LONDON After killing off Batman's Robin and re-inventing the X-Men, Scottish comic book writer Grant Morrison is looking for other superhuman legends to transform with his pen.
Morrison - who has also taken on Spiderman and Superman in a 25-year career - has decided to leave the caped crusader in the hands of other writers after the final issue of his "BATMAN, INCORPORATED" DC Comics series comes out this month.
"The seven years has exhausted everything I ever had to say about the character," Morrison told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Morrison, 53, said his final iteration of Batman had used ideas from the character's entire journey from the crime fighter created by writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane in 1939 through his slapstick portrayal in the 1960s US TV series to director Christopher Nolan's brooding 2008 "Dark Knight" film.
"Batman seems to be endlessly pliable and malleable in that he can assume all kinds of guises from the comedy pop-up Batman of the 60s to the very militaristic, realistic, trending Batman of Christopher Nolan," Morrison said.
In his latest guise, the writer created a Robin character who was the son of Batman by the daughter of a master criminal.
Raised by a criminal gang to rule the world, Robin discovered his true father was Batman, decided to become a superhero but died saving the planet at the tender age of 10.
"The story was always going to be about this little kid's journey from being trained by assassins and raised by an evil cabal of people finding out that he is the son of Batman and trying to live up to that legacy," he said. "The story for that character was always that he would die in the end."
Morrison likened his efforts to reinvent the pantheon of superheroes to the evolution of the King Arthur and Robin Hood legends passed down through oral tradition.
"I think it's important to basically find what was the core of the character and then to see how that applies to the way we think in the real world and see if it can be updated and matched to interests and ideas that people have in a contemporary setting," he said.
His next projects include a re-working of Wonder Woman and a series called "MULTIVERSITY", where superheroes exist in parallel universes. In one alternative scenario, Hitler won the war and Superman is a Nazi. In another, superheroes have vanquished evil and their gifted children have nothing to do.
Morrison, whose popularity is so vast he had his own comic book convention last year in Las Vegas, said his interest in American comics came out of a childhood spent near a naval base, which once had a huge American presence.
"We were getting comics and records and a very strong American influence for a long time, for the entire postwar period right into the 80s," he said.
"Once you consider that, it's not much of a surprise that I grew up with American culture and American superheroes looming very large in my life."
His favorite childhood character was The Flash.
"The whole notion of super speed and that beautiful red costume that he wore really appealed. But the character that gave me the most joy to write has been Superman and the character that has given me the most intellectual pleasure to write has been Batman."
So why are comic books so dark these days?
Morrison says it is partly older readers looking for more mature story lines, partly the darker movies in cinemas and partly the profusion of apocalyptic videogames.
"I wouldn't say it's only comics," he said. "To be honest our whole entertainment system seems to be obsessed with the end of the world."
(Corrects name of series to MULTIVERSITY)
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)