With the who's who of sequential art descending upon the Big Apple this weekend for New York Comic Con, CBR News tracked down one of the event's guests of honor, Grant Morrison, to discuss the superstar writer's work at DC Comics and to help fans get geared up for all of the weekend's fun and festivities.
We begin our three-part presentation of ALL STAR GRANT MORRISON with a conversation about "Final Crisis," and follow-up tomorrow with a discussion of "Batman" and "All Star Superman" and a little "Seaguy" on Thursday.
Asked right out the gates if "Final Crisis" was truly DC's final "Crisis," Morrison told CBR News, "There are still all kinds of words to put in front of 'Crisis.' There's 'Constant Crisis', 'Future Crisis', 'Mid-Life Crisis.' But please don't say that to them [DC]. Really, don't even hint that there could be more crises
"I mean, it's certainly a big one for me," Morrison continued from his home in Scotland. "I can't take responsibility for what DC management decides to do in the future. But the idea is this isThe Final Crisis, yes. I'm taking it seriously. So if they are going to have a big event after this, they are going to have to use a different word."
Morrison, easily considered one of the top creative minds working in the comics industry today, said "Final Crisis" has been in the works since he left Marvel for DC in 2004. "After I left 'New X-Men,' [Executive Editor] Dan DiDio asked me to come over to DC to do Superman. Back then, they were looking for the next 'Crisis,' which turned out to be 'Identity Crisis,' by Brad Meltzer. I had sent in a big pitch for something called 'Hypercrisis' and it would have included some of the ideas I have about Hypertime and DC's higher dimensions and such. It was a huge storyline, 12 issues, all number ones to launch new series and all connecting to make one big epic," explained Morrison.
"DC Universe: Zero" on sale April 30
"The first page opened with them all standing at Captain Marvel's grave and Superman saying, 'Marvel is dead.' And that's how it was going to open. But they didn't like it and they quite rightly went with 'Identity Crisis,' which was more grounded. But Dan DiDio still wanted something and I was working on 'Seven Soldiers,' so out of that came me saying, 'I want to do something with the New Gods and try to make that franchise work again' and Dan said, 'Well, do you want to do the 'Crisis' for 2008 and bring in all that stuff?' And I said, 'yes.' And this was way back in early 2006. I started on the first script back then."
And while Morrison said, conceptually, he has known what "Final Crisis" would mean to DCU proper for some time; it was his collaboration with artist J.G. Jones that made him realize how grand the project's scale had become. "Stories and series are always evolving whether they are ongoing or finite. I started out and wrote skeleton versions of the first five scripts of 'Final Crisis' and then once I saw J.G. Jones's art come in, that was a real big inspiration for me so I went back and changed some things because his stuff is so brilliant and the characters 'act' amazingly well. It really made it very filmic and tangible.
"It's like 'All Star Superman' with Frank [Quitely], where you can go back and take out a lot of dialogue and exposition because the art does all of the work it's supposed to.
"There were some things that J.G. had inspired in me which began to feed into some of the issues I was working on, so issue #3, for instance, changed quite considerably and #4 changed too. They were heading towards the same big peaks and the same big finale but some of the little twists and turns along the way started to get a bit more intricate than when I started."
"Final Crisis" #2 on sale June 25
Morrison confirmed the Jack Kirby-created New Gods force a majority of the twists and turns in "Final Crisis," and the writer's first vision of the epic tale was based on the question of what if not one, but ten world ravagers came to Earth.
"The New Gods, as a concept, is so brilliant. And more importantly, the New Gods gave us Darkseid, who has always been DC's greatest villain," said Morrison. "He's probably New Gods' greatest contribution to the DC Universe. But beyond that, everything about the New Gods is amazing. I read those Kirby omnibus books all the time. They're filled with so many characters and so many big ideas. The whole thing is a complete re-creation of the superhero concept as pop mythology. Kirby rewires the whole thing.
"But people tend to think about the New Gods AS superheroes these days. And even I've done it myself in 'JLA' where they're just these guys with a bit of extra power, who have a bit more snarl and crackle on their faces. But they've never really been treated AS gods with all the implications of that.
