Thee Comic Column #50: Grant Morrison

Several weeks after Comic con Grant Morrison’s Annihilator isn’t exactly breaking news any longer, but it is still very exciting news that I have not yet had a chance to write about. Annihilator sounds fantastic and it reunites Morrison with artist Frazer Irving – if you read the beautiful Batman and Robin books they did together a few years ago you know just what great news this is.

Like many other comic readers, Grant Morrison has been blowing my mind for years. And yet to me one of the most endearing things about the beloved Scotsman is how many of his comics affected me even before I knew who he was. The following is a little list of books he wrote that deeply inspired me before I was actively aware who he was or that they were all by the same person. Imagine how awesome it was to go back years later in the height of fandom and find they were all products of the same wonderful imagination.

Legends of the Dark Knight – “Gothic”. The year is 1990 and in celebration of the release of the first Tim Burton Batman film DC did a lot of special

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things with their biggest character. One of those things was launch an at-the-time fourth Bat-book called Legends of the Dark Knight. This was to be an anthology series, with each arc being handled by a different creative team The first five issues were “Shaman” written by Dennis O’Neil, Ed Hannigan and John Beatty. It was great. Dark and haunting. The second was Gothic: A Romance, by Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson. Gothic upped the stakes – it’s darker and considerably more epic a story for the dark detective. At the time I knew Jansen’s name from his collaboration with Frank Miller on The Dark Knight Returns but Morrison was not a name I knew. Since reading it monthly Gothic has remained my all-time favorite Batman story – it’s mixture of dirty mobsters, men without shadows, sunken European castles and Satan! Sound over-stuffed? It’s not – it’s a perfect, stream-lined story in which all of these elements combine for an absolutely brilliant experience that, to me, encapsulates everything the Dark Knight is about, while simultaneously playing with the spectral fringes of the character’s occasional dalliance with the supernatural. Make no mistake the supernatural is present in Gothic, but it is masterfully masked by an appropriation of history that weaves in some of the darker elements of religion and European mythology and brings Batman into – at the time at least – a whole new level.

Animal Man – I was a senior in high school in the early 90’s when a friend lent me all of his single issues of Morrison’s then-recently completed run on a title that I took one look at and said, “Now why the hell would I want to read a book about a character named, of all things, Animal Man?” Then I read the book and found out. Wow.

It’s no secret that Morrison’s Animal Man is largely considered the definitive run on the character – a character that previous to that run was probably D-Level at best. But in the early 90’s Grant Morrison wasn’t GRANT MORRISON yet, and he took a book about a ridiculous character and turned it into something people would be aspiring to and imitating for decades with other, higher-tier characters. Morrison’s Animal Man was the first Meta-comic material I encountered, and it completely changed the stakes of both comics and fiction in general for me. It took a lame character, made him look in the mirror and face both his inadequacies and his inherent humanity. It’s alternately giddy, terrifying and sad, mind-blowing and experimental, and for my money it’s still one of the best reads ever published by a major comic company.

Okay, that last one’s a bit of a cheat because it’s so well known. I’d like to say I read the fabled ZOIDS strip Morrison did that ends with the toys realizing they are at the mercy of higher dimensional beings who remorselessly manipulate them for their whimsy, but I did not. I’m not even sure how to go about acquiring something like that, although at this point it’s possible it may be online somewhere. Anyway, I’ll round this little discourse out with one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in going back and re-reading old comics, only to find it had bee written by someone I later ended up becoming a massive fan of. Yeah, this is a doozy…

The comic that got me into comics was Larry Hama’s GIJOE in the 80’s. My comic shop at the time, Heroland Comics in Worth, Il (this is back when it was adjacent to the Worth Post Office on 111th and Harlem, before the move further up 111th and eventual take-over by people that seemed to run it into the ground) would occasionally receive the British counterpart to GIJOE – Action Force! The book was published weekly in that British over-sized comic format and featured serialized reprints of the American Comic as well as UK-exclusive stories that existed outside Hama’s continuity.

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Action Force was eventually replaced by Action Force Monthly, which was published in the regular-sized American format but retained the multiple, serialized stories inside. It was in one of these that I read what would linger as one of my favorite one-off Storm Shadow stories, and years later, years even after I had become a card-carrying Grant Morrison fan, I dug this book out and was floored by the name of the writer on the strip. Yep, you guessed it, Grant Morrison.

You can go here and read what I believe is the entire story at daily scans here.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #50: Grant Morrison
  1. ny times Reply

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