Friday, November 30, 2007

Morrison's Batman vs Miller's Batman

The fight between Frank Miller and Grant Morrison to control the destiny of the Batman saw another blow today, as Frank Miller, in the tragically misunderstood secretly weirdly brilliant All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, took a shot at Morrison.

Batman tells his young charge to pick a code name and a costume. The kid picks up a bow and arrow, thinks of Robin Hood and goes with "Hood" -- as a name and a costume choice. Batman objects to the costume and says "Hood, huh? Do you know what any thug with half a brain would do with that hood?" He violently pulls the hood over Robin's eyes and walks out saying "Lose the hood. You're Robin." He has re-imagined the origin of the name and costume of Robin in a persuasive way -- Grayson goes with Robin Hood in this "year two" in the same way the young Batman identified with Zorro in "Year One."

But he is also taking a shot at Morrison's recent Son of the Bat plot. Miller emphasizes the father-son dynamic between the two: his Batman says "What am I DOING playing Father...?" Robin's first choice of costume looks exactly like the Robin tribute costume Batman's biological son wears in Morrison's book -- and Miller's Batman chastises him for picking something so stupid. Score one Miller.

Also Morrison, in the worst issue of his career, tried to create a "new" Joker. Miller actually does it.

To summarize earlier points of contact between Miller and Morrison's Batman, which you might be able to track down by clicking the labels to this post:

Miller owns Batman in the Dark Knight Returns and Year One. In order to avoid repeating Miller, Morrison gets indirectly at Batman in his JLA and goes for a more James Bond Batman. That does not hold so he has to try something else many years later in Batman.

In JLA Earth 2 Morrison has Green Lantern take a planet in big green hands. In Dark Knight Strikes Again Miller repeats the image -- bad move Miller.

Miller goes nuts with the Vikki Vale Scene in All Star Batman 1. Morrison responds by doing a gentle parody of the scene in All Star Superman 2 -- his girl reporter also gets naked while doing an internal monologue, but the pulp sexuality is removed for something more innocent.

Morrison makes fun of Miller's gritty Batman in an interview and says that he wants to get Batman back to the Neil Adams love god days. Miller GETS THE ACTUAL NEIL ADAMS to do a cover for All Star Batman and announces they are doing a project together.

Morrison makes fun of Miller in his Batman run by having gritty Batman like Bane-Batman and Future-Batman. Miller, as I mentioned above, makes fun of Morrison's "Son of the Batman" plot.

In Morrison's first issue of Batman he has a dirty cop who pretends to be Batman. This is a retelling on the story that appeared in the comics in the two issues that preceded Miller's Year One -- Morrison is saying "Here is where it all went wrong. Let me go back to that moment and start a divergent track, an alternate history." (thanks Mitch). As I discussed in the context of Astro City and Marvels in my book, that device, a mere fantasy, will not take hold.

Morrison emphasizes the Holmesean detective against Miller's hard boiled detective, but fails, in my lone opinion, because the League of Batmen is not a good story, and does not show Batman to be a good Holmesean detective. Miller, on the other hand, does a great jacked up hard boiled.

Miller's Batman takes a shot at Superman in All Star Batman #7 -- he says Superman is so stupid he does not even know he can fly. (who reminded me of this here?). The shot is a re-thinking of the original Superman, but it is also aimed at Morrison's Superman who is in the other All Star title.

Miller, remembering he repeated Morrison's Green Lantern moment in DKSA, attacks Green Lantern in All Star Batman 8 -- he dismisses the whole character in order to dismiss the one time he failed to best Morrison.

I may be forgetting something? Anything else?


Anonymous said...

I apologize if this was posted somewhere on the blog previous to this, but why did dislike "The Clown at Midnight"?

david brothers said...

After I finished ASBAR this week, I was struck by two things: the new Joker and the origin of Robin's name. I wondered why no one had ever thought of that before, since it forms a really, really nice connection between the Dynamic Duo. Batman is all about Thomas Wayne/Zorro, Robin is all about Father Grayson/Robin Hood.

