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Author Topic: Holy cow, am I ever tired of Grant Morrison  (Read 29815 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: February 26, 2007, 01:31:19 AM »

He is a writer that has problems with characterization and uses derivative plots, who makes comparisons to mythology/mysticism, full of universal, infuriating pretention, who alternates between doing superhero stories with mystical twists, and bizarre science fiction action comics, who was lionized/deified by comics fans that ought to know better.

Yep, Don MacGregor sure was full of it back in the day.

But I'm going to say a few words about Grant Morrison now.

Incidentally, don't interpret all this to mean that I dislike Grant in any way, but fandom needs a major reality check. He's good, but not THAT good. And he's certainly not playing in the same major leagues as current DC writers like Kurt Busiek, Gail Simone, Geoff Johns, and over at Marvel, Dan Slott and that guy that's currently writing CAPTAIN AMERICA. Grant's JLA was totally outdone by Busiek's AVENGERS, out at more or less the same time. And Geoff Johns's JSA shows how a team book should be written.

Grant Morrison can't do characterization, which reduces all the characters he writes to one-dimensional cartoons. Look at JLA #5 - the Tomorrow Woman story. The story fails to be sad or touching because we never understand WHY Tomorrow Woman sacrificed herself; it came out of left field. Instead of a heartfelt sacrifice or discovery of nobility, it came off as an insane whim.

There are so many examples of this I hardly know where to begin. Superman in ASS is a caricature, engaging in chaste kisses with Lois and APOLOGIZING when monsters attack her. His politeness is so extreme Superman ceases to be a real person.

I can't think of one single adjective that describes Azrael and Aztek's personality.

And even characters with personalities, when written by Morrison, have motivations that are murky and weird: I have no idea why Flash and Kyle Rayner don't like each other. The conflict emerges from nowhere, and from nowhere it returns, unresolved. When Busiek had Hawkeye and Cap chew each other out, there was a reason. Hawkeye just LED an Avengers team, he's not going to go back to being a follower. And when Cap and Hawkeye talked it over, the subplot was solved.

Did Big Barda in Morrison's run feel remotely like any other character by that name? What happened to the woman who tossed over a tower and said, "Pompous GNATS! HERE'S my identification!" Did Barda...EVER lose her temper at any point, or reveal a shy or surprisingly vulnerable side that made her a complicated character? Further, Barda was nothing more than a strongwoman; what about her Club's Nerve Beam, antigravity and phase circuits? Not used once. Not using a character's personality is tragic, but not remembering a character's powers is downright unforgivable. Also, why was Barda there, but Mister Miracle (a guy that HAS been a Justice Leaguer in the past) wasn't?

And despite his undeserved reputation as a wild and crazy guy, Grant Morrison's lack of true originality is positively Gerry Conwayesque. Consider "Rock of Ages," a story about an alternate world where a bad guy rules, who is opposed by guerrilla-fighting, surviving superheroes. Gee, how original. This was an episode of (just off the top of my head here) GI JOE, CAPTAIN PLANET...and...oh yeah, just about the most famous UNCANNY X-MEN story ever. Grant had nothing new to say (except for a very interesting look at the Teen Titan Argent).

Likewise, Grant assembled what may be the scariest Injustice Gang since the days of SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPERVILLAINS. And...nothing. No climactic battle. The team-up is the story equivalent of premature ejaculation.

And then you have Grant bringing Plastic Man in the JLA, and gave him his "Jim Carrey on Crack" characterization...for which Grant should be tried for war crimes. Not only was the exclusion of Ralph Dibny, a much better developed character with far greater history with the JLA, a big, fat screw-you to fans of the Satellite League (Ralph Dibny being a character that actually has a reason to be there), Plastic Man may have booted out Snapper Carr as the most annoying Leaguer in history.

I can barely think of one Morrison idea I really like. Even his so-called "cute" details break down when considered logically. Consider the Sun-Eater in Superman's Fortress. Superman...are you INSANE? This is something that can potentially destroy galaxies, and you're giving it a doggy dish? When Paul Levitz had the Legionnaires encounter a baby Sun-Eater at a Controller asteroid, it was a cliffhanger ending that inspired absolute chills. The Sun-Eater is a weapon even the happy-go-lucky Legionnaires refuse to joke about, which required the Legion to team up with their greatest enemies and even THEN, required a sacrifice.

