Thursday, August 12, 2010

Doctor Hurt

Be assured. The Black Glove is a seal of absolute quality and ruthlessness. With those words, Grant Morrison began to present to us the mind of a new villain. In a sense, Hurt had appeared before, with Grant Morrison using the general likeness and a few direct quotes of a nameless doctor from the far earlier Batman #156, "Robin Dies at Dawn". It would be fascinating to get the reaction of the creators from 1963 upon their learning that a minor throwaway character from one story had become the primary villain in Batman stories from 2007 through 2010. They would have to laugh at that idea. They would probably stop laughing when they saw him shoot Dick Grayson in the head. If they hadn't stopped long before that.

Doctor Hurt has been the force behind the scenes driving most threats to both Batmen in all of Grant Morrison's run for the last four years. Applying the foremost rule in suspense, Morrison has kept Hurt a mystery right up to the present, with clues to his nature and identity shown to us one at a time, in a striptease that seemed to conclude when Bruce Wayne beat him once, but was completely reset when Hurt somehow reemerged to send wave after wave of attacks towards the new Batman, Dick Grayson.

Who is Doctor Hurt?

He's literally the biblical Devil. He's probably the 18th Century's Thomas Wayne. He's gone by the names Doctor Simon Hurt, the Black Glove, and El Penitente. He's claimed to be Bruce's father Thomas. But all of those identities, sometimes utterly different in their activities and language, exist under a cloud of uncertainty; it seems almost more appropriate to refer to Hurt as "they" rather than "him". They, in chronological order, (and varying levels of certainty) have been:

1) Possibly "the Devil" in Gotham sometime around 1650 (ROBW #2)
2) Thomas Wayne, a devil worshipper in 1765 (B&R #10)
3) Doctor Thomas Wayne, a 150-year-old casino/brothel owner around 1880; the shame of the Waynes for unnamed crimes (ROBW #4)
4) Possibly Jack the Ripper (ROBW #4)
5) A prominent Gothamite named Hurt who went missing in 1978 (Batman #678)
6) The titular head of the Black Glove club starting twenty or [much?] more years ago (Batman #681)
7) A research psychologist working for the U.S. Army about 10 years ago (Batman #674)
8) Still a psychologist working for the Gotham police about 8 years ago (Batman #674)
9) The head of the Black Glove directing attacks on Batman (Batman #665-681)
10) The Devil (Batman #681, #666, #701)
11) El Penitente, a drug lord in Mexico staging a massive attack on Gotham (B&R #4-11)
12) A man posing as Thomas Wayne, returning to Gotham to reclaim that identity (B&R #13)

That is a bizarre patchwork quilt of aliases and activities. It is further complicated by the fact that Doctor Hurt lies and speaks cryptically. He has referred to himself as "the hole in things... the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning", "the double you", "the shadow", "the dark twin". Aside from the many suspected lies he has told, he claimed, with Alfred as his only audience, that he is the recent Thomas Wayne; that he sees Alfred as a betrayer and Bruce's biological father, Martha as unfaithful, and Bruce as an usurper. He has called Gotham "home" and before he takes on the identity of a surprisingly alive Thomas Wayne, he says that he about to reclaim what has always been rightfully his, "for so many years."

There is moreover the mysterious and ever-ambiguous suggestion that he has supernatural powers, but none have been demonstrated up-front. The power he seems most often to demonstrate is immortality, but in any given scene, this is only suggested -- we have never seen him experience any definite trauma, and it is only indirect testimony saying that he over 150 years old by the time of ROBW #4. The devil in the story has given those powers also to Lane and to Damian in Batman #666. Moreover, the priest in B&R #11 asks Hurt for protection from gunfire, indicating a belief that such protection is within his means. Hurt gives specific details regarding the victim of Le Bossu in the first pages of RIP, and it is never explained how he could know such things. Finally, and most important to the story, Hurt places a curse on Bruce to wear the cape and cowl only one more time. This is not proven to be real instead of a bluff, but Bruce writes in his casebook that the curse is a "deathtrap".

At the core of all of this are facts that, if chosen selectively, suggest a rather straightforward explanation: That Doctor Hurt is the older Thomas Wayne, granted some sort of supernatural powers during a rite of demonic worship, was driven off by the scandal of his bloodletting, and is ever in wait to return, having made bids to unseat the reigning male of the Wayne family once and perhaps more times.

But this explanation leaves a lot of additional information unaccounted for, and the other information is hard to square away. Why does Hurt claim when Alfred is the only audience that he is the younger Thomas Wayne? If he wants to live the life of a wealthy man in Gotham, why is he undertaking actions to destroy it? If his goals are driven by self-interest, why doesn't he just kill Bruce and get on with it?

Character Development

Roughly speaking, we have seen Doctor Hurt (or those who might be him) in five distinct stories: As the voice whose face is never seen in the "Club of Heroes" story, as the Evil Psychologist running experiments on people, as the leader of the plan in RIP, the shadowy El Penitente / Doctor Hurt in Batman and Robin, and as Old Thomas Wayne (OTW) in ROBW. His appearance changes from c. 1880 to the present, as he appears to be 10 years older than Alan Wayne then, and passes for about sixty to pose as Thomas Wayne in the present. This could be explained as a great slowing, but not halt, of the aging process.

