Robot 6

Quote of the day | Grant Morrison vs. nerd culture

The geek shall inherit the earth: Mark Millar and Grant Morrison in happier times

The geek shall inherit the earth: Mark Millar and Grant Morrison in happier times

[Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’s] Wanted articulated a new myth for the hordes of suddenly cool under-achievers who’d been lionized by the rise of “nerd culture.” Big business, media and fashion were, it seemed, so starved of inspiration, they’d reached down to the very bottom of the social barrel in an attempt to commodify even the most stubborn nonparticipants, the suicide Goths and fiercely antiestablishment nerds. The geeks were in the spotlight now, proudly accepting a derogatory label that directly compared them to degraded freak-show acts. Bullied young men with asthma and shy, bitter virgins with adult-onset diabetes could now gang up like the playground toughs they secretly wanted to be and anonymously abuse and threaten professional writers and actors with family commitments and bills to pay.

Soon film studios were afraid to move without the approval of the raging Internet masses. They represented only the most miniscule fraction of a percentage of the popular audience that gave a shit, but they were very remarkably, superhumanly angry, like the great head of Oz, and so very persistent that they could easily appear in the imagination as an all-conquering army of mean-spirited, judgmental fogies.

In the shadow of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s immensely influential book on social networks and marketing, nobody wanted to risk bad word of mouth, little realizing that they were reacting, in many cases, to the opinions of a few troublemakers who knew nothing but contempt for the universe and all its contents and could hardly be relied upon to put a positive spin on anything that wasn’t the misery and misfortune of others. Too many businesspeople who should have known better began to take seriously the ravings of misinformed, often barely literate malcontents who took revenge on the cruel world by dismissing everything that came their way with the same jaded, geriatric “Meh.”

Action Comics and Batman Inc. writer Grant Morrison on the nastiness of “nerd culture” in Supergods, his new prose non-fiction book about superheroes. Morrison uses the protagonist of his former friend and protégé Mark Millar’s Wanted, a downtrodden office drone who launches a rape-murder spree when he discovers he’s part of a secret supervillain society, as a symbol of how nerds, a group of people bullied and marginalized by society, have frequently used the newfound power conferred upon them as pop-culture trailblazers to bully and marginalize others. Or as another writer of science fiction once put it, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (He likes Wanted, fwiw.)

It’s a bit surprising to see Morrison resorting to the fat-virgin stereotype, but in the context of the book it becomes clear that he was burned pretty badly by over-the-top fanboy rampages, up to and including threats against him, following such works as New X-Men and Final Crisis — hence the obvious and perhaps forgivable rancor in response. Food for thought during the San Diego Comic-Con, nerd culture’s annual Woodstock?

(via Matthew Perpetua)

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58 Comments

The Summer of Nerd Love has passed. We’re beyond the Nerd Woodstock. Nerd Altamont is in full swing.

Love it. I especially love that this was picked out and posted on a blog that a lot of the types of people that Morrison blasted visit.

I agree 100% with everything Morrison says here.

I wish he’d use a different term than simply “nerds.” We all know the type of angry, entitled, unhappy “fan” he’s talking about, and we all know that they don’t represent everyone in nerd/geek culture. It’s unfortunate that he stoops to those ugly stereotypes, and that he falls back on simplistic binary antagonisms (underachieving losers vs. admirably industrious types), but I’m sure his feelings here are the product of many scary encounters with hateful people. Those people destroy themselves.

What’s frightening is that, for film studios, this is a group of people that can easily be ignored in favor of the larger audience. But for a lot of comics publishers – particularly the Big Two – that group of people /is/ the larger audience, or at least a too-significant fraction of it.

It’s why I really, really hope the DC relaunch succeeds (and efforts similar to it as well) – both to drown out the gripers, and to make a nice cosmic “I told you so” to the types who try to shoot down every effort to help or appeal to new readers.

