The Great Morrison Bat Study #4: Three Ghosts of Batman

Batman 664

“Three Ghosts of Batman” (Batman #664-665) offers our first real peek at Grant Morrison‘s long-term plans for the Caped Crusader. Indeed, it might be fair to say that “Batman & Son” and “The Clown at Midnight” are best classified as extended prequels to Morrison’s opus — they set up the main characters and establish a foreboding tone but in general feel quite self-contained. “Three Ghosts of Batman,” on the other hand, launches us into the mystery that pervades the rest of Morrison’s run, namely: who or what enemy has been working behind the scenes to destroy Bruce Wayne?

Of course in “Three Ghosts of Batman” we’re not entirely sure there’s one sole architect of Bruce’s woes that we can pinpoint. Here’s what we do know: Batman possesses something called the Black Casebook, in which he keeps records of all the strange, unexplainable phenomenon he’s encountered in his career (basically all the sci-fi stuff from the ’50s and ’60s Batman comics). Disconcertingly, some Black Casebook files now appear to be coming to life. In particular, Bruce finds himself plagued by two rogue cops in Batman costumes who resemble two specters that once came to him in a vision. However, in the vision there was also a third “ghost of Batman” whom Bruce has yet to meet — who could it be?

At this point we don’t know much about the Black Casebook or its contents; however, future arcs of Morrison’s Batman story draw directly from its pages (including our next entry, “The Club of Heroes”!). So from this point on I’ll begin referring to DC Comics’ Batman: The Black Casebook trade paperback, a mega-helpful collection of some truly bizarre silver age Batman comics from which Morrison draws significant inspiration. Again, none of its stories have direct bearing on the events of “Three Ghosts of Batman” (that we yet know of) but I heartily recommend anyone reading along at home pick up The Black Casebook if they’re curious about some of Grant’s more obscure references.

Now, on with the notes!

- Jezebel Jet, who we get to know a little better in this arc, is black with red hair. Given Morrison’s insistence on pairing black and red (see: “Clown at Midnight’s” flowers), can that be an accident?
- Speaking of colors and flowers, Bruce gives Jezebel a blue rose. I don’t know if that means anything, but it seems like it might.
- This arc lets us see a little more of Bruce being Bruce as he hangs out with Jezebel. But he acts fairly strangely around her, I think. For instance, he pretty much drops his dumb playboy act to bring down a paparazzi helicopter with nothing but a ski pole and precision aim, and he lets down his emotional guard very quickly while dining with Jezebel. I’d guess this is some significant foreshadowing of Jezebel’s ultimate effect on our hero.
- More Zurr-en-arrh graffiti hanging out in this arc.
- As Morrison’s story continues we learn that pretty much everyone, from Harley Quinn to common street thugs, thinks Batman shot the Joker (see: “Batman & Son”). Again Batman using a gun seems like a pretty important image here.
- The panel in which Bruce hallucinates the three ghosts of Batman must have incredible significance. From right to left we see the rogue cop with the gun from “Batman & Son,” the Venom-infused crooked cop from this story, Damian with devil horns and a domino mask, and a figure in silhouette that pretty clearly seems to be Dr. Hurt in Thomas Wayne’s Batman costume from 1956′s Detective Comics #235 (which, hey, is in The Black Casebook!). The connection between Hurt and this costume becomes clear in later issues, but its inclusion here is pretty darn spooky if you know what’s coming, especially given Damian’s warning that “the third ghost is the worst of them all.”


- Batman says of the second rogue cop that he looked “as if he was designed to trigger my worst fears.” That word “trigger” comes back pretty strongly in “RIP.” Also, good guess, Batman!
- Tim actually gets a pretty significant action sequence here, which seldom happens in Morrison’s books.
- Alfred tries to explain away the files in the Black Casebook as results of Scarecrow gas or Joker toxin. Well, that’s one way of looking at it…
- Of the third ghost of Batman Bruce says he dreamt he “sold his soul to the devil and destroyed Gotham.” If we assume the third ghost is Hurt and the devil is Darkseid well, yep, that’s about right.
- Here, Bruce beats the second rogue cop by smothering himself in testosterone, making himself (in his words) an “alpha male plus”.
- Batman’s final conversation with Gordon in this arc is quite prophetic. Check out Jim’s dialog: “You cleaned the super-crooks off the streets. But the rot in this city runs all the way through and all the way to the top…. Why did you have to choose an enemy that’s as old as time and bigger than all of us, Batman?” Without knowing it, Jim here refers to Dr. Hurt and Darkseid.
- This arc reveals that Damian’s still alive (big surprise!) and that he’ll continue to play an important role in Bruce’s life.
- Talia’s still scheming to get her perfect family back together at the end of this story, and in fact expresses jealousy over Bruce’s relationship with Jezebel. I honestly can’t remember if this Talia story goes anywhere… I guess we’ll find out together.
- Last panel of the issue: a man wearing black gloves watches Bruce and Jezebel from afar. Spooky!

More GMBS here:
GMBS #9
GMBS #8
GMBS #7
GMBS #6
GMBS #5
GMBS #4
GMBS #3
GMBS #2
GMBS #1
GMBS #0

tags: batman, gmbs, grant morrison

  • http://www.andrewstamm.com Andrew

    I thought the third ghost refered to the evil Batman from #666?

  • http://nerdynothings.com Rebel Rikki

    Later issues would lead one to believe that you are correct, but check out the scan I posted… that third ghost looks exactly like Hurt in Thomas Wayne’s Batman costume, not the devilish villain from #666. It’s possible the identity of the third ghost changed as Morrison fleshed out his story, or that Morrison just used Hurt’s visage there for foreshadowing… or maybe Hurt IS the third ghost.

    By the way – I think the “mystery enemy” from Batman: The Return is ALSO the third ghost.

  • sucklooooooooooord

    the third ghost is cop 3 in a batman suit. check “batman dies at down” case solved.

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