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Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison: Combining the Worlds of Contemporary Comics

Marc Singer
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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    Grant Morrison
    Book Description:

    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.

    InGrant 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-137-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: A Union of Opposites
    (pp. 3-23)

    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 theNew York Times Book Review, he continues to work on periodical comic books; in a medium where memoirs, histories, and other nonfiction works have garnered the most critical approval, he still writes serialized superhero adventures; in a field that exalts creators who write and draw their own comics, he collaborates with artists who bring his scripts to life. Upon closer examination, however, Morrison is...

  5. Chapter 1 GROUND LEVEL
    (pp. 24-51)

    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 comic books were after the 1960s, and writers had more opportunities to experiment with different genres. Morrison was also fortunate to reach artistic maturity during the adult comics boom of the late 1980s, a period when his fusion of sensibilities was not only tolerated but rewarded. The boom years offered writers a healthy mixture of mainstream...

    (pp. 52-91)

    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 from2000 AD, with dynamic results on comics like Moore’sSwamp Thing. By 1986 the company was looking to replicate the phenomenal success of Moore and Gibbons’sWatchmen, a work that, along with Frank Miller’sThe Dark Knight Returns, generated tremendous sales and media attention and sparked a wave of imitators (Sabin,Adult Comics91–98). DC returned to Britain hoping to find more creators who...

    (pp. 92-135)

    By the early 1990s, DC Comics had cultivated six series—Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Sandman, andShade, the Changing Man, along withAnimal ManandDoom Patrol—based on obscure superhero or horror properties and aimed at mature readers. All of these series exceptDoom Patrolhad been edited or developed by Karen Berger and all had been written by British writers, most of whom Berger had recruited. DC Comics president Jenette Kahn and editorial director Dick Giordano asked Berger to develop a new publishing imprint that would unify and expand these titles into a line of mature comics (Contino, “A...

  8. Chapter 4 WIDESCREEN
    (pp. 136-180)

    After spending the middle years of the 1990s writing for Vertigo and2000 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, but it also empowered veteran creators to reject the style of comics the speculators had supported and then just as rapidly abandoned—namely, the Image style. Image Comics was founded by seven artists who left Marvel when the company would not grant them ownership of the characters they created (Dean Part 1). While Image gave them...

  9. Chapter 5 FREE AGENTS
    (pp. 181-220)

    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 free and are killing his subordinates. Visitors at a theme park are surrounded by omnipresent cartoon eyeballs who ferry kidnapped children down subterranean canals. God reveals the predestined fates of two young lovers while fire-belching demons destroy London, murdering the queen, the prime minister, and the cabinet. These nightmares of surveillance, domination, and...

  10. Chapter 6 A TIME OF HARVEST
    (pp. 221-250)

    While Vertigo completed Morrison’s troika of genre-bending miniseries with the publication ofVimanarama, his next project returned to the more conventional territory of the DC universe of costumed superheroes. February 2005 saw the debut ofSeven Soldiers(2005–06), a project that sought to renovate several obscure or underutilized DC characters while reinventing one of the most formulaic modes of storytelling in comics, the multi-title crossover.¹Seven Soldiersis written entirely by Morrison but it constitutes a crossover unto itself, almost an entire continuity unto itself: seven miniseries and two bookends that interlock to tell the story of the Sheeda,...

  11. Chapter 7 WORK FOR HIRE
    (pp. 251-284)

    While Morrison was rehabilitating the superhero inSeven 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 inJLAandNew X-Men, he spent the second half of the decade writing Superman and Batman, renovating minor and underused characters for DC, guiding readers on a year-long tour of the DC universe, and ultimately steering DC’s continuity as part of a linewide crossover. This period completed Morrison’s move from the fringes of the comics industry to the center and cemented his status as...

  12. AFTERWORD: Morrison, Incorporated
    (pp. 285-292)

    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. SinceFinal Crisishe has worked on a mixture of sequels and new projects, corporate properties and creator-owned series, demonstrating a renewed interest in operating outside the conventions of mainstream comics even as he continues to write one of the oldest and most popular superhero franchises. If the latter half of the last decade saw his writing dominated by the superhero genre, his most recent comics show the beginnings of a return to the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 293-304)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-316)
  15. Index
    (pp. 317-323)