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The Collected Annotations of Grant Morrisons Batman Part I: Batman & Son, The Clown at Midnight and The

Three Ghosts of Batman Collected and edited by Adrian B Legend: Adrian B Timothy Callahan http://geniusboyfiremelon.blogspot.com/ Cass Sherman - http://morrisonbatman.blogspot.com/ Dave Uzumeri - http://funnybookbabylon.com/

Some notes about Morrisons run as a whole (through RIP) 1. Hallucinogenic drugs/through isolation: Batman tripping balls is the overriding concept throughout this entire run, and the seed from which almost every other aspect and plot development takes place. Drugs, and their effect on the human psyche, especially in combination with living an iconic fantasy life, have brought Batman to a very fragile point. None of this is new, half of Batmans enemies use hallucinogenic poisons (especially the Joker and Scarecrow), and hes been poisoned or on drugs like every third Batman story since 1960. 2. Nature vs. nurture: This is especially evident in the rivalry between Tim and Damian for the right to be Batmans son, as well as the ruminations on Batmans own upbringing. This theme generally extends more into the Resurrection of Ras al Ghul crossover, which I wont be discussing here since it seems to have little relevance to R.I.P., and Ill also probably feel like an idiot when it becomes important and I have to do an appendix, but ah well. 3. Red and black: These two colors show up everywhere representing good and evil, with special relevance to the colors on a roulette wheel. 4. Zur en Arrh: self-explanatory after the latest issue, this is Batmans implanted Manchurian Candidate codeword and the identity of a planet from Batman #113 that Bruce was abducted to (no wonder Morrison is referencing that story; he loves alien abductions) and on which he had the powers of Superman. The guy who summoned him was the Batman of Zur en Arrh, who had on that horrendously/hilariously ugly costume Tony Daniel reintroduced at the end of 678. Batman 655 Page 5: That Morrison guy sure knows how to kick things off with a bang! You see what I did there? You see, he fired the gun and... wait, it's "Blam" you say? Stop killing my moment man! Alright, with that out of my system, The Joker's shooter is the first of Three Ghosts of Batman who gain importance later in the run.

Page 6: The first scrawling of "Zur En Arrh", a phrase that drove both Batman and the interwebs to the brink of insanity Page 8: The second panel here struck me. The nurse's silhouette outlines the shape of a headsman on the wall while she and Gordon banter about a live beheading! I can't imagine how this connects with anything though, as Gordon escapes Morrison's run relatively unscathed. Page 17: "The Earl of Wordenshire," alter ego "The Knight," is a Morrison creation whom we encounter in the Club of Heroes arc down the line in Batman 667. Page 23: "There's a chapter in the latest Artemis Fowl I'm keen to catch up on." The Artemis Fowl series of youth novels follow the fantastic adventures of a cutthroat, twelve year old crime boss. The book seems tame for Alfred though, whose library Bruce calls "a shrine to blood spattered prose" in Batman 675, but perhaps Morrison is only citing the work as an inspiration for the Damian character. Batman 656 Page 2: I love Bruce Wayne's dialogue here: All this comic book stuff is way too highbrow for me. I collect tribal art, schizophrenic painters, 'outsider work' I believe they call it. There's a message here. I know if I just stare hard enough... Interestingly, in the comic world of Batman, the artistic hierarchy is inverted, with comic books at the top and tribal art at the bottom. I actually have no idea whether aesthetes regard tribal art favorably, it just seemed like something one would find ornamenting the apartment of a New York bohemian. Bruce is goading the reader when he says "There's a message here," but he's not lying. "Outsider work" points us to Detective Comics 356. That boil-covered albino is actually Alfred who, after being crushed by a boulder in Detective 328 - boulders were much more abundant in those days, posing the greatest threat to secondary characters -, was secretly revived by a quack scientist following what might be the longest editor's note in 70 years of Batman comics.

For whatever reason, the Silver Age contraption that jolted Alfred back to life also disfigured him and twisted his desire to help the Dynamic Duo into a desire to kill them.