I looked it up on Wikipedia, and the Robin Hood thing is the original origin of Robin's name. Interesting stuff!

There was a "Special Thanks to Brian Azzarello" in this issue's credit box. I wonder what he donated to the story?

It was weird seeing three of my favorite creators credited on the same book. All it needed was "Flashbacks by David Mack, Plot Assist by Grant Morrison"

Geoff Klock said...

Mario: here is what I originally said (this was buried in a comics out comment): "Morrison's return to Batman was a total disaster. A 22 page short story with pictures it is overcooked and overwritten, packed to the bursting point -- and not in a fun way -- with too many similarly gothic metaphors, like a short story for a high school creative writing class. It was exhausting to read, and a comic book should never be like that. It was also crushed under the weight of other Batman stories he alludes to: Frank Miller's All Star (I'm the goddamned Batman), Arkham Asylum (the setting and the art, and the idea the Joker has no core self), the Killing Joke (the relationship between the two characters is right out of that book), and Batman Animated (Harley Quinn). Interestingly, I said Morrison's first four issues were weak for Morrison but felt like a great issue of Batman Animated -- simple and for kids; here he breaks from Batman Animated violently by writing a very dark story in which the Joker turns on -- guess who -- the character who was imported from Batman animated."

David: thanks for that wiki find -- that is great.

Anonymous said...

The Miller V. Morrison Batman reminds me of something I've been thinking about myself. So much of what Morrison is doing is a rebellion of the trend of 'Deconstructing' superheroes that we have seen over the last twenty years. Either deconstructing the whole idea (Watchmen) or, in the case of character like Superman and Batman, stripping away decades of mythology in order get to the core what each character is about. Morrison attempts to 'Reconstruct' these characters. He wants to rebuild the mythology of these characters; he does this successfully in All Star Superman and unsuccessfully in his current Batman run. To a certain extent, I think it may be the nature of the charaters that allows for this success or failure. Any thoughts?

James said...

I mentioned the "idiot doesn't even know he can fly" line. Go me!

I missed the shot at Morrison with the Robin outfit (d'oh!), but I thought the "lose the Hood, you're Robin" bit was smart anyway, because of COURSE a kid would name himself Hood. It never made sense that Robin was named after Robin Hood, but took the part of the name that is just a guy's name, and then dressed up in the colours of his bird namesake. Now we know it's cause Batman corrected him.

Jog said...

I'm partial to the bit in All Star Superman #2, a few pages away from 'Vikki Vale' panel, where Lois asks Superman how Batman is doing:



"You know Batman."

Morrison makes sure to use three balloons there, to play up the hesitancy...

Streebo said...

I haven't read the issue yet - but a guy wearing a cowl telling someone wearing a hood that it could get pulled over their eyes seems a bit ironic - and kinda dumb.

Patrick Sanders said...

Gonna go out a limb and saw it off:

Between this and DKR, Miller not only has the definite Batman, but the definte Joker.Yeah, better than Moore's.

It occurs to me that he switches the traditional readings of these two characers even as early as DKR- Batman is the laughing lunatic and Joker is the grim, "sane" one.

Geoff Klock said...

Scott: it's not the characters, it's that Morrison's talents lend themselves to Superman's sci-fi openness, just as Miller's lend him self to exuberant fascism.

Jog: that is a great bit.

Streebo -- Batman's Cowl would be less easy to manipulate. Plus, you know, he's BATMAN.

VoE: a VERY good point about switching the roles. Good.

Streebo said...

