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Grant Morrison's seven-year run on various Batman titles remains one of the most memorable and impactful eras in the character's history. It's the era that gave us Batman's apparent death in Final Crisis, Dick Grayson's assumption of the Batman mantle in Bruce Wayne's absence, and of course, the debut of Damian Wayne, Batman's son and new Robin.
In the years since his 2006 debut, Damian has remained a vital part of the DC Universe, even returning from his 2013 death to fight on as the best friend of then-Superboy Jonathan Kent and a hero in his own right outside of the sphere of Gotham City. But according to Morrison, all of that almost didn't happen, and Damian was almost killed off much sooner.
In the second part of a far-reaching IGN retrospective on their massive Batman saga -- which eventually grew to encompass the main Batman title and spinoff series like Batman & Robin and Batman Incorporated -- Morrison revealed that Damian Wayne was originally meant to be a one-off character who would die at the end of his very first story, "Batman & Son." That 2006 arc, which came at the very beginning of Morrison's run on Batman, introduced Damian as the secret son of Bruce Wayne and his lover and enemy, Talia al Ghul. According to Morrison, it was originally not just a beginning, but an end, inspired by both classic comics and other, more recent genre stories.
"My plan was to kill Damian at the end of the four-part story where he was introduced! Specifically to dodge any accusations that I was making Batman seem older by giving him a son, I planned to have Damian learn his lessons quickly before dying nobly at the end of that first arc," Morrison said.
"Although, as I say I’d intended to do a Son of Batman story like all those Silver Age imaginary tales and partly inspired by the Son of the Demon graphic novel, I’m sure I was most influenced by the done in one nature of the Doctor Who episode 'The Doctor’s Daughter,' where this incredibly important character is introduced, developed, then killed over 50 minutes of television, never to be seen again."
So, what happened? According to Morrison, Damian's story took on more meaning, and began to appear like something that could go on for years, eventually forming a key thread of the entire seven-year run.
"As I got into writing him, however, I began to see much more potential for Damian," Morrison explained. "I saw how his development could instead form the spine of a story spanning years. I gave him a stay of execution and shifted the date of his grim demise downstream to the end of my overarching plot where I hoped it would be more powerful in the context of his character progression."
Because he was raised by Talia al Ghul as a member of the League of Shadows, with all the lethal training that comes with such an upbringing, Damian arrived in Bruce's life as a ruthless killer, unmoved by Batman's mission of nonlethal intervention and fighting crime. Over the next several years as the new Robin, Damian learned to do things a bit more like his father, even as he fought against his own darker instincts. In Batman #666, Morrison further teased out those instincts by presenting a dark vision of the future in which Damian had become Batman without taking his father's lessons to heart, creating a reign of terror in Gotham. The idea was to present a version of what Damian could be if he didn't learn the lessons his father -- and ultimately Dick, during his time as Batman -- taught him about compassion, restraint, and justice.
Then, in a 2013 Batman Inc. story, Damian was killed by the League of Shadows figure known as The Heretic, who turned out to be an adult clone of Damian himself, which meant the character was in many ways murdered by his own potentially brutal future.
Damian eventually got better (because comics) and has since returned to DC Comics as Robin, where he remains one of the most popular young heroes in the universe. In some other corner of the multiverse, though, he's a character who arrived for just four issues and then died, leaving a cautionary tale in his wake.
For more on Morrison's Batman run, including Final Crisis, The New 52, and beyond, head over to IGN.