Over at Savage Critic, Jeff Lester wrote a thought provoking essay about why he’s just not that into Grant Morrison’s DCU work, in response to Superman Beyond #1. I mean, he even picked a cool anecdote/analogy to illustrate his feeling, using old timey model kits and train sets! So it was one hell of a piece. Certainly one of the best I’ve read in a while. It deserves a serious, measured response, one that considers the nuances of his carefully thought out points.
It’s going to get my usual slap dash, shoot from the hip, stream of consciousness vomiting on the page instead, but it certainly does deserve a more serious, measured, thoughtful response from somebody somewhere. Could some one get on that for me? Joe? Brian? Alex? Greg 1 or 2? Bill? Tadhg?!?!?!?$#@****
Let’s start with this paragraph:
Because Morrison constantly layers in allusions that work on multiple levels, it’s easy for him to claim victory in the end by suggesting the level that didn’t satisfy wasn’t the one you weren’t supposed to be paying attention to. In some cases (Sea Guy or The Filth, let’s say), I believe that’s absolutely the case and in some (Xorn, and the New X-Men run being characterized by Morrison as a conscious deconstruction of how the franchise defeats the author), I believe that’s absolutely Morrison talking out his lipstick-smeared butthole.
I bought the Xorn thing as organic, because it works pretty well if you go back and look at his characterization. I don’t think he could have really done the “Franchise squashes author” thing unless he’d experienced it first hand, and besides, he was so damned ethusiastic about it in the first year on the book that you could feel it coming off the page. That said; lipstick-smeared butthole? I really don’t want to know, I think. I’ll just leave that on the pile of “terms not to search for on Google”, along with “Mother Box”, “Man Mountain Marko”, and “Peter David N00dz”. Nothing good can come from any of those.
But most generous of all my theories is that G-Mo has constructed a way to promote the work on the Internet that doesn’t involve running a forum, or having a Twitter account, or keeping track of his Myspace friends: the individual issues aren’t stories jammed with easter eggs, but easter egg hunts cordoned off by a ribbon of plot. The stories themselves aren’t particularly difficult, but tracking the details of the plot through the thicket of detail can be, which is where all the online annotations come in handy.
Interesting theory. That’s not a particularly new aspect of his work, though, so I’m not sure he’s doing it specifically to wind up the ‘net. It seems more like a happy coincidence that his work lends itself so well to that kind of OCD manifestation (in a positive way!). I just don’t think he’s obfuscating things intentionally to wind up the internerd the way so many other Marvel and DC stories seem based around making nerds really, really angry these days. That seems to be their whole mission statment at this point, which would be dumb if it didn’t work.
Morrison’s brilliant and daring twist is to construct stories so people will hit the Internet not to discuss what will happen, but to figure out what is happening. Next to the way Mark Millar promotes himself on the Internet, it looks downright elegant.
Well, Morrison tends to do that. Much in the way that Bryan Danielson outclasses an infant when it comes to wrestling (even if he does have the pigmentation of a fetus). What I’m trying to say is that Morrison is better than Millar at everything. He also does tend to leave a lot of things up to the reader to figure out for themselves. The whole “I feel like there are pages missing here! I have no idea what’s going on and I am FREAKING OUT!!!!!” thing people who don’t like him are always bitching about.
He goes on to link to the various annotations you can find of Morrison’s recent work. Here’s where the real projectile vomiting on my end starts, so now may be a good time to put on those figurative ponchos I handed out before the metaphorical show. Litotes.
I do not now, nor have I ever, cared about annotations. I do not mean to demean the work that people from Jess Nevins to Chris Sims put in to this sort of thing. It takes an immense scholarly rigor to parse the density of Alan Moore’s Victorian Pulp Megaverse or endure consecutive issues of vamperotica adaptations without drinking yourself in to death. I just don’t tend to read annotations as any more than a minor curiousity unless they are of hapless vamperotica, because I am an entertainment based reader. Enlightenment is for hookers, weirdos, and dead people, as far as I’m concerned.
The thing is, I never really had the rigor to be a scholar, because I find that sort of thing tedious. That’s one of the reasons I never tried to seriously get in to academia. That and there was this time I was at a school function and I told an English Lit grad student that I wasn’t familiar with Faust and it looked he reacted like I’d farted in Church. That seemed to be a sign that a literary life wasn’t in the cards for me. To be fair, maybe he was talking about the comic. Either way, it was a pretty damning (no pun intended) lapse for me.
My literary failings aside… well, they can’t really be, because they are inexorably tied to why needing annotations of a work doesn’t mean anything to me. I appreciate that there are multiple levels to thing, I really do, but only on a level akin to “That’s neat. Let’s see what’s on TV level.” I appreciate that Morrison layers his stories, I really do. That’s why I like him so damn much, that I know there’s more going on there.
However, I’m not a decoder. If the literal text isn’t enough to hold my interest, I don’t care how layered it is; I’m probably not going to care and find something more entertaining to do. I like my superhero comics like I like my women, pro wrestling, and rock music; fast, loud, cheap, easy, and rife with explosions. As long as you give me that, and wrap it up in some interesting conceptual hooks, I’ll give you my time, money, and fawning blog posts.