More meaningfully, his language and attitude changes. This is a natural consequence of changing circumstances... people at the zoo talk about animals. But in Hurt's case, it is more than that. OTW is needful and desperate. He has not procured immortality and is consumed by the pursuit of it. He speaks of Barbatos in the third person and is not, as some earlier conjectures had put it, Barbatos in possession of a human body from the time of the devil worship that had already taken place over 100 years earlier. OTW is angry, jumps into action, and never seems at ease. His singleminded pursuit of having the box opened highlights an anxiety that "Doctor Hurt" never shows except when the helicopter is about to crash.

In the present, Doctor Hurt is almost overpoweringly relaxed and smug. His poses look relaxed, he drinks champagne, and he's as often as not smirking. He speaks in terms of good and evil and universals. I performed a statistical breakdown of the word frequencies in his language during each story: In RIP, phrases such as "ultimate" and "noble spirit" are repeated, while "good" and "evil" dominate his language across all of his present-day appearances. Evil for the sake of evil has become his goal.

Is it possible that Hurt is simply like the Devil and has acquired immortality but must, in return, corrupt noble souls for the sheer sake of corruption? Could his actions as the evil influence on the world's wealthiest individuals a sort of payment that this man is making with the Devil as his boss, a separate entity? Then Hurt is not the Devil, but is a man working for the Devil. And to be clear, this is the villain whose identity was wrapped up as a secret that was eventually revealed to be the Devil.

The actual explanation is probably complex. Neither Hurt's actions nor his personality are consistent with the simple account of a 250-year-old man who just wants the family fortune back. It seems that neither simple explanation works: He's not the Devil even when he's 150 years old. But he's still obsessed with the Wayne fortune and getting back what's his when he's supposedly the ultimate evil being in the world. In fact, the latter impulse increases over time: In RIP, he uses the second person far more often than the first person singular, and uses the first person plural almost as often as the first person singular. In B&R, there is no "team", and his dominant pronoun use has switched to the first person singular. Emphasis on "my" and "mine". He wants what's his, and it seems to be utterly material. What does the Devil care with a nice house? Why would he call Gotham City his home? We cannot decide if Hurt is a man, OTW, or the Devil, because he plainly isn't either of them alone in any straightforward manner.

Twin Peaks

Morrison has made repeated references to the television show "Twin Peaks", both in the comics themselves, and in interviews. It's useful to consider the answer to the central mystery of "Twin Peaks" as a possible template for the Doctor Hurt story.

In "Twin Peaks", a girl named Laura Palmer is killed. This mystery became probably the most-talked about mystery on television since "Who Shot J.R.?" and until "The X-Files". Who killed Laura Palmer? A mortal man possessed by an evil spirit. The mortal man happened to be her father. The spirit, BOB, was not referred to as a demon, but filled the definition well enough to be considered one.

Leland Palmer was born an ordinary child. As a boy, he encountered BOB (who may or may not have been possessing some previous host), and somehow made the decision to allow BOB into him. From that time on, Leland was the host of BOB, but only thought, spoke, and acted as BOB part of the time. Usually, he was Leland. At times, BOB would take over and commit acts of unspeakable evil. When Leland was once again in control, he had no memory of what BOB had done. He wasn't even aware that BOB took turns controlling him. He either never had access to such knowledge or repressed it. And so the man/demon continued until he was finally caught for his crimes. BOB would have remained captive along with Leland had he not taken control and then suicidally injured Leland. Upon Leland's death, BOB floated free, until the final moments of the final episode, when he found a new host.

Morrison works in patterns. His seemingly standalone story in Batman #700 had numerous points of similarity to his larger Batman run as a whole. And one element in that story was Two Face Two, a character who had two personalities that split time controlling the body. When the big, handsome face wakes up, he asks, "What has he done this time? The bad little face? I'm so sorry I fell asleep." The two faces of Two Face Two work just like Leland and BOB. If Morrison is absorbing that pattern into his Batman run, it is plausibly a pattern that also explains the two-faced nature of Doctor Hurt. Old Thomas Wayne calls Gotham home and demands to possess again what is rightfully his. He abruptly snaps in Batman #679 and rants that he is the younger Thomas Wayne and calls Bruce the usurper of what is his. At other times, as the Devil, he smirks and speaks of inevitable victory. The body of Old Thomas Wayne. Sometimes the mind of Old Thomas Wayne. Sometimes the mind of the Devil.

And so he calls himself "the double you".

Gothic, The Sequel?

As noted above, we know that Morrison repeats story elements from one story to another. His JLA story "Rock of Ages" reads in some ways like an early draft of Final Crisis, even down to Darkseid hitting Bruce with his eye beams in the moments before Darkseid's defeat. It's clear that much of Morrison's long run with Batman duplicates features of the first story he ever wrote for a Batman monthly: 1990's Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10, "Gothic". Morrison has said that "Gothic" came from asking himself if a man could cheat the Devil and he decided that he couldn't. But he went on to say that RIP is the story of how Batman does cheat the Devil.

The number of known similarities between "Gothic" and the ongoing saga of Doctor Hurt is rather incredible. There are times when similarities are probably not meaningful, and arise by coincidence, being common to this genre in general or Morrison's works specifically. But the great number of alignments between the two stories is far beyond coincidence. A book could be filled with the details; for the sake of brevity, I will list in elliptical form story elements common to both "Gothic" and Morrison's post-Infinite Crisis Batman work. The length of this summary illustrates why I am not including more detailed citations.

