Grant Morrison: Final Crisis Exit Interview, Part 1
Final Crisis #7 cover
As always, Morrison’s answers were educations in and of themselves, and hey, we know you’re not here to read introductions, so let’s get right to it.
Spoiler warning - there are slight spoilers ahead for the ending of Final Crisis, including the fate of the New Gods.
Newsarama: Grant, let’s start wide focus here – what, when you first started plotting our and planning Final Crisis was your goal? What was the A and what was the Z?
Grant Morrison: The A was Anthro and the Z was Kamandi. First Boy to Last Boy, with the whole DC Multiverse in between. In the end, as I got really into the story, it changed shape a little and now concludes, as it began, with the First Boy, now an Old Man.
Apart from that, my simple goal was to reach the end without too much hassle and/or interference! Apart from one scene at the end, which I included at DC’s request, and contrary to online rumours, there were no rewrites on Final Crisis. Every word is mine. The guilt and the glory are all mine!
My intention was to embody the spirit of the DC Universe as I saw it – with all its crazy contradictions and glorious inconsistencies – and to put that spirit under threat. I wanted to see what kind of resources a universe like DC’s could pull out of its history to fight against a living, destructive god.
NRAMA: That said, what exactly makes this the Final Crisis? Is it the Final Crisis of the Fourth World, considering that the Fifth World is being born? Otherwise, since the multiverse still exists, there could conceivably be more crises, right?
GM: More than anything else, it’s the Final Crisis of the Monitors, as we’ll see in #7 and brings that story from Crisis On Infinite Earths to a logical conclusion. It’s also the Final Crisis of the Fourth World. How the challenges, possibilities and rules of the emerging Fifth World are developed is something that will either be acknowledged or overlooked by other DC creators in the years to come.
I suppose there could conceivably be more ‘Crises’ – DC is a neverending story, after all - but as far as I know there are none scheduled for the near future. Otherwise, I refuse to take responsibility for any that may arise long after I’ve gone.
NRAMA: As we’ve noted in our conversations with Dan about what you’re doing in Final Crisis, you’re pushing Kirby’s Fourth World through to its next, long-promised iteration. Obviously, the Fourth World has been held in semi-reverence since Kirby stopped work on it, with tweaks and mild changes along the way, but nothing as big as this. Would you say this was you showing your regard for Kirby’s unfinished ideas, or you channelling your inner 19 year old, and just going in and kicking things over to see what new patterns they made?
GM: I wanted to be faithful to the spirit of the King. This had to be a story of gods, of God in fact, hence the ‘cosmic’ style, the elevated language, the total and deliberate disregard for the rules of the ‘screenwriting’ approach that has become the house style for a great many comic writers these days. The emphasis on spectacle and wonder at the expense of ‘realism’, the allegorical approach…it’s all my take on Kirby.
In the end, I condensed all the Kirby DC stuff down onto one parallel Earth (51) - the idea of Kamandi in a world with Lightray and Highfather seemed worth revisiting. One day, someone will come along and tell the stories of that world, I’m sure.
NRAMA: Now that it’s all done, let’s revisit the pairing of Final Crisis with Seven Soldiers as well as 52. The meta-idea of Final Crisis has been riding along with you for now…how many years?
GM: Only since 2006. When I came back to DC in 2003, I pitched a huge crossover event called Hypercrisis, which didn’t happen for various reasons. Some of Hypercrisis went into Seven Soldiers, some went into All Star Superman, some went into 52 and some of it found a home in Final Crisis.
NRAMA: One thing that we should address early on is the scheduling of the book. While Final Crisis has had admirable shipping for #6 and #7, it was somewhat…slower with is earlier issues. What happened, and do you think that affected the impact of the story?
GM: What happened was deadlines catching up with very meticulous and dedicated artists.
Given the circumstances and given that Final Crisis was originally scheduled to wrap up in December and now finishes in January, only one month later, I feel respect is due to everyone involved in getting the book out and especially to Doug Mahnke who performed miracles on the last issue.
I don’t really think any of this affected the impact of the story. Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. were best-selling books for DC last year and I’m very happy with how everything turned out.
I prefer to see the apparent setbacks as opportunities to enhance the story. In then end, Doug’s arrival was perfect because he provided the necessary transition from Superman Beyond. In hindsight, the move from the photo-realistic, real world style of JG Jones towards the hyper-Perez linework overload of Doug Mahnke mirrors exactly the way the story grows from the street-level world of a Metropolis detective to encompass a wildly flourishing cosmos of multi-dimensions, godlike presences and oddly-angled storytelling.
NRAMA: Speaking of Batman - along the lines of the more…controversial aspects of the larger Final Crisis storyline was how Batman RIP was included in it. Obviously, you had a place where Batman needed to be in Final Crisis, and he did meet his “end” in #6, but was that always the way things were supposed to go? Are you aware that there is a large amount of reader discontent that they essentially had to follow into another book to get the resolution of that story?
When Dan heard the R.I.P. title he asked me if it could lead us into the ‘death of Batman’ which he’d planned to occur in Final Crisis, so I made sure the Batman title and Final Crisis reached this particular endpoint at the same time and created a bridge between the two books. It’s possible to read Batman through 2009/10 without having read Final Crisis at all, however, so I’m trying to please everyone.
