Grant Morrison

The legendary Scottish comic book writer talks Batman, Multiversity, and other projects, and refuses to discuss Scottish Independence.

Sep 17, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Grant Morrison has been writing comic books for over 35 years, and his output and impact on the medium since have been incredible. Morrison has contributed to Animal Man, New X-Men, Spawn, Doom Patrol, JLA, and myriad other titles over his impressive career.

His 1989 graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, is routinely cited as one of the most essential titles for inclusion any Batman collection. More recently, he redirected the course of Batman history with such story arcs as Batman R.I.P., Batman and Robin, and Batman Incorporated. He introduced readers to Damian Wayne, the Black Glove, and ushered in a Final Crisis. Morrison's All-Star Superman re-envisioned the classic character and was subsequently adapted into a direct-to-DVD film by Warner Bros. Animation.

Morrison's latest contribution to DC Comics, Multiversity, is on shelves now (you can read our review here). The first issue of his original series, Annihilator, debuted last week.

Zach Hollwedel (Under the Radar): You're an incredibly prolific writer. Your work on Batman alone is staggering. In addition, you've written numerous other titles for DC, Vertigo, Marvel, and others. Even now, you have two new series out: Multiversity and Annihilator. Do you approach each universe differently? Are there things you feel you can do with one universe or set of characters you can't do with another?

Grant Morrison: It's different kind of moods. I always try to think of it like doing a song. You're trying to capture a feeling, and if you can capture that feeling in a story or the atmosphere, you can try again with the same group of characters. That's the way I like to write; to get something out of my system. If I felt something one day, then I try to think that character can always express that something.

Multiversity takes us on a tour of the DC Multiverse, with each story focusing on a different parallel universe and the heroes and villains that inhabit it. Can you talk a bit about your choice of characters and worlds we're exposed to during the series? They're not always DC's most recognizable icons.

In the first one, we've got some recognizable suits, but they're worn by different people. We have a President Superman from Earth 23 who's different enough from the Superman everyone knows, but still has the same kind of powers and values that we want to see in Superman. So I think the characters are still recognizable. Even Batman, when he's the Batman of a Nazi universe, where the Nazis won the World War in 1945 and have been in charge ever sinceI think people will still get as much fun and recognition out of seeing Batman in those clothes as they would seeing Batman in his familiar old cape. So we've got enough of those guys, and...we introduce new characters. And generally, we base the new characters on existing DC properties. They're all slightly recognizable. I think when we introduce new ones, you've got more potential for changing things up, and you've got more potential that they might die or they might go bad. So I think it's much more fun playing with the kind of variants than playing with the known universe that has its own direction; it has goals to achieve. By doing the Multiverse, I like playing with characters all across the Multiverse, which is a lot of fun. Most of them have never been seen before.

I wanted to ask you about the Multiverse in general. You've been instrumental in expanding it, and it really seems like the possibilities are endless, as far as that and the 52 worlds that comprise it go. Is there any one thing or set of things you'd love to do with it?

Beyond this series, I have no idea. Pretty much all of my thoughts about the Multiverse have gone into this series. I've tried to leave it open, so that each of the books could be continued and maybe they could do spinoffs from different universes, which would be pretty interesting. But for me, I don't know. Beyond what I've got to say in this one, I have no idea what I might say about it next. This is my kind of statementI visit all the worlds I want to and throw in all the characters I've ever wanted to try doing. I've got Kamandi in there, with Jack Kirby's "Last Boy on Earth" and The Demon and a whole bunch of things. I just tried to put the whole kitchen sink into this.

Getting back to the basics of comic book readership a bitand I think the Multiverse plays into thisI'm a huge Batman fan, but even I sometimes find it hard to keep track of varying story arcs and what's current, given how many simultaneous titles there are, some of which overlap, some of which don't. What are your thoughts on widespread use of iconic heroes across multiple titles each month? How would you advise new readers to approach comics for the first time to get their feet wet, given the wide selection?

Most of the titles try to function in their own way. I think there are a lot of Batman titles, and the reason for that, is because Batman is really good business. They can put an awful lot of Batman titles, and they still sell pretty well. So he's always going to be, you know, Batman makes money, and I think you have to remember, that's why there's a lot of books. Because they sell, and the other books don't sell anything near as well as Batman. So I would say, most of the titles have their own identity. There's a new Batgirl book that just came out, and it's a really different take on the whole Batman idea. So there are a lot of different flavors in there. My advice is you try a few and pick the one you like. Some people might like Scott Snyder's regular monthly Batman, which is a very specific tone and flavor. Others might like a more light-hearted version, so I think you just have to try them and see.... The consumer comes in and has a look and sees which one they like.

That's great advice. Speaking of Batman, you recently said Batman is "the greatest pop culture superhero" we have. It's hard to think of anyone who has had as great an impact on him and the Batman family in recent decades. What is it about the character that drove you to continue writing, exploring, and expanding upon his mythos and his world?

