As Grant Morrison finishes up his Action Comics run with two issues, in #17 and #18, he brings to an end the run that not only rebooted the longest running series in comics, but also redefined Superman for a modern world.We talked to Morrison to find out more about his finale, what he feels were the main themes of his run, and what's coming next -- including Multiversity and that long-in-the-works upcoming Wonder Woman project. He also brought some new interior art from #17 by Rags Morales to show off. Newsarama: How would you describe your goal as you introduced Superman in Action Comics #1, and how did that evolve into your goal for the finale?
Grant Morrison: Yeah, initially the idea was to do a six-issue story, which was all that I'd come in to do back then. When Dan came to me and said I'd be relaunching Superman, or restarting Superman, I had some ideas left over from All-Star, where I'd do a young Superman story. I really wanted to do a T-shirt and jeans and a different idea.
So then that didn't quite fit in with the fact that Jim Lee had designed a new Superman suit, and that was going to be the official look. So the idea then became to have a modern Superman within the world of modern politics, and to show how he might transform into the new modern DC Superman.
So initially, that's all it was, and that was going to be the Brainiac story, and this superhuman character suddenly brought about a whole culture of superheroes, all wearing costumes. And that was it.
But then we had the Legion story, and suddenly it evolved these time travel complications. And in that way, I thought, well, I haven't done a big Mr. Mxyzptlk story or a Fifth Dimension story. I had done a bunch of the other villains in All-Star. And I came to feel that I wanted to do a Mr. Mxyzptlk story, but it wasn't enough to do just him anymore, because really, what was he, about to commit a crime, with the powers of a god? The whole thing kind of grew from there.
But what it became for me was a way of also hinting at what happened to Superman in the five years between Action Comics and the current continuity. So from taking the point of view of a Five Dimensional being allowed us to show the days from Superman's life, with prom night and the night his parents died and you get to see him in the Justice League.
So it was a structural thing, once I got the idea of the longer story, was to do a story that could encompass Superman's entire life, as seen from the viewpoint of a villain who was about the destroy that life.
Nrama: Issue #16 touched upon the idea of learning from tragedy, from the process of overcoming challenges and failures, which I think we can all identify with, as we go through life and at least hope we're growing that way. Is that an important theme in the story?Morrison: You've hit a nail on the head, because nobody can be Superman, but the best of my stories are about that part of us that feels like Superman. You know? The part of us that allows us to struggle on through adversity and get up when we're hit down. And I think that's where Superman has value, as a symbol of that thing we all feel inside, you know, and it comes forward in certain situations.
So yeah, the whole run is about that. I didn't want to make it literal or political really. You can see elements of that, particularly in the early issues. But it's more about what Superman means in the world as a fictional character. Is he inspirational or is he not? Is he pernicious? Is there something dark coiled in it all? And that was part of what this story is about.
So what you see is a Five Dimensional being assaulting Superman on every one of those levels, from the literal on the giant monster level right up to conceptional and what does Superman mean, you know? We see them all being attacked.
I guess, that's what Superman about, is about the indomitable self.
Nrama: It also feels very much like the concepts you're exploring in Multiversity -- essentially this idea of there being many versions of the same characters or concepts -- was also a big part of your run on Action Comics. How did Multiversity influence your work on Action?
Morrison: Very much. I mean, there's quite a strong crossover between them. As you know, the Superman from issue #9 from Earth-23, he's the lead character in Multiversity. And there's a lot of other connectors between them.
But I think the idea of exploring the multiplicity of characters... when I look back at all the stuff for the last 10 years at DC, it's really all been about that. I didn't even notice it when I was doing it, but All-Star Superman has him up against all kinds of multiple versions of Superman. And in this one, he's up against other kind of suggestions of himself or things that are like himself.
There's something about that... for me, the totality of the character is all these versions. I don't see these things as being real in any way, other than, in this world, on paper. And they're these amazing powerful symbols that we communicate with every month. So it's about what the characters represent, I think, always. And so a lot of that can be expressed if it was Chinese Superman, or what if it was, you know, vampire Batman? Because it gives another little addition to the meaning of these characters.
Nrama: Is that why you're using the Legion of Super-Heroes in this story, and this idea that future timelines are so affected by the way we learn and evolve our approaches to challenges?Morrison: Well mostly because I needed time travelers, and the most obvious time travelers in the Superman mythos were the Legion. So that was a pragmatic choice, to be honest.
But it works because the Legion's so important to the idea. When Superman was a child, he didn't know who he was or what he was. He was just a weird alien kid that could shoot beams from his eyes and jump over the barn. And suddenly he meets these kids from the future. To me, the kids from the future always symbolized when we first found comics, and there was that emotional moment, where "that could be me. I could be flying about in the 31st Century with these amazing kids." So the young Superman meeting the Legion is a really important thing, and it probably resonates with anyone who reads comics and came to believe in comics and found friends from the future, you know? [Laughs.]
