Superstar writer Grant Morrison visited the world famous CBR Floating Tiki Room at Comic-Con International in San Diego, ready to speak with Jonah Weiland about everything from his fascination with Hindu mythology to his new projects for DC Comics and Humble Bundle. As always, the Scottish writer entertains with his unique takes on storytelling, universal myths and how he constant fails to tell his last Batman story.
Morrison begins by discussing how he’s managed to avoid ever learning how to drive, despite now living in Los Angeles four months out of the year, before transitioning to his new Humble Bundle-exclusive comic “Avatarex.” The project, which marks Morrison’s first digital comic, merges classic myths with modern living and filters both through the writer’s unique world view for what he calls a super hero story that comes from a very different place than most. He also explains his fascination with Hindu culture and how he sees the growing Indian comics readership.
On his new Humble Bundle project, “Avatarex,” and using super heroes to do good far beyond the story:
“Avatarex” is my first super hero for India. It’s one of a few things I want to do, but this is setting up for me a kind of universe. I love the idea that with Humble Bundle we actually get to make the profit from the comic work, and I love the idea of a super hero who can actually have real world effects. So to buy into this, you actually can pay what you want but the money goes to charity. You choose the charities, so we’re actually helping people with this which to me was — that’s what sold it to me. I’ve done the Superman comics and some kids were saved from suicide by that one scene in “Superman,” but I thought, “This is more.” We can actually make these super hero characters function in the real world. And as I said at the panel, rather than being these kind of expressions of the military entertainment complex they’ve become, particularly in the west, it seems like a way to actually make them function as super heroes again and to do something real for real people who are in trouble. So what we are doing specifically with this one is helping people with literacy in India, particularly helping ghettos, with education and getting people out of poverty. So that was the big thing for me, getting to do something that actually comes from a different place; a super hero story that’s actually coming from a different kind of culture and has an actual function.
On using the biggest Eastern myths to tell new stories for Western and Eastern audiences:
The “Mahabharata” is ten times the size of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” combined, so those are the nearest things we’ve got [in the west]. It’s this massive, poetic work about everything. So those are the closest things for us. But they have much more currency in the east than, say, the Greek myths do for us. I mean the Greek myths for us, at best, are the inspiration for the Justice League or the Avengers. But over there the mythology is still alive, it’s still part of people’s lives. The ideas of karma and dharma and how things work are still very alive. So that’s what I love about it. It’s the type of mythology that still means something to people and it can be then very easily updated. It still speaks. Real mythology is timeless. It doesn’t need cultural dress, it’s about stuff that happens to people no matter when or where we live. That’s what I like about it, the fact that it’s alive and it can be seen expressing itself in modern ways.
On comics as a community:
It’s all about comics. That’s what it always was, coming to a place like this and meeting fellow fans and readers. That’s what this was always about was this community. And if we can make that a global thing so it’s global and international it’s even better.
The next part of the discussion shifts gears to Morrison’s upcoming DC Comics work, but not before taking a slight detour to talk about his time with the Dark Knight and the Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo run that followed him on “Batman.” Morrison then explains his goals for the “Batman: Black and White” anthology, how it’s designed to tell a variety of stories and, at long last, be his last word on the character and the idea of Batman. As for the upcoming Flash story also announced at the convention, Morrison says it’s a story he’s wanted to tell for a long time, more of a straight sci-fi take on the Flash, and why he had to go with Barry Allen as the titular character. He also elaborates on DC’s plans to expand his “The Multiversity” series and possibly incorporate more stories into the larger, multiversal narrative.
On his upcoming “Black & White” project, which he calls his “final word on Batman”:
I’m basically doing a “Batman: Black & White,” which is my final word on Batman, probably. But I always say it’s gonna be my final word on Batman. … I kind of thought it would be interesting to do a fine art Batman and maybe we’ll get a couple people in there that readers will be familiar with from the comic business. Most of these people tend to do gallery shows or take photographs and it was just a way of doing a bunch of Batman stories in that black and white format and showcase a completely different type of art talent and completely different views of Batman. So somewhere we’ll be doing a Batman of Zurr-en-arrh story which is one of the weirdest things you’ve ever seen. Different takes on Batman.
On finally telling the Flash story he’s wanted to write for a very long time:
[I’m] doing the Flash almost as a sci-fi story where it’s a guy getting faster. Really simple, a Richard Matheson idea like “Shrinking Man,” or Stephen King’s “Thinner” where you just take a really simple notion — bigger, smaller. This one, he’s someone getting faster. What does that mean? And seeing how The Flash would emerge from just this very simple scientist getting faster story. So I’m doing that, and to a certain extent it’s a revamp, but it’s happening outside the main continuity.
On why Barry Allen:
I love Wally West, but this one I want to be Barry Allen. He fits in better. I like the idea of the police forensic scientist. And I know they’ve done a lot more of that in the recent [comics], but back in the day that was barely looked at. And I want to do the Iris relationship, the idea of this girl who’s like super fast in this city who’s obsessed with fashion and they all drink coffee. It’s just a fast city and [all that] information. And she can’t stop talking — like me, I can’t stop talking. And Barry’s this methodical guy and suddenly he’s like he’s on speed all the time and it’s just getting worse and worse and worse. And she’s kind of having to deal with her boyfriend who she quite liked as being the slow, methodical guy is suddenly turned into this pop star, this fizzing as if he’s on coke constantly. And there’s there’s also a tragedy of what happens as we start to approach the speed of light.