Behind the scenes as the Outsider, Alfred conscripts Z-list supervillains like Blockbuster and the Grasshopper to perpetrate schemes against Batman and Robin. This begins in Detective 334 and continues until 356 where Batman and Robin finally uncover the Outsider's true identity. During their battle, Batman knocks the Outsider into a "regeneration machine," restoring him to his natural form. The rejuvenated Alfred does not remember his crimes, and Batman and Robin vow never to discuss them because "the news of his treachery might kill him." This promise is at the center of Batman 682's plot. Obviously, since the Outsider was a behind-the-scenes evil mastermind, this line of dialogue strongly suggests Alfred as the identity of the Black Glove, although outsider art is a real thing, which makes this line easy to dismiss even if you did read and remember those stories from 45 years ago. [Ed note: I think this is a red herring, as it was revealed that Hurt (possibly Thomas Wayne, possibly the Devil) is behind the Black Hand, not Alfred. Its fun to note Bruces dialogue that There's a message here. I know if I just stare hard enough is exactly wh at fans like me have been doing with Morrisons run for the past 3 years. As well, Bruces comments on tribal art

also hint at what he will eventually create at the end of Final Crisis/beginning of The Return of Bruce Wayne] Pg 12 Theres no way that a Man-Bat dangling in front of Golden Age Wonder Woman doesnt bear some kind of significance, even if its merely a nod to the many representations of a possible relationship between the two that Morrison, effectively, knocks out to bring in Jezebel Jet. Pages 20-21: I don't actually have the comic from which the events in this discussion originate, but Wikipedia synopsizes it well. Also, in the Richard Donner film The Omen, a boy named Damian is revealed to be the offspring of Satan, making him a literal "Son of the Demon." Batman 657 Pages 2-3: Note Bruce brings Damian to the Batcave before Wayne Manor, showing that he considers Damian to be the son of the Bat, not Bruce. (The fact that he wore his mask while boning Talia probably indicated that as well). Page 13: The fifth dimension? Bat-Mite is from the Fifth Dimension. Hey, you take SUCTION CUPS and SMOKE BOMBS and ELECTRONIC GIMMICKS, and you add the power of SUGGESTION, is all Im saying. Illusion. Psychology. Technology. #%&*ology. Definitely pointing to the power of hallucination/suggestion/psychological attack that comes up later, akin (in conjunction with the Black Gloves overall theme of rich-people-playing-checkers-with-peoples-lives) to John Fowless The Magus and its semi-adaptation, David Finchers The Game. Batman 658 Pg 11 Damian asking about Bruces father and his response (He was a good man. A doctor. He died when I wasnt much older than you are now.) is absolute foreshadowing to the Black Glove and Batman RIPs revelation of Simon Hurt. Page 23: For those rereading the run, does this image remind you of anything? Another, betterremembered image from later on in the run inverts this one, with the son overlooking the father's apparent fiery death. What? You want me to spell it out for you?

Batman 663 Pg 3 the cloying stench of black and red flowers coiled in a dirty wreath for a dead king The wreath, filled with Joker venom, kills everyone at the funeral. Morrisons color themes of red and black become much more important in RIP (the scene in DCU 0 and the contrast between Batman and Zur-En-Arrhs costumes being the most prevalent) Morrison is boiling all the famous Joker stories together in The Clown at Midnight. The whole knocking-off the henchmen bit salutes The Joker's Five Way Revenge in Batman 251 where the Joker's murderous, "original persona resurfaces." A snippet from this issue appears on the splash page of Batman 683. Page 11: Lots of red and black on this page; the lethal flowers return in Batman 680. Morrison links the colors to rebirth, a theme we'll visit briefly in the annotations for 670. Also of note,in Morrison's Batman Gothic, the undying Mr. Whisper, in service of the Devil, attempts to unleash the bubonic plague on Gotham City via infected rose petals (red roses, black death). Even moreso than other issues, The Clown at Midnight suggests that Morrison's Batman run is a spiritual successor to his other work with the character. Master of all matters Morrison, Timothy Callahan gives a good talk about this in his review of the issue. YES! Now I've officially referenced every single person ever to utter the words "Morrison" or "Batman" in this post. Page 11: "If it's him, there has to be more. He always leaves a clue. A pattern." Morrison's characters, like Morrison himself, love to drop hints and clues. In Batman 667, the Legionary, in his death throes, smears his fingerprints on a security monitor to guide Batman to his killer. In 674, the Third Man intentionally ditches his glove, leaving Batman to wonder "Is he telling me his name?" The reader must act the part of the detective, trying to solve two mysteries at once,