So I think the Legion really fit into the way the story worked. And it's not the current Legion. It's the Legion from a world where things didn't work out, you know? And that makes it a little bit more poignant. They're from a future where the bad guys won, ultimately. And again, I want that in there, that aspect of not getting back to the sweet nostalgia thing of the teenage years gone wrong.
Nrama: I just talked to Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg about how characters from across the Multiverse are playing a role in upcoming stories for the main DCU, at least in Vibe. You recently said Multiversity has -- I think you called it "a little sort of wave over to the DCU." Is that little wave showing up in Action Comics? Or Batman Inc.? Or in other books in the DCU?
Morrison: I certainly don't have any direct references to anything until Multiversity itself comes out. But I don't know. As I said to you before, the story I'm telling takes place apart from the DC Universe, but I'm sure Dan and everybody else are thinking of possibilities of connecting them in some way. I didn't even know it was in Vibe, so that's news to me. But I think we can stand to see a little bit more of it. Because honestly, you know, James Robinson's doing an Earth-2 book and I know he loves this stuff as well.
But basically, they're all working off a guide book I've created, but I have no idea how it's going to be used. But I created a Multiversity concordance, with who was on every world.
Nrama: On every world, or just the ones you're touching?
Morrison: All of the 52 [alternate Earths]. Because part of the Multiversity series incorporates a multiverse guide book with maps and stuff, and there's a story in there as well. So there's that kind of maps and blueprints aspect of it as well.Nrama: When Superman was revamped for the New 52 launch in 2011, there was a feeling he had grown stale. Do you think there's a chance he can grow stale again, and how would you like to see DC and future writers prevent it?
Morrison: Well, I mean, I think if that was to happen, it's going to take a little bit of time to happen. And hopefully we've established a personality for him that's quite easy to reproduce.
For me, everyone has to remember -- and I'm sure I don't need to tell these people, because they're all professional people who've worked it out for themselves -- but for the sake of the fans, we only have to remember that this new Superman is a tough guy, but he's kind-hearted and gentle. There's a distance between this one and the guy we saw throughout the 2000s, who was a bit more riddled with self-doubt and confusion. This is a Superman who absolutely believes what he does is right, all the time, because he's Superman, and he's right all the time because he's Superman.
It's kind of allowing him to be what he was meant to be, which was our best ideal for what a good guy would be. You know? And he takes no shit, and he stands up for people about the bullies. And he's that guy, you know? He's tough. That's the main thing.
Nrama: It sounds like a key to this new Superman is that he's confident.
Morrison: Yes, absolutely. Confident is the word. That's who he is. He knows who he is. He's not a man who suffers from self-doubt. There may be occasions and it does go wrong, and I think that's interesting, but even when he's down, he always finds a way back. You know, we can see Superman in the state of vulnerability, but by the turn of the page, he'll be figuring something out. And I think that's the important thing to keep in mind. He always saves us.
Nrama: You’ve made it clear you’re in a transitory phase of your career, although you've also said you're not leaving the DCU forever. But you have indicated changes ahead. For your comic book fans, two to three years from now, what’s Grant Morrison up to on a regular basis?Morrison: I don't know. You know, right now, I'm doing a bunch of new creator-owned stuff, and that's been fun. There's a lot of ideas that, within a few years, I want to do. There's a lot of TV and films too. A lot of it will be about branching out.
But I do love comics.
I have no idea. I've never not known what I'd be doing in two or three years time, but it's actually quite exciting to not know.
Obviously after Multiversity, there's a Wonder Woman project as well. But that's kind of the limit of my horizon right now. But I'm so into that one. That's kind of like a new way to do superheroes. That's the one that's kind of "pointing forward" to what I might do next.
Nrama: I know with Multiversity, you had a lot of time to review it and tweak it and change it into what you wanted it to be. You have that same kind of situation with the Wonder Woman project?
Morrison: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean it's been the most research heavy, which is fun, because usually I do a bit of research. But this one's been... I've been working my way through the entire history of feminism, which has been brilliant fun.
Nrama: And mythology too?
Morrison: Well, the mythology, I've always known since I was a kid. So I kind of had that pat. But what I really wanted was just to get the entire history of female thought, from the days of the Greeks onwards.
Nrama: Then to finish up, we now know you've got a two-issue finale to Action Comics, needing plenty of room. What do you want to tell readers about those final two issues?
Morrison: I think it's more of what you've seen, but the last issue, I'm quite excited about. It's psychedelic in the literal sense, you know, as a mind-manifesting object. And we really tried to do something a bit different with it, as Superman is assaulted on a number of levels. And it also involves the reader in a very specific way. It's totally different from the previous one. And I hope people like it. It's a very weird comic, but also, it resolves in a pretty satisfying way. It wraps up every element of my story. Also it ends right for, you know, Andy Diggle coming onto the book in the next issue, because it is ultimately an ongoing monthly. You can't "end" Superman's story. But I think the way we've done it is pretty good.FACEBOOK and TWITTER!