The cheering began the minute Grant Morrison walked in the door to the DC Comics' Grant Morrison panel, part of this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego. The creative force behind "Batman Inc." and the recently announced "Action Comics" #1, part of DC's September relaunch, it was evident from the cheering crowd that Morrison is a man who needs no introduction--and in fact, had none.
"No moderator!" Morrison laughed, gesturing to the completely empty stage as the audience roared in approval.
Wearing a "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" T-shirt (which got another cheer when he took off his jacket), the writer immediately opened the floor to audience questions, encouraging fans to gather around the microphone. Clearly enjoying himself, Morrison began by teasing the first audience member who stood up and told Morrison "The Invisibles," Morrison's first foray in comic books, changed his life.
"It was designed to change fucking lives! Kudos!" laughed Morrison.
When asked about the stark difference in tone between "The Invisibles" and his next chronological work, the adult and grim series "The Filth," Morrison told the audience that "Filth" actually came out of a happy point of his life while "Invisibles" came out of a darker time.
"In 'Invisibles,' I was trying to cheer myself and everybody else up," said Morrison. The writer then reiterated his interest in writing Wonder Woman after another fan complimented him on his portrayal of the character in "The Return Of Bruce Wayne."
Morrison also elaborated on his work on "Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens" a screenplay currently being looked at by director Barry Sonnenfeld. Working alongside comic book company Liquid Comics, Morrison said the graphic novel version will come out first, though there was no set publishing date as of the panel.
"You'd think…it could be one of those SyFy movies where giant piranhas fight crocodiles," joked Morrison as the audience laughed. With art by Mukesh Singh, who worked with Morrison previously on "18 Days," the writer added "Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens" may, "actually be the first of my movies that actually make it to the screen!"
Continuing to bounce from audience member to audience member, Morrison addressed a question about the industry's current lack of "originality" by telling the packed crowd that there are only seven basic plots humanity tells, and all stories are just different versions of those.
"Everyone in the world has a unique experience, everyone has one set of eyes in the entire history of life on earth and the universe and that's where the originality comes from, by telling the truth of what they see, and a lack of originality comes from not telling the truth and trying to be like someone else," said Morrison to thunderous applause.
Jumping back to his film projects, Morrison stated that the screenplay for "We3" was still floating around Hollywood, though the writer did not think it would be coming out anytime soon.
"It's 'in development' as they say in Hollywood," Morrison laughed.
The writer then expanded on his experience writing screenplays, describing it as "sort of like haiku, it's a specific form" said Morrison. Asked further questions about "We3" the writer then jokingly described the script as "'E.T.' with more bullets!"
The questions turned back to Morrison's comic book work as an audience member pointed out that many of his "X-Men" changes had been phased out by Marvel and asked what one aspect of his comics Morrison would make un-ret-con-able if he could.
"That's a weird question," said Morrison as the audience laughed. However, Morrison replied that if he could he would not let anyone split up Animal Man's marriage.
"Its often a tendency when people ret-con characters to take the cheapest shot for drama and split up happy marriages," said Morrison, adding, "Don't let anyone split up Animal Man's marriage!"
Morrison then took the time to plug his return to Batman and "Batman Inc." with next year's "Batman: Leviathan," telling the audience that there was a lot of drama in the story.
"I guarantee you will cry. Many times will you cry," joked Morrison as fans laughed.
Talk about his DC work naturally led to questions about his relationship with Frank Quietly, the artist behind many of Morrison's comics such as "All-Star Superman."
"If I could be the artist I wanted to be, I would be a lot like him," said Morrison, saying the two just "connect" when it comes to creative endeavors. "I just don't feel that same way about any other artist."
The writer also briefly spoke about a possible "Flash" story set on Earth One in the DC Comics multiverse.
"This was just an idea I had, a different take on the whole concept," said Morrison, adding he wanted to "Just tell the story of a scientist who gets faster and faster and faster. I like the idea of doing that, but so far I have…no idea whether it will actually be an Earth One book."
The jokes started up once more when an audience member mentioned Morrison's story about seeing a man dressed as Superman as the inspiration for "All-Star Superman." The writer laughed and admitted that had had no such similar magic moment when it came to writing "Batman: Leviathan" or "Batman Inc."
"Batman's refused to show up!" said Morrison, faking outrage. As the audience laughed, the writer quickly admitted he would actually have no idea what do if a similar moment did happen to him. "How guilty would you feel if Batman turned up at the door?" added Morrison.
