I was so young then…
In 2005 or 2006 I met comic book writer Grant Morrison at a music festival in Los Angeles. It was an odd event in Echo Park, with many experimental bands playing at various stages, and at the same they had a workshop on the occult. Sadly, most people weren’t concerned about the workshop part.
I was ecstatic to hear that Grant Morrison would be there. He gave a fascinating interview. Seriously, you must youtube some videos of him immediately. Low-key event that it was, we got to chat personally for a few and he was nice enough to take a picture with me. I met his wife too.
I met him at Comic Con the following year as well, at events far more crowded, and he was still very nice. I won’t inundate with more pictures, however, I’m not that much of a fanboy.
For more here’s an particularly awesome video from 2000’s DisinfoCon introducing the tenants of chaos magic and how to do a masturbation sigil:
Note he’s Scottish.
And now my blog begins. Presenting the master of the Postmodern Superhero. The punk rock star of comics. My personal all-time favorite.
First things first, comparisons with Alan Moore are inevitable. They are both absolutely brilliant. They are both magicians. They both deconstruct the nature of the superhero like no other.
Yet, one is a mess of hair and the other is bald. One seems to be a misanthropic old man, and the other apparently has lot of fun as a writer. One hates all things mainstream, and the other is just fine with utilizing corporate characters as tools to tell the important stories.
Unfortunately, if you’re a Grant Morrison fan then you must be an Alan Moore fan as well but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. There’s a lot of overlap in themes, yet if you want to be an anti-mainstream purist you can skip Morrison. I think you would be missing out if you did that.
Anyhows, I am a great fan of both so what’s wrong with that?
As for me, I personally first came across Grant Morrison in my teens (though the story gets more interesting in my twenties), because of the huge phenomena that was JLA in the 90s. I was marginally interested, being that I followed everything important that was DC at the time, and the first volume was okay. Superman with a mullet notwithstanding. When I got to the Rock of Ages graphic novel, I was astounded. Then the following arc about the 5th dimensional beings left me well and truly mindfucked.
To me, the peak was the One Million crossover about time travel to 853rd Century. Great high-concept science fiction.
Grant Morrison has since further written Superman in such titles as All-Star Superman, Action Comics, which you can see my opinion thereof by following that link .
One of the random things I was into seeking back in the day was Flex Mentallo, a strange Vertigo piece about a corny superhero. I found issue 3 at discount, and spent years hunting down the full story.
It had everything: deconstructionism, metafiction, with groundbreaking art by frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quitely.
I contend that Flex Mentallo is superior to Watchmen. It takes a dissection of the superhero genre even further. And it’s funnier, wittier, with treatises on childhood trauma and cosmic abduction, and contains the classic line “Fredric Wertham was fucking right!”
It was so hard to get all four issues. The problem was that Flex Mentallo was a satire of the ‘hero of the beach’ and with republication risked getting sued by those old strongman ads. DC wouldn’t reprint a graphic novel for years. Back then, I bit the bullet and paid high prices on ebay and it was well worth it. Now, of course, there’s a trade.
Let’s go a bit more backwards, with Animal Man. The saga of Buddy Baker was one of Grant Morrison’s first forays into DC during the 80s British Invasion. This obscure hero was given a modern reboot, that quickly went from an essay on animal rights to some weird routes onto the nature of fiction. Combining Wile E. Coyote with Native American mythology, by the end it went full on metafiction. Most haunting of all was when Animal Man broke the fourth wall and looked directly at the audience, shouting “I can see you!”
Concurrently, Doom Patrol was a very interesting take on outcast heroics. The patrol were always a bit odd, a tad off, and Grant Morrison knew how to play to the strengths of that. Robotman as eunich, transgendered street characters, and most of all were the villains based off art history. Brotherhood of Dada anyone?
Not to mention Flex Mentallo first appeared in Doom Patrol.
These were all well and very, very good. However, Grant Morrison’s true opus came in the 90s with the Invisibles. By the time I got caught on, well after it was completed, I was generally getting into more esoteric subject matter. I was reading P.K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson. I was collecting Disinfo books. I was coming across these strange interviews with one Grant Morrison comic writer, on the subjects of chaos magic and higher consciousness. It was time to read more.
I ordered the entire set, and read on. Then I read them again, and a few more times at differing stages of my life. I’m about ready for a reread again.
The Invisibles is an epic take on Gnosticism and conspiracy theories, through the lens of an action comic, published by Vertigo. About a team of anarchists fighting the good fight against the forces of control in this world. It incorporated all kinds of references to psychedelic mythologies. All came to a head in that Singularity futuristic year of 2012.
It felt somewhat cathartic that my burgeoning spiritual path was overlapping with my love of comics and superheroes. I was doing it right all along. Much can truly be learned about human growth via the metaphor of the Superman. Thanks, Grant Morrison.
