diflucan 2 doses


Abhay Khosla

Real quick: I couldn’t figure out how to register to post a thank you note on the Comics Journal site, so a quick thanks to Dirk Deppey. Many is the morning that I started my day, stumbling out of bed and heading straight to read my “news” from off the Journalista blog Mr. Deppey wrote for many years.  It was a lot of mornings thinking, “Why can’t you just eat breakfast like a normal boy? Why is this how you choose to spend your first waking moments? Why can’t you ever just be a normal boy? Why?? Just put on some underwear already, at least.”

So… thanks  for that (?) and best wishes in the future to him.

This one is primarily about X’ED OUT, JOE THE BARBARIAN, BATMAN, THE INVISIBLES, and… I like to think that everything I’ve ever written about, at the end of the day, is about the healing power of love. So, you know: that, too.

* * *

Two books featured on many of the Best of 2010 lists I’ve seen are essentially the same exact book. How did that happen? Same exact book, at least how I read them. I refer here, of course, to Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy, and Dave Stewart’s death-by-diabetes hijinx-adventure JOE THE BARBARIAN and Charles Burns’s Tintin on the Island of the Bad Hipster Haircuts adventure X’ED OUT.

Both seem to tell the exact same story: a generic character (JOE‘s dull non-descript boy, X’ED OUT‘s equally-if-not-more-dull non-descript hipster) suffers a medical trauma (diabetes and/or unidentified head trauma) that triggers each to mentally flee into a kingdom built out of childhood fantasies (X’ED OUT‘s allusions to Tintin, or JOE‘s allusions to action figures, superheroes, 1980’s cereal-box heroes), wherein a colorful adventure is had at the same time as a story about the dull character’s medical trauma is presented for the reader’s edification. Both notably received more attention for art than story (maybe even more specifically, for inking than for any other facet, though the colors to both may be more praiseworthy). I read both naked. Both feature as a dominant element the main character being motivated by his relationship with his pet from the real world in the fantasy universe. And neither concluded in 2010.

Dude: Same book.

X’ED OUT is basically just JOE THE BARBARIAN but for rich people. X’ED out is for fancy gentlemen, with butlers and prep school accents, who model part-time for the LL Bean Catalog, and can spend $20 for 56 pages of an incomplete comic– repeat: $20 for 56 pages of an incomplete comic. Swimming pools, movie stars; lakes, boats, friends and noodle salad. “Do you like my new comic book? Why, it’s almost European. Do you like my monocle? It helps me get out of jail free for I am the Monopoly Man.

On the other hand, JOE THE BARBARIAN is plainly for meatheads, morlocks, weirdos. Paper stapled together, bar-code slapped onto the front cover, right on top of the art– wait, wait, is the comic done yet? Fuck it, close enough– get it out the fucking door. They put the price of the book on the cover twice: once at the top of the cover, another time above the advertisement for the company website that they also placed over the art. Videogames and sneakers are advertised on the back covers– the hot teen fad in 2010 was teens using Axe Body Spray to light themselves on fire, but I guess Chiat Day is still working on the ad campaign for that.

X’ED OUT has a quote from “R. Crumb” on the back cover. JOE THE BARBARIAN’s fourth cover comes with a quote from IGN, a videogame website. One gets reviewed by the New York Times (well: aka Douglas), New York Magazine, the Guardian and Book Forum; the other was one of MTV Geek‘s top ten books of the year and was well-reviewed by Ain’t It Cool. Respected, legitimate, likely-soon-to-be-bankrupt publications remark upon X’ED OUT‘s significance, shortly before all discussion of the book disappears from this Earth. The other gets reviewed by video-game websites, underneath flashing web-ads touting the number of polygons in 50 CENT: BLOOD IN THE SAND; then, if other Grant Morrison comics are any indication, gets discussed endlessly, ENDLESSLY by blogs, comment threads, obsessive-compulsives, argued over, flamed, dismissed, over-praised, ridiculously over-praised, sickeningly over-praised, oh god enough already over-praised, annotated, footnoted, cross-referenced, and finally re-reviewed upon release of an ABSOLUTE ULTIMATE JIZZ-BOMB EDITION. Cue: streamers, should old acq-uaint-ances be forgot, vomit, and … scene. WELCOME TO AMERICA!

Red states, blue states, yooks, zooks, fuck it— and yet: setting all of that aside, substantively? Substantively? Dude, same fucking story! Same exact fucking story in both comic books.

What is that exactly? Both books, hitting most of the Top 10 lists as mentioned above. Both books striking a chord. Why’s a story about the fantasy lives of boring characters hitting a chord in both the “mainstream” and the “arthouse”? Why was 2010 this year in Walter Mittys? Or why do you figure two major comic creators, from what has become two different Comics– why do you think they both found themselves on such similar creative terrain?

* * *

… You want to do those questions…? Nah. It’s been done. Yeah: let’s not do those questions.

I mean, we could go that way, but bo-ring. Cue me making some lame jokes about unemployment figures, end with a sappy, melodramatic finish, high-five, and cue youtube video. Eh. It’s just been done. Bad economy, shitty lives, quiet desparation, blah blah blah– that’d be too boring no matter how naked I get (e.g. completely). I’m sure I’ll do that sort of thing again, and soon, because I am a one-trick fucking pony, but … let’s not start a new year that way, at least. Hopefully that sort of talk is just 2010 shit anyways.

So, instead: setting aside the why, how do you figure the right and wrong of the story that’s being told here?

I would argue the fun part of X’ED OUT, the part that certainly sold me on the book when I read the reviews, were the Tintin sequences, not watching Wiley Wiggins’s uneventful journey through some minor strata of the performance art world. Same thing with JOE THE BARBARIAN: the fun parts is watching Sean Murphy draw his fantasy universe, and its pop culture inhabitants– monsters, cameos, pop culture, invention.

