With apologies for the delay since the issue came out, we’re happy to present our conversation with Grant Morrison about Final Crisis #3, ie, the issue where it hit the fan.
As with the bulk of Morrison’s work, nothing appears by coincidence, and very little should be taken for granted. Along with fully explaining what was what and who was who, Morrison hits us up with a tease for Final Crisis: Submit, as well as his rationale for why the Pentegon use the US postal system to deliver draft notices.
Newsarama: Grant, you started the issue with Frankenstein and SHADE - can you explain how you see them and where they work within the larger DCU?
Grant Morrison: The scene was partly to remind readers that all of DC’s covert agencies are organised under the Checkmate umbrella. I originally created S.H.A.D.E. as a kind of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for DC - James Bond meets Superman - a covert dirty tricks agency employing man-made superhumans in black ops espionage activities. Frankenstein joined S.H.A.D.E. in issue 3 of his own book and he seemed like a good, strong representative of the shadowy side of the DCU to open with.
NRAMA: Likewise Renee Montoya - how do you see her fitting into the broader landscape as The Question? Kirby did have faceless agents of justice in OMAC...are you lining things up a little here?
GM: Definitely. I couldn’t let the connection pass between The Question’s blank ‘pseudoderm’ mask and the faceless policemen of Jack Kirby’s Global Peace Agency from OMAC. So yes, we are seeing those two concepts being brought into line and the beginnings of DC’s ‘World To Come’ are being established here.
As far as how Renee fits into all that, Final Crisis sets her up for a particular role but Greg Rucka has been Montoya’s custodian for some time now and ultimately it’ll be his decision whether or not she accepts it.
NRAMA: And just so we're clear - that body that Montoya finds - that's the body that formerly housed Darkseid, and that he presumably burned through?
GM: He’s in the Dark Side Club, sitting in the same spot where we last met him, wearing the same clothes so yes, we are indeed clear!
NRAMA: The building that Uberfraulein falls through - that's Tower 2 of the new World Trade Center that's been proposed. Was that your idea to put it in there, or JG's?
GM: I established in The Manhattan Guardian how the DC version of New York City contains a number of buildings and developments which were proposed by architects but never constructed. In DC New York, all those fantasy buildings actually exist - so we have things like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ellis Island Key, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center or Hans Hollein’s Chase Manhattan bank design as part of the skyline.
I suggested JG show some of these buildings in his shot of downtown but I think this particular choice - Norman Foster’s 200 Greenwich Street replacement for the World Trades Center - was his own and works very well in the context.
NRAMA: To translate Uberfraulein's comments, she mentions the "bleeding heavens" - basically, we're taking that this is the Supergirl from earth-10 as shown in the final pages of 52? And that means that something is ripping up the multiverse?
GM: The Multiversal structure of parallel worlds is collapsing. Darkseid’s fall has broken the Multiverse basically and he’s pulling everything that exists down with him into Hell, the swine!
NRAMA: The cave painting that Cave Carson and his team are shown to have found - while we saw it as being inspired by Metron in #1, it also looks like it has a clear component that resembles the scales carried by Libra. Coincidence?
GM: Until you mentioned it, yes, it was one of the few coincidences in Final Crisis. Now I can only assume yet again that there are no coincidences!
NRAMA: Explain the bullet trajectory here - Barry was chasing it, and it went into the past where it killed Orion, yet, when Barry and Wally stop, they're in the future?
GM: As Jay explains on Page 9, when they fail to catch the bullet that’s heading back through time to kill Orion, they must curve back around and start heading home towards the present. The Black Racer is becoming aware of their return on Page 8, panel 2.
Jay Garrick’s knee gives out and he limps home to the present day, while Barry and Wally, hitting the Speed Force Barrier at light speed, overshoot the present - or so they think - by a few weeks, only to find themselves in a sneak preview of Final Crisis #4 and the new DC universe status quo.
NRAMA: As a lot of folks have noticed - Barry was smiling on that splash page. Your doing, or JG's? Regardless of whose idea it was...it seemed...appropriate for Barry, no?
GM: It was in the script - described as a big confident Midwestern grin. I figure that even at the darkest moment, Barry Allen would find time to encourage his friends with a display of optimism. That’s the kind of guy he is. The consummate superhero.
NRAMA: Why the Hall of Doom, and why would Libra and the rest relocate there?
GM: The hideout in Central City had been compromised by the Flashes in issue 2. I was looking for an alternative Secret Society base and Eddie Berganza, I think, suggested The Hall of Doom, so we went with that.
NRAMA: You want to talk about the lineage of the helmet that Libra has? That's Glorious Godfrey's right? And once they're on someone's head? What then?
GM: That’s a Justifier helmet. When it’s on your head, it plays the Anti-Life Equation and converts you to Darkseid’s cause. The Justifiers are advance troops of the Apokolips invasion and first appeared in Forever People #3 as enforcers for Glorious Godfrey. They combine the thuggery of Nazi Stormtroopers with a religious zealotry that ’justifies’ their every action and like to scrawl ‘S’ for ‘scapegoat’ on the broken windows of their targets. Nasty bastards. Limbs of Darkseid.
NRAMA: Can you give us a thumbnail of what's going on with Aquaman? Which one is this one?
GM: He’s Aquaman. He’s always been Aquaman. All will be revealed.
NRAMA: Freddy's comments about changing into Captain Marvel and never coming back...were you giving a nod to Kid Miracleman and Kingdom Come in there, or just expressing the frustration of anyone with an alter-ego?