Of course I’m aware of a perpetual and chronic discontent from a particular jaded minority on the internet but I try to overlook their constant expressions of dissatisfaction on the grounds that it’s depressing and often personally abusive.
Surely part of the fun of comics includes following stories across titles? If you like comics, what’s so awful about buying another one to see what happens next? And if you don’t want to buy it, don’t bother. Do something else. Buy cigarettes or booze or bananas. I don’t know!
Every time I read about the agonizing pains of ‘event fatigue’ or how ‘3-D hurts my head…’ or how something’s ‘incomprehensible’ when most people are ‘comprehending’ it just fine, it’s like visiting a nursing home. ‘Events’ in superhero comic books FATIGUE you? I’m speechless. Admittedly they do tend to be a little more exciting than the instruction leaflets that come with angina pills but… ‘fatigue’?
Superhero comics should have an ‘event’ in every panel! We all know this instinctively. Who cares ‘how?’ as long as it feels right and looks brilliant ?
NRAMA: Fair enough, then. While we’re looking at how elements tied in to Final Crisis, given the importance of the elements in the story, why were the story elements of Superman Beyond separated into another book, rather than integrated into branching chapters of the Final Crisis book itself?
GM: This is an easy one. I only had seven issues for Final Crisis and the Monitor story strands that grew into Superman Beyond needed much more room to breathe than was available in the main book. Same goes for the Batman 2-parter from Batman #682 – #683, which is an essential part of Final Crisis also. I hope they’ll all be collected in a complete edition eventually.
NRAMA: Speaking of Superman Beyond – how does the timeline work between Beyond, Final Crisis and Legion of 3 Worlds?
GM: The Monitrix Zillo Valla recruits Superman’s help in Final Crisis #3 which leads into Superman Beyond #1 and 2, both of which happen in the space between Lois’ final heartbeats. He returns to save her in Beyond #2, only to be contacted by the Legion of Super-Heroes to deal with an emergency in the 31st Century – as seen in Legion of 3 Worlds #1. Normally, the Legion is able to return him to his own time an instant after he left, so naturally he feels secure quitting Earth after saving Lois. After his encounter with Superboy Prime in LO3W, however, he returns late to Final Crisis #6, to find time has crashed, Darkseid rules the world and Batman is dead. Oops.
Fortunately, he brings with him the means to save us all.
To get the full Final Crisis experience as the author intended it, the reading order is as follows:
,b>FINAL CRISIS # 1- 3
SUPERMAN BEYOND # 1- 2
FINAL CRISIS # 4 – 5
BATMAN #682 – 683
FINAL CRISIS # 6 – 7
The other tie-ins and parallel stories are well worth reading too.
GM: I’m not sure I understand the question. I was trying to do something that combined the spirit of Kirby with the freewheeling chaotic nature of the DCU, so I tried to bounce across the major ‘families’ of characters – Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, The Marvels, Green Arrow and Black Canary etc. At the same time, I wanted to introduce potential new narrative strains and a wider spread of ethnic characters like the Super Young Team or Shilo Norman and Nix Uotan.
Finally I wanted to wrap all that up inside the final story of the Monitors and explain their strange relationship with the DC Multiverse, in a kind of mythic ‘origin’ story inspired by the basic conflict that defines my job – the war between the white page/the Void and the ink/the Multiverse of possibilities!
NRAMA: Regarding the big legends of the DCU: Superman got his mini-event, Batman took on Darkseid, Flash tries to outrun death, Green Lantern overcomes granny . . . but Wonder Woman turns out to be Anti-Life Patient Zero and spends the bulk of the series as a disfigured thrall. Why does Wonder Woman not have a comparable moment in that context?
GM: I wondered about that myself. I love what Gail Simone (especially) and other writers have done to empower the Wonder Woman concept but I must admit I’ve always sensed something slightly bogus and troubling at its heart. When I dug into the roots of the character I found an uneasy melange of girl power, bondage and disturbed sexuality that has never been adequately dealt with or fully processed out to my mind. I’ve always felt there was something oddly artificial about Wonder Woman, something not like a woman at all.
Having said that, I became quite fascinated by these contradictions and problems and tried to resolve them for what turned into a different project entirely. Partly because I didn’t want to use any of that new material in Final Crisis, I relegated Wonder Woman to a role that best summed up my original negative feelings about the character. My apologies to her fans and I promise to be a little more constructive next time around.
Wonder Woman gets a ‘moment’ in Final Crisis #7 but by that time, Mandrakk has sucked all the life out of the story!
NRAMA: During the battle scenes in #6, you spent a surprising amount of time on Tawky Tawny. A lot of fans enjoyed the moment where he defeated Kalibak. So, the question, why was that moment important for you to include while other significant heroes were isolated or did not get big moments?
GM: There was quite a heavy focus on the Marvel Family in Final Crisis so Tawny was part of that just as he was part of the mash-up of Kirby and the DCU that drew me to this project. I couldn’t resist drawing a connection between Prince Tuftan’s tiger tribe from Kamandi and Tawky Tawny. It just seemed right. Pure comics poetry.
