June 30th, 2011
Boosted for our new readers. Welcome, new readers!
For the audio recording click here
Gary: Hello there this is Gary Lactus and I’m here with Bobsy
Gary: and we’re just about to phone Grant Morrison to intervew him about his new book supergods. It’s not a comic it’s a book. It’s Part memoir…
Bobsy: …part biography of the superhero in comics and part meditation on what “superhero” means, not just to us geeky chaps, but out there in the wider world
Gary: Right, and Bobsy will be doing much of the interviewing for he has read the book and I have not.
Bobsy: I’ve read a proof which is a bit different to the final copy, which I’ve read most of, so I don’t know how accurate some of what I’m saying is but we’ll go with that.
Our hotline to Grant Morrison!
Chris Carter – Clouds
Gary: Hello Grant, it’s Gary and Bobsy here from Mindless Ones
Grant: How you doing?
Bobsy: Hi Grant. Just thought I’d let you know that we’re in the middle of a thunderstorm here and thought you might like the atmos of lightning bolts falling all around us while we’re having this conversation about Supergods.
Grant: Perfect isn’t it. One of those horrible moments where everything falls into place, that seems to happen every moment. You know that thunderstorms are supposed to be really good for creative people because they ionise the air?
Grant: That’s why Shelley used to stand under the rooftops getting electrocuted, because it actually makes you write better.
Bobsy: With his lightning conductor up perhaps?
Grant: Yeah, I’m sure you’ve seen him. There was a film about it.
Gary: Well let’s get this done and I’ll write a novel.
Grant: [laughs] Alright
Bobsy: We’re gonna talk about Supergods. I wrote a review of the original proof but I had to throw it away when I read the finished product.
Grant: Thank God, the first one was totally shite. The finished product is loads better.
Bobsy: Ha. We’ll put that up as the review “Grant Morrison says it’s totally shite!”
So we’ll talk about that for a bit and hopefully we’ll have sometime for comicy chat as well at the end.
Grant: Yeah, yeah.
Bobsy: So my first question is really important actually… and we want you to say it out loud, would you say that mindlessones.com was your favourite blog in the world, or just your favourite comic blog?
Grant: No, it’s my favourite blog. I don’t actually look at any other blogs. I look at you guys and sometimes I look at Comic Book Resources, because it’s my contact with normal comic book fans.
Gary: [Laughs] Aww, you’re a lovely man
Bobsy: I think that’s the answer we wanted
Grant: It’s the best! I’ve got a lot of issues with comic book criticism on the web because I have seen some of it, and it’s so unenthusiastic and so much it revolves around getting intellectual bona fides on display. You know that way of reviewing comics where it’s all about spot the reference, as if that’s important.
Bobsy: Yeah sure, willy waving seems to be the order of the day and if the topic being covered gets covered then so much into the bargain.
Grant: Yeah, there’s some nice writers. I like reading enthusiasm, and also you guys *read* this stuff. You don’t just come with pre-formed opinions. You look at the work, you study the panels. You actually do close reading – I did some of it in the book.
Bobsy: Sure. you do that with – quite a familiar image, the front cover of Action Comics #38, you dig out a lot of interesting stuff in the book. The way it’s based around the next generation and stuff like that.
Grant: All you just have to do is look, I mean you guys know that, you did it with V for Vendetta, and suddenly all the holographic fractal stuff starts coming out of even the most unpreposessing image.
Bobsy: We find that unless you’re willing to do that then comics can be a pretty unrewarding field a lot of the time. There’s a lot of stuff which doesn’t place any demands on you, and one of the reasons why we tend to cover your work so much is because there’s more meat in there. There’s more to look at, more to get.
Grant: The thing is that you can study anything. You can pick up even the crappy ones and they’ll somehow manage to be some kind of holographic splinter of the entirety of creation.
Bobsy: Did you find it difficult balancing between two audiences: people like us who kind of know a lot of what you’re putting forward already, and a mass market?
Grant: The people who are familiar with this stuff I hoped would be catered to in slightly different ways. For example I looked at the Kree Skrull War as if it were Seargant Pepper.
Bobsy: I did enjoy that
Grant: The working title for that chapter was “Captain Marvel’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. My hope is that those people would get more from some of the content that they may already be familiar with, taken out of the context of history. As something they can experience now and get a charge from it. My big model for it was Nick Kent. I wasn’t a big fan of the music he was into at the end of the lates sixties and early seventies but I really love his writing, and he introduced me to a lot of stuff, and made me think about it in a way which was more generous than I had previously. I wanted to approach it like that; it was coming through with personality.
Superheroes are a subject which everybody knows and which everyone is kinda into, but people don’t know the history, the weird experiences of the characters behind the scenes. You guys are familiar with Alan Moore and Pat Mills, but for other people it’s almost an introduction to the entire field of cinema or music, so I wanted to make it quite accessible, at least as I could.
Gary: It does seem like a medium that draws a certain amount of eccentricity
Grant: Probably no more so than music or the arts, to be honest. It’s just that comics have been overlooked, so nobody knows about all our Salvador Dalis and Jack Kerouacs.
Bobsy: The UK media especially doesn’t seem to have got its head around the fact that the invasion of superheroes into the mainstream has been built upon the backs of the work of a bunch of working class British guys from the past 15 years. People like yourself.
Grant: You could say the same thing about Dr Who - which is the biggest show on TV [averaged 10.13 millions viewers last season, apparently, Mindless Reader], and I’m so glad it is – is so influenced by comics, even the last 15-20 years of mainstream comics, it’s not even true.
Bobsy: I was speaking to a friend of mine yesterday, an academic who specialises in new media. He happens to know that there are a good few Dr Who-based academic articles which point out that Final Crisis appears to have been a pretty explicit influence on the last season of Dr Who and even going back a bit further – there seems to be so many links.
