Annotations: ‘Batman’ #700 [Spoilers]
This week marks yet another issue of Grant Morrison’s “Batman” mega-arc, and a very special one: “Batman” #700. With this being a particularly meaty and reference-heavy issue, we’ve decided to provide proper annotations on this milestone issue. This is part of a long series of annotations of Morrison’s run for me, so you may want to check out our annotations for “Return of Bruce Wayne” #1 and #2, as well as my annotations on previous issues of Morrison’s run on Funnybook Babylon.Page 1: Daniel/Hannin Bruce, Quitely/Sinclair Dick and Kubert/Anderson Damian on this page. It’s interesting how Damian holds Alfred The Cat over his shoulder like that — much the way Annie interacted with her pet familiar in Return of Bruce Wayne #2. My initial thought regarding the title itself was that it was a callout to the infamous Doctor Who serial “Time and the Rani”, probably because I’m a terrible nerd, but Andrew Hickey pointed out to me on Twitter that a far more likely reference is to Depression-era British play “Time and the Conways” by J.B. Priestley, which dealt a sort of transcendent fifth-dimensional view of time and reality, the kind that Morrison has explored in the vast majority of his work.
Page 2: Those are definitely Egyptian heiroglyphs, so I can only assume that the birdmen shooting him with arrows are Thanagarian in relation or origin. Batman’s outfit here is definitely New Look, placing the events of this section somewhere between 1964 and 1968 in Batman’s publishing history. Judging by the later appearance of Chief O’Hara, it’s definitely TV show-inspired too, and since that was ’66-’68, it seems safe to assume that this story takes place right on the cusp of the Neal Adams era.
Page 3: This is the time hypnosis trick used by Professor Carter Nichols in various Silver Age stories, usually to transport Batman and Robin back in time to have some weird historical adventure. As far as I can tell, the hair salon-style hats are a new addition to the process by Morrison. Batman apparently got the combination to open Catwoman’s little sarcophagus there while in the past, and the weird-looking fat Mad Hatter is an imposter who took the character’s place for most of the ’50s to the ’70s. Unlike Tetch, he wasn’t actually insane, just really liked hats and wanted Batman’s cowl for his cat collection.
Page 4: Joker’s calling Hatter “tediously sane” due to his, well, relative sanity.
Page 5: What we’re probably seeing here, with the Joker swinging from manic to depressive like this, is the beginning of his transformation from swingin’ sixties Joker to the homicidal maniac of the seventies. It’s also really interesting that the Joker seems to know, this early on, just how the Batman was born, and most likely who he is.
Page 6: Interesting that the Joker’s Jokebook seems to have writing in it on this page, but that’s probably just a production error. I’m not sure about the Jokerworld death camps, unless that’s a nod to “Emperor Joker,” but the Joker fish is definitely a nod to Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’s immortal “Detective Comics” #475. Joker ingesting that fear gas clearly screws him up more than he’s letting on – the grunts and red eyes, as well as the quick switch to homicidal Dark Knight “let’s put a smile on that face” Joker. I also love how he basically blows Robin a super (see definition 3).
Page 7: Batman’s request to Riddler never to be called the “caped crusader” again definitely seems to signify this story is supposed to be the end of the New Look era.
Page 8: Chief O’Hara here is from the Batman TV show, which fits perfectly with the time period. Of course, the tipoff call (and who makes it) will play in hugely by the end.
Page 10: And here we are, back in Granton with a dead 80-year-old Professor Nichols, in the present day. Locked from the inside, the definition of a locked-room mystery – but a locked door only prevents trespassing through space, not time. I don’t know if we’ve met Officer Bailey before, but Dick taking the time to ask about (presumably) his kid shows Morrison really starting to get a handle on his Batman. The Carter Nichols who’s dead here is presumably the one from Damian’s future, hence the lack of a weapon, dementia and aging.
Page 11: Here we see why there’s “no case unsolved” this night – it’s the anniversary of Bruce’s parents’ death; that being a special night in Gotham is a longstanding tradition. I could not at all explain why Batman’s chest symbol is missing in the last panel, but that’s a pretty baffling error, and I keep thinking the couple resemble someone I should recognize but it’s not coming to me.
