Cromulent Words: Nine Times Grant Morrison Appeared In Comics
We know Grant Morrison is in the comic industry, but did you know he is also IN comics? Take the jump to see!
Animal Man 26-27
The one that started it all. Back before meta was cool (which is to say, 1988), Grant Morrison, along with artist Chas Truog, sent his titular hero on a 26-issue odyssey in which he would learn that he was, In fact, a comic book character. But this revelation – demonstrated by the issue 19 splash page where Buddy Baker stares at us wide-eyed and shouts “I can see you!” – is only the climax of the story’s second act. After this moment, Buddy soldiers on for another six issues until, at the end of issue 25, he finally meets the Big Bad.
The final issue of the comic is a conversation between Animal Man and his creator, where
The Writer reveals to poor Buddy what we already know: he exists merely for our entertainment. By inverting the Biblical Job story, Morrison asks us to connect not with the suffering Job character, but rather with the emotionally-detached creator. In doing so, he forces us to question our assumptions about God – primarily why we assume he creates out of benevolence, when we always create out of need.
As the story comes to a conclusion, The Writer assures Animal Man that he cannot bring his family back from the dead, as that wouldn’t be realistic. “Pointless violence and death is ‘realistic.’ Comic books are ‘realistic’ now.” Here we see, less than three years after Watchmen 12 comes out, a meta-textual critique of the grim and gritty narrative that ruled super-hero comics throughout the 90s, and still seems to hold sway over DC’s comic and film universes.
Adding another layer of critique and meta-textualism (or, as his critics would say, “confusion”) Morrison gives Animal Man the very thing he had previously denied him – demonstrating that even the character of The Writer was not necessarily in control of this universe – and then ends on a seeming note of cynicism, before pulling the rug out from under himself with the very last panel.
St. Swithin’s Day
While he was writing Animal Man, Morrison and artist Paul Grist created a comic called St. Swithin’s Day, about a “Neurotic Boy Outsider” who travels from Northern England to London to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. The text of the story is mostly excerpts from the unnamed character’s diary. In interviews at the time, Morrison admitted that many of the excerpts were taken verbatim from his own journals, and that while the events in the story did not necessarily happen, many aspects of it were indeed autobiographical.
Certainly the most infamous instance of Grant Morrison inserting himself into a comic narrative was The Invisibles’ King Mob/Gideon Starorzewski/Gideon Stargrave/Kirk Morrison. Shortly after designing the physical look of the character, Morrison shaved his head and started dressing in a similar manner.
This can get a bit complex, so strap in.
Gideon Starorzewski is also King Mob, an ultra-violent super-spy/hero who leads a cell of The Invisible College, a centuries old secret organization that fights a never-ending battle against the Archons of the Outer Church. (I know.)
Gideon writes horror novels under the pen name Kirk Morrison.
One of his characters (or maybe one of his other personalities, I wasn’t really paying attention) is also Gideon Stargrave
Who happens to be the main character in the first comic book story Grant Morrison ever published, back in 1978.
Morrison wrote himself into the comic in an effort to change both his life and the world. Part of the idea was to create an exciting life for the character in an effort to bring his own life more excitement. When the violence visited onto King Mob began to manifest itself physically on Morrison, he decided to put his character on a steady diet of sexual relations with a hot redhead. Fast forward a few years and Morrison is happily married to a hot redhead. Whether you believe any of that or not, The Invisibles is still an important comic series, if only for introducing the term “wank-a-thon” to humanity.
Seven Soldiers 0 and Seven Soldiers: Guardian 1-2
Two final instances of Grant Morrison inserting himself into a comic are found in his Seven Soldiers mega-crossover. In Seven Soldiers 0 (chronologically the first issue) we meet the Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp. These men from an alternate reality are tasked with guarding the continuity of the DC Universe. They also happen to look a lot like Grant Morrison.
The Seven Soldiers mini-series Guardian has a wonderfully absurd subplot involving two warring pirates who have taken over the city’s subway system. In a textbook example of Anxiety of Influence – not to mention a pretty good joke – these pirates are named No-Beard and All-Beard.
In the pages of Guardian, Grant Morrison (No-Beard) and Alan Moore (All-Beard) battle to the death for control of underground domain no one really knows or cares about. Just like in real life. Of course, in the end, No-Beard is triumphant, but his victory is meaningless, as it is clear he will soon join All-Beard in death.
Suicide Squad 58
Shortly after Grant Morrison’s last issue of Animal Man come out, writer John Ostrander realized that by creating The Writer while under contract for DC, Morrison had surrendered the trademark on his own identity and likeness.
Recasting his ability to alter reality with his typewriter as a super-power, Ostrander, along with penciler Geof Isherwood, enlisted The Writer into the Suicide Squad and sent him on a mission, proving once and for all that writer’s block can be fatal.
Doctor Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality
In 2006’s Tales of the Unexpected, writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang created a fun little mini-series that pits several characters that had been written out of DC continuity against The Architects, four men – sometimes represented as a four-headed monster – who are clearly meant to be the four writers of the recent 52 mega-series: Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns, and Grant Morrison. Morrison is the Batman Architect, in case you can’t tell.
Simpsons Comics 88
The Simpsons are going to Scotland! In this adventure, written by Gail Simone and illustrated by John Constanza, Homer and his family find themselves in Scotland, where they meet Scottish comic book writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, who almost immediately get into a knife fight with each other.
Throughout the 1990’s Grant Morrison and Mark Millar were the best of friends. Pretty much every comic they worked on during that period was either officially co-written or understood to be something they ran by each other. (Issue 28 of The Authority was ghost-written by Morrison, and Ultimate X-men editor Ralph Macchio quipped that Mark Millar left the book because “apparently Grant Morrison ran out of ideas.”) Sometime in the new millennium – right around the time that Mark Millar started selling every random idea he had to Hollywood – things between the two soured, and while neither one seemed too eager to discuss details publically it is a rather well-known feud in the world of comics, as their Simpson Comic appearance demonstrates. In a 2011 interview with Rolling Stone, Morrison was asked – since they both live in Glasgow – how he would feel if he encountered Millar. He replied, “There’s a very good chance of running into him, and I hope I’m going 100 miles an hour when it happens.”
Comic writer Mark Waid, who was friends with both men during this period, decided to base an entire comic series on their relationship, and it’s pretty easy to see what side he comes down on. Insufferable (written by Waid and illustrated by Peter Krause) is the story of a Batman-like character named Nocturnus and his Robin-like sidekick (and biological son) Galahad. When Galahad becomes an adult, he shuns Nocturnus, and breaks off on his own. While he is a much more famous and financially successful than his father, it is clear that his self-serving attitude has rendered him nearly impotent as a genuine super-hero.
In the spirit of fairness, we will let Mark Millar have the last word. In 2013, Millar and illustrator Frank Quitely launched the book Jupiter’s Legacy, about the difference in values and behavior between two generations of super-heroes. Superman stand-in The Utopian (Sheldon Sampson) feels that his son Brandon isn’t living up to his potential, and is wasting his life seeking fame and fortune. Millar lets the mask slip a bit in the second issue, giving Sheldon a line that is hard not to hear in Morrison’s accent.
And once it’s clear that Millar is writing a thinly-veiled account of his relationship with Morrison, Brandon’s brutal murder of Sheldon at the end of issue three becomes even more disturbing.