'Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne': An interview with writer Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison is currently writing a six-issue miniseries, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (DC Comics), that some consider one of the comic-book events of the year. Being touted as an event-creator is something this 50 year-old, Scottish-born writer must be used to by now. Morrison’s knack for rich conversational dialogue and intricately knotted plotting has garnered raves since the 1980s for everything from his big hits (the current, superb Batman and Robin series) to cult favorites (the your-head-will-explode The Invisibles).

I spoke to Morrison about Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, the second issue of which has just arrived in comic-book stores. There’s also news about a BBC sci-fi TV project Morrison is working on.

EW: The Return of Bruce Wayne puts the hero in different time periods. It feels more like a throwback to the wilder Batman stories of the 1960s and 70s, when writers sometimes had Batman time-travel and become a Medieval knight or a pirate or something.

Grant Morrison: Yes. Batman now has become more associated with the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies, but there are all these other Batmans before that, other versions of the character that can be tweaked. You had the Viking batman and the caveman Batman—I wondered if I could do that kind of outlandish story in a way that seems plausible and gritty and convincing.

EW: What’s the essential idea of the miniseries?

GM: We‘re basically watching Batman being born from a blank slate for this entire series. It’s “Building a Better Batman,” in that sense. He’s rebuilding himself from the ground up. Becoming, by the end of it, the Batman we recognize. He still has his fantastic intellect, his deductive skills, his martial arts abilities, his strength and endurance. But what he doesn’t have is the connection yet to Batman or to Bruce Wayne: an awareness of who he is and what his destiny is. It allows the reader to see him emerge from nothing, almost.

EW: The miniseries ties in with current Batman story lines, in which he’s supposedly either dead or has disappeared from Earth, and you have him fighting his way through time and space to return to the present.

GM: That’s right. And I wanted to set up challenges: A Batman with no memory, no costume, no equipment in the Paleolithic era — what would that fellow do? And to make that as convincing as possible rather than in the old way of telling Batman stories, where he’d fight a few cavemen and then jump back and be home in time for dinner — that’s the challenge. So it was looking at that old material and seeing what kind of new stories we could get out of a time, such as the 1960s Batman period, that many people had dismissed. Each issue of Bruce Wayne is a complete story, self-contained, done with a different artist. There’s a Puritan-era story in issue two, a cowboy story in issue four — that kind of thing.

EW: What else are you working on?

GM: I’m writing a TV show for the BBC. A miniseries to be called Bonnyroad. It’s a big-event, sci fi thriller, Science fiction with sex, seven episodes to be shown over a week, in a contemporary setting, with big cast of characters and a low budget. I’m quite pleased with it.

EW: I hear that one of the stars is Stephen Fry (Bones), and that Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) is directing it.

GM: Yes. I like the idea of making Calvinist science fiction — stingy Scottish science fiction. It has elements of Scottish folklore and Brigadoon, taking it seriously. It’s not cast yet; I’m just finished writing it. But really, my head is still in Batman. I keep finding new depths to explore in Bruce Wayne, new angles to play up. I’m quite surprised I haven’t tired of Batman yet.

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Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • Rion

    Morrison is the reason I no longer read Batman. Why would anyone want to read something as ridiculous as cowboy Batman or caveman Batman? Dumb.

    • Brian

      Agreed. I liked Morrison’s work on JLA, but everything else I’ve seen of his has been bad IMO.

    • Patrick

      I actually like those old, weird stories. I can find something to enjoy through the whole history of the character, so I guess I’m dumb. That said, I get what Morrison is trying to do, but I’m not really appreciating it. I like B&R alright, but everything else so far has been meh.

      • Greg

        If you’re not digging or liking Morrison’s point of view, try All-Star Superman. That’s one of the best 10 books of the last decade, (IMHO) and sounds a little like what he’s aiming for here with Batman.

      • J.

        I agree with Greg, All-Star Superman was great. Plus check out his work on Batman and Robin Reborn.

    • Skip182

      Agreed. Let Superman and his superpowers do things like this that don’t actually make sense. Bruce Wayne was a man in a suit fighting crime, not a time-traveling caveman.

  • harry

    bruce wayne back from the grave. yessss!!!

  • Tom Strong

    I agree. This is all retarded.

  • Grant Morrison

    You WILL read it and you WILL like it. I command it!

  • brodie

    I’m always surprised at people who like fantasy, but only the thinnest possible layer of it. A man who runs around wearing a bat costume and punching clones is fine, but if you send him back in time, it all falls apart for you? One of the great things about Batman is that he’s become a strong enough icon to endure being both serious and silly. Both kinds of those stories can be trash, and both kind can be sublime.

    • brodie

      Clowns, that is. Not clones. We’ll leave that to Spidey.

      • Greg

        Excellent point and excellent correction! Ha!

    • Brian

      I don’t think those stories are necessarily bad-there’s potential for just about every story concept to be good, I just don’t think Morrison’s a good writer.

      • brodie

        That’s fair. My comment is more directed at people who automatically dismiss any Batman story with a little broader fantasy. There are plenty of people who do. For me, Morrision’s run on Batman has been uneven, starting strong, then sagging a bit. I’m really enjoying his Batman and Robin, though.

    • Brett

      See my reply a few posts down.

