By Alex Ness
A CHAT ABOUT CRAFT WITH GRANT MORRISON
I think that Grant Morrison is proof that comics are a wonderful thing. While he is serious, he is also playful, and both aspects of his character appear wonderfully in his work. There is an unfathomed depth in most of his stories, but within them exists a story that can be enjoyed upon many different levels. He has a hard-earned reputation for quality, despite the fact that he has rarely seemed to kowtow to popularity's demands. In fact, one of Grant's appealing aspects to me is his ability to entertain my heart and soul and to inspire my mind.
In this interview, we chat about the methods of his work, his views toward Marvel and DC, and an outlook toward upcoming projects.
AN: Tell me about how you work... are you in a silent, well-lit room, or is it filled with music and cats, what exactly?
GM: It depends. We moved to the country last year, overlooking the beautiful nuclear submarine pens of Loch Long. These days, I'll be working on the lawn, when its sunny, and at my desk in the tower if its not. The surviving pair of cats - I used to have six - wander in and out all day and sometimes sit on me when I'm at the computer.
I almost always listen to music when I write - THE FILTH was written to Momus, Pulp, Chris Morris, The Rutles, Black Box Recorder, Pole, Eminem, Melt Banana, Supercar and The Streets, among other things. SEAGUY was Syd Barrett, Donovan, Noel Coward, the Pet Shop Boys, Julian Cope, N.E.R.D. and Milky. Right now, I'm listening to Missy Elliott and Ludacris doing 'Gossip Folks', one of my favorite songs...and every time I hear 'Rings Around The World' (which just came after Missy on the i-Pod), I smile and think fondly of Warren Ellis. VIMANARAMA! has been indebted to Asian Dub Foundation, Monster Magnet, Ali F Soundsystem and Bobby Friction's Wednesday night Sounds of the New Asian Underground show on Radio 1. In the last few months, doing SEVEN SOLDIERS, I've enjoyed The Handsome Boy Modelling School, the Prodigy album, Kasabian, LCD Soundsystem, the Monkees, Thievery Corporation, Girls Aloud, Graham Coxon's 'Happiness in Magazines', John Lydon, Eminem's 'Encore', Stereo Total, Adam and the Ants, Placebo, 'Otto Spooky' by Momus, Robbie Williams, Sheep On Drugs, Snoop Dogg, Goldfrapp, Kaiser Chiefs and 'Galanga' by MIA. I listen to everything and anything. My favourite from last year is the Goldie Lookin Chain album 'Greatest Hits'. The song 'You Knows I Loves You Baby' is a work of insane, boundary-shattering genius, as far as I'm concerned. 'Half Man/Half Machine'! I listen to the GLC over and over and over again and never get tired. We went to see them play in Los Angeles in March and it was the best gig I've been to this year. I think they've got a new record out soon.
AN: No Smashing Pumpkins, sigh.
GM: Sometimes I get up for a shite or piss, to play a game on telly, or to bang on the guitar and make up songs. Or I go for a walk to the shops or into the hills. Most of the day, I'm at the screen or writing in my notebooks. I've been working practically non-stop for a year to wrap up a number of big projects, so I have no idea what's going on in the real world, although I know the secret identities of the Freedom Fighters and the price of beans in Narnia. It's a simple life.
AN: Why do you write?
GM: I write to live and to make sense of things. Words and voices come out of my head when I ask them to and I write them down and show them to people, at which point the stuff from my head miraculously converts into money, then the money turns into houses and cat food and trips abroad and clothes and savings. I view the process as pure sorcery and treat it with the respect and devotion it deserves.
AN: Do you ever suffer writer's block?
