Grant Morrison

Alternating between Characters in Grant Morrison’s: Batman Incorporated

[(Essay Date 16 June 2013) In this criticism K.G. analyzes the use of character changes and how they supplement the graphic novel Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison]

In the graphic novel, Batman Incorporated Batman recruits a spectrum of heroes in order to combat the villainous organization known as Leviathan. Batman creates this corporation because he cannot be everywhere he is needed, around the world, and cannot combat Leviathan alone. The technique used to establish this concept is the alternating of character perspectives throughout the novel. This alternation between characters provides insight about what is going on around the world, creates dynamic variation in the plot, and gives an omniscient perspective that is not limited to the experiences of Batman.

The primary function of character switches in Batman Incorporated instills a feeling of Batman Incorporated’s full reach around the world. Even when Batman isn't present, justice is still being served through his recruits. A prime example is with the hero Batwing, who is the African branch of Batman Incorporated. At the start of the novel, Batwing is presented spying on Leviathan, independently of Batman Inc; however he is soon recruited to Batman’s team, after Batman learns about his activity in Africa. Once Batman recruits Batwing, Batman is no longer needed in Africa and lets Batwing take the reins. This comes into play toward the end of the novel when Batman is preoccupied with trying to find the mastermind behind Leviathan. While Batman is tracking down the mastermind the story quickly flashes to Batwing and his efforts in Africa as a new development about Leviathan unfolds. This change from the perspective of Batman to Batwing shows the extent of Batman’s organization. Batman is constantly occupied with Leviathan throughout the novel, but this doesn’t stop him from keeping tabs on the rest of the world. This is shown through alternating perspective, the shift in characters, and their independent operations around the world.

In addition to demonstrating Batman’s reach around the world, the changing of characters also provides variation in the story. Most of the novel covers the action-filled escapades of Batman and his crew of heroes. This provides non-stop excitement and a fast paced story. However, later in the novel this is broken up when the plot switches to the perspective of Man-Of-Bats and his sidekick Raven. Unlike the common, reoccurring theme of the novel, the Man-Of-Bats segment takes place in a small town in the western deserts of the United States, which sees little to no action. At the start of the Man-Of-Bats’ segment he is shown doing mundane chores for his neighbors, and investigating trivial crimes. This lack of excitement infuriates the Man-Of-Bats’ sidekick and son, Raven. Raven is ashamed of his father for staying in the small town and fighting petty criminals when they could be making a real difference. Raven later explains his frustration with his father when he states, “Wife beaters and junkies beware. I’d kill to fight just one giant robot or master-villain.” This side story of father and son both provide foreshadowing that supplements the plot of the novel as Man-Of-Bats and Raven are later recruited to Batman Inc, but also provides a small reprieve and some deviation from the non-stop action of the novel.

The final use of transitions between various characters is to provide information that would otherwise be unknown if the story did not shift from Batman. This grants outside knowledge that is sometimes vital to the plot and occurrences in the graphic novel that may have not been unveiled if the plot was limited to Batman. This usage is most prevalent towards the end of the novel through the perspective of the Hood, Batwing, and the three Robins. As the climax of the novel draws near, Batman is trapped in a Labyrinth, trying to find the leader of Leviathan. In the Labyrinth he is informed that for every five minutes Batman spends in the Labyrinth, one of his agents dies. After he initially stated this, the story shifts to the perspective of Batwing, who is about to reveal the head of Leviathan’s identity, when he is abruptly murdered. Following this, as another five minutes passes, the story shifts to show another of Batman’s agents, the Hood, revealing that the Labyrinth is a trap, followed by the Hood’s murder. These two instances present information unknown to Batman, and validate Leviathan’s claim. In addition the changing perspective also provides background information when the three Robins: Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, and Damian Wayne, ultimately save Batman from an untimely demise. As Batman nears the end of his life the perspective shifts to the three Robins fighting their way through the Labyrinth as they try to save Batman. Just before Batman is executed by the mastermind of Leviathan, Damian Wayne throws a dagger-like projectile into Batman’s would-be killer, saving Batman’s life. The shift in characters supplied the necessary information the three Robins managed to find and save Batman at the end of the novel.

In conclusion, the shift between characters in the graphic novel Batman Incorporated portrays the worldwide reach of Batman’s operations, alters the environment and pacing of the novel, and provides essential information that is not limited to Batman’s knowledge and experiences. These elements help create the dynamic and larger than life sentiment the Batman Incorporated invokes.

(K.G. 2013)

The Ethics of Killing in Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin

[(Essay Date 16 June 2013) In this literary criticism K.G. analyzes the different characters and their approaches to killing in Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison)

Throughout Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, the ethics of killing are a recurring theme portrayed through the comparison of the characters: Batman, Robin, and Red Hood. Each character displays a different outlook on killing and its justifications. Batman, who chooses to preserve all life, is contrasted by the vigilante, Red Hood who punishes the guilty through killing. In turn Robin is shaped by the two contrasting characters’ values. These characters all depict the spectrum of consequences and variables when dealing with killing.

At the start of the novel, Batman is responsible for teaching Robin the tricks of the trade when it comes to crime fighting, but also the burdens and consequences of death and killing. This deems a difficult task for Batman because Robin believes killing is an inevitable part of crime fighting. Throughout the novel Batman attempts to teach Robin his ideals and that killing is not an option. By keeping his hands clean of blood, Batman manages to stay on the right side of the law, and stay morally just. By taking the higher, but more difficult route, Batman is also forced to utilize all of his skills and knowledge making his character stronger, and more versatile. Batman later tries to stress the importance of this to Robin after a missions goes haywire when he says, “Being Batman and Robin isn't all about working alone and thinking with your fists. What about your detective skills? What about learning how to obey a direct order?” This also stresses the importance of self restraint when it comes to killing. Batman attempts to show Robin that sometimes making the right choice isn't always the easy one, but it is a burden the protectors of Gotham must bear.

Conversely, a vigilante Red Hood is at large, killing Gotham’s villains left and right with the slogan, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” Red Hood justifies his killing by convincing himself that the villains deserve nothing less than the horrors they executed. This “eye for an eye” mentality contradicts Batman’s ideals of abiding by the law and letting the judicial system run its course. Instead of letting the judicial system decide the fate of criminals, Red Hood takes matters into his own hands and plays the role of judge, jury and executioner. This technique is an easy alternative to the non-lethal dispatching that Batman uses. However Red Hood gets carried away because he does not demonstrate the same self restraint that Batman has from the experience of not killing his targets. This carelessness with human life ultimately leads to the downfall of the Red Hood later in the novel.

By the same token, Robin’s approach to killing is influenced by the Batman and Red Hood’s actions. Similarly to Red Hood, Robin deems it necessary to kill in order to fight crime. On the other hand Robin does not kill because he thinks it just, but rather thinks of killing as necessary collateral to save the lives of the innocent. Later in the novel Robin blames Batman for the death of many civilians when Robin claims he could have saved them, if he had not been constrained by non-lethal techniques. These cuts at Batman continue until, Robin finally sees the advantages of the non-lethal techniques he previously discredited, when Red Hood is arrested for unjustly punishing the villains of Gotham by murdering them.

In conclusion, the three main characters presented in the graphic novel all represent a different aspect of the relationship between crime and the ethics of killing. Batman, who opposes all killing, demonstrates the value of morality and abiding by the law, whereas Red Hood presents the issue of appropriate punishment for criminals. Between these foils, Robin tries to balance killing to save lives and staying on good terms with the law. These differing views are embodied by the three main characters, each having their own interpretation of the ethics of killing.

(K.G. 2013)