I suppose it’s appropriate for me to blog about the demise of Damian Wayne.
I’ve made no secret about being opposed to the concept of Damian Wayne from the very beginning. For one thing, he’s the son (creation?) of Talia, daughter of R’as Al-Ghul I’ve never been a fan of R’as Al-Ghul, an eco-glossed Fu Manchu who has limitless resources and time and never manages to accomplish anything. Except for his gratuitous plot-device of daughter, who exists solely to inappropriately fall for Batman (whom she barely KNOWS) and alternatingly betray him and her father, as the plot requires. While guys like the Penguin manage to rob banks with umbrellas, R’as Al-Ghul, who lives on the other side of the planet and already knows Batman’s identity, not only never gets away with anything (even a liquor store heist) but routinely dies in the process and has to take a bath in Denny O’Neil’s ridiculous re-start button, the Lazarus Pit. It’s like O’Neil watched Peter Seller’s The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu before it even came out (1980). Sacrilege though this may be to those of you who bought into R’as at an early age, but I’ve always felt he was wildly out-of-place and rather an embarrassment to Batman’s Rogues Gallery. Which, I note, includes the likes of Killer Moth, Crazy-Quilt, the Eraser, and Dr. Double-X. So that’s saying a lot.
Another strike against the concept was that Damian was Batman’s illegitimate son. O RLY, Batman? You managed to escape over 9000 death-traps but still managed to knock some girl up? Nice. Now, I think this may have been retconned somehow due to the concentrated timeline of the 52DCU, with Damian being a clone rather than a little bastard. Which, if true, is somewhat better. But it still seems like sort of desperately flailing for a way to invigorate the franchise: “Now Batman has an illegitimate son/clone!” To me, Damian was like a Bat-mite with a bad attitude and no magical omnipotence. I mean, his head’s even the same shape. This is the sort of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that Morrison does that so many people admire. Me, I’m no big fan of that kind of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. It doesn’t make me think “Grant Morrison’s an innovative genius”; it just makes me think “Grant Morrison’s the new Bob Haney, and constitutionally incapable of coloring between the lines because he lacks authorial self-discipline (or editorial discipline).” If I wanted to read stories where Batman has a brain damaged brother, or Superman has a hunchback brother, or the Saga of the Super-Sons, I’ll just go back and read those, thank you.
Many of you will think I’m just a Morrison-hater and I’ve given you plenty of reason to think that. Yet, I was not just a fan but quite a booster of his early work for DC and I remember his Animal Man and Doom Patrol issues both well and fondly. But it’s one thing to give an imaginative writer a bunch of broken, nearly discarded minor characters and letting him see what he can make out of them with some glue, glitter, and LSD. It’s quite another to watch run wild when he’s given the keys to the DCU’s—the industry’s—two best known and most durable characters, battering them repeatedly into incomprehensible wrecks (the Black Glove, Infinite Crisis, the current Superman storyline; the list is longer). Grant Morrison does not play nicely with toys and put them back in the box for others to use. His track record on previously existing characters is pretty consistent: he does his patented ‘wildncrazy’ stuff with them until he’s squeezed as much wackiness out of them as he wants, then leaves a mess for someone else to try and fix. I’m overstating a little for effect, but almost every time he’s done with a character or team, they have to reboot them in some way and back out of whatever blind alley he’s lead them down. That’s not really being a team player and building a character for the future. Morrison is a wonderful writer… of Elseworlds. And he's popular because... a lot of people like Elseworlds.
Damian’s introduction didn’t help endear him to me, either. For those who coo how cute it is to watch his hardened little heart soften as he matures through his relationship with his mentors, I say (again): he tried to kill Tim Drake and he beheaded the Spook. Yes, that was before the reboot; and I assume those particularly incidents are no longer in continuity. But you’ll forgive me if those incidents made an indelible impact on me as to who this character was and what he was about. The idea of one of our heroes having a murderous, violent son is interesting… but I think James Gordon Junior fills that role quite nicely. Plus, you don’t see Commissioner Gordon putting Junior out on the street as a rookie cop, do you? Damian needs/needed MASSIVE THERAPY, not the opportunity to attack criminals nightly. “Damian Wayne” is bad enough; Damian as Robin is insane. And the whole ‘cute’ reversal of Robin being the hard-ass while Batman tempers him? (1) Not so cute. I prefer my ‘smart-mouthed’ kids on television sitcoms, where I don’t have to watch them. (2) This idea is like one of those SNL skits that’s a funny idea, but becomes excruciating when it goes on too long. Like, for more than two issues. (3). To begin with, I missed the part where a bitter, violent child is either cute or funny.
And forget Batman for a minute. Bruce Wayne, trillionaire, suddenly has an illegitimate heir? Who is the son of one of Batman’s enemies, whom Bruce has zero reason to know? People like to laugh at how ‘obvious’ it was in the Silver and Bronze Ages that Bruce Wayne was Batman. What do they think of Damian’s impact on Bruce’s secret identity?
Honestly, the entire Damian Affair gives me headaches far more painful than those from Bob Haney stories. At least you knew Bob Haney was playing in his own Haneyverse, and that the rest of DC authorial and editorial would ignore whatever he was doing. But the Cult of Morrison has ensured that this (admittedly interesting) Elseworld-ish story has promulgate far, long, and wide across the company publishing. Even when the opportunity to wrap the whole thing up but simply not have Damian in the New52 presented itself, all regular timelines deferred to Morrison’s.
Far be it for me to wish any character ill. I don’t want to see any character beaten/shot/stabbed to death brutally, certainly not a child (particularly by his mutant clone, which is a damning metacommentary about Damian being his own worst enemy).
But I cannot say that I will miss Damian Wayne.