At Sunday morning’s MorrisonCon spotlight panel on writer Grant Morrison, attendees squeezed into the crowded Hard Rock Hotel convention hall, cheering as the convention’s muse and panel subject walked onstage, took a bow, and then laid down on the couch.
“Good night,” Morrison said, closing his eyes as the audience laughed.
After joking with the room about hangovers from partying on Saturday night, Morrison revealed his spotlight would function as a Q&A where he’d answer absolutely any question the audience posed. This statement was immediately put to the test when the first audience member to the floor’s microphone asked Morrison to describe what the fifth dimension — a dimension Morrison has claimed to have experienced — looks like.
“It’s the start of the day!” Morrison said as the audience laughed. However, his teasing demeanor gave way to seriousness as he began to describe his encounter in detail.
“If you can imagine infinite blue in every direction, this really good, azure blue and through it were kind of red lines and the red lines were so close it looked like frameworks and it could appear or disappear and it seemed the things that lived there, these blob things, [that] would plug into these systems of moving grids and take information from it and put information into it,” Morrison said, adding it was hard to describe as humans do not posses a fourth dimensional language.
“It could be the interior of a cell as much as it could be the fifth dimension — but it felt like a place and it felt better and more real than this as I’m sitting, with much more high-definition, better colors, more emotional content. This,” Morrison continued, gesturing around to indicate real life, “feels flat in comparison.”
Adding that in the dimension he saw our universe, which looked like a “bowl of sphincters,” Morrison said he was told by a being the dimension was how universes were built and the planet Earth was an incubator for the beings’ children. The timeless nature of the dimension also made him realize the past still exists independent of human ability perceive — much like how comic book characters move forward in their stories, but the panels and grids still exist on the page.
“So if you’re getting any of this shit,” Morrison added, suddenly very self-conscious as the audience laughed. Despite trying various psychedelic drugs in the ’90s to recreate the experience, which he had while sober, the writer admitted “none of them have ever taken me anyplace close to that — really I have no explanation for it,” Morrison said.
Moving on to the next question from the audience Morrison said his most eye-opening travel experience was actually to New Delhi, India.
“I’ve never seen poverty on that scale, but not just poverty, poverty just accepted into the fabric of society,” Morrison said of the city. He then remembered a conversation he had with a taxi driver after he told the driver he was not rich. “[The driver] said, ‘Have you got a house?’ I said yeah, I have a house. ‘I live in my car! You’re rich,” Morrison recalled.
“It draws me constantly,” Morrison added, citing the ideas emanating from that part of the world as amazing, though he was quick to caution the laughing audience never to take ecstasy offered on a plane, as he once had traveling to Nepal.
“It was like fucking Valkyries, I’m on the way to Valhalla,” Morrison said of doing the drug while on the plane, but when he landed and got to the hotel he realized, “I look in the mirror and there’s shit running down my white pants! I took a bath for two days then got on a train and got the fuck out!” Morrison laughed.
The writer told the next two fans he had never traveled back in time and that his favorite film was Malcolm McDowell’s “O Lucky Man!” because it touched on ideas of economic and class inequality.
A fan of “The Invisibles” wanted to know why killing machine King Mob looks like Morrison.
“I wanted a character who could really represent me because the magic I was doing with it was to try and embed myself in the comic as much as possible. I had experimented with ‘Animal Man’ and realized you could put a little drawing in the comic and interact with the characters and the whole environment, so it seemed there was a lot we could do with that,” Morrison said. “I wondered if you could do voodoo by creating a little universe and having yourself in it.”
After basing King Mob’s look on counter culture fashion of the day Morrison said he realized, “I could live like that, my fucking hair was thinning anyways so I thought I’d just become this character and see how close I can merge with the book.”
“It’s also good for your self-esteem when you’re a little thirty-year-old writer who’s spent most of your time in the house!” Morrison laughed. “To become something else and take on a persona — I found when I became someone else I could do more, I was a little more resourceful — usually I’d just crumble under pressure but with that [persona] I was resourceful, I could do things.”
Morrison then said his favorite comic book ending he ever wrote was to Vertigo Comics’ “Animal Man” and that his ending monologue about signaling his imaginary friend Foxy with a flashlight was something Morrison would actually do as a kid, though unlike in the comic he never received a response.
“I really love that ending because I think it just hit everything I want to say in that book in that sense of hope, but you just missed it,” Morrison said. The writer then revealed he was incredibly saddened by the ending of Brian K. Vaughan’s “Pride Of Baghdad” and his affection for his characters was the reason he refused to let all his animal assassins die at the end of “We3.”
“This is my universe, the animals fucking live!” Morrison said to thunderous applause.
