In the seventh part of our 10-part look back at All-Star Superman with Grant Morrison, we find out what went into making the “ultimate” Superman story, some insights into the nature of Morrison’s collaboration with artist Frank Quitely, and why writing this series wasn’t like his gigs on Batman and Final Crisis.Part One
With All Star Superman, “Frank” and I were able to spend a lot of time together talking it through, and we agreed it had to be about grids, structure, storybook panel layouts, an elegance of form, a clarity of delivery. “Classical” in every sense of the word. The medium, the message, the story, the character, all working together as one simple equation.Frank Quitely, a Glasgow Art School boy, completely understood without much explanation, the deep structural underpinnings of the series and how to embody them in his layouts. There’s a scene in issue # 8, set on the Bizarro world, where we see Le Roj handing Superman his rocket plans. Look at the arrangement of the figures of Zibarro, Le Roj, Superman and Bizaro–Superman and you’ll see one attempt to make us of Renaissance compositions. The sense of sunlit Zen calm we tried to get into All Star is how I imagine it might feel to think the way Superman thinks all the time - a thought process that is direct, clean, precise, mathematical, ordered. A mind capable of fantastical imagination but grounded in the everyday of his farm upbringing with nice decent folks. Rich with humour and tears and deep human significance, yet tuned to a higher key. We tried to hum along for a little while, that’s all. In honor of the character’s primal position in the development of the superhero narrative, I hoped we could create an “ultimate” hero story, starring the ultimate superhero. Basically, I suppose I felt Superman deserved the utmost application of our craft and intelligence in order to truly do him justice. Otherwise, I couldn’t have written this book if I hadn’t watched my big, brilliant dad decline into incoherence and death. I couldn’t have written it if I’d never had my heart broken, or mended. I couldn’t have written it if I hadn’t known what it felt like to be idolized, misunderstood, hated for no clear reason, loved for all my faults, forgotten, remembered… Writing All Star Superman was, in retrospect, also a way of keeping my mind in the clean sunshine while plumbing the murkiest depths of the imagination with that old pair of c****s Darkseid and Doctor Hurt. Good riddance. Next: The elements of Superman’s past that went into creating All Star Superman, and how Morrison recreated Krypton.
Special Thanks to Grant Morrison: The Early Years author Timothy Callahan for his help with this feature.