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"Autism, Grant Morrison, and Star Children"
Author: Paul Casey
May 10, 2009

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In a recent issue of WIZARD MAGAZINE, writer Grant Morrison chastised a certain portion of the readership of BATMAN, R.I.P. and by extension FINAL CRISIS, for being "autistic" in their mentality of wanting "answers" to story arcs that began in the main Batman monthly title (BATMAN) and ended up in a large part being concluded in the "event" of FINAL CRISIS. Although I am sure that a certain amount of the people reading Grant Morrison's output of late have indeed been frustrated by the way that he writes stories, there are equally as large a number of people who aren't intellectually impaired or unable to deal with allegory, metaphor, or (and I know you hate this Grant) the Fourth Wall Breaking attitude that informs a noteworthy portion of Morrison's output. I don't blame Morrison for his petulantly defensive attitude to the reaction to his recent work, nor am I honestly irked by the position which he defends on Facebook or elsewhere. An artist's only real commitments are to his/her art. Although I believe Grant Morrison to be refusing to shoulder the controversy which he openly courted, it was not Morrison's specific responsibility to foresee the negative implications on every title except the one which he was writing for. Although perhaps he should have.

Morrison's just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash.

What really irritates me beyond the editorial failings and shameful solipsism which has informed the majority of Morrison's recent connection with Batman has been the reaction not only to these comments but the ever escalating absurdity of the character's position as a "mortal" from an ardent subsection of Batman fans whose first love and commitment is to the DCU. These particular fans are adept at redefining words so beyond their actual meaning that they feel justified to throw around such meaningless statements such as "Batman is not dead" while trying to affirm that "he is still a mortal".

What absolute nonsense!

As soon as you support in any sense the Batman of FINAL CRISIS as being consistent with the Batman in DETECTIVE COMICS, you rob yourself of the right to comment on what should or should not happen with this character -- in cinema, in television and yes, inside comic books. Why? Because you have permitted the most direct and egregious assault on THE most important aspect of Batman, all the while claiming no inconsistencies. This group has an underlying disdain for the mortality and realism (in relation to pretty much everything else in the DCU) of Batman and his world. It must also be said that they have an equal disdain towards those readers who view these as being highly important. The propensity of those who wish to back just about anything and everything that happens within a comic book while decrying the slightest alterations or perceived inconsistencies with their vision on the big screen signals the extreme hypocrisy which exists inside of the comic book community.

Insinuating that the reader is incapable of appreciating demanding and complex art is insulting. Simply because one feels that the entire R.I.P./FINAL CRISIS gimmick was supremely stupid and the implications to the character are severely damaging, doesn't mean that challenging works such as, say INLAND EMPIRE, or the writing of Bret Easton Ellis, or any other controversial artists or writers is met with the same "autistic mentality.” I'm perfectly capable of "understanding" the aims, the successes, and failures of FINAL CRISIS and its connections with R.I.P. To insinuate that the audience is mentally defective and incapable of appreciating the grand scheme of Grant Morrison is a flat cop-out to refuse to deal with the many legitimate criticisms of the work, both as a representation of its medium and the influences which it is currently having on nearly every other book being published by DC Comics. Any fans that support Morrison in these views leave themselves open to glaring contradictions when they bash the film BATMAN RETURNS due to its commitment to its artistic vision first and the Batman mythology second. Morrison did just that when he mixed R.I.P. so haphazardly with FINAL CRISIS while implicating those writing and reading stories otherwise outside of this cross-over. Likewise these fans implicate themselves as the hypocrites they are when they spew venom over the films of Joel Schumacher and how they feel the filmmaker treats Batman without respect; while obviously thinking that having Batman commit deicide is a perfectly reasonable aspect of the character.

Either it is important to you that a mortal "realistic" Batman starts and concludes his story in that manner, or it isn't. Having Superman fly into the conclusion of THE DARK KNIGHT to save Batman or Jimmy Gordon and saying "To see the conclusion of this story, come see the new SUPERMAN!" is no different than opening up the hardcover of R.I.P. and being treated to a completely ludicrous introduction of aliens and blobs at its conclusion for the first time in that story with no relevance to what preceded it. If it is a cheap conclusion for one, it is a cheap conclusion for all.