A story opens with a man hanging upside-down at the mercy of his captor. The story features quotes from Paradise Lost. The villain's plan is centuries old. There is a countdown in days to an event in Gotham that seems harmless but is reputed to bring an apocalypse. Villains use the bat-signal to summon Batman. Villains use an upside-down symbol as a perversion of the regular form. The stories involve architecture. The stories involve roses as an instrument of death. Death is set against the ironic backdrop of children's rhymes. The villain knows Batman's identity. A woman is burned at the stake. Someone in the story is skeptical of the supernatural, but the story is supernatural. A villain is cited who kills seven victims but the eighth victim-to-be saves himself. The villain has an association with Bruce's father. An instrument of destruction is inside a box referred to within the story as a casket. The villain stands over a captive Batman and talks to him as to a child, psychoanalyzing him as a weak victim of past trauma. The villain's plan is to culminate at the stroke of midnight. Someone needs to "cheat the Devil". The villain takes a ship to England. The villain has supernaturally-derived longevity and is shown at work in the 1760s. The villain plans to unleash a plague in Gotham City. Batman arrives in a place contaminated with plague germs already wearing a gas mask. A villain attacks Batman's left arm. The villain seeks an extension of his already prolonged life, from mere centuries to all eternity. The villain is required to shed innocent blood to procure his life extension. Longevity does not entail invulnerability, and people with devilish life extension respond with an understated "Ow" when subjected to severe trauma, including being raked with gunfire. The exact vocabularies of the stories align, with "rites", "atrocious" / "atrocities", and the biblical phrase "good and faithful servant". A villain kills five crime bosses. Bruce survives an attack and then calls Alfred, asking him to bring Band-Aids.

Given this rather enormous list of coincidences, it is reasonable to wonder, when the case of Doctor Hurt features some unknowns, if the answer may be found in "Gothic". This could explain the "double you".

DCMB poster and standout Batman historian jgiannantoni05 suggests that Doctor Hurt began like "Gothic"'s villain, a man -- Old Thomas Wayne -- who made a deal with the Devil, but like Manfred, a man nonetheless. Sometime between ROBW #4 and the present, having lost his bargain, OTW forfeited his soul and the Devil came into possession of the body. To quote the villain himself, "Wayne became Hurt". If so, I would add per the earlier discussion that Hurt still is likely sometimes OTW, and probably switching personalities at times before our very eyes. As when he somewhat abruptly assaults Alfred in Batman #679. An assault that begins, perhaps not coincidentally, with the words "Wake up."

Endgame: Doctor Hurt's Attack

Whoever Doctor Hurt is, we have seen him put into motion what the solicit for B&R #15 calls his "final confrontation"with our heroes. What's coming?

Given what we absolutely know, what is hinted at by #666, and what the parallels with "Gothic" suggest, most of the details seem to be in front of us. Doctor Hurt may be seen as a single entity, but the "double you" analysis makes more sense: Doctor Hurt wants to take on the identity of Young Thomas Wayne, which seems like a logical priority for OTW, and living that life in that mansion doesn't necessarily work for or against the goals of the Devil.

There's a new Black Glove in town. As Senator Vine asks Hurt for protection in #12, we see five businessmen in domino masks waiting at the station. The Black Glove has room for five fingers, no more. Senator Vine isn't going to fit. He can count his remaining lifespan in heartbeats.

The Devil wants to settle a score with "Batman". To do so, he will try to kill Bruce Wayne's protege and most beloved companion Dick Grayson, corrupt Bruce's son Damian, and inflict mass casualties on Gotham City.

Kill the people of Gotham? That wasn't the deal that Hurt's underling Santos pitched to Gotham's mob bosses back in B&R #4. He proposed addicting the population of Gotham to drugs that they sold. That would be enormously profitable. Killing everyone in the city isn't profitable at all. That's not the plan of a mobster -- it's the plan of a devil.

But it is what is coming. Phosphorus Rex said so in B&R #3 ("They'll kill us all"), the Joker said so in #13 ("It looks like everybody dies"). And it matches the pattern of "Gothic". Manfred planned to save his own soul from the end of his 300-year deal by offering the souls of millions of dead Gothamites in his stead. He would do so by unleashing a plague from the Gotham cathedral whose construction he began. This would be set into motion by a lunar alignment that would allow light to enter through a rose window, at which time gear wheels would turn and place a phial containing the plague virus into the path of a bell which would be smashed the glass at midnight, releasing the epidemic in the heart of the city. The same addiction that could be used for profit may be lethal if the victims are not given their fix.

We already know that Hurt's plan crucially depends upon germs and upon a rare alignment of the Moon -- on the day of a solar eclipse, he refers to the "black sun" shining soon. He says this in the Wayne Manor library, a room whose importance has been foreshadowed heavily. The room has a large window which allows moonlight to enter in B&R #10. The Sun and the Moon follow nearly the same path through the sky -- any window that allows moonlight to enter will allow sunlight to enter during the day. When the eclipse happens, it will be observable from that window. This is somehow, by cosmic or mechanical necessity, essential for Hurt's corruption of Damian. Maybe he wants a more youthful body than the one of an older man he now has. Maybe an eclipse is cosmically empowering for acts of possession and soul jumping. Damian will be tempted to deal with the Devil (who "exists. I've met him") in order to save Dick Grayson and countless citizens of Gotham. Dick sees that the city could be held for ransom. But Hurt probably doesn't want money. He has money. He wants souls, bodies, death. That's the threat. That's the setup.

