This post represents the framework for a semi-crazy idea I had. One that came to me in those moments of time between getting in bed and falling asleep. You know those ideas, the ones you have that are brilliant and you tell yourself you will remember them in the morning but promptly forget as soon as you drift off? This was an idea I liked so much I forced my sleepy self to type out a note on my phone that read,
Gene my Morrisons batman
Which after some deciphering on my part a few days later when I found the note translated into,
Re-read Grant Morrison’s seven year Batman run with as much background detail and analysis as you possibly can.
There are several reasons why I am doing this, one being that I have wanted to re-read Morrison’s Batman since it concluded last year. Another is that I like the idea of looking at one creator’s body of work with a single franchise/character in detail over a prolonged period of time. You can see the creator’s long term plan play out and you have the knowledge of what is to come to help telegraph what you missed initially. The main reason though is that Grant Morrison’s Batman run is personally very important to me.
The first Batman single issue I bought when I decided to start buying the Batman titles monthly was #657, slap bang in the middle of Batman and Son, the starting point for the madness that followed. Grant Morrison’s time on Batman represents in part, my journey through the DC Universe up to Flashpoint and the start of the New 52. It also stands out as one of the richest comic book stories I have ever read. A tale that organically ties into some of the big events of that era (Final Crisis, Blackest Night, etc.) while still being its own separate thing. This run made me both appreciate and want explore Batman’s rich history in print because it draws so heavily from the past to weave a new, fresh and exciting tale. It is all about putting Batman under a microscope then de-constructing/rebuilding him several times over. Also it made me love Grant Morrison as a comic book writer and pushed me to read more of his other work.
The core premise is pure brilliance, “Everything that has ever been printed to do with Batman has happened to the modern Batman in some form or another.” The long history of the character once again opens up to make him the ultimate hero and not just the dark and brooding figure many see him as today.
Basically it is a master class in what Batman as a comic book is and what it stands for. The Batmanologist inside of me is fascinated by what Grant Morrison managed to pull off with this run. So I want to re-live it and share it with you, long form.
I will warn you now though, this is going to be a very indulgent look at a lot of Batman comics. Connecting them together, reading between the lines and coming up with my own interpretations of the events that happen within the books. So if you are someone who does not enjoy over analysis of any creative work you might want to give all this a miss. However if this notion of looking at one interpretation of Batman and extrapolating upon it interests you, stick around and feel free to share your own insights as I go down the rabbit hole.
Below is my current draft of the planned reading order for this task, broken down into Acts and Interludes. I am still chopping, changing and moving things around but I will be making a Master Post/Page to keep track of it all and give you the final reading list.
Also, being a connoisseur of comic books in digital formats I have focused on providing links to all the issues in ComiXology’s exhaustive catalogue. This is because from my point of view, comics look the best digitally (especially on a high-resolution display) and it is a lot easier for people to quickly buy them for their own enjoyment via digital sellers. If a book or collection is not available digitally I have provided a link to an Amazon listing. Also if you really want to buy any of the listed comics in print, head down to your local Comic Book Store. They will help you and will also point you to other related books!
The main thing is: PAY FOR YOUR DAMN COMICS! Yes, even for some of the really old and obscure things I have listed.
- Batman: Year One (Batman #404-407) – ComiXology
- Batman: The Killing Joke (OGN) – ComiXology
- Dark Knight, Dark City (Batman #452-454) – ComiXology One, Two, Three
- The Black Casebook (Batman #65, 86, 112, 113, 134, 156, 162, Detective Comics #215, 235, 247, 267, World’s Finest Comics #89 – Collected as Batman: The Black Casebook) – Amazon
- Batman: Gothic (Legends Of The Dark Knight #6-10) – ComiXology
- Batman: The Cult (Batman: The Cult #1-4) – ComiXology
- Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (OGN) – ComiXology
- Identity Crisis (Identity Crisis #1-7) – ComiXology
- Tales of the Demon (Batman #232, 235, 240, 242, 243 and 244, Detective Comics #411, 485, 489 and 490, DC Special Series Volume 2 #15 – Collected as Batman: Tales of the Demon) – Amazon
- JLA: Tower of Babel (JLA #43-46) – ComiXology One, Two, Three, Four
- Batman: Demon Trilogy (Son of the Demon, Bride of the Demon, Birth of the Demon OGNs – Collected as Batman: Birth Of The Demon) – Amazon
- The OMAC Project #1-6 – ComiXology