"What would it really be like if bad gods turned up on Earth? Because as this story opens, the war between Good and Evil has been won by the wrong side and Evil is now in control of the DC Universe. And then we see what happens next as a result of that. I've got a tendency to write villains as ultimately dumb and absurd characters but the challenge on this one was to evoke a real sense of evil onto the page. When you think of what people are capable of doing to one another and to other animals, when you add up all the centuries of cruelty and hatred and torture and it's still only a drop in the black ocean that is Darkseid, you realize you can't pussy around when you're writing the God of Evil so it all gets pretty intense and slightly disturbing. And it's happening to the DC superheroes we love.
Libra and the Human Flame are reintroduced to the DC Universe in May's "Justice League of America" #21
"The first god character Jack Kirby did, really, on that scale, was Galactus in the Marvel U. So for me, it was simple, look at the threat created by one Galactus appearance on Earth and imagine what would happen if an entire pantheon of these guys showed up, all actively evil. Imagine the scale and the power of just one creature capable of inspiring entire religions, then add more, each more cruel, perverse or demonic than the last. That's the set-up.
"The Gods are here to destroy everything that we hold dear, everything that has meaning to us, everything that has value for us. They want to utterly crush the human species and reduce us all to slavery and that's as big a threat as it gets. We wanted to do a primal superhero myth that would pit absolute evil against pure good in a way you don't see much of in comics these days so it's the story of the DC universe facing its apocalypse and only Darkseid could cut it as the main villain.
"The only person on Earth who's aware of what's happening is Mister Miracle. He's encountered the evil gods before but nobody listens to him because he's a mad, show biz escape artist, who claims he was abducted by Metron. So that was the first basic idea behind 'Final Crisis.' What would happen if 10 beings with the powers of a Galactus turned up and really decided to fuck the world up? They're not just hungry forces of nature you can scare off with an Ultimate Nullifier. We're not insignificant insects to the Evil Gods. We're more like play things. Sport. They take a personal delight in seeing us suffer and they enjoy thinking up new ways to hurt us. So how does it affect the world when the Day of Wrath arrives and these monsters show themselves? What happens to the superheroes? How does each of them confront ultimate darkness? And how do they come back from it? A lot of them will be changed quite considerably."
In his first major tease, Morrison said, "Batman isn't coming back from it. Batman, as we know him, is not coming back from it."
On sale in May, "DC Universe Special: Justice League of America" reprints the first appearance of Libra, one of the key characters of "Final Crisis"
Morrison, who is the regular ongoing writer for "Batman," said while "Final Crisis" is not a major line-wide crossover it will tie into a few regular DC titles including his own Bat-book. "The idea for this year was to not tie into everything else so that's why we're not crossing over with every other book. The tie-ins on 'Final Crisis' are written by me, Geoff Johns or Greg Rucka and all of them are important to the main story" said Morrison. "That being said, with 'Batman,' for instance, the focus on it this year has been on 'R.I.P.' but immediately after that six-parter, there is a two-part story that's kind of the Last Batman Story, in a way, and it ties straight into 'Final Crisis.' So there are certain little crossovers here and there. I have no idea what other people are doing but I know that this year, everyone is trying to do big iconic storylines in their own books, rather than tie into 'Final Crisis'. It's a way of giving some sanctuary to readers who don't want to get caught up in the summer's event books. But there's definitely a before 'Final Crisis' DCU and an after 'Final Crisis' DCU, as you'll see."
In 2005, Morrison launched the mega-series "Seven Soldiers," which earned the writer an Eisner Award in 2006. The project, which was heavily focused on the two New Gods Mister Miracle and Darkseid interconnected seven miniseries and two stand-alone issues. While Morrison hinted that there were a few "little clues" in "Seven Soldiers," he said readers of "Final Crisis" don't have to run out and grab the TPBs or go digging back into their long boxes to follow along with the 2008 event.
"I like to write things so you don't have to read anything extra," Morrison continued. "Obviously, it sells more books for me, so yes, everyone should go out and buy 'Seven Soldiers.' Particularly 'Mister Miracle,' which was the most hated of the 'Seven Soldiers' books and sold least. Stuff like that has little clues in it, but honestly, you don't have to read anything else. 'Final Crisis' is like picking up a book. It's like you're picking up any science fiction book or a fantasy book and starting from page 1. Everything you need to know about the characters will be in the book."
Along the same lines, Morrison shared all readers need to know about the two D-level villains who have been rumored for months as heavy hitters in "Final Crisis" - Libra and Human Flame. "Again, you don't need to know anything about them. Because the more you know about these guys, the lamer they become," laughed Morrison. "I'd rather have people pick up the book and see Libra for the first time done the way I want to see him done and the same goes for the Human Flame character.