The solicit for the next issue says that if Dick and Damian "can't truly bond as a team, they're dead!" Right now, Dick has been shot down on one side of the city while Damian is making a big mistake beating the Joker on the other. They lose that round: Three days later, Dick is lying near death, and Damian is in captivity, asked to make a pact with the Devil. Bruce Wayne beat Manfred in "Gothic" and Doctor Hurt in RIP. If Dick's not as good as Bruce was, everybody dies.


  1. Truly amazing post as always.

    So, Dr. Hurt went after Batman because he knew Batman was Bruce Wayne and he was pursing his grudge against the Waynes/his bloodline? Or because Batman just happened to be in Gotham City?

    Also, the "antidote" must have been left by Pyg or one of Dr. Hurt's people. Yet, there was a domino next to it, so the Joker was there and peraphs did something with it if he was truly benevolent like you implied in your last post.

  2. I was doing some Morrison-Bats research tonight and swung through here. Pleasantly surprised with this.

    Hurt is almost certainly OTW in body, if not always in mind. When he asked Bruce "Are you one? I'll get you all in the end," it seemed as if he was referring to Waynes. But "OTW" had practically been knocked out. Bonked in the head. So could that have been the Devil popping in to say something to Bruce? "Are you a Wayne? I'll get ALL YOU WAYNES in the end."

    Then again, there's the quest for immortality. He's obsessed with it. (Why? Beats me ... maybe immortality is the only way to beat a Witch's Curse that lasts "until the end of time").

    He doesn't get what's in the box, but Alan Wayne's conjecture is that he seeks life eternal in blood - same as Manfred, or Deacon Blackfire. Killing and bathing in it. But what's juicier than the blood of your own relatives? It's possible OTW was the one "haunting Wayne Manor" and he's the one who killed Joshua and gave the old Manor Grounds their "haunted" reputation.

    Only difference is - I believe by Dark Night, Dark Rider - the 1870's - he's already Sold his Soul to The Devil. Midnight Horse calls him "Old Gambler". That seems to indicate that he already gambled away and lost. This doesn't mean the Devil had a complete and total "grasp" on him yet. It could've taken quite a while for his mind to weaken enough for the Devil.

    The flagellation, the whipping, the Priest, the piety? I believe that's The Devil, through-and-through, showing himself. I've often asked myself, and other people for fun - "Who would be more religious than the Devil himself?"

    The Devil is a true believer. The truest believer, in fact.

  3. Two minds occupying one space. We saw the same concept with Darkseid and Turpin, actually.

  4. Well, possession has been a constant theme throughout the run. Turpin, Damian, Pyg, Flamingo, the three ghosts and the 99 Fiends have all been metaphorically possessed, if not literally.

  5. Yes they have. Although I don't think when they finished with Flamingo there was any Flamingo left to share the space with whatever demon crawled into his head.

    I believe Pyg was probably possessed by Television. (His rant about Monday + Mormo, Tuesday + Tiamat this and Tiamat that, Wednesday the Gorgon Queen ... felt like the TV Guide channel. The box, the box, the despair pit!)

    (Although, come to think of it, that would describe a Motherbox coffin that houses a Black Hole with Darkseid's disembodied soul inside it pretty well, too.)

  6. Darkside: The Devil would go after Batman because he's supposedly incorruptible. That's more interesting to the Devil than someone being unkillable. A Wayne would see him as an usurper. That may seem like an improbable coincidence that the two would both be after the same person. But Morrison weaves together such coincidences with almost no concern for causality. (E.g., Mandraak attacking right after Darkseid was defeated.) And, hey, what were the odds of Luthor and Superman going to the same high school?

    I think the Joker had nothing to do with the antidote and just happened to leave his "meant to be found" item right next to Pyg's "meant to be found item". See above: Wildly improbable coincidences.

  7. Retro, VERY strong conjecture there on the Devil speaking in the "get you all" line. My list of possible interpretations of "are you one, too?"

    1) Waynes
    2) Miagani
    3) Van Derms
    4) Immortals
    5) Superheroes

    But I like your take best. That, along with the rant to Alfred in #679, might be the two times we saw him switch. The end of RIP is another possibility. "I am your father..." [ten seconds later] "I am the hole in things."

  8. Retro and Shiny: Turpin is another great example of the mind in the body. And, the possessed attacker at the very beginning of the R'as crossover in #670. One of about two things in those issues that tied in with the larger Morrison story. The other being the I Ching quotation that was repeated in #681: "The superior man thinks of evil that will come and guards against it."

  9. I think Pyg's more about Reproduction - they're all various maternal monsters or creation myths. So Pyg is obsessed with letting another demon out in the world, but ultimately all he can do is break down someone's identity, not complete the incubation phase and bring something back up from the pit.

    Interestingly, the closest he gets is Sasha - who's saved by Flamingo's instinctual urge to do pretty much the same thing.

