But Incognito As Batman He Fights Crime At Night

One of the things that people have found most confusing about the ending (if ending it is) of Batman RIP is the question of who exactly was the villain behind The Black Glove.

Was he, as he claimed, Thomas Wayne back from the dead (if he was ever really dead)? Was he Alfred (or working for Alfred)? Was he Satan himself? Was he operating under orders from some dissociated part of Bruce Wayne’s psyche? The conclusion was left ambiguous enough that all these were left as possibilities. This did of course leave several people frustrated, lacking the ‘closure’ they felt they deserved from such a long storyline.

Well, the answer to who the villain really was is obvious enough, to anyone who’s read Morrison’s other work.

It’s the Anti-Dad..

Morrison lost his own father fairly recently, and since then most of his superhero work has been devoted, in one way or another, to working out his feelings about this, both good and bad. All-Star Superman, for example, is largely about the inspirational power of Superman’s two dead fathers, and also about his power to inspire after his own ‘death’. Seven Soldiers is likewise full of lost or evil father figures – Klarion’s missing father, Zatanna searching for her father’s books, Jake’s father-in-law dying, Melmoth… the complex attitude towards Alan Moore in Seven Soldiers could be seen as part of this – Morrison having to kill his ‘father’ Moore (for a wonderful take on the Moore-Morrison inspirational relationship, see Uncyclopedia’s entry on Morrison ) .

The Anti-Dad sums up everything that was hinted at for the Black Glove – the not-really-dead Thomas Wayne who hates his son, the Devil, Alfred (who after all is Bruce Wayne’s surrogate father)… the Anti-Dad is also appearing right now in Final Crisis.

Anti-Dad is actually a pretty good description of Darkseid (the inspiration, after all, for cinema’s most famous ‘Dark Father’) and it is interesting in this context to look at the design notes in the Final Crisis Sketchbook for ‘Terrible’ Turpin.

Turpin of course later in the story becomes the body that Darkseid takes over, but he’s described as being ‘Jack Kirby as drawn by Frank Miller’. Now, that’s actually a good description of how the character should look, but if you wanted to name two people who could be described as the ‘father’ of modern superhero comics, Jack Kirby would obviously be one, and Miller could reasonably be described as the father of modern ‘realistic’, downbeat, grimungritty comics, of the kind both Final Crisis and Batman RIP at least pretend to be.

Both stories are reflections of each other – as above, so below, the microcosm and the macrocosm. As the Earth is being taken over and subverted to Darkseid’s will, so Batman finds that his own mind had been booby-trapped (with a phrase that sounds very like ‘surrender’ – surrender being another subject that has come up more than a few times recently in Morrison’s work).

Morrison is doing Crisis On Infinite Earths and American Gothic at the same time (unsurprising as he’s always claimed Moore’s Swamp Thing run as a big influence). He’s managing to take the little ground-level story and have it reflect the themes and events of the huge mega-complex crossover – and he did it without anybody realising this til after the fact (I thought the two were connected, but I couldn’t be sure). Certainly Batman RIP has far more claim to be a Final Crisis tie-in than most of the books Johns and Rucka are doing with the Final Crisis logo slapped on them (Revelations, to be fair, ties in quite well, but why the others are considered Final Crisis tie-ins at the moment I have no idea).

So the idea that the events of Batman RIP will come to their ‘real’ conclusion in Final Crisis is not a problem for me – the two stories are one and the same.

However, the icing on the cake, if true, is the report in Lying In The Gutters that Morrison *AND FRANK QUITELY* are going to be the creative team on Batman after all the big shake-ups have shaken out. If this is the case (as all right-thinking people hope and pray), it would appear conclusive proof that the story was not, as some thought, messed around with by Dan DiDio, but was what Morrison intended all along.

More on the Final Crisis/Batman RIP mega-story tomorrow…

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4 Responses to But Incognito As Batman He Fights Crime At Night

  1. Great post! You’re quite right to link Morrison’s riffs on comic book history with the daddy issues that run through his current works. This combination turns something that should feel insular into something weirdly emotional, which is quite a trick to pull off, really.

    I don’t think Moz-Bats or Final Crisis are quite up to the standard of ASS or Seven Soldiers, but they’ve got a lot of energy, and if Franky Q’s really going to start drawing Batman my opinion could change damned quickly!

    Looking forward to reading the rest of the posts in this series — keep ’em coming!

  2. Also: I’d never read that Uncyclopedia entry before so thanks for that!

  3. RAB says:

    A while back I took it upon myself to list good and bad fathers in Seven Soldiers over at my blog. There are also some significant maternal figures in the mix. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s all about Morrison working out his own loss, however, rather that it reflects the child’s relationship with his or her parents being the most primal and important subject for stories. You might say that in focusing on this topic, GM is trying to cut to the heart of the matter and find not only the stories he needs to tell right now but the ones readers always need to see.

    That Uncyclopedia entry is full of cleverly disguised truth. Many thanks for that link!

    After getting our hopes up so expertly, if it later turns out Morrison and Quitely are not joining forces on Batman, Rich Johnston will suffer for toying with us.

  4. David says:

    Some good points there, RAB. Superhero stories have always had a huge investment in the idea of dead parents and orphaned children (like, duh!); it strikes me that, on a meta-level, a large part of the fandom might not have recovered from the shock of seeing their garishly clad pseudo-parents degenerate/and or suffer a brutal death at the hands of Miller/Moore et al. Like Plok just said as a part of his Mindless Ones interview, superhero comics have switched from a state of constant resuscitation to a state of fake resuscitation.

    Maybe, by navigating this mess of good and bad parent figures in his stories, Morrison is trying to marry form and function and take his readers beyond this need for constant re-invigoration of the same old crap, the same old tired parental figures? If so, he’s chosen a funny forum in which to introduce this 3rd road (what with Seven Soldiers etc being the most vibrant superhero revamps in town), but you can probably write that off as a necessary bit of inside work.

    And hey, RAB — your six word summary of Seven Soldiers at the end of that post you linked to above never ceases to amaze me!

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