Grant: The weird thing was that as Final Crisis was coming there were episodes of Dr Who airing that Russell Davies must have written a year before, which was almost exactly parralleling the comic, all the planets aligning in the sky. Steam engine time!
Gary: It’s interesting the parallels thing – it seemed odd that, over in comics, Brubaker’s Captain America and your Batman seemed to be doing the same thing at the same time.
Grant: Yeah. I feel bad because I’ve not read a single Brubaker Captain America, apart from one issue of Reborn which I picked up in L.A. Honestly I haven’t read it, but people keep saying that this happened and that happened, and I’m going “well, okay…” Some vast hand is behind it all.
Bobsy: It’s like Doom Patrol and X-Men all over again, I guess.
Grant: We’re working with a very small pool of images, I think, so it’s no surprise that certain themes get stressed in similar ways by people who work in the exact same industry dealing with very similar characters.
Bobsy: One of the things that the book does, which to people like us is perhaps the most unique aspect of it is the way that you give a really, um – you’re quite careful not to offend anyone but you don’t praise unnecessarily or anything like that.
Grant: Seems a first. Lawyers were brought in!
Bobsy: There does seem to be a point where, knowing a bit about the industry kind of makes these things less magical but you sort of make it seem like there’s a level of serendipity and magic that comes through, in, for example, the creator/editor/writer/artist relationship. Something kind of inexplicable that exists in the characters themselves.
You talk quite a lot about Superman being an overwhelming icon of positivity, but he was actually quite a toxic presence in the lives of Siegel and Shuster, and Christoper Reeve, and George Reeve. People who have handled the property have come into contact with the character. Do you worry that there’s a dark side bubbling under the surface of Supergods thesis that needs addressing?
Grant: No I think the dark side is absolutely there, but obviously I don’t want to make out that what I do and what you do creepy or black magic.
Talking of Superman, the S looks like a serpent as well. The curse is that when an idea like Superman makes the deal to be born into the material world then there’s a price to be paid. And price that seems to be paid is that these ideas are kinda creepy: the way they proliferate, over decades, the way they feed on the blood sweat and toil of mere mortals. There’s something quite predatory about the superhero idea, but maybe that’s just how they seem to the prey; owls are lovely but not if you’re a mouse.
Bobsy: Supergods is also a very personal work, as well. It covers your childhood in depth and your passage through the industry. It strikes me that for fans of Flex Mentallo and The Invisibles it’s an essential appendix to both. Are you pleased that Flex is going to come out this year?
Grant: Oh yeah, I’m really pleased. And Pete Doherty’s recolouring it. I never liked the colouring. It seems like a cruelty that it been unavailable for so long.
Bobsy: Flex and Supergods do form quite nice companions pieces. After reading Supergods, a lot of people would be a bit weirded out this Flex Mentallo book couldn’t be read anywhere.
It seems to be that the Superhero does fit onto the screen rather well, but mainly in action films and comedies. With Sinatoro [a forthcoming film by Grant and Adam Mortimer] using a road movie or western template do you think you might be able to stretch out the ways that superheroes can be represented in the media?
Grant: I’ve had very little to do with superheroes on movies. I worked for a little while with Warners as a consultant on, and did pitches on, Superman and Aquaman and stuff, but with movies I would prefer to do a wider sci-fi project. The superhero and the comic book were made for one another – my love for them comes through the comics rather than films. Sinatoro isn’t a superhero movie at all, it’s a kind of social sci-fi, a celebration of death. I’m just not into them, my interest in superheroes comes from comic books.
Bobsy: Is it still very much happening?
Grant: Yeah absolutely, we’re working on it right now.
Bobsy: So obviously you can’t walk down the high street without seeing someone in a Batman t-shirt or a Superman t-shirt , but why are there no domino masks? Why no capes? Why no trunks on the outside? What is it that’s topping the fashion world from being hungry enough to go that extra mile?
Grant: I don’t know, because I thought super-fashion would look more like Zenith: Fashion clothes but with a little mask on. But that hasn’t happened. It’s just really hard to say where all this is going. The Internet offers up the idea that everyone is a superhero, every life story is a saga, everyone has a style, every love story is a magnificent adventure. We’ve all got our pages of our likes and dislikes. There’s osmething about the symbol of the superhero and what it represents… Clearly something is happening. People are trying to unite the imaginary and the real in a way using the Internet, so we might yet see the masks.
Bobsy: I don’t want to ask you to make a prediction that is going to make you look silly, but if you’re looking 20 years into the future – and especially given the recent upheavals with DC and there moves to new business models and whatnot – what are superheroes gong to be doing?
Grant: I think they’ll be walking among us. As I said at the end of the book, there’s something about this meme, the way it’s got a toehold – it’s almost Lovecraftian. With medical advances, in China they have sanctioned the use of all kinds of dodgy…
Bobsy: …Genetic engineering and stuff…
Grant:…Directly in the direction of the superhuman ideal. And those guys have also got a space programme so they’re maybe the people who are going to do Star Wars and Star Trek and the Legion of Superheroes.
The lightning is connecting. Something is coming through. The kabbalistic collapse between fiction and reality – with superheroes somehow at the leading edge of that.
20 years… it’s hard to say. The music will be exactly the same.
Bobsy: [Laughs] Got a bit of a weird question that one of the Mindless Ones threw in. When King Mob painted his name on the side of the car in the second to last issue of The Invisibles he was hoping to infect the outside world with the promise of invisibility. Do you feel that the superheroes’ last ten years are that happening or is there a danger that they’ve just been co-opted? Are superheroes really tough enough to take on capitalism?