  10. Can anyone recall Batman Beyond return of the Joker?
    Well the joker placed a mirco chip on tim drake thus possessing him after the bout with terry he destroys the chip getting rid of the joker but tim can not recall the events that took place I say it goes with theme of being possessed plus the Joker from rip does look a awful like the one from return plus that story line was use in 700.

  11. Good post, Rikdad.

    Another possible interpretation of the "usurper" stuff could have to do with how Batman himself seems like a "usurper" of the Devil's imagery. Okay, the Devil is traditionally red and Batman is traditionally black (there's that color pair again...), but Batman looks like a bad guy, like a demon. He's the good guy who looks evil so as to scare bad guys good. On the surface, Hurt's "usurper" comment probably has to do with Wayne lineage (or a skewed version of it), but given the story that Morrison's writing, and given how Morrison has played up Batman-as-Hades-god-of-the-Underworld in the past, I think there's a deeper meaning. As I've said before, I think Morrison is using Batman's triumph over "Hurt" to argue for the redemption of devil imagery as GOOD: the Devil as part of a higher plan triumphing over Lucifer's evil-for-evil's-sake.

    I also wish everyone wouldn't cut off the second half of that oft-quoted sentence of Damian's from #666: "I know the Devil exists, OR AT LEAST SOMETHING EXISTS which MIGHT AS WELL be the Devil." The second half of the sentence undercuts the first. All it proves is that even after all this is over, Damian STILL doesn't know how much of Hurt was the Devil. Sorry to be contrarian, but I'm also skeptical that the future Damian's apparent powers came from his "deal". We know the "deal" is supposedly for Gotham. But for all we know, in the future, Damian's apparent powers might be the result of heightened technology. Ditto with Lane. If the Devil was going to empower Lane, then why wouldn't he have done so long ago? In his "Batman" and "Azrael" appearances, Lane has displayed no such powers. But, of course, anything's possible. Damian the scrappy little kid has been one of Morrison's best creations; but maybe in a few issues Morrison will severely compromise the character's appeal by turning him into Spawn Junior.

    Lastly, in general, I think we should stop thinking of this entity as "Hurt". Of all his possible, conglomerate identities, that one seems the most obviously phony. I don't take the stated transition when "Wayne became Hurt" as indicating anything more than an actor taking on a role that was made up on the spot. I see no indication that this transition is when OTW made a deal with the Devil, or lost a bet with the Devil. Like others, I think OTW's dark turn was taken before RoBW #4; whatever devilry is in him was in him back then; Morrison went out of his way to partially ground the character's longevity by implying that his youth is due to consumption of blood. But, of course, anything's possible.

  12. DAL, the "usurper" concept, and more generally the Hurt/Bruce rivalry sort of feels like we might get a moment like the ending of the 1989 movie: "I made you? You made ME!" Except in the 1989 movie, there was implied blame in both directions. We may find out that Hurt's costume has been a symbol of evil for centuries and Batman adopted it. So Hurt owns Batman, right? Ah hah, but Bruce's adventure in ROBW #1 inspired the Barbatos statue, so Hurt has been worshipping Bruce!

    Still, "usurper" was used in the same sentence as "never was my son", and there's an implication there of biological paternity. So I think biology is what he's lying about in that particular panel.

    Always true, the disclaimer about Damian, but I'm not citing it as part of a proof, part 6, of Hurt reeeealllly being the Devil... just to talk about how the story relates to #666. There really isn't any way Damian *could* know if Hurt is reeeallly the Devil or not. Doctor Fate or Zatanna might have spook-o-vision, but Damian can only talk about what he sees, and Hurt isn't likely to do anything that couldn't be done with a yellow power ring. The point is, whatever the Devil is in this story, Damian's got history with him. The proof of his identity will come from other lines of evidence. And has.

    Indeed, Hurt "goes by many names". I used "El Penitente" when it seemed most relevant. Given the "double you" nature of the character, I'm not sure that any name is actually *the* answer. In "Twin Peaks", it was actually revealed far before the big reveal that BOB killed Laura Palmer. But nobody took that as the answer... the question shifted to "Who is BOB's host body?" With Hurt/OTW/whoever, no one name seems right, and we don't even know the associations. Maybe it *isn't* the same body all the time. How he got out of the helicopter crash, or the situation where every Gotham cop had their guns drawn on him, or "Gotham's Hurt Missing" is still unknown. I suspect that the same physical body has made its way from OTW's birth to the current guise of "Thomas Wayne" without any teleportation or vanishing and reappearing, but it's not clear.

    With all of this possession stuff, the whole concept of identity is shaky, and it points us back to philosophy. I basically just call him "Doctor Hurt" because I like that name best. But I still say OTW when we see someone who isn't completely certain to "be" Doctor Hurt. (Nor am I 100% convinced that OTW was a biological Wayne.)

  13. Something that occurred to me while reading your original Twin Peaks post. The analogy you set-up would suggest Arkham Asylum as the Black Lodge, which Cooper first encounters in a dream. In the annotated script of Morrison's Arkham Asylum he refers to the story as being a bad dream that Bruce could have. Perhaps that is worth a reread for clues and Twin Peaks links.

  14. Interesting pointer, Sprecher's, but keep in mind that Arkham Asylum came out the year before "Twin Peaks", and more than a year before the "Black Lodge" had more than a couple of sentences of description. There can be similar creative visions, but TP couldn't have influenced AA.