- Infinite Crisis (Countdown To Infinite Crisis #1, Infinite Crisis #1-7) – ComiXology One, Two
- 52 (52 #1-50, World War Three #1-3, 52 #51-52) – ComiXology One, Two
ACT I: Shadows
- Batman And Son (Batman #655-658 – Part of the Batman and Son Deluxe Trade) – ComiXology
- The Black Glove Part 1 (Batman #663-669 – Part of the Batman and Son Deluxe Trade) – ComiXology
- Head of The Demon (Batman Annual #26) – ComiXology
- The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman #670, Robin #168, Nightwing #138, Detective Comics #838, Batman #671, Robin #169, Nightwing #139, Detective Comics #839, Detective Comics #840) – ComiXology
- The Black Glove Part 2 (Batman #672-675 – Part of the Batman and Son Deluxe Trade) – ComiXology
INTERLUDE: Batman Begins
- Batman Begins – Amazon Instant Video
ACT II: R.I.P
- DC Universe #0 – Amazon
- Batman: R.I.P. (Batman #676-681 – Part of the Batman: R.I.P Trade) – ComiXology
- Final Crisis (Final Crisis #1-3, Superman Beyond #1-2, Final Crisis: Submit #1, Final Crisis #4-5, Batman #682-683, Final Crisis #6-7, All except for Batman which is part of the R.I.P Trade, Collected in the Final Crisis: New Edition Trade) – ComiXology
INTERLUDE: The Dark Knight
- The Dark Knight – Amazon Instant Video
ACT III: Grief
- Last Days of Gotham (Detective Comics #851, Batman #684) – ComiXology One, Two
- Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader? (Batman #686, Detective Comics #853) – ComiXology One, Two
- Battle For The Cowl #1-3 – ComiXology
- Superman/Batman #76 – ComiXology
- Batman Reborn (Batman and Robin #1-6) – ComiXology
- Blackest Night (Green Lantern #43, Blackest Night #0-8) – ComiXology
- Blackest Knight (Batman And Robin #7-9) – ComiXology
- Batman Vs Robin (Batman And Robin #7-12) – ComiXology
- Batman #700 – ComiXology
INTERLUDE: The Dark Knight Rises
- The Dark Knight Rises – Amazon Instant Video
ACT IV: Return
- R.I.P The Missing Chapter (Batman #701-702) – ComiXology One, Two
- Return Of Bruce Wayne #1-6 – ComiXology
- Batman & Robin Must Die! (Batman And Robin #13-16) – ComiXology
- Batman: The Return #1 (Part of the Batman & Robin Must Die! Trade) – ComiXology
- Batman: The Movie – Amazon
ACT V: Incorporated
- Batman Incorporated Part 1 (Part of the Batman Incorporated: Deluxe Trade) – ComiXology
- Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! (Part of the Batman Incorporated: Deluxe Trade) – ComiXology
- Flashpoint (Flashpoint #1-5) – ComiXology
- Demon Star (Batman Incorporated #0-6) – ComiXology
- Gotham’s Most Wanted (Batman Incorporated #7-13) – ComiXology
The current plan is to write 2-3 posts per act drilling into as much detail as I can muster. Also because this is a labour love rather than necessity, the project will see a somewhat sporadic release schedule. Basically my deadline at the moment is to have it all said and done by the end of 2015. With the hope that I will get really stuck in to it at some point and make headway meaning that I can bring that deadline forward.
For this first post I figured I would share the reasons why the reading order is broken up the way it is and why some non-Grant Morrison works have been included in the mix.
There are many reading orders for Grant Morrison’s Batman out there. Some just give you the key arcs, others go into extreme detail giving you each and every tangentially related comic. If you plan on reading it search around and find the order that best suits you and more importantly your budget! For my reading order I have tried to strike a balance between giving a streamlined version of the story and also providing the context and history behind it.
This is the lengthiest section and the one that will probably take up the most of my time. This is not a list of Essential Batman works, if it was it would be a lot longer trust me! Rather it is a selection of:
- Morrison’s previous Batman work which greatly informs some of the key concepts and themes explored during the run.
- Batman books that share similar themes and ideas.
- Books that Morrison pulls from during the course of the run for past adventures, references, inspiration and more.
- Books that flesh out Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins which become very important as time goes on.
- Year One is included because it establishes baseline of the modern Batman.
- The Killing Joke because it is The Killing Joke.
- Identity Crisis because it is both underrated and ties into things that happen in the Prologue.
The best way to understand and interpret Morrison’s run is to look at what helped birth it. Remember Morrison’s Batman is one that has literally seen and done everything so the more of that background I can ingest the better. I will be looking at these in terms of how they shape who Batman is and the story the Morrison created. The tapestry of the DC Universe is vast and complex and Morrison’s Batman touches upon every part of it at some point.
Despite Morrison’s limited input into these books until 52 which he was one of the main writers. Everything that happens in the build up to, during and after Infinite Crisis is very important to Morrison’s run. Not only does it serve to establish the status quo for Batman and Son it also opens the door for Morrison’s idea of his Batman being the Batman who has seen and done everything.
