I have a confession.
I was never a big Batman fan.
Whew! There, I said it. It’s good to get it out. In the geek world, stating something like would incite a reaction very similar to this:
It was always very difficult for me to wrap my head around him. In some ways, it was hard to see him as a Superhero. And it was never about the “no super powers” thing. Please, I’m not that shallow. (Though come on, if Superman set about killing Batman, he could do it. Do you really think Superman would decide to be stupid about it? But that is an article in of itself, and for a later date). Staggering wealth isn’t a super power? Ask Tony Stark if that’s true.
No, it was always about the character and his motivation. Batman always seemed morbid and over the top. Brooding, constantly obsessed over the death of his family, pointlessly trying to relive the worst night of his life over and over again in a demented attempt to undo what was done to him. Batman was too intense a person for me. And his absolute worst crime in my young eyes? NEVER CRACKING A JOKE. I’m not saying he needed to be Spider-Man, but what about some gallows humor? A little bit of dark comedy? (Joker probably just had an inappropriate physical reaction to those last two sentences).
And then I started reading Batman & Robin, written by Grant Morrison and art by Frank Quitely. In this iteration, Dick Grayson (AKA Nightwing) had taken over as Batman, and Damian Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s illegitimate son by Talia al Ghul) was Robin. It was a really well-written and crafted dynamic, where the more light-hearted of the duo was Batman, and Robin was the brooding one.
Side Nate Tangent: So Damian is the bastard son of House Wayne, do you think, like in Game of Thrones, he would have gotten some generic last name? Like Bat? Or Gotham? Or Broody McSadface? “Gotham” seems fairly appropriate. Damian Gotham, the “BAT”stard Son of House Wayne! I’ll go one geekier. In Kingdom Come, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Alex Ross, there is a character named “Ibn al Xu’ffasch” which is arabic for “Son of the Bat.” (Though arabic speakers say it should have been spelled “Khu’fash” and the “Ra’s” in Ra’s al Ghul should have been pronounced “Ross.” Wow, knowledge!) Ibn was, or perhaps IS, the first version of Damian Wayne in comic books.
But back to Batman & Robin. What it came down to, was Grant Morrison’s excellent writing. He brought such a new spin and excitement to this character that I had never cared that much for, and perhaps the fact that it wasn’t even Bruce Wayne under the cowl was one of the intriguing aspects for me. No, Dick Grayson was very different, and 100% likeable. He even got along better with the Gotham police.
But you see, I’ve always like Dick Grayson. You actually have to try hard to make me not like him. So here’s where Grant Morrison becomes not just a great writer, but one of my personal favorite writers. The true hat trick came in the form of his writing of Damian Wayne. Because I hated that little sucker. He was just mini-Bruce Wayne Batman. Brooding, constantly obsessed over the messed up status of his family, pointlessly trying to prove to everyone that he could fight the worst of Gotham City over and over again in a demented attempt gain his father’s attention. And that’s when Mr. Morrison sat me down and made me get to know Damian better.
And I started to like the crazy little guy. I mean, he was quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. It wasn’t because he was angry and moody, but because he was just a kid trying to prove himself. To be good enough. And his interaction with Grayson was even better, because it became brotherly. Grayson earned his respect, which few could do, and that made Damian try that much harder to be worthy of being Robin. And through the window that Damian opened in my jaded, fanboy heart, there was room for Bruce Wayne.
Batman, Inc. became one of my favorite comics. Also, written by Grant Morrison, so even I have to admit there might be a little bit of favoritism on my end. (But, also, the art by Chris Burnham is excellent. Very imaginative and action packed).
Grant single-handedly made me like Batman again, if not for the first time. He put that wry smile under the cowl, along with all the stuff I never liked, but I was now warming up to. Who was Bruce Wayne if not a guy that cared too much for his own good? To do the things he did, maybe it wasn’t out of a constant need for revenge. He was becoming a person, which was something that I had felt was missing for a very long time.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until very recently that I completely made a change on my stance on Batman. Again it was thanks to Grant Morrison, with some help from Kevin Smith. The actual “prestige,” if you will, of Morrison actually changing my mind was thanks to a podcast called “Fatman On Batman: With Kevin Smith.” As you can tell, its a podcast about Batman, where Kevin Smith uses his celebrity and industry connections to interview people that have been directly involved with Batman in one way or another. This particular episode was with Grant Morrison.
Side Nate Tangent: You HAVE to do yourself a favor and listen to the Mark Hamill episode! He has voiced the Joker for 20 years of animated projects from Batman the Animated Series to the Batman: Arkham series video games. And he’s such a cool guy!
In the Morrison episode of Fatman on Batman, Grant waxed poetic on the entire history of Batman and Bruce Wayne. And I guess that’s the secret to getting me to change my stone heart. Passionate, heart-felt praises on what makes a character human that segue right into passionate, heart-felt discussions on how those very human qualities make them such great super heroes. I was almost teary-eyed by the end of his words on how what makes Batman awesome.
(For those interested in seeing how such a virile and bearded man such as myself could be so moved, here’s Part One of Two of Grant Morrison’s episode of Fatman On Batman).
Of course, Grant Morrison has dabbled in magic, so maybe he cast a spell on my brain.
Side Nate Tangent: Seriously, by this picture, Morrison is in his early 50’s. I’d be lucky to have my teeth by my 40’s. I suspect Immortality of some kind.