GM: Can't say that I do. Sometimes it's hard to motivate myself to sit in front of the computer if I'm feeling lazy or depressed, so that can represent a kind of block on occasion, but I can't afford to do nothing for very long. Being up against a deadline freezes me up like nothing else, so I try to stay at least six months ahead these days, preferably a year. Otherwise, I can't stop writing stuff down all the time. I've written stories since I could spell. At 8 years old, I wrote and illustrated my first little homemade science fiction 'novel', 'The People of the Asteroids'. My mum's still got it wrapped in plastic in her old photographs drawer. I wrote or drew stories every day of my life and churned out homemade comics, diaries, 600-page fantasy and horror novels, fanzines, songs, plays, porn and dream collage books, for years and years, long before anyone noticed, so I'm just doing what I've always done except I get paid for it now. My published output is the tip of an iceberg, really. I never get blocked in the sense that I always write about what I'm getting up to or thinking about at the time, so the ideas and impressions never stop coming in and always get processed into symbolic form as comic stories or whatever.
If I'm feeling miserable, burned out and hermit-like, for instance, the bad feeling can turn up, as it did in JLA: WORLD WAR III, as something like the monstrous 'Primordial Annihilator', Mageddon. At which point I give myself a slap, send the Justice League in to solve the problem, and before you know it, they've won and I'm able to leave the house again with a smile on my face!
I don't know where I stop and the writing begins anymore, to be honest, which is perfect for my purposes.
AN: What inspires you to write, do you have a muse, a talent demanding use or simply a desire for money?
GM: The money's a plus, certainly, but it's no longer the principal motivation for writing comics. At this point, I could live well off my royalties and do nothing new again, but the whole process of writing is more intense and all encompassing for me and it doesn't seem to be something I can stop.
I wrote The Invisibles Vol 1 issue 23 on my living room couch, hallucinating, and dying of MRSA-related septicaemia, (those cranky descriptions of demons and the crystal crown biting into Mister Six's head and the Gnostic Christ saying 'I am not the God of your fathers...' were scrawled notes from the delirious no-man's land between life and giving up) and the following issue was written from a hospital ward, waiting to hear if the near-fatal staph aureus infection I'd contracted had spread to my heart. I was there for two weeks, working as often as I could between tests and treatment, with the intention of writing myself out of trouble (as a mad sidebar, after beating off the infection with the aid of antibiotics, I became inexplicably obsessed with eating raw carrots for the remainder of my stay in hospital - only to find out last week that staph aureus - 'golden' staphylococcus - gets its distinctive color from carotene. I must have been so stuffed to the fucking guts with carotene-pigmented bastards when the bacteria was swarming through me that I went into withdrawal for the stuff when the bugs were finally wiped out!).
I scribble down my impressions about everything and turn them into adventure stories all the time. The Invisibles is largely autobiographical for that reason, hence its incredible effectiveness as a magical 'hypersigil' - I went to the Power Exchange sex club on 960 Harrison (in 'real' life it looks nothing like Phil Jimenez' huge glamor version in the comic) and bounced on the opium bed in the millionaire's house in San Francisco, before my characters did it in Vol 2: 5 & 7 of Invisibles. I saw the magic mirror and the aliens and the 5th dimension during my 'contact' experience in the Vajra Hotel in Kathmandu in May, 1994 and subsequently.
I lived on the San Ildefonso Pueblo for a couple of months with my friend Emilio and the head of the Medicine Society, Russell, (called Austin in the book). I took two acid tabs and performed magic on the Black Mesa by the Rio Grande, just like King Mob does in V2:5 - all that stuff about bats and 'kissing the anus of Cortez' they're talking about is real deal LSD bollocks transcribed from tape recordings I made at the time. King Mob's London flat is the squat at the top of Brixton Hill where Emilio lived for a while before moving to the U.S. in 1990. I went to yoga, meditation and martial arts classes all through the 90s to be more like my characters. I got involved in the fetish scene (I even wrote for SKIN 2) and befriended some of the shiny Chaos witches who haunt those dodgy dungeons. I endured the hair-raising two-day Himalayan bus ride from Leh to Manali that's mentioned in V3:2 and King Mob's descriptions of it are abstracted from the original, battered, on-the-road journals I kept. I contributed parts of my own life and experience to the characters of Fanny and Dane and all the others. I danced on MDMA in the nightclubs every other weekend with glamorous party girls, ladyboys and popstars, then wrote it down. I went to Venice, India, Australia, Indonesia and the other locations in the story. The Indonesian kid, Agus, from V1: 5 was my guide and motorcycle driver when I stayed in Jogjakarta, etc., etc.
