Grant Morrison, author of "Seven Soldiers of Victory," "All-star Superman," "The Invisibles" and a host of other ground-breaking comics, fielded questions from an audience of admirers at WonderCon on Saturday afternoon. DC editor Steve Wacker made the introductions and kept the conversational ball rolling.
One of the first questions concerned Morrison's work for Hollywood. "Sleepless Knights," a project for DreamWorks, started out as a dark fantasy set on a perpetual Halloween night and featured homeless guys who "take drugs and stay awake to fight ghosts." Morrison completed two drafts of the script, but "it ended up as a movie about three teenage kids fighting zombies."
New Line's adaptation of "WE3," however, holds a lot more promise. Morrison said, "Everyone there is keen on the project. They just said to me, 'Do the comic.'"
The big-screen version will probably include scenes that could not be fit into the 96-page miniseries. "So if you like the book, this will be even better," Morrison said.
In response to a question about "The Invisibles," Morrison recalled the transformation he underwent while writing that Vertigo series. "It was weirder than I imagined it, because it was like doing voodoo. The comic began to write me. I lost control of it in a lot of places. Things in the comic then happened to me. I made the King Mob character be tortured and sick and have his lung collapse. And three months later I was in the hospital with a lung collapsed, dying. So after that I gave him a real, good time. If I can make myself sick and put myself in the hospital, then by god, I'm going to make myself into James Bond!"
Morrison continued, "My life by the end of 'The Invisibles' was nothing like my life at the start." Because he's still interested in its characters, he said he plans to write an "Invisibles" follow-up, possibly ready for 2008, "when this conservative era ends."
In terms of politics, Morrison spoke about growing up with two anti-war activists as parents and hopping fences into military installations. Now, though, his outlook is less radical. "I don't have politics. I just kind of explore things. By the end of 'The Invisibles,' it was more about incorporation than Us versus Them. I started as a kid who was taught to hate the police and hate the army and authority, but the more I grew up and studied those things, the more I realized they were just part of the system we live in, an inescapable part."
Moving on to lighter topics, Morrison discussed his process of generating plots for superheroes, using Ray Palmer, The Atom, as an example. "I didn't think it worked," he said, "the way he so easily got big or small. I had this idea that it would be better if the Atom had to use a lot of power to shrink himself. It would give the thing slightly more thematic power. In one issue, he would have to use all this energy to get to six inches and run around the house being chased by cats or pinned to dartboards or something. Or you could do another story where he shrinks down to the size of a bacterium and finds an alien invasion in the White House carpet!"
Morrison said that maintaining a stream of both mainstream superhero work and more personal books keeps him balanced. "When you do something like 'WE3,' and it's really emotional, it's nice to go away and 'eat the sorbet,' and do something like 'Justice League,' which is just fun. The personal ones are quite difficult. I do sit crying over these things. Honestly, I'm sitting there with tears streaming down my facing, saying, 'Go, Bandit, go! He's behind you!'"
With the "Seven Soldiers of Victory" sequence of miniseries about to reach its conclusion, Morrison is still experimenting with modular storytelling, particularly with the year-long weekly series that follows in the wake of "Infinite Crisis."
"'52' is an attempt to do something bigger along these lines. It works even better with a bunch of people involved, because you can really cover all the bases. I enjoyed the experiment. I think the overall story of 'Seven Soldiers' was harder to do than the individual ones. My biggest problem with Issue One, which I'm still writing, is to make it worthwhile, like the first issue of a comic you're going to want to read for the rest of your life, even though you're never going to see a second issue."
A practicing magician, Morrison discussed the connections between language, magic and science. "Language is magical. People talk about magic as if it's something over here that only some people do. The human race is a race of things that do magic. The only reason we think there isn't any magic in the world is because there's so much of it. We don't see it anymore. We can use Google to look down at our house from space. That's magic!"
Morrison says that he rarely approaches storytelling from a detailed, linear perspective. "I'm not one of these guys with a road map. Someone like Alan Moore knows exactly what's going to happen at the end, but I wish I could be like that. Most of the comics I've done, I just dive and hope for the best. Some of those other guys take you on a package tour to a nice hotel. I'm just saying, 'We're going out into the jungle. I don't know what we're bringing. We may die. But c'mon, it'll be great!'"