Thought from 2 Geeks - Talking with Gods
Disregard my somewhat incoherent ramblings, it was late and a bottle of pinot had just roughed me up. Emmet's much more coherent ramblings are both insightful and impassioned.
Emmet: So we're talking about Patrick Meaney's documentary on Grant Morrison 'Talking With Gods'. It is another in a line of films based on comic creators, such as Terry Zwigoff's Crumb. Hopefully as the popularity of comics increase we'll see more of these. To start things off, what did you think of the film overall?
Ryan: Overall I really enjoyed it. As far as production values are concerned, it was a well produced piece. It was well laid out and gave a very interesting insight into one of the most… interesting… characters in the comic book world. Yourself?
Emmet: I think Meaney did a very good job of collecting all the weird and wonderful stories about Morrison as an introduction for people who have not yet had the pleasure. It was also interesting as a long-time fan to revisit these anecdotes of alien abductions in Tibet and conjuring up magickal forces in his teenage bedroom.
Of course this film has been followed by Morrison's own book Supergods. It seems as if he is positioning himself for the next stage in his career - the Morrison media assault has begun.
Ryan: I find that this is actually quite common of Morrison throughout his career. He seems to be on the front pages of every media outlet for a while and then he just disappears for 12 months.
I was never quite the fan that you are and was actually late on the uptake. Even then I was always a little more likely to read his Batman or JLA runs than The Invisibles or Doom Patrol. That said, All Star Superman is one of the best books I've read in the last 10 years and his story about meeting Superman with Frank Quitely was a cracker.
Emmet: I actually think it was Mark Waid he encountered the Superman cosplayer with though.
What's interesting is how the themes and ideas of his non-superhero work is repeated in books like X-Men and JLA. Richard Metzger from Disinfo addresses this in the film when he describes Morrison's superhero comics as a candy-coated bullet, delivering weird subversive ideas through established trademarks like Superman and Wolverine.
Anyway, what was your first Morrison comic?
Ryan: My first Morrison experience was Arkham Asylum, along with innumerable others. I think it was in about 93 or 94. Its funny because I was about 13 years old and thinking about how comic books were for kids and I'd soon have to give them up, Arkham Asylum dispelled this self perpetuated myth.
It was around the same time that I read Watchmen. Which brings me to the Alan Moore bashing. In short, it shits me. He's an easy target, partially because of his eccentricity but also because he doesn't play well with others.
Emmet: He doesn't play well with others and he has very definite ideas about what his stories mean and what the relationship between the business of comics and the actual creating should be.
There is a fascinating document floating out there in the internet ether, namely his proposal for Twilight of the Superheroes,where he comes up with an idea for a 'capstone', a projected endpoint for the entire DC Universe. He describes at length in the introductory preamble the business opportunities of this crossover. It's interesting, because there's this common perception of him as an ivory tower artist who wants nothing to do with money, yet here he is talking about DC following Marvel's lead in merchandising a company wide event like Secret Wars.
Ryan: Speaking of eccentricity, Morrison bangs on about his magic and sigils and magic mushrooms and everyone seems to jump on board with it. Moore says something about a Snake God and he's a mental? No fair!
Emmet: They are awfully similar aren't they? That's another odd point. Is Morrison's resentment of Moore based on the fact that he got everywhere first? Crowleyan magician? Check. Occasional rock star? Check. There is one key difference between them though.
Moore is a storyteller.
Morrison actually wants to be a part of the story.
Ryan: That really struck me, how much he wants to be inside the story. Both in Animal Man and The Invisibles.
It also struck me how he claimed that he had to experience what his characters were experiencing so that he could adequately write about it. Come on man, if all you could write about are things that you experience, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman would never have existed. Where's your JLA then?
Overall, the pretentiousness of it left a sour taste in my mouth. That said, I walked away with a renewed appreciation for Morrison's love for the medium.
Emmet: Moore's most personal work in recent years was Promethea, so of course Morrison had to respond with Seven Soldiers Zatanna which attacked the literary pretentions of that series. Morrison believes in sigils, branding as magickal practice basically, as opposed to Moore's focus on religious and cultural history.
Street graffiti and logos versus grimoires.
Also, if I was forced to choose between a Roman deity or John Lennon to worship, I'd plumb for the ancient god. They've had more practice after all and I can't handle a pantheon that features Yoko Ono.
Actually it's important to note that Animal Man's encounter with his creator is lifted from a Scottish novel called Lanark by Alasdair Gray. That does not get pointed out enough. His talk of fiction suits predates Animal Man and The Invisibles by some years.
What is interesting about Morrison is how much he interweaves his thoughts and feelings into the characters. This is what he means when he talks about 'hearing' the characters. I enjoy his writing, I am an obvious fan of many of his books, but as the years pass the same themes occur again and again. I begin to ask myself who else am I missing having spent so much time with Morrison?
What makes him so special?
Ryan: I feel the same. Even though it was a documentary about Morrison, it made me appreciate some of the newer comic creators like Snyder, Gischler and the equally mental, yet nowhere near as insane Hickman.
I really did enjoy the documentary. It certainly made me want to go trade paperback hunting.
Emmet: This year is a good time to be a Morrison fan, because on top of his own work for the major DC characters (apparently he's choosing to reinvent Superman as a Bruce Springsteen-style working class hero...) and his book/upcoming film Sinatoro - Flex Mentallo is supposed to be coming out? Have you ever had the chance to read that book?
It's interesting you mention Hickman, because I read his first issue of Ultimates yesterday and he's introduced a concept of Morrison's X-Men run - The World, an artificial environment where time works differently creating highly advanced war machines within a short period of time from the perspective of anyone outside.
Ryan: I'm a massive Hickman fan. At the moment, there is nothing that he writes that I don't like… even though I generally have no damn idea what's going on.
On the Superman subject, if he doesn't have a red bandanna sticking out of his back pocket I'll be severely disappointed.
Judging from the doco, it is a good time to be a Morrison fan.Whether you like him or hate him, there's no denying that Grant Morrison is a fantastic storyteller. This is about the time for him to reinvent himself like he has so many times before.
Emmet: He's the Madonna of comics.
....I don't see him adopting that as a tagline.
Here's an interesting thought. The Wachowski's have managed to adapt Morrison and Moore during their film work, with The Matrix widely considered an unofficial take on The Invisibles and V For Vendetta a vanilla version of the original book.
With that, I went to bed while Emmet returned to his home which is shaped like a giant cuttlefish and smells like pickled radishes... or so I imagine.