The fun of the Story is thus arguably rooting for debilitating diabetes / nebulous-head-trauma. If I have a complaint with X’ED OUT: not enough head trauma. I did not get $20 worth of head trauma from that comic– I think reviews have maybe way oversold how much head trauma is in that comic. The ratio of shitty-hipsters to Tintin way, way favored the former, for my tastes. The Tintin stretches that reviewers have trumpeted are concentrated at the beginning of the comic and at the end of the comic, and there is a long middle of not-Tintin inbetween the two. So, I for one hope the main character’s physical condition deteriorates significantly in future volumes so we can dance the dance what brought me.

I really hope that the main characters spend less time in reality, and if that means watching the little generic brat from JOE THE BARBARIAN die or Cobrasnake’s pool boy from X’ED OUT going into a coma, so be it! Entertain me, disease– anything but more drawings of icky old reality.

… What?

* * *

Okay, no:  nothing in X’ED OUT explicitly states, “It’s a good thing to go into a fantasy universe rather than face the cruelty of reality.” If anything, X’ED OUT suggests the opposite, suggests the main character deserved the brain trauma.

The Long Middle is about the comic’s main character creating a second fantasy universe for himself, one the reader doesn’t see on the page, but one I’d figure more of the population will grok than the Tintin sequences: the brain trauma seems to be the result of the main character having created an elaborate fantasy in his head concerning his romantic interest, a Quiet Fucked-Up Girl– a fantasy which has nothing to do with the reality of how awful she is.

Okay; sure; I can check that box on my W-2. Good times. The main character’s fantasy version still seems to be trapped in a “I’ll Save Her” fantasy, too, which… Oh, brother.

The only thing we’re told about the Quiet Fucked Up Girl is that she’s a cutter whose hobbies include violent ex-boyfriends and sadomasochism– so, good luck with all of that, Peter Brady’s tennis coach. Maybe placing her next to the personality vacuum that is the main character has a fun-house mirror effect, which makes her seem worse than she is. But the main character’s romantic pining that goes on for her, especially watching him selectively create memories of their relationship using old photographs (noooooo! no, Patrick Fugit’s black swan, no!), for me, that was all like watching a girl with a healthy interest in sex for her age wander into the woods in a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. It’s the creepiest thing in a comic otherwise full of cycloptic lizardmen, midgets-in-diapers, and maggots.

The comic even suggests the main character’s dad is broken the same way– I liked that part. And that cover– a main character staring at a fantasy egg, with his hand to his heart suggesting a heart-ache that this fantasy image of femininity is causing him– well, it’s a little on the nose, but heck, it works.  (Or is his heart on the other side…?  Well, heart’s actually in the center, but … Whatever– you get my point).

Maybe “the danger of becoming trapped in fantasies” is a generous reading of the book, though, a generous way of justifying why the lead female character in it is so underwritten. I suppose someone else could see that fact as a failing of the book– here’s another comic about how sex damages women and the travails of innocent boys with bad haircuts coping with that fact…? I don’t think that charge would work with BLACK HOLE but it’d be easier to lay out at X’ED OUT‘s feet, the comic’s contents being so thin to date. (God, I feel like I should be able to make a Belle & Sebastian joke here but– I really don’t pay enough attention to lyrics to make a Belle & Sebastian joke. The only thing I think about when I hear one of their songs is how awesome it’d be to date a girl in the LL Bean Catalog. Am I close? I think I’m probably pretty close).

Who knows? As much as my opinion about X’ED OUT has improved while writing about it, there’s really just not enough comic here to really guess what it’s going to ultimately add up to or say, making it feel a little silly to get especially enthusiastic over it. Unless you focus solely on the storytelling or what comic dudes have taken to call “mark-making” (and which I guess I still call drawing), where I’d rather defer to my betters. And regardless of the thematic contents, I think my original point holds:

If the best part of the book is the fantasy Tintin sequences, isn’t there an inherent message being sent by the form regardless of the content?

* * *

As for JOE THE BARBARIAN… well…This being a blog entry about a Grant Morrison comic, I think I’m obligated by Blogger Code to act the fool by overdoing how much I read into his comics. So: let’s talk about Grant Morrison, and since JOE‘s not done, and since I have attention disorders, BATMAN.

Not being into Morrison’s BATMAN began to rankle. The internet loved them some Morrison BATMAN so I recently sat down finally last month, and read the damn thing (and/or re-read– I’d dipped a toe in now and then, before, to poor results).

The good news: up until FINAL CRISIS, it mostly made sense, and Morrison’s told an extremely straightforward story once the bigger shape of the thing comes into focus. Good? It has moments, good (JH Williams) and bad (when the Magical Negro stereotype shows up to give Batman a clock radio…? I didn’t read your way-too-lengthy annotations, internet, so the significance of that Bagger Vance cameo was lost on me).

The bad news: I think Grant needs our help. There are a million pages of annotations for this comic on the internet, but… Have any of those annotations mentioned how this whole thing is a giant cry for help? Is that why all those annotations are so long?

If you’ll agree with me that X’ED OUT is JOE THE BARBARIAN, BATMAN is basically the same story as THE INVISIBLES — but written by a very different person. I mean, granted– yes, the majority of his major work has been about the relationships between writers and the fictions they create. The Grant Morrison character is the author of ANIMAL MAN, the Chief is the author of the DOOM PATROL; NEW X-MEN climaxes with Jean Grey becoming the author; FINAL CRISIS has its Monitors; the same ideas are present for the FILTH, SEVEN SOLDIERS, maybe the 10th issue of ALL STAR SUPERMAN, etc.