The spurious claim that context and environment does not alter the "core characteristics" is one which needs to be put in its place. The city which spawned Batman is incredibly important to how he became who he is. His origin saw a petty criminal gun down his parents for money, highlighting the dangers of desperation, of poverty, of addiction, of the trappings of the human mind. Batman, his villains and his world (not the DCU, actually) speak of the horrors that lurk within us and how we have the power to face these challenges; that we don't need to look skyward for help to come; that we are ultimately responsible for our own state. It also examines the notion that the greatest evil does not come from some external source but from us.

Batman training himself to represent the peak of HUMANITY requires the context of HUMANITY in which to function. This should not be merely an excuse to allow DC to team up its most profitable IPs (which is the real reasoning behind the team-ups in the first place, not that they genuinely gel), it is the philosophical foundations on which the character is built. By undermining the very "normal" horrors which people face, in the mind and in the body, by pointing skyward for the ultimate confrontation with evil or the ultimate redemption, we remove the sense of personal responsibility which Batman epitomizes.

Gotham represents the dark side of humanity, as much as it does the doggedness and persistence in refusing to give into that darkness. Batman represents us and he represents the challenges and the terror and the self doubt and the guilt which we experience. In reality evil does not come in green packages of alien goo and it is important that the kind of evil which Bruce Wayne prepares his body and his mind for is that which killed his parents and created him. Why did he become Batman in the first place? Because of the fragility of the human body and the actions of a desperate man; because of the love he had for his parents, the basic sense of loss and anger. Bruce wants to eradicate the evil and desperation to be found in humanity, in society, and somewhere deep inside him. So to ignore the setting and environment, for which he trained his body and mind, is to ignore the character's primary motivations.

Batman building his body to the extremes of human capabilities is perhaps the most intricately linked to the setting, to the environment and the context in which Batman was created. The drivel frequently spouted, that fighting aliens and gods and in metaphysical hell-pits somehow enhances the character's humanity is the definition of absurdity. Again, you have to re-define what is meant by "humanity" and the human experience. Does it enhance or diminish what Bob Kane said of the ability of the readers to identify with the character? Will Little Jimmy on the playground feel that the challenges which Batman faces in FINAL CRISIS will one day be challenges he will face in real life? Or will it feel as outlandish a proposition as a Superman sent from Krypton?

This isn't about "answers."

This isn't even about wishing to stop stories like FINAL CRISIS from happening.

This is about people being fed up of the solipsistic attitude of those who want everything to "fit together", who insist on forcing this on everyone else, regardless of the fact that there is a large group of people who couldn’t care less about the most recent “DCU Fanboy Wet Dream Cross-Over.”

I am not saying that the DCU variation of Batman cannot turn up great stories or great writing or interesting uses of the character. What I AM saying is that to feel that there is no contradiction between how Batman was recently written in the pages of DETECTIVE COMICS and how he ended up in FINAL CRISIS is ridiculous.

No serious person could consider that the “Immortal Caveman DCU Starchild Batman” is perfectly compatible with the mortal and "realistic" Batman, while determining that putting Batman in a Batsuit with nipples is a more significant crime against the mythology. Saying "Just don't read it" is infantile. I WANT to read Batman and I can't because of this nonsense.

Until Batman returns in his mortal form, we have the right to comment and criticize why this is still far more harmful than anything done to Batman in the cinema, why it is still utterly selfish, and why it is not in any sense fair to impose this on those who do not want any part of it.

So take your “DCU Starchild Caveman Black Lantern Possibly Hanging Around With His D.E.A.D. Mammy and Daddy Batman” and go nuts!

Just don't force it on the rest of us.

Paul Casey has been contributing to music sites for the past several years with considerable success.
His work has been featured on Jon Hunt and John Lane's legendary resource for The Beach Boys' lost album "Smile," The Smile Shop, which morphed into a broader Sunshine Pop/Rare Music Site following the release of Brian Wilson's "Smile" in 2004.
Although specialising in music, Paul Casey has a keen interest in the world of comic books.
He resides in his house.

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