Grant: No, I think the co-opting is part of the process. Of course. It’s not a fight, as I kept on saying. There is no fight here. It’s just a big organism with lots of little bits trying to make sense of what the fuck it’s been doing for the last 65,000 years. it’s an exchange, the whole thing’s an exchange. When I did that Disinfo thing I was utterly convinced that the counter culture had won because they wanted a shift. But as soon as they saw the Matrix, and saw that they wanted to take drugs and they wanted bald heads and they wanted to fight insect monsters. They wanted our stuff, and for me that was the end of the counterculture. That was the moment, when it was “okay, we’re now fucking the enemy, isn’t this interesting?”. There’s a lot things that go wrong with that, but the whole thing is about learning and changing.
The superheroes are unstoppable because we know, as an idea, they always win, and they’re good guys. The goodies always win in a superhero story. And the fact that we’re desperately holding on to that story and trying to manifest it is quite important.
Bobsy: Just going back to the book for a minute, you give quite a nice description of what it was like in the early 90s being part of the art school crowd. You give quite athorough description what that was like. Do ever feel, though, that there’s a side of your own career that hasn’t had a chance to flourish. That you haven’t got to do The New Adventures of Hitler style books that you were enjoying so much back then?
Grant: No, I’ve written them all in the background. When I’m dead they’ll all come out! I’ve got this series that I write called Elton John Adventures
Grant: It’s kinda like the Julie Schwartz version of Elton John. There’s just no way I can put that out while Elton’s still alive. Imagine him [Julie Schwartz] as the editor of Elton John’s life.
Bobsy: That sounds amazing.
Gary: That’d be brilliant
Bobsy: [Laughs] This time Maggie really gets it!
Grant: No, he’s [the protagonist of St Swithin's Day] 47 and he’s just going after somebody really bland like David Cameron.
The reason why I’ve done more of the superhero stuff is because it actually works more effectively at saying what I want to say.
Bobsy: Your personal relationships with other comics professionals are an aspect of the book. I know it’s not what the book’s about, but our listeners are going to be intrigued by that aspect, if you don’t mind going there.
It seems like a massive reversal of cosmic justice that you’re writing a memoir and Mark Millar appears to be able to walk into any room and make a film whenever he wants to. Do you feel that there’s a tension still between you guys there?
Grant: There’s a tension between us based on past history, but not… what you say isn’t necessarily true, I don’t want to say bad things about people like Mark and anyone but yeah, Kick Ass was made, Wanted was made, there are no other films any more made than say Joe The Barbarian and We3 which are all in the same state of production with directors attached, with screenplays… Hollywood doesn’t work that way, you can’t walk in a room, and he doesn’t… you know I live in Hollywood, I live there four months of the year and I know what goes on, there aren’t 200 million dollars films being made, it’s not – what can I say… I don’t really want to say… I don’t want to come out against somebody who will see it as an attack, it’s all too easy to do.
Mark has had to make a certain smokescreen of himself, to look a certain way, you know. Look at sales of Ultimates Comics Ultimates Vs Ultimate Avengers… that’s what it’s all about right now… I wish him well but, no, there is no good feeling between myself and Mark Millar for many reasons most of which are he destroyed my faith in human fucking nature.
Bobsy: Oh, dear! Hopefully you’ve built it back up again since.
Grant: I dunno, obviously there’s some good stuff out there, but no a lot of things roundabout the start of the decade were quite brutal wake up calls for little Mr Aquarius.
Bobsy: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot with anything there.
Grant: It’s alright, I know these are the exciting things, but it’s too easy… it would be like execution, you know?
Bobsy: On a slightly more friendly note, perhaps…
Grant: …yeah, let’s talk about Alan Moore instead.
Bobsy: Do you know I’ve literally just crossed out the Alan Moore question.
Grant: No, he’s cool, I really like Alan.
Bobsy: It does seem that in recent public declarations by the pair of you – for those of us who keep a close eye on these things – there does seem a slight thawing of tensions in past year or two.
Grant: You know what, for me there’s always a thaw. I really love Miracle Man, I like V for Vendetta, I didn’t like Watchmen – that was all. It’s just that in our business to say that you didn’t like Watchmen is equivalent to pissing on the Pope.
Bobsy: And who hasn’t wanted to do that?
Grant: You become… they it’s sour grapes, or it’s this or it’s that, but I actually didn’t like it. Unfortunately the fact of not liking it, is like pissing on the Pope; it was enough to create a false schism. I pretty much like all of the superhero stuff he’s done. My favourite one ever is the Majestic story. I think that’s the best Alan Moore superhero story ever.
Bobsy: Oh, where he wrestles the galaxies and things like that, yeah.
Grant: No, the one where he goes to the end of all things and figures a way out of it.
Bobsy: Somebody else, whose name begins with M, who is mentioned in the book is Peter Milligan, and I think this is just a Mindless Ones thing, but we’ve taken it for granted that you had a maybe platonic, maybe not affair in the 90s. Can you elaborate? Were you dressed as a girl at the time? I know you’re both married now.
Grant: Absolutely not. I’m sorry to ruin those images in your head.
Bobsy: You haven’t. They’re still there, trust me!
Grant: I wasnae there. We were just mates. The whole thing was that fake gay shit of the 80s and 90s. That’s all it was. We were just two straight working class dockers… I don’t know about him, he lived in London and it was a nice hedonistic time… but me certainly not. I like dressing up, but beyond that I was totally, er… I was just weird.
Bobsy: [Laughs] We’ve got a silly question here. If The Filth is your Watchmen is there a thought that makes Seaguy – which you talk quite a lot about in the book as being your most recent purely original contribution to the way that superheroes can be imagined – is there a sense in which that can be your V for Vendetta, in that it seems to reflect the times in which it’s being made?
Grant: I’d like to think that everything can be imagined as an Alan Moore project.