I wrote my own break-ups and breakthroughs and breakdowns into the comic, too. I threw my personal theories of consciousness and identity into the book as they were forming, and included results of that month's magical experiments - Dane McGowan's initiations were mine. King Mob's, Mason Lang's and other initiations all happened to me. The visionary trip to the Aztec Land of the Dead undertaken by Lord Fanny in V1:18 is exactly as I experienced it, with the little yellow dog and the flat facades of buildings and the eerie, paper-thin, dimensionally-abstracted people left behind in the Land of the Living. (So convincing was my description of the terrain that the 'Iron Sun of the Underworld' I saw there has recently turned up in a book as an example of genuine Aztec mythology when it was actually an 'invention' of mine and appears in no prior account of Mexican myth that I'm aware of!) Jim Crow's scorpion trip in V1: 10 is reproduced almost verbatim from my magical diary. 'Barbelith' started out as a word from a dream I had, aged 17, which turns out to mean 'alien stone' if you stretch the etymology far enough. The acid invocation to the Blood Red Goddess in V3: 5 is based on diary entries written by me on LSD in a hotel room in Melbourne, Australia, during a backwards- talking Bizarro Kai ritual. Many episodes from the character Bobby Murray's early life are taken directly from my own childhood. The teddy bear Boody in The Invisibles was my first teddy bear and still sits in the bedroom in Glasgow, threadbare, round, totemistic and well, Buddha-like. I named him myself, as soon as I figured out how to talk, and it's interesting I found the word 'buddhi' somewhere in my new vocabulary. Like Bobby in the comic, I startled my parents by coming out with a long, coherent and apparently chilling sentence in English, months before I officially started speaking (they didn't write it down). King Mob's 'Gideon Stargrave' stories are direct quotes from the Michael Moorcock-inspired short stories I wrote obsessively when I was 17. That's Phil Jimenez' attempt to render into pictures a description of my first DMT trip, in V2: 13, shortly after it happened in Richard Metzger's apartment on Christopher Street in summer '97.
The weird thing is that I did many of these things for the sole purpose of having experiences worthy of putting into stories, so, if I hadn't wanted to include Australian magic, Jeet Kune Do, or the tawdry allure of transvestite glam in The Invisibles, I might never have gone there or done that. Instead, I've been round the world three times on my own and with friends, visited a ton of countries, and had loads of mad relationships and weird experiences. This is how a hypersigil works to change the world around you. This is total surrender to the text, total immersion and deliberate self-annihilation. I'm not doing 'stories', I'm desperately writing biography to celebrate life in this world and to negotiate with depression and meaninglessness. I become possessed by characters and texts to the point where my own 'personality' is reconfigured and it's partly what gives my comics their particular, occult, and often irritatingly 'cultish' flavour, I reckon.
So if I've laboured the point here, it's simply because you expressed a particular interest in the creative process and I hope this demonstrates how life feeds directly into the work all the time and vice versa. It's the same for everything I've written, including the superhero stuff. It's why writing The Filth almost killed me and why writing Superman has reignited my inner sun, you might say. I'm not looking for plots or High Concepts, or reading other people's books to find 'ideas' I can sell. If I need an 'idea', I look inside my head and there are always plenty of the f***ers jostling for attention. I'm trying to express in my own words and my own way how it feels to live in this mad, f***ing world I got dumped into, along with all you lot. My head is bursting to talk about life, death, love, sex, fashion, comics, cosmology, religion, movies, nature, travel, guilt, fear, drugs, rock 'n' roll, magic, whatever - and the comics seem such a pure, exuberant way to deploy potent metaphorical content in the service of these personal compulsions.
