Grant Morrison Just Plain Talks Comic Books
Grant Morrison Just Plain Talks Comics
Our two-part interview with Grant Morrison on his new book Supergods, which hits bookstores this week, concludes today. We’re going to be blunt and say that this part is a free-flowing discussion of Morrison’s thoughts on recent trends in comics, some of his favorite all-time books, and what it’s like working on DC’s new relaunch. Also, why more comics need to be written by kids. Read on!
Grant Morrison: I think that’s actually naturally changing. If you look at the way comics are now, the sales are down, like everything else in a popular art form. But people respond to that, like they respond to the world – we had 10 years of ripped from the headlines stories, and 10 years of trying to imitate being at the movies, that experience of sitting at the cinema in the dark.
What I’d like to and I hope to see now is the flowering of comics and art again – letting artists run free, and stop confining them to storyboard-type pages. I think we’ll see types like Jim Steranko coming back in again into comic art.
No movies do what we do really well. That’s what comics do best – we need to start bouncing ideas off the page and playing with what we can do with these things add a bit more literature and passion and get away from the model of the last 10 years. And I already see this happening.
Nrama: Okay, so I’m not going to be the 500th person to try to drag details out of you for the big DC relaunch, but I am curious – are you seeing those attitudes you just talked about reflected in the new number ones, or in the line as a whole?
Morrison: It’s a real “anything goes” attitude. I feel like we’re back in a period of excitement, where comics can experiment and try new things to get people interested, and that’s always a good time for comics. A lot of good stuff always comes out of the lean times.
The atmosphere at DC is very positive, and we have the chance here to have some fun again.
Nrama: It can kind of turn into a tail wagging the dog situation with comics and other media – where comics influence other media, but then that turns around and comics are trying to imitate that media.
Nrama: One thing I’ve noted lately is that there does seem to be a tendency to go back to the storytelling of the 1990s in terms of character designs, crossover storytelling, etc. Based on what you’ve seen, do you consider this a good or a bad thing?
Morrison: I don’t know, I haven’t seen enough of it to judge. The trend lately has been photorealistic, and the Image style was not about that – it was pure cartooning, heavily stylized. You can take those as influences if you grew up with that and do something new with it, but it’s about what you add to that is what makes it interesting.
Nrama: While a number of superheroes have taken on a modern mythological status, it seems sometimes like there’s more of a move to update/modernize classic characters, and sometimes of a resistance toward new characters. Other than the financial issues recognizable characters guaranteeing sales and fans with limited dollars to spend, what do you feel are the roots of this resistance?
Morrison: Well again, that’s something that’s developed. Possibly Internet is to blame for that one. (laughs) Because now people will decide what they like and hunt that down rather than find new things. You know, I kind of miss going into a bookstore and discovering something new that you’d have never expected to buy and it’s the best thing you’ve ever read.
If you go on Amazon, you’re specifically looking for stuff, and in a lot of cases you might be missing out on happy accidents. But I think people are less willing to take chances – they rely on names, both creatively and on characters. And there are new things there for people who are willing to take a chance, but it’s a difficult market.
Nrama: Well, that DC’s at least trying some new things with the relaunch is a good sign. I’m hoping for a situation like DC in the late 1990s with stuff like – well, Aztek, and stuff like Hitman, and Chase, and Young Heroes in Love and Chronos and Hourman and all those great books…
Morrison: Yeah, there was a lot of innovation back then! I quite liked the idea of a completely different young Green Arrow or a young Green Lantern. People were willing to take quite a lot of chances – in the Superman books, it seemed like all the imaginary stories were going to become true, like the marriage being real and Superman Red/Superman Blue.
So I think there’s a lot of interest and creativity in that period that’s due for a revival – let’s look at it again and see what we can extract from it.
Nrama: Well, there’s some opportunities. I just did an interview with the guys who did Major Bummer, which is getting reprinted…
Morrison: Yeah, Major Bummer! I remember that book! And they’re bringing back Resurrection Man from that era, and I remember Mark Millar did a Wonder Girl thing that was really great, it was like the perfect young teen girl book…
Nrama: I remember that! Gail Simone said that he asked her for some advice on how to write teen girls for that book.
Morrison: And I’m sure she gave him a lot! (laughs) There was a lot of interest in different types of books then, and maybe someone should do a retrospective on the books of the 1990s as the decade everyone forgot. I think it’s due for a revival.
Nrama: What current comics – Marvel, DC, online, independents, etc. – do you find yourself enjoying?
Morrison: Well, I don’t see any Marvel because I haven’t been in a comic shop in a while, but DC sends me a box of stuff every month. I won’t catch up on DC until I’m back in Los Angeles, and then I’ll also catch up on the Marvels.