Grant: No, Seaguy‘s my Watchmen, they’re all my Watchmen. He just did one and I do one a week!
For me the big breakthrough in Seaguy that only happened when I was at the end of the first book, and I realised that it was actually a story about a human life. As you know I always prefer to do stuff that’s symbolic rather than gritty and realistic. I suddenly realised that the whole notion of: you become aware of sitting across from Death, and Death says “Your move, Seaguy”. Kind of being born. And I suddenly noticed that Seaguy looked deformed and kind of foetus-like: the way Cameron [Stewart] drew him in those early issues, he’s very wan, very super-slight, but he fills up as the series goes on. I suddenly realised that the whole thing was a human life compacted into 9 issues. That’s what made it bigger for me.
The first one was almost something to make Kristen [Grant's wife] laugh. A stupid, surrealistic thing, but then it became quite meaningful to me.
Grant: Once I realised that I was writing about the cats dying and my Dad dying and all that stuff, I realised that there was structure hidden in there that I hadn’t noticed.
Bobsy: Do you have an idea how it’s going to resolve in the third book?
Grant: Oh yeah, I’ve been writing that stuff. The first issue is done and the second two are pretty much broken down, so yeah. The last book is the best I’ve ever written.
You’ve been dealing with Batman for ever such a long time now. Do you ever find it hard to get him out of your head? Do you see bat-faces staring, bat-symbols in your cornflakes in the morning?
Grant: Yeah, all the time, even when I’m eating that potato stuff, you know, mash? Batman always turns up in Smash. [laughs]
No, I love Batman, I was only going to do it for a little while and I had a plan for ‘Batman RIP’ which wasn’t going to be RIP at all, but Dan [Didio] hijacked it to be the death of Batman, and then after that the idea came along for Batman & Robin which really got exciting. The character just keeps on suggesting directions, so I find myself doing more with him than I ever imagined I’d do.
Bobsy: This about the most annoying question that any of us could come up with, and it’s kind of related to Batman. In Batman Inc #5 right –sorry to do this to you, but there’s a bit where Doctor Dedalus and his assistant are walking up the stairs, and it goes all red and the assistant falls down the stairs having been poisoned it looks like, and then he’s standing right behind him again?
Grant: No, the whole idea was to try and – we’ll fix it in the colouring in the book! The notion was to do this idea of a supervillain with Alzheimers, because my mother’s been losing her shit recently, and it’s quite weird to watch, it’s quite unpleasant and bizarre, you know, and the repetitions. I really liked the idea of that circular thing of the serpent eating its own tail and people consuming their own memories. What we were trying to get across there was Dedalus explaining a plan which he’s explained a thousand times, and we get to see the little bit of the plan, so really they should all have been red.
Bobsy: Ah, okay.
Grant: And then it kinds of cuts back to [eurovillain accent] “But I’ve already explained my plan to you herr Bond!” It was that kind of thing. It was just one of those colourist things – I can’t get the blame for that one.
Gary Lactus: That’s a great weight off our shoulders!
Grant: I’m glad that’s over. [laughs]
Bobsy: Yeah, we’ve been tracking down all the other annotators on the internet and seeing if they worked out what happened there, but it’s nice to know that it’s just the ever-reliable process at work there.
Grant: Well, you know what drives me mad is that it’s all about circles, and nobody noticed that at all, and nobody even identified what that circular thing they were looking at was in issue #5 and that’s the key to the whole thing.
Bobsy: Okay, thank you very much, this is exactly the kind of meat we need.
Grant: Yeah, I’m going to send everyone out on some sort of pathetic hunt for what that is. I discovered this thing, and I was like, that’s going to fit in with the whole idea of ouroborous and the snake eating its tail, so it all tied in with the Borges stuff, and the circular story. If you look at the Kathy Kane section particularly, everything’s constantly moving in circles, the fairground got things going round and round, and it constantly refers to circles and coming back to the beginning all through it.
Bobsy: Is Kathy Kane the burnt looking fellow who’s in charge of the baddies?
Grant: I’m not going to tell you that!
Bobsy: Yeah, I know, okay, I didn’t think you would.
Grant:That’s a big reveal at the end of this.
Bobsy: Oh dear. You can tell I’ve kind of been thinking about having conversations like this for a long time.
Grant: Yeah, and now it’s happening!
Bobsy: And now I just can’t stop myself!
From the way you talk about the way you work, it seems that you have these big structures in place but you also seem to have this incredible luck with serendipitous elements, like you’ve just been talking about, coming in at bizarre moments and making everything seem such richer. Do you think that’s part of the way you look at how you work?
Grant: Yeah, absolutely! It’s kind’ve annoying but there it is. I work out these entire structures – like the end of The Invisibles originally had the sun rising with a face on it, you know the way Promethea ended?
Bobsy: Oh, yeah yeah sure!
Grant: It was kind of like that, based more on the Kabala. So the sun comes out – Jack’s looking out, and the sun rises above Liverpool and it’s got a face. And then on the last page a hundred suns rise, and the whole sky’s filled with them, but it just seemed so… not what I was trying to do with it. So by the time I got to the end, I didn’t get that last line until I was on the last page. So, it’s like that – you know the vague territory, but you create these fucking roadmaps and then by the time get there you’ve had a better idea based on your interaction with the text. So I think - to me, I’ve always said it’s like live performance – none of this was done to be for the ages. It’s somebody with a seismograph recording stuff so ultimately it becomes quite interesting because it’s real. But… it wasn’t for the ages, it was always live performance for me. The only one I deliberately wrote for the ages was All-Star Superman.
Bobsy: Right, and it’s the one which…
Grant: It’s the one that comic fans really like. They like that, you know, that architecture, I think.
Bobsy: Yeah, it’s the easiest one to put into somebody’s hands who isn’t a big fan of comic books and kind of go: “You’ll get something out of this.”