This is my fundamental problem with ASS: it reduces things in Superman that are grand and magnificent and terrible to being tawdry and commonplace.

And then there was Prometheus. We already have one of you, and his name is the Wrath. By the way, Grant, when stealing names and concepts from mythology, it helps to know WHO PROMETHEUS IS.

That's the most interesting thing about Morrison: all the "deep" subtext his obnoxious fans congratulate themselves for "getting" are really subliterate. His comparison of the JLA to the Greek Gods, for instance. 1) This ignores the very real and significant differences between mythic gods and comic superheroes, and 2) fails because all it does is plug in numbers, e.g. Orion = Mars or Babs Gordon = Athena, instead of really THINKING about mythology and what makes myth tick, as Neil Gaiman and others have done. It's the comics equivalent of those lazy "Hero's Journey" essays college undergrads write by the ton.

GARGOYLES had mythic figures like Titania, Oberon, and the monsters of Greek myth, however, the reason that show worked whereas Morrison's ASS and JLA doesn't, is because they put in a new twist to them that made them fresh. The sight of MacBeth and King Arthur brawling over who gets to be the One True King of Britain was a spectacular way to use two timeless stories in a new manner.

As for ASS...comparisons to mythology don't WORK unless you succeed in telling a great story. Making a story like myth is not the formula for coca-cola; a story has to be great FIRST, and THEN comparisons to myth suggest themselves. Making a story intentionally like actual myths is putting the cart before the horse.

Grant Morrison is at his best when his lack of originality is a "strength" instead of a weakness as it was in JLA #1-4, a popcorn-munching extravaganza intentionally reminiscent of big-budget movies.

For the most part, all the comics I've mentioned are ones that are tolerable and readable instead of being obnoxious and destructive. The exception is Granty's X-MEN.  I say without hyperbole that Morrison's NEW X-MEN may be the worst run of the X-Men in that comic's history.

Grant just doesn't get (or doesn't have the professionalism) to write in a shared universe. The nonsense about Magneto attacking New York (home of a ton of superguys) and wrecking half of it and no other superhero shows up but the X-Men, for instance, is the greatest failure to understand the shared universe since Denny O'Neil's NO MAN'S LAND in the Bat-titles.

Professor X having an evil twin sister (!), Beast coming out of the closet and becoming a tiger-man, and Jean Grey being killed off (again)? This is the absolute height of hackery.

There's a reason the leather jackets worked in the movies but not in the comics; because in the comics they come off as lame trend-trolling.

Grant Morrison took the potential given by other writers to X-Men and squandered it. "Red Shirt" killing off a character with as much history in the MU as Darkstar, for instance. Destroying Genosha and creating no concept to replace it. And when Busiek did his Exemplars story in AVENGERS, it heralded a possibility of Juggernaut redeeming himself and becoming a hero. What an exciting idea Busiek made it seem! But when Morrison finally gave us that story...well, it STILL isn't clear to me why Juggernaut is a good guy.

Just because an idea is new does not necessarily make it a good idea. Just because an idea is new does not make it appropriate, either. The most interesting thing about the Marvel Universe is that the addition of every fantasy element is carefully considered. There's a difference between Atlantis under the sea, the Blue Area of the Moon...and what Grant Morrison did, which was entire neighborhoods of NYC filled with mutants. With "mutant porn" being available in most catalogs.

I for one, strongly oppose the idea that a hero has to be unique (I love Supergirl, Captain Marvel Jr. and the thousands of GLs) but this is different. This is creating a world that is no longer identifiable as our world, and worse, a world no longer identifiable as the Marvel Universe.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2007, 04:04:22 PM by JulianPerez » Logged

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Gangbuster
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2007, 08:05:00 PM »

All-Star Superman is the best thing I've ever read by Grant Morrison, precisely because of the mythology and mysticism that you mentioned. It works really well in Superman stories and is refreshing, maybe because it hasn't been done very much, or very well, before. Plus, remember the Superman storylines before Grant Morrison? For Tomorrow, anyone?

Like Maggin once said, you have to believe in Superman to be a good Superman writer. In recent history, it also helps if you believe in magic, apparently. (Grant Morrison and Alan Moore actually do.) Pre-Busiek, some of the best Superman stories of the last 30 years, like Miracle Monday and The Jungle Line, involved Mysticism.  And "bizarre science fiction action comics"...well, that's just Superman...or a hearkening back to the days of the Silver Age, really.

