Grant Morrison and Darrick Robertson are known for off-color adult storytelling, and their 2012 Image Comics title Happy! fit that to a tee - but according to Morrison, Syfy's live-action adaptation pushes that even further.
Syfy's Happy! debuts Wednesday evening, with Law & Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni as the down-on-his-luck Nick Sax and Patton Oswalt as the titular blue-winged horse that follows him. Mixing the humor of George Burns' Oh, God! with the idiosyncracies of Grant Morrison, Happy! pushes some boundaries and pushes some buttons.
Following our conversation with Morrison earlier this week about his new volume of Klaus with Dan Mora at BOOM! Studios, Morrison returns to talk about his other holiday-themed creation, Happy!.
Nrama: And that’s kind of a nice transition from Klaus into Happy!, where you have that very extreme contrast between the optimistic and imaginative, and the…deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply cynical.
Morrison: Yeah. It’s funny, because these things are so different, and they both come out the same day, and they’re both Christmas stories! But again, they’re almost the same thing – even Happy!’s about the imagination, a small, little blue light that’s in the midst of this dark, terrible world, just like Klaus is a beacon in his world. It’s just Happy!’s a bit of a darker tale.
Nrama: When you’re expanding a story from comic books - in Happy!’s case, it’d probably take about as long to read the graphic novel as it would to watch an hour-long TV episode, is that a good estimate?
Nrama: So, you’re expanding that into how many episodes…?
Morrison: It’ll be eight.
Nrama: So, what are some of the biggest challenges of expanding the story to that length? When we spoke with you last year, you talked about how much you enjoyed working with a writers’ room, and having others help you realize this.
Morrison: It wasn’t really a challenge - for me, a story is never fixed. No stories are set in stone. I love the idea that stories are things that can be told, and retold - Snow White and Cinderella and The Odyssey, those were handed down for centuries in oral storytelling and in writing, and they get longer, they get shorter, they get changed for different times. Stories are things that never set, never dry - you can always move them around and expand or play with them.
It was the same with Happy!. I always felt like - though we’d done just four issues of the series, because that was all Darrick had time to draw - that the characters had more legs, had room to expand. I came up with a much deeper mythology behind the series, and when the opportunity came about to expand it, I was ready to go. There are many more characters, many ways in which the story will go.
It’s funny, because people look at Happy! and might go, “This is the least Grant Morrison book that could be adapted to TV! What about The Invisibles, or some of the superhero stuff?” But because of the work we’ve done on the TV show, Happy!’s wound up closer to something like The Invisibles, I think. It takes the basics of the comics, and expands it in all these new directions, and I think it’ll be very comfortable for people who are familiar with my stuff - all kinds of directions I don’t think anyone will expect.
Nrama: You’ve obviously got a background in comic books, and director Brian Taylor has done the Ghost Rider film and the Crank movies, which have a very comic book aesthetic, and then you have Chris Meloni and Patton Oswalt, who are both major fans and have done a few books. I think this might be the nerdiest collective, in front of and behind the camera, to put on a major cable network TV show.
Morrison: Yeah! Everyone knows their stuff! And those who didn’t know their stuff went out and got to know it!
With Brian, what attracted me was the kinetic quality of his work. I’ve been watching a lot of TV, studying up, and so much current TV is so slow - the scenes just drag on and on. With Brian, you feel after 40 minutes that maybe 15 minutes have gone by. What he’s brought to the comic story is this sense of action – even conversations are shot like action sequences.
And Meloni, he brings this amazing comic-book energy. He’s larger than life when he walks in the room - the guy is jacked! And he’s got an amazing talent for improv, and he just inhabits the character - we got very lucky with him, and with everyone we cast.
Nrama: I'm being told our time is nearly up, so two more questions, very simple - first, what are some of your favorite holiday stories, in comic books or in other media? They don’t even have to deal with Christmas, necessarily, just things you think of when you think of the holidays.
Morrison: Oh, my favorite’s everyone’s favorite - Die Hard.
Nrama: There’s actually a picture book that just came out, A Die Hard Christmas.
Morrison: Yeah? Well, that’s perfect! People tended not to think of that as a Christmas movie for a long time, and now everyone thinks of it as a Christmas movie.
But I like that one, and I like the classics - It’s A Wonderful Life, and Scrooge, and Happy! is my effort to do something kind of in that vein. But the Doctor Who Christmas Specials are my favorites. Those are the things that really inspire me the most, and what to capture with Klaus.
Nrama: And any holiday wishes you’d like to share with our readers, beyond “Buy Klaus and watch Happy!!” ?
Morrison: Top holiday wishes! And world peace for everyone! And I hope everyone gets together and everything comes out nice.