FULL BLEED: BURNING AIRLINES GIVE YOU SO MUCH MORE
So, I came across this and maybe it's of some historical interest.
Background. The year is 2003, and I'm a regular attendee of the San Diego Comic Con and it being the time of the nascent comics blogosphere and I'm writing things that I want to promote, I offer my labor for exposure. In this case, to Newsarama, which once was (and still is, I suppose) a daily website covering comics culture. I was also writing a free column for Broken Frontier back then, coming out once every two weeks.
Anyways, this is me reporting on the Grant Morrison panel that took place at SDCC in 2003, when he was running full speed on NEW X-MEN (and it sneaked out on the floor that he was walking away from Marvel that year, to return to DC with books like WE3, VINMANARAMA and THE FILTH, which was already underway. Oh, and SEAGUY.)
Enjoy this time capsule, and forgive my misspelling of Qlippoth.
SDCC'S GRANT MORRISON PANEL – Notes by Matt Maxwell for Newsarama, July 2003.
Comics-related news only amounted to about one-third of what Grant Morrison opted to discuss at his panel on Friday at SDCC. While he broke the news early about departing New X-Men with #154, there was plenty of other topics…and existential ideas touched upon.
by Matthew Maxwell
After a quick, cobweb-clearing shout into the microphone to wake the room up - as the air-conditioning seemed to have failed and half the room was fanning itself off with whatever could be found, things got rolling.
There will be no Marvel Boy II. The story that Morrison wanted to do was deemed “too cosmic” by the powers that be, so it won’t be happening. He didn’t seem overly bothered by it, though.
He’s recently signed a two-year exclusive to DC, which means that his work on New X-Men will draw to a close with issue #154, which ends an arc illustrated by Marc Silvestri. He joked that it could be seen as the last issue of the New X-Men altogether as well. He’d also later state that not only was it the end of the X-Men, but the end of a lot of other things, but he didn’t want to ruin things for future readers - spoilers in at the end of things, though.
Talking about The Filth, Morrison said that the next issue was a “psychic destroyer” and that if you’re going to read the series, you better read it all the way through to get the necessary closure, continuing his joke begun at the Vertigo panel where he said that if people had picked up an issue or two but didn’t read the final issue of the series, it would kill them.
Morrison also described the process of writing The Filth as, difficult and painful at best, and life-threatening in its most harrowing moments. There was a quick aside about jumping out of balconies of Los Angeles Hotels and the like, but he moves on quickly.
Even though he’s signed to DC, there will be no Le Sexxy, which he described briefly as a former rock-star opening an 80s-themed café in Glasgow; mayhem ensues. He’s not really interested in taking the project over to a place like Avatar, either. It’s not going to happen and he seemed as if he’d moved on.
We3 (“We Three”) is a project that he has developing over at DC, which he described as “heartbreaking, emotional stuff.” He mentioned some other projects briefly, but didn’t offer too many details, though he had some ideas for Captain Marvel Junior. Mr. Morrison wouldn’t answer questions as to the nature with his project with Frank Quitely, however.
Mr. Morrison described how he approached his run on JLA as mythology, where the plot drives the characters. This in opposition to the X-Men where the character conflicts drive the plot. This is a subject that would some up more than once.
When asked about his attempt to bring sentience to the DC universe, Grant described the concept of ‘emergence’ (best to Google it, folks) and how systems, once they become sufficiently complex, begin to generate their own intelligence and consciousness. More on some of this a little further in.
Sleepless Nights, the film that he’s developing over at Dreamworks, moves slowly through the Hollywood machine, but there’s not much to report on that front. He described the project as a “Halloween Classic”, but not to expect anything to happen until it happens.
As mentioned previously, the body of the panel was not dominated by direct comics-related talk, though not necessarily on the industry politics side of things, a matter which didn’t really seem to be of great importance - even with the surprise presence of Mark Waid who inquired more than once ‘So is it true that you know Mark Millar?’
When he was talking about superheroes, Morrison said that (as noted above) he’s got very different approaches to the different books that he takes on. His work on JLA was marked by iconic characters going through huge, larger-than-life plots more closely resembling Greek Mythology than anything else. The X-Men work that he’s done is far more character-driven, and as such was much more intimate and on a smaller scale (though against a larger backdrop of global mutant politics.) Both sides have their challenges and rewards, it seemed.
He said that his work on New X-Men was always a challenge to the status quo, as was the very presence of mutants themselves in the Marvel universe.
When asked who’d win in a battle between the X-Men and the JLA, he simply said “Batman would just say ‘You’re all in a lot of trouble.’”
Mr. Morrison was asked about his ‘scorched-earth’ policy towards books that he’s written, saying that it was basically impossible to follow in his footsteps. Mark Waid piped up “Hey!” to raucous laughter from the audience. Mr. Morrison went on to say that he didn’t really agree with that. Perhaps people felt that way because he actually ended stories (when he was given the opportunity) at the end of his runs. But even then, he ended his JLA run with the team racing off to deal with another crisis, changing none of them permanently.
Asked why he doesn’t draw, Morrison said that he simply wasn’t very good at that. Waid took a moment to disabuse the audience of that notion. He talked about how Morrison not only did page breakdowns for much of his own work as part of the process, but that he was heavily involved in the design of things, particularly on Doom Patrol. Waid continued and praised Morrison as one of the most visually-oriented comics writers that he’d worked with.
