Writer Spotlight: Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison is my favorite writer of all time. In fact, he is my favorite creative individual, regardless of medium, of all time. He opened my eyes to new worldviews and shaped my personal philosophy into what it is today. His work celebrates hope and the future. He balances the power of the collective with the beauty of the individual. He’s funny and intelligent and accessible and, above all, unique. Here are some of his greatest works.

Starting points:

All-Star Superman (05-08)
All-Star Superman, spanning twelve issues (which can be purchased in a single volume), is one of the brightest and most all-ages of Morrison’s works. However, this doesn’t remove any of its emotional impact. The premise is simple: Superman is dying, and he decides to live out the rest of his life as well as possible so he has no regrets. Each issue tells a separate story, but they connect to form a moving narrative that leaves the reader with hope for humanity. Recommended for anyone who likes superheroes in the slightest.

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The Filth (02-03)
The Filth, by contrast, is not all-ages at all, and the premise is anything but simple. A sad man named Greg Feely finds out that his true name is Ned Slade, and that he previously led a life as an agent of a global peacekeeping organization called The Hand. Greg/Ned is swept up into a world of black comedy, absurd high concepts, and seemingly infinite sex. The Filth is still an optimistic story, but it’s a much more taxing read (emotionally and intellectually) than All-Star Superman. Recommended if you don’t like superheroes.

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Other single-volume runs:

Batman R.I.P. (08)
This is far from the only Batman story Morrison has written, but I would call it his best. For Morrison, Batman represents humanism, the ability of man to make himself into something more, to reach perfection. His Batman is focused and ultra-prepared, not troubled and conflicted like many other incarnations of the character. Morrison’s Batman, in a lot of ways, is the ultimate human. R.I.P., then, is the ultimate test of that ideology. Batman is put through a gauntlet, the greatest test of his career. It’s gripping and suspenseful and unpredictable and smart, and it’s my favorite Batman comic.

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We3 (04-05)
Arguably Morrison’s most emotional story, and also one of his most bloody and gruesome. It concerns three cyborg animals, a dog, a cat, and a rabbit, who were created as weapons by the government. After they find out that their program is to be decommissioned and they are to be killed, they escape from their facility in an attempt to find their former homes. The sanctity of life is a big theme in Morrison’s work (he’s a vegetarian), and this is one of his works that deals most with that.

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Flex Mentallo (96)
A mind-bending story that relates the history of superhero comics through the hallucinations of a dying rock star. In his mind, a musclebound superhero he invented as a child is going on an adventure to restore the way things should be and save his life/the world. Recommended for anyone interested in where superheroes started, or anyone who likes movie directors like Stanley Kubrick, Christopher Nolan, or the Wachowskis. Happens to be Morrison’s first work with frequent artist Frank Quitely (who also illustrated All-Star Superman and We3).

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Extended Runs

Doom Patrol (89-93)
A surrealist epic about a team of outcast superheroes who take care of threats too weird for anyone else to handle. Introduces Crazy Jane, one of Morrison’s greatest characters. She has 64 personalities, each of which has a different superpower. There’s a lot of weird for weird’s sake, so if that’s not your thing then you might want to try a different series, but a lot of the ideas Morrison introduces here are nothing short of fascinating. Also contains some amazing art by Richard Case.

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New X-Men (01-04)
Morrison’s attempt to revamp one of Marvel’s greatest franchises. Gone are the varied, brightly-colored costumes—these X-Men wear yellow and black leather jackets. It introduces the concept of “mutant culture”, which no previous writer had really touched on, and has the Xavier Institute bring in a large student body for the first time. Some of these students, such as Beak and the Stepford Cuckoos, would go on to be very popular characters. Morrison writes the X-Men like no one else, and this is one of the best runs he ever wrote.

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The Invisibles (94-00)
In the same vein as The Filth, and often considered to be Morrison’s magnum opus. It concerns a group of undercover magical revolutionaries who want to overturn the world as we know it and bring about a new age of chaos. (Morrison identifies as an anarchist.) It’s wild and racy and exciting and innovative, and is probably the clearest articulation of Morrison’s philosophy. Also, it at one point contained a magical sigil that readers were supposed to masturbate to in order to stop the series from cancellation (it apparently worked), which really gives you an idea of how different Morrison is from the rest of humanity.

Animal Man (88-90)
Morrison’s major-publisher debut. This story of a a superhero who can copy the powers of any animal contains the germination of many of Morrison’s ideas, and is the first time he really bent the fourth wall and attempted to send readers on an acid trip. Contains many classic stories, including “The Coyote Gospel”.

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Seven Soldiers (05-06)
My favorite Morrison comic, and my favorite comic period. It’s formatted strangely—it contains seven four-issue miniseries, each with a different main character, bound together by two extra-long bookend issues. The plot concerns a plot by beings called the Sheeda to invade Earth and reap its riches, and seven individuals who are meant to stop them without ever meeting one another. The story deals with themes of identity, maturity, and the struggle between one’s inner self and the self one projects.

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This is just a small sample of what Morrison has written. I love it all, and I think anyone who gives him a try can find something they love.