If Miller really wanted to trump Morrison on that, then the Goddamn Batman would need to bust out his Goddamn Bat Spray Adhesive that he uses to hold his cowl in place. I've worn my share of cowls for Halloween - and some childhood crimefighting stints that never made it beyond riding my bike around the block - and I know for a fact that it doesn't take much more than a look to the left to get those little eyeholes out of line and obscure one's vision all to heck! I love Miller's Batman stories with Year One DKR as much as anyone - believe me - but here's my problem with his Batman. Miller does Batman that is outside of the DC Universe. His stories are fantastic - but there are self contained - insular - and completely separate from continuity. In my mind Morrison trumped Miller by actually writing Batman in continuity. His opening JLA story with the entire JLA defeated at the hands of - MAJOR SPOILERS JLA 1-4 HERE FOR ANYONE THAT HASN'T READ IT - the Hyperclan/White Martians yet the powerless Batman is the only one that escapes and saves the day. The "I know your secret" moment was archetypal Batman and created what was probably the strongest reading of Batman since Dark Knight Returns - and it was in the DC Univcerse - part of contionuity. Not a dream. Not a hoax. Morrison's JLA Batman was almost single handedly the story that launched a thousand fanboy "VS" threads with Batman being able to defeat everyone from Spiderman to GOD - as long as he had time to prepare beforehand. This interesting interplay between Miller and Morrison's current Batman stories is another matter entirely. I like Morrison's books - but am not in love with them beyond the concept stage of Batman's Son, ninja manbats and such. While Miller's ASBAR is so - I don't know. I don't love it. I don't hate it. It just is. I haven't read the latest issues of either series. I expect that I will be more fully able to judge both upon their respective conclusions.

Streebo said...

Sorry for the spelling errors. . .

Streebo said...

And can somebody please explain to me exactly what "Love God" Batman is supposed to mean. I don't get it at all.

Anonymous said...

Streebo: "Love God" Batman refers to the world-travelling-James-Bondish-Batman-who-actually-gets-laid of the 70's O'Neil/Adams era (a la Batman's adventures against Ra's Al Ghul where he gets to hook up with Talia) Also, I should point out, that Miller beat Morrison to the Batman-can-beat-anyone-as-long-as-he-has-time-to-prepare motif back when he had Bats hand Supes his ass to him in TDKR.

Geoff: A couple of things I'm noticing as I'm re-reading issue 8,
First of all, you mentioned how unlikely it would be that a successful lawyer would hook up with the Joker. Miller explains this. He has her say "I was just joking that maybe you slipped something into my drink" Remember, the Joker's specialty is poisons, chemicals... DRUGS! The Miller has implied that the Joker DID, in fact, put something in her drink; he drugged her! (once again this adheres to my theory that Miller is smarter and more subtle than he is given credit for and, at the same time, less smart and less subtle than others give him credit for)

As for Nazi Boob chick, she's not random, go back and read your Dark Knight Returns; she's in there and its mentioned that she's the Joker's girlfriend (I prefer Harley personally).

Also, I don't think Miller dislikes GL, It's Miller's Batman that dislikes GL. Mostly for the same reason he hates Supes; they don't use their power the way Batman would. When Batman gets annoyed and laments "The Things I'd do with that power..." That's Miller pointing out exactly WHY Jordan was chosen to get the ring instead of Bats; as Neil Gaiman once said in response to TDKR being a fascist vision: "That doesn't mean that's the side that Frank comes down on."

Besides, think about it, how 'likeable' is Batman in this series? GL, on the other hand, in his couple of appearances, comes off as... well, as a nice guy (but not as obnoxiously as Superman). This falls in line with something that Miller has always been fond of saying about Batman; you don't want him to be your buddy... but you do want him watching your back in a dark alley.

Geoff Klock said...

Streebo: sorry, Scott, below, is right about Miller's Batman trumping Morrison's JLA Batman.

Scott: you said "re-reading". One of the problems with comics out posts is that I read the comic once, fast, while eating, and then give a quick judgment. Then the comic lies around the house for a week and I re-read later. So yeah, I miss the stuff you are pointing out. It is the curse of the first impression. Thanks for setting me straight.

