Robot 6

Damian Wayne, and Grant Morrison’s tendency to kill his darlings


In the swelling tide preceding Batman Incorporated #8, the promised death of the current Robin and the impending finale of Grant Morrison’s six-year opus, something jumped out at me about the writer’s previous work for hire: He has a propensity to kill the characters he introduces into the universes of Marvel and DC Comics before he leaves.

Think back to his first major mainstream superhero book, JLA. In it, Morrison and Howard Porter revived the team in a back-to-basics approach featuring the seven most popular and iconic members. But during that time Morrison also created (with Mark Millar and N. Steven Harris) the Mesoamerican hero Aztek. Launched in his own series — whose first issue teased his impending death — Aztek later joined Morrison’s JLA and was killed in JLA #41, the writer’s final issue.

Next came Morrison’s acclaimed (and sometimes criticized) run on Marvel’s New X-Men. In that, he created the introduced the helmeted Xorn, a Chinese mutant with a “star for a brain” who was one of the series’ most popular characters outside its longtime cast. However, Xorn was famously revealed in the writer’s penultimate arc to be a construct of Magneto, returning from the dead. Although Morrison effectively killed Xorn, Marvel quickly brought the character back in some conflicting stories that included twin brothers, clones and, most recently, ghost.

Not to diminish the death of Damian Wayne, but putting his death alongside Xorn’s and Aztek’s in a broader context of Morrison’s storytelling decisions within work-for-hire superhero comics raises an interesting question: Is it a coincidence, or is Morrison consciously trying to limit the use of characters he created? Or maybe, perhaps, it’s Morrison giving his creations something most work-for-hire characters never have: a genuine third act.



I like to think it’s Morrison being conscientous. “Murder your darlings” is a long-standing piece of advice given to writers, and he’s cleaning the slate so the next person isn’t stuck with anything.

The question then is if he’s killing Damian Wayne, a character that seems popualr among readers and other writers and artists, is he doing it because (a) he’s possessive of the character or (b) a Batman driven by the fresh personal loss of his son offers creative avenues that are worth losing Damian for?

It seemed Morrison killed off Jean Grey because he wanted his created (forced) relationship (affair) of Cyclops and Emma Frost to stand.

I just wonder what would have been without the New 52. Morrison recently said that Dick and Damien were the Batman and Robin for the 21st century and joked about how he would have written that for the next 10 years. Maybe Damien wouldn’t have been killed off if this relaunch didn’t throw a wrench in the best Batman run of all time.

I would also love to know if he had anymore plans for Darkseid after FC before Johns brought him back in Justice League…

I think he’s learned that if he doesn’t they’ll just be wasted on writers that won’t know what to do with them. I mean he’s probably created more characters than any writers combined since the kirby/lee/ditko era

also Chris…thank you for saying that

Including that Aztek picture made me cry; I loved that book.

I think you’re exactly right about the third act. I think when Morrison gets a work for hire gig (or any gig, really), he has at least some idea of how it’s going to end. The road from point A to point B may be meandering, but because he knows the destination, he can set it up from the start.

It’s actually pretty great, at least with regards to re-reading his work.

Of note, I do hate how underused he was in JLA.

The real problem is that nobody at DC has the balls to tell Morrison “NO.”

His writing is confusing and contrived, and often requires an encyclopedic knowledge to know what the hell is going on. But he’s become a writer-celebrity, so DC just rolls over and lets him do whatever the heck he wants. We all know Infinite Crisis was a confusing pile of crap, as was the Batman RIP nonsense. Yet, DC just lets Morrison keep on keeping on.

Give me someone like Scott Snyder any day (who wrote Damian even better than Morrison). Grant needs to go back to the indie world where he can create characters that nobody will care about so he can feel free to turn them into hermaphroditic cyborgs and kill them off with all the gusto he can muster, so I can ignore him and his hackneyed work.

Johns wrote Infinite Crisis (I thought Final Crisis was awesome if you sit and look at it) Grant usually gets the Walt Whitman treatment “ow me head hurt from think no like this” kinda response

Scott Snyder is a hack

I think this raises an interesting question for further consideration. How well do these types of characters–new or newly emphasized “darlings” of one writer added to a series’ established cast during his or her run–fare when they aren’t removed?”

It seems like most of them meet a poor end, one way or another. The first example that comes to mind is Sharon Ventura (in The Fantastic Four), though she is actually interesting as a good and bad example: Steve Englehart brought her into the book, then Walt Simonson kept her around and arguably made her an even more convincing part of the team than she had been before… but then under Tom DeFalco she first disappeared without explanation, then came back to be mutated into an ugly monster (again) before being written off without any closure a second time.

Claremont packed the FF with various “pet” characters, some years later, and most of them promptly vanished as well. (Unless one counts Valeria, with a lot of asterisks.)

I can probably think of other examples if I put my mind to it, but does anyone else want to jump in with examples, good or bad? Is it a kindness to your “darlings” to remove them from a series rather than leaving them to subsequent writers who may not want them? Or is that perhaps selling you and/or your character short by assuming that no one else will have the ability or desire to write more good stories with him/her?

This article raises some good points, but I think that Morrison has also created a lot of cool new characters with enormous potential who then aren’t used well by subsequent writers. Case in point: Zauriel, Fantomex (for nearly a whole decade until Remender’s X-Force, he was severely underused), basically every new character he created for Seven Soldiers, Noh-Varr (although Gillen seems like he could write him well yet)… heck, I’d read a book about Leo Quintum or James Highwater, but there’s no way anyone will ever tap the full potential of those characters.

Grant Morrison did a good thing by killing Damian. DC did a lot of bad by marketing that (The book sold out before I could get it, and I’m a dedicated Batman Inc. reader, so I might drop what’s my last DC book). If Damian doesn’t continue in continuity, that’s a good thing. Morrison’s Damian was rich with character and emotion and the reason for his death maintained the bit of character depth. Everyone else writes Damian as a caricature of the smart ass bad ass Morrison wrote him as on the surface. I loved Damian, but because I think most, if not all, superhero writers are rubbsih, I kept to reading only Morrison.

You could also say Morrison removed his players from the board with the end of his Doom Patrol run.

Except, instead of death and murder, it was a happy, hopeful occurrence.

Hey, thanks so much for the headline; I’ve been laid-up with a cold and haven’t been able to make it to the comic shop since the issue came out YESTERDAY.

Captain Comet

March 1, 2013 at 1:56 am

@KaBlam: Snyder writes Damian better than Morrison? That is the most asinine thing I have heard in a while. Damien has appeared in what, a total of four panels written by Snyder? And you’re saying Snyder writes him better than the man who (for all intents and purposes) created him? That is simply hogwash.

Isn’t Damien a clone? or part clone? Thats a way to bring him back.

“Maybe Damien wouldn’t have been killed off if this relaunch didn’t throw a wrench in the best Batman run of all time.”

But Chris, he wasn’t around during the O’Neil/Adams run ;)

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