On a roll, Morrison continued to tease audience members as they approached the microphone, including apologizing to one man when he found out that fan was from New Jersey.
"You have my pity," said Morrison as the audience laughed. The fan got the last laugh, however, when he demanded that Morrison do his impression of a Jersey accent.
"You want me to do a Jersey accent?" Morrison snapped in a pitch-perfect south-Jersey drawl. As the audience roared in laugher he demanded the fan do a Scottish accent. The fan responded with his best attempt.
"We could be brothers!" Morrison announced as the audience broke into wild applause.
Getting back to the questions, Morrison stated that there are plans for him to appear in a third My Chemical Romance music video as the villainous Korse, a character Morrison described as the video's "Darth Vader." Talking about Korse paved the way for Morrison to talk about Professor Pyg, the twisted villain Morrison first introduced in "Batman."
"With Professor Pyg, I read things written by actual schizophrenics," said Morrison, explaining his process for getting inside Pyg's mind. Morrison added that it was important to him to do this research as he "Wanted to introduce the sound of an actual schizophrenic voice" to the comic said Morrison.
The writer then touched to his upcoming "Action Comics," issues coming out from DC Comics in September. Saying that he saw the changes in Superman, from the "socialist golem" in the '40s to the "family man" of the '60s, all as a natural progression of societal changes, Morrison illuminated listeners about his views on the evolution of superheroes.
"They change alongside us, and sometimes they change ahead of us," said Morrison. "The basic core is presented for a new generation, just like the aborigines painting the gods would retell the stories of the gods for new generations."
That's all well and good, another fan told the writer, but which did Morrison like more: writing Batman or Superman? Morrison said while he goes back and forth, he was "buzzed" to be writing Superman again.
"The capitalist millionaire seems to have a little less to say to us now than the champion of the oppressed," laughed Morrison.
Explaining that his Superman in "Action Comics" would be a more mischievous, "anti-authoritarian" character, Morrison reveled that Clark Kent would become almost as big a name in Metropolis as Superman.
"He's a social reformer, and Clark Kent does as much work as Superman basically uprooting corruption and exposing corruption, so the two of them are working in tandem," said Morrison. Elaborating that in his version Ma and Pa Kent are dead, Morrison told the audience his Superman will be more of a mischievous character.
"Justice may not involve the law in Superman's eyes," added Morrison.
The writer also took the time to touch on his personal beliefs about magic and how he applies those beliefs to his work in comic books.
"I look at things magically, but the things I look at are solid objects...in the '80s we sort of introduced this idea of street level realism, asking you to buy into the notion these characters could exist somewhere and these were just stories of another world you couldn't quite get to, the Marvel universe and the DC universe" said Morrison. "But the actual Marvel and DC universes exists on the page. The place is in your hand."
"It's a magical way of looking at something quite ordinary," Morrison added.
Citing Scott Snyder and Matt Fraction as current writers he possessed a lot of respect for, Morrison surprised the audience by naming his favorite comic out right now is the DC Kids comic "Batman: The Brave And The Bold" written by Sholly Fisch. Morrison also said he read a lot of nonfiction books, mainly popular science novels, in order to "spark off ideas" for his stories, pointing to the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell as influencing his take on Superman in "All Star-Superman."
"Any of the sun gods have a connection with Superman: Christ, Moses--but you have to remember he's a science fiction character that punches people in the face, which is not something Christ and Buddha do!" laughed Morrison. "He's a machine-age version of those myths."
However, the writer approached writing his Batman books significantly differently. "Batman is sort of a puzzle book for me…so I set out to tell stories with puzzles and secrets" said Morrison. And while he was personally sadden by the decision to get rid of Dick Grayson as Batman, Morrison said that the Bruce Wayne/Damian Wayne dynamic will be at the heart of "Batman: Leviathan."
"And you will cry and cry!" Morrison reminded the audience with a laugh.
The last question of the panel brought Morrison back around to his comedy routine when a fan asked why Morrison thought the modern day "Batman" films were so much more successful than the recent "Superman" movie.
"Batman is sexy and has more money…and basically Superman is a guy in an office who's got a boss," joked Morrison, sending the audience into laughter. However, the writer confessed he thought Superman was making a come back.
"I think he's coming back…he's been shackled by the idea of having to represent the flag or the country or the establishment," said Morrison. In conclusion, his goal is to write a Superman "who is a bit more relatable," added Morrison.