I just think it's such amazing roots and such depth. You know, I always thought I'd only do 15 issues, and then I got so caught up in it. I began to ask questions that I felt had never really been asked before, which I then developed into the Black Glove and the villain trying to destroy Batman who knows everything about him. And it just seemed there was a lot more to be said about Batman. By considering his entire publishing history as his biography, it gave the character so much depth I was obsessed with it. I thought, 'How could the same person who was this savage young vigilante when he's 20-years-old, be the guy who is smiling with Robin and helping the police four years later?' And suddenly, I saw his work and someone's actual life and psychology, and it made Batman just really fascinating.

Earlier this summer, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation released Son of Batman, based on your 2006 story arc, Batman and Son. Were you involved with the film?

No, I wasn't involved at all in that one. I haven't even seen it. They never send me copies of those things. I wish they would [laughs], it would be nice to see them. But no, I had nothing to do with that one. I think they just really adapted the story, which would be interesting to see.

Have you watched any of the DC animated films that have come out in recent years?

Well, I saw the Superman adaptation that they did, which I thought was great. That was about it. Like I said, we don't really get these. We get the comic books sent to us, but we don't get the movies.

Jumping to Annihilator, which is a slight detour from standard superhero fare. The protagonist, Ray Spass, is a screenwriter whothough his writingmust save the universe. Where did the idea come from? Given the character's profession, it seems a little closer to home for you.

Yeah, I kind of wanted to write about my experience in Hollywood. But more than that, I kind of wanted to write about the people I'd met in Hollywood and the atmosphere of the place. I thought that the best vehicle for that was to do a Faust story, you know, a deal with the Devil story. But then, I thought, I didn't want to just do that, so it was updated to become this weird kind of science fiction, bizarre story of the alien underworld. So I think it grew into its own thing, but it really started out thinking of Los Angeles as the land of the Devil, you know. People sign contracts and sign their lives away, and thinking about how to turn that into a slightly off-kilter science fiction story.

Are you working on any other less traditional superhero stories we should keep our eye out for?

Yeah, I'm doing this horror comic for Image Comics with Chris Burnham who was my artist on the last book of Batman. So Chris and I are doing a six issue horror comic, and I've never done a horror comic before, so we're trying to do the most awfulI'm just want to put everything I've ever felt, everything that was ever horrific into one book, so that I never have to do it again. We're having a lot of fun with that. He's well into the second issue, so I think that's the next new thing that comes out, probably early next year.

There's some great history in the comic book and graphic art medium with horror and horror pulp stories.

Yeah, exactly. I've never done one, and I like to have a weird take on the genre. I thought it was time to try an all-out horror story.

Looking forward to it.

I hope you like it.

Annihilator, is published by Legendary Comics, a division of Legendary Entertainment, and they're best known for their film output. The overlap between comic book and film entertainment seems to increase every year. How do you feel this closing of the gap affects comic books as a medium?

I think comic books can go back to playing to their own strengths.... Movies are now getting to the point where special effects can pretty much do anything. So I think what comics have got that they can do is, that they're a different kind of intimate relationship with the reader. You can thumb the pages. You can move back and forward through the story. You're not being led by a director. So I think people can take much more advantage of the form of comics, and also artists whose work is very individual and unique and who've spend hours slaving over images. That's always going to be interesting to look at. And I think comics have got that; there's a kind of art gallery quality where it's you and the object, and you have a very intense-it's amazing, the reader brings the comic book to life, and I think that's quite fascinating, because it is just ink, after all.

It seems like a much more intimate medium, both in how it's created, but also in how it's intended to be experienced by the consumer.

Exactly.

The Flash and Gotham join Arrow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as live-action, primetime, superhero shows airing this coming season. I'm curious to know if you watch any of these and, if so, to hear what you think of the treatment comic book characters have been receiving on television lately.

Sadly, I don't watch any of them. And I don't watch much TV at all. The only TV show I watched recently was True Detective. I'm just glad to see that comic books have colonized other media. It's nice to see the idea that Flash is on TV. Flash was my favorite superhero when I was a kid. If he'd been on TV, then I'd have been jumping through the ceiling. It pleases me to see it happening, but I'm not...it's kind of, when you work with superheroes all day, the last thing you need is to sit in front of the TV and watch a superhero movie. 

Thursday of this week is voting day for the Scottish independence referendum. Whatever the outcome, it will be a huge and an incredibly historic day for Scotland. What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence?

I just refuse to have any thoughts, because all thoughts right nowthe situation's quite incendiary in Scotland, and it's not even worth talking about. There's a lot of heated madness and a lot of indecision, and I don't like anything that divides the country. I just don't like talking about it. It's too much of an incendiary situation here in Scotland. I have different takes on both sides, and I'm not impressed by either of them.

www.grant-morrison.com



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