"Final Crisis" #3 on sale July 30
"The reason I chose them was because Libra came from my favorite ever run of 'Justice League of America' and he's never been used again. He was a character who had stolen all the powers of the Justice League, but then couldn't handle it and ascended to some kind of screaming godhood where he became a million transparent body parts spread across the sky. So I thought if I was doing a thing about the New Gods, he'd be an interesting guy to bring back because I needed a masked mystery man to start a new recruitment drive for the Secret Society of Supervillains, because they become almost a terrorist sect. Under Libra's guidance, they start doing quite bad things, even to superheroes' wives and families, crossing the line. So there's that element to the story and I needed a masked guy, who people didn't really know that well. And I remembered Libra and the fact that he is connected to this ascending to godhood thing tied him in really quite nicely. What's really going on under the hood will be revealed later in the series.
"With The Human Flame, I wanted a Martian Manhunter villain, and I couldn't find a really good one. Then, looking through the old 'Showcase Presents' books, I discovered this stupid guy called Mike, who declared himself to be the Human Flame. And he wore a homemade costume with six nipples that shot flames. So I just thought this is a great way to start this book because the idea is that Libra gives all the villains a very simple choice, he says, 'Follow me and I'll give you your heart's desire.' And that's it. And some of the villains naturally say, 'Prove it.' So the Human Flame is one of the first to fall in with Libra and he says, 'If you can get revenge on my old enemy, who has had me stuck in jail for the last five years, I'll follow you anywhere.'
"I needed a small-scale dumb guy, who could make very big waves and open the book with a shock moment and the Human Flame fit the bill. Also the name is great, because he's the first of the villains to succumb to the Anti-Life Equation. And the idea of the Human Flame being 'extinguished' in this way was just too cool for me to let go of it.
Grant Morrison used the New Gods in his lauded "JLA" (Pictured: "JLA Vol. 1" Deluxe Edition, on sale August 20)
"All of these guys were chosen for roles in the story, not because they are fan favorites. I just don't play that game. I wish I could. So I don't want readers to run back to their 'Who's Who' thinking that there will be some big revelation about these characters in there. All the stuff you need is in the book. And these two are just the tip of the iceberg, every DC villain appears in this book. There's a cosmic murder mystery running through the book and the really big bad doesn't turn up until the very last issue. There's a lot going on but I've noticed that no matter what I say about the content of 'Final Crisis,' there will still be online fans who'll swear blind they have no idea what the book is about so I'll leave it at that."
And while "Final Crisis" features two relatively obscure villains, Libra and Human Flame, Morrison is certainly no stranger to DCU's larger threats. In "All Star Superman," Morrison has Lex Luthor, in "Batman" he plays with Joker and in "Final Crisis," Darkseid is front center.
The three could be considered the Anti-Trinity for lack of a better term. "Yeah, pretty much. Now that you mention it, I've never actually thought about it that way," said Morrison. "Luthor is the meanest because he is the most fucked up with bitterness which at least is a recognizable human emotion. The Joker would do worse things to you, but you might just get away with it depending on how he felt that day. Actually, you probably wouldn't. He would do mucky, seedy things to you more than likely. And Darkseid, would just annihilate you and your family's free will and have you all slaving in the fire pits with no memory and no hope AND your entire environment ruined forever.
When asked to pick the biggest DCU baddie, Morrison said it depends what your fears are. "Luthor is intellectual evil and the Joker is perverse evil and Darkseid, he is just cosmic evil - evil as an unstoppable idea."
Going the other way, Morrison said only one supervillain would ever consider fighting the good fight. "Luthor, definitely Luthor. The Joker has no meaningful potential for good but Luthor actually has the potential. If he gets rid of Superman, he might be a better person," explained Morrison. "In 'All Star Superman,' though, I am basically saying that he wouldn't be a better person. That he just uses Superman as an excuse and a scapegoat for doing nothing. And I kind of like to use him that way. He talks a big game but if you actually give him a challenge, he's not up to it. Luthor needs validation and to be acknowledged as special, so I think there is the possibility of him helping his fellow men, as long as they put up a statue afterwards and rename the planet Lexor.