But THE INVISIBLES and BATMAN are both specifically about writers who become trapped within their fictions. Same story. The differences, though, between the two are stark and sad.

THE INVISIBLES is about a writer Ragged Robin who becomes trapped within her story, and the story climaxes with the characters of this fiction uniting to free her, and thus themselves from the fiction they’re all trapped in. That idea is found elsewhere in the work, as well– most effectively at the end of Volume 2, where King Mob walks away finally from the spy persona he’d trapped himself in and blows up a Bruce Wayne figure’s mansion in order to free that character of his fictions.

THE INVISIBLES was a comic about the prisons our fictions can be– the prison of fictions of racial identity, sexual identity, and most of all, the prison of the the fiction of good and evil. Similarly, the crux of Morrison’s BATMAN story also arises from a suspicion of the power of fiction, but … goes a different way with it..

Morrison’s BATMAN is about a writer, Batman, who becomes trapped in a book he’s written, the “Black Casebook.” This book leads to his … well, not his death, but to Batman punching a helicopter at the end of BATMAN RIP, which then in turn leads to his “death” in FINAL CRISIS. Specifically, the Batman is confronted by the god of evil, shoots said god of evil in the head, which in turn somehow (?) helps to cause the god of evil to be hit by his own evil powers which are steered into him by two characters both named the Flash who dress identically, all of which somehow (?) lead to Superman singing the god of evil away, which in turn… something about Superman fighting a space vampire outside of space-time, which relates somehow to the events of a 3-d spin-off mini-series that I still have never read…? I don’t know. Ask the internet; internet fucking loves the space-vampire; I’m probably missing out.

(I should pause for those few of you who don’t pay attention to the current state of mainstream comics; just Mickey Mouse elementary stuff for the rest of you, rest of you can skip this part, but just in case: many if not most of the critically lauded mainstream comics of the moment are indecipherable unless you read usually-terrible “multi-title crossovers”– people may recommend the current runs of CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, or BATMAN to you, but unless you’re also willing to read CIVIL WAR, SECRET INVASION, SIEGE or FINAL CRISIS— there’s really no point as major plot points will just appear and disappear at random from those works. Morrison at least has the advantage of having been the author of the multi-title crossover that thoroughly derails his BATMAN run, though this is small comfort, because as set forth above, his series required you to read other series, which in turn required me to take off my clothes. Of course, it’s all some kind of sick, black joke that this has happened AFTER mainstream comics finally began to become collected into convenient collected editions and sold in bookstores to casual audiences, or that the authors of the multi-title crossovers have usually been writers who themselves benefited from not having their major runs interfered with previously, but… unfortunately, not a joke that’s remained funny over the last five to six years and counting that companies and creators have pursued this scorched-earth strategy. But: Short-Term Strategies, For the Long-Term— that’s on the crest).

Anyways, Batman’s “death” then leads to his rebirth in THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE miniseries, which climaxes in Batman being presented with a choice by the warring gods of evil and knowledge between non-existence and existence. In choosing existence, Batman then himself becomes the author of Batman which is signified by Batman hand-writing a critical moment from his origin story. The comic concludes immediately after Batman again becomes an author, for what I think is at that point the fourth time in Morrison’s run. The adventure now continues in BATMAN INC. where Batman drags schlubby Japanese guys away from their girlfriends and into his grubby, violent fictions. (Indeed, Batman is now only a writer but a modern mainstream comics writer, insisting we read spin-offs of lame characters no one really wants to read when they could be reading about Batman instead. Schlubby Japanese Guy is Brother Voodoo to Batman’s Whoever-the-Hell-Thought-the-Audience-Wanted-More-Brother-Voodoo).


On the one hand, we have THE INVISIBLES where evil is an illusion, and our heroes triumph by freeing the author of the harsh fictions that imprison them. I’d suggest this is a valuable story, as the fiction of good and evil continues to be a dominant motivation for war, racism, etc. But instead, on the other hand, we have BATMAN, where evil is a dark omnipresent force of the universe that the author can only defeat by submerging themselves completely into a ridiculous fiction.

And I don’t understand that difference other than to just guess that something sad has happened. The more you skim the extremely-lengthy annotations (no interest in condensing stuff down, guys?  Really?), or investigate the comic, the worse the picture that emerges of the Morrison BATMAN— long stretches of dialogue that apparently repeat obscure Silver Age Batman comics, interview excerpts that reference bizarre, pointless plans to “make sense” of a wildly inconsistent publication history, micro-details like red-black motifs that apparently arise out of two or three pages of the long-forgotten DC UNIVERSE #0 one-shot; one annotation– I’m sorry but I don’t remember which— puzzled over whether a character’s name was a micro-reference to the fucking giant penny in Batman’s cave(!).

Even to the extent the themes I’m talking about here are all intentional, this doesn’t really sound healthy, any of this. Granted, *I’m* asking about what’s *healthy behavior* on the *internet*, but…

Still: it don’t.

However much his BATMAN run might have concluded in some bizarre out-of-nowhere affirmation of friendship, it’s such a lonely comic. It’s not difficult to read the BATMAN annotations and imagine Morrison himself as no longer King Mob, but become Ragged Robin– trapped now, trapped by his career, trapped by a DC Universe he’s wished “alive,” trapped in a room with old Silver Age comics, gone sad trying to figure out how he can get them to make sense. THE INVISIBLES was about authors and fictions, but it was also about music, poverty, ex-girlfriends, and poetry. BATMAN is about Batman, wall-to-wall Batman, a black hole of Batman that life can’t escape. Earlier iterations of the Morrison Public Persona talked about drugs, travel, jeet kune do; modern era Morrison Public Persona writes silly, angry screeds about how bad comic fans on the internet are in the back of Mark Waid comics. Get off his lawn, kids! (On the Savage Critic scale, I’d put Morrison’s letter column rants about the internets as OKAY, because I did like the Phantom Zone shout-out at least, which places him slightly ahead of Matt Fraction’s much vaguer letter column rant about the internet, which I’d rank as EH, but both obviously, way, way behind Dan Slott telling that one dude to Fuck Off, which I’d put at VERY GOOD, probably the best thing of Dan Slott’s I’ve ever read. 2011: this site is going to rank the shit out of everything this year!)