That pretty much encapsulates Morrison’s superhero works. They have the kind of kinetic energy that is a common trait in all of my favorite comics creators, to the best Kirby (with and sans Lee) to O’Malley to Mignola to Fraction, to name a few. That fits with the anarchistic traits Lester ascribes to his work; I like it when he gets bored and starts wrecking his own shit. Which could be why I enjoy Batman: RIP a great deal so far, magical negroes and all.
Really, on the level where I appreciate stories (the kiddie pool of comprehension, if you will), RIP works beautifully. It’s basically Born Again on psychadellic drugs with a creepy Joker thrown in to appease the movie tie-in gods, even if/because the damn thing won’t be done and in paperback until after the Blu Ray of Dark Knight is available and I will actually get a chance to see if Tom Selleck or Joe Rice is right about it. Joe takes it a part structurally, but Selleck has such an impressive ‘stache, so it’s a toss up, I’d say.
But never mind the cultural phenomenon of a movie; let’s talk about the culturally irreleveant comic it was spun off from! It’s exciting! Things are happening! Batman’s tripping balls and Nightwing is off panel bleeding somewhere! I don’t know (or care) about you, but that makes for a pretty damn great Batman serial for me. That I don’t know all the references matters not a wit to me. Because I’ve read some of them, sure, but also because Bat Mite is playing the Great Gazoo to a drug addled Batman in a nasty looking purple costume! Morrison has thrown 70 plus years of Bat-history in a blender, heaped on a ton of barbituates, set them on fire, and has come up with a pretty tasty cocktail in my opinion. I’d dub it the Flaming G-Mo, but that’s a little close to a slur against our same sex oriented readers for my comfort.
I feel largely the same way about Morrison’s other recent D.C. work. Final Crisis works for me partially because I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. All Star Superman is not even really in this category because of its obvious superiority to everything else Morrison does and pretty much everything else out there at all, and because it’s not part of the Crisis hullabaloo. I just mentioned it in an attempt to make the last issue come out al-damn-ready by wishing it in to existence. That didn’t work for Absolute Flex Mentallo, but this seems more attainable.
That brings us to Superman Beyond #1. It worked for me (even though between you, me, and the Source Wall, I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to) because I pretty much had the opposite reaction to Lester. To wit:
Honestly, I’d be more willing to attribute this to me if I wasn’t reading a comic book where five supermen board a yellow submarine to sail through the metaverse–and one of those supermen is a drugged-out Dr. Manhattan analogue. As Graeme McMillan so frequently says to me when discussing comics, “Come on! How can you not love that?” Honestly, it’s such a direct descendant to batshit Steve Gerber stories from the ’70s, I can see how I could love it. I should love this book.
And yet, I don’t.
Well, I do. Mildly. We’re at least conjugal visit buddies on alternate weekends. So screw him and screw you too! And Will Smith, while I’m at it and referencing that particular Mathers’ lyric, mainly because I had to watch Pursuit of Happyness three times at work on Friday. I mean, I got paid for it, but it still got old quick, even if Will Smith Jr. is more adorable than 12 issues of Superman/Batman #51 velcroed to a puppy made of rainbows.
Well, not really. We just look at these things on different levels, Lester and I. I always find his work thought provoking, even when I almost totally disagree with him, that’s why I pointed out this post in the first place. That and I don’t want to alienate bloggers I do like after going out of my way to alienate the ones I don’t last weekend. You’re peachy keen Jeff; I’ll even link to your pretty much unrelated Love and Rockets review!
So, in summary; Jeff Lester and I approach Grant Morrison’s DCU work differently and our reactions follow suit. I don’t have anything against annotations, but don’t need them to enjoy Morrison’s work and am just generally not interested in reading them at all about anything.
Crap! I need a WWE reference in here somewhere to meet my contractural requirement on that front, so here are some pictures of my favorite Canadian retired wrestler/fitness model as Wonder Woman. Hey Grant; work that bit of meta in to Final Crisis and I’ll continue reading your model kits forever, dude!
Post Script Essay Prompt On Annotations Of Super Hero Comics:
Making liteary style annotations of comics is more sad than adding blood, guts, rape, and other adult themes haphazzardly in an attempt to make the genre more “realistic” and adult. Agree, disagree, or don’t disagree but want to yell at me anyway; pick one. 300 words, double spaced, due before the end of the ECW Championship Scramble at Unforgiven tonight. Needed a second WWE reference just to hedge my bets (and because you have to squint to see that Stratus collage). Also, I think if anyone happens to buy the PPV based on me mentioning it, one short guy who used to work in ROH gets a push. Hey, it worked for The Brian Kendrick!
Extra Credit Prompt- Find all of the typos and any other grammatical mistakes in this post. Instead of bitching about them in the comments section or just refusing to read me again, edit the post to meet proper standards. Send me the finished product via e-mail.
After that, think of all the time you wasted doing that, and what other things you could have been doing. Write how much that crushed your soul. 100 word minimum, may include horrible emo poetry and jpegs of sad pandas or whatever. Go to town, really, since I just ruined your life and all.
P.P.S.- I’ve always thought that something like Seven Soldiers would be fun to dig in to with a pile of annotations and nothing else to do at all one day. Unfortunately, my other distractions keep distracting me from that distraction.
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