Grant Morrison & Clive Barker Meltdown Hollywood

Thu, July 2nd, 2009 at 12:58pm PDT | Updated: July 2nd, 2009 at 1:09pm

Comic Books
Erik Amaya, Staff Writer
18

Grant Morrison at Meltdown in Los Angeles, July 2009 (all photos by Duane McLemore

Grant Morrison appeared last night at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood, CA for a signing and question-and-answer session conducted by horror novelist Clive Barker, concerning topics such as “Final Crisis” and “All-Star Superman.” CBR News listened in as the two discussed subjects ranging from Wonder Woman’s fetish beginnings to the rhythm of Los Angeles.

At the start of the session, Barker teased Morrison about his true purpose in coming back to LA. The Scottish writer’s response: “I’m here to do mystery Hollywood stuff, which they won’t let me talk about. So, let’s talk about comics and other stuff.” He then admitted to buying a house in the city.

To Barker, this was telling. “Property indicates you’re not here for just a couple of months,” he proposed.

“We dig the view. Also, we’ve got no friends in Scotland,” Morrison said. “Don’t ask me why.”

“Why?” Barker asked, generating laughter from the audience.

Despite his recent home acquisition, Morrison says he did not like Los Angeles on his first visit back in the early ‘90s, while promoting “Arkham Asylum.” He remembers, “The first time I came here, it was really weird, I think. It was so bizarre compared to Britain.” There was one bright spot he could recall. Anthony Perkins, the late star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” let his feelings be known to Morrison. “The neat thing for me was that Anthony Perkins really liked ‘Arkham Asylum!’” Morrison said.

“He was reading it in the shower?” Barker said. When Morrison agreed, Barker responded, “That was a joke.” Morrison then asked him why he moved to Los Angeles. “It was love,” Barker said. “There was a guy I was in love with and that was an error ... but the city is much more of a people-friendly city than it’s got the reputation of being.”

Turning to “Final Crisis,” which is now out in hardcover, Barker said he went over the material several times; even drawing a map to keep it straight. “I wish you’d given that to me,” Morrison joked. “It’s the end of the DC Universe. I spent a year in the company of Darkseid; it’s the shit that creates its own. The DC Universe began in 1938. And in the fifties, the Silver Age happened and the DC Universe split into several universes. There was Earth-2, there was Earth-3, there was Earth-4.”

Grant Morrison and Clive Barker

Barker asked Morrison for a more specific date on the beginning of the split. Morrison threw that question to the crowd. BOOM! Studios’ Mark Waid, who was also in attendance, told Morrison not to make anyone hang themselves by revealing that knowledge. After a back and forth, Waid finally said, “’Flash’ #123.” Morrison quickly replied with, “What day was it? Who was with you?”

Morrison then described his inspiration for Superman’s Song as seen in “Final Crisis.” He recalled, “There’s a multiverse of different vibrations. So I thought, the different vibrations; doesn’t that make sound? Isn’t that music?”

Barker asked about the Wonder Woman thread in the story, which almost completely vanishes after the third issue, calling it, “The one part that seems unrealized.” Morrison revealed those themes and ideas have evolved into something else. “It went into a different project with Wonder Woman.”

Morrison intends to tackle the fundamentals of Wonder Woman. “The basics of Wonder Woman come from William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who created the lie detector, of all things. His idea was that a utopia would be achieved if men were placed in subjugation to women. So, Wonder Woman is a character where you imagine this very strange mélange of girl power, bondage, and a slightly disturbed sexuality.”

Despite development in the character since Marston, Morrison feels this aspect of Wonder Woman that has not been confronted. “There is this bondage element; these extremely weird dark elements of Wonder Woman haven’t been adequately dealt with. Wonder Woman remains a really bizarre, untouchable character. She should represent women in the same way Superman represents men.”

“Perhaps she should be on top,” Barker suggested.

Grant Morrison and Clive Barker

Morrison distilled his mission statement into this: “To make it work, to give [Wonder Woman] a sexuality that isn’t exploitive, because that’s too easy; but also to give her a [narrative] power.”

Barker, intrigued with Morrison’s prolific output, asked about his process. Morrison explained that ideas come from everywhere. “Everything that comes into your head should be able to be processed back down and reassembled [into story],” he explained. “I never get blocked because something is always happening. My father dies, it can go straight into [‘All Star] Superman’ #6. I can work in these thoughts and those feelings and write a story about Superman which hopefully resonates with everybody whose father has died.”

While he **might** be working on Hollywood projects, Morrison still revels in the immediacy of comics, calling it “Imagination on the page.” While the writer might be known for chemically altered states, Morrison and Barker agree that the “direct contact with the information” is the most satisfying altered state a creator can know; with or without chemical aid.

On the business end, Morrison finds DC to be more sympathetic to that spirit. “They do favor the artist in that way.” While he also loves Marvel Comics, Morrison thinks there’s a more rigid creative force at that company. “There’s more of a house style. That’s what Marvel’s all about.” He related this difference to DC’s perceived continuity problems. “In a lot of cases they’ll say, ‘That’s okay. Rather the writer’s happy than continuity.” It is an atmosphere Morrison feels is more comfortable for him and his style.

When Barker opened the floor to questions, someone asked about Philip K. Dick. Morrison is not exactly an avid reader of the science fiction novelist often cited on the Internet as an influence. “I haven’t really read Philip K. Dick at all,” Morrison said, although he has read a biography on the man. Morrison has also read Dick’s enigmatic novel, “VALIS,” saying “it made sense to me.” He also read “Time Out of Joint” and “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer,” the latter being almost a straight literary novel with only implied science fiction underpinnings, according to Morrison.

Grant Morrison and Clive Barker

Toward the end of the session, a person asked about the portrayal and under-representation of gay characters in mainstream comics. “People are scarred,” Morrison said, citing the “Alpha Flight” incident, in which the portrayal of Northstar as gay was questionable. “Nobody wants to do it in such a way that’s preposterous.” Morrison then suggested the lack of prominent gay writers in mainstream comics is also part of the problem.

Barker added, “The vibe which is put out by the industry isn’t very attractive to gay writers.”

Morrison said he pitched a “Gay Authority” to WildStorm. Set in a future where the world has gone gay, the last heterosexual finds himself as the new Doctor. “A magical version of spin doctor,” Morrison said. The new Doctor and the Gay Authority must take the Carrier beyond the shores of the infinite because the baby universe which powers it has grown to a teenager. “It’s got horny. [They go] to set it loose among the other spawning universes.”

Barker made the question broader, “Comics are relentlessly violent … in that world, I’m not sure there’s room for love -- let alone gay love.” The nuances of love are complicated and difficult to express in the format. The tendency in superhero comics, Barker stated, is to use love as a vulnerability for characters.

Morrison was asked about long gestating novel “The If.” This project has been around for so long, it is even referenced in the final issue of “The Invisibles” Volume Two. “It’s turned into something else,” Morrison said. “I’m not really any good at writing novels.” Rolling the thought around, he admitted it will eventually become a comic book. “I work better with pictures.”

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TAGS:  grant morrison, clive barker, the if, wonder woman, final crisis

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