So, you know, my inspiration is everything I see, everything I do, everyone I meet, everywhere I go. It all goes in the blender. Bet you wish you hadn't asked now.
God Bless the Queen and her fascist-armband flaunting grandsons! I'm 96 years old today!
AN: When do you write? What do you drink whilst writing?
GM: I get up at 10:00, check the e-mails, work out in the gym for a bit, have breakfast and then write in the afternoon and evening, listening to the loch water lapping and the ducks impersonating Frankie Howerd.
Drink? I try to drink three litres of water a day, usually. Sometimes I'll knock back a couple of glasses of white wine. Sometimes a few cans of Red Bull. On rare occasions I drink Vodka Orange or Vodka Bull if I'm flirting with the amusing but dangerous archetype of 'sozzled writer' for the day. I've also invented the deadly Bullshitter - a cocktail which combines champagne and Red Bull to effervescent and mind-destroying effect. I don't smoke - tobacco, grass, hash, crack cocaine, heroin or kippers.
AN: Your use of Metaphor has confounded numerous "Joe Six-pack" readers and thrilled many critics. Is metaphor the domain of higher levels of thought? If so, does that thereby threaten to alienate those readers who are unable to think upon those planes?
GM: I hope so! God help me, I don't want to be responsible for a small but noisy group of morons busting neurons they can't afford to lose. I'd much rather alienate them than waste time and energy trying to entertain the poor bastards. There are plenty of other people available to do that kind of work. If someone doesn't like or understand what I'm up to, they should just buy someone else's comics. There are loads of great books out there to appeal to every IQ level.
Mike Cotton from Wizard and I were talking at the start of the year and Mike fronted the question, 'Is Grant Morrison too smart for comics?' I was quite surprised. I've been employed as a comic writer for nigh on a hundred years now and my bibliography of successful titles shows no sign of coming to an end, but people always seem to be very concerned that I don't have an audience or that it's dwindling. All I can say is, there may just be some readers who are TOO DUMB for comics but they're not a part of my audience.
So Joe Six-Pack? He can f*** off for a start. I don't know anyone who fits that description. I like to write comics for the sort of people I wouldn't mind having a conversation with. Simple as that.
All stories are filled with metaphor, like all of human life. Perhaps I've been over-enthusiastic, but I've always enjoyed talking about theory and allegory because I figure some readers, like me, might be interested in the elaborate behind-the-scenes thought processes which create the stories they read.
What can I say? I'm not some big intellectual: I grew up as a working class kid in a violent town. My dad was an ex-soldier turned peacenik activist, my mum worked part time in offices, doing shorthand and typing. I left school at 18 never to return but I was lumbered with the precious gift of interpretation by Mr. Thompson, my English teacher, so I like things to have double, triple or quadruple meanings, if possible, with multiple POVs and big spaces for the reader to vanish into and fill up with ideas of his or her own, sort of like 'Lost' on the telly, or like 'The Prisoner' or the films of David Lynch, for instance. My own personal taste doesn't run to literal work or stuff where everything's neatly explained to me and tied in a 'clever' bow. The world's a big, wild mess and I like to reflect that. As a reader, I like to join in and not just watch, if you see what I mean, so as a writer my intention has always been to create experiences which deliberately raise questions or suggest further, untold stories and don't necessarily have one easy solution or outcome. I like to leave people with something to talk about and fire their own imaginations and I'm trying to capture the real patterns of real life.
To elaborate on that, in real life, people say things they don't actually mean and they don't have little thought balloons or captions hovering nearby to explain what they're really thinking: even if they did, they'd be thinking several contradictory things at once and in different voices, with pictures and scribbly feelings attached. In real life, we judge people by how their actions and their words match up. In real life, we don't get all the facts but have to use our logic and emotions and sense of smell to draw our own conclusions. In real life, two people can appear to be having the same conversation while actually discussing several quite different things.
