Grant Morrison: Final Crisis Exit Interview, Part 2
Final Crisis #7 cover
Given that the earlier interview was conducted before issue #7 hit, we stayed fairly clear of specific plot points and elements of the story’s conclusion. With a note of warning for those who don’t want to see any spoilers for Final Crisis #7, we wrap up our conversation with Morrison, tackling some specific points and looking at the big picture that issue #7 presented.
Newsarama: Let’s start with the opening on the other earth - you mentioned in an interview that this was a nod to Obama's speech where he joked about being rocketed to earth from Krypton....although this feels like a nod to that combined with Marv Wolfman's Earth-D - a possible direction the DCU was supposed to follow after the original Crisis?
Grant Morrison: It was directly in reference to Obama’s comments. I wanted to mark the moment where the fearful zeitgeist of the backward-looking Dark Age of Bush/Blair/Bin Laden yielded to the potentially more progressive Obama Age.
I’d completely forgotten about Marv’s Earth-D idea but I’m glad this ties in with that too and provides another link with the original Crisis.
NRAMA Was "The End is Nigh" sign in front of the White House a nod to Watchmen?
GM: Watchmen? What’s that? Is that the one where the hero dog gets its head kicked in? Sweet.
No. If it was meant as a proper nod to Watchmen, I’d have asked for the prophet of doom to look more like Walter Kovacs. This is a generic sandwich-board guy who’s only here to flag up the mood of Biblical apocalypse from the get-go.
3) You know we're going to ask...the Supermen who are with the Question and Captain Marvel – analogs all?
GM: They all have names, histories and backstories. Since I wasn’t able to use the Superman analogs from other companies directly, I had to create analogs of the analogs.
NRAMA: Generally speaking, how detailed was your script for this issue's other characters? Was it up to Doug, or did you detail who they were, what they looked like, and where they were from?
GM: The script was very detailed and I sent Doug costume sketches for a lot of the analog characters.
NRAMA: I think more than the other issues, issue #7 left people hanging a little...in a good(?) way - the origin and components of the Watchtower, the robot JLA, the unseen Metal Men attack...feel free to fill in the blanks about those, but it seems like there's a lot of story that remained in your head. Can you discuss a little about how you splice out what makes it to the final page, and what stays behind?
GM: The origin of the final Watchtower is described in captions and its components, recognisable to DC readers, are not significant otherwise. The robot JLA and the Metal Men of Earth-44 are one and the same and we see their attack and their defeat by the Luthor/Sivana team on the next page etc.
I choose to leave out boring, as I saw it, connective tissue we didn’t really need for this story to work. I choose to leave out long-winded caption-heavy explanations that bring readers ‘up to speed’, even as they send them to sleep. And we left out the line-wide crossover tie-ins that have every detail of backstory spelled out laboriously by writers desperate to get back to their own plotlines. Otherwise, the whole thing is there on the page in word or picture form…and when interestingly-shaped story spaces can be opened out to make room for enthusiastic speculation and debate that adds to the fun. Looking up characters you thought were simply generic cavemen or monsters and finding they have histories you can explore and adventures you can read adds another interactive layer that takes you deeper into the mysteries and complexities of the DC virtual reality.
NRAMA: Can you speak about the format that you used to tell this last issue's story - multiple narrators telling the story to multiple audiences...why that approach?
GM: If you go back to the first issue, it starts with a ‘caveman’ version of the basic hero story. Then we get Dan Turpin narrating and so on through the series. Rising Sun narrating the start of issue #2, the Monitor origin story from the Infinite Book in Superman Beyond – even things like Alfred narrating the two Batman crossovers, or the use of magic words throughout the series. It’s all about people telling stories to one another, so the final issue makes that explicit.
NRAMA: Likewise the multiple timelines. Would a linear narrative resulted in a different story in the end?
GM: Final Crisis is absolutely linear until the last issue when time folds down on itself and even then it’s pretty straightforward A to B to C. A different writer would have resulted in a different story perhaps!
NRAMA: Superman and Darkseid - for those of us who didn't attend night classes on New Genesis...despite being shot through the heart, Darkseid is still alive, he's taking aim at Orion to basically start the whole story, and the Flashes lead the Black racer to him...and that kills him? I feel a little slow here, but when did he start falling through the multiverses?
GM: Again, I don’t think you need to know anything about New Genesis or any other information apart from what’s in the story. Darkseid wasn’t shot in the heart. We all know Batman doesn’t kill people, hasn’t killed people for 70 years and isn’t about to start here. It’s a big enough deal for Batman to pick up a gun. He winged Turpin knowing that the Radion in the bullet would be enough to poison Darkseid’s divine essence. Radion only kills gods after all. It slays ideas. After that shot, Darkseid is dying, just as someone with radiation poisoning might slowly expire, as Superman explains in #7. The Black Racer drags him struggling away into oblivion over the course of that issue until nothing remains but the fading, ghost-echoes of his malice.