Okay. Things start getting really crazy right after this. You’ve been warned.
When asked about influences, Morrison pointed out William S. Burroughs as a specific influence on Doom Patrol, going to far as to call him the “Patron Saint of the book.” He also acknowledged specific techniques, like cut-up and deliberate mis-spell-correction to add a bit to the mix of things. Though he also admitted that he’s not really interested in specific process-writing/technique at all now. He went on to describe that the writing process for him involves much input from the characters themselves as anyone else. He’d originally written The Beak (from New X-Men) as a character to be killed off shortly after his appearance in the “Imperial” storyline, but that Beak started speaking up in his head and simply wouldn’t allow it. “Before you know it, he’d done all this crazy stuff and gotten a girl pregnant,” Morrison mused.
Of course, all this tied into the concept of emergence. Briefly stated, once a series of rules/concepts/organisms gets sufficiently complicated, a larger pattern emerges out of the whole. This is the concept behind “smart mobs” and beehives alike. There’s a single mind in a hive, but you couldn’t find it in an individual bee. As an aside, that’s the best way I can describe it; if you want more, seriously, Google ‘emergence’ and prepare to be overwhelmed.
Going further into The Filth, he talked about how the book worked him over. “The Klippoth definitely had me in its grip, then,” Morrison admitted. He went on to talk about The Filth as sort of a vaccine against the very things that the book is about. The Hand is kind of a defense mechanism/antibody for the psyche of the human race, with each of its divisions being modeled after a particular part of the immune system. Continuing, he described how each body is made up of billions of cells, but in and around all of those cells are some ten times that number in bacteria/viruses/other organisms and how they could be an emergent intelligence in and of themselves. Follow this line of thought if you dare, but the ready implication being ‘Who’s *really* doing the thinking in your body?’
Asked about the current state of the world, particularly the war in Iraq, Mr. Morrison offered, “perhaps it’s just an essential part of the system, as horrible as that may seem.” He wasn’t particularly interested in being part of any active anti-war movement, and noted that in his previous experience, a number of those people only seemed to be “interested in meeting up with the police.”
Morrison then mused on the cyclic nature of realism/fantasy in comics, each peaking in approximately a ten-year cycle from WWII onwards. From the crazed fantasy of the Silver Age (and even before) as well as the over-the-top horror of the EC comics, to the nods towards Marvel setting superheroics in the ‘real’ world in the ‘60s, to the creative explosion of Marvel in the 70s, and then the grim/gritty school of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. He noted that things seem to be moving to the fantastic side of the continuum again these days (a side he seems decidedly more comfortable with).
He went on to talk about how he’s not entirely thrilled with realistic comics. Realistic characters, yes, but once you put superheroes in the real world; they seem more than a bit silly. Morrison said that you couldn’t drag the gods to Earth and keep them as gods. “Realistically, the Flash would be able to take care of every super-villain everywhere over his lunch break, but how much fun is that?”
When asked to talk about The Invisibles, Morrison referred to it as not only a treatise on how to do magic, but as a wider introduction to a different way of seeing things (which is a mild understatement, for any readers who’ve plowed all the way through it). He went into particular detail regarding looking at 4th+ dimensional perception (assuming that we live in the fourth dimension: i.e., the three that we’re accustomed to plus Time as the fourth). As shown graphically in “The Invisible Kingdom”, he talked about how we leave “trails” through time, that to our perception in the present are inaccessible. But that if you were able to step outside the bounds of normal time, you could see a person/thing’s entire existence trailing off in the past, to a point far enough in the past where everything was a single Thing just before the Big Bang. Like a lot of the subject matter of the panel, it was pretty dense stuff and certainly demanded a lot of the listener.
Talking about comics generally, he said that they “move very quickly” as compared to other media like novels or movies in particular. From the time that he writes a script, if he’s on a normal schedule and not writing ahead, he can see the final product in four months or so. That’s not a lot of lead time when compared to the other media, which move in a course of years rather than months. This is why comics are so flexible in terms of adaptability and keeping up with events as they happen.
There was some discussion as to his loathing of folk music, and how Punk saved everything in 1977. Ironically, he’s written a vaguely folk album of songs that he hopes to have released soon. Though, he’s wary as to announcing these things before they’re more or less ready to go.
Asked of his thoughts on Alan Moore’s Promethea, Mr. Morrison said “It’s really well-drawn.” He went on to talk about the Kabbalah, and how like any system (like the Chakra system of Buddhism) is really only a tool to describe life around you. It’s not necessary to chain yourself to any one system, and there’s nothing to prevent you from coming up with your own way of doing things, whether it was with magic or anything else. This was one of his aims with The Invisibles as he described above.
When asked what his favorite hangover cure was, Mr. Morrison said simply: “Don’t drink. Or live in Scotland and drink all the time.”
Finally, Mr. Morrison was coaxed into singing a bit for the audience, for which he chose a bit from the John Lennon incantation that King Mob performed at the beginning of The Invisibles, to enthusiastic applause, even if he was just a tad reluctant to do so.
SPOILER FROM ABOVE…..
Morrison plans on destroying the Marvel Universe. Really.
Newsarama thanks Matthew Maxwell and Broken Frontier for their help in assembling this article.