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Thursday, March 21, 2013 

Grant Morrison's subtle swipe at capitalism

In a CBR interview about the end of his run on Batman, Morrison said the following:
One thing that's been growing in this run of "Batman Incorporated" is an element of class warfare in how Talia presents herself. She seems to mock the idea that Bruce Wayne with all his wealth is going to swoop in and save poor people. How does that element grow in the finale? Is there a way in which you agree with her a little bit?

You have to agree with her a little bit. I mean, you've got a character here called Talia al Ghul, and that name suggests the Middle East immediately. So you have this character on one side, and then you have Bruce Wayne who's an East Coast billionaire, which pretty much represents the Western capitalist industrial side of things. There's an undeniable, inescapable and interesting picture of certain global conflicts going on. It's the same way as when I was a young writer working on [1986's Marvel UK title] "Zoids" I couldn't seem to escape the idea that the Blue Zoids were America and the Red Zoids were Russia back in the days of the Cold War.

I think those things are just obvious an inherent in these things when you have the al Ghul family against the Wayne family. But for me underneath it all -- and I think what people have started to feel -- is that in the end this is about real people. It's about us. It's not about Bruce, and it's not about Talia. These people are monsters and superheroes, but in the middle is Damian looking up and saying, "Why can't you two just get along?" That's what it's about. It's about being a child of divorce and sitting there with these giant ideologies warring across the surface of a planet that should really have starships flying into space. Everybody should be peaceful and there's no money anymore, but instead it's "What the fuck are you guys up to?" That's what it's about. These kids with hope trapped between these monstrous powers fighting. You can't talk to them. You can't reason with them.

I hope that's what people take from it more than anything because ultimately Batman is the hero and Talia is the villain. And just like in the real world, you can assign hero and villain roles easily. Sure, Batman is the hero and he's got to win. And yeah, he represents a form of capitalism – a good form that really works in the DC Universe. He's a good guy, and Talia's a villain. So there are several obvious correlation's there, but I don't think people should take that as what this story is about, because it's not. Does that make sense? I mean, I don't want to walk away from your question.

No. That makes sense. I think you've been pretty up front since the beginning that you've been writing about these people as characters first, which that jibes with quite a bit.

Though I also thin[k] this has a little bit to do with Batman as a capitalist superhero. He's the hero, and he's going to win. Regardless of my politics or anyone's politics, that's how things work in the DC world. [Laughter]
Why would we have to agree with Talia "a little" if she takes up a crooked stance that reeks of socialism? Same goes for her father Ra's. The webmaster of Batwatch noticed this, and said:
One thing that stood out to me in this interview was the way Morrison apologized for Bruce Wayne being a capitalist. I do not know if Morrison is a Marxist, or if he is just afraid to endorse capitalism lest he offend someone, but either way, it kind of annoys me. Capitalism is simply allowing people to earn and spend their money as they choose. In other words, it is freedom. You don't need to apologize for it.
He also elaborated further on why he finds Morrison's descriptions troubling in the comments:
Okay, so rereading it, here are my problems. Like you said, Morrison is contrasting the capitalist nature of Batman against Talia's forces which are using the class warfare mentality to recruit soldiers. Problem #1: "You have to agree with her (Talia) a little bit." Uh, no I don't. I don't agree with her in the slightest. Morrison does not clarify exactly what he agrees with, but based on the context and general progressive thought, I'm suspicious he means that Talia has some justification in her actions because the evil capitalist exploits the poor people. (which is nonsense, but that is what progressives generally believe) Regardless, Morrison seems to be backing Talia, at least partially, which is ridiculous, and in this same section is where he talks about her as an opposing force to capitalism, so...I guess apology might not be the right word. How about partial opposition to capitalism?

Second problem: "Though I also thing this has a little bit to do with Batman as a capitalist superhero. He's the hero, and he's going to win. Regardless of my politics or anyone's politics, that's how things work in the DC world." In other words, I'm not necessarily for this whole capitalist thing, but we know the capitalist superhero has to win in DC's story. What? Why wouldn't you be all for the capitalist superhero? You are either for freedom or slavery. Why would you bother equivocating?
Morrison also hinted at the moral equation he tried out with his description of the vision he had for the now departed Damien's portrayal: the youngster would see nothing wrong with either side's beliefs and can't determine who's right or wrong? This is just why there's really nothing to learn from Morrison's writing; he doesn't provide anything. One could wonder if he got early wind of the screenplay for The Dark Knight Rises and decided to draft a story setup that would serve as a rebuffing of Christopher Nolan's vision for Batman's relations with Catwoman. His equation of "monstrous" powers also says something: he's implying the capitalist side is the same as the socialist side. What a shame Morrison can't make a difference. He probably decided he's not fond of the DCU either, considering it representative of capitalism, no matter how left-leaning any of the modern staff happen to be.

So, his departure from Batman won't be any loss. The only thing to be sad about is that the other leftists there besides him still continue to run the company even as he goes.

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It wouldn't surprise me if he WAS a Marxist, to be honest. He certainly seems to have a disdain for capitalism and non-leftist ideologies.

He may hate capitalism, but he certainly won't be a starving artist. You hate so money so much, Morrison, fine, don't accept your next paycheck or have it reduced. I wish someone would pose that to these people, and see how far their "logic" goes.

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