A very unique gathering of assorted humans occurred Thursday night in Hollywood, California. Approximately one-hundred or so hipsters, hippies, geeks, bikers, punks, nerds, burnouts, freaks, mutants, celebrities and terribly normals affected a cease fire in the brutal pop culture wars of the second millennium and communed peacefully in the long box rows of Meltdown Comics to hear what master comics writer and practicing magician Grant Morrison had to say.
Morrison's eclectic flock of fans -- many of whom might possibly never be caught dead in even the same men's room together -- included fellow comics scribe Joe Casey ("Wildcats," "The Intimates"), Hollywood producer Don Murphy ("LXG," "From Hell") and UK pop star Robbie Williams. Naturally, CBR News was on hand to steal souls (snap pics) and record the evening's highlights for our readers.
Co-presenting the event with Meltdown was national counterculture periodical Arthur, with editor Jay Babcock bravely wrangling the mass of dissidents and moderating the Q&A.
As one might expect, much of the discussion centered on what is sure to be the writer's most mainstream exposure to date, "All-Star Superman," Morrison's forthcoming twelve issue DC Comics series with frequent collaborator Frank Quitely.
Characterizing the sixty year old American icon as a God and kind of solar consciousness, Morrison simultaneously lamented the loss of Superman's "human connection," citing with great praise the work of legendary DC Comics editor Mort Weisinger, whose personal issues Morrison felt were overtly reflected in the pages of the books Weisinger edited. Morrison enthralled his freakish audience with synopsis of a number of Weisinger classics (or at least, now-classics), including an amazing story in which Superman found himself with a new power that while fantastic, afflicted him with a terrible exhaustion. Morrison explained how the plot had you guessing until finally revealing that the Man of Steel's new power was to produce a tiny little Superman from his palm who would fly up into the sky and rescue failing aircraft. "This new power has rendered me useless!" Morrison said of Superman's thoughts on the matter. "Nobody loves me anymore, they just love my SUPER-IMP!"
"Take that, Sigmund!" Morrison laughed.
Of course, the lines between solar consciousness, super-imps and magic are decidedly thin, and as such, the discussion often returned throughout the evening to Morrison's long association with the occult. A practicing magician since 1978, Morrison was heavily influenced by an uncle. "A man so committed to magic," Morrison explained, "he believed if you couldn't grow back a severed arm, you weren't really a magician!"
Morrison then proceeded to regale the crowd with his now legendary contact experience in the hills of Katmandu: that while lying in bed, he was visited by shiny silver anti-bodies from the 5th dimension, an experience he described as "being electrocuted by god," and something that "no drugs could ever recreate." Morrison took what he learned from the relationship between 5th dimensional entities and us (3rd dimensional entities), and applied it to his work in comics. "I thought I could just interact with the 2nd dimension the way they relate to the 3rd dimension."
Naturally, Morrison fielded questions concerning his being popularly characterized in some circles as a "rock star, drug-taking comics writer." He revealed that the reputation is somewhat dubious, as he was always very straightedge and didn't start experimenting with hallucinogens until he was 32, which for those keeping score puts his controversial "Doom Patrol" run in the drug-free zone. As for "The Invisibles," "Yeah, that was drugs," Morrison said. "All day, every day."
A question was asked about the rejected Superman proposals Morrison pitched to DC five years ago. Morrison's glad he didn't get the job, saying "the ideas I've got now are so much better," and that none of those old concepts will find a home in "All-Star Superman" -- save one. Years ago at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Morrison was sitting at a hotel bar with then-current, now-former DC editor Dan Raspler, talking about Superman at 1:00 in the morning. The two were deep in thought and discussion when suddenly, in a moment of personal deus ex machina, Superman himself quite literally strolled by.
