Batman versus Superman as class warfare? Grant Morrison: ‘Bruce has a butler, Clark has a boss’
This is Part Two of the Hero Complex interview with Grant Morrison, the Scottish writer who has added a swirl of surreal and touch of the absurd to the top titles at DC Comics. (You can read Part One right here.) In this installment, he muses about the differences between the sunny-day champion of Metropolis and dark-night avenger of Gotham City. — Geoff Boucher
GB: Superman and Batman are the two defining icons among comic books, and now that you’ve spent considerable time with both of them as a writer, I’m curious how you’ve come to view them, both as separate figures and as linked opposites.
GM: Superman is very bright and optimistic. It’s all the simple things. He’s of the day and of the sunlight, and Batman is the creature of the night. I’m interested in the fact that they both believe in the same kind of things. But Batman is better. He’s screwed up. That what makes him cool. Even though he’s solved all his problems in his own head he is — as I see him — a man with a very dark sense of humor and a very dark view of the world. He has to overcome that constantly. He’s forever fighting to make the world better, which means it’s never good for Batman. The rest of us have good days. We don’t fight everyday. Batman fights every single day. He has that dark Plutonian side.
GB: The public personalities of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent don’t seem as polarized as their alter egos.
GM: Bruce Wayne is a rich man. He’s an artistocrat. Superman grew up as Clark Kent on a farm bailing hay, and he’s got a boss that shouts at him if he’s late to work. He’s actually more human; Batman is the fetish fantasy psyche of the aristocrat overlord who can do anything he wants, and that’s fascinating. The class difference between the two of them is important.
GB: I’ve never thought much about the class distinctions between the two.
GM: You’re an American; you live in Los Angeles! You don’t have to think of class distinction in the same way we Brits do. But there is very much a distinction between the two. People often forget Superman is very much a put-upon guy. Bruce has a butler, Clark has a boss …
GB: True, but Clark also owns real estate in the Arctic, flies for free and can crush coal into fist-sized diamonds. He doesn’t need to have a boss.
GM: Yeah, but he so wants to be like us. He pines after one girl while Batman has a whole host of fetish femmes fatale at his beck and call.
GB: The ladies love the car, I think.
GM: Of course. He’s got everything. I like that. He’s our kind of dream of the aristocrat. He’s even better than the Tony Stark/Iron Man thing; he’s got that as well as the dark side. That’s the difference between Superman and Batman. There both interesting to write, but Batman is the sexier one, definitely.
GB: As you look forward to “Batman Inc.” in October and the idea of the hero “franchising” himself, give us a snapshot moment that we can look forward to — some tantalizing panel or situation that has you excited.
GM: Oh, God, um, OK: Catwoman and Batman doing “Mission: Impossible” hanging upside-down, sneaking into Sivana’s lair to steal one of his super weapons. And Batman on top of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, in the daytime. That will be the first time we see him in the new Batman costume, and it’s in the daytime in Dubai. I’ve just found since the very beginning that it was best to put him in situations where he’s not normally comfortable. That’s where I’ve found the really interesting story potential.
— Geoff Boucher
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Illustrations: Top, Superman and Batman as drawn by Frank Quitely (DC Comics). Second and third, Jim Lee’s take on the iconic heroes (DC Comics). Bottom, Quitely’s cover for “Batman and Robin” No. 13 (DC Comics).