(last week, in my week off after jet setting to Berlin and hanging out with loads of rad folk I headed to London for a Grant Morrison talk, I asked Holly to write about it as she knows far more about comics then me and it makes a change from my voice!)
Seleena asked me to write a report based on our adventures last week where we got to hear one of my all time favourite comic writers Grant Morrison give a talk promoting his new book Supergods:Our World in the Age of the Superhero. So Grant Morrison is pretty much responsible for getting me into comics. I'm now a fully fledged comics geek but 10 years ago I didn't have a clue what I was doing and was totally dismissive of comics. A few key titles changed all that, including some of Morrison's work. The first title I read by Morrison was St. Swithen's Day, followed by Kill Your Boyfriend, and then later Doom Patrol. At that point, aside from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, I had never been interested in reading superhero comics before. I kinda liked indie comics, but I thought superheroes were stupid, juvenile, and fluffy pointless crap. Titles like Doom Patrol changed all that while allowing a window of opportunity for me to jump right slap bang into the middle of a complex long running DC title with massive backstory, which is something that had previously put me off reading any kind of Marvel or DC superhero title.
For someone that was once utterly dismissive of superhero comics I'm now obsessed with them .So is Grant Morrison as he is just a geeky fan boy at heart. His new book is concerned with why superheroes exist, why we create them, how they change, and a bunch of examples of the hero myth throughout fiction and religion.
It's not as dry as all that. From the first 100 pages I've read, the book reads exactly how Grant Morrison talks: funny and animated, personal and super smart, geeky and excitable. I could listen to him talk on his own for hours. But he is kept in check tonight by an interviewer before taking on some extremely wanky and pretentious questions from members of the audience.
He talks a lot about the role of superheroes and widens the definition outside of comics, using religion, popular fiction, movies, folklore and myth as examples of our need to create superheroes and our need to hear those stories retold. Morrison discusses the repetition and cycle for all superheroes, it's essentially the same story being told over and over with the status quo restored at the end of each adventure.
While some writers find the structure of mainstream superhero comics extremely limiting, Morrison kinda loves the boundaries it places on his work. He describes it as 12 bar blues. He isn't there to play jazz and fuck things up, he likes the familiarity and the structure, and he can have fun with it. It's an interesting point cuz really in mainstream comics you can't do anything radical. You can never ever really kill a superhero. They always come back, whether it's a magical resurrection spell, an alternative universe, or some kind of other loophole - you can't die. Not for long anyway. Did I mention that Morrison is fucking funny as well? Everything he says tonight, even the deeply philosophical shit, is said with a cheeky grin. I don't know, maybe it's the Glasgow accent but when he's talking about the difference between real life death and superhero deaths in comics shouting “YR MUM'S NOT COMING BACK, YR DAD'S NOT COMING BACK, BUT BATMAN IS!” it's hilarious but so true. Superheroes can't die,so technically there's really no consequences to anything that superheroes do. But Morrison talks about how much he fucking loves that. He argues that Superman is older than all of us in the room tonight and that Superman will still be around when we are all dead, “Superman will outlive us all and maybe that makes him more real and more valid than we as people will ever be.”
It's also amazing how much Grant Morrison contradicts himself. He spends ages talking about how much more real superheroes are than us real life humans, but then rubbishes all that for the second half of his talk by saying that superheroes aren't real. While a lot of contemporary comic writers have spent a lot of time attempting to give superheroes real life problems and making them a bit darker this way, Morrison prefers his superheroes to be just that. Super. They shouldn't have to deal with the same shit us lowly people do. For every stupid question he is asked tonight he deflects it saying 'But it isn't real! None of this is real, it's just a story!'. He goes off on a tangent at one point saying 'people want to pick superheroes apart saying things like “why would superman look like that? Why does he wear such a ridiculous costume?” or “how come you never see Bruce Wayne go to the toilet?” BATMAN ISN'T REAL! HE HASN'T HAS A PISS IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE BECAUSE HE ISN'T REAL!”
Tonight Grant Morrison almost achieves the impossible: he manages to make me wanna read Superman. I hate Superman, I've read some stuff but I've never been able to read much without getting bored or pissed off with it, it just doesn't appeal to me. Until that is Grant Morrison described his new work on Action Comics #1 out this year describing his take on Superman as Springsteen Superman talking about how his Superman will be a working class dirty and gritty superhero. Ok, I totally wanna read that!
The best thing about Grant Morrison is that he seems to hate Q+As as much as I do (people don't ask questions at Q+As they just state a stupidly long opinion and stick a question mark on the end of it) and much prefers the sound of his own voice rather than the stupid questions he's getting asked today. From someone asking 'will you be writing anymore Seaguy?” - (um, well done mate, you know a lesser known Grant Morrison title, 10 geek points to you, thanks for your pointless question) to someone asking a 3 part question that seems to interrogate Grant Morrison's need to write himself in as a character in some of the comics he writes ( I can't actually remember the question because it took the guy about 10 minutes to ask it. I lost interest after about 5 minutes. So did Morrison). Morrison defended the way he sometimes writes himself into comics saying that someone should be talking to these superheroes and asking them what's up. The guy asking the question then said but why do we need to know what those guys think? Whats so special about them, why not some other fictional character, why not Ronald Mcdonald? To which Morrison replied 'it's about fucking time someone did have a word with Ronald Mcdonald, I'll do it, I wanna know what he's about, lets make it happen.' It was a great way to end the night and made me want a double cheeseburger and fries. Grant Morrison you are a legend.