Batman's mystery "Who is the Black Glove?" and the thematic mystery "Where do the ideas of these seemingly unrelated threads meet?" Page 16: Joker thinks, Why be an orphaned boy when you can be a superhero? Has Batman ever told Joker his origin? If not, is this just Morrison screwing up, or. who told him? For the Joker's psychotic fit, Morrison copies a couple of lines directly from other comics: They can't keep me here I know a way out. - last page of first Joker story in Batman #1 You see I hold the winning card. - page 8 of that same Joker story You're in my power Batman Ho Ho! I could pull off your mask now - and end your reign! I could even kill you but I won't! HAHAHAHA Let him live!" - page 10 of the Joker story in Batman 67 He's so amusing when he tries to match wits with me... hehehehehe - page 8 of the Joker story in Batman 11 Take a look! We resemble each other! - page 16 of the ubiquitous Batman 251 And I'm loony, like a light-bulb battered bug. - page 24 of The Killing Joke Aren't I just good enough to EAT! - page 20 of Arkham Asylum Stop... stop... stop me... if you've heard this one... - the opening sequence of Batman 614 Page 17: Red and black. Like a bat. In a dream. In a window. Another reference. Later on, in #672 (and 682), when the bat crashes through the window (in Bruces dream!), its jet black with bright red eyes. Batman #663, "The Clown at Midnight," is a response to Arkham Asylum. This is apparent in the issue's emphasis on the duality of Joker and the Batman, the setting (largely within the asylum itself), the use of the pattern motif (although it was fractals in Arkham and it's checkerboards in "The Clown at Midnight"), and the notion of the Joker's "super-sanity" which was established in Arkham as an explanation for his ever-shifting personality and used in "The Clown at Midnight" to establish the Joker's transformation into a force of terror. As Morrison writes in #663, "[The Joker's] remarkable coping mechanism, which saw him transform a personal nightmare of disfigurement into a baleful comedy and criminal infamy all those years ago -- happily chuckling to himself in the garage as he constructed outlandish Joker-Mobiles which gently mocked the young Batman's pretensions in the Satire Years before Camp, and New Homicidal, and all the other Jokers he's been--now struggles to process the raw, expressionistic art brutal of his latest surgical makeover." This Art Brutal stage, which is

embodied by "The Clown at Midnight" (the title of the story is the very name of this new iteration of the Joker's persona), will provide a significantly more menacing nemesis for the Batman in the future. Morrison establishes this not only with the Joker's surgically altered appearance (with the sides of his hideous smile sewn shut by the butchers at Arkham), and not only with the Joker's crazed explanations, "'It's the oldest, bestest gag in the book,' the Joker spits and slurs, eager for the last laugh. 'Red and Black. Like a bat. In a dream. In a window," but with the symbolic sacrifice of Harley Quinn, a character who represents the more whimsical Joker that will be left behind on the stroke of midnight. Ritual and transformation are the centerpieces of this story, just as they are is in Arkham Asylum, only this time it's the other side of the mirror that's featured. It's about the Joker now. As the Joker helpfully points out, Batman is just in the story as a "straight man" for the Joker's absurdist comedy.