So, regardless of how JOE THE BARBARIAN turns out, it kind of doesn’t matter for me because– because I’ve read Morrison comics since goddamn high school, he’s meant just the world to me since then, and something’s just not right here, guys. I mean, I don’t know what all this adds up to, but: instead of annotating every panel of his next comic book, could somebody maybe please instead take the guy dancing?

* * *

Retreating into a fantasy universe– well, we probably all had our reasons to do that sort of thing in 2010 (and/or every year before that, if you’re anything like me). But damnit, it’s a new year, and it can be a new start– New Year’s is my favorite holiday; no other holiday is so hopeful. It’s an entire holiday based upon irrational hopes– I love every second of it. I love it to death. Fuck Halloween, fuck Christmas, fuck Thanksgiving: if you’re a fan of those, that’s fine, good for you, but what I’m saying is– New Year’s. Maybe my favorite comic in 2011 will be that one where the girl goes to Israel. I don’t know– that’s supposed to be a good comic– maybe that happens; who knows what this year has in store for us? Maybe the next volume of X’ED OUT, the main character gets a haicut, and goes to Israel and he becomes best friends with that girl, and learns about seashells or how telescopes were invented, and re-discovers how great reality is. That’d be a great comic– no one would see that plot twist coming.

And maybe that can happen for you or I, too. 2011 can be that year for any one of us.  I mean, whatever the right or wrong, we create these fantasies, and sure, they damage us, but what’s the alternative but to go back for more, shit-eating grin, hat in hand, once that new year comes around?  All we need is a barber, some plane tickets, and maybe some Judaism. All things well within our reach. This can be the year you grab for those dreams.

2011: The Year We Desperately Grab at Judaism Because None of this Other Shit Is Working Anymore.

2011: The Year We Make a Brand New Very Best Friend.

2011: Clothing optional.

2011: This is What the Fantasy Universe Inside My Head Looks Like, and I Go There Once a Year, No Brain Trauma Necessary.

But it really can happen!


  1. Now see, here I just thought G-Mozza’s Batman was a retread of his New X-Men, but New X-Men was probably a retread of his Invisibles. Still, the X-Men was about something, at least, and Batman is, as you’ve said, about Batman. The returns, they are diminishing. (Coming in 2012, Grant Morrison’s “My Batmans: Let Me Show You Them.”)

    Excellent piece, as per usual.

  2. I like Morrison’s stated intentions for his comics more than I like his actual comics. You know, I feel the same way with Mark Millar, actually – I like his interviews about what his comics will be like a lot more than what they turn out to be. The difference is that Millar’s comics turn out to be a lot more vapid and lacking in depth than he describes, and Morrison’s turn out much more cluttered and unfocused.

    Yeah, I don’t want to have to go on a website to try to understand a comic I had just read. It’s like buying a video game that you can’t beat, much less navigate your way through, without the help of gamefaqs.

  3. Abhay: fucking brilliant. But now I want to hear you do a three hour podcast with Jeff and Graeme talking about nothing but Morrison Batman comics. Just for shits and giggles.

  4. Pfft, everything Morrison writes is a retread of everything else he’s written. Plus, he’s on drugs.

  5. sometimes a Batman is just a batman.

    2010 was the year i stopped even bittorrenting comics. i hope 2011 presents some new technology that enables one to somehow know what’s happening in comics without paying for them or reading them.

  6. I dont see any evidence in the text for Batman becoming an author of the story in any way.

    Also not quiet sure what you mean by it being a ‘lonely comic’.

    The second half of the articles reads more like a rant against the Batman annotations and interviews and forwards hes given and written. Which fair enough, I find them annoying too, but it seems unfair to bring them into an assessment of the work.

  7. Speaking of the annotations, how could the twins be Chop Suzie and Captain 7’s kids if they’re white?? I never got that.

  8. I anxiously await the day when DC just go ahead and print the annotations/interviews in the trade.

  9. “I dont see any evidence in the text for Batman becoming an author of the story in any way.”

    1. Batman is the author of the Black Casebook.
    2. Batman is the author of the day-glo Batman sub-personality that he fights back with.
    3. Batman tries to author (or have authored) an account of his adventures through time but Dr. Hurt takes control over the authorship of that book as one of his nefarious schemes.
    4. Batman is the author of his origin story at the story’s climax.

  10. Nah, Dr. Hurt/Darkseid are the author – Dr. Hurt having to field complaints from fanboys about Batman wearing black, who want to see terrible things befall our hero but nonetheless bet on him winning, while Darkseid retcons Bruce’s entire life and beyond with just a flick of his wrist.

  11. […] connects the dots: The Savage Critics critic talks about some of the most talked about comics of 2010, noting that Charles Burns’ X’ed Out is basically the same comic as Grant Morrison and Sean […]

  12. I don’t know; I always read rants like these, and as another grizzled comic book reading vet, I suppose it’s my part to also chime and say, “yeah, that Morrison; he’s so fucking crazy with his retreads of retreads!”–but man, I am finding that rants like THESE tend to feel more like retreads of retreads–a constant scrum of arguments about how X writer is just redoing Y storyline that he’s already done in B comic book.