Honestly, I think I agree. I’ve always been a “nerd type” but of a different kind than many I’ve met; from my fictional heroes, super- and otherwise, I learned about the importance of goodness and mercy and such, about trying to build bridges between people who are different (but not excluding those who are “mainstream” as if they’re a group it’s OK to hate). I’ve seen in some fans, many of whom post a lot online, a level of sheer nastiness and vitriol and spite that saddens me and makes me wonder if they learned anything at all from the stories we all, ostensibly, love.

Jake Earlewine

July 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Morrison sounds very bitter. Did somebody hurt his feelings? Is he resentful that Hollywood has been throwing their money at lesser talents than him?

Is this book one big wank? Sure doesn’t seem like a fun read.

It also doesn’t help when some of us have what we feel are genuine, well-thought-out negative responses to the way characters are written or portrayed, but anything that might be worth listening to is drowned out by the vitriolic anger of some of those people, so we are likely to just be lumped in as unthinking nay-sayers.

I love this man and fear that I may be one that spurned him. But, who the heck would threaten someone over fiction? Let alone over Final Crisis, that was one of the best, most experimental intricate stories I have ever enjoyed. The only gripe I have is how densely layered it is and that J.G. Jones could not draw it all.

I personally love the part when Morrison talks about receiving death threats after Batman R.I.P, and subsequently leaving “the lunatics to their asylum”.

I love discussion threads as much as the next comic book fan, but sometimes these “threads” devolve into fans demanding comic creators either give Wonder Woman pants or take them away. Such is the nature of free expression, but I think the entitled nature some fans give themselves is a bit too much, sometimes.

Morrison is completely right, unfortunately.

Part of it is that far too many geeks use the Internet to vent their frustrations because their personal lives suck.

Part of it is because people (geeks AND non-geeks) are desperate to look smart and witty, and the way they can look intelligent is by tearing things down.

Many times I went into the Internet because I was genuinely thrilled about some book/TV show/comic, and wanted to talk to other fans, only to find that the fandoms of the works in question were filled with cynical, smug, snarky haters. And I’ve felt heartbroken with all the negativity, I can only imagine what the creators must feel.

No, I don’t think people have to like everything. But I just don’t like to spend so much energy into things I hate, you know? If you think Marvel/DC has been publishing only trash for the past decade or so, then wouldn’t be healthier just to stop reading their comics, just go away? Go read a novel, work out in a gym, whatever, and stop wasting precious hours every day posting in the Internet how whatever sucks.

Most times I read someone tearing something down, I don’t think that person is intelligent, because it’s far more intelligent to look for things you will enjoy and dedicate yourself to them.

I rarely post opinions or disgree with ppl on the internet. Ppl take that stuff way to seriously and have wayyyyy to much free time on there hands.Its a war of words that you cannot win.Also its not just bitter comic fans that are full of snark, check out some of the forum on Pro Sports teams websites or sports section of there Newspaper website.Thats just as bad!! It all boils down to the fact that everybody is a tuff guy behind a keyboard and a screen.

Wow. Morrison really covered all the bases on that one, didn’t he? Personally, I don’t see myself as a nerd; when I think of nerd, I think of the way they’ve been portrayed in various media, mostly television and film. Some of the most prominent examples: Dexter (‘Dexter’s Laboratory’), Martin Prince, Comic Book Guy and Professor Frink (‘The Simpsons’), Neil Goldman (‘Family Guy’), Steve Smith (‘American Dad’), the protagonists of ‘Revenge of the Nerds’, Jon Arbuckle (for the first four decades of the ‘Garfield’ comic strip), Jason Fox (‘Foxtrot’ comic strip), among others. When I see those characters, I vow that I won’t end up like them. I’ve managed to (and continue to) try and keep my “hobby life” separate from my “personal life” to that extent. From Morrison’s comments, that further gives basis to the fact that we, the few fans who manage to use our common sense, need to change the face of comic book fandom for good, from the negative stereotypes used by Morrison and what he sees us as, to a “force for good”.

You said it best when you said that this attitude only appeared once Morrison felt abused and wounded by the vile nerd-rage of the internet. This perception is in direct proportion to his own hurt feelings and it’s impossible to imagine him resorting to the ages-old “fat virgin” stereotype unless he had felt spurned by internet culture.