That said, the series is a little too...sappy. I agree that there are aspects of Superman's personality that I don't agree with, like the overpoliteness (the movie Superman does this too,) but in the case of the monsters attacking Lois, I think the apology was just supposed to be a joke for the audience, like George Reeves used to do.

In Grant Morrison's defense, his run on Animal Man was not great, even though it made him a demigod for comic fans. (A friend of mine keeps recommending "great" 80s comics, and I stupidly keep taking his advice.) But at the end of the story, Grant Morrison apologized to Animal Man for killing his family, and listed all of his shortcomings as a writer. When Grant Morrison gets to reveal "Hello Superman, my name is Grant" at the end of issue 12, what sort of things will he have to say to him?
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2007, 11:48:37 AM »

Quote from: Gangbuster
All-Star Superman is the best thing I've ever read by Grant Morrison, precisely because of the mythology and mysticism that you mentioned. It works really well in Superman stories and is refreshing, maybe because it hasn't been done very much, or very well, before.

Superman was always the comics equivalent of STAR WARS, but that's very different from what my pal Grant's doing: these groan-inducing absurdities like Dr. Quintum's line "Oh, if only mankind hadn't tried to steal fire from the sun, this wouldn't have happened!"

This is so sledgehammer-unsubtle that the only thing that could make it worse is a giant forty foot neon sign. "MYTHIC ALLUSION HERE!"

And the illiterates that fawn over this cackle like monkeys to themselves. "Hey, that's kind of like Greek Mythology!" The aura of self-congratulation in this kind of line by the writer is so obvious; it's like everybody's in a "secret club" of that payed attention during Ninth Grade English, and Grant just flashed them the Secret Handshake.

The truth is, all this pisses me off because I love mythology and heroic poems so much. From Turkey's THE BOOK OF DEDE KORKUT to the Icelandic Saga of the Oath-Bound Men, and this sort of reduction of myth to a by-the-numbers plug it in formula with Leo Quintum as Icarus, irks me for missing the whole point. And it's certainly not like Superman.

Quote from: Gangbuster
Plus, remember the Superman storylines before Grant Morrison? For Tomorrow, anyone?

I agree, Grant is certainly better than the people that came before him. Though considering how bad Chuck Austen and others were, that may be damning with faint praise.

Quote from: Gangbuster
In Grant Morrison's defense, his run on Animal Man was not great, even though it made him a demigod for comic fans.

I haven't read enough of Morrison's ANIMAL MAN to really be entitled to an opinion.

You'll notice I deliberately avoided mentioning Grant Morrison's DOOM PATROL because it's something of a guilty pleasure of mine.

There are some writers and film-makers as well, like Tim Burton, who can only really work with one specific kind of mood and idiom. Grant is like this too, and this becomes a problem for a work he's not suited for, e.g. Superman or X-Men.

But for a work like DOOM PATROL? All his disadvantages become advantages, because his annoying tendency to be weird for the sake of weird is exactly what DOOM PATROL is about!

The Doom Patrol's Rogues Gallery generally isn't famous (c'mon, anybody really remember the Volcano King or the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man?) so he can get away with doing what he does best: substituting the concepts in a book with his own weird ideas, and for ONCE, it isn't inappropriate: remember that woman that only had superstrength when she sleepwalked, or the guy that had every power that you don't think of?

Truth be told, Grant Morrison is overwhelmingly not all that original, or inspired. The heroes visit Wonderworld, and it's just another superhero lair with a bottled city and cyborg brain? Angels exist, but the only thing that happens is the good guys catch a blimp and Superman punches a guy with eyes in his chest? I remember once he credited Michael Moorcock as "a true inspiration."

Moorcock's response? "That's like someone who steals your TV telling you that you have great taste in TVs."
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
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carmelo
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« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2007, 04:11:45 PM »

Superman in ASS is a caricature, engaging in chaste kisses with Lois and APOLOGIZING when monsters attack her. His politeness is so extreme Superman ceases to be a real person.

Julian,you have a whole DCU universe (and maybe many of news 52).Please,leave to we  poor Silver Age lovers/ Weisinger era nostalgics a little bi-monthly comic with our Superman.Thanks. Cry
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2007, 09:34:09 PM »

You see what I mean? This is precisely why I dislike Grant Morrison so much.