    I ultimately found this rant to be more confusing than any Morrison read, and really, as always, if they’re that fucking insufferable, why read them? I sometimes feel like these extended rants about the latest extended episodic drop in Corporate Character X’s history says more about the reader/reviewer than it does about the comics sometimes.

    Oh internet; why can’t you just be happy?

  13. “I ultimately found this rant to be more confusing than any Morrison read, and really, as always, if they’re that fucking insufferable, why read them?”

    None of it is a “rant”; sorry it was confusing for you; I never said anything about either comic being “insufferable” nor did I ever use the word “retread” so some degree of your confusion may have been self-inflicted.

    I don’t think I attached any negative judgment to Morrison revisiting themes at all, nor would I– that’s sort of what artists do…? But it’s not a “retread” at all– that’s sort of the point: he’s saying completely different things…

    As for your final question, sometimes things are entertaining, and sometimes things aren’t entertaining– but they’re at least interesting: it’s fun to read and think about things that are interesting, even if they’re not entertaining; if the alternative you’re suggesting is “just be happy”, I would find “just being happy” all the time emotionally and intellectually shallow. But thanks for the suggestion regardless.

  14. Morrison is such a major voice in comics at this point, so I absolutely understand the desire to approach his Batman comics from the perspective of their quality as part of Morrison’s body of work. Looking at them that way, well no, they’re not nearly as satisfying as Invisibles, etc. But they were never going to be, right? For whatever reason (financial gain?, the creative challenge?), he decided to spent some time fooling around with stories that could never have been as tightly under his control as his creator-owned work or even his work with more obscure corporate characters. As such, I’m not certain that it is fair to focus all discussion of these comics as relative to other Grant Morrison comics. We can at least consider the possibility that he has produced better Batman comics than virtually anyone else who might otherwise have done the job. I don’t mean to turn Peter Tomasi into an object of ridicule, but, he’s going to be writing Batman comics; does anyone think for even a fraction of a second that his work will attract anything like the attention (both acclaim and derision) that Morrison’s run has? Will we be able to engage with his work (or choose most any other mainstream superhero writer, really) in the way that this column has engaged with the current run? I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t have high expectations for Morrison’s comics; we should, given his past successes, but the circumstances of a particular project are also a major factor. As for my own evaluation of Morrison’s Batman, I found the greatest failings to be ones that are not entirely (or in some cases, not at all) Morrison’s responsibility. Most noticeable of these was the very uneven art quality. I’m not sure that I could come up with another major run that vacillates between such extremes in that area. If nothing else, Morrison’s ideas kept me buying even the issues that looked awful. I guess what I’m getting at in the end is: by all means, let’s try to identify the themes of the work, where it could have been stronger, even look at it in the context of the author’s other works. BUT, let’s not dismiss the work or suggest that Morrison has lost it because: Invisibles > Batman. That equation could only have ever worked out in a Fantasy Universe. Thanks, Abhay, for a very interesting column.

  15. I thought there was something off about Morrison lately and this is the first article I’ve read that perfectly encapsulates what I’ve felt but haven’t quite been able to articulate.

    Guys who spend the vast majority, if not all, of their professional and creative lives writing fanfic, er, I mean comics involving corporate-owned superhero characters and insist upon dwelling in that “universe” tend to age poorly. Look at Claremont, Byrne, Miller, and sadly, even Alan Moore, I hate to say. There is a point when that love and adoration of the mind’s capacity for envisioning bold, four-color alternative worlds is a beautiful thing, full of possibility and magic and just generally cool. But men must put away childish things, etc. because staying locked in that mode can erode your sense of balance. Calling it a “prison” is a good way of putting it. It kind of feels like the vibrant, creative Morrison we knew is lately lost to this sad obsession with all things DC Universe and that’s all he’s got to say anymore. His love of DC superhero comics is paramount (although it was a tremendously enjoyable read and had rare moments of heart-tugging humanity, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN wasn’t boundary-pushing or new at all) but I can’t help feel it’s become a weakness.

    Who knows? I’m jaded and basically finished with superhero comics as a rule so maybe this is just from my perspective and people with a stronger inclination to this material find it really ground-breaking and fascinating but I tend to worry it’s just masturbatory and insular and that’s a shame because Morrison was my last holdout for keeping superhero comics and fantasy fiction in general fresh and interesting. I was holding out hope, kind of waiting for some over-arching theme that transcended the comic itself to really open it up for me but “wall-to-wall Batman, a black hole of Batman” (as you put it) seems to be the only thing happening here. Oh, well. All things come to an end. I’d say “Look for Geoff Johns to go the same way” but it’s already happened to him years ago.

    As for JOE THE BARBARIAN, I haven’t read it because I forgot it’s being published. I don’t think people are talking about it that much.

  16. “The adventure now continues in BATMAN INC. where Batman drags schlubby Japanese guys away from their girlfriends and into his grubby, violent fictions.”

    Well, was that a good thing? I mean, that girl seemed awfully ready to bail. And, you know, that’s fine because Giant Octopus would provoke that reaction but Batman hardly put him on that road. Jiro was already doing the mystery man thing with Fat, Schlubby, comic shop owner(?) / Real Mr. Unknown.

    The Batman character gives Jiro the keys to a new and subjectively better life (assuming one wants to spend said avenging things upon the criminal element) by opening up the Batman identity to him. This fits the All Star Superman school of thinking wherein fictional characters need to aspire to be more like the ur characters so that eventually they can all be superhero types in the great evolution of serialized fiction.

    I mean, think about it – I’m not pinnacle anything but put me in front of a cro mag with my nearly 70 extra years of life, knowledge of the movement of solar bodies, and technological wizardy coming out of every tweeting orifice and I’m pretty “super” looking. I’m simply the end line result of people aspiring to better ways of living -nutrition, education, etc. Morrison’s DC comics and in this case Batman Inc are what that looks like in comics form.