Having said that, he’s not entirely wrong, is he? Sometimes the stereotypes are true. Nerd culture has a negative, vitriolic component that is so at-home on the web that I have a hard time entirely disagreeing with this assessment: The truest nerds wanted to be bullies all along and they enjoy reshaping the cultural landscape, which is a shame.

Also: WANTED is possibly the stupidest, most hateful piece of trash I’ve ever read. It’s the comic that made me start losing respect for Mark Millar.

“What’s frightening is that, for film studios, this is a group of people that can easily be ignored in favor of the larger audience. But for a lot of comics publishers – particularly the Big Two – that group of people /is/ the larger audience, or at least a too-significant fraction of it.

It’s why I really, really hope the DC relaunch succeeds (and efforts similar to it as well) – both to drown out the gripers, and to make a nice cosmic “I told you so” to the types who try to shoot down every effort to help or appeal to new readers.”

– Angelica Brenner

I agree 110%! Thank you for saying this!

The single greatest tragedy of the comic book industry is that it has to cater to the whims and tirades of the exact people Morrison is talking about here. You know… these people: http://ourvaluedcustomers.blogspot.com

Selling comics through digital media instead of the direct market is so very necessary and publishers have to figure out ways to make it work because it’s imperative to find an audience among mainstream, casual readers. It would open up revenue streams, creative opportunities… all kinds of great potential lies in opening up the audience beyond existing superhero fans.

Morrison went above and beyond with his diatribe about nerd culture. To generalize to such a degree that he spews vitriol at the entirety of the group for the actions of a few, relative to the whole.To me, this stems from Morrison’s own ego, which was severely hurt by the reception Final Crisis received and Batman RIP. He also deconstructs “Watchmen” in his new book, with such quixotic doctrinaire flair I have hard time taking him seriously. His stories are always crafted in the same monotonous manner. Batman RIP and All Star Superman were both stories in which Batman and Superman were attacked emotionally, mentally and physically by their respective versions of the “ultimate evil”, only to have both of them know the villains plans all along. Both heros had made their own plans, which the readers were privy to in the last chapter of each arc’. He recycles his own stories constantly. We had already seen Final Crisis in the “Rock of Ages” and the “Seven Soldiers of Victory”. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Morrison, but he’s not high concept. His ideas are often fundamentally facile and troglodytic due to his constant need to use metacommentary. His use of the CBR boards in Batman Inc. was cringe worthy. Morrison needs to be called out for his story telling deficiencies, which are numerous and have become more apparent as the years have progressed. I truly think his problem is he imbibes his own hype to the point he feels slighted at even the hint at acerbic criticism. Morrison needs to focus on his craft and not worry so much about a small group of people who were overtly hostile to them.

The Superman 2000 proposal also served as the backbone of All Star Superman so it would be nice if Morrison acknowledged Waid, Peyer, and Millar for their contributions. Of course Morrison, will never extol any of them. I know that. It’s just sickening to see someone with such an air of pretentiousness give so adulation to himself while he coyly tears down his peers with a smile on his face.

Wow. It took this long to find the person Morrison was talking about? The end of the post? Shocking.

My bad apparently Morrison is above criticism.

Another bit that I felt was a low, petty blow: bashing people for their health problems. Bringing diabetics and asthmatics into this is as bad as insulting someone’s kid or mother and also about as pertinent to the argument at hand, diminishing his point and all but admitting he’s just lashing out because he’s hurt.

What’s this about using the CBR boards in BATMAN INC? I didn’t read that yet. Explain to me what’s up.

Exceptional use of an online thesaurus, Erik.

My god, Grant just articulated everything I’ve felt about a lot of message board posters since the DCnU announcement. It’s just one big perpetual game of “Here’s what you should do because I say so” from people who are either unable to remove themselves from nature of fictional stories or the repeated, unending trashing of something that was never going to interest them anyway. Yes, take your toys and run away because you don’t like what’s happening, just shut the fuck up after your thousandth bout of bitching.