In real life, conversations are peppered with weird dead ends, misunderstandings, interruptions, surrealist non sequiturs and in-jokes. In real life, you don't get neatly-controlled dramatic set-ups and resolutions. In real life, the writer isn't nearly as clever as he'd like to appear on the page. And so on. For these reasons, I like to think of myself as a hard-nosed realist writer and SEAGUY, for instance, as being much more directly relevant to the world we actually live in and the way we live our lives than any number of allegedly 'realistic' comics which only deal in wish fulfillment soap opera melodrama. I like to think my work is operating at a uniquely high level of structural and metaphorical sophistication, more in the manner of music or poetry. That's why it's so easy for different people to 'read' it differently and to form such often wildly contradictory opinions.
AN: Is your use of metaphor the means in which comics will finally climb the gate and enter "accepted mediums"?
GM: Comics don't need to climb the gate and enter anything. We're having more fun outside in the sun.
As I said, metaphor occurs naturally in ANY story. The fact that Tolkien's Ring can easily stand in for the Bomb, or for Addiction, or for any number of things - which it can - doesn't seem to hamper people's enjoyment of the elephant fights in 'The Lord of the Rings', so metaphorical content shouldn't be looked upon as anything highbrow or unusual. I tend to see it everywhere, but that's just how I'm wired up. I don't know about you, but I can't look at Godzilla without seeing the atom bomb over Nagasaki, the screaming, hyper-enthusiastic shopgirls of Shibuya, Tokyo, and the devastating smile of the goddess Amaterasu, among other things, all piled on top of one another and representing the very same something.
Metaphor's there to be read or applied if you want to enrich your experience of art. It can just as easily be ignored if all you want to do is watch the action and look at the weird, cool pictures. The same is true of my comics, or anyone else's. There's subtext everywhere, but you don't have to bother with it if it's not your thing. Just dance to the beat of the story, and if you don't 'understand' everything, well, good. It'll stand you in good stead for the real world - a place filled with people and events you will NEVER entirely understand. You don't have to understand an experience in order to have it. You will, in fact, DIE not understanding most of what goes on in the world and why. Don't sweat it. Dance with it.
AN: By showing how the medium can be so multifaceted won't otherwise comic virgins be forced to admit that the medium is valid? And why, after your Doom Patrol run and books like Maus and Wilderness, is that still a valid question?
GM: Well, the way I see it, Alex, images, ideas and characters derived from comic books now cover just about every available surface in the civilized world. X-Men cereal! The Incredibles pajamas! Sky High! What more proof do comics fans need that the rest of the world has - at least for a moment - stopped laughing at all the crazy shit we're into?
Will we remain unsatisfied until every newborn babe has a Spider-Man logo tattooed on his head? Aren't Marvel and DC characters on the sides of buses enough evidence that the whole world has fallen under the spell of comics? Does every man, woman, and child have to swear allegiance to Captain America's shield before we finally accept that comics are already valid ? How much more validation do summathese goddamn fanboys need, for crying out loud!!
Everybody I've ever met thinks it must be great to do what I do for a living and I've met lots of people, including lots of famous ones. They all think comics are great. What more can I say ? They're not too sure about the more obsessive, stereotypical 'fan' type, but then obsessive fans of anything can seem be a little disconcerting whether they are fans of old skool hip-hop, football or Gwen Stefani. Otherwise, as far as I can see, just about every-bloody-body loves the idea of comics and superheroes. They would buy shitloads more of the actual books if the format, pricing and availability changed, but messages like that take a long time to get through to the brains of the big companies. Sell comics at cinema concession stands, for instance, and the sales would skyrocket shockingly overnight. Or rack them next to the week's new CD and DVD releases in Virgin megastores and pop shops. Manga size. They'd shift millions like they used to. All of this will probably still happen in one way or another before 2010.
Comics as an artform has done all right by me and my mates over the years, and, as far as I can see, everybody else is pretty cool with the idea that comics still get made. The people who can't stop whining about how the books are crap and all the writers are rubbish compared to 'real' writers, and all the artists aren't as good or as fast or as tall as they used to be, or whatever, are self-confessed comics fans, sadly. There's always a small hard core of 'Fans' who tend to despise, denigrate and insult comic books and their creators more than any other segment of the population would even imagine doing...