And, I may share that reading interviews on how Grant Morrison took LSD and other various chemicals for the sake spiritual experiences, that had an impact. Helped to encourage me with my own experiments utilizing psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine, legal or otherwise, rewiring some synapses within my nervous system in some arguably positive ways.
As always, reading books (and comics) can be such a bad influence!
There was a lot more where that came from.
More Vertigo. Sebastian O was a hilariously dandy steampunk. Kill Your Boyfriend was subversive as fuck.
The Filth being a must-read, a solid 12-issues hard to describe. Like an evil Invisibles. Very guttural, highly mindfucking.
Superheroes never strayed far either. In the mid-2000s Grant Morrison had a brief stint at Marvel. A Fantastic Four miniseries, the excellent Marvel Boy. Mustn’t forget New X-Men.
Those days were the height of his prolificness. There was another irreverent superhero take – Sea Guy for Vertigo. We3: he heartwarming cybernetic tale of military-grade animals who just want to go home, all the while Frank Quietly pushing beyond the edges of what the comic medium can visually acheive.
Lest I forget to mention Seven Soldiers! A baroquean complexity of storytelling like no other, seven different hero miniseries with plotlines that interact but the characters never directly meet. It was a treat to read the issues every Wednesday as they came out; wouldn’t have been the same to buy the trades later.
In particular, Grant Morrison’s Batman saga has been a major focus the last few years. Batman RIP/Final Crisis, Batman and Robin, the Return of Bruce Wayne, and the climactic Batman Inc. I have all them all on my bookshelf, among others.
Joe the Barbarian, more on the interplay of fictional entities interacting with the ‘real world’, independent-minded g novel through Vertigo. Pretty nice read.
What, you may ask, is the great Grant Morrison working on today? Why that would be Multiversity. All through mainstream DC Comics and I absolutely love it. Took forever to come out though.
Multiversity concerns alternate realities in the DC multiverse as it were, and also has plenty of metafiction as each Earth reads comics about the other Earth. Nice and stand-alone, no big crossover, Morrison is given free reign to toy around with commentary on classic superheroes and that is what he does best.
I hope that covers enough. Not easy to sum up a major writer in one blog. These are but my favorites. Meanwhile, a true Morrison aficionado would be aware of his early work for 2000 A.D. and his recent Image output. Know that I make no judgments by leaving anything out.
Yet. One last DC series glaringly left out would have to… 52, the ‘real-time’ superhero comic published by DC in 2007 – 2008. This comic covered an entire year of the DC Universe without Superman & Batman (& Wonder Woman), after the Infinite Crisis crossover time-skipped a year later. The weekly series was cowritten by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, other amazing writers.
In fact, now that I mention it, Geoff Johns was definitely the biggest DC writer through the 2000s to the present. He’s not the Vertigo literary sort of author, he’s not British either, but nonetheless I have read a ton of books by him and had endless fun doing so. Geoff Johns basically was DC of that era, the main architect of my adulthood fandom.
Next: a return to form with Geoff Johns – and DC Comics of the 2000s
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By now I am completely lost with this vast world of comics. There is just on much for me to still follow it all without getting myself more immersed init by reading, reading and reading more
Aw, I hate to overwhelm anyone. Perhaps I should include some recommendations for beginners in these things…
Try starting with We3, then the Filth, and if you like that get into Invisibles.
If one really wants to go all-out with superheroes, I’d say the JLA graphic novels then Seven Soldiers. Action Comics is introductory in that its a reboot, and for Batman just the two volumes of Batman, Inc. are great on their own. Finally conclude with Multiversity, which is coming out now and in a year or so will have a graphic novel 🙂
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Recommendations are always great especially in such big topics. Thanks for the ‘beginner’ tips, will try to find out where to hunt for those 🙂
Alright, got myself we3 and the filth and should arrive within the next days. Will i like it? Who know but even in case I don’t, I love books/magazines/ comics so they will have a proper place in my collection 🙂
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Thats awesome. Good reading to ya!
I totally admire Grant Morrison: his work, his personality, his explorations, his creativity, his unabashed approach to life.
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I still remember the way he concluded his stint on Animal Man, with the main character and the Morrison himself meeting up… he was touching and brilliant. Doom Patrol was weird, crazy, but full of ideas… He’s a master, and as a corporate writer he is as effective and powerful (his X-men are probably the best thing happened to the franchise after Claremont).
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Grant Morrison is one of those rare writers who can embrace the weirdest aspects of comics in genuinely compelling ways. The only work of his I’ve really read is All Star Superman, New 52 Action Comics and his New X-Men run, but I already appreciate him as a writer.
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Do check out his Vertigo books if you get the chance. Try the 80s postmodern superhero stuff: Animal Man and Doom Patrol…
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