Grant Morrison - Disinformation Lecture Pt.3/5
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Grant Morrison talking at the disinformation talk in about 1999. Great talk on The Invisibles, Magic, Sigils, and all things metaphysical.
Grant Morrison was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1960. His first published works were Gideon Stargrave strips for Near Myths in 1978 (when he was about 17), one of the first British alternative comics. His work appeared in four of the five issues of Near Myths and he was suitably encouraged to find more comic work. This included a weekly comic strip Captain Clyde, an unemployed superhero based in Glasgow, for The Govan Press, a local newspaper, plus various issues of DC Thomson's Starblazer, a science fiction version of that company's Commando title.
Steve Yeowell's cover to Zenith Book one.Morrison spent much of the early and mid-1980s playing music with his band The Mixers whilst writing for UK ventures. However, after writing The Liberators for Dez Skinn's Warrior in 1985, he started work for Marvel UK the following year. There he wrote two three-part and one one-part eight-page comic strips for Doctor Who Magazine (his final one a collaboration with a then-teenage Bryan Hitch as well as a Zoids strip in Spider-Man and Zoids. 1986 also saw Morrison start to write several Future Shocks (normally short two- or three-page comic strips) for 2000AD.
Morrison, however, wanted to write a continuing strip rather than short stories. He got his wish in 1987, when he and Steve Yeowell created Zenith, an early example of deconstructing the superhero genre.
Morrison had been sending proposals to DC Comics for revamping various characters during this time. He had several proposals ignored, including Superman Plus and Second Coming, but his work on Zenith got him noticed by DC. They accepted his proposal for Animal Man, a little-known character from DC's past whose most notable recent appearance was a cameo in the Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series.
Animal Man placed Morrison at the head of the so-called "Brit Wave" invasion of American comics, along with such writers as Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, Jamie Delano and Alan Moore (who had launched the invasion with his work on Swamp Thing). Morrison had himself a hit with Animal Man, even writing himself into the story as a character in his final issue, #26.
Morrison's uniquely surreal take on the superhero genre proved such a success that he was given Doom Patrol to write, starting with issue #19 in 1989. Previously, Doom Patrol had been a fairly formulaic superhero title. Morrison introduced more surreal elements, introducing concepts such as dadaism into his first several issues.
1989 was also the year DC published Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, a script he had written in 1987. Painted by Dave McKean, Arkham Asylum was a Batman graphic novel that featured uses of symbolic writing not common in comics at the time. (The story was to have included a transvestite Joker, an element toned down by DC.) The book cemented his reputation as a major talent in the industry. Morrison also wrote various other titles for DC at this time, most notably issues 6-10 of Legends of the Dark Knight called Gothic, another of DC's Batman titles.
He also kept working for smaller publishers, most notably writing St. Swithin's Day for British publisher Trident Comics. St. Swithin's Day proved to be controversial due to its anti-Margaret Thatcher themes, even provoking a small tabloid press fury and complaints from Tory MPs such as Teddy Taylor.
He was also still writing for the 2000AD spin-off title Crisis. It was in Cut magazine in 1989 that he would experience controversy again with The New Adventures of Hitler - due to its use of Adolf Hitler as its lead character. He also experimented in storytelling with artist and member of The Mixers Daniel Vallely on Bible John-A Forensic Meditation, telling the story of the Glaswegian serial killer of the same name.
The early 1990s saw Morrison revamping another old DC character, Kid Eternity, with artist Duncan Fegredo, and updating Dan Dare, with artist Rian Hughes, to be set in the era of Thatcherism in Revolver.
In 1991 Morrison wrote Bible John-A Forensic Meditation, a comic book series drawn by Daniel Vallely, which appeared in the anthology title Crisis #56-61.
It was based on an analysis of possible motivations for the crimes of the serial killer Bible John and was also an analysis of evil. It has been compared to Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell as it covers similar themes.
The story was highly experimental in terms of story and art, with Vallely and Morrison claiming to have used a Ouija board to write the script and Vallely through a cocktail of hallucenogenic drugs attempted a series of collages rather than conventional panels to tell the story. The term "Forensic Meditation" refers to Morrison's mixture of science and magic in order to tell the story.
The rumour is that Vallely destroyed most of his work after this collaboration and left the comic industry.
Bible John has not been reprinted since.
In 1993 Morrison and fellow Glaswegian comic writer Mark Millar were "given" 2000AD for an eight-week run called "The Summer Offensive". Morrison wrote Judge Dredd and co-wrote with Millar Big Dave, a highly controversial strip that helped give Morrison and Millar some brief fame outside the world of comics.
1993 also saw the start of DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, which published several Morrison titles, such as the steampunk mini-series Sebastian O and the graphic novel The Mystery Play. Later Morrison would write Flex Mentallo, a Doom Patrol spin-off with art by Frank Quitely, and Kill Your Boyfriend, with artist Philip Bond, for Vertigo. He also returned briefly to DC Universe superheroics with the critically acclaimed but short-lived Aztek, co-written with Mark Millar.
In 1996, Morrison was given the Justice League of America to revamp as JLA, a comic book that gathered the most powerful superheroes of the DC universe into one team. This run proved to be hugely popular, returning the title back to its former best-selling status. It also proved to be influential in creating the type of "widescreen" superhero action later seen in titles such as Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch's The Authority. He also handled DC's crossover event of 1998, DC One Million, a four-issue mini-series with multiple crossovers, as well as several issues of The Flash with Mark Millar.
It was with The Invisibles, a work in three volumes, that Morrison would start his largest and possibly most important work. The Invisibles combined political, pop- and sub-cultural references. Tapping into pre-millennial tension, the work was influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs and Morrison's practice of chaos magic.
