It’s close, oh so close now. Perhaps more than any of the other books and series’ that I intend to read, I’ve been really looking forward to this one. Not necessarily because I love Grant Morrison as a writer, though he is the author of one of my favourite stories, Arkham Asylum, but for the very reasons that people seem to hate his run instead – the difficult to follow chronology, surreal sequences, throw backs to ye olden days, and so on sound really amazing to me. But I have to admit: I was very confused just trying to buy the books for his run. It seemed fairly straightforward at first but, when I figured that a Google search of the recommended reading order would help, I was suddenly faced with people suggesting all manner of things. Though this link has some small spoilers, though none I hadn’t already heard, it’s more or less the one I used to work out how I’d be going about this. Unlike that helpful chap’s recommendation, however, I’m not going to be reading until a certain point in one trade paperback, then skipping ahead to the next to read some chapters from it which take place at the same time as the one before, and so on. Depending on how confused I get, yes, I probably will reread certain parts to make sense of things, and I’ll talk about these in posts of their own; but I’m not going to be jumping from one book to another just to read the chapters in the way they were released.
Before I present my intended order, I should probably be a bit more specific about what Grant Morrison’s run on the character is like. One of the most fascinating things about his run is that he takes stories from Batman’s early days, the ones many people believe would be better left forgotten (like the Adam West television show everyone seems to hate, even though it’s comedy gold), and brings them into continuity as having actually happened, even if they sound ridiculous. In a story called Batman R.I.P. it’s revealed that our caped hero has a black casebook filled with these old stories in which Batman went to other planets, fought vampires, etc. – basically, it’s Batman’s version of The X Files. But, according to Morrison, it all happened. Fuck knows how he has any of it make sense, but I am very intrigued to find out. There is, of course, one problem, and I’m sure a lot of the anger directed at Morrison for this run results from this: these stories are really old. As in 1950’s old, perhaps even earlier. Not a lot of people would have understood, let alone even realised, what these throwbacks were about. And I wouldn’t either if it weren’t for DC putting together a book called The Black Casebook which, as you’ll expect, collects a good number of these old stories that inspired Morrison’s run. So, naturally, this will be what I’m reading first before we dive into the real start of this run.
However, that’s not the only significant throwback he draws into continuity. At the end of one of my recent blog posts, I referenced a story called Son of the Demon and implied its importance in Morrison’s run. My dad actually confirmed to me earlier today that he bought the book it’s collected in, The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, for it alone, and not the 1930’s to ’60’s stories also present. In fact, it’s the only one he could remember having read out of this collection. The same can be said of me too. Just as I said when I first mentioned this collection, younger I hated these silly tales. Sadly, as I read a few earlier today, I found myself struggling to get through them once more, and will probably give up on them. The Batman then was aimed at young boys, you see, which means there’s a damsel in distress and Batman being a bit too badass, going as far as to kill vampires and even humans, which is practically unheard of today. The writing’s typically cheesy too.
He quoth, from a story about the Joker and Penguin teaming up: “The Joker! That leering monster of menace! What strange twist of fate has placed him in the same cell as the Penguin? What impish irony has brought these twins in transgression face to face? Can prison walls contain this combination of craft and cunning?”
Uh…right. Don’t ever expect a review on The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told – I just can’t share the enthusiasm Dick Giordano, an artist of the strip during its early days and eventual editor at DC, displays in his excellent introduction, and I probably never will. Part of me knows that I probably won’t enjoy The Black Casebook’s offering of weird tales either (incidentally, in some of these early strips, Batman’s called “weird” a lot, which is at least quite amusing), but I do trust in Morrison doing something clever with them, and reading them is probably going to help me understand all the bizarre stuff I have waiting in store.
Anyway, somehow I got to talking about ye olde Batman again, so let me step back a few paces to Son of the Demon instead. This I will be reading and reviewing, second on my list after The Black Casebook. The important thing that happens in this story – and sorry, but it must be spoiled – is this: Bruce and Talia do the naughty naughty together and, though she hides it from him, Bruce Wayne is actually a father at the end. In what way this relates to Morrison’s run should be obvious. The child, now grown up, comes back to him at some point in Batman and Son, where Morrison’s own run really begins. All I know is that his name’s Damian but, from that name alone, as well as the fact that he’s probably grown up with Talia and not just conveniently found out that millionaire Bruce Wayne, also Batman, is his father, I’m going to go ahead and say he’s probably an evil little bastard sent by Talia to kill him or something. Which should prove really interesting, particularly when later trade paperbacks of this run show that he becomes the new Robin. How no one has brought this kid back in a good or bad way before Morrison is baffling to me though. When I read Son of the Demon, which isn’t that amazing by the way, I couldn’t help but wonder what became of the child, so I find it pretty cool that Morrison’s put the kid into the Bat-Family.
You’ve probably guessed by now that I’ve had some parts of this run spoiled for me, and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s practically unavoidable when you see the names of some of the trade paperbacks and their descriptions, but I’ve had more specific things spoiled, such as that someone called Darkseid (who I think I remember being mentioned in Alan Moore’s Superman stories that I kicked this blog off with) kills Batman, only he, uh, doesn’t actually. However, although I know this, the good news is that I know not how or why, and that goes for a lot of things I know about only vaguely. Above all, I’m really looking forward to seeing how Morrison makes some of the strange stories of The Black Casebook a reality, as I’ve thankfully not had that spoiled at all. There are theories I have in mind about some of what will happen later during this run too. The covers of the trade paperbacks give some ideas away, as do some of their titles, sadly, but I won’t talk about them for fear that I end up spoiling anything.
So, in the coming days, you’ll see reviews of The Black Casebook and Son of the Demon, and perhaps in one or two separate posts some additional thoughts on how I think the former book’s old tales will fit in, presuming Morrison doesn’t spoil anything about his run in that book’s introduction, written by him. Starting with this post, I’m also creating a new category for this run, to make for easier reading in the future. Maybe I’ll also think of some silly title for the entire duration of the reviews and doubtless other posts discussing it. Like I’ve said as we’ve gotten closer and closer to starting this epic run, I’ll also probably break up any posts about the run with reviews of other books, perhaps finally of some video games too if I have the time to finish any I’m playing. This is just so I don’t get sick of reading Morrison’s run too quickly.
That about wraps up all I have to say then. Like I said, consult the recommended reading order I left a link to at the start, as my reasons for this order are all there. Here’s how I’m doing this:
The Black Casebook
Son of the Demon
Batman and Son
The Black Glove – Featuring the art of J.H. Williams!
Batman R.I.P. – Apparently this is where Morrison’s mind fuckery begins.
Final Crisis – This is one of several DC crossovers and will probably be the most difficult for me to follow, being unaware of many characters as I am. It’s also the story where Batman apparently dies, but doesn’t die.
Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn – Featuring Damian as the new Robin, I assume with Dick Grayson taking up the mantle of Batman in Bruce’s absence.
Batman and Robin: Batman V.S. Robin – Quite the exciting name, eh?
Batman and Robin: Batman and Robin Must Die! – Possibly even more exciting?
Batman: Time And The Batman – This is apparently why jumping between books wouldn’t be a bad idea, as the events here apparently will have taken place ages ago by now.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne – And this too is the same, with many of the events here apparently going alongside Batman and Robin.
Batman Incorporated – Another intriguing title name, though I think fairly obvious when you see the cover.
Batman Incorporated Volume 1: Demon Star – The reason this is the “first” volume would appear to be because it’s part of the New 52 relaunch.
Batman Incorporated Volume 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted – The hopefully amazing end.
Until next time.