2.10.09

Batman Gothic

The wheels on the Grant Morrison season have well and truly fallen off. Re-reading Doom Patrol is suspended indefinitely, partly because all the trades in my library have disappeared (other people read comics too!), and also because I no longer have the time to read anything anymore. University has began, and I shall have to devote myself to serious matters. But before abandoning the wreckage, dousing it in petrol and setting it alight, I'll type a little something about a throwaway Batman comic Morrison wrote. A final, pathetic swan-song to commemorate this ill-considered adventure.

Grant Morrison does a fabulous job recreating the Gothic genre -- the dreamlike, dangerous atmosphere, the uneasy presence of the occult, the touch of madness. Or should I say: Klaus Janson does a fabulous job recreating the Gothic genre. His pencils are just breathtaking. I have the splash-page of Batman leaning out into the Gotham landscape, cape unfurled, in front of my eyes as I type. And it is beautiful.

I am writing chiefly to note a typical Morrison trope. Batman uncovers a fantastical folk tale while in Austria, only to come back to Gotham and discover it's true. At the end of the book, he journeys back, and makes an offering to the unfulfilled ghost that, according to the local legend, still wanders there.

Batman, a detective and a scientist, has his reality invaded by an otherworldly ancient myth. The story becomes real. The last line of the book pushes this idea out to encompass the reader reading Batman's story. For us too, stories can invade our reality and change the way we think. They can make us appreciate and care for things we would have previously dismissed or ignored.

It does look like Morrison can't help but embellish his fiction with a commentary about the way we create and absorb stories. When Steven King does it (in his Dark Tower series), it comes across as self-indulgent and self-obsessed. But when Morrison does it, I don't mind. Maybe it's because he can say more about the imaginative process than King ever could. Or maybe it's because he does his meta shtick with a certain degree of subtlety. I fear subtlety maybe lacking in Animal Man (I know how it ends), which is why I have no desire to pick it up.

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