Grant: It’s literary, it’s not like a live performance. Like, you read The Invisibles a hundred times and it’s different a hundred times. If you read All-Star Superman a hundred times you just understand it more, you know?
Bobsy: Going back to the book for a minute, do you think there’s maybe room for a sequel? Have you got a Supergods 2 – I’m sorry, that’s another really stupid comicksy question!
Grant: A sequel for what?
Bobsy: I was wondering if there are maybe elements to with… as you see more of these things begin to appear, there might be more to say, or there might be more elements of how the supervillain fits into the programme. I felt throughout the book– although you’ve done an excellent description of the Batman/Joker relationship, it kind of seems to me that it’s difficult to understand a lot of these heroes without being familiar with the way that they’re opposed. It’s like, without this blank Lex Luthor figure to play off against Superman’s rich, vivid humanity, Superman kind of doesn’t mean anything.
It’s almost like – there’s maybe an element in the book to which I thought: when the superheroes arrive, what are they gonna do? Who are they gonna face, and what kind of problems are they going to be called upon to solve?
Grant: There was a whole – the book was actually like half the length again – there’s immense amounts were cut out. Nobody’s noticed yet, which I’m quite pleased with, but Christopher Reeve isn’t in there at all. I’ve got a huge section that will probably go in the paperback about Chris Reeve. An awful lot of it was cut, and a big section that was cut was about the villains, and the different types of villains. There’s little bit of that remains near the end in the Day of the Evil Ones chapter. But it was the notion of, you know, we’re fighting the Nazis, then we’re fighting these guys, then we’re fighting corporate predators, and then we’re fighting Image superheroes, so I think it’s really important to study the villains.
Bobsy: There’s almost a sense I felt, that goes back a bit to how we were talking about how superheores are hungry creatures, it’s almost goes straight back to one of the opening scenes of Zenith where they bring a Lloigor into the body of a victim which kind of bursts, and it’s almost like – this is what the superheroes might do to us if they get too close. They’re made of a denser, more fiery material than us and if they get too close, then maybe we need to be more careful what we wish for in this future because they could turn out to leave us behind.
Grant: Well, that’s the end of Miracle Man isn’t it?
Bobsy: Yeah, I guess it is.
Grant: The whole, beautiful Silver Age thing but there’s ultimately something creepy and chrome-like and untouchable about it all, but – what it would be like is every best feeling you’ve ever had. I think these things – there’s ways of looking at it which are the dark ways and the negative ways, or the ways which are fearful, but ultimately it’s not going to be like that. You know Superman’s a good guy. The idea of Superman is of the ultimate good guy, so… even though some of it might seem creepy, ultimately I don’t think it is. It’s only creepy in the sense that it threatens who we have decided we are, rather than what we are capable of becoming.
Bobsy: Sure, and the things that you might be challenging are the things that we should be a bit more keen to let go of ourselves, perhaps?
Grant: Potentially. As I say, these are simply ideas, and you have to take them at face value rather than saying “Marshal Law is real”. Marshal Law is one way of looking at it. You can say, “What if Superman was a drug abusing rapist?”, but it’s only a “What If?” because then it wouldn’t be Superman. The idea that is Superman doesn’t include those elements.
Grant: Anything else is just you playing with the idea of Superman, but the actual idea of Superman to me seems more important now, because everyone who’s tried to break this idea down has really let us down, you know? What have they given me? Where’s my fucking entertainment? You know, where’s my rocket ships? We need to take it at face value and say – “We’re trying to tell ourselves something with this, this is a kind of self-hypnosis into something” – it’s possibly more useful right now, because we’ve tried deconstruction, we’ve tried cynicism and it has let us down completely.
Bobsy: With the Kick Ass generation of superheroes, there’s a bit in the penultimate chapter of the book where you’re discussing the Wertham controversy in the 50s, and you’re talking about Robin and Batman’s sex life, you have this excellent description of it which is like – “Well, they’re not real, they’re just things on a piece of paper so they don’t have a sex life, what on Earth are you talking about?” But I couldn’t help but think that pretty soon, these questions are going to be a bit more relevant, because if we’re going to have real life superheroes they’re going to have real life sexual problems, and they’re going to go out and they’re going to have their arse hanging out of their pants sometimes, and they’re going to—
Grant: Now you’re talking!
[Good joke. Everybody laugh]
Grant: Yeah, but also, the comics have dealt with all that, which is why I love them so much. I mean they took this idea, and as I said in the book, they tested it. You know, you can pick up The Boys and say, well, this is what it would be like if the superheroes were just celebrity bastards and it’s all there, and it breaks it all down and it shows what it would be like and it shows what a super-paedophile would be like, but kind of ulitmately what that’s doing is it’s bringing the bullshit of our world into a world that doesn’t have that. See to me, the power, the preciousness of that world is that it utterly resists that.
Bobsy: And it’s almost like: the more you pile up those negative interpretations, the more you test the idea…
Grant: That, and Superman ultimately stands up, his light shines down and the bad guys are gone. The fact that there is this idea that nothing can stand against, that Superman will always win, even if John Byrne puts him up against Sleez and has him in a porno with Big Barda – it doesn’t break him, Batman isn’t broken by the gay interpretation. These things are stronger than that. Our attempts to break them kinda show only our weakness, you know?
Bobsy: Sure. It kinda shows why we still need them, because these preoccupations are still foremost in our mind.
Grant: Yeah, and their absolute indomitable refusal to be broken should be understood as something inside ourselves.
Bobsy: Right. You come across in the book as - I’m just trying to talk about the whole Kathmandu experience that you had. you seem, although you’re quite careful to couch it in terms which allow you to retreat from it a little bit… without wishing to be too personal again, which I made a mistake on earlier – this is kind of like a religion for you, isn’t it?