      It’s not that people don’t like those stories, it’s just that DC spent the better part of the past decade using Frank Miller as writer/artist and Denny O’Neil as editor of Batman to create a take on the character that divorced Batman from those very type of stories, claiming they were silly and out of character for a hero like Batman.

      And as stated below, to drive their point home, DC editorial took Dick Grayson/Nightwing out of the Titans because as a veteran of the batcave, they didn’t want him participating in any space or time traveling stories either.

      So essentially, regular readers of Batman were conditioned by DC over the past few decades to reject those kind of stories. It’s one of the main reasons why the TV show Batman can’t get released: because DC Comics is embarrassed by a Batman many didn’t take seriously.

      • Ruthven

        Have to correct you on a glaring misconception there.

        The 60’s Batman TV series is not getting released because Fox and WB are in a legal-deadlock over who owns the rights to it. It has absolutely *nothing* to do with DC Comics being embarressed by it!

        Fact-checking helps your argument from being undermined :)

  • Frank Mondana

    Ah, the world of the comic book “purists”.
    “Batman in the Paleolithic? That’s utter rubbish. He should be here, in his tights and billion dollar car/boat/plane (that no one has built), fighting criminals who constantly break out from an insane asylum (one looks like an alligator with scales and all), and all the while running a huge conglomerate (that doesn’t do anything bad).
    CAVEMAN! Give me a break! that’s so unrealistic….”

  • Rion

    It has nothing to do with cavemen being realistic. It has to do with cavemen being stupid. Save that kind of crud for Captain Marvel.

    • brodie

      There’s no shortage of stories still being published for those who prefer the dark alleys and repeated returns of the traditional rougue’s gallery. A lot of us enjoy Batman in more colorful faire once in a while too. Dismissing it as “stupid” is the same sort of thing too many other people do to comics as a whole.

  • Steve Roisum

    Morrison has revitalized Batman. Just sit back and enjoy it.

    • BlackIrish4094

      No, he hasn’t.

      • Tetset

        Really? Because the books are selling in numbers they haven’t had in years and are more important to the main DCU line than ever. Not to mention, the most imaginative and original since Miller was writting.

  • Azbats

    If you were to follow the storyline from the beginning (being Final Crisis in this instance) then Bruce Wayne being back in time would make sense to you. That’s what’s great about comics, and creators like Grant Morrison – there’s no budgets, no stipulations on what can and can’t be done, and from that, you generally get amazing storylines.

  • Brett

    I used to be a regular reader of Batman for years but stopped after Grant Morrison’s train wreck Batman: RIP, which wasn’t even the death of Batman. He died in GM’s other DC trainwreck, Final Crisis.
    Boy, do I long for the days when comics were fun and full of imagination. PS. And anyone who thinks killing Batman across a series of unreadable comics is fun, think again. DC Comics kills their characters with regularity on a monthly basis.

    • edcerc

      Imagination? Grant Morrison is probably the most imaginative writer in comics history. His run on Batman is not only the best interpretation of batman ever but some of the best stuff in comics period.

  • Brett

    The reason why many people may not like time traveling caveman Batman is because DC Comics spent the last 20 years divorcing themselves of those ‘silly time traveling/space opera’ stories from Batman’s 60’s and 70’s past. At least, that was Denny O’Neil and Frank Miller’s job when they redefined Batman in 1986.

    To further outlaw time traveling space silliness, DC editorial took Dick Grayson/Nightwing out of the Titans universe (after he had already grown up and flew the bat-nest) — breaking from his 15 year relationship with Starfire because DC didn’t think it was appropriate for Dick Grayson from the Bat-Universe to be hoping across the universe with a gold haired alien he loved from outer space.

    So DC tells you on the one hand: No more space silly time stories, then they hire Grant Morrison to tell Batman space traveling time stories.

    My head hurts just thinking about it.

  • Corey N.L.

    Grant Morrison’s current Batman run has been amazing from the beginning. Easily the most fun and exciting Batman tales of the past decade.

  • Michael

    Grant is one of the most innovative and interesting writers in modern comics. His takes on Batman, JLA, Fantastic Four and the X-Men have redefined the characters in a way that other writers just haven’t had the stones to follow or top. To all you whiners, I would say only this: if you don’t like Grant Morrison, you must not like good comics, so MYOB and piss off and read some mindless tat instead.

  • Funky Flashman

    Isnt this just more or less another series of Elseworlds Batman stories?

  • Ryan

    I’m enjoying Return of Bruce Wayne so far, and I think Batman & Robin is one of the best books out right now. Grant Morrison is not for everyone, and I found RIP to be a frustrating read, but he’s an excellent writer with a definite vision of what he wants to write. Arkham Asylum, for example, was superb.

    • Luke

      Morrison does seem to divide people when it comes to appreciation of his work. But I’ve noticed that a lot of the time naysayers dislike of his stories stems from their inability to understand what is going on. Morrison’s narratives are traditionally dense and surreal, and they actually demand that the reader work things out for themselves. That’s one of the reasons I think he fits so well on Batman. A lot of people found R.I.P ‘incomprehensible’ but it really isn’t…all the information you need to understand what is happening is scattered throughout his run on the title. Morrison writes Batman as a mystery, clues are scattered everywhere and you have to tie them together to find the truth. It creates a story where the reader must be as good a detective as the Batman if they want to keep up.

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