Batman 664 Page 11: Graffiti sighting #2 for Zur en Arrh. This is the site of the secon d Ghost of Batman. The shorter ginger cop is Farelli; hes mentioned by name in later issues, and is the GCPD secret-keeper regarding the Ghosts. Page 19: Enter the Second Ghost, with a deliberate similarity to 1994 Knightfall villain Bane. We later learn this Ghost is a former cop named Muller. Page 20: The black casebook is Batmans journal of all of his wacky 50s sci -fi adventures. The first Ghost, and this one, make up two-thirds of a trio about which he once had a dream (this part doesnt seem to be an existing story, but rather a detail Morrison put in). Page 22: Although foot-stomp-on-the-floor differs radically from knee-drive-in-the-air, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that this page commemorates Bane's breaking of the bat in Knightfall. Batma 665 Page 1: The Zur En Arrh graffiti has vanished. David Uzumeri, in a wonderful thought, asks, "Could it somehow magically follow the Three Ghosts?" The text doesn't buttress this view 100%, as the Zur En Arrh graffiti was actually absent on the last page of the previous issue, with BatBane standing no more than two or three feet away. However, Batman is unconscious in that panel. Therefore, I suspect the "magical aura" is actually a pathogen that the Three Ghosts transmit, one keyed to alter Batman's mind state. A part of the previous issue, in which Batman claims he is able to feel the air around BatBane, supports this theory.

Page 5: Batman heads straight for the drugs. The effect of such drugs threatens to transform Batman into a numb, pitiless creature like the smack addled BatBane or the pill popping Damian of next issue. Page 6: Its clear that the mystery 3rd ghost is not Joe Chill or Alfred as some blogs originally guess but the silhouette of Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne. Page 8: First panel, Bruce snaps to wakefulness, seemingly just seconds after passing out on the previous page. Might this be one of his "Problem-Solving Microsleeps" ala 682? "Cautionary tales, visions of what I might have become in other lives" In the next issue, Batman becomes someone who "sold his sold his soul to the Devil." We see later a Batman who uses a gun to kill his parent's murderer (he doesn't pull the trigger, but still). Finally, the climax of this issue sees the Dark Knight, high on tranquilizer and testosterone, out-brute even the bestial Bane-Bat. Alfred shows hes been reading the Black Casebook and making an electronic copy (for what purpose?). Alfred tries to play off its contents as Batman tripping balls, but Bruce is convinced at this point of its reality. We see Damian as Batman in the next issue, but this could be more allusions to Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne, someone who isnt the Devil, but rather sold themselves to him. Page 17: Farelli again. Batman blows up the old Batmobile he was using that he grabbed from the penthouse garage, hence why it looks all vintage. Page 18: "Why did you have to choose an enemy that's as old as time and bigger than all of us, Batman?" When I first read this, I thought Gordon was talking about crime. After reading 681, it becomes fairly clear that he's alluding to the Devil. Page 22: The first on-panel appearance of the Black Glove, with face unseen, watching Bruce and Jezebel in Paris. This page effectively absolves Bruce, since he cant really watch himself make out with Jezebel, and it absolves Jezebel from being the Glove herself (although she could definitely be working for him). Morrison brings back a few of his favorite Batman motifs: doubling and dreams. The Batman doppelgangers, and the mystery of their existence (and agenda), drives the narrative. They seem to be distorted reflections of Batman's psyche. One, a brutal killer with a gun, reflects his the childhood trauma of his parents' murder. Another, the Bane clone, reflects Batman's greatest defeat (and recalls that Batman himself was pumped up with the "venom" steroid at