Grant: Yeah, absolutely, it completely makes sense, it kind of explains things which I can’t – I haven’t found anything that disproves it, so far, and I have tried, I don’t wanna be sold by crap. But it really works for me; it works in the way that we misunderstand what we’re doing on the planet, that the consumption of the planetary resources isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually what we’re meant to do to fuel our metamorphosis as I say.
Bobsy: Is that not a really scary, almost dangerous thing to take on board. I mean, it is quite scary isn’t it?
Grant: Yeah, is it? So, exactly, but all I can say is it was presented to me as an absolute truth and then I have to deal with and say: does that abrogate me of any responsibility for looking after the planet? But I don’t know if it does, because what I do is write comic books and somebody else’ll go out there and protest, and if the protest actually has meaning, it’ll eventually work and it’ll change things – the system’s… it’s filled with checks and balances. Honest, I keep coming to: Why is it so fuckin’ Punk Rock to think it might be okay, that we might not be bastards, and everything might be okay?
Bobsy: Yeah, optimism is massively unfashionable, and it seems like it has been ever since I was born.
Grant: It’s not just unfashionable, it’s almost, like, heretical. You feel like you’ve said really bad things when you say: “maybe it’s okay, maybe you’re just part of it all, maybe you’re just too small and too short-lived to make sense of this.”
Bobsy: And it does seem like there’s something very basic about the superhero, insofar as: they’re, by their very nature, highly individualistic but also very altruistic and concerned with the wider society, which appears to be a formula - like an exact formula - for what’s missing in our society at the moment.
Grant: They’re very individualistic in the sense of: how they project themselves, which is again that Rock Star aspect or that blog[?] aspect of presentation and the monogrammed chest. But when you get past that, it’s like Lady Gaga who only exists to help people. If such creatures existed, how beautiful would they be?
Bobsy: My little girl is well into Lady Gaga, and initially I was a bit like, I’m not sure if I’m into that, but she seems to have brought a message of Pop Inclusivity, she’s created a space for the weirdoes and the dispossessed on this… massive scale, which no previous pop star’s been able to manage.
Grant: Yeah, I mean, it needs someone to do it, and I’m sure if it wasn’t her it’d be somebody else, I think that’s – even although I don’t like the music – it’s great that she’s allowed weirdoes back into the disco[urse?].
Bobsy: Yeah, yeah, I mean that’s – it’s a shame to think that the forerunners of superhumanity on Earth might be vacuous celebrities, but – it’s quite easy to look at her and go: she’s got a superpower, hasn’t she?
Grant: And also, you’ve got to remember that a lot of these vacuous celebrities are helping people, mostly with me! You know, I do a little bit of work for charity…
Bobsy: Yeah, I think I met you at some of those functions, yeah.
Grant: Yeah, you were at the – I can’t remember the charity, whatever it was, buying buses for some people…
Bobsy: Something to do with senile DJs from Radio 1, I think.
Grant:Buying buses, that was the thing. People need buses. [laughs] …what was I talking about?
Bobsy: Oh, I dunno, to be honest I ran out of questions ages ago.
Grant: We were talking about somebody interesting there and you totally threw me off wi’ your nonsense about…
Bobsy: Oh, I do apologise. That has happened to me before.
Grant: All those celebrities that we mock for being “vacuous” are actually doing much more to help the planet than we are.
There was all that about Bono last week, but what the fuck have I ever done? Bono actually goes out there, and he scrapes up the soil and he plants seed into it. These people are actually acting like superheroes, because your management turns to you and says, okay, this charity wants to attach itself to you, this cause needs you as its figurehead. We met Robbie Williams, that guy’s involved in so much stuff, he’s practically single-handedly saving the planet. We might actually be closer to superheroes than you think.
Bobsy: They may be walking among the newspaper pages already?
Grant: We just - I usually don’t get it; like I say, when you’ve got a cellphone in your hand and you don’t realise it’s Motherbox, because the development of the cellphone took long enough and no-one was paying attention to this miracle appearing in their hand. That’s what it is – we do live among wonders, and then moan about it.
Bobsy: If I could get a PINGPINGPING ringtone for my phone…
Grant: Yeah and you can, the thing is you can, that’s just this wonderful world of ours
Bobsy: The folk at Jonathan Cape said we can have about 3/4′s of an hour, which we’ve had, is that…?
Grant: No, that’s okay, I like talking to you guys, so…
Bobsy: OK, we were worried that you might have another fifty of these lined up to do this afternoon.
Grant: Oh no, not today. I was supposed to be doing one with Watkins bookstore, you know, the occult bookstore, that I was quite looking forward to, but I think they moved that till tomorrow.
Bobsy: Do you keep yourself up with Occult scene, for want of a better phrase?
Grant: No, probably not, I haven’t paid attention – I go and look at it and I see people fighting over these bizarre questions that don’t mean anything to me anymore, so – I think of it, excuse me; it’s one of these things you get into when you feel powerless and you go through it and you rise through the planes and your initiations and suddenly it stops being that kind of – I dunno, it stops being that presentation aspect of it, and suddenly just becomes: it’s just this, it’s just the way we live, that’s what magick is, it’s just adding some significance and adding meaning to whatever happens. The glamour goes off it, it just becomes part of whatever’s happening in life.
Bobsy: Part of who you are. It does seem that – I’m sure you have your bad days, and you wake up in a pissed off mood same as the rest of us – but there is a real sense of serenity which comes through in the book, you do seem quite kind of… I mean, I guess you had a look behind the curtain once and…
Grant: Serenity! I had fucking moonmares writing that book, so if serenity comes across, brilliant! I had terrible time writing that thing, you know – it was really… it was quite harsh.