When did Gaiman make that comment? Because I used to think that too but recent developments, such as Miller's overt support for the Iraq war, make me think that, while Batman being a fascist does not mean Miller is, Miller is certainly scary conservative. Which does not hinder my enjoyment of the comics, I should say.

I think Miller's Batman is clearly nuts but I think you are supposed to like him. And I kinda do, and I think Miller does. But I admit that is just a hunch.

Anonymous said...

Gaiman's comment was from the "Comic Supeheroes Unmaksed" special the History Channel did a few years back (not sure when exactly, it coincided with the release of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Does Miller support the Iraq war? I know he hates Al-Quaeda, but does being anti-Al-Quaeda mean you're pro-Iraq war? Granted, I haven't read much on Miller's personal politics (as near as I can tell he's a liberatarian)... don't mean to make this a political discussion.

(Hey, I'm reading Cerebus right now; I totally understand the need to ignore... or at least attempt to ignore... a creator's politics in order to enjoy a work)

Okay, 'like' was the wrong wording for Miller's Batman... because I totally like Miller's Batman... I think what I meant to say was "agree with".

Oh, I have an Idea for a Blog! With all these varying interpretations of Batman floating around, how about have us give our takes on what WE think the character should be like... like "If I were writing him..."

Streebo said...

I'll bow to you guys on this one. DKR's Batman vs Superman was the archetypal "Batman VS" moment. I stand corrected. :)

Streebo said...

Thank you for the explanation, Scott. That makes things clearer.

Geoff Klock said...

Does this count for evidence that Miller supports the Iraq war? I remember a story about him telling a crowd who didn't like his saying what he is saying on that BBC website "What? You wan't us to lose?" but I cannot find the link to that.

Anonymous said...

The War in Iraq and the War on Terror are two separate things (granted Bush has done everything he can to blur that distinction), There are plenty of people who are pro-"Kicking Al-Quaeda's Ass" who feel that invading Iraq was a HUGE mistake. In fact, Holy, Terror may be Miller's way of reminding people of who we're SUPPOSED to be fighting. Let's just leave it at this: I wouldn't be surprised if Miller supported the War in Iraq, I just think its important to make the distinction between anti-terror and pro-Iraq

Streebo said...

Neil Gaiman's comments on a recent Rotten Tomatoes podcast made me chuckle. He said, "I'm sure the Al Quaeda are sitting in their caves in Afganistan thinking "on, no. There's a man dressed as a bat coming after me. Whatever shall we do?"

I've read some Morrison quotes about the impending Batman vs Bin Laden story - but I don't remember where it was and they were funny but could be seen as tasteless - so I'll just leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

Morrison isn't that successful at realising the entertaining concepts he generates. I like the idea of Batman's "sci-fi closet" for example but Morrison's attempt at a murder mystery (in The Club of Heroes arc) reads like movie torture porn and "The Clown at Midnight" was pretentious word-salad.
ASBR doesn't seem clever, satirical or radical- more like a habitually-late Image comic from 92.

Ping33 said...

The funniest thing is that Morrison and Miller are both starting from the same theme: Why has Batman been so startlingly inconsistent through the years.
Miller goes right into the depths of history, starting with the introduction of Robin as the first seismic change in the character, personality and overall aspect of The Batman. Morrison spends more time contrasting the Modern era batman from the 90's with that from the Silver and Silver-St.Cloud ages. The difference between the two is that Morrison doesn't seem to have a point beyond: 'hey kids, isn't it weird that batman has fought Aliens, immortal eco-Terrorists AND the mob?' Where as Miller finds room to comment on the impact and influence Batman has had as well as what those changes mean for character and fans alike. All the while having a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

Anonymous said...

