All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 8

Morrison on All Star Superman, 8

As we head into the home stretch of our look back at All Star Superman with Grant Morrison, we take a look at where Superman came from – both on and off the page. In this section, Morrison discusses how the Superman stories of the past influenced his miniseries – and how he interprets Superman’s homeworld of Krypton.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Newsarama: This is touched on in other questions, but how much of the Silver/Bronze Age backstory matters here? What do you see as Superman's life prior to All-Star Superman? (What was going on with this Superman while the Byrne revamp took hold?)

Grant Morrison: When I introduced the series in an interview online, I suggested that All Star Superman could be read as the adventures of the ‘original’ Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman, returning after 20 plus years of adventures we never got to see because we were watching John Byrne‘s New Superman on the other channel. If ‘Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?’ and the Byrne reboot had never happened, where would that guy be now?

This was more to provide a sense, probably limited and ill-considered, of what the tone of the book might be like. I never intended All Star Superman as a direct continuation of the Weisinger or Julius Schwartz-era Superman stories. The idea was always to create another new version of Superman using all my favorite elements of past stories, not something ‘Age’ specific.

I didn’t collect Superman comics until the ‘70s and I’m not interested enough in pastiche or nostalgia to spend 6 years of my life playing post-modern games with Superman. All Star isn’t written, drawn or colored to look or read like a Silver Age comic book.

All Star Superman is not intended as arch commentary on continuity or how trends in storytelling have changed over the decades. It’s not retro or meta or anything other than its own simple self; a piece of drawing and writing that is intended by its makers to capture the spirit of its subject to the best of their capabilities, wisdom and talent.

Which is to say, we wanted our Superman story be about life, not about comics or superheroes, current events or politics. It’s about how it feels, specifically to be a man…in our dreams! Hopefully that means our 12 issues are also capable of wide interpretation.

So as much as we may have used a few recognizable Silver Age elements like Van-Zee and Sylv(i)a and the Bottle City of Kandor, the ensemble Daily Planet cast embodies all the generations of Superman. Perry White is from 1940, Steve Lombard is from the Schwartz-era ‘70s, Ron Troupe - the only black man in Metropolis - appeared in 1991. Cat Grant is from 1987 And so on.

P.R.O.J.E.C.T. refers back to Jack Kirby’s DNA Project from his ‘70s Jimmy Olsen stories, as well as to The Cadmus Project from ’90s Superboy and Superman stories. Doomsday is ‘90s. Kal Kent, Solaris and the Infant Universe of Qwewq all come from my own work on Superman in the same decade. Pa Kent’s heart attack is from ‘Superman the Movie‘. We didn’t use Brainiac because he’d been the big bad in Earth 2 but if we had, we’d have used Brainiac’s Kryptonian origin from the animated series and so on.

I also used quite a few elements of John Byrne’s approach. Byrne made a lot of good decisions when he rebooted the whole franchise in 1986 and I wanted to incorporate as much as I could of those too..

Our Superman in All Star was never Superboy, for instance. All Star Superman landed on Earth as a normal, if slightly stronger and fitter infant, and only began to manifest powers in adolescence when he’d finally soaked up enough yellow solar radiation to trigger his metamorphosis.

The Byrne logic seemed to me a better way to explain how his powers had developed across the decades, from the skyscraper leaps of the early days to the speed-of-light space flight of the high Silver Age. And more importantly, it made the Superman myth more poignant - the story of a farm boy who turned into an alien as he reached adolescence. I felt that was something that really enriched Superman. He grew away from his home, his family, his adopted species as he became Superman. His teenage years are a record of his transformation from normal boy to super-being.

As you say, there are more than just Silver Age influences in the book. Basically we tried to create a perfect synthesis of every Superman era. So much so, that it should just be taken as representative of an ‘age’ all its own.

In the end, however, I do think that the Silver Age type stories, with their focus on human problems and foibles, have a much wider appeal than a lot of the work which followed. They’re more like fables or folk tales than the later ‘comic book superhero’ stories of Superman when he became just another colorful costume in the crowd…and perhaps that’s why All Star seemed to resemble those books more than it does a typical modern Marvel or DC comic. It was our intention to present a more universal, mainstream Superman.

NRAMA: In your depiction of Krypton and the Kryptonians, you show the complexity of Superman’s relationship between humanity and Earth even further. Krypton has that scientific paradise quality to it, but the Kryptonians are also portrayed as slightly aloof and detached, even Jor-El. But from Bar-El to the people of Kandor, they’re touched by Superman’s goodness. What do you see as the fundamental difference between Kryptonians and Earthlings, and how has Superman’s character been shaped by each?

GM: My version of Krypton was, again, synthesized from a number of different approaches over the decades.

In mythic terms, if Superman is the story of a young king, found and raised by common people, then Krypton is the far distant kingdom he lost. It’s the secret bloodline, the aristocratic heritage that makes him special, and a hero. At the same time, Krypton is something that must be left behind for Superman to become who he is - i.e. one of us. Krypton gives him his scientific clarity of mind, Earth makes his heart blaze.

I liked the very early Jerry Siegel descriptions where Krypton is a planet of advanced supermen and women (I already played with that a little in Marvel Boy where Noh-Varr was written to be the Marvel Superboy basically). To that, I added the rich, science fiction detailing of the Silver Age Krypton stories and the slightly detached coolness that characterized John Byrne’s Krypton, which I re-interpreted through the lens of Dzogchen Buddhist thought, probably the most pragmatic, chilly and rational philosophic system on the planet and the closest, I felt, to how Kryptonians might see things.

We also took some time to redesign the crazy, multicolored Kryptonian flag (you can see our version in Kandor in issue #10). The flag, as originally imagined, seemed like the last thing Kryptonians would endorse, so we took the multicolored-rays-around-a-circle design and recreated it - the central circle is now red, representing Krypton’s star, Rao, while the rays, rather than arbitrary colors, become representations of the spectrum of visible light pouring from Rao into the inky black of space. In this way, the flag, that bizarre emblem of nationalism becomes a scientific hieroglyph.

Showing Krypton and Kryptonians was also important as a way of stressing why Superman wears that costume and why it makes absolute sense that he looks the way he does. I don’t see the red and blue suit as a flag or as rewoven baby blankets. There’s no need for Superman to dress the way he does but it made sense to think of his outfit as his ‘national costume‘.

The way I see it, the standard superhero outfit, the familiar Superman suit with the pants on the outside, is what everyone wore on Krypton, give or take a few fashion accessories like hoods and headbands, chest crests and variant colors. In fact, all other superheroes are just copying the fashions on Krypton, lost planet of the super-people.

Superman wears his ’action-suit’ the way a patriotic Scotsman would wear a kilt. It’s a sign of his pride in his alien heritage.

Next: Is Superman Jesus? The answer might surprise you.

Special Thanks to Grant Morrison: The Early Years author Timothy Callahan for his help with this feature.

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