Bobsy: How so? Was it a long process, or did it just not have a form until you finished it, or…?
Grant: It was just that it took a long time and I was right in the middle of Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman and these things take a long time to do, and to have a book in the middle of – it got nuts. I was having these, what they call businessmen’s breakdowns, where you would have a complete mental breakdown but it would only last ten minutes like a DMT trip and just have to come back to normal baseline and get back to work, because if you didn’t it wouldn’t get finished. It was really quite interesting, at moments I was gripping the edge of the table and staring at the screen through tears [laughs]. I’m so glad it’s over. Right now I’m doing it with this film script I’m on, so…
Bobsy: Is this a film script that we haven’t heard about?
Grant: No, it’s the dinosaurs one, dinosaurs – the Barry Sonnenfeld thing, and it’s really – this is the best one I’ve had in years.
That would be Dominion: Dinosaurs vs Aliens
Bobsy: Oh, fantastic. Are you quite optimistic about that – are we going to actually get people blowing the heads off dinosaurs, like we’ve been denied from by Steven Spielberg’s slightly mawkish take on dinosaurs in so long?
Grant: Yeah, it’s better than that – if you ever want to see someone impaled upon the beak of a Tyrannosaur - a Pterosaur, look no further.
Bobsy: Okay, that sounds awesome.
Grant: It’s actually pretty good, I’m really pleased with this thing, it’s quite big.
Bobsy: And do you kind of hive those projects off into a separate section of Grant Morrison or do they all just kind of fit in among the work that you’re doing and do they kind of refer to…?
Grant: It all fits in – you know, I’ve been doing these film things for the last ten years, it’s just none of them have been made, so it – but… you get paid for it, you know what I mean? So – it’s kind of interesting, having a Hollywood career without having a Hollywood career, but I love comics best so I’m always coming back to that.
Bobsy: It seems that there aren’t quite as many – certainly coming through in the book is this feeling that, in terms of superhero comics certainly, you’re very much like The Guy, do you know what I mean? I’m sure that Mark Waid could write a lovely book about superheroes but it wouldn’t have the kind of fervour.
Grant: It’s all that weird fucking – the fact that I lived right on Faslane [?] Base and my dad was arrested and the sailors who brought the missiles brought the comics. The whole thing’s - it’s so beautifully constructed, ”yeah, only I could have done this” - it’s kinda ridiculous, it’s so symmetrical and so perfect, it’s really weird. I find it [interference] the centre of that place right now, there’s so much influence came into the country.
Bobsy: And of course, a few years before you were born there was, not far from your way, there was the Gorbals vampire in the southern Necropolis
Grant: Yeah, this monster with its giant teeth – the whole thing was made up, it was just a bunch of kids spontaneously went mad at the same time, like one of those Nigel Kneale things.
Bobsy: Sure, absolutely, it seems like just an excuse to start banning EC comics in the UK, really.
Grant: And so they should, those things are horrible.
Bobsy: Yeah, absolutely!
Grant: I’m only kidding.
Bobsy: Nightmares guaranteed. And one of the really nice things about comics is they do have this slightly insidious power they can – one is expected to open a comic and have a good time, but most comic books, especially when you start to look back in time, you can tell that there was something slightly fevered and strange working behind them.
Grant: Well, now, as I said in the book, we always forget, because once you put things in hindsight, it’s just some guy in a bowtie. In actual fact, all of those artists and writers were outsider people. C0mics were so unacceptable, after the Wertham stuff and the McCarthy era, it was really – really on a par with paedophilia, and we forget that people who were doing them were artists on the margins and there’s kind of outsider stuff. That comes through in every line to me… [interference] …the meaning in Wayne Boring, or understanding the sheer velocity in the way that Joe Shuster was telling that first superman story, with the cuts, and leaping in halfway through the story and the super, rapidfire cuts which came about as a result of someone having an entire 13 pages to work with rather than 3 panels of newspaper strip.
Bobsy: Presumably you’re going to be taking some of that spirit when you start the new Action Comics in September…?
Grant: I’m working on it - I’ve got Batman totally worked out, this Leviathan thing, I’m really excited and it’s a completely different take on the comics page, whereas with Action I’ve just been trying to do something that’s as forward-moving as Shuster… well, not quite, the first couple of issues don’t quite get it, it usually takes me about four issues to work out the style, but you’ll see what I mean with the first few…
Bobsy: Yeah, it’s quite difficult with – speed is a very different concept now, speed moves in all directions at once – the Locomotive Age that Superman really did respond to is now a slightly more diverse and diffuse thing, and it’s almost like: sure, he can jump a tall building, but can he move in a million directions at once?
Grant: Well, they say that the human project is to reduce space and time to absolute zero - and we are everywhere at once, all the time…
Bobsy: I guess your favourite The Flash would be at the forefront of that?
Grant:The Flash would be, I’ve written a really good Flash story that leads up to that.
Bobsy: Sorry, did you say that you’re working on a Flash story?
Grant: I wanted to do it as a movie. It was kind of like Groundhog Day, I wanted to do a superhero movie that wasn’t a superhero movie, but that was Groundhog Day, but with The Flash; what was really cool, is imagined doing it as, like, The Incredible Shrinking Man or Stephen King’s Thinner, that he wrote as Richard Bachman. You know when movies just take a real basic concept, oh this guy’s getting faster and faster, tell your story.
Bobsy: What’s that gonna come out in?
Grant: Probably be in Earth-One, if I get around to doing it. I’d like to do it, I’d love to just do this romance that’s about a guy getting faster and faster and all the implications of that.
Bobsy: The pure poetry of superheroes does seem to flow best through The Flash; that’s something you talked about in the book quite a lot. But it’s interesting the kind of shared iconography between him and Captain Marvel.
