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Aug 08

Comics: A Beginner’s Guide: Grant Morrison

The Brown Wedge7 comments • 565 views

Grant Morrison may well be my favourite comic writer ever, by now. I find him and endlessly imaginative, exciting and delightful writer, one who maintains my faith in buying individual comics rather than, as many have, buying the collections – he writes such great single issues, and I love the feeling of waiting impatiently for the next instalment. I’d maintain that his first great work was a comic called St Swithin’s Day, with Paul Grist, in which a young man dreamt about shooting Margaret Thatcher. Of course, since I edited that, I may be biased.

He started at DC around that time. On his own recommendation, I have never read the first four issues of Animal Man, but the fifth, centred around a version of Wile E. Coyote, is dazzling, and the meta elements of the rest of the highly imaginative series are extraordinary. His Doom Patrol run may be even better, bursting with strange ideas and breathtaking stories, and some great characters, not least Danny the Street, a superpowered street.

My favourite comic of his is probably his run on the Justice League of America, and it showcased one of the qualities he has shown on major titles, an ability to identify what makes a comic special or distinctive, and run with it. He centred it on DC’s biggest stars, and gave them the most gigantic challenges available. The climactic story, where the thing that destroyed the last universe attacks at the same time as World War III breaks out and all the participants are activating their nukes, and the alien Queen Bee takes over New York City and turns everyone into slaves, and Luthor attacks the JLA, blowing up their base and killing one of the members, to mention a few highlights, is magnificent. There are no superhero comics since Kirby’s Marvel prime that I have reread so often.

Many people prefer his X-Men, and this is not unreasonable – again, there are wonderfully built-up megathreats, and great use of the school. This also has better artwork than the DC series I mentioned, which helps, though I found the run a bit patchy. His Seven Soldiers project for DC was patchy too, with variable art quality and some of the seven mini-series much better than others, plus an overcrowded final issue – but some of it was glorious, including one of my favourite moments in comics ever. The page in the final issue of the final mini-series, Frankenstein #4, that reveals the nature of the enemy, and the following spread gave me a kind of thrill and glee that I’ve experienced only a couple of times in the medium.

Since then he has been writing DC’s two biggest stars. I’m particularly loving his Superman run, which plays with much of Superman’s rather ludicrous history, recreating some of the pleasures of the character’s silly stories of the late ’50s and ’60s. This also has lovely art, from Frank Quietly – Grant has not been blessed with this too often. He’s now writing Final Crisis, another mega-event title, which is immensely dense and rich so far.

Most of this stuff is pretty easy to find, bar St Swithin’s Day, probably. There are many, many collections of his best and most high-profile work, and I could have mentioned lots of other things well worth reading – some people like his big Invisibles series better than anything I’ve mentioned, for example, and the Seaguy mini-series was a total joy.

Comments

  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Seaguy 2 on its way – Da Fug!

  2. 2
    Alan on 4 Aug 2008 #

    he never made much impact on me because st swithins day is probably the last thing of his that i’ve read, and i may even have kept a copy – will try digging it out.

    what non-superhero stuff has he written since then? (maybe i should get over it, and try some Invisibles?)

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    I would recommend We3 to you since you are a fan of lolcats! Genetically altered supersoldier pets (everything augmented bu brainpower) is a loverly little idea.

  4. 4
    Martin Skidmore on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Most of what I love is his superhero stuff! Yes, I’m sure you’d like We3.

  5. 5
    Tom on 5 Aug 2008 #

    I’ve found Seven Soldiers really improves on re-reading: Douglas Wolk has made a case for it being the best thing he’s ever done, and I’m almost persuaded!

    If we’re talking G-Mo’s superhero stuff we should mention Zenith – the only really good comic about British superheroes ever! (sorry Paul Cornell)

  6. 6
    Martin Skidmore on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Yes, fair point about Zenith. I liked Seven Soldiers a lot, and the clever interlinking of the stories is clearer on rereading – but I still think it’s too uneven.

  7. 7
    DV on 24 Aug 2008 #

    Zenith should receive more props, though I suppose it is out of print and hard to find. But yeah, Lovecraftian horror, superheroes, and Robot Archie, what’s not to like?

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