Recently, the Nerdist team and a small group of other journalists were invited to DC Comics’ Burbank offices to spend an evening with one of the comic book industry’s greatest living talents, Grant Morrison. The Scottish scribe was joined by co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, as well as DC Comics president Diane Nelson. Hell, we even saw Seth Green there with a copy of Injustice: Gods Among Us tucked under his arm, so you just know it was a good night to be there. Sipping on surprisingly delicious cocktails inspired by the recently deceased Damian Wayne, we sat down with Morrison to get the inside scoop on two of his upcoming projects, which he told us about quite candidly, palpably excited about the new works, one of which he referred to as his “magnum opus.”
Wonder Woman: Earth One
For a guy who’s been writing comics since the early 80s, it’s refreshing to see how excited Morrison was to talk about the first of his two new projects, Wonder Woman: Earth One, a 120 page graphic novel he’s writing with artist Yannick Paquette. Gesturing to Yannick Paquette’s incredible artwork, which was propped up on a nearby easel, Morrison exclaimed with a cheeky grin, “”Hercules dies!” In the words of Calvin Candie, “You had [our] curiosity, but now you have [our] attention.” He continued, “This is the moment where Hippolyta, basically the queen of the Amazons, and the women have been chained up and controlled by Hercules and his men. It’s part of the Greek legend. And she finally turns on him and gets those chains around his neck where they belong.” Sounds pretty badass, huh? It gets better.
Although Paquette’s artwork features Hippolyta going toe-to-toe with Hercules, the book will focus on Diana, albeit in ways we might not be used to seeing. Morrison elaborated, “It’s not like a superhero comic. It’s a comic about the sexes and how we feel about one another. And why Wonder Woman kind of represents the best of something, and should be allowed to represent it.” Matter-of-factly, he continued, “The Amazons over many thousands of years of living eternally have developed some very strange and ritualized ideas about sex.” Immediately, I imagined Futurama’s “Death by Snu-Snu,” but I don’t think that’s what he has in mind.
Whereas Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is steeped in mythology, Morrison eschews her larger-than-life roots in favor of telling a tale “about a utopian society of women that’s been created over thousands of years,” he explained. Morrison continued, “What’s the technology like? What do they do? What’s the impact like? Diana comes from that reality to our world of constant movement and chaos and fashion, so it’s about that. The mythological aspects? I don’t buy into that much at all. Hercules? He’s just a man. A big, brutish, hairy man and he represents all the patriarchy in this story. Honestly, this is a feminist science fiction story.”
A feminist science fiction story? It sounds great, but was this born from a perceived lack of feminism in modern comics culture, or was it simply a venue that Morrison wanted to pursue? “For me, the state of feminism in comics is pretty good right now, and has improved over the last twenty years as more personality types entered into the medium,” said Morrison. “Previously, they were all these fantasy girls wearing ridiculous chiffon, but there’s a spectrum,” he continued. “It’s about making something universal and meaningful, not about comic continuity. It’s about women, the weird fantasies that men have and examining them. It’s something that I hope to make a universal story using this icon, this amazing star-spangled icon of womanhood who’s never quite stood up for what she represents,” he explained.
Touching on Wonder Woman’s history, Morrison dug a little deeper: “In her original version, she was expressing her creator’s interest, which included weird bondage and ideas about female superiority that I think are quite unhealthy. But there’s something great in that character and she’s a feminist fuckin’ icon. She’s got her own problems and fat friends, she lives the way we all live, but she can punch through ceilings, and to make it that story we have to pit the feminist utopia against the current system. It’s not a superhero story, it’s a Wonder Woman story.”
And that sounds like a story that we can’t wait to read.
Easily one of the most ambitious projects we’ve heard about in a long time, Grant Morrison’s Multiversity is like a multiversal Matryoshka doll, a nine issue series of 40-page books in which the first and last book comprise an “80 page giant DC super spectacular story. In between, what we have are 7 comics, each of which comes from a different parallel universe,” he explained. “They all have a different storytelling approach. A different artistic look. Each one’s drawn by a different artist. But each of them combine.” One of the artists in question is Cameron Stewart, who drew the panel above from “the Captain Marvel book ‘Thunder World,’ which is the Shazam characters told in an almost Pixar kind of way, as if this 40 page story was the first movie in a big franchise,” Morrison explained.
Multiversity won’t all be fun and games, though. One issue takes us to Earth X to pose the question of what Superman would have been like had his spaceship landed in Nazi-occupied territory during World War II. “Imagine you’re Superman and for the first 25 of your life you were working for Hitler,” Morrison says, “And then you realize, ‘Oh my god, it’s Hitler!'” Morrison continues, “Not only is he a Nazi Superman, he’s a Nazi Superman that knows his entire society, though it looks utopian, was built on the bones of the dead. Ultimately it’s wrong and it must be destroyed.” The issue will see the caped hero going up against enemies he knows are right, as he comes to terms with the fact that the principles he was raised with are wrong.” My only complaint is that he didn’t call the issue “Supermanschluss.”
Utopia seems to be a constant theme on Morrison’s mind, as it came up both in his discussion of Wonder Woman: Earth One and Multiversity. When I asked him about it, Morrison explained that it was in response to the cynicism and impending sense of doom that permeates society:
“Superhero comics present us a world where things kind of went right. Even if Darkseid appears tomorrow, someone will kick his ass. If you look at Star Trek in the ’60s and The Walking Dead – I always compare them – the bestselling TV show then was about the ultimate expression of human technological achievement, flying through space on a mission of infinite novelty, and sex. The most popular show on TV now is about the remains of humanity fighting for survival in a world that’s never going to come back to normal. And how those two play off each other, that kind of thing pulls at the American imagination in a sort of endless pioneer way; we’re all going to wind up in a graveyard, stumbling with an axe in our hands. I guess I wanted to look at that, and I’m always interested in comics because they do present utopias. In comics, you see the 31st century and there’s all these sexy teenagers being superheroes even though they don’t need superheroes – the world’s perfect. I like the alternatives they present to doom. In the end, all of my stuff will be exploring alternatives to doom.”
Now that we’re more than a year out from the New 52’s launch and Morrison has made major waves during his stints on Action Comics and Batman Incorporated, we were wondering what he thought of the grand experiment. Morrison obliged, saying, “I just love the books. I think it’s the best thing that could happen. It doesn’t necessarily suit me. The old universe felt more comfortable to me – and that might be because I grew up with it. But, I love the fact that there’s a new generation taking over and saying, ‘Hey, get out of here!’ That has to happen because it keeps comics fresh and keeps heroes relevant, so I love it. It doesn’t feel like my tundra, my Savannah.”
Ever the fanboy, our own Brian Walton had to get this one off his chest: how is it possible that a character like Mr. Terrific is an atheist when he’s on the same team as an angel? With a smile, Morrison replied, “Because it all comes back to the fact that, ultimately, he’s not real. In the real world, it’d make sense, but in this world, there’s the Spectre, an avatar of vengeance. Comic book characters are meant to stand in for us, so Mr. Terrific stands in for the skeptics always trying to find rational explanations within the DC Universe. It doesn’t diminish it; it just makes it cooler.”
And much like his stories, Mr. Morrison keeps getting cooler too.
Stay tuned for our forthcoming chat with Dan DiDio, who we also caught up with that night. What do you think of Grant’s upcoming take on Wonder Woman and Multiversity? Let us know in the comments below!