    How is Batman empowering dudes around the world to be their own “writer” any different than what happened in the Invisibles? Blowing up the convention of “One Batman alone against the night” is one of the more revolutionary ideas to ever get put in a modern Big Two comic.

    I like it for now – except the seemingly arbitray Lord Death Man blows up a bus of kids thing but that more a matter of taste as opposed to a critique of the technique.

  17. Well, to be fair, I suppose we’re Even Stevens because we BOTH read each other wrong–I wasn’t imploring YOU to just be happy, just that I find the collective noise on the internet to sometimes be more about enabling people to tear down as opposed to build up.

    I guess too, that I’m of the mindset that no one HAS to read the annotations of Morrison comics; they’re there for anyone that NEEDS clarification or perhaps, like you, it’s a tool for someone to dissect the way that they enjoy a particular piece of entertainment. I’d rather ferret out meaning from a Morrison bit than any of the tripe that Uncanny X-Men is trotting out nowadays, but maybe that’s because I’m older now, and more onto some of the things that comics tries to pass off as “new”.

    I really meant no offense by my commentary–the tone was rather harsh, I fully own that, but I find the approach to comic analysis to sometimes be more about the analyzer’s interest in deconstructing themes, etc in comics to be, well, insufferable. I guess I’d rather read more about what you thought about BATMAN than about Morrison–I think artists could/should change over time, so if Morrison is on some corporate shit now, whatevs.

  18. […] it’s my first post of the new year, I’d like to point out someone else’s.  Over at the Savage Critics, Abhay Khosla makes me want to reread the Invisibles again. If you’re interested in Grant Morrison comics, or you were considering buying Charles […]

  19. There is something to be said for your comments re: Morrison, having watched the documentary about him he does come across a little sad (emotionally) with the way things have worked out. Whereas the Invisibles had a fire in it to find and do new things, the Batman run has been about railing against prisons (as you put it) of identity, narrative conceits, the responsibility of fatherhood, of this feeling of being trapped. The documentary at times had a similar ambiance to it.

    His best friend “betrays him” (I don’t remember the wording) and seems to usurp his creative identity (big “pop” ideas) which if I were one to annotate I would see reflected in the whole persona of the Black Glove. Arkham Asylum was the thing that put money into his pocket that let him go off and make the Invisibles and have that freedom, it makes sense that he’d return to the character to see if it could recreate a freedom for him.

    I don’t know, I love the man’s writing and the news of Flex Mentallo getting a proper release has made me very happy but I agree with you in part. Worthwhile article.

  20. Yeah, I really can’t see any of this criticism as being anything other than “I don’t want to see Morrison on this superhero shite.” It’s only about Batman in that he’s the main character: the theme is encountering the existential abyss (just like the Filth) and sure, it refers back to a lot of old Batman comics, but there’s plenty of other source material. I mean, one of the other big complaints is how much it relies on the New Gods; that’s hardly the sort of thing you should be able to level against a comic that’s only about Batman.

  21. “I guess I’d rather read more about what you thought about BATMAN than about Morrison”

    That’s a fair argument, but I just don’t know that I process his work that way or that I separate those two things out in my head much. Or that I’m capable of doing so: I’ve just read his comics for so long and have been so… worked up by them, that … I read Batman as a way of visiting Morrison, not a way of visiting Gotham City.

    And I should say: the annotations are being written, by and large, by excellent people, and what I read of them was of a high quality. But I’m interested in the big picture of what people think he’s saying and why they care, and less interested in wading through explanations of the magical clock radio and a million other strange details that I don’t especially care about to get to what for me is the meat… Or I know if i were to do that sort of thing, it’d be a crutch that I’d use to avoid those questions…?

    But you’re making fair points, so thanks for the comments.

    “Yeah, I really can’t see any of this criticism as being anything other than ‘I don’t want to see Morrison on this superhero shite.'”

    Huh? I can’t imagine being a fan of Morrison and not enjoying him write Superheros. But even there– I didn’t want to waste people’s time going into it, but… that idea of heroes inspiring ordinary people that he repeated over and over in his JLA run seems very distant to me. I don’t think his run is going to be memorable for Commissioner Gordon or Alfred, as much as … Jezebel Jet and corrupt cops and dead hookers and dead junkies and rich people gambling with lives. All of which is VERY Batman, I grant you, but… When it ends on him being “surrounded by people”, when he tries to sell that moment at the very end as what rescues Bruce Wayne from non-existence– what is he referring to? He’s referring to a cameo from the Justice League and his *butler*…? Celebrities and the help– that’s some rich guy shit, right there, which is just… It’s just not very Morrison-y to me. But there’s no else that character can point to really. Most of the other non-superhero characters are conspiring against him, holding him back, less than him.

    So, even if that’s classic Batman, I just find that a much lonelier comic than ordinary people with their lighters out in JLA or what Morrison did with New X-men, the way ordinary people in the background of that comic were moving forward, slowly but haltingly towards decency… But yeah, Batman’s inherently a “one good man vs horrible society” comic so … Some of that is unavoidable, I suppose. It’s just how you look at it.

