Greetings everyone, and welcome back to Creator Spotlight. In this piece, I take a look at the highly successful and controversial Grant Morrison. You either love him or you hate him, I love him, but what about you? Let’s take a look:
Grant Morrison is one of the most highly creative and respected comic book writers in the medium today. However, while Morrison is considered a true pioneer of the comics’ medium, his works often divide the fan base of characters such as Batman.
Morrison began his career in comics working for Near Myths magazine. It was here that he introduced his character, Gideon Stargrave, who appeared in issues three and four of the magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine only ran for five issues before cancellation. Following his work at Near Myths, Morrison found himself writing comic strips and penning various issues of the comic, Starblazer. Morrison would leave the comics scene briefly, but he would later return and begin working for Marvel UK briefly before moving over to 2000AD. While working there, Morrison along with Steve Yeowell and Brendan McCarthy would create Zenith. Zenith, a popular piece in the 2000AD magazine would consistently appear from 1987 to 1992. Zenith is responsible for Morrison landing a job at DC Comics. Morrison would propose Animal Man. Now Animal Man was a somewhat forgotten DC character who Morrison would later revive. Morrison would write the first twenty six issues of the series and the title proved to be highly successful. With Morrison’s unique prospective on the superhero genre, DC would hand him the rains to Doom Patrol in 1989. Morrison would take a rather simple group of characters and expand greatly upon the concept. 1989 would prove to be rather important role in Morrison’s career, along with Doom Patrol, Morrison would write Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
The story was released as an original graphic novel and there is no other Batman graphic novel like it. By this point in his career, Morrison had established himself as a writer who would often want the reader to read in between the panels. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth was no different. At the time, Morrison felt that too many writers were taking the realistic approach to Batman; therefore he countered that with a very surreal and mythical approach. While the story was simple; Batman enters Arkham Asylum to gain the asylum back from the prisoners, Morrison did an excellent job of weaving various forms of symbolism into the story. And while the story focuses on Batman, it is very much about Amadeus Arkham and how the asylum came to be. Morrison also greatly altered some of the characterizations of many of Batman’s villains; especially the Joker. Morrison depicted the eccentric clown as a transvestite. Along with Morrison, the artwork was done by Dave McKean. McKean created a world with boundaries within Morrison’s scripted pages, it was like no other Batman comic before it, and there has been nothing like it since.
With the enormous success of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Morrison was now a household name in the comics industry. The graphic novel has gone on to become the best-selling graphic novel of all-time. In April of 1990, DC gave Morrison five issues in the fairly new Batman title, Legends of the Dark Knight. The storyline was titled, “Gothic”, and again, Morrison incorporated some surreal and satanic themes into the plot. The book was penciled by the legendary Klaus Janson and the storyline is considered to be one of the best of the series and one of the darkest Batman stories of all time.
Throughout the 1990s, Morrison would continue to work with DC Comics but would also have work published with small publishers, and would continue to have printed material in 2000AD. During this time, Morrison would also establish his relationship with fellow Scotsman, writer Mark Millar. The two would collaborate on various projects throughout the decade. Also during this time, Morrison would write his rather epic and fan favorite run on the Justice League of America. JLA was Morrison writing fun and action-packed superhero comics, and this is my favorite run of JLA. Morrison would also begin working within the Vertigo and Wildstorm universes. Morrison would work closely with DC Comics until 2000, where after the release of JLA: Earth 2, he would leave for Marvel Comics. However, while Morrison enjoyed success at Marvel, in 2004 he returned to DC and Vertigo. Morrison would relive great success with the releases of We3 and his return to the JLA. Over the next two years at DC, Morrison would continue to be their ace with such works as Seven Soldiers of Victory, 52, and All Star Superman. However, Morrison could not keep away from the bat and in 2006, was given the rains to the Batman main title, and really the entire Batman universe.
Morrison began his Batman run with issue #655 in September. He would begin with artist Andy Kubert, who was also working with DC for the first time. The storyline was titled; “Batman and Son” and it would run until issue #658. This would mark the beginning of the highly-acclaimed “Batman R.I.P.” story arc. Morrison would then attempt a prose issue, with issue #663, “The Clown at Midnight”. While it was a bold attempt and good story, fans didn’t seem to take kindly to it. None the less, Morrison continued with act II of Batman’s demise in, “The Black Glove” storyline. Morrison would collaborate with the talents of J.H. Williams III and then the current writer/artist on Batman, Tony Daniel. After the first two issues of the storyline, “The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” would crossover into the main title for issues #670 and #671. Morrison wrote the prelude and part 4 of 7 in the storyline that would also crossover into the Robin, Nightwing, and Detective Comics titles. Morrison would then continue on with “The Black Glove” storyline that was wrapped up with issue #675. Morrison, along with Tony Daniel, would begin of his epic and controversial Batman tale, with Batman R.I.P.
For the better part of two years, Morrison had been writing Batman and everything he had been working for was leading up to Batman R.I.P. All of the issues he had written going back to the beginning with issue #655 were intricate pieces to understanding the over all story. R.I.P. began with issue #676 in May of 2008 and concluded with the Last Rites storyline, issues #682 and #683. Also that same year, Morrison penned the DC main even, Final Crisis, which ended up playing a big role in the future of the current Batman universe. While I personally feel that Morrison’s run on Batman has been unforgettable and one of the best that I’ve read in a long time, many fans feel that Morrison began writing for himself. Many readers felt that they were misled and the ending was not what they were looking for. The question I ask is; did Morrison not capture the very essence of Batman’s character? Did he not show great respect and understanding for this comic book mythology we all love?
Following a brief absence from the Batman titles, Morrison made his triumphant return in June of 2009 with the release of Batman and Robin #1. The result was an epic critical and commercial success. The first three issues of the series are considered by many to be the best written superhero comics that were published in 2009. Morrison was redeemed by fans for any of his prior Batman work. Along with great artist and close friend, Frank Quitely, Morrison was able to capture the quirky and action-packed fun that we all have come to love inside the pages of comics. However, after issue three, Frank Quitely left the title, and the book has since had a revolving panel of artists every three issues. Morrison has remained and the book has lost some of the magic that it had within those first three issues. None the less, it is still considered to be the best current Batman title currently being released.
In addition to Batman and Robin, Morrison is writing The Return of Bruce Wayne miniseries. The first issue is set to release today. The six issues miniseries will bring Bruce Wayne back to Gotham City, and will be the latest chapter in Morrison’s Batman epic which continues. Morrison is also set to return to Batman with issue #700 in June of 2010. Morrison just continues to leave a rather large stamp on the character.
Grant Morrison is widely recognized and considered to be of “rock star” status in the comic book world. There is no denying that no other creator has impacted the character of Batman like Morrison has. He has taken chances, some that haven’t always worked but others that had. He isn’t afraid of making mistakes and I feel like he has taken the Batman universe in a fresh and bold new direction that will change the future of the character forever. Love him or hate him, you have to respect him.
That concludes this entry of Creator Spotlight; I hope you enjoyed a look at the rather impressive look at the career of Grant Morrison. Next time, I will be elaborating on the fan-favorite artist, Tim Sale. Until then, tune in next time, same bat-time, same bat-channel.
Posted by Zach