....in that good old-fashioned, ironic kind of way.
AN: How do politics affect your work?
GM: Not much. Politics, in the sense of party antics and showbiz elections, is just misdirection and bullshit to divert our attention from the real work of the world, which is all done by very rich people we don't get to see much of. Once you've watched a couple of governments do their pathetic dance and come and go, you've really seen it all. The same kinds of people do exactly the same kinds of things and continually try to keep us interested in their daft, unconvincing shtick. I lost interest once I realised how boring, repetitive and stage managed the whole circus is, with even a new Bush cropping up every generation. All I want my elected officials to do is make the trains run on time and stop spending my tax money on useless weapons of war, so I'm already screwed.
Issues of class, authority and privilege influence my work much more than politics, I'd say. I grew up in Govan, Glasgow, at the decaying heart of a dying industrial city and I had a rigorous Scottish education until the age of 18. I still have enough chips on my shoulder to scoop up a whole big mess of hot salsa.
AN: You recently married a wonderful woman. Congratulations! Are there any li'l Grants on the way? Alan Moore's daughter is now writing. I think your child would be welcomed into the world as a future talent!
GM: Any children we have will be forced into backbreaking, offworld mining jobs with Space Federation ... I don't need the competition.
AN: What is the goal that you have for the work that you do?
GM: To make contact and Find the Others. Something like that, maybe.
I don't know if it's a goal-oriented process. My work's already out there achieving its own weird goals in its own way, doing things and making people think things that I never intended.
AN: What was the difference between working at DC and Marvel, i.e., their state of mind, their manner of doing business, or how they each treat talent?
GM: They're like Catholics and Protestants or Christians and Muslims; so alike they have to exist in opposition in order to more clearly define their slender differences. The talent pool is totally interchangeable in most cases and energy is shifted between the two companies on a regular cycle. Marvel was undeniably emitting more heat than DC for a few years there - 2000-2004 - but now it's all different. I seem to remember accurately predicting this shift in several interviews a couple of years ago, along with the next big youth cult swing towards a kind of 'dark' fetishistic psychedelia, or Ultraviolet Gothic Dandyism. That's started to become obvious now and has even been given the tentative name 'glam noir'.
So trust me when I say quite objectively that mainstream fashion trends - the 'New Weird', as they call it - favor the more expansive DC universe in 2005/2006. It'll be interesting to see what happens next. It's a rewarding time to be a comics enthusiast, that's for sure. There's a lot of intense, positive competition and you can see that everyone's trying very hard to do the best work they can, which can only be good news for readers.
AN: Why do you seem to gravitate towards talent from the UK to illustrate your work? (I am a fan, mind you, just curious.)
GM: Well, I live here and I know a lot of the local artists, so the collaborations often come about as a result of personal friendships or whatever. I'm sure I've worked with as many Americans as Brits, but usually on company owned projects.
AN: What comics do you pick up and read currently?
GM: This year I have been mostly reading...Planetary, Astonishing X, Astro City, JSA, Promethea, New Frontier and anything else by Darwyn Cooke, Plastic Man, the Question, Teen Titans, Ultimate FF, Ultimates, Intimates, Legion of Super Heroes, New Avengers, Godland and a bunch of other things I can't remember. Dan Clowes 'Death Ray' issue of Eightball was a particularly inspirational book. Brendan McCarthy's amazing 'Swimini Purpose' deserves a special mention. I've also just discovered the work of Marc-Antoine Matthieu, whose comics I love above all others at the moment. He seems to be the only other person in the field who's experimenting with page depth and four-dimensional layouts. I try to read everything in the comp boxes, but those are the books I've made a point of picking up in Forbidden Planet when they've come out.