Page 12: In a nod to “Dark Knight Returns”, we see the beginning of the infamous Mutant gang. Damian don’t shiv.
Page 13: “Well, Frank Quitely’s drawing this comic, so we should probably just have a full page of kick-ass choreographed melee kung fu.”
Page 14: I don’t know why Dick is acting all surprised that escrima are effective considering he used them his entire career as Nightwing. Lone-Eye Lincoln here we last saw selling Bruce Wayne heroin in “Batman” #678; this conclusively proves that he is a real character and wasn’t, as many suspected, a figment of Bruce’s imagination (some suggested the name “Lone-Eye Lincoln” was inspired by the profile of Lincoln on the giant penny in the Batcave). Which proves pretty definitively that Bat-Mite is real too. As anyone who watched Paul Dini’s “Heart of Ice” episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” knows, Nora is Mr. Freeze’s tragic frozen wife whose condition caused Freeze to experiment and accidentally get his condition.
Page 15: I really, really wish we could have gotten to see Frank Quitely do this page, especially the pizzeria panel. I’m also not sure why Kolins went for his inkwash style here; his more kinetic thick-black-line style from “Blackest Night: Flash” would have been a way better (if not perfect) fit for Quitely. This is just completely incongruous.
Page 16: Here we have an auction courtesy of the old imposter Mad Hatter, now apparently going by Hatman. The killer kite collection is clearly Kite-Man’s, and we saw the Red Hood using his custom guns back in the “Revenge of the Red Hood” arc.
Page 17: This shows us that the hole is from a portable laser, which pretty much proves that Nichols got shot in the future and then traveled back.
Page 18: Now we return to the dystopian future of Damian Wayne as Batman, last glimpsed in #666…
Page 19: …where we also last saw Max Roboto, working for Michael Lane with Jackanapes and Flamingo and a bunch of other criminals.
Page 21: Barbara Gordon is still angry with Damian for some unspecified reason, likely involving something that happens to Dick Grayson. The “tea-tray in a sky” is a quote from Alice in Wonderland – the Mad Hatter’s tea party, at that! – and Damian has apparently gained access to, and is using, his father’s Brother-I/Brother Eye satellite system introduced in “OMAC Project” and “Countdown to Infinite Crisis.”
Page 22: These definitely aren’t just jokerized cops, they’re Monster Venomized too. Damian’s pretty nonchalant about killing the three of them.
Page 23: This sets the figure of #666 at fifteen years from now. This guy looks young, so I assume 2-Face-2 isn’t Harvey Dent, although he could be a highly mutated form of him.
Page 24: The monster serum belongs to Hugo Strange, the joker venom is eponymous and the calendar-name gimmick is, of course, from Calendar Man. 2-Face-2 is basically acting as a Batman villain cover band here.
Page 25: This is where we begin to see the story’s superstructure – the Carter Nichols of the present isn’t dead at all, he just traveled to the future, where he kills his future self and sends him to the past, thereby faking his own death. Dick was correct when he said that the death was a suicide, but it’s a fairly complicated one. This leaves the “present-day” Carter Nichols, of course, on the loose as a new time-travelling Batman villain, possibly one we’ll see coming up in “Return of Bruce Wayne.” Mentioning that the child’s parents are Warren and Mary McGinnis finally, to the relief and adoration of fanboys and fangirls everywhere, brings Batman Beyond firmly (albeit in an altered form) into DC Universe continuity.
Page 26: “What can we beat but never defeat?” is a riddle with a very simple answer: the title of the issue. “Time and the Batman.” You can beat a time, but you can’t defeat it. And as the next eight pages prove, you sure as hell can’t defeat Batman.
Page 27: And now we get into David Finch’s fairly sparse flashforward pages, where Morrison just lets loose with crazy ideas. Presumably the old guy coaching Terry here is Damian rather than Bruce.
Page 28: I have absolutely no idea what the Iron Heel of Fura is, and Google doesn’t have any clue either. I guess it’s just supposed to be a sort of fairly generic postapocalyptic future where Batman and Robin still survive.
Page 29: From dystopia to utopia, Batman still exists…
Page 30: …all the way to the Batman of “DC One Million”, with his robotic sidekick Robin the Toy Wonder, fighting in a pop-manga-inspired future.