Infinite Crisis reintroduced lots of old continuity back into the DC Universe and also brought back the concept of the Multiverse to DC’s comics in the form of the 52 Earths. (“What was forgotten is now unremembered!”) Basically it brings back the epic craziness of the old DC Universe in a good way and left room for new ideas to grow within its very defined limits. An idea Grant Morrison has run with during his time as a writer at DC for the past decade and is currently exploring in the amazing Multiversity.
ACT I: Shadows
Shadows collects together the first few major arcs and the lead in to Batman R.I.P. It is here that the groundwork for pretty much everything that happens in the whole run takes place. The seeds of Leviathan and Batman Inc are planted. The resurgence League of Assassins and the idea that things and people from Batman’s storied past are coming back to exact revenge on the Dark Knight. It is all here.
I am really looking forward to reading through this sections because for a lot of this the only time I read it was 6-7 years ago. Also the power of hindsight will play a big part in my enjoyment of Morrison’s run this time around. He always creates rich stories that get better and more informed with multiple readings. His time on Batman representing one of his largest single body of work on one character/franchise to date means that I am in for a treat in terms of the depth and foreshadowing he delves into during the length of his story.
ACT II: R.I.P
Possibly the shortest Act reading length wise but R.I.P one of the densest in terms of story, meta and craziness. This is all about things coming to an end and then just having that last glimmer of hope for things being reborn, bigger and better than before. A recurring theme throughout Morrison’s larger Batman/DC Universe story. The act happens in a short space of time for the characters but the impact and fallout are immense and have reverberations into the second half of Morrison’s run.
R.I.P itself is one of my favourite Batman tales because it gets to the core of Bruce Wayne’s determination and Final Crisis is just a beautiful book for someone like me. It is steeped in DC Universe lore and Kirby’s Fourth World mythos. I may not very casual reader friendly but an epic read for those in the know.
ACT III: Grief
I toyed with the idea of calling this act something else but I think Grief sums it up well. This section is all about how the Batman Family and the wider DC Universe deal with the absence of Batman and in particular Bruce Wayne. Everyone deals with it in their own way and in the guise of the new Batman and Robin, Dick and Damian try to carry on Bruce’s legacy.
Blackest night is included because while it is far from being a Batman orientated event certain things happen in it that play and important role in what happens next.
This section has a lot of importance to it because it is here that Morrison turns Damian Wayne from a super annoying brat you are meant to hate into the best DC Comics Character of the past decade. If this run has given us anything it is the brilliance of Damian Wayne and his place in the Bat Family.
ACT IV: Return
Return is probably my favourite section because when it was first published I loved The Return of Bruce Wayne. It is just so crazy and out there for a story and it shows Bruce’s determination no matter what the situation is. Running alongside it is the brilliant closing arc of Batman & Robin which was firing on all cylinders at the time.
This act is big, crazy and fun. Which leads perfectly into the final act.
ACT V: Incorporated
Batman Incorporated is the culmination of Grant Morrison’s time on Batman. Everything comes full circle during the length of it. A minor reshuffle and rebooting of a whole comic book universe (which is why Flashpoint is in there) may have caused some minor inconsistencies post Leviathan Strikes! but that sort of works in the book’s favour. It ties into the running idea of Morrison’s Batman having experienced everything that has been printed in some form or another.
This for me is the most action packed and rewarding act. Everything has importance and references events of the past. The end result being that we get to see Grant Morrison’s final word on Batman. Who he is, why he is and what he means to both the DC Universe and Pop Culture in general. It is beautiful reading.
The end of one epic run thankfully meant the start of another in the form of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s New 52 Batman. I could have made this selection be the brilliant Court of Owls but I felt that there was no better way to end things than at the beginning, a new beginning with Batman: Zero Year.
To break things up a bit I decided to throw in the Nolan Batman Movies between the main acts and the Adman West and Burt Ward starring Batman: The Movie before Incorporated.
The Nolan films present a fairly realistic interpretation of Batman while also including things like the League of Assassins, they also touch upon several of the key themes Morrison explores. So it is worth looking at them and drawing some parallels.
Batman: The Movie colourful and camp nature fits surprisingly well with the craziest of Batman Incorporated. It is also the distillation of a period in Batman history that many try to dismiss. Adam West is also the best Batman and I need to tell everyone why that is!
This is a grand and ambitious project for me, one that I am not sure if I can pull off. There is a lot of material to read, digest and write about. So this is either going to be amazing or it will slowly reduce me into a shell of man who just mumbles about Bat totems and hole at the heart of things.
Either way it is going to be an interesting experience!