Grant Morrison Interview

Comics Alliance has a pretty revealing interview with writer Grant Morrison about his work on Batman Incorporated, films and his upcoming work on the rebooted Action Comics, in which we’ll see a new, inexperienced Superman.

With Action Comics, we’re certainly dealing with a Superman that doesn’t have his parents anymore. Both Ma and Pa Kent are dead in this version, and it’s kind of like the original Superman where you saw him standing over their graves in the same way that Batman did and vowing to always fight for the right. He’s kind of a lot more isolated in that sense, even though he’s not a brooding or inward-turning character like Batman is.

Catch the whole interview here.

Watch Moore and Morrison Docos for Free

If you’re in the U.S that is. Last year’s doco, Talking With Gods on writer Grant Morrison can be seen here and 2002’s The Mindscape of Alan Moore can be seen here.

I’ve only seen the Morrison one, and it’s pretty good.

Talking With Gods in Melbourne

At the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Federation Square in Melbourne you can see the new doco about comics writer Grant Morrison. It will be shown on Friday January 28 at 6:45 pm and tickets will be available soon.

The trailer is below and here’s the official site for Talking With Gods.

Talking With Gods Review

This is something I’ve been meaning to review for a while. We talked about it on our Extra Sequential podcast a few weeks ago, in episode 15, but I thought it might be worth an extra mention  as we come close to Christmas, as it is a great present for the fanboy or girl in your life. For comics newbies, it’s not that acceessible. That is to say, if you don’t know who Grant Morrison is, then this won’t convince you of his awesomeness. Produced by the fine folks at SequArt, who are known for their insightful literary criticism of comics, this 80 minute documentary did surprise me in at least 2 ways. Firstly, I was sure they’d need to put subtitles on the film as every other time I’ve seen Morrison talk in his thick Scottish accent it was barely decipherable. Maybe he’s softened now that he’s spending more time in America, but it was fine and his casual revelations were easy and entertaining to take in. Secondly, he’s not as weird as I thought. He’s one of those creators, like Alan Moore, whose work is often examined and criticized, because we expect so much of him. Like Moore, he shares an interest in magic, but Morrison seems more public and approachable. When he discusses his dealings with the subject thanks to an influential uncle it just seems matter-of-fact. He also talks about his drug use (but no cocaine) and the strange visions that he experienced, and usually worked into his scripts on Vertigo series The Invisibles.

Of course, there’s many interviews with his fellow creators who aren’t shy on praise, including Frank Quitely, Phil Jimenez, Dan DiDio and many more. Though they’re not always revealing, they at least show Morrison’s down to earth nature and reinforce the fact that he is loved by critics, fans and fellow professionals.

It’s only $34 at Amazon bundled with the unsuprisingly more slick Secret Origin doco on DC Comics, which make perfect companion pieces, especially as most of Morrison’s work has been with DC in the last 20 years. It was Morison’s dynamite run on JLA for DC in the ’90s that cemented my love of comics and from that to WE3 to Seaguy to All Star Superman to a stint on X-Men for Marvel he’s shown that he’s a capable scribe of big ideas.

Talking about his upbringing, his love life, his artistic skills and the respect he has for the storytelling power of superheroes is all fascinating stuff. Unfortunately there are no interviews with loved ones, but the man himself is revealing and honest enough to paint a real self-portrait.

Director Patrick Meaney does a grand job of keeping it visually interesting and although it can divulge into a series of talking heads at times, generous use of the man’s comics work, and convention footage, make sure the visuals stay as interesting as the subject himself. The back cover of the DVD states that it contains, “mind bombs, psychedlic ideas and transgressive concepts,” which sums up Morrison’s work aptly. Of all the possible creators the film makers could have chosen Morrison is in the top 5 most obvious ones for he’s led an interesting and highly creative life. Their next film is on writer Warren Ellis and although I’m less familiar with his work, I’ll be sure to grab it too.

On a related note if you like behind the scenes on creative types, Chronicle Books is releasing Art Work in April which has looks at the notepads and journals from creators from many fields, such as Wes Anderson and Will Self.

Patrick Meaney Interview

My interview with Patrick Meaney is now up at Broken Frontier. Meaney is the director of the upcoming documentary focused on Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison. Entitled Talking With Gods the film is out on October 25. For comics fans, this will certainly be a good film to watch.

Grant Morrison Doco Out on October 25

The documentary on writer Grant Morrison (who relaunched JLA, killed Batman, rejuvenated X-Men and much more) is now available for pre-order at Amazon. This should be one interesting film. The cover below is not the final version, but here’s the official lowdown.

Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (producer) is proud to announce that its first documentary, Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, is now available for pre-order on Amazon (Region 1 DVD).
Talking with Gods examines Morrison’s 30-year career and the real-life events that inspired his stories. Featuring extensive interviews with Morrison himself, the film delves into his early days growing up in Scotland, the start of his career in comics, the crazy years of the ’90s as his life and his comics became enmeshed, and his recent attempts to turn social darkness and personal troubles into compelling comics. The film also gives insight into his creative process, including a look into his vaunted idea notebooks. Complementing Morrison’s own words are interviews with many of his collaborators and colleagues, including Frank Quitely, Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Mark Waid, Cameron Stewart, Douglas Rushkoff, Frazer Irving, Jill Thompson, Dan DiDio, and more.

Re-designing Batman and Robin

Over at The Source, DC’s official blog, are the latest two posts from Grant Morrison describing his inspirations and motivations for the new Batman and Robin series, with assorted art from Frank Quitely’s sketchbooks. I love all this behind the scenes stuff, and here you’ll see preliminary sketches of new enemies, the flying Batmobile, Damian Wayne as Robin and Dick Grayson as Batman (which is also covered by Alex Ross in his Rough Justice book). Some of the scribe’s inspirations are as wild as to be expected. Who else would take My Fair Lady as such a firm starting point?

Cry For Batman’s Justice

I haven’t been this excited about the Justice League for literally, years. I have virtually every issue of JLA since Grant Morrison and Howard Porter breathed new life in to the characters back in 1996. Morrison got the JLA. He brought brash, epic storytelling that matched the heroic icons represented by the League. After he left, it was OK, with a few high notes thanks to Mark Waid, Joe Kelly and Brad Meltzer, but the last 2 or 3 years I’ve really only been buying the title because the completist inside me feels compelled to do so.

Cry For Justice #1

However, James Robinson is now writing the League and it’s time to get excited once more. This is the best League since Morrison. Cry For Justice is a 7 issue mini-series that effectively stars a new JLA. Headlined by a disenchanted Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and a mish-mash of DC superheroes, this is no longer the JLA-lite we’ve had in the last year or two. This is the JLA with espresso in their veins. What’s most intriguing is the line-up. When it was first revealed it was somewhat perplexing. Hal and Green Arrow make sense, as does Ray Palmer (The Atom), but Batwoman, Congorilla and Mikaal Tomas (Starman)? They’re odd choices, but as Robinson describes in the 5 page regular feature, that’s what he wanted. The mix of new and old, or old made new, heroes, such as Freddy Freeman as the new Captain Marvel means that the interplay will be as exciting as the villain bashing. Robinson also uses the extra pages to give brief backgrounds for the roster and his buddy Len Wein writes a 2 page Congorilla origin (a hunter who had his mind transferred to a golden gorilla-that’s either cool or laughable).

Being a first issue, it’s all set up, with the opening pages dedicated to a fed up Hal confronting his JLA team-mates in the orbital Watchtower, while his pal Ollie also tags along for the justice serving adventures. The rest of the story shows glimpses of the rest of the new team as they cope with recent losses and find a burning desire for proactive justice. Robinson’s comfort with these characters is superb. Hal and Ollie’s dialogue is just like two old friends, and having written Starman for years, he knows the blue-hued alien Mikaal Tomas well too.

Batman and Robin #2Mauro Cascioli wowed many with his painted art on the Trials of Shazam mini that moved Freddy Freeman to drop the Junior from his Captain Marvel moniker. These pages are lush and realistic, not in an Alex Ross way, but with texture and tone and superb backgrounds. These characters look foreboding and heroic and scary. Thank you Robinson and Cascioli for giving the JLA CPR. It is for DC fans, but Robinson also knows that some of these heroes are more familiar than others and doesn’t act on assumed knowledge. This is going to be an exciting series and thankfully, once it’s over Robinson will be taking his skills, and possibly his new crew, on to the ongoing JLA series.

Batman and Robin #2 is just as good as the first issue. Some may find the circus talk frustrating, but Morrison shows Alfred’s concern for Dick, Dick’s frustration with Damian as his new Robin, and his weariness about being the new Batman very well. He also wisely brings up the idea of the Gotham cops, including Commissioner Gordon, knowing that this Dynamic Duo is not the old Dynamic Duo. Frank Quitely draws action scenes of such fluid motion you’ll feel like you’re watching a John Woo film. Little touches like Dick hating the cape as it makes him “way off balance,” and Alfred encouraging Dick to treat his new cowled role as exactly that, like a part in a play remind us that Morrison knows how to handle realism just as well as freaky villains and life and death scenarios.

