Scottish writer Grant Morrison has become something of a living legend in his thirty-plus years of writing comics, working on such seminal titles as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, JLA, The Invisibles, All-Star Superman, New X-Men, Fantastic Four, Final Crisis, and most recently, Annihilator and Multiversity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Morrison’s work. Recently, he surprised everyone with the announcement that he would be taking over as Editor-in-Chief of long-running science fiction magazine Heavy Metal. At Comic-Con this past weekend, we got the chance to chat with Morrison on his new gig, as well as some other projects he has coming down the pipeline.
Nerdist: The news this week that you were taking over the editorial reins of Heavy Metal wasn’t something that anyone saw coming; you certainly kept that on the DL as they say. How did this all even come about?
Grant Morrsion: I became friend with Jeff Krelitz a couple of years ago, and we’ve talked about doing stuff for a long time, and Jeff finally said, “Would you like to be the editor? We’d love it if you just came in and did a kind of spring cleaning, and freshen things up and tidy the curtains.” So it was that, and I just thought, “This is kind of insane, and not the sort of thing anyone would expect me to do.” Which alone was almost a good enough reason to do it. Like I’ve said before, the first job I ever got when I was 17, the first professional job I ever got, was for this magazine Near Myths from Scotland, which was just a bunch of hippie kids who tried to put together their own version of a Heavy Metal-style magazine.
So I kind of thought, this was all the stuff I was into at the very start of my career, all the weird sci-fi stuff from the ’70s, Michael Moorcock and J.G. Ballard stuff, and thought wait a minute, this is what got me excited about this kind of stuff in the very first place, Conan the Barbarian and Warren Publishing books like Vampirella. I thought how great it would be to go back to that original aesthetic that started my career, and to see how I could renew that, and build it up again and go back to my roots. So it was one of those things for me, you know how old rock stars get to that point in their career when they make their experimental albums, and then do the one where they go back to their roots? This was like that for me.
N: So you were a fan of Heavy Metal in your youth, but was it something you kept up with all these years?
GM: Not at all. And it’s wrong to say I was even a fan really…we saw them as rivals. And there was no way they were really rivals, they had these fantastic artists from all over Europe, as we were little kids starting out, so of course we weren’t rivals, but they were kind of to us. But I was very aware of Heavy Metal, I loved the artwork, I loved Moebius, but I was never into the stories as much. And I got into Heavy Metal when Richard Corben started doing it and Neverwhere, and I loved his work, so I started buying the magazine for that. But somewhere in the ’80s I kind of dropped out, because it seemed all a little too much Sunset Strip/porno/Motley Crue for me at that point, and I was a punk kid, and that was just not my thing. So I kind of faded away from it around that time, and I was writing my own comics at that point too.
N: Well, with a name like Heavy Metal, you can see why they drew the audience they did at that point.
GM: Exactly! [laughs] They had a right to go there at the time, but that aesthetic just didn’t appeal to me at all at any point, so I just drifted away from the magazine it at that time. So I’m just starting to go back, and go throught it all again and absorb it all, go through all that stuff that I didn’t read earlier.
N: So now that you’re the EIC, are there any specific creators you really want to bring along with you to the magazine? People you think would be a perfect fit?
GM: Yeah, there’s a bunch of people. I definitely want to do something with Frazer Irving again. I just finished Annihilator at Legendary with him, and he has this specific style that is just begging to be in Heavy Metal. And Chris Burnham, who’s already done a story for Heavy Metal, not one of my issues, but we collaborated on Nameless and Batman and I definitely want to work with him on something again. I want to go back to my Near Myths roots and get Bryan Talbot to do something, because Bryan is one of the originator of that style, and he is still working at the peak of his power, so I want to get Bryan in. And then there’s people like Brendan McCarthy. I’m kind of looking for something a bit more psychedelic, but still in the spirit of Heavy Metal. But a bit more trippy.
N: Your book Supergods is one of my favorite things you’ve ever written; I love those kinds of scholarly essays about superheroes and comics, and what they mean to our culture. This was easily one of the best I’ve ever read. Would you consider doing editorial content in the vein of Supergods in Heavy Metal?
GM: Oh, I really want to bring back the editorial content. I think one of the great periods in Heavy Metal was when you had people like William S. Burroughs and Douglas Adams interviewed, and there were music reviews and underground comics reviews as well, so I kind of think that’s an important part of the magazine as well, to have that kind of editorial content; it brings the readers in. Especially now, where we live in a world where the barrier between the creators and the readers has disintegrated. I kind of want that back and forward between the audience and the writer. I don’t think the magazine has really reflected that before.
N: Yeah, the internet has essentially taken the place of the old comic book and magazine letters column.
GM: Even more so, because the internet is almost directing what people want to see, because so many creators are seeing that and reading it, and going, “Well, they didn’t like that, but they loved this,” and we’re seeing the product change because of the demands of the audience. And I think that’s the way of the future, where people use it to speak up and say, “This is what I want.” I don’t neccesarily think that’s great for creative people, but ultimately it’s something interesting to play with.
N: One more thing I need to ask about is the status of Wonder Woman: Earth One for DC, which you are writing and Yanick Paquette is illustrating. She’s easily my favorite character, and I’m dying to see your interpretation of her. What’s the status of that graphic novel?
GM: It’s finished now and it’ll be coming out soon. I sat down and I thought, “I don’t want to do this warrior woman thing.” I can understand why they’re doing it, I get all that, but that’s not what [Wonder Woman creator] William Marston wanted, that’s not what he wanted at all! His original concept for Wonder Woman was an answer to comics that he thought were filled with images of blood-curdling masculinity, and you see the latest shots of Gal Gadot in the costume, and it’s all sword and shield and her snarling at the camera. Marston’s Diana was a doctor, a healer, a scientist. So I went back to those roots and just built it up again.
What would a society of immortal women that’s been around for 7,000 years have done? They wouldn’t still be chopping men’s head’s off; they’ve got art and architecture and philosophy and poetry and it’s got nothing to do with men. So Yanick Paquette did this amazing design job, where there are no phallic objects. The only phallic objects are like these Greek towers that are almost like this haunting echo of the culture they came from.
Wonder Woman’s Invisible Plane is now shaped like a vagina, it’s the most incredible thing. It opens up in the back and it has a little clitoris hood, everything is a female-based design. It’s all based on shells and natural stuff. He’s created this entire newly designed world for the Amazons. And for the first 48 pages, there are no men — it’s just women talking to each other. And then halfway through the book, we’re building up to this big fight, and then I thought, “No, I’m not.” This book isn’t about fights, there’s not going to be any fights. So we threw out the rules of traditional boy’s adventure fiction. It’s the most exciting book I’ve done in years, it changed everything I’m thinking about the future.
N: All of that is music to my ears. I respect [New 52 Wonder Woman writer] Brian Azzarello as a writer, but hate what he did to the Amazons. He turned Marston’s utopian society of women into people who murder the men they copulate with, then sell the male babies into slavery in trade for weapons. They’re essentially evil barbarians now, and I can’t imagine DC would have allowed the same character assassination to be done to Ma and Pa Kent or the Waynes.
GM: Yeah…I mean, you can do the Amazons as a bit strange and aloof, because they could defeat Man’s World if they felt like it, because their science is so advanced. But at the same time their culture is quite frozen, which is why Diana wants to get away and see what else is out there. But that’s how I see it. I think it’ll be quite controversial.
Which Grant Morrison project are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments below.