one point as told in a Legends of the Dark Knight story arc). The third doppelganger, who has not yet appeared, reflects a Batman driven by vengeance. Someone who has sold his soul to the Devil, recalling the pact made by Mr. Whisper in Batman: Gothic. In Morrison's cosmology, dreams are essential to the detective skills of Batman. In Arkham Asylum, the entire story is written as a dream. Everything in that story is Jungian dream symbolism. In Gothic, Batman receives clues through his dreams, and he follows a dream logic to track down the origin of Mr. Whisper. In this current Batman storyline, dreams are no less prominent. Bruce Wayne has been tormented by dreams of these Batman doubles, and now he must face them in reality. His worst nightmare, the fear of going to far in his quest for vengeance, is literally embodied by these three twisted Batman doppelgangers. The Black Casebook, an ingenious device created by Morrison to allow Batman to reconcile the supernatural and alien experiences in his past, represents the kind of hyper-continuity Morrison loves. Some readers dislike Morrison's approach to continuity. They say that his stories ignore past continuity and his characters act "out-of-character" (I, myself, have accused Morrison of this in his very last issue of Batman, but I'm not perfect either). Such an accusation is based on a limited view of continuity. It's based on a vague notion of "recent continuity," and tends to ignore the thousands of older, inconsistent stories. Morrison doesn't ignore continuity. He embraces ALL OF IT. It's a hyper-continuity that accepts all inconsistencies and contradictions. Batman 666 Pages 2-3: A riff off the classic Finger/Kane origin story from Detective #33 and Batman #1, which was laid out similarly and carried the same title. A few items of note:

Talia and Bruce are now naked and boning in a shower conflicts with Kuberts own rendition of the union in 656. Also, Bruce has his mask off now.

Page 6: Damian and Commissioner Batgirl are quoting William Butler Yeats's thunderous Second Coming, which I've reprinted below: Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand; A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? Page 8 First appearance of Professor Pyg. Now whether this is the same guy from Batman & Robin remains to be seen. We see him hanging upside-down on crucifixes often. B&R 14 springs to mind as the most recent example. Page 9: The right window holds what seems to be an abandoned Joker outfit; the left, a group of Batmen seemingly working together (based on Damians comments later, its likely B ruce, Dick and Damian). The big Batsuit guy is the one we saw dead in the origin story pages ago. Damians loading up on Vicodin in the last panel. Page 11: As later explained in #674, the Third Ghosts obsession with Satanic imagery comes from Dr. Simon Hurt faking his familys murders by the hands of Satanists in an attempt to duplicate the tragedy that fuels Batman. Barbara says that monster was responsible for the death of of a good FRIEND regarding Damian, implying shes coursecorreting her statement from something else so shes probably talking about Dick Grayson, her former lover, rather than Bruce. Page 16: The Devil, in some sense, gave birth to the Third Man when Satanists murdered Officer Lane's family (recounted in 674). Page 17: The victory is in the PREPARATION. Wingman later states this advice he received from Batman in #669. The first three YEARS comment implies Damians been doing this for a while. Page 18: Damian confirms the two Batmen were Bruce and Dick (making Battle for the Cowl even more underwhelming and unnecessary). The time the Third Ghost is referring to could be his torture of Bruce in 672-674, or a role yet to be played in R.I.P. The old man/dragon could be

more of his Satanic obsession, or it could be Alfred/the Black Glove (I apologize if this theory is wearing on you, I just really think its true!) Page 20: "... In return for my soul!" A Batman who "sold his soul to the Devil" embodies one third of Bruce Wayne's three nightmarish visions from the previous issue. Sure, Morrison throws in some Tarot symbolism (the "Hanged Man" on page 8), literary allusions (to Yeats), and some doubling (the Anti-Christ Batman vs. Future Batman), like he usually does, but this story is filled with enough action and brilliant throw-away ideas: the wheelchair-bound Police Commissioner Gordon, Phosphorus Rex, the Hotel Bethlehem, an ape in a clown costume with a submachine gun--to turn the whole thing into a high-speed carnival ride. I love the way he layers the subtextual depth beneath the veneer of a classic super-hero thriller (and finishes it up in a single issue).

See you in Part II, which will collect celebrated JH Williams III arc Club of Heroes and the Third Ghost shows his face in The Black Glove. Part two will also contain The Fiend with Nine Eyes, Batman #675, the calm before the storm. Hope youve enjoyed this. Im sure there are many other, smarter, more insightful people doing this. If you have any suggestions, throw them my way and they will be added to future volumes and addendums.

-a.