'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.