Since 2007, superstar writer Grant Morrison has crafted a monster epic for DC Comics with Bruce Wayne in the role of Odysseus, taking Batman quite literally from the dawn of time through to its final days in the pages of "Batman," "Final Crisis," "Batman and Robin" and "The Return of Bruce Wayne."
With time-traveling and Boom Tube battles apparently behind him, Wayne has now returned to the DCU proper, but the man once known as Gotham's Dark Knight has transformed into an international man of mystery.
In the final pages of Morrison's run on the best-selling "Batman and Robin," Wayne announced to the world that he was, in fact, Batman's benefactor. Moving forward, the billionaire industrialist will expand the reach of Batman in the new ongoing series, "Batman Incorporated."
With Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne staying to protect Gotham City as the new Batman and Robin, Wayne has set out to the far reaches of the planet to recruit franchisees to fight crime and do-good with the now yellow Batman logo emblazoned on his chest.
The first issue of "Batman Incorporated," released last week, featured Mr. Unknown, the Batman of Tokyo and introduced Lord Death Man – a supervillain from a Batman manga adaptation created by Jiro Kuwata – to DCU proper.
Morrison told CBR News that by the end of the first year of the series, readers will find out why these specific agents in these specific locations are so important and why Wayne deems it necessary to build a global team of Batmen. He also shared his thoughts on the genesis of "Batman Incorporated" and teased some other plot threads that will be developed in the coming months.
CBR News: After all he'd been through since "Final Crisis" and "Batman: R.I.P.," did you consider having Bruce Wayne announce to the world that he was actually Batman upon his return to the present day DCU and not just his benefactor?
Grant Morrison: Yeah, it crossed my mind, but you would never do that. The reason that he's doing what he's doing will be revealed a few issues down the line, but ultimately Batman has a very specific plan and part of what he's doing right now is to head off some trouble that's on its way. So yeah, you could have done that, but that's not the arena I wanted to play in. To be honest, it kind of ruins Batman as a character.
Fair enough. But now that he's at least revealed himself as Batman's benefactor, does that afford you some freedom and present some new opportunities as a storyteller?
Absolutely. I really wanted to bring Bruce a lot more heavily into the equation and create an opportunity for him to become a bigger part of the book. So yes, that's all going to be part of "Batman, Incorporated."
Did you have the big reveal as the conclusion to your run on "Batman and Robin" planned for some time or did that scene develop organically as you were writing the final issues of the series?
It kind of came about organically. The whole "Incorporated" idea came about last year. I actually remember when it happened. I was on a plane flight and I really thought I was going to be done with Batman, but I was thinking I hadn't quite answered all the questions. And this notion came to mind, this "Batman Incorporated" series. So yeah, the idea has been around for maybe a couple of years but I didn't plan it from the start at all.
I was going to ask you this question later but as you mentioned that the idea for "Batman Incorporated" came to you while you were on an international flight, it got me thinking about Batman as a brand and the globalization of the franchise. Warner Bros. releases blockbuster movies and animated series featuring the Dark Knight, as well as toys, pajamas and lunch boxes to all corners of the world and all tapped and untapped markets - is this series a perfect example of art imitating life as you take the Batman logo global in the pages of a comic book series?
Yeah, I wanted to specifically talk about that. The idea for this came when I was thinking about the Batman symbol from the Tim Burton movie in 1989 and thinking how powerful a merchandising tool that was and how after that movie was released, people wore Batman t-shirts everywhere. I was kind of thinking about that and beginning to see Batman as a franchise in the real world. Then I started thinking how that would translate into the fictional world with Batman and Bruce Wayne in the DC Universe. How would Bruce Wayne actually be a part of something like that how would he use it for a quite a different reason?
While Bruce is the lead in this series, no doubt we'll see Dick and Damian at some point during the run. That said, you won't be writing them as the Dynamic Duo month-to-month anymore because Paul Cornell and Peter Tomasi will be taking over "Batman and Robin" in the months ahead. Will you miss writing those characters on a regular basis, specifically Damian who is a character that you created and have really developed over the past few years?
Yeah, honestly, it's so hard to let go because I love those two characters and they're great fun to write. But at the same time, I wanted to see Damian get out there and join the Teen Titans and cause trouble and see what he can do running around the DC Universe, so I'm kind of glad that other people are doing it, as well, because it gives the character a bit more of an edge. It's great to have a lot of different voices trying to write his voice. And Dick's got a lot of different angles too, as does Damian. So yeah, I miss them terribly and I can't wait to get back to them in "Incorporated."
You've said in past interviews that the new animated series, "Batman: The Brave and The Bold," was a big influence on this series, and the affection you have for the Adam West TV series from the sixties is also well documented. While you're a master of telling mind-bending epics that need to be read and re-read to get a complete and full understanding of the story, how important is it to you to tell adventures like the ones it appears you're going to present in "Batman Incorporated," good old fashioned caped-crusading capers?