Have to agree with Morrison’s quote, the thing is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I loved New X-Men: it was the kick up the arse the series needed after years and years of diminishing returns. Those first three issues of his run are probably some of the ballsiest, brilliant X-Men comics ever made. Admittedly things went off the boil a bit towards the end; Morrison seemed to be losing interest (no doubt the fanboy reaction had something to do with it) and the last minute replacement artists didn’t help anyone.

He has a point though. The vocal minority. Look at the absolute insanity that ensued when a TEST SHOT of Wonder Woman was released. The amount of aggressive, misogynistic and downright crazy commentary was a sight to behold, especially when you consider only a small fraction of those venting their rage probably don’t even buy the Wonder Woman comic, if they ever bought one in the first place!

Just more creator hubris masquerading the fact that it’s really self-loathing. Morrison needs to get over himself.

Go look at the talkback for any article about Chuck Austen to see the people Grant is talking about….

I’d say this is less biting the hand that feeds him and more savagely rending said hand.

I still want to read this book, but if I wanted passages of Morrison’s hysteria, I’d just watch an interview or something. I thought it was about the comics?

I agree with him.

But at the same time I disagree.

1. He’s right about fans.

2. He’s right about the folly of studios taking fan complaints seriously.

3. On the other hand, fans SHOULD whine on the Internet about what irks them. Because the Internet is a wonderful communications tool.

Fans… Passionate fans absolutely have the right to speak out. It’s just that, while the Internet has provided a safe haven for enthusiasts to voice their opinions of and to creators, as well the opportunity to do something new through fan fiction or fan boards if they think they can do it better, it’s also given these same enthusiasts (and here I’m talking about anyone, not just geek culture) a sense of entitlement. It’s given us the opinion that we have the right and maybe the obligation to share any opinion about anything without considering all facets of the arguments.

The freedom of voice through the Internet has made the US a culture of babbling, FoxNews/MSNBC talking-head soundbite artists.

I know the opinions I’ve shared about DCnU so far have fairly negative. But even though I truly don’t believe the experiment will work, I’ve tried… TRIED to let my opinions devolve into personal attacks against DC editorial.

On the other hand, because of Previews,, we also exist in a culture that not only encourages judging a book–or plot line, or new character–but it’s practically demanded that we pass judgement on an issue three months before it officially exists. There’s not one person involved in this thread who hasn’t seen someone online completely dismiss a project from a single image. Many of us have been that person.

So, yeah, Morrison is right. Not only that, but he’s banking on that fact because he’s willing to risk the alienation of the current comic-reading audience, just to prove that they/we don’t have as much influence as we’d like to believe. And regardless of whether or not you like what he’s saying here, his previous work or his bowling score, you have to respect the mans balls for saying it.

Reread Morrison’s commentary above ask yourself: how is it different from the sort of self-rationalising and blame-deflection engaged in every day by pompous asses the world over?

Yes and no; fans shouldn’t *whine*. Fans should act like the mature adults they’re supposed to be (especially given the current average age of the people in question). That means expressing their (our) concerns in a mature fashion, not engaging in ad hominem attacks, not being jerks, and so on.

(Actually, come to think of it, whining would be more attractive than what many people do. There’s something more pitiful and human about whining when compared with the sheer arrogant hatefulness some people express.)

“Reread Morrison’s commentary above ask yourself: how is it different from the sort of self-rationalising and blame-deflection engaged in every day by pompous asses the world over?”

That assumes, first, that it’s false.

Self-rationalisation and blame-deflection operates independently of truth or falsity: it’s a measure of the fragility of the speaker’s ego. People without overarching egos to protect don’t need to spend their time deflecting blame.

This generations looser / outsider it the next ones hero (Wilde, Van Gogh, Bukowski, crump…)

“Another bit that I felt was a low, petty blow: bashing people for their health problems. Bringing diabetics and asthmatics into this is as bad as insulting someone’s kid or mother”
– D. Peace.

He said “adult onset diabetics”. I took that to just be a creative way of saying “fatties”.
I saw Morrison talking about Supergods in London two weeks back and he came across as quite humble, funny and a massive optimist.
The main point of much of his work (Seaguy, Invisibles, Filth) is that people should think for themselves.