  15. Given how important that ROBW #4 was to Dr. Hurt's story, it was kind of a shame that the art was kind of weak IMO.

  16. Is there a possible chance that ROBW is based on Hotel Room by david lynch?

  17. I'm not suggesting TP influenced AA, but Morrison could've worked elements of AA to fit as part of the analgous mythos when devising his current run. It wouldn't have been intended when he wrote it, but it can be there if he worked around it while writing the later stuff.

  18. OddBall... I haven't seen Hotel Room, so I'm glad you asked that, to point me in that direction. I have to see it!

    The "couples plot", particularly Pierce and Lamarr as actors who have an extramarital affair mirroring their screen relationship, is part of "Inland Empire", which came out only months before Morrison would have written the first Mayhew story. That may or may not be coincidence. (Or based on zillions of real-life examples of the same thing.)

  19. Sprecher's Crow, that's a good point, and fits into the larger tendency of Morrison to use earlier stories for templates for the latter. "Arkham Asylum" is in some ways a first draft of RIP, but only very loosely. Small example: Le Bossu criticizes Jeremiah Arkham's results in almost exactly the same terms that Batman did in AA.

    I'll also add that the Musketeer told a personal story within the COH story which I correctly (pat on the back) identified as foreshadowing the end of RIP. Because the Musketeer said that he ended up facing "not one but two" of his deadliest enemies in an insane asylum, I guessed that RIP would end in Arkham with the Joker plus the Black Glove. That was right.

    A parallel conjecture, that the Knight's story of drug addiction and ruin (what Hurt intended for Bruce) would turn out to be explained that Doctor Hurt used the Knight as practice for Bruce didn't pan out. To say that my "foreshadowing" predictions were not spotless.

  20. I was re-reading some old Batman stories from the collected volume "the greatest Batman stories ever told" and I noticed a couple things that might be pertinent.
    In detective comics #235, "the first Batman", we learn that a criminal named 'moxen' vowed revenge on Thomas Wayne for getting him thrown in jail after the masquerade. Moxen hired Joe chill to kill Thomas and Martha but to leave Bruce alive so that he would testify that it was someone other than oxen who commited the murder.
    Also, the nameless doctor in Robin Dies at Dawn who we now know as the infamous Dr. Hurt, is actually referred to by name in chapter2 of the story. Gordon actually calls him "professor Carson" in a panel talking to Batman.

    Anyway, I can't wait until September when we will get the final two parts of Batman and Robin!

  21. well there is strong evidence for OTW being Dr. Hurt and the devil sometimes possessing his body (his pupils would periodically switch color through out his apperances in RIP) I personally think that he is in fact Bruce Wayne come forward through time to be his own worst enemy, that this was the doom that Darkside had planned for him, I mean think about it Hurt appears to be immortal and as smart as Batman is and knows who Batman is. I reread all my Batmen today and also noticed (cause I know symbolism is welcomed here) a whole ton of people use cordless power drills in these books, like 5 times (Anti-christ Batman, Le Bossu, Professor Pyg) on the subject of Pyg I reread issue 666 and in that they say that Damian's 14 when Batman dies and he makes his deal but he's 10 now, oversight or clue? Also why do Pyg and Flamingo look different in that?

  22. Is it possible that pyg foresee the future? Am looking back at Batman and Robin issue three what pyg said relates to issues thirteen-fifteen, when pyy is about to make sasha to a dollotrons he says "you first then. You can be perfect first Did I tell you on monday she's mormo formless chaos? On tuesday its all tiamat this and tiamat that thohu va boh

  23. Hoo hoo wednesday the gorgon queen comes in tiptoes with million forked tongues for hair. That's what its like to grow upside down in a world where a hug is a crucifixion. Monday is the first day in issue thirteen, tuesday is issue fourteen wednesday is fifteen forked tongues does that mean joker plays his hand, or does it mean 99 fiends hurt send the army for robin like in RIP the crucifixion he grew up with it as a hug and died on it aka issue 666.

  24. hey quick comment here, big fan of the twin peaks TV show now it wasn't really taken to a conclusion in the show but it was stated that BOB was an inhabiting spirit along with his counter part MIKE and I always held that inhabiting spirits connected to some kind metaphysical concept like the spectre or Parallax and it's my belief Hurt is connected to corruption, think about it in every appearance he is corrupting something or someone. First apperance I think is the club of heroes which introduced the club of villains concept corrupting the idea which could've "lead to massive media exposure and justice league status" (BTW's in the 1st issue of that ark we can see a portrait of Mayhew with a blonde woman thats just like the wayne portrait) next is the 3 cops whom he corrupts (especially Muller the Bane/hulk batman) then comes the RIP series itself where he tries to corrupt Batman but it's like he corrupts other things like Thomas and Martha's good name and corrupting the memory of the Bat costume Bruce's father wore then he corrupts that Lazario guy to become Professor Pyg who is all about corruption then the corruption of El Flamingo even his plan of aerisol narcotics "addictions you can catch" it's about corrupting the entire city turning it into a place of degenerate addicts where "the strong can pray on the weak"

  25. Plan and simple Dr. Hurt is maybe a politician

  26. Jonny, the story from Detective #235 has always been highly conspicuous in Morrison's run, from the first time we see the "original batsuit" (which Hurt has been wearing since #678) in a glass display case way back in #657. I talk about it here:

    It's interesting, though, that Moxon deliberately left Bruce alive. In #673, Chill implies that he was ordered to kill Bruce but chose not to. (Bruce also tells us that there were three bullets in the gun.) I think the implication of the last page of RIP is that Chill was contracted by the Black Glove to kill the Waynes for reasons that will finally be shown in ROBW #5.

