so actually gonna have a Mutated batman?
Grant Morrison: The future of Batman interview
IGN Comics: In a lot of your work, you seem to go back and mine the past for ideas that interest you. Whether you're writing a series like Batman or a massive project like Final Crisis, how do you go about deciding what past elements to tackle in a given story?
Grant Morrison: It's either stuff that I remember, or in the case of Batman, I read a bunch of books dating back to the creation of the character. I tried to read everything from different eras. Sometimes you just come across a cool notion that hasn't been developed. Everyone mines the past to a certain extent. Like Marvel right now is going back to its own '60s content in a kind of modern way, with things like the Ultimate characters. It's more to find the stuff that nobody is looking at, you know?
There are all these areas in a character's history that kind of get ignored, and for me, when I was reading through the Batman history, it was that period of the 1960s that stuck out, because it was just so bizarre. Batman was up against aliens and time machines and all kinds of stuff that doesn't really fit into the "Dark Knight" approach. But at the same time, if you start to think, "Well what if all this fit into this guy's life?" Suddenly you see it as different periods in this man's life, and it becomes an insight into developing these stories. And that happens to me all the time.
I've recently been leafing through some old comic book encyclopedias, like Michael L. Fleisher's Batman Encyclopedia, which is another great reference book. So looking though that book, you look at the little stories and say, "Wait a minute, so Batman was in an isolation experiment for ten days and his mind snapped, and no one thinks this is significant?" For me, suddenly that's the core of a story that can be developed into a significant part of Batman's history.
IGN Comics: That story you're referring to, "Robin Dies at Dawn," and the events of that issue have fueled much of your recent arc, with Batman #674 even being titled "Batman Dies At Dawn." Can you get into more detail about what it was about this particular story that struck you as something that needed to be explored?
Morrison: It was the kind of realism of that story. It was one of those iconic stories about Batman on an alien world – that weird time travel period. It came at the end of that period, just before the darker take on Batman and the more detective oriented stories. So it came at the very end of that very strange period, and because it had a certain degree of realism about it – it wasn't that Batman was actually on an alien planet. There weren't any real monsters in it. The guy was hallucinating because he experienced some experiment that was designed to isolate him completely for ten days so his mind begins to generate content. And his guilt over Robin's apparent death causes him to give up as Batman.
So that story was quite a realistic take on the ridiculousness of that type of alien landscape sort of story. And because it was about something that Batman could have done – he could have done this kind of experiment. He wanted to know what the Joker's mind was like, so he exposed himself to this kind of insane ten-day experience.
IGN Comics: Have you ever seen the film Altered States? [Editor's Note: is an insanely bizarre 1980's film starring William Hurt about a scientist that ingests all sorts of hallucinogenic drugs, submits to isolation chamber experiments, and emerges as a devolved sort of Ape-Man. An utterly strange classic.]
Morrison: Oh yeah! Basically, this is Batman in Altered States. [laughs]
IGN Comics: So are we going to see Batman emerge from the experiment as a monstrous Ape-Man?
Morrison: Worse than that! You know, you might be kind of almost on the right track. [laughs] It's not an Ape-Man, but he might be emerging from this as something completely different than he was before.
IGN Comics: [laughs] Fantastic!
Morrison: Because it has a sort of realism to it, I thought that story could be brought back into continuity and used again. And it seemed like there'd be such a gap there where Batman went crazy for a couple weeks, and if that happened to you or me in our lives, there'd have to be repercussions on the rest of our minds.
IGN Comics: It sounds like you're trying to bridge the gap between those zany silver age stories and the more realistic "Dark Knight" take, a sort of link between those over-the-top sixties stories and the more grounded Denny O'Neil, Frank Miller approach. Is this a way to merge the two?
Morrison: I'd like to think so. I grew up with the Denny O'Neil stuff, and when I was starting out writing comics, Miller was just doing the Dark Knight stuff. Those were the stories that really informed me when I was growing up and when I was starting to write books. But the older stories back before then seem to have been written out of continuity, but there's a lot of fun to be had there because no one has ever done it before. Trying to reevaluate those stories and restore those back into Batman's life just hasn't been done before. It was an area that no one went near because it seemed to be too bizarre.
IGN Comics: It seems like you've always had an affinity for those crazier types of stories, and have often went back to try to make sense of them in terms of continuity.