Grant: Yeah, and as I said, the lightning bolt’s there every big transformation of the superhero idea, it’s right there at the very start with Captain Marvel and The Flash, and then it’s there in the Silver Age with The Flash, and it’s in the Dark Age with Marvel Man and so on. It keeps popping up, this idea of the lightning flash, which is why I had to start the book with that Nietzsche quote which is so… every comic fan groans when they read that quote, but it’s fuckin’ so perfect.
Bobsy: I know for many of us, it was the first grown up thing we’d ever read, basically, was that line.
Grant: Well, for me, it was Shelley in those Avengers comics but it’s the same kind of thing, it’s suddenly: what, poetry? Okay.
Bobsy: Sure, there is that proper didactic element of comics, whereby…
Grant: It’s so great because he got lightning and madness in the same sentence.
Bobsy: Have you got any ambitions to work with Captain Marvel, in Final Crisis it seemed there was…?
Grant: Yeah, I’ve done this one for the Multiversity which, hopefully Cameron Stewart’s gonna draw it. It’s already finished, it’s really – I’m very pleased with it.
Bobsy: There hasn’t been much news about Multiveristy in the past few weeks, what with DC having their enormous…
Grant: ‘cos it’s not really out until 2012. Frank Quitely’s just starting on his, and he’ll probably be the slowest, so it’ll be Summer 2012, which is why nobody’s really saying much.
Bobsy: Oh, okay. But it’s definitely still on course?
Grant: Yeah, ‘cos I’ve written about ten of them.
Bobsy: The bloke in my local comic shop was telling me… was sure that Multiversity was just a smokescreen, and that you were going to be writing a sequel to Watchmen.
Grant: No, they asked to do that and I said: why would you want a sequel to Watchmen?
Bobsy: Oh, okay.
Grant: No, I mean, come on; Watchmen is actually perfect in its construction… I mean, not necessarily in others areas of its design, but as a story it’s complete, it’s utterly circular, there’s absolutely no need for anything else in that.
Bobsy: Yeah, the exterior surface of it is very kind of watertight. I’m just having a look through my notes to see if I’ve got anything else to say… Do you, erm, prefer… blue or red colour? The colour blue or the colour red?
Gary: It’s blue, definitely blue.
Bobsy: Have you got any questions [redacted], Gary, sorry?
Gary: No, sorry, but thanks for talking to us anyway, thanks for taking the time out.
Grant: Anytime. I bet you this comes out as just some rambling shit.
Bobsy: It wouldn’t be the first time, would it? I mean, fuckin’ hell.
Gary: Have you ever listened to our podcasts? Jesus. Are you happy for us to put this up on the ‘net, as a conversation?
Grant: Yes, absolutely. Just watch out for those Mark Millar bits – I’m really trying to nice to everyone.
Bobsy: It comes through really clearly in the book, and it doesn’t seem like you have to make that much effort at it really, I mean…
Grant: There are people that, if they’d written the book, I wouldn’t even be in it, you know? So that’s why you have to be nice to them. That’s the only bit that I don’t want to - I could easily let rip and I’m trying to be Buddhist about all this.
Bobsy: Well, what we’re gonna do, is we’re just gonna sit here for an hour and keep prodding until you say something horrid…
Grant: Okay, just keep doing that.
Bobsy: Thanks ever so much for taking the time to speak to us this afternoon, it’s been – we’re both quite chuffed, I have to say.
Grant: Naw, anytime.
Gary: Bobsy said before we started that he was thinking of: who else would be making me this nervous? Possibly Bowie …Lou Reed? No.
Bobsy: Who would be – out of anybody on the planet, who would be guaranteed to shit you up if you were gonna interview them?
Grant: Do you know who did it for me? Leonard Nimoy.
Bobsy: Oh, right! Yeah…?
Grant: I totally freaked out, I was at one of those My Chemical Romance backstage things and Leonard Nimoy was sitting there, and my mother had encouraged me to be like Spock when I was a kid, it fucked me up. So I was encouraged to be completely emotionless and have pointed ears. So I’m faced with the actual, real Leonard Nimoy, and I’m down on my fuckin’ knees, and he looked at me like there was something desperately wrong with me.
Bobsy: I’m pretty sure that happens to him most weeks.
Grant: He’s fucked me up bad, so I – I hope I didn’t come across as god-like as Nimoy.
Bobsy: Well, sometimes you do, let’s put it at that.
Gary: I’ll wait till I meet Nimoy and then we’ll do a little chart.
Grant: He’s so magnificent, like, he’s really goodlooking, the guy must be something like 96, he looks fantastic.
Gary: Yeah… what’s he doing backstage at a…
Bobsy: My Chemical Romance gig?
Grant: He was just there with his multi-grandniece or something.
Bobsy: That sounds amazing.
Gary: What a great great-grandad.
Grant: I know. He freaked me out, so him or…
Gary: Are we about to stop?
Bobsy: Might stop. I’m about to shit myself, so we probably should. Thanks ever so much for talking to us. Would you mind if we hooked up for another interview, say when Multiversity comes out, something like that?
Grant: No, it’d be good, we’ll just talk about stuff. I’m hoping for some more free time soon.
Bobsy: All right, well, fucking cheers for talking to us, I’m ever so chuffed.
Grant: Alright then, see you soon.
Bobsy: Have a lovely afternoon. Bye!
Grant: Okay, bye!
Gary: Sun’s out now.
Bobsy: High five?
Gary: There we go.
Bobsy: Turn it off, I need the toilet.
Gary: You don’t wanna do a postscript?
Bobsy: A postscript. To be honest, I don’t have anything to say, I am absolutely elated, and that was Grant Morrison, ladies and gentlemen, on Mindless Ones dot com.
Gary: There we are, a very happy Bobsy, I’m just glad I didn’t have to speak, that’s good.