Comfort Food Comics of Zur-En-Arrh – Damian Wayne, The Spawn of The Son of the Demon by OldComicsFan

Let’s get something out of the way. Grant Morrison is extremely talented and extremely divisive. I think his straightforward super-hero work is amazing (JLA, for example). I think his, for lack of a better word, “weirder” work is just awful (The Invisibles, Doom Patrol). Every now and then, though, he comes up with something that combines both of these elements, and the reaction among fandom is usually something along the lines of a gang war. We saw this with New X-Men, especially, and then with Morrison’s take on Batman.

Once Morrison took over the writing duties, one of the bigger shifts in Bruce Wayne’s world came from the introduction of his son, Damian. I’m likely far older than most people reading this. I was amazed at how many people were unaware that the foundation for Damian’s character actually dates back to 1987 and the one-shot graphic novel Batman: Son of the Demon by Mike Barr and Jerry Bingham.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, yes, there are spoilers coming, but I feel they are of the minor sort given that the points relevant to Damian are somewhat told by Morrison. Why just “somewhat”? Well, largely because Morrison never read Son of the Demon (Wizard Magazine #182). In doing so, they wound up trashing one of the most human, engaging, and, dare I say, sweet, Batman stories of all time.

It’s tough for a lot of modern readers to understand that the Batman of times past was still very much Bruce Wayne. He had actual relationships with people. He was often portrayed as deeply compassionate, even religious on occasion. These traits are well displayed by Barr and Bingham, as they craft a story that essentially is a Batman/Ra’s al Ghul team-up. Ra’s and Bruce bond heavily throughout, but the real attraction is Bruce’s connection with Talia.

No, Talia hasn’t always been a cold, soulless sociopath. She was, in fact, in love with Batman. Barr has them falling ever more deeply for each other until they finally consummate the relationship. Naturally, all the consummation going on results in Talia becoming pregnant. On a side note, Talia reminds us as part of all this that she and Bruce are actually already married, with Ra’s having performed a ceremony years before according to rules that only the bride is necessary to complete the ritual.

As the conflict in the story escalates, Talia concludes that she is a liability to Bruce. He will always try to protect her and the baby first, but he’s also not going to stop being Batman. Deciding that this puts him in even more danger than ever, with his attention divided and his focus blurred by love, she tells him that she has miscarried. Bruce is devastated. Talia sends him away in grief. The next few pages of Bruce dealing with this are just heart-wrenching, and Bingham’s art does a ton of heavy-lifting here with minimal dialogue. The miscarriage was all a ruse, of course, with Talia sacrificing their happiness with the idea of keeping Bruce safe.

This entire story was regarded as outside of continuity for years until Morrison decided to use it as background for Damian. Unfortunately, they eviscerated the original story to do so. Instead of a genuine relationship with Talia (and Ra’s), we are now treated to a Batman who was basically drugged and raped by Talia. The baby, rather than being loved by both parents, is instead turned into a tool for Talia and the League. He isn’t even born naturally, as she places him in an artificial womb for gestation.

Then there’s Talia. Historically, Talia was a complicated character torn by his loyalty to her father and her love for Batman. Morrison goes a long way in stripping her of redeeming qualities. Their entire narrative of Damian’s birth and the circumstances around it make for a grotesque inversion of the original story and Talia’s personality in general.

My suggestion is to read both of these. Believe it or not, I like Morrison’s Batman run, though I do think it is overrated by its fans. However, Son of the Demon is one of the greatest Batman stories of all-time, and it is of superior quality as a one-shot than Morrison’s entire Batman catalogue. 

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