AN: I have a few college degrees including Master's fields in Political Science and History, and have an IQ that I am proud of, for whatever that is worth, but I have no idea what SEAGUY is about or what happened. I read it, liked it, and was entertained by it. But I by no means understood it, nor came close to understanding it. Care to give any hints?
GM: Firstly, I don't HAVE any college degrees and I wrote Seaguy so it can't be that. I also don't believe you when you say you have no idea what Seaguy is about or what happened in it. Of course, you know what happened - what happened was very helpfully and clearly drawn for you by the lovely Cameron Stewart. If I asked you to pick up a Seaguy issue and describe to me what you saw drawn there, I'm sure your descriptions of what you were looking at would match the intended progress of events in the story. The only other explanation is that you may have gone comics-blind without realising it!
Seaguy is about a naive, would-be hero in a super-commercialized world where a state of permanent, ignorant happiness is ruthlessly enforced by a mysterious, well-meaning, but misguided, elite who have reduced the population to an infantile level and somehow neutralized all the superheroes by making them feel stupid and out of date. Perhaps that's too close to reality for some readers, but otherwise, what's not to get? It's all right there on the page and the story will hopefully be continued and brought to its dark and dramatic conclusion in future volumes.
I've heard these kind of complaints before, when it appeared in monthly installments, and I've learned to ignore the small internet 'fan' base with its weird, insular ideas about how the world works and what's successful or not. The Filth was denounced on message boards as incoherent gibberish (often by people who could barely spell, let alone string sentences together), but the trade collection's selling incredibly well and it's turned out to be one of my most successful books. The Filth has had rave reviews from the mainstream press and been voted one of Publisher's Weekly graphic novels of the year. I'm quite sure that Seaguy will find his intended market now the trade's been released.
Anyway, if you read SEAGUY, liked it and were entertained by it, isn't that enough? What else should a comic book do? Make love to you?
AN: Oh, hell no.
GM: Drive you to the store and buy you a pizza? Cure cancer? Good God! What do people want from me?
AN: Yes to those.
When you wrote X-Men, many people thought that there were both genuine moments of brilliance and opportunities lost . How would you characterize your work on that book and, is there anything you'd like to go back and change at this early time to reflect?
GM: No. If I had to 'go back' I'd slit my wrists all over again. People think all kinds of things, but one man's opportunity lost is another man's brilliant moment. It's impossible to please everybody, so I just try to please myself. I'm a long-time, hardcore comics fan and I know the kind of stuff I like to read, so I write for my own smart and demanding, inner teenage fanboy. I'm happy with 'New X-Men', although not as happy as I am with 'Invisibles' or 'Marvel Boy' or 'Seven Soldiers' or 'We3'. Disagreements with Bill Jemas left me feeling very uncomfortable at Marvel, I must admit, and I think that flavored the work, although possibly for the better.
Then, after 9/11, the millennial demand for 'New' became replaced by a fearful retreat towards 'Familiar' and those tensions are all reflected in New X-Men. It's a 'difficult' work of mine, certainly. It dealt with a lot of very heavy emotions. I was writing 'Here Comes Tomorrow' while visiting the hospital every day to watch my dad dying of cancer. Like I said before, every experience goes straight into the work when you're writing this mad pulp fantasy every day for a living. Every time I re-read New X-Men, I like it better, though, and if I hadn't done it I'd probably have drifted into obscurity doing odd Vertigo books, so the experience was definitely worth it. It's a very tightly-structured and self-referential piece and gave me the idea for Seven Soldiers.
What more can I say? The book was immensely successful for Marvel, and with a much higher frequency of release than most titles, that meant a lot more revenue for the company. After three years and forty issues, my last issue with Marc Silvestri still made number 1 on the sales chart, so I think I did my job and shot a jolt of weird, spastic electricity through the old beast.
Still...I can't believe the hellish gymnastics they went through to 'explain' plotlines which were already explained quite simply by the stories I wrote and wrapped up. Here's how to explain what happened - XORN was NEVER REAL, he was a DISGUISE for MAGNETO who went MAD ON DRUGS and DIED...but we know he always COMES BACK, somehow, so expect a dramatic return sooner or later, True Believers!
