I Love Grant Morrison, But…

Posted: May 7, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

…speaking as a writer, I kinda want to bash his face in with a brick.morrison

Okay, that was unreasonably harsh, and I immediately take it back. But still, you go and read this, and see how you react – particularly if you’ve ever written a piece of fiction.

Ask a comic book nerd who doesn’t get up his own ass developing web-groups devoted to getting Hal Jordan reinstated as a Green Lantern, and they are likely to tell you that Grant Morrison is in their top 5-10 favorite comics writers. Because he’s good. He likes the playground that superhero comics gives him, and uses it to the full.

He’s that heady mix of creativity, inventiveness, try-new-things-i-ness (yeah it’s a word, look it up!), and, just to press our luck, developmentalitude (nope, spellcheck bounced that one – what do you know, you nazi, you red-underline YOURSELF!)…look, the man is creative to an unhealthy degree, but at his best, which often results in interesting experiments in meta-fiction.

Though much of his creativity simply embraces a “Wowee, Zoooom! Aren’t bright, colorful heroes FUN?!” enthusiasm, there’s depth. A lot of his works explore the underside of the sense of wonder necessary to enjoy (and write) positive superhero comics – that we usually lose it as we mature into adulthood, which can make navigating maturity without a sense of wonder an absolutely terrifying experience.

Anyway, Morrison, as a lifelong DC Comics fan, worked with several other die-hards to reintroduce the DC Multiverse (a storytelling engine that said, basically, every goofy idea that ever was developed over 60-odd years of DC publishing was canon “counted” in the broader narrative), after it was demolished in the mid-80’s because most people found it impenetrable.

Most people found it impenetrable because it was, in fact, IMPENETRABLE. It was tough to deal with. There’s an Earth where Superman is the one we know; there’s another where Superman showed up in the late 1930’s and founded the Justice Society, and now in the relative present he’s an older gent; there’s another where superheroes are just comics but still there’s a FRICKING SUPERMAN on that planet…and they all count! C’MON, WHAT?!

Eventually, it was done away with in a wise decision to streamline the universe so writers could concentrate on simply writing good stories.

But here’s the horrible gag: the people who end up writing comics for a living often have a particular era of stories they love the most. And unfortunately, we now have a bevy of writers who grew up really missing the Multiverse.

multiverseThat includes Grant Morrison. Who, as an all-star talent, has the clout to actually bring it back, if that’s what he feels like doing. Because DC likes Morrison (he bumps their sales by name recognition alone) and Morrison likes DC (he enjoys their convoluted history, and is just nutty enough to understand it and assume other people do as well).

But it doesn’t appear to be Morrison the storyteller in this case, so much as Morrison the Mad Inventor, who tends to come up with Wowee-Zooom! ideas and then not DO anything with them. He makes the toys, hoping other people will play with them, never taking into account that the vast majority of writers are NOT GRANT MORRISON. (He jazzed up a whole roster of characters with his “Seven Soldiers” series, and they have, by and large, gone untouched ever since.)

Except when someone does pick it up in a game attempt to get some use out of it.  To continue the toy analogy, the new writer picks up the toy, looks at it confusedly, makes a half-hearted attempt to play with it, and then gently places it back in the box, not quite understanding why it wasn’t as fun as Morrison made it look.

It is of course, because Morrison makes a lot of Wowee-Zoooom! noises with his mouth when he plays with the toys. Without those essential noises, they’re just brightly colored and very confusing.

And now Morrison has decided to Wowee-Zoom 52 parallel worlds back into DC comics. And they’ll still be there when he leaves, weird-looking toys in future writers’ toy boxes that they don’t remember how to play with.

  1. Sam says:

    This is particularly interesting coming right off of finishing All-Star Superman for the first time and re-reading his run on Animal Man.

    Superman was clearly stuffed with in-jokes and call-backs to other Superman tales, but they were almost completely irrelevant to the very essentialist character study of Superman that that series pulled off so well.

    Similarly, the first time I read Animal Man, I had no idea who 90% of the wacky walk-on characters were, but the basic thread of the narrative and metafictional conceit was totally compelling on it’s own two legs.

    On one hand, this project could be a great venue for creators to just tell good stories with characters and tone appropriate to a particular time/place/publisher, without constantly having every book stepping on each others’ toes.

    On the other, this could be another step down the road of superhero books disappearing up their own asses for good.

  2. braak says:

    I think Holland’s got it right; Grant Morrison, purportedly, destroyed his mind using drugs and Hindu meditation techniques, then replaced it with a four-dimensional Aztec star-engine that lets him see the end of time. Grant Morrison has absolutely no problem saying “Hey, everything that ever had the word ‘Batman’ in it is part of the same continuity,” despite the fact that to those of us who typically inhabit a three-dimensional world of things, that doesn’t make any fucking sense.

    Grant Morrison can tell these great stories in this insane world full of anything you can think of, which is why he supports it–but he’s also the only one who can do it. Poor Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns get dragged along for the ride, while Morrison talks about Mister Mind emerging from a hyperspatial chrysalis and EATING PIECES OF TIME, then he wanders off to write some other crazy shit, and Rucka and Johns are left behind going, “Uhm. Wait. He ate time?”

    “Yeah, good luck with that, guys! I’m going to go kill Batman now!”

    “Okay. Wait, what!?”

  3. braak says:

    Actually, that’s not true. Alan Moore can do it, also, and I assume that this is because he is also a magus. Except, Alan Moore is a thelemic traditionalist, while Grant Morrison is a psychpop chaos magician. I have heard (from Holland?) that they dislike each other, and I hope so, SO MUCH, that it’s because of competing mystic ideologies.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    I believe I mentioned this, yes, though I’m not sure where I would attribute it. I want to say a brief Q&A with Warren Ellis, where some fan or another asked, “Is it true Moore and Morrison hate each other?” And Ellis simply saying, “They’re not friends.”

    The rest has to be inferred from Morrison’s “Magic For Mutants” articles from the early part of the decade, which tended to mock the old snake-god style of magic as being outmoded and silly.

    Then he told everyone reading to go design a hypersigil to represent your greatest desire, and power it up via thinking about it at the point of orgasm.

    Boy, the things you never expect to type, huh?

  5. Zak says:

    Morrison’s a fantastic and creative writer, and a complete wanker. I don’t think the two aspects can be separated. I look forward to most of his work and love reading it, but always have that “This is brilliant! Kind of douchebaggy too” response.

    Also, he gets Batman. I think better than anyone else working right now. His Batman stories aren’t really the ones I want to read, they’re the Batman stories of a crazy pretentious wanker person, but it’s a crazy pretentious wanker person who fundamentally understands Batman and why Batman is fantastic.

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