Morrison confirms "little clues" to "Final Crisis" are to be found in his megaseries "Seven Soldiers of Victory," but that they are not required reading to follow the 2008 event
"Luthor actually gets his big choice in 'Final Crisis' #3. Everybody gets a big choice in that issue. And after that, choice itself is eradicated by the Anti-Life Equation."
In August, "Final Crisis" will take a one-month break before returning in September with #4. There are a number of reasons for the pause both within the series and in terms of pacing, but the main motivating factor is the Fastest Man Alive. "The main reason for the break after #3 is, for reasons I won't go into here, The Flash winds up running a month into the future. He runs right into #4 at the end of #3. So you kind of get a snapshot of what has happened to the world in that month before finding out all the details in #4. The first three issues show things slowly going wrong, as the steady creep of evil advances so by the end of #3, the Evil Gods are actually manifesting in their full power to possess the planet Earth. And when #4 begins, a month has elapsed and suddenly we're in a whole new world, with very different rules. So that's why we made that break," said Morrison. "The series ramps up into new territory and transforms with #4 and what happens in #4 through #7 is going to have huge ramifications for the DCU in the aftermath."
The Flash, historically, has proved to be a vital cog in all the 'Crisis' events. In "Crisis on Infinite Earths," Barry Allen, the second Flash, died while stopping the plot of the Anti-Monitor to destroy the world. He returns, briefly, in "Infinite Crisis" to team up with the other Flashes - including Wally West, Bart Allen and Jay Garrick - to push Superboy-Prime into the Speedforce, eliminating that threat. Wally and Jay are active and Barry and Bart are dead, but both are rumored to make a return in "Final Crisis."
CBR News asked Morrison point blank, which Flash runs a month ahead into "Final Crisis" #4. He replied with a laugh, "It's not Jay Garrick! In #3 we have a race between the Flash and the Black Racer, who is, as you know, the New Gods' version of Death. So you go and figure it out."
**It should be noted that it was announced in the DC solicitations for July that Geoff Johns' "Rogues' Revenge" Flash miniseries will be tied directly to "Final Crisis.**
Morrison drew huge inspiration from Jack Kirby's New Gods stories, all of which are reprinted in the "Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus" collections
Morrison continued, "The break also allows us to do a few specials that fit neatly into the gap. I'm working on a Superman book called 'Superman Beyond,' which I'm hoping will have a 3D section. It's going to be the Superman strand of 'Final Crisis' because he's taken out of the picture in #3. And this is about where he goes and what he does and it has a team of alternate Earth Supermen: Captain Marvel from Earth 5, Ultraman, the evil Superman from the Anti-Matter Earth, Captain Atom from Earth 4 and the 'Nazi Superman', Overman, from Earth 10 in a kind of 'Jason and the Argonauts' voyage beyond the Multiverse.
Again, it's very tied-in to the main story in 'Final Crisis' and the secret origin of the Multiversal Monitors which plays into the whole thing in a big way. Partly it's to get some suspense and anticipation built up, get readers thinking, 'Christ, what's HAPPENED to the world between #3 and #4.' We're setting up the new look of the DCU for the next decade and the specials help to broaden the scope of the whole event.
"Geoff [Johns] and I are doing one of the specials together. You are going to see one particular character on the streets, on the ground during the occupation. Just to see what it's like for ordinary people during the evil gods takeover. So that's the one Geoff and I am going to be doing. But I can't tell you the character yet, although he is a current member of the Justice League."
And while he wouldn't give up THAT character's identity, Morrison did tease a few more of the book's usual suspects. "Everybody is in it. In addition to the big guys, the third issue has Captain Marvel Jr., Supergirl, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Green Arrow and Black Canary. It's got everyone. Pretty well from #4 to #7 is one big battle royale. I want to leave lots of room for the fight. There's about ten issues worth of fighting," said Morrison. "If you've got a favorite character, I am sure he's in it. Supergirl and Mary Marvel are in it. They have a big climatic battle to decide how femininity should be portrayed in superhero comics!
Which begged the question, isn't Wonder Woman in that fight? "Wonder Woman already has problems of her own by that point," laughed Morrison. "Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman get targeted by the New Gods pretty quickly. Those are the first big targets that the Gods have to bring down but you'll see Wonder Woman's confrontation with Mary in #3."
ALL STAR GRANT MORRISON continues tomorrow with Part II: "Batman."