There. All neat and tidy, the way I left it.
AN: Your Fantastic Four book was the absolute greatest take I'd ever read on the team, their history, and the future (along with Waid and Weiringo, as well as Lee and Kirby). How did you find it working with the wonderfully talented Jae Lee and what did he add to the emotional content of that story? I think, and am certain that I can be wrong, that this book showed that you had a great affection for these characters and I wonder why you did not do more work on them, and wonder if you would do more in the future?
GM: Jae Lee is a brilliant artist. The Sue/Namor kiss in that story is one of the sexiest comics kisses ever drawn - Jae gave the page to Kristan for her birthday one year. I was very pleased with that book and I'd love to work with Jae again.
I'd always be interested in doing the FF, but I'm having a lot more fun at DC right now than I ever had at Marvel.
AN: Do you have a road map for upcoming work at DC? I know you have various plans and wonder if they are coming to fruition.
GM: Everything's going very well and lumbering toward publication. Seven Soldiers is the tightest comic I've plotted so far and I did it partly to prove to myself that I can write 'straight' mainstream books if that's really what people want to see. And the artists! I'm really happy with every single one of my collaborators on this series. My editor, Pete Tomasi, brought some amazing art talent to the table.
Readers who hated the 'gaps' they thought they saw in New X-Men will hopefully be laced up tight in this little number. Everything resonates and connects. Every act has a far-reaching consequence. Seven Soldiers is like a thousand dominoes all falling in looping intricate patterns down your stairs and out the door.
I hope more comics writers try the supercompressed, bi-weekly long format - it's like 2-and-a-half years worth of comics condensed down into one year. And the Seven Soldiers set-up, when you think about it, is exactly like those celebrity reality shows - a bunch of no-hope c-listers finally get their chance to show their real personalities and get noticed by the public! Who'll be the traitor, the hero, the failure, the loser, the breakout star? It looked like a gamble to release something like this into the very conservative monthly market, but I knew the times were changing in favor of this type of material and so far it's really paying off. We've had great press from the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and others.
Alongside SEVEN SOLDIERS, which runs until Spring 2006, there's ALL-STAR SUPERMAN with Frank Quitely, of course, which begins in December 2005. I'm just finishing issue 4 and I've never been so proud of a mainstream comic as I am of this. I write about 50 pages of material then 'supercompress' it down to 22 pages, like a lump of coal squeezed into diamond. The ideas have been pouring out and every single issue contains enough compacted entertainment material to fuel a 12 issue maxi-series, so it's big bang for your buck!
Then there's 52, the big DC weekly comic which I'm plotting and writing in collaboration with Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Keith Giffen and Greg Rucka for a spring 2006 launch. I love being the bass player in the first comics supergroup. That's going very well and I can't wait to see what people think of it. The series is being created and written like a TV show and the results have so far been spectacular, as far as I'm concerned. It's the DC Universe in Hi Res close up detail, as never seen before. Very unusual stuff.
Apart from that, I've being doing a LOT of work at DC/Wildstorm, including massive series bibles for some of 2006's big launches, and collaborating with Jim Lee on the relaunch of WildCATs. I have a lot of respect for Dan DiDio and we're only just starting to see the effects of the energy he's brought to DC. There are big plans afoot and I'm very excited to be part of it all. And I haven't mentioned the two big 'icon' series I'm working on for 2006/7.
Outside comics, my novel, the IF, is way over deadline but inching towards completion after five years, SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS is still in development at Dreamworks, and We3 has just been set up with New Line, so I'll be writing the screenplay for that in October.
What can I say? The world may be going to hell, but I'm having a great time.
A very special Thank You to Grant Morrison for his time and candor.
I am happy to say that I will be attending Fall Con as a guest. As such, I hope that you might come visit me there. Talk to me. Take my photo. Give me money. Feed me. Rub my belly. Or just smile. But attend the con. It'll be great!
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