    That's a good catch that Hurt had an original name! Out of continuity now, though.

  27. Maybe Batman saves himself (little Brucie) in ROBW #5. We already don't know why Chill didn't shoot him.

  28. I mean, Morrison likes loops too (like in his Superman 2000 script).

  29. Lido, there's no doubt that Hurt is big on corrupting others. I'd say that the Devil personality is exclusively (solely... no pun intended) about corrupting others and the OTW personality is largely about his own advancement and wealth, and we simply see the two flip back and forth.

    Hurt's role as an evil psychologist may be an extension of the old traditional role of the Devil as a corrupter. Trying new things. The psychological destruction of Branca, Lane, Pyg (a la the work of Harry Harlow), and Flamingo (a la the case of Phineas Gage) makes it look like the old-style sin and corruption has been upgraded with the times. Somewhat like Morrison's upgrade on Darkseid as a nightclub owner, Boss Dark Side. And in B&R characters like Red Hood and Santos talk about making crime more modern to keep up with changing times.

    I'd still like to know why Hurt was running the US Army experiment. If Batman had never come along, then what? US soldiers as the victims? What luck if the Devil and Old Thomas Wayne ran across one man who was simultaneously the biggest prize to corrupt (for the Devil) and a blood relative (for OTW).

  30. Roberto, in #673, Chill says that he didn't shoot Bruce because he was reminded of his own son, whom he had lost. This line led a lot of people to consider that the Black Glove might turn out to be Chill's son. Nothing like that ever arose.

  31. I always thought the implication of the final page of RIP was that the "Zur En Arrh" phrase came from when Bruce's father said that if Zorro were real that they would probably throw "Zorro in Arkham"

    Sorry if that has already been mentioned though

  32. Jonny, here was a long post just on the Zur En Arrh topic:

  33. Forget Twin Peaks, there's a distinct vintage Mills and Boone romance novel vibe throughout Morrison's entire run.

    Particularly late 60's early 70's Violet Winspear. She wrote these dark, gothic stories with male leads “capable of rape” [- her terminology, not mine].

    Here's the general plot of every vintage Violet Winspear novel :

    The husband is trying to hide some ridiculous dark secret concerning his late father's business.

    Since the husband is preoccupied with hiding the secret, his wife feels neglected and proceeds to get romanced by a suave [Italian/American/Greek/French/idk, foreign] businessman. The suave foreign businessman is some-sort of Interpol agent investigating her husband's dark secret.

    The husband thinks the Interpol agent is a hitman trying to kill his wife. He forbids her to see him.

    The Interpol agent is convinced the husband will kill the wife for knowing to much. During his mission, the Interpol agent fell in love with the girl. He asks her to run away with him.

    The wife is confused. She doesn't know what to believe. Does her husband still love her, or is he trying to kill her?

    While she's confused, real hitmen show up and try to kill the Interpol agent, mistaking him for her husband.

    The husband breaks down and tells the truth about the dark secret [usually something ridiculous like black market Egyptian artifacts stashed in the basement], she forgives him and they live happily ever after.

    …..What if Thomas Wayne was desperately trying to protect his family from the Black Glove/Dr. Hurt/the Devil/?.

    Perhaps Thomas Wayne's actions were misinterpreted [by Martha?], like the loving husband in the vintage romance novels.

  34. Jonny, a correction to your comment (and my reply).

    The name Carson is not a reference to the inspiration for Doctor Hurt. Robin tells Batman that he is going to see Professor Carson in reference to the story that started the issue ("Robin Dies At Dawn" is the second story in the issue). But he's lying, to cover up a meeting with the Army physician, which is the proto-Hurt. One page later, Jim Gordon refers to Carson, but he's also referring to the Professor from the earlier story.

    One more wrinkle: The professor in the first story is named Hanson, and the bad guy in the story is named Carson. So the writer(s) of the issue screwed it up. But in any case, the original Doctor Hurt is actually nameless.

  35. thanks for the catch Rikdad. I was reading it in a collected volume so I think I missed that Hanson/Carson story.

  36. I know this is somewhat outside the box, but could Hurt be Bruce Wayne? We know something bad is supposed to occur once Bruce makes it back to the 21st Century, maybe it could be the absolute corruption of Batman (seeing how Final Crisis was all about that)! If Batman was sent backwards in time it meant he was ALWAYS sent back, and since all of his activities in the past appear inexplicably to have always existed in the present of Batman and Robin, then Hurt, even though he's been the antagonist since before Batman's omega trip, could have returned at an earlier time, plotting the "good" Bruce's downfall for years.

    This would explain why Hurt manages to enact all of his schemes so perfectly, he's already lived through all of them as the "good" Bruce. Hurt rarely if ever appears to be concerned even when his plans SEEM to go awry. He also makes many strange comments regarding himself as a "the dark twin", which could allude to this. Likewise, in 701 Bruce says the only person who could have survived the helicopter crash and subsequent swim is him, and next panel Hurt's glove can be seen to emerge from the wreck.

