Jun 8, 2018

Grant Morrison's Batman: The Other Reading List (Part 3 of 3)

All good things come to an end.

When we see recommendation lists for where to go before or after Grant Morrison’s Batman comics, it’s almost always other Batman comics. You’re already going to read Batman comics.

“What do you suggest for after X-Files episode Season 3 #9?”

“Season 3 #10. And, you should probably have watched #8 before, even though nothing carries over.”

So comics. No other Batman. British plays. French novels. Buddhist parables and Chinese prognostication texts. A “reading” list that includes paintings, sculptures, and films. None of it necessary, none of it required for anything. It’s not even very seriously compiled. Maybe it just helps you notice things more, on first read, on rereads. Lingering thoughts of, “What does that painting on the wall in that panel mean?” and, “Batman’s a bit childish, isn’t he? But, a good kid.” The idea is just to get ideas in your head for later use.

The Other Reading List
A List of Books, Sculptures, Plays, Etc, Relating to Grant Morrison’s Batman, 
That Aren’t Old Batman Comics, Part 3
Travis Hedge Coke

Alice in Wonderland

It’s only because Bruce and Alice both fall down a deep hole into something bigger.

Morrison’s first Batman comic (he’d already written an illustrated short story for a British reprint collection), Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (the subtitle of which is, itself, lifted from a poem (I’ll leave you to find out which)), is as labyrinthine and artificial sensible, as emotionally true as the famous children’s horror-adventure-comedy. It also includes several mirroring beats, and continual references to it and its spiritual sequel, Through the Looking Glass. As a book and a world, Wonderland uses a kind of emotive reasoning and parodic math to stay sensible, structured, and it lends both this indulgent logic and its cache of childhood memories within readers to those coming into the Morrison comic.

The Ox-Herder

Since the Twelfth Century, Buddhists have used ten images, ten representations, to meditate on meditation. Sometimes the images are accompanied by narrative prose or poetic lines, but these are unnecessary. The images, themselves, are largely unnecessary, if you can hold it in your mind.

This is one of the earliest forms of what is clearly comics, but also a lure of “clues” used by Talia, arch-villain of Morrison’s Bat-run, and woman who is too witty for her own good. She basically drags Batman through the ten images, baiting him with hostages and bombs, pitching him through windows and up empty stairwells, having changed out the traditional bull or ox for a goat, because, Gotham, goat-home.

Over the course of the ten images, the ox-herder pursues the ox, tames the ox, takes the ox home, where they both can rest, and they both transcend, the source is reached, and return to society.


A famous Lichtenstein painting, it is, as are all his most famous works, a reproduction in large size, of a panel from a comic book. Unlike others, there is no figure-work here, to simplify down, but an exciting abstract burst and the loud, dominating word, “Whaam!”

An enlarged reproduction of a comics panel shrunk down within comics panels, looping things back and from comics over the course of decades.

The Mark of Zorro

Rich man sees common people mistreated, puts on a mask, creates a stylish brand, and messes up bad people but good.

This is the movie that Bruce saw, as a child, the night that his mother and father were murdered. It is not unreasonable, to assume the energy and broad strokes of it had an effect on the creation of Batman.

Purple Rain

Bruce Wayne is Batman. But, Batman, when he heroes up, is Prince.

I’ll fight you on that one. It’s basically the plot of Purple Rain, the movie.

During Batman and Robin, we see Zorro and Prince combined in the horrific and stylish, Flamingo. One of the covers mimics the Purple Rain movie poster and album cover, perfectly.

Meanwhile, the album contains tracks like, The Beautiful Ones, which echoes the nickname for some of the over-grooming rodents in the NIMH experiments of Calhoun, we saw in part one of this series.

The Triumph of Death 

The panel painting by Peter Bruegel, The Triumph of Death, depicts huge skeleton men assaulting and murdering, as dogs feast on corpses, amidst a hellish landscape. It’s just death.

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