23 August 2006

Say What?: Morrison takes on Miller.

I'm surprised no readers of Newsarama have commented on Grant Morrison's interview posted today. This may be part of a prearranged public slugfest, but Grant Morrison does make some interesting points.

Guy will testify that I'm no fan of Morrison, but so far I like his take on Batman. And after reading the complete interview, I think I'm hooked for the run.

NRAMA: But still, looking at the larger cultural subtext you're writing this in, what makes a grim Batman not appropriate for the world we live in now? Miller's working on a Batman vs. Al Qaeda story, and it's hard to think of a time when we've seen such grimness on the news...shouldn't Batman reflect that in a way, as he did in the late '80s when he first took that turn?

GM:First off, the idea that superhero comics should reflect the news headlines is not one I tend to subscribe to. I've always preferred using my comics to talk about the world around me in the language of symbolism and metaphor and I'm more interested in telling stories about how people behave in bizarre situations than I am in commenting on current events.

Having said that, Batman will always reflect his times: the idea here is not to soften or emotionally reset Batman as an exercise in nostalgia but to make him more real and relatable, while at the same time offering some rationale for his complex multi-faceted personality I want to see a Batman that combines the cynic, the scholar, the daredevil, the businessman, the superhero, the wit, the lateral thinker, the aristocrat. He terrifies the guilty but he has great compassion for the weak and the downtrodden and will lay his life on the line for anybody who's in trouble. He's a master of yoga and meditation who has as much control over his body and his feelings as any human. He has a wider range of experiences than most people will dream of in ten lifetimes. This is not a one-note character! So, while I won't pretend we all live on Sunnybrook Farm, I don't think its appropriate - particularly in trying times - to present our fictional heroes as unsmiling vengeance machines. I'd rather Batman embodied the best that secular humanism has to offer - a sour-faced, sexually-repressed,humorless, uptight, angry, and all-round grim 'n' gritty Batman would be more likely to join the Taliban surely?

NRAMA: Er...

GM: And while we're on that subject...Batman vs. Al Qaeda! It might as well be Bin Laden vs. King Kong! Or how about the sinister Al Qaeda mastermind up against a hungry Hannibal Lecter! For all the good it's likely to do. Cheering on a fictional character as he beats up fictionalized terrorists seems like a decadent indulgence when real terrorists are killing real people in the real world. I'd be so much more impressed if Frank Miller gave up all this graphic novel nonsense, joined the Army and, with a howl of undying hate, rushed headlong onto the front lines with the young soldiers who are actually risking life and limb 'vs' Al Qaeda.
I don't know about you, but them sound like fighting words.

1 comment:

Mark Engblom said...

Good for Morrison. It's good to see Sacred Cows like Frank Miller get a little push-back from time to time.

Although I think Miller had the best of intentions, perhaps harkening back to the WWII era comics and their regular trouncings of Axis leaders at the hands of superheroes, I don't think that same spirit translates as well to the modern war against the radical Islamists. Unlike the clear evil faced in World War II, there's a good amount of persuasion involved in getting people to understand what we're up against, and Miller pitting Batman against Bin Laden probably isn't the best way to convince people this is a serious, high stakes conflict. Whatever your individual feelings about the conflict are, I think we can all agree that throwing superheroes into the mix cheapens and trivializes everyone involved....especially Miller.