a bunch of pin-ups in the back as well, I think.

Then #701 and #702 are me and Tony Daniel again, doing what happened to Batman between the end of “Batman R.I.P.” and Final Crisis, to basically bring everyone back up to speed before Bruce comes back. And also, just because I wanted to try something different–something I’ve really missed is the kind of literary strand, which has been lost in cinematic comics. One kind of comic I haven’t seen for a while is narration from Bruce that really shows his point of view, and takes us into his head in a way that we’ve never seen before.

You’ve been writing a book [Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero] about the history of superheroes; how does that relate to working on Batman? How do each of those projects feed into the other one?

What I’ve noticed in writing the book–and this has nothing to do with Batman, but just as an example–is that you spot patterns that you can start to impose or even create. There are lightning strikes all through comics history, and every time there’s a jump or a paradigm shift, there’s a lightning bolt involved, [as with] Hermes, and Ganesha, and all these different gods who are personified by lightning. So you get the Flash and the Silver Age, and you get Captain Marvel and the lightning bolt, and you get the first Marvel comic starting with “the sudden fury of a lightning bolt,” and Marvelman coming in with Alan Moore and the lightning bolt, stuff like that. It helped with conceptualizing Batman as a single entity–coordinating all of the legends of Batman. In one chapter, I’m looking at all of the Batman movies, but only in terms of the costumes and fighting styles, and how they evolve, and how ridiculous the early costumes are. You know, they couldn’t even stop a cigarette, never mind a bullet!

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