    But “I wish Morrison wouldn’t write superheros”– who says that? I found Morrison with Doom Patrol. More people found him off Animal Man. I mean, I’d rather he did another comic like Doom Patrol or Marvel Boy or FF1234 (sort of the underrated Morrison superhero comic, if it’s as good as I remember it being) than the Mystery Play, at least… Though: Kill Your Boyfriend trumps those so… Who knows…

  22. […] than I was before reading him. The best year-end work for my money were Tucker’s list and Abhay’s new years piece. The two of them, still the best doing […]

  23. Oh, so the problem you have with it is not that Batman’s a superhero, but just that he’s rich.

  24. Thanks for an extremely interesting essay plus discussion. I find your main point about the state of Morrison quite convincing, especially in the light of Damon’s comments about the documentary. However, when evaluating Morrison’s Batman as a whole I think it’s a bit limiting to only look at the subtext. In my mind, this run is defined to a large degree by Morrison’s stated intention of marrying the “crazy fun” Batman stories of yesteryear about time travel and extraterrestials to the more “grim and realistic” tone of the Batman today. A task that seems almost impossible, but that he achieved spectacularly, at least in the RoBW mini. I think RoBW 1 is one of my favorite comics of the year. Batman fights cavemen, and it’s immensely fun, but not stupid fun.

  25. having not read either “joe” (waiting for trade) or “x’ed” ($20 for 56 pages? negative!), i want to point out that the the descriptions provided in the essay remind me of “i kill giants” which came out like 3 years ago or something.

    and which is probably totally 100% superior to both of this year’s books.

  26. Let me get this clear: so, you’re basically disappointed because Morrison made his Batman run about…Batman?

    And even though I wouldn’t count myself among this run’s strongest supporters, I think your comparison between Batman and Invisibles is quite unfair; Invisibles was created by him while Batman was not and not only that, he’s probably one of the two biggest comic book characters in the USA.

    However, I think you’re onto something when you point out the loneliness here. I’m not sure that’s the word I would use here, as Batman is in the close company of several very good (or at least better than average) characters such as Daniel and Dick Grayson. But there’s an inherent coldness in this run that makes ME feel removed when I’m reading it. I think Morrison has never been able to crack through Batman’s surface and find his true voice, which is something he had done so successfully in Doom Patrol or All Star Superman, to mention a few. His Batman’s a circumstance rather than a character, and this is something that’s been present every time he wrote him, including Gothic and Arkham Asylum.

  27. I’m sorry, I said Daniel when i meant Damien.

  28. “Let me get this clear: so, you’re basically disappointed because Morrison made his Batman run about…Batman?”

    … who said anything about being disappointed?? It’s a sometimes entertaining, very straight-forward story with occasional bits that are a little messy, and a middle portion that I thought got derailed by crossovers.

    Or… look at it like this: I love Brad Bird’s movies, a lot, but do I agree with any of the themes of the Incredibles or Ratatouille? I disagree with those movie’s themes with every little bit of my tiny little heart. But I’m thoroughly entertained by them regardless.

    “Invisibles was created by him while Batman was not”

    Oh, I’m done making those kinds of excuses for people, in general, even if I thought that was a distinction Morrison himself even found meaningful… Which I don’t think it is…

  29. So you disagree with the idea that to get over the worst parts of your life you need to reach out to the people closest to you? Or that when faced with a meaningless universe the only sane route is to create meaning by helping others?

  30. Yes. Sarcastically (because I don’t think you’re making honest arguments about either Batman or what I wrote; seem bored on the internet; that’s cool– we’ve all been there).

    But also sincerely, yes– I disagree with both of those ideas, at least how you have formulated them. They both seem like naive, greeting card sentiments or, like, ideas you should have outgrown a couple years after undergrad– pretty ideas that we might like our stories to be about, but practically speaking, of limited application. I mean, good ideas in the abstract, in theory– there are people for whom that sort of thing would work quite well. But there are also people for whom neither sentiment would be helpful advice, but in fact, that advice would make things much, much worse because it’d suggest their current situation is even worse than it is because it doesn’t meet some fantasy of “how things ought to be”.

    But I have a hard time with anything with more moving parts than “whatever works”… And the guy who wrote Whatever Works: the Movie ended up marrying his own daughter so… Nothing’s perfect.

  31. “Oh, I’m done making those kinds of excuses for people, in general”

    Hey, that’s not an excuse, that’s a fact. Please let me know when was the last time you saw a regular Batman comic that was about “music, poverty, ex-girlfriends and poetry” or enlightenment via drugs or sigils or whatever, because I really can’t remember when that happened, if it ever did. By the way, neither All-Star Superman was about such things, and it was entirely about Superman, and it was pretty succesful artistically.

  32. And, still, it seems to me what’s bothering you can be distilled to is Morrison making a comic about Batman; I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s you who’s saying “Batman is about Batman, wall-to-wall Batman, a black hole of Batman that life can’t escape”. And, well, I’m here wondering what should a comic that says “Batman” on the cover be about.

  33. Am I making a dishonest argument? You seem to have a problem with the themes in Morrison’s Batman, and then I gave you what I believe the themes of the run are.

    And really, I think you’re just cynical. Existentialism is something you outgrow? That’s far more depressing than anything in the pages of Batman.

  34. I’m enjoying this.

    “Hey, that’s not an excuse, that’s a fact. Please let me know when was the last time you saw a regular Batman comic that was about”

    It’s an excuse to judge Morrison against the standards of other people, who may or may not have been hacks. I want to judge Morrison against the standard of Morrison. Even if he created one and not the other– he’s spent years and his years of life on Batman now. He’s spent his best years. None of us are getting that time back.

    When people do amazing work outside of the mainstream, judging them by a lower standard in the mainstream … I used to do that, and that stopped making sense to me.

    As for your point, I didn’t read Batman: Jazz, but: Batman comic about Jazz, as I understand it. Or Batman/Grendel– Batman/Grendel is my jaaaaam– cause in the middle of Batman fighting Grendel, there’s all this OTHER STUFF– you really get into the lives of those two lesbians and their jobs and the world they live in. That comic’s got so much life in it. (I feel like Chaykin gets talked about more on the internet than Matt Wagner, and I’m curious why people think that’s so).