Morrison: Yeah, I mean those are the stories I like. When you're doing regular characters, to an extent, these days you save all your best stuff for your own work. You want to own something that you make up. When you're making up stuff for comic book companies, it tends to be a smarter thing to do these days to go back and mine the past and try to develop stories from things that have already happened, rather than create your own new characters. This day and age of intellectual properties, I think a lot of creators would rather create their own new stuff for their own books. I mean, I've created dozens and dozens of new characters for DC and for Batman as well, but there is a certain element to that type of work that involves working backwards to characters and storylines that have been done before and try to develop them and imagine how those would play into a longer running soap opera or saga of a character's life.
IGN Comics: That definitely makes sense. In this past issue, you hinted at the identity of the "Man Behind the Curtain," so to speak, the idea of this villain who has been a step ahead of Batman throughout his whole career. Is that something you've been building towards since day one?
Morrison: Oh yeah. If you peak behind the walls of the first issue and the clues in the Joker prose story, it's all building towards this. Every single element of the entire run since I started, if you go back, have been tied into and act as clues towards the identity of this big villain.
IGN Comics: Will this tie into your particular take on the Joker?
Morrison: Yeah, it's totally tied into it. I mean everything is linked into this. When all of the aspects of Batman RIP hit, I think fans will start to realize just how much of this has led in. Everything has sort of felt like karma, but it's like a machine that's just started to work on his psyche, and what happens to Batman will amaze, because it changes the character.
IGN Comics: You've described your run on Batman as one extended novel. How did you go about planning this epic story?
Morrison: It happened in the first week. The editor at the time, Peter Tomasi, called me up asked me to do Batman, and I said yes. And I just started with my notebook and created 25 issues worth of material and planned it forward. And some things changed as some ideas took on a life of their own and new stuff came in, but the basic long story was planned from the very beginning. A lot of it has seemed self-contained because people didn't see the overall picture and were kind of missing it, so I was sitting there thinking, "Just hang on." [laughs] We've finally reached the point where I want the readers to start to see the connections, and each issue is becoming more exciting. You'll see that over the course of these next six months it really intensifies, and it really accelerates into places that we've never seen Batman before.
IGN Comics: When you're done putting him through the wringer, where do you want Batman to be as a character?
Morrison: Well I can't tell you exactly where Batman will be after all this, [laughs] but I want it to be like nothing anyone has ever done or seen before.
IGN Comics: What has it been like working with Tony Daniel now that he's settled down as the regular artist?
Morrison: It's been great. I think he was born to draw Batman. I've just been getting in the pages to #676, which kicks off Batman RIP, and we've got a new Batmobile in there and it's just phenomenal, and he's really starting to cook. It's some of the best shots of Gotham City we've ever seen. But like I said, the book is called Batman, and the guy just happens to draw one of the best Batmen I've ever seen.
IGN Comics: I agree. At times he reminds of a combination of Neal Adams and Jim Lee.
Morrison: Exactly. And those are two of the greatest artists who ever worked on Batman, so to see that combination is phenomenal.
IGN Comics: Speaking of Batman RIP – what should fans expect from this arc? Judging from the name of the arc and the last shots of #674, it almost seems like we're either going to see a world without Batman or a world without Bruce Wayne.
Morrison: [laughs] I will say this – the first page of Batman RIP has a completely different Batman and Robin in it. You'll see things like the new Batmobile and we learn what happens to Batman over the course of the next six issues. The Joker comes back in a real badass, dark way. We've got the Club of Villains that we hinted at in the "Club of Heroes" arc, so they come into play. And basically the whole thing is about the final machinations of the [big villain] and how Batman's been maneuvered in a way he's never been before and can't get out of.
IGN Comics: When you're trying to usher in major changes to a property like Batman, how do you go about dealing with his appearances in his other books every month? Do you just not worry about that, and focus on telling your own story?
Morrison: Dan DiDio long ago asked me if I tackled Batman, what story would I come up with? I mentioned Batman RIP, and Dan wanted me to really take that seriously, you know? So I was only following orders. [laughs] Dan wanted me to explore that and push it as far as I could take it, but also do it in ways that people wouldn't expect. So all of the other books will likely fall in behind, I presume. I don't really know what all those guys have planned, but whatever happens to Batman I'm sure will be reflected in his other books.
IGN Comics: Fascinating stuff, Grant. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Morrison: Your welcome. My pleasure.
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