About this time a couple of years ago, I made fun of comic book writer Grant Morrison for proposing that the latest villain facing Batman, Dr. Simon Hurt, was actually Dr. Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce Wayne. The death of Thomas and his wife Martha in a mugging, shot before the eyes of their young son, spurred Bruce to fight crime as the Caped Crusader of Gotham City.
Morrison's Batman R.I.P. story told of the battle between Hurt and Batman and ended with Batman's supposed death -- or at least, Bruce Wayne's disappearance. The first Robin, Dick Grayson, dons Batman's cape and cowl and takes on the role of Gotham's protector, aided by Damian Wayne as a new Robin. Damian's backstory is complex, to say the least, but let's leave it that he's biologically the son of Bruce Wayne, unknown to Bruce through the early part of his life.
While all this is going on, we find that Bruce wasn't actually killed in the explosion that seems to have claimed Hurt, but instead helped take up the battle against Darkseid described in Final Crisis. Darkseid blasts Batman with his Omega eye-beams, sending him back in time with memory loss and what might prove to be a disastrous buildup of Omega energy in his body. Morrison's six-issue Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne relates how Wayne jumps forward in time, at each stop leaving clues for himself that will later help him regain his memories, become the Batman, and defeat Darkseid's plan.
Along the way, Bruce finds that he is again battling Simon Hurt, who turns out to indeed be Thomas Wayne. But he's not Bruce's father -- he's an insane, immortal, devil-worshipping ancestor of Wayne's also named Thomas.
Now returned, Bruce will let Dick Grayson continue to be the Batman who protects Gotham from evildoers. He will don a different cape and cowl and travel the world, recruiting and training Batmen from various countries to fight crime where they are, under his direction. Morrison plans to tell this story in the ongoing series Batman, Incorporated. My hat (or cowl, if you prefer) is off to you, Mr. Morrison. I didn't think there could be a modern Batman story sillier than the idea that Batman's dad didn't really die and instead became a villain who battled him.
I was wrong.