Combining the Worlds of Contemporary Comics
Publication Year: 2011
One of the most eclectic and distinctive writers currently working in comics, Grant Morrison (b. 1960) brings the auteurist sensibility of alternative comics and graphic novels to the popular genres-superhero, science fiction, and fantasy-that dominate the American and British comics industries. His comics range from bestsellers featuring the most universally recognized superhero franchises (All-Star Superman, New X-Men, Batman) to more independent, creator-owned work (The Invisibles, The Filth, We3) that defies any generic classification.
In Grant Morrison: Combining the Worlds of Contemporary Comics, author Marc Singer examines how Morrison uses this fusion of styles to intervene in the major political, aesthetic, and intellectual challenges of our time. His comics blur the boundaries between fantasy and realism, mixing autobiographical representation and cultural critique with heroic adventure. They offer self-reflexive appraisals of their own genres while they experiment with the formal elements of comics. Perhaps most ambitiously, they challenge contemporary theories of language and meaning, seeking to develop new modes of expression grounded in comics' capacity for visual narrative and the fantasy genres' ability to make figurative meanings literal.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
Series: Great Comics Artists Series
This book would not have been possible without the advice and support of my friends and colleagues. Craig Fischer, Roger Sabin, Will Brooker, and Gene Kannenberg Jr. generously gave their time to read the manuscript and offer feedback. Joseph Witek, Jason Tondro, Steve Holland, Randy...
Introduction: A Union of Opposites
At first glance, Grant Morrison might appear to be an unlikely subject for a scholarly study of comics. In a time when graphic novels have finally gained entry to the classroom, the art museum, and the New York Times Book Review, he continues to work on periodical comic books; in a medium where memoirs...
1. Ground Level
The reconciliation of mainstream and independent sensibilities that has been central to Grant Morrison’s career was initially made possible by the unique topography of the British comics industry in the 1970s and 1980s. British comics had never been dominated by superheroes the way American...
2. The World’s Strangest Heroes
In 1986, DC Comics editor Karen Berger traveled to London to recruit new talent from the British comics industry (“Afterword”). DC had already hired Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, and other creators away from 2000 AD, with dynamic results on comics like Moore’s...
3. The Invisible Kingdom
By the early 1990s, DC Comics had cultivated six series—Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Sandman, and Shade, the Changing Man, along with Animal Man and Doom Patrol—based on obscure superhero or horror properties and aimed at mature readers. All of these series except Doom Patrol had been...
After spending the middle years of the 1990s writing for Vertigo and 2000 AD, Morrison returned to a superhero genre transformed by the freefall in the American comics market. The collapse of the speculator bubble shuttered stores, devoured distributors, and drove publishers into bankruptcy...
5. Free Agents
Closed-circuit television cameras record a balding, middle-aged man in unsparing detail as he buys transsexual porn and picks his nose. More cameras track a military scientist as he strolls through a research facility on his way to euthanize his animal test subjects, unaware that they have broken...
6. A Time of Harvest
While Vertigo completed Morrison’s troika of genre-bending miniseries with the publication of Vimanarama, his next project returned to the more conventional territory of the DC universe of costumed superheroes. February 2005 saw the debut of Seven Soldiers (2005–06), a project that sought to...
7. Work for Hire
While Morrison was rehabilitating the superhero in Seven Soldiers, he was also becoming increasingly central to DC Comics and to superhero comics in general. Although he had already worked on DC and Marvel’s leading franchises in JLA and New X-Men, he spent the second half of the decade...
Afterword: Morrison, Incorporated
No matter what direction his comics take, which genres they inhabit or which methods they pursue, Grant Morrison never limits himself to one style for long. Since Final Crisis he has worked on a mixture of sequels and new projects, corporate properties and creator-owned series, demonstrating...