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Comics College | Grant Morrison

Absolute All-Star Superman

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

Strap yourself in, kids, because this is going to be a big one, as we run through the lengthy and considerable career of one of mainstream comics’ biggest stars, Grant Morrison.

Why he’s important

If nothing else, Grant Morrison is a writer with a definitive vision. A big believer in the power of the superhero genre to inspire hope and change, his stories often — despite his considerable ability to frighten and disturb — are optimistic affairs, suggesting that even in one’s darkest moments, things are never as bad as they seem. That he can frequently pull this type of sincere optimism without seeming saccharine or winsome is a testament to his skill as a writer.

Morrison is not always an easy writer to read. He’ll frequently break the fourth wall, indulge in non-linear storytelling or throw out obscure references. He expects his readers to meet him halfway and often a bit of work is required to suss out exactly how everyone moved from plot point A to B. Usually this type of effort is rewarded, however, as at his best his writing blends surreal, dense and sometimes elliptical storytelling with a fondness for humanity and a yen for crafting likable, fully rounded characters.

Note: In culling this list together I decided to skip over some of Morrison’s single-issue stories, anthology contributions and unfinished projects (like those two issues of The Authority). Otherwise we’d be here all day. Feel free to yell at me about it in the comments section.

Where to start

Doom Patrol Vol. 1: Crawling From the Wreckage

Morrison’s most well-known and beloved work is easily All-Star Superman, and thus makes as likely and new-reader-friendly a place to begin as any. Working with his best and frequent collaborator Frank Quitely, Morrison penned a loving mash note to the Silver Age, Weisenger-era Superman that didn’t ever once come off as nostalgic sentimentality. In many ways, All-Star Superman is a thoughtful treatise on the fragility and splendor of life, with Morrison asking readers what sort of legacy they’d like to leave behind for friends and family after they’ve gone. The series is available in two softcover volumes, or you can buy the whole shebang in one expensive Absolute edition.

Personally though, I feel that Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol features not only some of his best writing ever, but it’s also one of the best, if not the best, superhero comic of all time. Teaming up with artist Richard Case, Morrison created a comic that reveled in playful sense of surrealism and absurdity. New, bizarre ideas and characters seemed to spring off every page — Paintings that eat cities! A villain that has every super power you can’t think of! — only to be tossed aside to make room for the next big notion. But it’s all grounded by the main cast of characters who, despite their odd appearances and complex problems, remain very sympathetic figures. The series has been collected in five six easy-to-find trade paperbacks: Crawling From the Wreckage, The Painting that Ate Paris, Down Paradise Way, Musclebound, Magic Bus and Planet Love.

From there you should read

Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Edition

Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Edition

After his run on Doom Patrol concluded, Morrison spun-off one of his creations from the series, Flex Mentallo, into a self-titled four-issue mini-series. The comic followed the “Muscle Man of Mystery” as he tried to find his former friend and fellow crimefighter, The Fact, while also focusing on a burned out rock star calling a suicide prevention line who may or may not be imagining the whole Mentallo storyline. Working again with Quitely (who does some of his best work to date here) Morrison lays out his entire feelings about the superhero genre and why he’s so sweet on it. As manifestos go, it’s a pretty sterling one. Though it’s long been out of print, it’s scheduled to come out in a deluxe hardcover collection early next year.

Morrison’s other great superhero project is the wildly ambitious Seven Soldiers of Victory. The idea was to create a loosely interconnected series of comics, each starring a semi-obscure character from the DC Universe: Klarion, the Guardian, Mister Miracle, the Shining Knight, etc. It all builds up towards an epic battle against a nefarious enemy from the future, the catch being none of the characters ever meet (at least not for more than a few seconds). Really, it all comes together a lot better my meager description would suggest and features some great art from folks like Doug Mahnke, J.H. Williams III, Frazier Irving and Ryan Sook. The whole blessed extravaganza has been collected in two hardcover volumes.

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At the same time Morrison was pushing the dada envelope in Doom Patrol, he was cheerfully breaking the fourth wall in Animal Man.The series started off as a familiar second banana character revamp, with art by Chas Truog, but quickly became something deeper and stranger as main character Buddy Baker started fighting for animal rights and inadvertently found his world literally coming apart at the seams, with the end result being a meeting between the character and his creator. The entire storyline is collected in three volumes: Animal Man, Origin of the Species and Deus Ex Machina.

While I disagree somewhat, many consider The Invisibles to be Morrison’s definitive work. Certainly it’s one of his most fondly remembered works and the one that won him a decidedly devoted audience. A superhero/spy story that draws on countless conspiracy theories, the Invisibles follows a clandestine group of operatives who work at overthrowing a shadowy Illuminati-type group that manipulates humanity and history behind the scenes. The first half is excellent, but it begins to falter somewhat in the second half before gaining steam again, perhaps in part due to the fact that Morrison fell gravely ill while writing the series. You can read the whole thing via seven volumes: Say You Want A RevolutionApocalipstickEntropy in the U.K.Bloody Hell in AmericaCounting to None, Kissing Mister Quimper and The Invisible Kingdom.