His point here is that [constructive] criticism is welcomed and needed. Poorly rationalised vitriol – thesaurus notwithstanding, Erik – is not.

And he’s said he loves Watchmen.

Jesse,
Can you link to his actual quotes?

He explicitly stated the problems he has with Watchmen in interview with newsarama. My criticism of Morrison is warranted. I pointed out flaws in his narratives, and yet it’s poorly rationalized? That’s laughable to me. As for a thesaurus, I didn’t know it was a crime to be well-educated and well-read. Apparently Morrison, is so far beyond everyone that if their is a dissenting opinion about his “erudite” literature, it’s met with hostility.

“well educated”
“their is a dissenting opinion”.

…Am I trolling trolls?

Thanks.

“It’s a brilliant book, but the things I loved about it as a kid are still there, but so are the things I hated.”

To paraphrase: If Ozymandias is so smart, why don’t he and Dr Manhattan work together.

Sounds like fair comment. I think Watchmen is great, but I still have a problem with the giant psychic squid.
How is that quixotic or impractical?

Why didn’t you put the whole quote? His criticism isn’t valid. It’s like saying why wouldn’t John realize that it was Ozymandias who was clouding his visions of the future with tachyons. Ozymandias was the only man who would have been intelligent and surreptitious enough to use them, knowing the corollary they would have on John. Dismantling all the warheads also doesn’t essentially mean that both sides would be willing to work with one another. The giant squid was used as plot device to achieve solidarity between the the United States and the Soviet Union. Regardless of the fact though, if Morrison was going to criticize “Watchmen” for its plot then he should look to own work first and recognize its failings. My whole point was that Morrison seems to think he’s above any sort of literary criticism while he’s busy throwing his peers under the bus.

Wow, I’m not sure which I’m more surprised by – Grant Morrison throwing a bitter temper tantrum like this, or that he gets praised for it by the very people he hates (what, did you think he didn’t mean you?).

Because it’s a very long quote!

His criticism is entirely consistent with aspects of his own writing and ideas he expresses in Supergods – people are capable of greatness, but if we join together and work together we can be even greater and we can reach utopia. As I said earlier – he’s an optimist.

“Regardless of the fact though, if Morrison was going to criticize “Watchmen” for its plot then he should look to own work first and recognize its failings.”
Nonsense. Forgive me if this is reductio ad absurdum, but the axiom of your theorem is that the only people sufficiently eminent to criticise an oeuvre are those whose entire oeuvre surpasses it.

The whole point of this quote and subsequent thread is that criticism is good as long as it’s constructive and well reasoned!

The “throwing his peers under the bus” line… that’s your own conclusion from evidence not presented here.

Where does Morrison say he’s above literary criticism? I’m sure he knows he’s written some stinkers and doesn’t mind people saying so. I DO think he believes he’s above the petty, immature, masturbatory attacks that seem to dominate comic book discussion these days. We all know the type of posters he’s referring to: the self-proclaimed kings of logic who go out of their way to insert pithy, negative one-liners in any thread concerning creators/characters/companies they don’t like and when that form of trolling doesn’t get the type of reinforcement they seek they decide to attack the fans of said creators/characters/companies for being “sheep”. They’ll feign ignorance and misunderstanding to work that everyone else seems to clearly get (the actual quality isn’t the argument) and spout trumped-up charges of elitism.

I was citing the interview he did with ign during the prelude to FInal Crisis. I can’t find the interview anymore but he threw every creator that worked on Countdown under the bus. It’s not conjecture by me, it’s factually based. My axiom isn’t that” the only people sufficiently eminent to criticise an oeuvre are those whose entire oeuvre surpasses it”, it’s that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. As I stated earlier, Morrison has been culpable of doing what he criticized Moore of doing, which is constructing a plot that broke the verisimilitude of the world and characters. Going back to “throwing his peers under the bus” now, It’s been evident that the foundation on which he based his All Star Superman stories was predicated on the Superman 2000 pitch. It would have been common courtesy to acknowledge Waid, Peyer, and Millar for their contributions. If he’s all about solidarity, like you said, then why not even give the slightest bit praise for the three men that helped him create one of his most indelible runs?

