Nothing says it’s the holidays like Grant Morrison, are we right?
The veteran writer, known for some of the most surreal, self-referential comic books of all time, sees not one but two major projects out Wednesday – the new Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville special from BOOM! Studios, featuring the latest installment in his fantasy Santa-as-superhero series with artist Dan Mora, and the premiere of Happy! on Syfy, adapting his Image Comics miniseries with Darrick Robertson about a corrupt ex-cop (Law & Order: SVU’s Chris Meloni) who finds himself guided to save a little girl from a serial killer by a little blue horse (voice of Patton Oswalt), in a tale done with Crank co-writer and director Brian Taylor.
It might not be safe for kids.
With all this holiday cheer involving aliens, flying horses and more, we got on the phone for a quick chat with Morrison about his new special, going to TV, and some of his favorite Christmas moments.
Newsarama: Grant, you’re having a very good week –
Grant Morrison: Very busy week for me!
Nrama: We want to start off by talking about Klaus… have to say, personally, this is one of the craziest ones I’ve seen yet. It reminds me of The Tick cartoon where he fights “Multiple Santa,” and I think you found a way to make that even creepier.
Morrison: [Laughs] God knows we tried.
Nrama: What inspired this particular Klaus story?
Morrison: Well, every year we try to do a Klaus Christmas special, and one of the big inspirations for me was the Doctor Who Christmas shows and also old Superman annuals. So I wanted to do something kind of big and insane, and the images kind of came to me - the ultimate evil in the universe trying to steal imagination, and Klaus as the superhero trying to stop it.
And then, because I’d mentioned in the previous special that there were some previous stories, including Klaus’ battle with the Pola Cola Company, this evil soda corporation, I knew there was a way to tie this new story to that older idea, and we could actually see Klaus dealing with Pola Cola, not necessarily that battle, but the company decades later trying to come back from it and battling Klaus again. And also, the notion of the soda company trying to co-opt the image of Santa, creating their own, which has happened in the real world - but there was something about making that very concrete and literal.
Nrama: There are a couple things from that I want to discuss – one is that I want to see that war, so you can have a bigger version of Santa Claus vs. the Martians -
Morrison: We have that reference in there! “We fought the Martians - “
Nrama: That’s what I saw! I want to see your Santa Claus War of the Worlds!
Morrison: Well, hopefully we’re building up to something like that - these specials, they have the building blocks toward a much larger story if you stick around.
Nrama: You’re doing these specials annually, kind of checking in with Klaus once a year, and I want to ask about what that’s like for you as a writer, as you have new perspective each year, and what it’s like with Dan, seeing his art evolve with each new story.
Morrison: Dan’s been changing it up since the first book - always trying new styles, and this is his first watercolor take on the character. And I love that! I love seeing each new style, because each new story has kind of a different feel. And each time, Dan touches up the art to go along with that. He’s an amazing collaborator - one of the ones who just get my style.
The whole idea - the last couple are kind of big, plot-driven story, with Klaus as kind of a superhero who doesn’t go through much growth and change. Each one leads to the next one, so the next one might be a new take, more character-driven.
Nrama: I was also curious if there was any influence from - and this is not a piece of popular culture I am proud of myself for remembering - the 1985 Santa Claus: The Movie that was done by the Salkinds, who produced the Christopher Reeve Superman films. Because that’s also Santa vs. an evil millionaire who wants to take over Christmas, and Dudley Moore’s an elf for some reason and lord that was not a good movie. You ever see that?
Morrison: I didn’t! I do remember it, though. I haven’t seen a lot of Santa Claus movies, actually - not even Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, which I understand has some overlap with the origin story in Klaus.
Nrama: We’re too short on time to go through recommendations, but do try The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, where Rankin-Bass adapts the L. Frank Baum Santa Claus origin, and there’s kind of a phantasmagorical Lord of the Rings-type battle with monsters in the climax. Buam’s book was also adapted into a graphic album by Mike Ploog, which is worth checking out. So, there’s some crazy Santa stories out there if you’re willing to do the looking.
Morrison: Yeah! You know, once I’ve gotten ahead on my work, I need to go back, see what other stories people have already done with the character. I remember he was in the Justice League for an issue!
Nrama: That would be JLA #60.
You talked about some of your influences earlier with the specials and annuals and such, but thematically, what were some of the major inspirations for this story? Because you have a tale that is literally about trying to destroy imagination, and fighting back with imagination in turn.
Morrison: Yeah. I think that’s always been a major theme in my work - a big part of what I do. I’m always about imagination, and you have these aliens here who have lost their imagination, and can’t imagine a future, and they’re headed for extinction, and they have to try and steal imagination from younger, more upbeat races, including our own. So, I feel it’s important to emphasize how important imagination is, and how important it is to be able to dream of better future and better worlds for ourselves.
You can see that in a lot of my work - you can see it in Final Crisis, you can see it in a lot of the things I’ve done, even the darker stuff, that emphasis on the importance of imagination. That’s why I love comics, why I love science fiction and fantasy stories, because they emphasize that, and remind us of what we’re capable of.