Who lied and told you that Grant Morrison is writing Silver Age Superman? Can you point to one plot point or proof in ASS itself that directly shows this is true?

( There's the Fortress Key thing, but that's weak at best. All that proves is that at one point ASS Superman had a fortress key.)

This Superman in ASS is an Elseworlds character detached from the DCU and Superman's back-continuity, Silver/Bronze or Modern Age. He's no more the "real Silver Age" Superman than the Kal-El that was raised by Darkseid or the Commie Superman.

On the other hand, you have people who truly ARE writing the Silver Age versions of characters, using actual details FROM the Silver Age, and they are ignored or called "Modern Age guys" while Morrison is praised for something he just didn't do.

Take the current Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns JLA/JSA Annual Team-Up.

Geoff and Brad literally are writing the Silver Age JLA. The Legionnaires are carrying the electric rods from the "Russian Roulette" attempt to restore Lightning Lad to life; Starman (the former Star Boy), and the writers have Thom's characterization be influenced by Thom's pivotal story, the one occasion that he killed in order to save Dream Girl's life back in the sixties, which meant his expulsion from the Legion. During a Dr. Destiny induced hallucination, Starman experiences the memory of the person he killed...and the stiff was still in his Curt Swan costume, fins and gloves and all!

And what's more, not only does Star Boy have the Silver-Bronze Age Legionnaires in their Cockrum costumes, they have said repeatedly that Superman as a youth was a member of the Legion.

Let me repeat that: Meltzer and Johns have brought back into the DCU the Silver/Bronze Age Legion. They have made Superman a member of the Legion as a youth again.

Yet...Morrison's the one that's the Silver Age writer.

It's unjust.

On the other hand, with Morrison's ASS, no individual, specific plot point from any Silver Age story is mentioned directly (except a vague reference to Batman and him changing places in #2 it's likely Grant just made up), and it certainly isn't used to influence his characterization in a significant and meaningful way as was done with Superman in JLA/JSA or Starman. Samson is clearly not the Biblical Strongman from the Silver Age; his costume doesn't even suggest anything of his previous incarnation. And what's more, there's Cat Grant (a modern age character), Jimmy Olsen as a teenager again instead of the tough young adult he became.

Who's the REAL Silver Age writer here?
« Last Edit: June 11, 2007, 07:48:38 PM by JulianPerez » Logged

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Michel Weisnor
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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2007, 12:17:51 AM »

Grant Morrison never stated he was writing Silver Age Superman. As mentioned, readers just took All-Star Superman for SA Superman. Even Morrison, in an interview, enjoys all eras for different reasons. All-Star Superman is Morrison's attempt at incorporating a more than functional pastiche of Superman to the general public. Up to this point, he's performed an admirable job.

Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns are also writing an excellent story. "The Lightning Saga" really gets me pumped for the Legion (more than DnA and Waid's Legions ever did).  However, while using Silver Age elements, Meltzer and Johns are not Silver Age writers. Besides, I always figured they're more influenced by Bronze Age DC and Superfriends.

Getting back to Morrison, man his work lately has been amiss. Seven Soldiers left me scratching my head and Batman* has been to say the least turgid. Perhaps, he's spread his creative juices to thin. Morrison probably just needs to cut his workload down a little. Still, All-Star Superman has been an enjoyable experience and I look forward to hopefully an Absolute edition. 

Hey Julian, could you clarify your opinions of Busiek's Avengers and Morrison's JLA? I just started reading both  simultaneous and was wondering how you view each. Thanks.   

*Of course, in my opinion, he never quite understood Batman.
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« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2007, 02:36:11 AM »

Continuity doesn't HAVE to have anything to do with who Superman is...it just tracks the evolution of a character through many generations of different ideas.

Its like saying the Phantom Zone miniseries is a good story just because of some lame reference to a sun with rings around it from a comic in the 70s and ignoring the fact that otherwise its a story completely void of the original spirit and intent of the Phantom Zone.

Edit: So ultimately, I suppose what is "Silver Age" is just as subjective as any other opinion on comic content.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2007, 06:55:20 PM by MatterEaterLad » Logged
carmine
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« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2007, 10:56:12 PM »

meh, I think you are reading too much into grant morrison and then complaining that their is too much to read into grant morrison.
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