    Or Neal Gaiman’s Poison Ivy comic– that was all about adultery. Heck, Azzarello– the part everyone most remembers of Azzarello-Risso is Batman cooking a steak. Or I remember Batman: Black & White having all sorts of crazy stories but … the only story I remember is that Ted McKeever story… That was a good one…

    I mean, if your counter-example is All Star Superman, which is a very, very different comic– it’s all about boiling things down to their sparest essentials… which I don’t think is the case with his Batman run, but even if we accept that as a counter-example, I don’t agree at all.

    I think that’s a book all about God and spirituality. The moment I think everyone singles out there is Superman rescuing the teenage girl. And I take that comic and that moment especially as being about how our ability to imagine something bigger and better than ourselves can save us– which… I mean, that’s one of the 12 steps, right? Granted, Morrison builds an allowance for atheism into it in a line or two in the last issue, where Luthor says something like “we’re all trapped here with each other” or something when he’s tripping balls.

    But even there, Morrison at his very sparest stylistically, that’s a comic that’s about something in the world.

    But the Batman comic– and it’s entirely possible this is just my own failing… Boy, I have a hard time seeing the big picture…

    “what’s bothering you can be distilled to is Morrison making a comic about Batman”

    But why wouldn’t I have had the same problems with Doom Patrol (which wasn’t about patrolling for doom), Animal Man (which wasn’t about being an animal or a man), or Marvel Boy (which as bad a title as you can possibly imagine, and a totally awesome comic)?

  35. “And really, I think you’re just cynical. Existentialism is something you outgrow?”

    No– but I don’t think “people close to you will help you through rough times” is a statement of existentialism. That’s the part I disagree with. That’s true if you’re lucky to have good, supportive people close to you, and it’s so incredibly, staggeringly not true if you don’t. Not being able to recognize that what’s true for you might not be true for other people– that’s the thing I think one might want to outgrow.

    Or just the idea anyone else can save you in general… It’s kind of a young person’s idea. It’s very romantic. If you can avoid outgrowing that one…

    But, without this ending in me crying on my keyboard and putting links to Billy Joel songs from youtube on here: those are the themes of the Batman comic to you?? That’s interesting. I didn’t pick up on any of that myself– it’s interesting. I mean, he tried to do that first theme but I just don’t think it worked. I mean, the special relationship between a boy and his butler is hard for me to relate to. And that second theme–? Not so much. How is his universe meaningless? He’s met multiple, actual GODS throughout the run. A universe with gods of knowledge in it is the very opposite of a meaningless universe. But it’s interesting you see it that way, I guess…

  36. Well, I think the main thrust of the first theme is more about showing the things that happen when you don’t find a healthy way to deal with your trauma: the three ghosts, Pyg, Flamingo, Joker, Jason, Bruce and Dick all suffered in the past, but the last two avoided being devoured by their inner demons.

    ROBW #6 is pretty explicit on the run’s existentialism: “I am the hole that remains when everything else has gone. The emptiness shaped like god.”

  37. I need to stop reading these articles until I’ve finished the invisibles, but basically it sounds like you’ve shown two strategies to stories:

    Disbelieve them and move on – ok if their only anchored in your own actions

    Engage with them and push them a different way – if other people will continue to confirm them

    Morrison is trying to build batman into something of quality, his kind of quality, partially because he likes batman, but also because it allows him leverage to do what he wants with it:

    By coming up with stuff like “the first truth of batman” and building in stuff from the history of the character, he makes himself the main expert on the “core identity of the brand”, or more specficially, he can fabricate that “core identity” around the ideas that interest him. Reimagining a character without seeming to reimagine it, because the crazy past of the character is being used as a weapon “my version of batman has more history than yours, so go with what I’m saying”.

    So where’s he going with all this? Well partially as many creative guys do, he’s carving a space for himself to experiment. He’s building a batman-shaped house to live in. If he can build up a pattern of allusions that form bodyguards to his own ideas, he can look back and say “see I was building to this”. Also by multiplying possibilities, trying to reinclude older stuff and actually increasing the plausible number of batbooks, he makes people less likely to undo his stuff, because there are spaces to squeeze their stories in.

    As a storyteller who just wants to keep telling stories it works pretty well. I hope though, that there is also a rebel side of things, that maybe if you can start steering this thing that is also a massive brand, you can have an effect on culture, and specifically use it to poke at and damage things you think are dodgy.

    Which is why I find it interesting that he’s started going at globalisation. At pulling the batman brand into it’s own story, and so being able to talk about the business of comics itself. I’ve no idea how far it will go, but it could be a very interesting way to talk about things you generally don’t get to talk about in mainstream comics.

    Course, ironically, the ideas in the batman books themselves (and particularly the nolan films) suggest an alternative approach to dealing with stories you disagree with; come from the side and overtake them with better ones!

    The level to which you agree with that method probably depends on the extent to which you think appealing stories can also be helpful, in other words whether humanly satisfying stories are delusions in an inhumanly absurd world, or whether there is any commonality between truth and entertainment. If not, then all attempts to help people live their lives will be harsh truth tempered with escapism, and naturally compromised and corrupted by the attempts to make them palatable.

  38. […] this case “body horror”), and X’ed Out is released. To fairly resounding praise (Abhay hadn’t review it yet). So I bought it, I thought the idea of Tintin traveling through Interzone sounded far enough away […]

  39. Is it doesn’t small tweaks that can cause some of the most dramatic shift.

  40. […] trick being that it’s still Batman/Bruce Wayne’s idea of the outside world, and honestly, Bruce Wayne probably sees Batman in his Smash these days, just like Grant […]

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