Our own rockstar of The DreamCage, Steve Taylor-Bryant, watched a documentary about the Rockstar of Comics, Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods...
After thoroughly enjoying Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow by Richard Gray the other week, I decided to peruse the Sequart website to look for more gems as I continue to grow my severe lack of education in comics. There were some incredible books, but I can’t review those yet as I’ve asked Santa Claus for them, however I also discovered a couple of documentaries on the Sequart YouTube channel that piqued my interest and in some rare down time I sat to watch and learn.
First up for me was Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods. I know Grant Morrison’s name of course, I am a huge fan of the Netflix show Happy! but whilst I was aware of some of the more popular titles he had written for various companies, I knew nothing about the man himself, where he came from, what influenced his rather unique writing and the like so this seemed like a great opportunity to learn a little about a world famous comic creator. I don’t usually review things I find on YouTube channels, but this film is so good, and Morrison such an extraordinary man, I found I needed to share it with you all.
The documentary, thankfully for a novice in comics history, is linear in its set up so it starts at the beginning and goes through time in the right way, allowing me to soak up Morrison’s life and influences in a way that make sense to me but, before the film truly begins, there is a black and white scene of Morrison about to start a panel at a comic convention where he is introduced to the crowd as “the true rock star of comics” and the hysteria and adulation that followed his arrival immediately tells me that the compere is not wrong and I definitely picked the right film to watch. Born in a poor part of Glasgow at the height of the Cold War and the nuclear issue, Morrison was highly inspired by his father who had once been a soldier and was now a pacifist. Morrison was surrounded by the literature of anti-nuclear groups that I myself am familiar with, and his father involved a young Morrison in his illegal jumps into military bases, including where Trident is housed. Having a spiritual mother who taught Morrison about science fiction, astronomy, and encouraged the comic book love, you can see that young Grant Morrison grew up in a wonderful time for someone who was going to go on and create comic stories. A spiritual upbringing at the coal face of the Cold War may not seem like a glamorous childhood but it is a childhood that comes across as essential for Morrison to have lived. After his initial refusal from an art school, his time in a band, and his one year working a mundane office job, Morrison decided that making comics was the only thing he could or be willing to do and approached Dez Skinn at Warrior Magazine with a pitch for a continuation of a story they had published by the legendary writer Alan Moore. Moore, quite threateningly, told Morrison he wasn’t allowed to use characters he had created and kyboshed the story, but Warrior Magazine took Morrison on anyway, and after working for them and a successful stint with 2000A.D, the huge company DC came calling.
Morrison took on Animal Man for DC melding the comic world with the real world and even including himself in the run explaining to the titular character why, as writer, he had killed off his family, and his unique vision led to Doom Patrol. It’s at this point in the film where you see Morrison sitting with some of his notebooks and explaining his structures and ways of working and, with input from some of the artists he’s worked with, you begin to see the real trust and bond he has with his guys; despite how what he writes doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the visual format easily, he trusts the artists to figure it out and, to be honest, they seem to always get it about right. For those interested in whether comics is a viable career opportunity he also talks money starting with his first paying job which got him around £10 a page, and then with DC paying him $1 dollar per book for Arkham Asylum, which sold 120,000 copies on its first day. So yes there is more money in comics than I thought there was, but I do think you maybe have to be slightly different, or stand out in a unique way to be able to tap into the revenue stream quite as much as the likes of Morrison does. However, it doesn’t seem to be so much about the money for him, it’s more about being able to do what he wants, which they allow him to do, and he comes across as humble and thankful for that opportunity which maybe plays against the rock star type.
After the windful from Arkham Asylum Morrison travelled the world, drank alcohol for the first time, and started to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs which opened his mind to everything and from these experiences came The Invisibles, a series of comics widely adored and critically acclaimed. Whilst in Kathmandu, Morrison describes an alien abduction, or spiritual awakening, that had a profound effect on him and, whilst tales like this can be sometimes hard to swallow, when you listen to Morrison speak throughout the film, he has such a belief and magical vibe radiating from him that on this occasion there is no doubt. This guy experienced something, I’m sold on that as fact. Early in this century Morrison went back into DC with Final Crisis which was his first experience of a split in the rabid fanbase. People either held the book up as a work of sheer genius, or he was lambasted for writing gibberish. The darkness of the early part of the 21st century continued post 9/11 and Morrison brought this darkness and despair to the page in The Filth, despite meeting a girl he truly loved and marrying, meaning Morrison was probably at his happiest away from the writing. He puts this down to be secure and supported enough outside comics now to allow himself to dive into the despair deep enough to tell his story, either way The Filth is one of the books I remember first hearing Morrison’s name from and I still love it to this day. His story of how he and Mark Waid came to write All-Star Superman is also a wonderful tale where they sat discussing how they would go about producing something different with Superman and across from them was a guy in a perfect Superman suit. Morrison approached him to speak and the guy, in character the entire time, answered all Morrison’s burning Superman questions and from that initial meeting came the comic that explains the importance of story, of loss, and about living up to inspiration.
The parts of the film devoted to the comics, and to the artistry are fascinating and give a great insight into the workings of modern-day storytellers and into the craft of comics creation and just these segments would have been enough for me to enjoy the film. But the parts where Morrison opens up about how his mind works, how his soul works, magic, science, aura and inspiration make for wonderful viewing and I just wish I could spend time with this man and learn more about what makes him tick. Some say he is not of this world, but I truly believe he is more of this world, and this universe, than any of the rest of us and he comes across as a genuinely fantastic human being as well as a unique talent. This film is glorious to watch, it’s an education that, quite honestly, I should have been charged for and if you get the time to watch the Patrick Meaney directed Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, well then you should as it's remarkable.
Watch the full film here
Image - Sequart.org
Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods is also FREE to watch on Amazon Prime