io9 caught up with Batman and Robin scribe Grant Morrison and asked him about his upcoming miniseries The Return of Bruce Wayne. Grant also filled us in on the We3 movie, Joe The Barbarian, and his take on comic continuity.
In Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, we're going to see Batman travel to different historical epochs. For example, we'll see Pirate Batman and Caveman Batman, who appeared in old-school Bat-yarns. What was your motivation for this and what was DC's reaction when you pitched it?
First off, Batman also wore a kilt at one point! As for DC, they said, "OK, if anyone can do, it's you." I guess my inspiration is this – I like to pretend that every story that ever happened to Batman was real and is part of this one guy's life. Even the Adam West Batman – let's just say there's this one year where Batman and Robin were out living this crazy and kooky life, and while the criminals were out killing people, they were just acting like lunatics. The next year might be the Neal Adams Batman – suddenly Robin's gone and we have a more brooding Batman.
We've seen his origin scene a thousand times, we've seen his parents getting killed – I thought to myself, "What part of Batman's life haven't we talked about for a long time?" And it was those weird 1950s adventures or the Adam West Batman that everyone thought was really uncool when Chris Nolan's movies came along. Batman comics used to be brightly colored! Batman would fight aliens! I wanted to do that stuff again, but in a more realistic, contemporary light.
In Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman will be wending his way back to present. Will any of his actions affect the DC Universe's past, à la Back To The Future?
There's a lot of ramifications specifically on the Batman universe – we'll see certain past events from Bruce Wayne's perspective. A big part of the plot line is what happens when he gets back. It's not necessarily a good thing when he does.
In both Batman R.I.P. and your current run on Batman and Robin, we're seeing many plots involving the sordid past of the Wayne family. Will these dark secrets be addressed in Return?
The whole thing is kind of set in Gotham, and every time Batman jumps forward, we have some connection with someone or something affiliated with his family tree. All of his relatives are based on actual characters from Batman comics.
How about Damien and Dick? What's in store for them?
Batman and Robin are moving into their final arc – "Batman And Robin Must Die." It's about putting them in the worst possible situation I can imagine for them. Bruce comes back shortly after issue 16.
Total shot-in-the-dark theory – are you Oberon Sexton?
Not at all. I've done that before with Animal Man, but the Batman universe? It would be terrible if he took off his mask and it was baldy old me.
Similarly, is your current Vertigo miniseries Joe the Barbarian autobiographical?
Not so much, apart from the fact that I looked a little bit like Joe – I liked to draw as well. My father was a soldier in World War II, but he didn't die in the war. To me, it's a story about how we're all the children of soldiers in the world we live in today. There's constant war, we're all nervous about being blown up or attacked. It's kind of an Alice in Wonderland for the 21st century in that it's fantasy in a time of war and we're not feeling quite comfortable.
What's the status of the We3 movie at this point? Last we heard about that, John Stevenson of Kung Fu Panda had been tapped to direct and there was a script.
The good new is it's still the same news. John's still looking to do it. Currently, it's at Relativity [Media], I believe. They've been talking about doing something with it, but it hasn't been moving fast. It's the typical Hollywood glacial pace, but I guess if we talk about it, it'll get moving!
I was also wondering if you could update us on your "new Watchmen" Multiversity project.
It's coming along well. I'm writing it at the back end of everything else. I want it to be the best thing I've ever done, so I've been taking my time with the issues. But yes, it's progressing well. You'll see it probably Summer 2011.
I recently wrote a piece on io9 about your predilection to tie stories up with a happy ending. What I wrote was conjecture (I was trying to get into your head) but I want to hear your philosophy on mediating your particular stories with the massive edifice of comic book continuity.
[laughs] You don't want to be in my head! In terms of endless continuity, there's always something new coming up. Obviously I want to tell my definitive Batman or X-Men story – which has a beginning, middle, and end – but comics will run for hundreds of years with hundreds of characters. My stories are in a long chain of other writers' definitive stories. So when it's time I leave, I'll try to leave the toys exactly as I found them. So I like to put the characters through changes, but I try to leave a blank slate for the next writer. It's the nature of the beast. With the big franchises like Batman, Batman always must be Bruce Wayne, in his mid-30s or late 30s, and he always must have a Batmobile and a butler. I can take them to the edge, but it always will come back to the basics. Unlike novel characters, comic book characters last an eternity. When a character is changed beyond recognition, there's no longer the merchandising aspect.
What is Grant Morrison's Definitive Advice For Writing Comic Books?
Write comic books if you love comic books so much that you want to write them. Don't write them like movies. Comics can do a lot of things that movies can't do, and vice versa. It's a shame when so many comics are storyboard-style, low-budget pitches for movies. Let me see the weird stuff.
The Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn hardcover is out now. Batman: The Return Of Bruce Wayne 1 is on shelves May 12.