Morrison accosted the man (presumably a convention goer in a Superman costume) and asked him to join he and Raspler at the bar. The Man of Steel cheerfully obliged and took his seat as any confident, successful and well-to-do gentlemen would, only with a bright cape draped casually across his arm. "That's when I GOT Superman!" Morrison exclaimed before detailing that his much publicized take on the character as a calm and cool dude is inspired primarily by that "shamanic experience" in San Diego, which is directly reflected in Frank Quitely's breathtaking cover illustration for "All-Star Superman" #1.
"What do you think of Batman?" Morrison asked Superman, beginning an interview that was to last over an hour and a half.
"He only sees the darkness in the world," Superman answered. "I just don't get it."
Of course, this is Grant Morrison, and this was Comic-Con, and if you're Grant Morrison and you have a Superman experience like that you're absolutely bound to have a Bizarro encounter as well, which Morrison did at a Comic-Con just a few years later. While paling around at a Ralph's grocery store with fellow Brit comics pro and noted Bizarro fan Chris Weston ("The Filth," "Ministry of Space"), Morrison turned around and found himself staring in the face of Superman's tragic clone. Once again, the comic pros engaged the man (again, presumably a convention-goer in costume and makeup) in conversation, but this time with far less desirable results.
"We couldn't get rid of him!" Morrison sighed. "How do we get rid of this guy? He's really creeping us out!"
Bizarro followed Weston and Morrison all around the Ralph's. Then all around the convention floor. And then finally to the hotel bar, where he used his Biazarro powers to solicit free drinks from the duo. Fortunately, they discovered his weakness, and when the drinks stopped coming, Bizarro went skulking into the night.
The crowd eventually steered the discussion to Morrison's past work in the Marvel Universe, which he characterized as very gritty and pedestrian, "with so many rules and limitations... it's all based in the streets of New York City. I just didn't feel comfortable in the Marvel Universe." He defended his controversial "New X-Men" run as about, among other things, the next generation of man and ordinary people's reactions to them. Morrison also noted that while other X-scribes have employed the X-Men as a means to discuss issues of race and homosexuality, his run was about what he finds to be a growing hatred of children and the adult world's apparent mission to stifle children's ability to express themselves. He also touched on the internal politics of his lauded "Marvel Boy" series, which, according to Morrison, then-publisher Bill Jemas refused to allow to develop to its full cosmic potential. "[Jemas] couldn't wrap his head around it," Morrison said. "Jemas wanted Marvel Boy based in a steel town, 'fixing things up good!'"
As for future projects, Morrison delighted his audience with news that his long-awaited novel is finished and in the hands of his agent. "He's the same guy who sold the DaVinci Code," said Morrison. "Hopefully he'll work his magic on this one." And speaking of magic, the similarly long-awaited book "Pop Magic" is nearly done. A comprehensive guide to magic from the physical realm to the highest levels of mysticism, "Pop Magic" will be divided into three sections: Morrison's personal experiences; a how-to section for beginners; and a final section on magic theory.
Before the night was over, Morrison, at the urging of his girlfriend, told a very unusual and, we must warn you, extremely disgusting story. Quite recently, a gold crown broke out of Morrison's mouth while he was eating. He accidentally swallowed the crown, which wouldn't have been such a big deal were it not for the outrageous cost of replacement: $1600. In a truly remarkable display of thriftiness, the writer spent the next several days digging through his own waste with a spoon trying to find that gold crown, even developing new systems to increase efficiency along the way. "I was shitting in a bag!" Morrison laughed. "But before I'd discovered the technology, I was shitting in the sink!"
Tragically, the crown was never recovered. When asked if he would have put such a thing back into his mouth even if he had found it, Morrison replied, "That's the real question, isn't it? It's like Sophie's Choice."
The final question of the night came from one genuinely heroic fan: "In the inevitable kaos war between you and Alan Moore, who do you think's gonna come out on top?"
"It's not like that," Morrison sighed, reluctant to once again fuel the fire of gossip that's followed both writers for much of the last decade or so. "But," the writer added. "I've been practicing since 1978 and [Moore's] only been practicing since 1994. Who do you think?"
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story