Well, I think you've go to do that, as well. I tend to switch them around because when you've got just a few hooks, people tend to get a bit bored. I think what I've discovered with Batman over the past few years through interaction with the fans online is, people love to play with the mysteries and come up with ideas and debate and talk, and I wouldn't want to lose that. This is obviously going to have its fair share of clues and build-ups but it won't require quite as much back reading maybe as some of the other ones.
But I think comics should require back reading because you pay quite a lot of money for them. And people collect them and keep them. They're not really throwaway things, so I think there should be value in re-reading them. So yeah, we'll switch between the really intricate stuff and some of the popcorn-y entertainment stuff, but there probably won't be anything as big as the whole "Batman: R.I.P.," Dr. Hurt stuff. Again, that was kind of its own thing and it's done.
But that's not to say that there's not going to be a lot of stuff happening in this comic. What I wanted to do was introduce a lot of new characters again, like we did in "Batman and Robin." Each issue isn't one guest star; it's usually two or three. And I'm definitely going to be expanding the mythos and taking it in a different direction. The last one had the depth of history and the supernatural and the kind of sci-fi side of Batman, this one is a lot more geo-political and techno and that kind of aspect, so it's a bit more, I wouldn't say James Bond because it's nothing like James Bond, but more like "Mission Impossible" or something like that.
In this first chapter, you've introduced Lord Death Man from Jiro Kuwata's Batman manga and Mr. Unknown, and next you have El Gaucho, who was originally introduced as a member of the Batmen of All Nations in "Detective Comics" #215 back in 1955. Was part of the impetus behind this project the chance it provided you to explore all these different versions of Batman as he's portrayed in different countries and cultures?
Oh, of course. The idea for that first story came to me from reading the "Bat-Manga!" book that Chip Kidd did and looking at Kuwata's work. I read that and I just wanted that same atmosphere and I really wanted to bring it into the DCU, and I plan to do a lot more of that.
There's another Batman of England, who is not the Knight. I discovered there was another character called The Hood used more recently in "Batman: Shadow of the Bat." Once I discovered that character, a new idea kind of spun off and it gave me a whole bunch of villains and new stuff to bring in. So yeah, doing the research for it [led to] discovering some obscure characters, including some quite recently from the nineties even. No one looks at the nineties but there's some interesting stuff there.
After he's done with Mr. Unknown, Batman is off to recruit El Gaucho in Argentina. Will he be leaving Mr. Unknown behind to protect Tokyo or will the new recruit be joining Batman on his quest?
It's very much that he moves on, leaving the new Batmen behind. At the end of the first year or the end of the first season, we find out really what this is all about and why these specific agents in these specific locations are so important.
The story with El Gaucho is a completely different type of story. It's set in Argentina, so we have lots of reference to things like Bolivians and the tango. It explores very much the literary construct of Argentina. So it's quite a crazy, little intricate kind of mystery.
While you're introducing some new characters, we saw in the first issue that classic Batverse characters like Catwoman also have a role to play in "Batman Incorporated." Will we be seeing any other Batman family, friends or foes from Gotham, like Batwoman or Red Robin?
We'll see all of those guys, and we'll see the Oracle, the online Oracle that Batman's created. We'll also see what Batgirl is doing in the finishing school in England. All of those ongoing stories will be touched on in "Batman Incorporated," and we'll definitely see Red Robin, too. And Catwoman will be back. She was very popular in the first one and I think she makes a great foil for Batman, so she's going to come back into it. We'll see Dick and Damian again, but in a quite different way, so, yeah, all of that stuff will appear in the first year.
I can't ask you about long-term plans for Batman without asking you about the Joker. Will he play a role in the new series?
So far, I don't have the Joker in it. I wanted to go in a different direction. I've already done three big Joker stories, and for me, I feel like I've said enough. If I come up with some way of using him that feels a bit different or I come up with a new Joker persona, I might do it, but right now I feel like he was part of the whole "Batman: R.I.P.," Dr. Hurt thing and I feel like I've kind of wrapped that up.
What about Batman's other classic rogues like the Penguin and Scarecrow? Is there room for those supervillains in "Batman Incorporated," or is it time to add some new rogues to Batman's gallery?
I kind of prefer to do new stuff. I know some other people would rather do some regular stories, but I kind of like to make up new things. The audience really seems to respond to that. There will maybe be a couple of villains that pop up from "Batman: R.I.P.," but beyond that, I'll mostly be doing new stuff.
"Batman Incorporated" #2, written by Grant Morrison and featuring art by Yanick Paquette, goes on sale December 22.