January 26, 2010 -
Grant Morrison tipped the entire Batman franchise on its head in 2009. As if killing the Caped Crusader wasn't enough, Morrison brought in a new Dynamic Duo, this one markedly different from the status quo. Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne were immediately established as a "reverse" Dynamic Duo, with Grayson playing the role of a brighter, more optimistic leader and Damian being the fiery, skeptical and aggressive sidekick.
Batman and Robin has dominated the charts since its launch as fans have been glued to the eventual fates of these new heroes. But that's nothing compared to Morrison's plans for 2010. Last December, DC announced Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, a six-issue mini-series poised to bring Bruce back to the modern DC Universe era. We snagged Morrison on the phone to discuss that event as well as his upcoming "Blackest Knight" arc in Batman & Robin. Artist Cameron Stewart is joining the title for a three-issue arc, the first chapter of which hits stores tomorrow.
And what's this about Morrison staying on Batman and Robin for another year? Read on…
Bruce Wayne, but first things first: you've wrapped up your first two arcs on Batman and Robin, and are about to launch your third, Blackest Knight with Cameron Stewart. Before we get into that upcoming chapter, though, I want to talk a bit about the work you've done on the title thus far.
Your work on Batman and Robin has been marked by a different tone, energy and style than your previous Bat-work, not only because of the characters involved and the new, inverted Dynamic Duo, but also in the spectacle-driven, action-packed nature of the story. Though there's certainly a greater mystery involved, the book has been balls-to-the-wall, kinetic energy and action from start to finish. Will that continue as we head into the book's second year?
Morrison: Completely. The great thing about Batman and Robin is that every issue has a fight in it! They fight all the time, so it's great to push each artist to choreograph their own version of the ultimate kung fu tussle. Frank Quitely did that amazing kinetic stuff in the first three issues, Phillip Tan did his kind of 'black rain' bloody pulp version, and Cameron Stewart's fight scenes are amazing. It's like watching Bruce Lee, with the action slowed down using really fast panel cuts that break down each strike and block in freeze frame. Everyone's done great work on it, and Cameron has surpassed himself with these three issues. He's pretty much finished all of them now. I've just been looking at them, and I'm blown away. People should really look out for him. I think he's going to be a lot of people's new favorite artist after this.
IGN Comics: I've heard people describe your work by saying that every Grant Morrison comic has an idea, set piece or image that's never been encountered in a comic book before. Is that something you consciously do, challenge an artist to draw something you've never seen?
Morrison: Well that's what comics should be like. I guess I do that, but it's not conscious. I try to think what I would like to draw, because you know I like to draw. So all the scripts start with the question, "What would be fun to draw? What would be amazing or mad to see?" Like Robin getting a lap dance from Professor Pyg. How great was that? [laughs] It was just so wrong, but it was one of those kinds of things we've never seen before and might never want to see again. It seemed so perfect at the time. But I didn't sit and think, "What's this week's crazy image?" That character just came in dancing and started doing his thing in my head.
Morrison: Yeah, I had a particular song in mind, but I think it's more fun to let everyone hear their own version of what he's dancing to.
IGN Comics: Throughout your run on Batman and continuing through Batman and Robin right up until now, you've been extremely prolific about adding to Batman's cast and Rogues' Gallery in rapid succession, only ever pausing briefly to give some background on new characters like Pyg, Flamingo, Oberon Sexton and so forth. At one point, Dick even tells Jason, "Back story, not interested," and it's almost as if you're talking right to the reader – "No time to slow down – here's the bare essentials you need to know about this character." Was that a conscious decision on your part from the get-go?
Morrison: Totally. I was looking back at the really early Batman stuff because I was curious what it was like when they first brought the Joker on. The guy is hardly in any panels at all, but he's just really compelling. So we tried to do that with Professor Pyg, and it really worked because there was something about that character that was weirdly alive from the moment he first appeared.
I like the idea that the Joker was never really explained, and then six months later you got another Joker story in 1940 or whatever. They didn't explain his origins or motivations at all. They just kept telling more cool stories and showing more sides of his character. He was built up, developed and refined along the way rather than introduced as a complete package. To me that seems to be the mark of the best villains – they're introduced in a really cool way and then left for the future to play with. Like some future Alan Moore and Brian Bolland will come along one day and tell the origin of Professor Pyg and it will be the best comic ever. [laughs] That's how it should be. We're too used to getting everything up front – the whole background, the details and the scorecard. But I think these characters are stronger when we just get to see them do something great and then they're gone again, leaving us all wanting more. We get to learn a little bit each time. Each new writer or artist gets to add something different and there should be room to do that with any good character.
Morrison: I don't know. Professor Pyg will probably be back, just because I can't wait to write him again. There are a ton of new characters coming up, and then we're going back to the Joker, Dr. Hurt and some of the RIP stuff. We're doing that in a different way, a Batman and Robin way. As Karl Marx said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce. [laughs] That's the thinking behind our big 'season-ender' arc Batman and Robin Must Die!
IGN Comics: Oberon Sexton has been one of the most intriguing new characters. We know he's a masked author and amateur detective, currently traveling the globe in search of a serial killer. What else can you tell us about the character? Knowing what we know about him, that he's from London, has recently been in contact with Dr. Hurt, and that Knight and Squire will play into your next arc, is it safe to say Blackest Knight features the character?
Morrison: No, he's not so much in Blackest Knight, but he plays a huge role in Batman vs. Robin which is the arc Andy Clarke is doing. Issues #10 through #12 have all the lowdown on Sexton. It ties in to the Return of Bruce Wayne stuff, but that's all I'm going to say. I think fans will have fun guessing what he's up to. He's part of the big mystery that runs through issues ten to twelve.
IGN Comics: Speaking of mysteries- there are a couple of them at work in this story, most notably the mystery of the dominoes and the enigmatic El Penitente. Will those two mysteries play into Blackest Knight, or will they continue to linger in the background throughout the series?
Morrison: They keep going right up until Batman and Robin Must Die! where all the dangling plot elements come to fruition. Each year of Batman and Robin is planned a little like a 'season' of a TV show, where you're lacing some recurring narrative threads through otherwise self-contained stories that lead to a big crescendo and are pulled together in the end.