Darkseid started falling through the universe after the event we experienced as The Death of The New Gods. He fell backwards through time and wound up in a human body, on Earth, in the Mister Miracle series back in 2005.
NRAMA: The return of Aquaman...that's the Aquaman? King Arthur returned in the hour of his people's greatest need?
GM: J.G. Jones and I figured it was time to bring back an Aquaman we could all understand, so there he is. Someone else will pick up on that story, I’m sure.
NRAMA: Got it. Back to some details, time-wise here, how long did the building of the machine take?
GM: Time as we know it is no longer in operation at this point in the story, so it takes ten pages!
NRAMA: [laughs] Alright then. From what you've shown, do you have a Luthor/Sivania miniseries in you somewhere? Or at least a one-shot?
GM: That would be good. They make a great double act but I don’t have anything planned.
NRAMA: Who was escaping through the tunnel and why did Lord Eye shut it down?
GM: The inhabitants of Checkmate Castle were escaping through the ‘Black Gambit’ graviton tunnel, as set up in Final Crisis #6 and anchored in place by the Atoms in #7. As time broke down, Lord Eye’s programming began to fail. Checkmate technology wasn’t up to the task of holding open a tunnel between two entire universes passing one another in hyperspace (the ‘Bleed, as Warren Ellis named it, or ‘Bulk’, as physicists prefer to call the same idea). Lord Eye tries to shut the tunnel down to prevent further damage, but that puts the escapees in danger, so Hawkman and Hawkwoman hurl themselves back into the fray to stop the Eye and save everyone’s lives.
At which point, Shilo Norman’s Motherboxxx takes charge, reads the co-ordinates off Sonny Sumo and dials up a Boom Tube connection to Sonny’s home Earth, now in ruins following the events of Countdown and Final Crisis! Everyone in the tunnel gets transferred to Earth-51, where the Ultima Thule finds them later…as Renee Montoya tells us on page 17.
Sorry if it seemed unclear to some readers but the words and pictures on the page do contain all of the information above if you go back and look. Is it presented in a carefully-composed ‘chaotic’ way? Yes, because getting caught between two entire universes as they skim past one another at the end of the world, while Justifier troops pour in through the walls to get you would be pretty chaotic and I wanted to capture that. This page is pure Pop Art – big shouty, jagged balloons with ‘TIME! SPACE! SHREDDING!’ and declarations of love. It’s the 4-D Roy Lichtenstein page!
NRAMA: What is Superman's song? What does it sound like?
GM: ‘Born In The USA’? ‘Crazy In Love’? ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’? ‘My Way’? ‘A Milli’? ‘Come Into The Garden, Maude’? Whatever your favourite song is, that’s what he’s singing. For me today, it’s ‘Granite’ by Pendulum.
NRAMA: Element X from Metron (his chair at least...) - that's a reflection of the first scene in the series, and the larger metaphor of the gods giving fire, correct?
GM: Pretty much.
NRAMA: Your collection of Supermen - first, there look to be more than 52...second, you can save it for another time to run them down individually, but do you know who each one is?
GM: I think Doug just kept drawing until he hit the sides! The script specified a ton of variant and parallel Earth Supermen, including Majestic, Apollo, the Red Son Superman, Superdemon and the New Frontier Superman. I also asked for Superwoman from Earth 11, a couple of Sons of Superman – including the guy from All Star Superman #6 and I wanted Bizarro flying in the opposite direction from everyone else but a few of those didn’t make it through Doug’s pencil.
NRAMA: Nix's troops at the endgame...Captain Carrot? Really? Did you reverse them from what Bill Morrison had done in his story, or did Bill do what he did as a means to hide them from the Monitors and others, for this very moment?
GM: In retrospect, that’s exactly what Bill did! We Morrisons have to stick together. At the end of the Captain Carrot miniseries, the Justa Lotta Animals escaped their own Crisis (on Earth-26, I mistakenly wrote Earth-35 in the script so it’ll get changed for the trade), only to be turned into a bunch of very ordinary pets on Earth-0. It was a sad ending but it meant that there was now a team of cartoon super animals living in secret on Earth-0. This seemed like a perfect time to bring them back into play.
NRAMA: The final fight with Mandrakk boils down to Supermen and the Green Lanterns, with the GLs delivering the final blow. The Supermen is obvious, but of all the heroes and powers you had to choose from, why the Lanterns?
GM: Darkness vs. Light. The Green Lanterns’ are soldiers of Light and they also have a new law which allows them to kill with a smile. It could only be them who shot the ultimate stake into the Cosmic Vampire’s heart.
NRAMA: But still - the larger picture here - sun gods, heroes with weapons of light, angels, supercool teens and funny animals joining together to kill a creature of darkness that was sucking the life out of the world. Metaphorically speaking...well, I'd guess that's a pretty big metaphor for what you're wanting to do with Final Crisis?