I think Scott Snyder’s stuff on Detective is great. Paul Cornell, Nick Spencer…a lot of these new guys are doing great stuff. DC is doing well at bringing in some new blood, some fresh talent, and they’re very exciting. The revival of Xombi by John Rozum and Frazier Irving is quite good as well…there’s a whole bunch of them. Joe Casey’s books are quite good, but I haven’t seen Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker yet.
Nrama: It’s quite mental. You’ll love it.
It’s also interesting to have so much stuff reprinted these days – there’s something really potent about being able to sit down with a two, three, four hundred-page block of this stuff and just read it all in one heady sitting.
Morrison: I think that’s the best way to do it – read as much of it as you can in one sitting! Just sit down and go through like three books at a time.
Nrama: Of the books you talk about in Supergods, which books/characters do you feel are most overdue for a reevaluation?
Morrison: I think Walt Simsonson’s Manhunter needs to be collected again – it’s quite a short story though, so maybe that’s why it’s not gotten as much attention. Was there a collection?
Nrama: There was one in the 1980s, and one in the 1990s with a new silent story by Archie Goodwin, his last work. I don’t know if that’s in print.
Nrama: Can’t be done. Licensing rights for the Fu Manchu character. I’ve asked Marvel about a dozen times.
Morrison: I hadn’t even considered that! But that stuff was great – I’ve been reading that stuff again, and that kind of orchestral storytelling has become quite interesting.
Nrama: There’s all this Marvel stuff from the late 1970s they can’t reprint because of licensing issues, like the Michael Golden Micronauts or Rom, which you can still find cheap in bins. And they were so innovative, even though they were just based off toys!
Morrison: Yeah! There’s some of the Don McGregor stuff too. I know there’s some black and white editions, but I’d love to see a big color edition of some of the things like the Killraven books. That was so ahead of its time and influenced so much, I think it’d be very resonant with a lot of modern comic readers.
Nrama: Those were so surreal and psychedelic – I remember picking up a bunch of back issues of those when I was 10 or 12 and being really blown away. They reprinted his Black Panther stuff, I think, in one of those Marvel Masterworks hardcovers, along with stuff like the 1970s Deathlok and Starlin’s Warlock. Though they’re at a bit of a high price point for casual readers to pick up.
Nrama: I was born in 1980, so I mostly encountered this stuff through back issues and word-of-mouth, but it was such a fascinating anything-goes era where you had war comics and horror comics and crazed SF stories.
Morrison: It was great! But then along came Jim Shooter and this much stricter regime that was much more successful for Marvel, and made a lot more money. But yeah, these intense creative times tend to come and go, and that was certainly one of them.
Nrama: You mentioned Shooter there – you talk about his Legion of Super-Heroes briefly in the book. I finally read that Mordru story he did, and it’s this strange mélange of a Mort Weisinger Superman-type story with Marvel-type teen angst and this Lovecraftian/Tolkein-type villain – he did that as a teenager, and it seems like this strange internal landscape of what would be going through an anxious teen’s head in the late 1960s.
Morrison: I know! Those stories were great! Jim Shooter’s stuff on the Legion was amazing – he applied the Marvel style, but it was that much more amazing because he was a teenager.
He filtered the Marvel style through the DC characters, with all the anxiety and sense of jeopardy, in a way that really ratcheted up the dread and tension. There was nothing else like that at DC at the time, and it was coming from a kid! This is why I believe we should have more kids writing comic as well. (laughs)
Nrama: Well, it’s happening. There’s webcomics like Axe-Cop, a lot of young kids writing comics that are going online.
Morrison: But that’s what we need – it’d be nice to see some of them have a go at some of the old characters, to see what a kid with a completely fresh perspective could do with Superman or Batman. They shouldn’t be supervised – just throw them on to whole comic books and see what they can do!
Nrama: Last question: You’re doing a thing with Dr. Chopra at Comic-Con – what is that going to be about?
Morrison: Oh, the usual thing. I’ve done a couple of panels with Deepak Chopra in the past, and they’ve always gone very well, and we’ve both got books on superheroes out at the same time, so it seemed like a good idea to resurrect the sequence of panels.
We’ve got all sorts of things to think about – the things we’ve brought up at previous panels and have now written books about, so it should be a real good time. Come see us! (laughs)
Supergods is in bookstores this week. Morrison appears at the following panels at San Diego Comic-Con:
12:45-1:45 DC Comics: Grant Morrison (Room 6DE)
3:15-4:15 DC: Batman (Room 6DE)
3:00-4:00 DC: Superman (Room 6DE)
10:00-11:00 From Buddha to Batman: Deepak Chopra and Grant Morrison Discuss The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes (Room 6A)
1:00-2:00 Comics Arts Conference Session #11: Psychology of the Dark Knight: How Trauma Formed the Batman and Why He’s Got a Thing for “Bad Girls” (Room 26AB)
5:30-6:30 The UK Invasion Room (Room 7AB)Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!