    There's a lot of evidence to the contrary, but Morrison is a big fan of red herrings and I don't think Hurt's identity is as simple as "Oh, it's Bruce's evil immortal great great great grandfather". OTW was not around for the finished version of the manor, and it's implied that only Bruce and his parents knew about the secret Barbatos room. Hurt actually behaves a lot like Bruce, if you ignore the whole evil thing. Bruce has the Club of Heroes, Hurt has the Club of Villains. Batman has Robin, Batgirl, etc. and Hurt has the 3 ghosts. Once you start looking there are many parallels. Besides, wouldn't it make the most sense that Batman's greatest enemy is really Batman all along?

  37. John, that's not such an outside-the-box idea. Jezebel suggested on panel (which is inside a box!) in #677 that the Black Glove could be Bruce. And various ideas have floated about the 'net to the effect that Hurt could be an older Bruce.

    In part this comes down to whether or not Morrison would make a Wayne an evil murderer, considering all of the Waynes in that equation: Nathaniel (or other great-great^N grandfathers or -uncles), Thomas (Bruce's father), or Bruce himself. And I think the answers are yes (Nathaniel is clearly "bad"), no, and absolutely not.

    True, Morrison likes a complicated plot, but to a point. The "Devil" reveal of RIP started in #664 and was reiterated several times before being laid out inescapably in #680 and then delivered as a finale in #681. The Joker reveal of Oberon Sexton was a leading suspect from the first appearance and gradually became the prohibitive favorite before B&R #12.

    For that matter, the idea that the Black Glove organization existed, and was a bunch of wealthy gamblers... that was laid out in #667. I considered until #680 that that might be a red herring, and the organization a fiction shown to Batman on Mayhew's island to "spook" him into thinking that wealthy men like himself and his father were prone to evil. But, no -- #680 showed that it was exactly what #667-669 and #676-667 had indicated. No twist. No turn.

    So Morrison doesn't twist and turn his plots infinitely for the sake of being inscrutable. To his credit; I think the X Files, for one, did that to its detriment. The X Files was unguessable, but also increasingly hard to care about (the ratings show I'm not alone in that).

    Having seen OTW as a man much like Hurt in ROBW #4, right before three series in Morrison's care reach the last or second-to-last issue of that title re: the Hurt saga doesn't leave comfortable room for unlimited plot twists. I think we may find out some odd things about Hurt's "identity" (as an inhabiting spirit, this may be complex; he could have possessed Bruce's father for five minutes... or wanted to). But OTW is already on the hook as being part of the answer. It would be awkward to utterly retract that now. *Possible* ("X Files") but weak, IMO.

  38. Up until Batman and Robin, a lot of people were completely positive Sexton was an amnesic Bruce. There was just as much evidence it was Wayne as it was the Joker, in fact I'd say most of the clues pointing to the Joker were much more obscure. They were there the whole time, but very easy to miss. (My biggest clue was the fact that in Hamlet- alluded to in either 681/682- the "gravediggers" were clowns)

    Likewise, I feel the clues for Hurt's identity have been there the whole time, slowly being built amongst all of Morrison's previous works, along with plenty of red herrings meant to distract and delude both the heroes and the readers I think you could most definitely be right about the Devil angle, but I think there's more going on. OTW was mentioned as early as BnR 11 and Hurt has claimed to be "Thomas Wayne" since back in RIP, but the reveal that OTW is some kind of immortal sadist who looks just like Hurt didn't come until ROBW 4, which seems somewhat late a reveal. No one could have made an accurate guess to this effect before this issue, so I don't think it's as simple an answer. Maybe OTW is shown to give an example of a evil streak in the Wayne's bloodline, or at very least, to tie into the Barbatos plot line.

  39. Darkseid hasn't played his full hand yet either. What exactly is going to happen once Bruce returns to the present, is he going to have to contend with both the New God's trap AND Hurt and his 99 fiends, or could they somehow be related? This is a large part of my theory, something must happen when Bruce returns that transforms him into Hurt, and the whole challenge for Batman is going to be overcoming this corruption and then mopping up Hurt and his plan. A prevailing theme amongst all the ROBW issues is that a person related to the Wayne bloodline is in trouble and "summons" Bruce to come aid them in their time of need. I think Hurt could be the Devil in so much as he's Bruce's opposite. Bruce is the avenging angel and evil Bruce/Hurt is the Devil

  40. this is more of a related note but there's this one episode of the batmn animated series called the terrible trio in which three of Bruce's incredibly riche and bored friends turn to crime each one dawning the mask of a different animal based on the nautre of their family fortunes (oil - fox, shipping magnet - shark, aerospace - hawk) it's an alright episode ranging from childishly obvious plot points to incredibly creepy moments, but there are some weird connections between it and Morrison's work, obviously Mayhew's mystery island is one part, the green vulture connection to the hawk and all the animal masks and symbolism in general, and interestingly enough a theme going back to his 7 soldiers run which he hasn't really explored as much as i think he should but the control of someone's mind through psychological break down, using their own fears and thoughts to alter how they view themselves changing who they are (for more reading see Frankenstien #1, most disturbing comic I've ever read)it just seemed weird that there was this one episode with so many bizzare similarities, I'm not sure if it means anything but something to think about.