I'm just chiming in to say that I absolutely loved "The Clown At Midnight". In my opinion it's Morrison's most interesting and personal work since "Seven Soldiers". I also liked the Luthor issue of All-Star Superman -- so far it's probably my favourite from this series. But apart from the fine second issue of the since discontinued "Authority" 2007 was not a year of greatest possible excitement for this here Morrison fan. There's just not enough leeway in an ultra-mainstream title such as Batman.

Ping33 said...

"Clown At Midnight" - I liked it as a story. It did some good things... but I see no reason at all why it was prose other than Ego. I can't see anything which was done in it which couldn't have been done in comic-book form. And I'm not one of those who argues with such things on principal. I LOVED Stardust when it first came out and think that the medium is in no danger by such experiments. Like most of Morrison's run though it seems to have been done more because he could do it than because it was mandated by the text. Hmm, I really think that almost all the arguments against All Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder are more compelling when used against Morrison's run... all except the thumbing his nose at the fanboys one... which is a non-starter in my book anyways.

Anonymous said...

I think that if a reader can ignore Miller and Morrison sniping at each other, they might find a much more entertaining version of Batman in Dini's Detective Comics. Aside from the crossover with Countdown and the Ra's al Ghul crossover, Dini's had a self-contained series of stories that are done in one (or two) and that still interconnect in a coherent universe. Most of these non-crossover stories have been very good, and "Slayride" was just brilliant.

In fact, I think "Slayride" is a great counterpoint to Morrison and Miller. It shows that we can still have a traditional approach to Robin and the Joker that is still engaging from cover to cover.

Anonymous said...

-Morrison's "Clown at Midnight" issue of Batman has a terrific line, about the wheelchair-bound Joker springing to life like "a Swiss Army Knife unfolding" or something like that. It's perfect, conveying the sense of danger about the character and Morrison's view of his lack of a core personality i.e. versatility in one fell swoop.

In fact, scattered amid all the purple clutter in the issue there's stuff that ended up giving a rare sense of intensity IMO: the gruesome death of the clown henchmen; the black and red motif; the Joker's toxic, feverish sweat; throwaway shit like Batman entering the Samadhi state to become ONE with the clues and solve the case DAMMIT and show just how AWESOME he is. And the art worked really well to convey an oppressive mood, what with its twisted hideousness, straight from videogames from the mid-nineties.

The description of Gotham as an incongruous collage is spot-on too, as others said in an old thread.

Yes, the prose is horrendous, the plot is trite as all heck and the reference-dropping is pure wank, but I think that's a feature, not a bug: the whole point was to capture both the best and the worst of the pulps and fanfic.

-I'd also add that Morrison's take on the Joker is a logical extension of Moore's depiction in the "Killing Joke": given how important origin tales are in superhero narratives (they are pretty much the only aspect of the continuity that remains relatively unchanged as a given character goes through different iterations), a character without a clear origin is a character without a stable personality.

-I guess one could try to make a half-arsed point about a Lacanian influence in Morrison's Joker. In "Arkham Asylum" it is stated that he's "hyperrational" and uniquely adapted to modern life, or something to that effect. One could characterise the (alleged) overwhelming complexity and instability of our times as a preponderance of the Real, and this in turn would be both terrifying and potentially exhilarating. Since he's unpredictable and deadly, and appears to be stuck on a permanent high of painful jouissance , Morrison's Joker would be the comic-book embodiment of this.

As I said, half-arsed.

-Dini's run has been hit-and-miss. That Joker issue was indeed great, but the title has been losing steam of late. And the art is pretty weak.

Dr. Gorila Zombie said...

The League of Batmen is not a good story but i´m enjoying both Morrison´s Batman and Miiler´s All Star. Both are totally refreshing with the character so readers are the winners in this fight.

I specially think the true Batman character is nearer to what Morrison wants but Miller´s take is giving me just SO MUCH FUN!!!

I didn´t understand it at the beginning but now i think that Miller has created one of funniest and unpredictable comic that I´ve ever read! (and this is a re-telling!)

Want more!