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…