Grant Morrison's writing a Batman novel, or at least a narative project - extending across several different comic titles - that can be analogously understood as a novel. This much we know.

We know less than we assume we do about its structure though, which is odd as Morrison's always very keen to make interesting and specific claims about structure. Many writers will be happy to tell us that they see their extended run on a title "as a novel." Mozza's the guy who'll tell us that he sees a run as a three volume novel with a fractal structure, unless you read it alongside two of his other works, in which case its best thought of as a hologram. Fair doos.

But what's he up to here? Is this project best understood as a novel, a series of novels, a big bundle of comics, or something else? And how's this attempt to create a cohesive work weathered the storm of in-continuity shared universe storytelling while using characters appearing in oodles of other books and being at the centre of a number of crossover Events? Are we in its final stages or about halfway through?

I decided to do an exhaustive textual survey of the entire run in order to find out.

Then I decided not to bother, to watch tonight's X-Factor instead, and then google a load of old interview quotes from shill sites.

There follows the result of my scaled-down ambition.

14th Nov 2006
Newsarama

This seems to be the earliest mention I've seen of the run as a 'novel'...

"Damian and Talia's comeback [...] now forms a major strand of this 15-part Bat-novel I'm planning."

Though there's no indiction of whether 'part' means issue, arc, collected edition or something else.

22nd Feb 2008
Newsarama.

A year and a bit later and (assuming 'part'='chapter') then the tale's grown in the telling...

"My run on Batman is a 25-chapter novel that reaches its climax in “RIP”

We're also told a little about what's coming next...

"[I see myself writing the book] Indefinitely! I’m having a great time. I’ve got huge plans for the book after “RIP” and Final Crisis, and I want to stay on and take the characters to the next level of the story. Having almost completed the long-form run that’s been “Batman and Son” through to “Batman RIP,” I’ve decided to be kinder to my patient readers and the new stuff after “RIP” will be more in the vein of single-issue or at most two-issue stories with lots of new villains and new situations."

So, at this point we're encouraged to understand the run from Batman and Son to Batman RIP as a 'novel'. This certainly fits the reading experience as (putting aside quibbles about whether the story truly begins in 52, the Black Casebook material, Infinite Crisis' "What do you deserve?" panel or in Detective Comics #27) those issues collected in the Batman and Son, Black Glove and RIP trades form a naratively and thematically complete unit in a way that none of those trades do individually. Together the comics that form that run make up a cohesive something, and you might as well call that something a novel as anything else.

We're also told that the work which follows will be a move away from long-form storytelling, but, even as he's telling us this, lets slip that he still sees this all as one story comprised of 'levels'.

3rd FEB 2009
IGN

A year later, and things have changed. Bruce has failed to die in both RIP and Final Crisis, while two Batman issues branded as 'Last Rites' have joined the dots between the two non-deaths, while serving as a coda to the themes of the Batman&SonToBatmanRIP novelthing and as a plot point to Final Crisis. IGN asked Grant how he thought about the connection between "these three stories."

"For me it was always one story. The thing that became "Last Rites" – that's just one of these names that gets slapped on there by editorial to give it branding across the line. For me, there's a Batman story that I started in issue #655 with Andy Kubert, and the whole story is that Batman is up against the ultimate diabolical mastermind – and by that, I mean it quite literally. And it's about how he cheats him. And that leads into the next phase of Batman, which I'm starting in the summer. The whole thing should wind up as five book collections that tell one, big story. So I kind of just thought that you could read this big Batman story without even seeing Final Crisis. But we wanted this big Death of Batman moment to happen in Final Crisis, so I just made the two things coincide. But Batman's story in RIP was always meant to lead into the next chapter of my Batman story. I'll be picking up threads from Final Crisis, of course, but you won't need to have read it to get up to speed. "

Right, so we know we can treat Final Crisis as 'detachable' from all this, and that Batman and Son/The Black Glove/Batman RIP still comprise a unit of story. But now they're also part of something bigger - "Five book collections that tell one, big story"

Unless he's thinking far into the distant future, when everything from #655- 683 will be in one Omnibus and comprise one 'book collection', this seems to suggest that he thinks he's 3/5ths through the "one, big story" and that it'll be complete in twelve more issues or thereabouts, the number of comics it'd take to generate two more collections.


So as things stand... Final Crisis is a side-story, while Batman and Son, The Black Glove and Batman RIP make up both a three-volume novel and the first part of a five-part novel.

11 MAR 2009

This comes up again at IGN the following month...

IGN Comics: We've chatted at length with you in the past about your plans for Batman and how you view your work on the series as a long novel. Despite this being a new series, do you view this as a direct continuation of the previous work or would you consider this the beginning of a new novel?

Morrison: This is the next book in what will be a 5-volume series beginning 'Batman & Son' but it can be read on its own too. 'Batman and Robin' welcomes new readers!

[...]

IGN Comics: Do you consider Batman & Robin, despite featuring new people under the mask, yet another lens on the life of Bruce Wayne?

Morrison: No, this isn't about Bruce Wayne at all, except in as much as it deals with his absence.

It's a bit tricky by this stage to know what he means when he says 'book'. Does he mean book as in 'collection' or as in 'narative unit'?

After all, The Invisibles is structured as a three-volume novel, but is collected in seven trades. While Seven Soldiers is collected in four trades but is made up of seven 'books', which when combined with the two issues, build into one 'novel'.

So when he says Batman and Robin is the next book of five, it's not obvious if he means that the two collections it'll generate will make up books four and five of the "one, big story" or if he's thinking of all twelve issues of Batman and Robin as book four.

If it's the former, and the "one, big story" comprises...

Batman and Son

The Black Glove

Batman RIP

'Batman and Robin vol1'

'Batman and Robin vol2'

...and if Batman and Robin doesn't deal with Bruce at all,
then Morrison's "one, big story" unexpectedly doesn't include Bruce's return.

But wait! What's this...

22nd MAY 2009


IGN

IGN Comics: Speaking of Bruce Wayne – there are a lot of dangling plot threads and questions left from RIP and Final Crisis, specifically with Bruce in the past. How much of that will you be tackling in this twelve-issue run?

Morrison: Everything about that will be tied up by the end. Everything that's happening with Bruce and Bruce's world will be revealed in detail and resolved by the end of Batman and Robin's first year.

It may be worth noting for later that there's a possible dodge there. He says it'll all be tied up by the end of Batman and Robin's first year, but doesn't actually say that'll happen in Batman and Robin.

1st July 2009
io9

Here we learn that yes, Batman and Robin's twelve issues was to have been the end of the Morrison Uber-Bat Epic, but that things may be changing...

io9: You've talked before about how the first year of the series works out, with artist Frank Quitely drawing the first and last three issues. What happens after the first year of the book? Are you planning on sticking around with Batman as a character, or will you be finished with Gotham for awhile once #13 rolls around?

Morrison: That was the original plan but I can't seem to stop coming up with ideas for Batman, so we'll see how it goes.