Man, Morrison’s book sure sounds like a joy to read.

It’s not that Grant is above criticism or that fans shouldn’t express any negative oppinions.

It’s just that I will never understand some “fans.” I truly don’t. I can’t understand why a person would spend time, money, and energy to read lots and lots of Grant Morrison’s comics, read his book, read his interviews, go into message boards to read what his fans are talking about, all the while they don’t even like Morrison’s work!

(I used Morrison in the above paragraph, but it remains true of every other writer or movie or novel or property)

The suspicion I have that there is something perverse about spending so much time in something you don’t like is given an explanation by Morrison: what the “fans” get out of it is a sense of power, of vindication of their real life’s frustrations, that they get to sit as harsh, mean judges of the things they supposedly are fans of.

Morrison is wrong in associating it with nerds. Not all nerds are assholes, and not all assholes are nerds. Sports fans, soap opera fans, everything that has fans also has a portion of “fans” that love to hate.

George Bush (not that one)

July 21, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Morrison has mentioned Waid and everyone involved with the Supes pitch as the start of ASS many times. Hes told that story so many times he must feel everyone has heard it by now. And Countdown sucked.

Heh, even opera fans — not only soap opera fans — do that kind of hating. My partner has shown me the comments in some YouTube videos about Maria Callas and the like, and I swear it’s the same kind of thing.

Perhaps the key to both the negative side of comics/SF/fantasy fandom and other fandoms (opera, soap opera, sports, spelling reform) is this:

“Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse of mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal.”

“… the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or a clique…”

–The Screwtape Letters

I don’t hate Morrison or his work. I enjoy some of his comics and some of his comics I don’t. Being critical of the man isn’t indicative of my predilection or dislike of his writing, it’s indicative of an objective point of view. The man has been labeled the God of Comics when he is far from it. I never once said Morrison sucks or he’s a hack. No, the man has an interesting perspective in a good amount of his work that I try to learn from as a writer. Other times his work feels derivative or uninspired, and I draw attention to it. Just because he’s Grant Morrison doesn’t mean all of his work is a repository of deeply layered concepts steeped in a pragmatic narrative. It’s not right to canonize the man just because of his past literary achievements. He should be looked at with a critical eye just as any other writer in the medium would.

Countdown absolutely sucked. It was terrible, but still there is no reason to publicly humiliate the people he works with. I want to see the article where he mentioned that Waid, Peyer, and Millar laid the foundation for his Superman opus. If you provide me the link, I’ll apologize and take back what I said, but I’ve never seen him mention them in any interview or article I’ve read.

It’s every message board and every comment section on every website across the web. In most cases, person with an internet connection = troll who is an authority on everything. “Nerds” are worse about it because of the psychological short comings he mentions. And quite honestly, anybody who gets a free pass to trash other people’s hard work because it doesn’t live up to their needs deserves to hear from the creators no matter what means they use.

I don’t really know the fan history as I don’t really follow it too much, but Morrison really should have taken the high road on this, because his diatribe above is the first exposure I am having to his clash with fans, and he just comes off like a complete git.

George Bush (not that one)

July 22, 2011 at 8:29 am

http://www.newsarama.com/comics/100821-All-Star-Morrison-01.html Luthor’s “enlightenment” – when he peaks on super–senses and sees the world as it appears through Superman’s eyes – was an element I’d included in the Superman Now pitch I prepared along with Mark Millar, Tom Peyer and Mark Waid back in 1999. There were one or two of ideas of mine that I wanted to preserve from Superman Now and Luthor’s heart–stopping moment of understanding was a favorite part of the original ending for that story, so I decided to use it again here.

George Bush (not that one)

July 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

What, no public apology Eric? It took 30 seconds of Google-fu to find it.Whole lotta hate on the haternet.

No moderation on these comment threads?

Otherwise I don’t see why multiple personal attacks like those of JesseBaker are allowed to stand.

They’ve been deleted, and this thread is now closed.


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