Mapping the Madness of Grant Morrison – Rhymes With Geek
Originally written for RhymesWithGeek.com
I’m trying to remember my first experience of Grant Morrison’s work.
I’m fairly certain it was his first Batman work, Arkham Asylum: a Serious House on Serious Earth (more on Batman in a while). It may have been his run on New X-men from the early 2000’s, where he obliterated Genosha, revealed Charles Xavier’s evil twin and killed off Jean Grey. Again. Oh and there’s Xorn but I’m not even going to attempt to explain that (here, let Rachel and Miles lead you through it instead, as only they can). It may also have been his Fantastic Four miniseries ‘1234’, also from 2001 that he did with Jae Lee. Either way neither of those runs fully prepared me for the sheer brilliance that is Grant Morrison. And I do think he’s brilliant, so if you’re not in that camp (and let’s face it, even his ardent fans like myself would admit he’s divisive, at best) then apologies, this article may not be for you. Suffice to say that after reading the latest issue of The Multiversity – entitled Ultra Comics – I knew that I had to make it my mission to read through his entire back catalog.
I’ve only just started on my Grant Morrison journey,
but already I know that if future me came back in time (the future me that’s already read everything the man has ever written) and said “dude-” (I’d call myself dude, because of course) “dude, Grant Morrison, is like your favorite comic book writer ever. EVER. Also watch out for the Space Bug invasion. IT’S COMING.” (I, like many others, live in constant fear of the imminent Space Bug invasion), if that happened then I would not be surprised in the slightest.
Now I wouldn’t say I had no prior knowledge of the man and his work as I began this journey just over a week ago. Aside from his Marvel work (still good, but nowhere near his peak) I also read all of his Batman run as it was coming out and then once again after it was all finished, and I debated going on a Morrison quest back then because man – that run was amazing. Seriously, there were moments where I had no idea comics good be that good, and that’s a frankly ridiculous fact for a 30-something lifelong comic fan like me to admit, but it’s true. All that stuff with Zur-En-Arrh, and how he meticulously weaved every facet and aspect of Batman’s decades long narrative together so it made sense was superb. Genuinely mind-blowing. (If you’ve not read it I highly recommend it, and if you have and want to hear the man himself talk about it all, check out his interviews on Kevin Smith‘s Fatman on Batman, which are all fascinating).
It was, however, his most recent work on The Multiversity that finally kicked me up the ass and got me working back through his comics. The simple fact (and by fact I obviously mean my humble opinion) is this:
People will look back on The Multiversity as a masterpiece.
I know. If you’re not a fan you will be rolling your eyes at this point, and I get that. I hate hyperbole but in this case I’ll make an exception. The Multiversity feels like the ultimate culmination of not only every piece of writing that Grant Morrison has done so far (now, bear in mind I’ve not read much, but I know his style, I know what his narrative tropes are and I know that Multiversity touches on themes present in certainly the majority of his DC/Vertigo work), but also the culmination of everything Grant Morrison knows and loves about DC comics. Not to mention everything he sees DC Comics to be, to represent, to be capable of. He uses his vast and thorough knowledge of DC history to craft a tale that slips into the wider narrative seamlessly while paying an awed and reverent homage, and at the same time challenges the conventions and expectations of what a comic book is, what a comic book is capable of, and what role you, the reader, plays in – or rather what power you have over – such an unashamed fictional universe.
So far I’ve read through the Flex Mentallo miniseries (itself a perfect companion to Ultra Comics) and have now started reading through his seminal late eighties run on Animal Man. I could have gone back further to his 2000AD work like Zenith, and I 100% will at some point (my journey would not be complete without it), but for now I was hungry for more of his DC Universe work. Already I can tell I’m in for a wild ride.
I’m immersing myself in Morrison.
On the Kevin Smith Podcasts I linked to earlier (and on my blog I also touched on this), Grant Morrison talks about how, when he wants to really know something or someone, he totally surrounds himself in it/them. He gave the example of John Lennon, saying that he literally sat in a circle with Beatles and Lennon stuff around him, listening to Beatles tracks on repeat, until he started to see a vision of Lennon appearing in front of him. I won’t go that far, but I’m ready to go all in. As well as Flex Mentallo, Animal Man and the final issue of The Multiversity at the end of the month, I’m reading his book Supergods (which in itself helps you to understand and appreciate his comics), I’ve been listening to podcasts and discussions about his work, and I’m gobbling up any and all interviews, commentaries and essays about him.
I feel sad that I’ve called myself a comic book reader for nearly my entire life and honestly have never read or experienced comics like this.
I felt this way when I first read Watchmen,
and I’m feeling it now. “How can I say I know comics when this can blow my mind so thoroughly? I know nothing.” Still, I have started now, and I’m not stopping until I’m done. Doom Patrol. All Star Superman. Joe the Barbarian. Zenith. JLA. 52. Annihilator. Seven Soldiers. We3. Nameless. Final Crisis. The Invisibles. I cannot wait.
Wish me luck!
Or better yet, join me on the journey! Whether you’ve read his books before or just starting like me, pick up Animal Man #1-26 and let me know what you think!
Until next time,