All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 10

Morrison on All Star Superman, 1

Our look back at All Star Superman with writer Grant Morrison finally concludes. In our last installment, we look at the possibility of future stories with this version of the character, the hidden meaning of the title All Star Superman…and what Morrison hopes readers take away from his epic.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight 

Part Nine  

Newsarama: When we spoke earlier this year, you talked about some of your ideas for future All Star stories. Are you moving forward on those, or have you started working on different ideas since then?

Grant Morrison: I haven’t had time to think about them for a while. I did have the stories worked out, and I’d like to do more, but right now it feels like Frank and Jamie and I have said all there is to be said. I don’t know if I’m ready to do All Star Superman with anyone else right now. I have other plans.

NRAMA: You end the book with Superman having uplifted humanity – having inspired them through his sacrifice and great deeds, and with the potential to pass his powers on to humanity still there. Do you plan to explore this concept further, or would you prefer to leave it open–ended?

GM: I may go back to the Son of Superman in some way. At the same time, it’s best left open–ended. I like the idea that Superman gets to have his cake and eat it; he becomes golden and mythical and lives forever as a dream. Yet, he also is able to sire a child who will carry his legacy into the future. He kicks ass in both the spiritual and the temporal spheres!

NRAMA: The notion of transcendence – always a big part of your work. But the debate about All Star Superman is whether or not it "transcends its genre." Superman becomes transcendent within the series itself, and inspires the beings on Qwewq, but does the work aspire to more than that? Is it simply the greatest version of a Superman story, and that’s enough?

GM: That would certainly be enough if it were true.

It’s a pretty high–level attempt by some smart people to do the Superman concept some justice, is all I can say. It’s intended to work as a set of sci–fi fables that can be read by children and adults alike. I’d like to think you can go to it if you’re feeling suicidal, if you miss your dad, if you’ve had to take care of a difficult, ailing relative, if you’ve ever lost control and needed a good friend to put you straight, if you love your pets, if you wish your partner could see the real you…All Star is about how Superman deals with all of that.

It’s a big old Paul Bunyan style mythologizing of human - and in particular male - experience. In that sense I’d like to think All Star Superman does transcend genre in that it’s intended to be read on its own terms and needs absolutely no understanding of genre conventions or history around it to grasp what’s going on.

In today’s world, in today’s media climate designed to foster the fear our leaders like us to feel because it makes us easier to push around. In a world where limp, wimpy men are forced to talk tough and act ‘badass’ even though we all know they’re shitting it inside. In a world where the measure of our moral strength has come to lie in the extremity of the images we’re able to look at and stomach. In a world, I’m reliably told, that’s going to the dogs, the real mischief, the real punk rock rebellion, is a snarling, ‘fuck you’ positivity and optimism. Violent optimism in the face of all evidence to the contrary is the Alpha form of outrage these days. It really freaks people out.

I have a desire not to see my culture and my fellow human beings fall helplessly into step with a middle class media narrative that promises only planetary catastrophe, as engineered by an intrinsically evil and corrupt species which, in fact, deserves everything it gets.

Is this relentless, downbeat insistence that the future has been cancelled really the best we can come up with? Are we so fucked up we get off on terrifying our children? It’s not funny or ironic anymore and that’s why we wrote All Star Superman the way we did. Everything hs changed. ‘Dark’ entertainment now looks like hysterical, adolescent, ‘Zibarro’ crap. That’s what my Final Crisis series is about too.

NRAMA (aka Tim Callahan): Continuing with the theme of transcendence: The words "ineffectual" and "surrender" are repeated throughout the book. Discuss.

GM: Discuss yourself, Callahan! I know you have the facilities and I should think it’s all rather obvious.

What was the inspiration for the image of Superman in the sun at the end? (I confess this question comes as the result of much unsuccessful Googling)

I didn’t have any specific reference in mind - just that one we‘ve all sort of got in our heads. I drew the figure as a sketch, intended to be reminiscent of William Blake’s cosmic figures, Russian Constructivist Soviet Socialist Worker type posters, and Leonardo’s ‘Proportions of the Human Figure‘. The position of the legs hints at the Buddhist swastika, the clockwise sun symbol. It was to me, the essence of that working class superheroic ideal I mentioned, condensed into a final image of mythic Superman, - our eternal, internal, guiding, selfless, tireless, loving superstar. The daft All Star Superman title of the comic is literalised in this last picture. It’s the ‘fearful symmetry’ of the Enlightenment project - an image of genius, toil, and our need to make things, to fashion art and artefacts, as a form of superhuman, divine imitation.

It was Superman as this fusion of Renaissance/Enlightenment ideas about Man and Cosmos, an impossible union of Blake and Newton. A Pop Art ‘Vitruvian Man‘. The inspiration for the first letter of the new future alphabet!

As you can see, we spent a lot of time thinking about all this and purifying it down to our own version of the gold. I’m glad it’s over.

NRAMA: Finally: What, above all else, would you like people to take away from All Star Superman?

GM: That we spent a lot of time thinking about this!

No. What I hope is that people take from it the unlikelihood that a piece of paper, with little ink drawings of figures, with little written words, can make you cry, can make your heart soar, can make you scared, sad, or thrilled. How mental is that ?

That piece of paper is inert material, the corpse of some tree, pulped and poured, then given new meaning and new life when the real hours and real emotions that the writer and the artist, the colourist, the letter the editor translated onto the physical page, meet with the real hours and emotions of a reader, of all readers at once, across time, generations and distance.

And think about how that experience, the simple experience of interacting with a paper comic book, along with hundreds of thousands of others across time and space, is an actual doorway onto the beating heart of the imminent, timeless world of “Myth” as defined above. Not just a drawing of it but an actual doorway into timelessness and the immortal world where we are all one together.

My grief over the loss of my dad can be Superman’s grief, can trigger your own grief, for your own dad, for all our dads. The timeless grief that’s felt by Muslims and Christians and Agnostics alike. My personal moments of great and romantic love, untainted by the everyday, can become Superman’s and may resonate with your own experience of these simple human feelings.

In the one Mythic moment we’re all united, kissing our Lover for the First time, the Last time the Only time, honouring our dear Dad under a blood red sky, against a darkening backdrop, with Mum telling us it’ll all be okay in the end.

If we were able to capture even a hint of that place and share it with our readers, that would be good enough for me.

Special thanks to Grant Morrison: The Early Years author Timothy Callahan for his help with this feature.

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