Roughly one year later, with this year’s installment of Comic-Con in San Diego set to begin next week, CBR has the exclusive first details and first interview with Morrison on his BOOM! Studios project — and can virtually guarantee it’s not what you expected.
Morrison has teamed with artist Dan Mora — a BOOM! veteran known for his work on “Hexed” — for “Klaus,” a six-issue miniseries slated to debut in November. “Klaus” is a Santa Claus origin story, reinventing Father Christmas as a crusader against injustice and a rough-and-tumble, Conan the Barbarian-esque superhero. The series draws upon early Viking and Siberian Santa Claus mythology, but also aims to be contemporary, portraying a much cooler and fiercer Santa than the one usually known to come to town every December 25.
CBR talked in-depth with Morrison about “Klaus,” an idea he said came to him during his time on acclaimed DC Comics series “All-Star Superman” — and he was shocked it hadn’t been done already.
CBR News: Grant, the concept of “Klaus” is a rather universal and timeless one by nature — is this an idea you had kicking around for a while, and were developing here and there?
Grant Morrison: I had this notion way back. I was doing the “All-Star Superman” stuff, and I got so into Superman, so into his character, so involved with what we were doing. When I finished, it occurred to me that I’d really love to do this — with a character that wasn’t owned by a corporation. [Laughs] I thought about, “Who does everyone know?” “Who’s every kid’s favorite hero?” I suddenly thought, “How come no one’s told the ‘Year One’ of Santa Claus?” It seems so obvious. Basically, this is my “All-Star Santa Claus.” [Laughs] “Santa Claus Year Zero.” It’s kind of neat approaching that character as if he was the world’s greatest superhero, and we’ve never learned the origin.
Even though there are plenty of contemporary stories that involve Santa Claus, it’s almost always the same basic interpretation, there hasn’t been a lot of deep looks or reinventions of the character — did this story feel overdue to you?
Weirdly enough, no one’s done the origin story. I think there was one film from the ’60s or something — I can’t remember who did it, but it was a kind of origin for Santa. I know there’s a new movie happening, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get this out there. It’s a screenplay that’s out and about.
I wanted to do this, because my take on it was just to do it like a superhero. I think no one’s done that, and it was weird that no one’s thought about that character — what was he like when he was young? How did he get the sack? How did he get the reindeer? How did he get the sleigh? It seemed like such an obvious story. I really got into it, especially after the very dark stuff that I’ve been doing, like “Annihilator” and “Nameless.” I really wanted to do just a big, fantasy epic for a wider audience, an all-ages audience.
How similar is the “Klaus” take on Santa to the interpretation we all recognize? You’re drawing on some of the earlier roots of the character, the Viking and Siberian origins. Will “Klaus” look and feel like Santa, or something different?
The first image that came to me, and this kind of sums it all up, is this ferocious-looking, almost “Conan the Barbarian” young man with black hair and a black beard, the snow is coming down onto him, it’s turning his hair and beard white. That was the image that came to me first. It really became about that. We’ve never seen him young. We’ve never seen how the hell this happened — how did he get to be Santa Claus? It seemed such an obvious, ridiculous idea, that I really seized on it and it became a kind of “Lord of the Rings” meets “Batman Begins.” [Laughs]
I thought it was such a franchise-able thing. It allows me to create my own Batman, my own Superman, my own Doctor Who. There’s so much you can do with this character. Everyone’s familiar with it, but no one really knows him. It was all about just getting to the roots of this thing. Here’s a massive icon everyone around the world knows — how deep can we dig, how can we we make him human? We take this quite seriously, and do it like Frank Miller did “Batman: Year One,” but with Santa Claus.
We go back to the shamanic roots of the character, and the mythological roots of the character. It’s a man suddenly finding himself in a much bigger, stranger world.
“Klaus” is also about making the character contemporary, and making the character “cool.” That sticks out to me, because Santa is a character that, of all the words you can associate with him, cool is not one of them.
Exactly! And that’s why it’s such a great challenge. To take something so ridiculous that we all know, and suddenly do a twist on it. I keep coming back to, why has no one thought of this? This is like a Mark Millar idea. [Laughs] It seems so obvious, but it’s been very engrossing, going back to the roots of Santa, the Siberian shamanistic kind of version of it, and then you’ve got the character Sinterklaas, and everything built up towards the familiar guy that we know.