Cry For Justice #1 p1

Cry For Justice #1 p2

Batman and Robin #1 Review

Batman and Robin #1There’s a lot riding on this series, but I don’t think anyone would expect it to not be a success. Famed Scottish scribe Grant Morrison killed Bruce Wayne/Batman in Final Crisis #6 a few months ago, but as we all know the term “comic book death” exists for a reason. Bruce Wayne isn’t really dead though, just unseen, trapped in the past. He’ll come back at some point, but it seems DC aren’t in a hurry to do so. June brings a slew of new titles focused on the new Batman and Robin and how that affects Gotham and its unusual citizens. If you don’t know who that new crime fighting duo are, here it is; former Robin Dick Grayson has now replaced his mentor as the new Batman, while Bruce Wayne’s son Damian is the new Robin. Apart from the slightly improved costumes for both this is also a fresh start for the costumed pair. Really, Batman and Robin haven’t appeared together that frequently over the decades, especially in the last few years. This is due to the fact that both characters have had their own separate series, so it’s great to see them together in a regular monthly series. Not that Dick as Batman and Damian as Robin have ever teamed up as such, however. As Dick says, ‘This is it. Batman and Robin. Together again for the first time.”

This issue opens with a car of criminals, led by the aptly named Toad, being chased down a freeway by the sleek new Batmobile, which thanks to Damian’s technical know-how, now flies. The first time we see the new Dynamic Duo, it is as they are sitting in their crimson vehicle and it’s a subtle, yet great intro. Damian looks defiant and brash, whereas Dick is more amiable than his dark predecessor. Toad is captured, but doesn’t give up any information, only warning them of his boss, the cruel Pyg. We then visit the new Batcave, under Dick’s hi-rise apartment complex in a tidy scene that sums up recent events ably, with Alfred offering sandwiches and encouragement to the new team.

We then see Commissioner Gordon waiting by the Batsignal, hoping against reason that the Batman he knows will show, despite months of not doing so. However, he sees the new pair descend from the hovering Batmobile and through the light of the Batsignal in their paracapes. It’s a poster worthy image.

Lastly, we see for ourselves the bad guy Toad mentioned. And what a bad guy he is. Morrison seems to like to bring in creepy new villains in whatever series he writes and excels himself here. Pyg and his cohorts are all masked as they break  in to a former underling’s house and torture him, with the declaration that,”Pyg is here to make everything perfect.”  This scene sums up the issue well – a dab of horror and foreboding with costumed characters aplenty. Frank Quitely’s art is powerful here, as it always is when he works with Morrison (as he did on WE3 and All Star Superman). His figures always seem slightly off-centre and never dashing or handsome. His layouts, and even the design of the sound effects as an artistic element, are pleasing to the eye to be sure. This is a brisk issue, and Morrison and Quitely are on this series for the first 3 issues only, but have succeeded in their desire to make a grand and mature first impression, on Gotham’s bad guys and us readers.

The last page is a four panel glimpse of things to come in the next two issues, including the unsurprising break-up of Batman and Robin, the new Red Hood (as some will know as Joker’s first alias in The Killing Joke, as well as that of former Robin Jason Todd). The image of the new Red Hood also has a silhouette of the female Scarlet, presumably his sidekick. This kind of anti-Batman and Robin is just the sort of idea that Morrison will get a kick out of exploring. The last two images are of the new Batwoman (who takes over as the lead in Detective Comics this month) fighting Dick with the torso of Bruce Wayne watching, over what could be a life giving Lazarus Pit, and a close up of the evil Dr. Hurt holding the keys to Wayne Manor. If you’ve been away from the Bat books for a while, this is a wonderful time to delve back in.

Go here for a preview.

Batman and Robin #1 p4-5

Batman and Robin #1 p6

Grant Morrison Documentary Trailer

I think anyone who’s ever read an interview with Morrison where he discusses anything other than the usually awesome comics he writes (JLA, WE3…) understands that the Scottish scribe is..umm..interesting. Now the proactive team behind Respect! Films, and Sequart are making a documentary on the man himself (complete with handy subtitles). It’s not out until next year, but until then, feast your eyes and expand your mind, with this trailer.

Batman #681 Review-Kinda

10341_180x270Every comic fan with a blog (and many without) will be talking about this issue, so I’ll make this brief. Grant Morrison is a great writer and has done more than his fair share of ground breaking work in the medium. This isn’t the best example. The entire R.I.P story arc, which has had flashbacks, alternate identities, the Black Glove and all manner of (hopefully) red herrings has been self-indulgent and meandering. Surely, this ignoble demise can’t be the death of Bruce Wayne. I can only hope that, like Jason Bourne in the last film, Wayne swims away to start life anew. The Batman identity will go on, after a “Battle for the Cowl,” involving his assorted partners over the years, and the too-obvious choice of Dick Grayson (the first Robin) in a full page spread holding the cape and cowl seems like another trick to us poor readers. I am excited about the future of this book though, especially with artist Andy Kubert working with writer Neil Gaiman as well as legendary writer/editor Denny O’Neil’s return to the Bat mythos, for two issues before then. O’Neil has crafted some of the best Bat tales ever and has expanded the Dark Knight’s world in a way no-one else since really has. At least his books should be enjoyable.