GM: I suppose there’s a little bit of a callback to ‘Miracleman’ or ‘Marvelman’ as I knew him, in the scenes with Freddie Freeman and later Mary Marvel but mostly this scene is there to set up the arrival of Shazam and Black Adam to the story and to intensify the atmosphere of doom. Now that Orion, God of Fight is dead, we’re seeing DC heroes subtly losing their combat edge and confidence. One of the things I wanted to play with in Final Crisis was the idea of the post-traumatic superhero. In this post-‘Generation Kill’ atmosphere, I became fascinated by the concept of the traumatised, wounded super-soldier home from the battlefield to a world that doesn’t want to know…and a little of that played into this depiction of a world and its heroes facing the end of all hope.
The poignant vision of these gaudy, well-meaning champions of justice from our youth suddenly broken and seemingly powerless in the face of true, radical Evil seemed to me to have significant metaphoric resonance.
NRAMA: The word going out of the draft – via mail? The Article X notice went out by mail? Boy, they sure are missing J'onn these days...huh?
GM: It was President Roosevelt’s idea! Yes, that’s right - FDR, a finer man than you or I will ever be! Where was a busy world leader like that supposed to find the time to predict and prepare for the invention of e-mail back in World War 2 ?!
We can assume that when Article X is invoked, a whole secret, dusty department of the Pentagon shudders into action and despatches draft notices to everyone on its constantly updated list. Of course, we can also imagine those same heroes being alerted by conventional Justice League, Justice Society and Titans methods but there was something grandiose and ominous about receiving an actual ‘Greetings’ notice in the mail that really appealed to me and helped emphasise the notion of Article X as a relic of an earlier war.
Also, as we see at the end of the issue, Darkseid’s crew pirates our technology to spread Anti-Life, so we’ll see humanity having to rely on more primitive modes of communication as of issue 4 of Final Crisis...and the Article X draft notices are a little foreshadowing of that.
NRAMA: Speaking of those who responded, did you pick out the particular heroes in the crowd scene, or was that JG?
GM: I suggested a few of them, then forgot to complete the list before I sent in the script, so JG kindly filled in the rest.
NRAMA: Back with Sam and Shilo - you brought the Wonder Wagon back! I recall a couple of years back, Greg was talking about a 52 session where you had said that cars will be the next big thing in terms of personalization and statement. Still feeling that way, or are things lagging a little?
GM: I’m still waiting for that book where all the DC supercars team up to combat rising fuel costs.
The Super Young Team are representing the Forever People of the Fifth World. The Forever People had their Super-Cycle, the Super Young Team have the Wonder Wagon.
NRAMA: Fair enough – on to Mary Marvel's costume - clearly a nod to the Female Furies, no?
GM: Completely. The design combines features of Mary’s original costume with Kirby stylings. The Apokolips gang go for old school fetish club black, while the superheroes prefer to keep their gimp suits colourful!
NRAMA: What's the disease that Mary/Wonder Woman let loose?
GM: As we’ll learn, it’s a variant on Morticoccus, the death virus introduced by Jack Kirby in Kamandi and used recently to destroy life on Earth 51.
NRAMA: As has been commented upon, the Flashes running page at the end bears striking resemblance to Crisis on Infinite Earths #1...
GM: Well, this is the final part of the Crisis trilogy, so there are a few places where you’ll hear these ‘echoes’ from the previous chapters.
NRAMA: And at the end - the new Female Furies? Batwoman, WW, Catwoman and Giganta?
NRAMA: And finally for this issue - red skies - the skies bleed when the multiverse breaks down, right?
GM: Exactly. Like a haemorrhage.
NRAMA: Set things up a little bit for us - from this issue, how do things flow into issue #4, and where do the specials fit in?
The two specials I’m writing are linked directly to the main plot of Final Crisis and were conceived as a way of taking a closer look at both extremes of the DCU environment - Submit’s gritty, down-to-Earth chase drama on one hand and Superman Beyond doing the wild, psychedelic Multiversal epic on the other.
Anyway, Superman Beyond picks up where the Lois Lane hospital scene in Final Crisis #3 left off. Jack Kirby, of course, was the pioneer and master of the ‘cosmic’ comic book style so we wanted to bring that ‘transcendent’ dimension to Final Crisis and explore the possibilities of the cosmic story to the limits of the comics form…to its roots in the very basic act of making a mark on paper, even.
Beyond became our attempt to do a full-steam-ahead, trippy cosmic book, like the Marvel stuff that was such a huge influence on me when I was a kid - Starlin’s Captain Marvel and Warlock, Engelhart and Brunner’s Doctor Strange, Steve Gerber’s stuff, Don McGregor and Craig Russell, etc. It’s intended to play in the tradition of all those over-the-top, philosophical action superhero dramas of the 70s and with Doug Mahnke, (one of my favorite artists and a brilliant collaborator) on mind-scorching form I’m really pleased by how it’s working out.
It started out as a 30 page book but there was no way the story I had could possibly fit in 30 pages so we went to 60, which meant having to split the book in two. I do wish it could all have come out as a single issue - it’s meant to be read in one go as a complete and ‘definitive’ Superman adventure for the ages - but that’ll have to wait. I think the second part is out just before the end of Final CrisisS and the story rolls straight into the final issue of the main title.
Submit is designed as Beyond’s complete opposite number - a straight down the line, street level, Hollywood action book about a family in trouble and on the run in Darkseid’s Hell on Earth. It features Black Lightning, gives us a look at the world in the early stages of Darkseid’s takeover and loops straight back into the first scene on the opening pages of Final Crisis #4.
Final Crisis: Submit is due in stores on October 8th. Final Crisis #4 is now due in stores on October 15th