NRAMA: The Satellite scene and Justifiers attacking in modified TIE fighters? Are you stealing something back from George Lucas?
GM: Yes. This wasn’t my idea – I asked for generic space shuttles in the script - but it does seem appropriate, given how much of Star Wars echoes ‘New Gods’ (although Star Wars just can’t come close to Kirby’s transcendental vision. The Force doesn’t even have a Wall! Real fans out there will of course be familiar with the He-Man film, Masters of the Universe, which is the closest any movie has so far come to copying New Gods outright. They even have the Boom Tube, while Skeletor is played as Darkseid and He-man is very obviously Orion).
NRAMA: Speaking of Kirby’s creations, why is Sonny Sumo important? Is he there to establish more about the Omega Sanction?
GM: Sonny Sumo is important because he provides the connection between Earth-0 and his home on Earth-51 that Shilo Norman’s Motherboxxx uses to plot an escape route from the doomed DC Earth. See? Now you know even less!
All of those characters are there because I wanted to set up the Super Young Team with him and Shilo Norman as another potential series.
The way they fade out of the story is also a pointed comment on how I actually imagine they’ll fare as characters in the DC Universe!
NRAMA: The Rubik's Cube parallel for reality is an interesting one; what provoked you to use that as a set piece?
GM: I read a ‘New Scientist’ article about God’s Number and it gave this scene a weird spin that really suited the moment.
The Rubik’s cube was a good visual metaphor for the restless shuffling and rearranging of primary-coloured patterns that signifies creative activity in a long-running superhero universe.
NRAMA: The Global Peace Initiative and Lord Eye – is that Maxwell Lord’s brain?
GM: I like to think so, yes. The potential seemed huge for a CHECKMATE: GLOBAL PEACE AGENCY book – ‘THE WORLD THAT’S COMING IS ALREADY HERE!!!’ so I wanted to position that too, if anyone’s interested. I’m a big fan of Greg Rucka’s brilliant work on both the Renee Montoya character and the Checkmate concept and this seemed like a good way to re-align Checkmate as DC’s own spy-chedelic Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. I believe Greg has his own plans for Montoya so we’ll see what happens next.
NRAMA: The Batman/Darkseid scene – what does the death of Darkseid do to the world?
GM: See Final Crisis #7. Darkseid is falling down through the Multiversal structure into a black hole at the centre of Creation, breaking things and disrupting continuities as he goes.
NRAMA: Afterwards, Metron welcomes the Fifth World – the age of men as gods. Wasn’t the Fifth World Darkseid’s “World” and age?
GM: Sez Darkseid! Just as Hitler thought the future belonged to the Fuhrer and his glorious Thousand Year Reich, so does Darkseid overestimate his place in the Great Story.
In Final Crisis, I think Darkseid comes to represent all those old, ossified ideas that have lasted way past their time and won’t let go of the future.
NRAMA: As others have pointed out, there are echoes of all your superhero work in Final Crisis, as well as hints of The Invisibles. In relation to your larger body of work, how do you see Final Crisis?
GM: It’s one of the most highly-structured and demanding pieces of work I’ve done and brings to fruition a lot of long-time obsessions, I suppose. It’s my Monitor-vision, high-altitude view of the DCU as an entity; before I take a long-awaited break to do some other work. It’s my sci-fi/horror version of everything I love about DC, everything I ever thought or felt about DC, in one book. It’s about the confusion and excitement of getting into this wild, colourful fictional continuum as a kid, and it’s an attempt to define what makes DC unique and vibrant in relation to other superhero universes. It also offers a full cosmology of higher dimensions, including our own, and an insight into the creative impulse of God, so it’s well worth the cover price, I like to think. It’s filled with interesting and life-changing occult and philosophical secrets too and the more you read it, the more you’ll pick up on them.
It’s also a deliberate attempt to show how so-called ‘rules’ can be broken to create different kinds of effects in our comics. It’s a way of using superhero comics to talk about the ‘real’ world that doesn’t rely on news headlines, mock-‘relevance’ or ‘adult’ language and imagery.
I found myself wondering what it would be like if comics’ storytelling stopped aping film or TV and tried a few tricks from opera, for instance. How about dense, allusive, hermetic comics that read more like poetry than prose? How about comics loaded with multiple, prismatic meanings and possibilities? Comics composed like music? In a marketplace dominated by ‘left brain’ books, I thought it might be refreshing to offer an unashamedly ‘right brain’ alternative.
Just as Marvel Boy in 1999 foreshadowed the storytelling trends of this last decade, Final Crisis is an attempt to predict how ‘channel-zapping’ techniques might develop as the Fifth World of the Information Age of Obama gets underway and begins to define itself in opposition to the previous generation’s ‘rules’.
It’s all of the above. I was trying to distil everything I love about superhero comics into this loaded, condensed...artefact, which meant using all the lessons I’ve learned in a lifetime’s writing for a living.
And that’s…not the end. We’ll be back one last time to talk about Final Crisis with Grant early next week to get in-depth with today’s issue #7.