11116_180x270Basically R.I.P has been a drawn out storyline and this has been an unsatisfying conclusion. Granted, Joker seems scarily cool again, and Tony Daniel’s artwork has finally gotten somewhere above average, but that’s nowhere near enough. It may make sense when all the issues are read as a whole, but Bats deserves better. I’d like to hope that the new Owlman lookalike on the cover of the new Outsiders #15 is Wayne in a new identity though. In the meantime, if you want good Morrison Batman, check out the trade of Batman and Son. Or if you haven’t been following the R.I.P stuff, don’t bother buying back issues.

I think the growing pains are over and Bat-fans can breathe a sigh of relief now that the worst is behind us. Please tell me I’m right, DC. Please.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3-D #1 Review

Final Crisis is DC’s mega-event for 2008. After the original maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths two decades ago that effectively wiped the slate clean from convoluted continuity, we were given the far more restrained, but hard hitting Identity Crisis by novelist Brad Meltzer in 2004. This time the Crisis is Final. Apparently, but no-one will be surprised if another series with the familiar title shows up somewhere down the line.

Just like with any big event, tie-in issues are strewn throughout the company’s books (see Marvel’s current Secret Invasion for example, which does a far better job of creating a unified story than FC does) Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D picks up on a story thread glimpsed for two pages in Final Crisis #3; after a bomb detonated at the Daily Planet, Lois Lane is in hospital, with her husband Clark sitting vigilantly by her side keeping her heart pumping with his continual heat vision. He can barely keep Lois alive, but it means he can’t leave her and help the world as Superman either. When Jimmy Olsen departs the hospital on a quest to find the Man of Steel, an alien woman appears revealing two things to Clark, namely she knows who he is and that she can save his wife.

This is the point at which Superman Beyond begins. It’s a two issue series, written by Grant Morrison, otherwise known as G-Mozz to his many fans, and drawn by Doug Mahnke. The cover is certainly eye grabbing, with it’s pulsating heat vision coming straight for the hapless nerd perusing the racks. Like films using 3-D technology, comics using the same method are few and far between these days. The master of such technology, Ray Zone does the honours here. The whole issue isn’t rendered in the effective imaging tech, only 13 from a total of 30 story pages, but it certainly works and has been creatively incorporated into the tale itself. What made me pick up this ish is primarily penciller Doug Mahnke. DC must give him more work. There is no-one else like him on the stands today. His rugged pencils (especially on the classic Action Comics #775 and the Justice League Elite series) render superheroics with a harsh realism. He doesn’t present a world of majesty and muscular posing, but raw power and emotion. He’s one of my favourite artists today, and the 3-D feature only helps make his work seem even more visceral.

The let down here is the writing. I know it’s a Grant Morrison book, so I should like it. I want to like it, but my love of the G-Mozz has waned somewhat in the last year or so (and Batman: R.I.P isn’t helping either) Don’t get me wrong – he’s certainly a visionary writer, and like his arch nemesis, Brian Michael Bendis, can craft a tale years in the making with ease. However, it’s that complexity which could also be his downfall. It seems forced here, with an abundance of characters, concepts and hard to pronounce alien names that aren’t really necessary. Only true DC die-hards are capable of navigating the murky waters. I would say Morrison need stricter editorial control. His far out ideas are getting further and further out. He can do tight adventure epics extremely well, and has, particularly with his JLA launch over a decade ago, but now he seems dangerously close to becoming a mad genius stewing in his own bubbling creative juices.

Back to the story at hand – the apparent saviour of Lois freezes time, and guides Superman through the multi-verse, complete with a 4-D vision upgrade which allows him to see between the 52 different universes. The evil Superman counterpart from the anti-matter universe, Ultraman, attacks the Ultima Thule, the woman’s ship, which is also carrying other heroes she’s gathered from different worlds, including Superman variants such as Overman (from Earth-10, world where Hitler won WWII) and Captain Adam (Earth-4’s Quantum Superman from a world where the laws of physics differ from ours) Supes saves it from drifting uncontrollably between universes by forcing a crash landing on Earth-51, a planet seemingly devoid of all life. Superman quickly learns that the offer presented to him has also been made to his counterparts. It’s a clever twist and her motivations for such manipulation will surely be revealed in the last issue.

After leaving the crashed ship, Supes and co. are surprised to find a group of forgotten heroes, in a limbo of sorts, where nothing happens and memories gradually fade. They investigate a mysterious library on the strange planet, and find a book with an infinite number of pages, from which Ultraman happily skips to the ending and announces that “Evil wins in the end!”

If you’re not a reader of the current slate of DC books, don’t expect this to make any sense at all. If you’re a fan of great looking art though, grab it, put on your cardboard 3-D glasses included and gawk with glee.

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