Friday, February 08, 2008

Grant Morrison: Kicking Bat-Fans in the Face Like a Rabid Spider-Monkey?

The wise Marc Caputo commented on my last post, and I wrote a long response which somehow got erased the moment I clicked "submit." Since I think the issue Marc raised is worth talking about, I decided to promote it to feature status! Here's part of what Marc said:

"I can't help but wondering - who is he writing this run for? It can't be Batman fans and as we head into the release of "The Dark Knight", you know we're going to get some noobs in off the street (especially with FCBD right about the same time.) Is this for Morrison fans? I'm sure in part it is, although this really deviates from his usual rhythm on an extended run (which is fine.)"

And then he added:

"At this point, it's the scholars who are keeping this alive. Not being the biggest Batman fan, I wonder how the fan on the street (i.e., non-Morrison fan) is taking this. That opinion counts for a lot and I'm real curious since I don't know any who fit the profile."

I have NEVER wondered who a writer is writing for, honestly. The thought doesn't really occur to me. It doesn't matter who it's written for--all that matters is whether or not its any good. But Marc, and probably DC Comics, obviously cares what the "fan on the street" thinks about Morrison's Batman so let's venture a guess. One thing we know is that the "fan on the street" has poor taste in comics, since he didn't support Nextwave, or The Irredeemable Ant-Man, or The Order. Therefore, any opinions "the fan on the street" has regarding quality is suspect at best. Would he like Morrison's Batman? Probably not. It's unconventional (even as it builds upon classic Batman tropes), and therefore slightly challenging. I've read reviewers who wrote and podcasters who said that they "threw Batman #663 down" once they saw that it was filled with words. Note that they didn't say they read it and didn't think it was any good (though others have said that), the "fans" I'm talking about didn't even read it because it was FULL OF WORDS. Talk about closed-minded! So, once again, I don't hold out much hope for the fan on the street. He's dull-witted.

I also have to respond to Marc's other point, which is that Morrison's Batman run "deviates from his usual rhythm on an extended run." I disagree. Look at Animal Man, Doom Patrol, JLA, or X-Men. Inconsistent art, longer narrative arcs interrupted by shorter ones, forced inclusion of crossover bits, and a larger sense of pattern and theme. That description applies to his other extended runs AND t0 Batman. To me, Morrison's current work looks strikingly similar to his usual rhythm on a corporate super-hero title. By the way, I don't think Morrison's Batman is some kind of transcendent achievement, but it's comparable to the level of quality of his JLA. Except the fans embraced his JLA, and we don't know how they feel about Batman, because a bunch of them throw it down without reading it.


Chad Nevett said...

Marc's comment provoked a similar response of "Wait... who IS Morrison writing for?" since I never think about that sort of thing unless the work seems so overtly directed at a specific audience that you can't help but notice.

I think Morrison's intended audience is Grant Morrison just like every other thing he's written and, as you've alluded to, the only difference is that people aren't in synch with him this time. I would chalk that up to the fact that the conventions of the Bat-books are much more rigid than most other mainstream titles, and Morrison is actively working against them in many ways (as pointed out in Geoff Klock's various 'Morrison versus Miller' posts).

I do find it funny that Morrison's Batman has remained very consistent from his JLA run and people loved the character there more than any other member of the group.

Marc Caputo said...

Thanks for continuing to make me famous, Tim!

Seriously, though, I want to query on and qualify a few points.

Inconsistent art - do you mean the art is inconsistent or the artists are inconsistent? Because, I'll agree with you on the latter in some cases. I'm going to reread Animal Man and Doom Patrol, but as I was looking up a website, I was surprised to see that Case did the overwhelming majority and when he wasn't on, it was done-in-one fill-ins or dream sequences (you know my old standby, the books are in storage, so I'm taking a little mad money to get the tpbs.) On Animal Man, Truog did practically the whole run. On X-Men and JLA - well now you're dealing with a monthly book that's part of a BIG machine. JLA did OK with the art but there was a loooong bad patch on X-Men until the last four arcs.

Longer narrative arcs interrupted by shorter ones - I like the varying of rhythm like that.

Forced inclusion of crossover bits - yeah, again that's the big machine at work. Too bad he couldn't have had a bigger hand in that like the "1,000,000" story.

But what I was talking about was the fact that on his longer runs, he starts off very well, falters in the middle third or 2nd quarter and comes back fast and furious in the 2nd half (and doubly in the last quarter) or the final third.

On Batman, that rhythm has been juggled a bit. However, I'm looking for the trademark Morrison "writing the next poor bastard into a corner" (that wasn't the case with JLA - maybe that's why that was his best selling book?)

Timothy Callahan said...

I specifically said "inconsistent art" because it implies both conditions you state. On Animal Man and Doom Patrol and even JLA, one artist clearly produced the bulk of the issues (Truog, Case, and Porter, respectively) but all three of them had moments of quality and moments of seemingly rushed mediocrity. And X-Men had it even worse.

I don't think the "started well, faltered, finished strong" pattern is necessarily true (although it MAY turn out to be true in the case of Batman). On Animal Man, he started poorly, then picked it up with issue #5, dealt admirably with a couple of Invasion issues, then was hit or miss for a while (Freedom Beast?) until the strong finish. Doom Patrol was almost wall-to-wall quality except for the war-in-space issues, which were weak.

I actually think JLA started weakly as well--I still don't think the Hyperclan stuff is that strong, and then hit its stride with Rock of Ages before faltering back and ending with solid stories. X-Men was a great start and a great middle but an underwhelming end.

And I will continue to make your famouser and famouser, don't worry.