I really thought it was just a great, untold story, to hear how that happened. And then to go at it as a big, big epic fantasy that’s got a little bit of “Conan the Barbarian,” a little bit of “Lord of the Rings,” a little bit of sci-fi.
There’s not necessarily much personality to Santa Claus other than “jolly” — and I guess “generous.” What was that like, to flesh out a personality for Santa? Did you see a lot of potential there?
Absolutely. He’s just a picture on a greeting card for most people. Like in Batman — when did he first figure out to dress like a bat? When did he first make a Batarang? [In this series], when did he first say “Ho, ho, ho”? How did this barbarian-like giant of a man finally become what we recognize?
You’ve noted the series will tell how he got his sleigh, his sack — how did you figure out which recognizable elements you wanted to include, and which ones you might want to ignore?
I really did some serious research on this. We built on every single idea of Father Christmas, of Santa Claus. We included everything. So all of the trappings we recognize, especially when he winds up in the familiar red suit with the belt and all of that — not as quite an old man, but that’s what he will become.
One of the first ideas that came to me is, “What the hell does Santa Claus do the other 364 days of the year?” This is kind of the story that explains why he does what he does, and also sets him up for all of these other adventures. Where the hell does he go? Does he go to space? Treating him as kind of a cross between Batman and Superman, and almost weaving in a story like “V for Vendetta” — the rebel against society who becomes something quite different.
You’re using the word “superhero” a lot — do you mean that in terms of the mythology and the iconic nature of this character, or is there a more literal level, where he’s actually fighting injustice?
Absolutely. When you see the story, that’s really what it’s about. It’s one of my favorite themes. It’s someone fighting against an oppressive authority. That’s how it starts out.
This is your first work for BOOM! Studios — you’ve worked with a lot of publishers, including very recently at DC Comics, Image Comics and Legendary Comics. What made BOOM! the right home for “Klaus”?
I’ve been doing a lot of new, creator-owned kind of stuff. I’ve done a couple Image books, I’ve got “Annihilator” with Legendary, I’m still working with DC — I love DC Comics a lot. But I wanted to do these new things. This all-ages thing — it seemed perfect for BOOM!, and I love the guys over there. Some of the best editors I’ve ever worked with. We’ve been talking about [working together], and I thought this was the project that suited BOOM! — the way that “Happy” suits Image, and “Annihilator” fits with Legendary. It was tailoring what I wanted to do to the specific publisher that could do it best.
You also haven’t been on a proper monthly title since wrapping up on “Action Comics.” How much are you enjoying having more time and freedom to do less conventional projects like this one?
I was locked in to those “Batman” and Superman deadlines. As much as I loved doing that, it stopped me from doing a lot of stories. These are stories I came up with five years ago, in some cases. They’ve just been sitting there — just couldn’t get to them. Honestly, it feels like liberation to be able to tell these things that have been building up in my head for a long time.
And you mentioned the all-ages aspect of “Klaus” — how important is that? As you noted, you’ve written some darker stuff lately. Were you looking to write a story with a broader audience?
The last couple of creator-owned things I’ve done, “Nameless” and “Annihilator,” honestly, was dealing with my mother’s death and all of these dark subjects. Coming out of the other side of that, I just wanted to do a big, fantasy, sexy, superhero Santa. The feeling behind it is very genuine. It’s like someone coming out of a tunnel.
And for “Klaus,” Dan Mora is the artist…
Oh my god! I’m looking at this picture right now. It’s Klaus with a dead reindeer over his shoulder, his pet wolf at his side, and he’s covered with blood and he’s got a sword. It looks so great. Dan is amazing. He’s one of the best artists I’ve worked with. I didn’t even know the guy before this project. He’s fantastic. BOOM! suggested him — it was an instant sell. This image kind of sums everything up.
It also inspires me — once I see the character and the expressions in the art, it inspired me for the next script.
So this “Klaus” story is an origin story, but it sounds like you’ve got the enthusiasm to do more?
The first arc is going to be six issues, but I wanted my own Superman, ultimately. So we’re kind of doing the revamp stuff I usually do for DC, on a much more universal character. There are so many more stories we can tell. We can kind of go anywhere with this guy after this. It’s the kind of thing I think I could run for a long, long time.
Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s “Klaus” is scheduled to debut from BOOM! Studios in November.