At DisinfoCon in 1999, Morrison said that much of the content in The Invisibles was information given to him by aliens that abducted him in Kathmandu, who told him to spread this information to the world via a comic book. He later clarified that the experience he labeled as the "Alien Abduction Experience in Kathmandu" had nothing to do with aliens or abduction, but that there was an experience that he had in Kathmandu that The Invisibles is an attempt to explain.
The title was not a huge commercial hit to start with. (Morrison actually asked his readers to participate in a "wankathon" while concentrating on a magical symbol, or sigil, in an effort to boost sales). The first issues were critically acclaimed, but many readers found the second arc in issues 5-8 too confusing or lacking in action. The title was relaunched as Volume two as it moved to America and became intentionally more "American", featuring more action while still maintaining Morrison's ideas and themes.
Volume three appeared with issue numbers counting down, signaling an intention to conclude the series with the turn of the new millennium in 2000. However, due to the title shipping late, its final issue did not ship until April 2000. The entire series has been collected by Vertigo into trade paperback.
In 2000, Morrison's graphic novel JLA:Earth 2 was released with art by Frank Quitely. It was Morrison's last mainstream work for DC for a while, as he moved to Marvel Comics to take over the writing of X-Men (which was renamed New X-Men for his run), with Quitely providing much of the art. Again, Morrison's revamping of a major superhero team proved to be a critical and commercial success. However, his penultimate arc, 'Planet X', is the subject of much controversy. In it he depicted the classic villain Magneto infiltrating, in the guise of new character Xorn, and defeating the X-Men, as he became a raving lunatic (the result of an addiction to the power-enhancing drug "Kick"). This has since been retconned by other writers and Morrison's Xorn is said to be a new character distinct from Magneto.
Morrison had one more project for Vertigo during this time: The Filth, drawn by Chris Weston and Gary Erskine, a 13-part mini-series, said by Warren Ellis to be heavily influenced by Chris Morris's Blue Jam radio series.
Morrison also wrote the six-part Marvel Boy series, as well as Fantastic Four: 1234, his take on another major superhero team. Morrison helped challenge Marvel's reputation for being closed to new ideas, but after finishing his New X-Men, he returned to DC Comics to work on several titles and help revamp the DC Universe.
Starting in 2004, Vertigo published three Morrison mini-series. Seaguy, We3 and Vimanarama involve, respectively, a picaresque hero in a post-utopian world that doesn't need him; cyber-enhanced pets running from their captors in what Morrison calls his "western manga"; and ancient Hindu/Pakistani myths translated into Jack Kirby-style adventures. We3 came in for particular praise for its bold storytelling techniques and artwork by Frank Quitely. Morrison also returned to the JLA with the first story in a new anthology series, JLA: Classified, tales set within the JLA mythos by various creative teams.
In 2005, DC Comics started publishing what was dubbed the first ever "megaseries". The Grant Morrison-scripted Seven Soldiers of Victory features both new characters and reimagined obscure DC characters: The Manhattan Guardian, Mister Miracle, Klarion the Witch Boy, Bulleteer, Frakenstein, Zatanna and Shining Knight. The maxi-series consists of seven interlinked four-issue miniseries with two "bookend" volumes â?? 30 issues in all.
Dan DiDio (current editorial vice president of DC Comics) was impressed with Morrison's ideas for revamped characters. Giving him the unofficial title of "revamp guy", DiDio asked him to assist in sorting out the DC Universe in the wake of the Infinite Crisis. Morrison was also one of the writers on 52, a yearlong weekly comic book series that started in May 2006 and concluded in May 2007.
In November 2005, DC started publishing a new ongoing Superman series, starting with a 12-issue story arc by Morrison and Frank Quitely. Called All Star Superman, the series is not so much a revamp or reboot of Superman, but presents an out-of-continuity "iconic" Superman for new readers. All Star Superman won the 2006 Eisner Award for Best New Series, the Best Continuing Series Eisner Award in 2007 and several Eagle Awards in the UK.
In the same year, Morrison and Quitely worked on pop star Robbie Williams' album Intensive Care, providing intricate Tarot Card designs for the packaging and cover of the CD.
In 2006 Morrison was voted as the #2 favorite comic book writer of all time by Comic Book Resources, beating Neil Gaiman at #3. (Alan Moore was #1.) That same year, Morrison began writing Batman for DC with issue #655, continuing to be the series writer into 2008. As well, he is authoring the relaunches of The Authority and Wildcats (with the art of Gene Ha and Jim Lee respectively) for DC's Wildstorm imprint. However, neither have seen a release for many months and are on hiatus, with a fill in Authority mini-series being run.
Since 2003, writer and journalist Craig McGill has been working on an authorised biography of Morrison.
At the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con, DC Comics announced that Morrison would write Final Crisis, a seven issue mini-series slated to appear in 2008. Artist J. G. Jones will draw the series. Morrison also says that later in 2008 he will hand over the follow-up to 2004's Seaguy called Seaguy 2: The Slaves of Mickey Eye, the second part of a planned three part series.
At the "Spotlight on Grant Morrison" panel, part of the 2008 New York Comic Con, Morrison revealed that Wildcats would continue when Jim Lee was ready but The Authority's future is less certain: "Authority was just a disaster." It was running late and conflicted with the start of 52 but the last straw was when he read the reviews: "I said fuck it." Wildstorm editor Ben Abernathy has said the problems were caused by a perfect storm of events, but both series will get finished - Keith Giffen will be completing the twelve-issue run on The Authority. At NYCC Morrison also announced a new title coming in 2009, War Cop, which he says is "a very psychedelic thing and it'll be a little bit more back to being me again."
Other upcoming work includes My Atomika Bomb, a creator-owned title for Vertigo, with artist Camilla Dâ??Errico.