GM: Your first sentence is a description of everything I love about comics. I just wanted to do the kind of comic I, and others like me, want to read. Apart from one or two things, I’m not getting much of what I’m into from mainstream hero books these days. They’re all well crafted and I enjoy the work of all my old favourites as usual but even with hundreds of books a month, I still can’t find many comics that deliver exactly what I, as a reader and a fan, am looking for from superheroes in these changing times. That’s why I wrote one.
NRAMA: You mentioned that there was one scene that you included at DC's request at the end - was that the scene showing that essentially, everyone was okay, with Lois narrating...or later...in the cave?
GM: The scene was with Batman. I’d made it a little more ambiguous but DC editorial didn’t want readers to think Batman might actually be dead for more than a fortnight, so I revised the last page to be somewhat ‘on the nose’, as they say in Hollywood.
NRAMA: You have the Monitors note that earths 43 and 31 are unmonitored - those were the Red Rain and Dark Knight earth, correct? Why those earths?
GM: A Vampire Batman Earth and the Dark Knight Earth seemed somehow appropriate.
NRAMA: Just to summarize with the New Gods, they've left earth and have taken up residence in Universe 51 in their original togs?
GM: No, the togs are a little shinier and more like J.G. Jones’ updated designs from the Final Crisis sketchbook. They now have a newly-fashioned Kirby-flavoured Earth to deal with as they slowly return from ‘death’ to their full power and majesty. Right now, they’re like tribal gods on a primitive planet. Clash of the Titans, dude!
NRAMA: What was Nix's plan that he used to recreate earth 51? Was there more beyond Kirby's map? A full timeline?
GM: He just used the map to build the geography of the new Earth-51. beyond that, yes, he had his own Monitor plan which involved cutting and pasting sections of other times and places into Earth-51’s history. And who wouldn’t? The effect of all this cosmic Photoshopping occurring around the Command-D bunker caused Kamandi’s consciousness to shift wildly through time and the Multiverse, which is why he was able to appear to Anthro in issue 1 and Dan Turpin in issue 2.
NRAMA: As Nix walks us through the end of the Monitors - they were the ones protecting, shepherding and monitoring the 52 worlds. Without them...what happens? As you alluded to before, does this mean the multiverse will...grow?
GM: As we saw in Superman Beyond #1, the original, infinitely vast Monitor-Mind created a ‘concept’ to contain and study the Multiverse. That concept – a structure known as the Orrery of Worlds – was designed to protect Monitor from the effects of the Multiverse, like a bandage over a wound, or, perhaps, a cage around a wild animal.
The cage is gone now, so yes…anything can happen. Watch this higher dimensional space.
NRAMA: Nix wakes up on earth...are the other Monitors now part of the story as well?
GM: No. Monitor-Mind has worked through its own Ultimate Story and spared Nix Uotan to be its sole representative and interface with the Multiverse. I see Uotan’s ‘hyperhero’ role in the DCU as a cross between the Silver Surfer and Doctor Who (particularly the Earthbound Jon Pertwee iteration of the character).
NRAMA: The radio at the end hints at it - that the story of the multiverse is only beginning. Dan has said to us that he wants you to be the first to explore the multiverse, according to your vision and plan. Can you give us some hints at how you see it all fitting together now, and when you may get the time to dive in?
GM: I’m in the early stages of putting together material for a Multiverse series but I want to spend a lot of time getting it exactly right, so there are currently no deadlines and I don’t anticipate any of this coming out until 2010. I’m doing some Vertigo books first.
NRAMA: Superman's final wish - Why did he wish for a happy ending, rather than something literal, like Batman coming back?
GM: ‘Batman coming back’ is a little bit too specific an ending for a story about stories. Let’s face it, there’s always a dangerous ‘Monkey’s Paw’ element to making any specific wish – what if Batman ‘comes back’ but as a zombie, or a villain, or as a tiny little Batman who just sits there?
Superman knows best and chose his wish to maximize the Miracle Machine’s effects. And as a happy coincidence, his big pal Batman will come back.
NRAMA: Big, big picture-wise, Superman knows he's part of the story, doesn't he? It's not something he shares with Lois over coffee, but after Final Crisis...he definitely knows, right?
GM: Superman understands his place within the levels and scales of the Multiverse and Beyond, certainly. He knows he’s part of ‘the story’ but not in the kind of ‘fourth wall’ breaking way of Animal Man, say. Superman knows he’s part of a much higher structure of nested realities, in the same way that I do. In his own dimension, his own world, he’s absolutely real, with a real life.
NRAMA: Oh, and and finally, we'd be remiss - Batmanthro? What does the Omega Sanction mean for him? Can he fall back into our world? Is he on our world? Does someone have to go find him? Does he have to live a succession of lives like Shilo? So…many…questions….
GM: I’m returning to Batman in June…
NRAMA: Thanks Grant. I think there are a lot of people who are looking forward to what's next.
GM: Thanks, Matt, and for all the interviews in this Final Crisis series. Thanks to everyone who enjoyed the book and wasn’t afraid to say why. Hope you like the new stuff!