A fan with a shaved head lightened the mood by asking Morrison about his shaving schedule and razor recommendations.
“Gillette G3 is what does it for me!” Morrison said as the crowd cracked up. “Those guys, it’s like an endorsement… Did you say, Gillette G3? So yeah, Gillette G3!”
A fan hailing from Australia asked how to involve sigils in non-masturbatory sex.
“You could draw the sigil on somebody’s back and then aim for that,” Morrison said, shrugging as the audience laughed.
The writer then said there would hopefully be more “Seaguy” stories coming out in tandem with the 20th anniversary of Vertigo Comics next year, but it was dependent on schedules and could change at anytime.
The crowd and Morrison cracked up again as a fan asked for recommendations for chaos magic books “for the casual reader.” Morrison recommended occultist Peter Carroll, the originator of the chaos concept, and his most recent books “The Apophenion: A Chaos Magick Paradigm” and “The Octavo: A Sorcerer-Scientist’s Grimoire.”
A “Supergods” fan asked what was the dumbest thing Morrison ever did trying to get laid.
“Everything!” Morrison said as the room laughed, adding, “But once I started I really got going!”
Asked about his current spiritual practices the Scottish scribe said he stopped doing regular magic as he has reached a level in his beliefs that almost approache nihilism, citing the Buddhist idea of sunyata, or the cold emptiness of looking at the world as is devoid inherent existence, as the natural endpoint of everyone’s magical path.
“After that the magic I was doing seemed quite pose-y and pretentious and it became more embedded, you don’t have to do anything anymore, all those rituals seemed just seemed like they’re there to get you in the mood,” Morrison said.
With that bleak thought, another audience member asked, in the face of war, economic crashes and global warming, is there any hope for the future?
“Yes,” Morrison replied, and the answer had everything to do with phones.
“Everyone’s got a phone now and the phone is getting smarter and smarter, the phone’s getting smaller and smaller, children have them now, so what you’re seeing is the development of a prosthesis,” Morrison said, explaining phones were evolving alongside humans and slowly merging the two into one. He also cited Stephen Hawking’s brain-computer interface as helping speed transhumanism, seeing both things as the beginning of a way of life that would turn humanity into a literal network identical to technological networks, erasing war and all barriers by interconnecting the human race.
“It’s going to be something new, it’s going to be a networked entity,” Morrison continued. “That’s what happening right now and there’s kind of a race on between the apocalypse and this thing — It’s not aliens that are going to come in, it’s the phone that’s going to come in. The phone is ringing for us right now and is about to connect everything up.
“So don’t worry!” Morrison added as the audience burst into applause.
To a fan wanting recommendations for beginning spells Morrison hyped using sigils, though he thinks, “The Aleister Crawley [magick] stuff is really dated now — all the metaphors don’t really relate to the world we live in.”
Morrison also told the audience his “Batman” character Dr. Simon Hurt had some Lovecraftian influence but a different writer, J.-K. Huysmans, influenced both Lovecraft and Morrison.
“He wrote ‘La Bas’ which was one of the first Satanism novels and has a chapter with crazy Satanism, in the 1800s,” Morrison said. “So he inspired a lot of people because he created almost this decadent figure, the guy dressed in black and looking into mysteries and going further and further into doubt. With Dr Hurt, one of the basics of Batman is the bullet holes in his parents — Dr. Hurt came from the idea of being representative of this hole that runs through Batman’s life.”
The “Action Comics” writer also touched on his assertion in “Supergods” that writers shouldn’t use superhero stories to deal with real issues despite his preaching animal rights in “Animal Man,” explaining he just wanted to avoid “finger wagging” at his audience and would rather people take up causes in real life.
Speaking further on “Animal Man,” Morrison said, “I never liked the Red because all it was was Swamp Thing taken over here. We had the whole morphogenetic field, which explained Animal Man’s powers. I see him as a superhero who commutes to the DC Universe and has his family and loves animals rather than this savage expressive of nature, red in tooth and claw — That aspect that was put on top of the character I was never really happy with.”
The final question came from a man who wanted to know how close Morrison thought he was to merging with the archetypes from his books, and if he believed the material he wrote was actually influencing currents events the whole world.
“I think that would be a pretty insane thing to think,” Morrison said about the latter. “But at the same time you can’t deny, as stupid as you imagine, when you put work out for so long and a lot of people read it, a creator is someone who influences the influences of a culture.”
“But honestly, there’s too many people like me in the world,” Morrison added. “If I died tomorrow there’d be someone else like me who’d appear in the world and do exactly the same thing I do. I don’t think I’m important at all. I’ll just die like everybody else, screaming and shitting myself!”
“Let’s end the panel like that!” Morrison said as the audience laughed one last time, closing the panel to thunderous applause.