Grant Morrison Talks Batman & Robin. And Pyg.

batmanandrobinredhood From Newsarama:

NRAMA: You've been pretty up front about the fact that Damien is, to use terms that are perhaps unprofessional in the world of journalism, a little {explicative deleted}. Well, at least you've been up front about the fact that he's very bratty and a bit of a psycho, though at least no one's called for him to be beaten with a crowbar and blown up. What can we expect from Damien-as-Robin? What is his relationship with Dick like, and how do you see him evolving over the course of this series?

GM: He makes a pretty cool Robin, I have to say. Yes, he’s bratty, but only because he’s rich and spoiled and probably the best 10-year old fighter on the planet. His sense of entitlement and privilege can be nauseating at times, but shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to anyone who lives in the modern world.

On the positive side, Damian is tough, fearless and intelligent. He’s carrying the DNA of Bruce Wayne and Ra’s Al Ghul, and is certainly a better and more dangerous fighter than any of the previous Robins. He’s no more a psycho than Bruce ever was (!) but he’s had a fairly severe upbringing among some of the world’s most evil master-villains, and it‘ll take a little time to shake off that bad influence. For sheer combat skill, however, this is the uber-Batman and Robin team. Criminals beware! Readers rejoice!

Damian’s relationship with Dick is...spiky to say the least, but that’s something we’ll see grow and develop over the next year, along with Damian himself. There’s much more scope for drama and personal conflict with this partnership and I plan to take advantage of that.

If you look back at the early Dick Grayson Robin stories, he’s a bit of a brat himself, and is constantly disobeying Batman’s direct orders, so in some ways we’re only going back to the rebellious roots of the character.

NRAMA: How does the flash-forward story from #666 tie into this?

GM: Considerably...

NRAMA: (mumbling) Lousy Scottish tease...

Tell us about some of the new characters we'll be meeting -- it's always fun to find out about your notes on these.

GM: Because the focus for the first arc is on Batman and Robin themselves, I wanted to introduce some new villains who didn’t need much backstory, and could spark off a good first adventure without taking too much of the spotlight away from the big drama between the leads. Professor Pyg was a villain I created for Batman #666, and I felt there was some potential there to be developed, so he’s being set up here.

The name ‘Professor Pyg’ comes from “Pygmalism,” a Kahimi Karie song written by Momus (who also has a song entitled “Three Devils” which, quite coincidentally, is the name of a group of Batman foes from the 1940s). “Pyg”, short for “Pygmalion,” refers to George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which was turned into the musical film My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.

Shaw’s book, and the musical based on it, use the Greek legend of Pygmalion as the basis for a “nature vs. nurture” story about a man - the domineering Professor Henry Higgins - who bets he can transform even the lowliest street urchin into a well-spoken society lady (like some early version of the “ladette to lady” “Gs to gentlemen” reality shows). Higgins uses simple rhymes and mnemonic exercises as he teaches Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle how to enunciate her words in the style of the posh ladies of Edwardian high society, until she too can pass among them undetected.

Movie enthusiasts will know that Rex Harrison also played Doctor Doolittle, who by strange coincidence was famed for teaching barnyard animals to speak proper, so our Professor Pyg mixes all these characteristics and influences together to create a monster who wants to make everything and everyone “perfect,” as he sees it, by transforming them into grotesque brain-damaged “Dollotrons.”

His associates, the Circus of Strange - Mr. Toad, Big Top, Siam and Phosphorus Rex - are classic old school circus freak types - lizard man, vastly-obese bearded “lady,” conjoined kung-fu fighting triplets and the ever-popular man with his head on fire! Quitely runs wild with these designs ,and the big fight scene in issue #2 blew me away when I saw what he’d done with it.

“Revenge of the Red Hood” then introduces two major new characters to Batman’s world but we can talk about them nearer the time.

NRAMA: Will some classic characters that haven't been seen in a while show up, and if so, what can you tell us about them?

GM: We’ll see a couple of old favorites during the run - Talia will obviously make an appearance, checking in with her son. I’d like to see what’s going on with the Joker and have an idea I don’t think has been done before with him. Doctor Hurt/Thomas Wayne/The Devil from Batman RIP will be making a comeback to finish what he started. I’m trying to think of fresh angles for all of them, but mostly its new situations and characters.

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