Rounding out Morrison’s collaborations with Frank Quitely is We3, a surprisingly effective sci-fi revamp of The Incredible Journey with a cybernetically outfitted (and incredibly dangerous) rabbit, cat and dog on the run from the military that wants to “decommission” them and trying to find their original owners. In a rather neat feat, Morrison manages to give all the animals speaking parts without ever having them lose their animal nature or resorting to easy sentimentalism. As violent as this book can be, it’s hard to reach the end with a dry eye.

And then you should read


The Filth was Morrison’s follow-up to The Invisibles and something of a flip side to the latter’s more positive, rebelling against the status quo attitude. I think it’s a more successful book though it certainly has its detractors. It’s about an average schlub of a man who (re)discovers he’s actually the member of a super-secret organization devoted to maintaining the “status q” known as The Hand. Or maybe he’s a pedophile who’s starting to hallucinate because he can’t handle the fact that his beloved cat is dying. Morrison keeps readers guessing the true nature of the story’s “true” reality all the way up to the end and beyond. It’s one of the writer’s densest, most challenging books to date largely, but a hell of a ride, largely due to the considerable artistic abilities of Chris Weston.

Seaguy and its sequel, the yet-to-be-collected Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye, is an energetic, dystopian superhero fable dealing with a scuba-outfitted hero who slowly comes to realize the seemingly perfect, amusement-park world he’s living in is a facade hiding lots of nefarious goings-on. It’s a fun, affecting ride, largely abetted by the cheerfully clean styling of Cameron Stewart. Morrison has promised a third and final Seaguy series but as of yet nothing has been announced.

Morrison must have a deep fondness for Oscar Wilde. How else to explain Sebastian O, which re-imagines the author of The Importance of Being Earnest as a witty assassin, wrecking havoc on the establishment that sent him to prison decades ago? It all wraps up a little too quickly, but longtime collaborator Steve Yeowell and Morrison manage to spin a clever and occasionally disquieting steampunk ode to Wilde and his contemporaries as well as giving a fat raspberry to the voices of censorship and repression.

One of Morrison’s most recent Vertigo books is the just-collected Joe the Barbarian, a charming fantasy story about a boy who, in the midst of a diabetic seizure, imagines himself transported to a fantasy kingdom where he is “the chosen one” who can save their world (Notice a pattern here? Morrison’s big on the ability of imagination and fantasy to transform everyday life.) Despite the Vertigo label and seemingly convoluted storyline, this is one of Morrison’s most direct, straightforward works ever and his first and only all-ages styled book to date. He and artist Sean Murphy do such a fine job here that you wonder why he doesn’t try his hand at this type of thing more often.

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Though the bulk of his work has been done for DC/Vertigo, Morrison spent some time a decade or so ago at Marvel. The most notable fruit of his labors there was his run on the New X-Men, where he shook up and in some cases completely altered the status quo on the long-standing, convoluted superhero soap opera series, laying lots of established back story to literal waste and giving a hipper sci-fi edge to the proceedings, all while re-emphasizing the adolescent angst that gave the series’ its heart. It all suffers quite a bit from the revolving door of artists that came in to handle various arcs or fill-in issues (Igor Kordey’s best work is certainly not represented here). But still, there are some great ideas at work here and some really stunning sequences, usually involving Frank Quitely (there he is again). The best way to experience the series is probably through the latest three-volume set of omnibuses (omnibi?).

Further reading

Final Crisis

Morrison teamed up with Duncan Fegredo for Kid Eternity, a three-issue prestige-styled mini series that was yet another dark revamping of a long-forgotten superhero character, in this case a boy who could summon classic (and dead) characters from history just by saying the word “Eternity.” Teamed up here with a hapless stand-up comedian, the series is basically Morrison’s take on Dante’s Inferno, as the pair wend their way to hell and back in order to save the Kid’s mentor and possibly the human race. It’s a bit muddled at times, but still entertaining.

Having attempted a convoluted mega-crossover series with Seven Soldiers, Morrison got the chance to try something similar with DC’s A-listers in Final Crisis, one of those super-duper “event” stories that plague superhero comics these days. Morrison basically dares to ask the question “What if Darkseid really won?” and then goes on to explore how the Superman and friends manage to pick up the pieces and restore order and justice to the universe. It’s kind of a mess — the divergent elements don’t cohere very well, part of which may be due to the fact that artist J.G. Jones was replaced early on in the series by a variety of artists, including Doug Mahnke. And I recall being very irritated at figuring out at the end that I needed to read some of the tie-in series in order to figure out what was going on. Still, all that tie-in stuff has been included in the collected edition, so maybe it all reads better in book form.

