Acclaimed writer Grant Morrison visited with Jonah Weiland and CBR TV aboard the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk about his ambitious upcoming books, why he now writes entire projects in advance and more. Morrison gets personal with his new Legendary Comics title “Annihilator,” about a screenwriter with a terminal illness whose creation knocks on his door, and calls it probably the darkest thing he’s ever done. The writer then discusses “The Multiversity,” his years-in-the-making DC Universe project that spans multiple words and why he let the cat out of the bag years before it was ready for print, as well as why the time it took has made the book so accessible for readers. Lastly, Morrison discusses the delays on “Wonder Woman: Earth One” and why his take on Diana has helped him explore new avenues with super heroes.
On how “Annihilator” mirrors struggles from his own life and career: “Annihilator” is the story of a screenwriter called Ray Space who’s basically, he’s had a bit of success a few years ago, and he wrote a couple of films with Tom Cruise — and then he spent all the money on drink, drugs and women. So this is him at his last chance and he’s been offered the opportunity to write a studio tentpole called “Annihilator,” which is this big science fiction thing that they hope is gonna be very successful. As he’s about to start Ray is diagnosed with a brain tumor and told that he’s gonna die. So, basically, it literalize the very concept of a deadline. Once he’s decided, “Okay, I’m gonna die. Fuck this, I’m gonna commit suicide” — the doorbell goes and the character from his screenplay [is there] just saying, “Okay, let me explain what’s happening here. It’s not a brain tumor, it’s my biography. I fired it into your head from another universe. Only you know who I really am and you have to tell the story. You’ve got seven day or the universe [will be] destroyed by the people who are hunting me. So unless you tell me my story and write basically what’s the greatest screenplay of your life, we’re all doomed.” It’s all about the deadline doom.
Also, it’s my take on Hollywood, because I’ve been living there for the last five years and I’ve written a bunch of screenplays that have never been produced. So I’ve been through the mill; I’ve been kind of stocking up my rage and resentment for a while and “Annihilator” is my science fiction epic, apocalyptic take on living in Hollywood.
On the long wait between “Multiversity’s” announcement and release and why he couldn’t stop talking about it: That’s my fault, you know, ’cause I — back in the days when we were doing “52,” we had this big idea that [Mark] Waid and [Greg] Rucka and Geoff Johns and me were gonna do a bunch of books set in the worlds of the multiverse that we’d restored at the end of “52,” but it just didn’t pan out. But because we spoke of it back then it was kind of on people’s radar and over the years I took it upon myself to finish this project and I’ve just been adding to it and adding to it and, of course, I keep talking about. I kept talking about it way ahead of time because we have Frank Quitely doing this kind of “Watchmen”-esque book — and Quitely’s slow but I handed him a script, because we wanted to do the whole “Watchmen” method. So I gave him one of these Alan Moore-type scripts that’s like [motions widely with his hands] this size, with panel descriptions that’s just some guy’s nose that run for five pages. So poor Quitely’s just sitting going, “Oh my god…” He’s actually been working on this thing for two and a half years, and again, that was part of the delay. A lot of the artists are really brilliant but they’ve been slow, so it’s all coming in now and we had to wait a long time for a lot of people. But I just couldn’t stop talking about it because I was having such fun writing about it. It’s my fault, I kind of blew the whole thing way ahead of time, but now it’s finally happening.
On whether a project this massive ever becomes too unwieldy for the writer to keep track of: It was very planned. In a way, all the stuff I’ve done before was very improvisational because when you’re working on monthly comics you’re churning them out, you’re trying to hit the deadlines, you’re trying to go into to the next one. Sometimes you’re servicing four and five artists at a time. It tends to be like live performance [art]. This one I’ve had a chance to actually work it over eight years so it’s kind of smoothed out most of its rough edges and I think it’s probably one of the most accessible things I’ve done, actually.
Really, all there is to it, there’s two bookends which tell one big 80-page story, which is kind of a ‘Crisis’ story with a bunch of characters from across the universe and multiverse. And there are seven individual issues in between which are all complete 40-page stories, done and dusted, you can read one of them and not read any [of the others] and still enjoy it. At the same time we have a thread running through of how the characters of all these worlds are basically facing the same thing even though they don’t know it. It’s actually a quite simple, linear story. It’s not one of my, you know, time’s switching and non-linear connections, it’s really A-B-C-D. In the midst of that we also have this guide book that comes in the center which actually explains everything and it’s the most anally-retentive piece of work. You might have seen the map that we did of the entire DC Multiverse — this also goes through every single Crisis — it has every world and who lives there. I made up like hundreds of new characters for all these different universes. I think it’s quite a solid piece. I don’t think anyone’s gonna find it difficult to get through, I don’t think anyone’s gonna find any confusion in there at all because I’ve had so much time to make sure the confusion was beaten the hell out of it.
On whether Wonder Woman presents a greater challenge than any other character, or just a different one: The Wonder Woman thing has actually given me a new direction to go in because once I got into I thought, “I don’t want to tell a boys adventure story,” you know, this is a story about women. For the first sixty-odd pages there are no men apart from a little bit of Hercules at the start. Basically it’s about women talking about science and philosophy and art and having weird crushes. So it’s about women, and that informed the entire storytelling structure. Suddenly I felt I didn’t have to make punch-’em-up confrontations, I could deal with things at an emotional level. Really it opened up a new way of doing super hero stories for me, I think. And yeah, it’s been fascinating. Like you say, she is a really intricate character and the more contradictions, the more layers you can put on that character the better it becomes.