Morrison first made his name in 1989 with Arkham Asylum, a heavily-hyped standalone graphic novel that teamed him up with a pre-Cages Dave McKean. The book had Batman wending his way through the titular mental institution, combating various villains and Jungian archetypes along the way. At the time (and despite the strong sales) it was derided by some fans as being needlessly convoluted and self-important, but I think it’s held up rather well over time, though it does perhaps take itself a bit too seriously.

Those looking for a more straightforward Batman story should check out Gothic, which was originally serialized in Legends of the Dark Knight. The story, featuring some nice art by Klaus Janson, pits the caped crusader against a seemingly immortal killer named Mr. Whisper who’s secret origins may tie into Wayne’s own personal history. It’s one of Morrison’s most simplest and straightforward stories ever and perfect for those who are just looking for a nice Batman story without all the surreal frou-frou.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Batman is clearly Morrison’s favorite superhero. Or, at any rate, he’s the superhero he’s spent the most time with, having not only done the previous two books but also having written the eponymous Batman series from 2007 to 2010. Here he attempted to incorporate every single aspect of the character’s mythos from the past 70-odd years, from the silly to the profound. Again, it’s hard to fault his ambition, but it’s clear certain artists weren’t on the same page as Morrison or weren’t capable of matching his vision and thus the quality and tone vary wildly. Morrison’s run is collected in Batman and Son, The Black Glove (the best of the bunch, with some great art by J.H. Williams III), The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul (another multi-series crossover Morrison took part in), Batman R.I.P. (where everything comes to a head), and the coda, Time and the Batman, which also re-explains some events from Final Crisis.

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Morrison hit the ground running from his Batman run with Batman and Robin, which imagines first Robin Dick Grayson taking over the Batman role in Bruce Wayne’s absence, joined by Wayne’s cocky illegitimate son Damian. This was a deliberate attempt to harken back to the goofy TV show and carefree era of the 60s, while maintaining a bit of menace and gravitas. Overall it’s a more successful run than Batman, though, once again, there are some really awful stumbles depending on who’s handling the artistic chores. You can read the whole thing in  Batman Reborn, Batman vs. Robin and Batman and Robin Must Die!

The whole saga came to a head in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, which found Bruce Wayne traveling through time — here a caveman, there a puritan — but still solving crimes and righting wrongs. Honestly, the whole thing feels a bit perfunctory and is not one of Morrison’s better works.  Much better is the series it led into, Batman Inc., which finds Wayne expanding his superhero empire around the globe. So far that series has been pretty solid and though it’s currently on hiatus, there’s no reason to suspect the quality will dip down once it returns.

Even further reading


Morrison went Bollywood with Vimanarama, a three-issue mini-series he did with Philip Bond about a nebbishy British Asian man who finds himself battling ancient giant monsters bent on destroying the world as well as juggling various personal crises, most notably his impending arranged marriage. On the whole this is slight and more than a bit silly (deliberately so), but it has a devoted fan base among Morrison devotees.

Along with New X-Men, Morrison worked on the series Marvel Boy with artist J.G. Jones. The short-lived comic featured a surly Kree warrior as its anti-hero, who, after having his ship destroyed and friends killed, felt little love for humanity and was more than happy to carve a giant “F.U.” into the New York landscape, in between battles with a villainous armored millionaire who craves his technology. After X-Men, it’s probably Morrison’s best work at the House of Ideas.

Apart from the X-Men, Morrison didn’t get to handle to many of Marvel’s iconic characters, though he did get to offer his take on the FF with Fantastic Four: 1234. This short, slight story features some nice, moody art by Jae Lee as the Richards family find themselves beset with doubt, with Doctor Doom moves in for the kill. The best part in the whole thing is Sue Storm’s verbal takedown of Doom.

Finally, there’s Skull Kill Krew, which Morrison worked on with Mark Millar and Steve Yeowell. The comic, about a group of misfit anti-heroes hell-bent on destroying the Skrulls hiding in society (and presumably plotting world domination) adopts a cheerfully amoral and anarchistic tone as the group merrily goes about slaughtering aliens left and right (and in the end decimates an entire town). The defiant, tongue-in-cheek attitude isn’t for everyone certainly, but there’s something to be said for a superhero comic that comes off as having an attitude without seeming like a cynical marketing ploy.

Millar and Morrison also collaborated on Aztek the Ultimate Man, an original superhero character blessed with a magic suit of armor and given a quest to save the world from … well, you know the drill. N. Steven Harris’ angular art gives the whole thing an off-kilter, claustrophobic edge, which works to the story’s advantage, considering it takes place in an allegedly “sick city.” Beyond the simple “hero saves world” plot is a nice running commentary on the uber-violent, “dark” superheroes that were all the rage in the 1990s that gives the series a little kick.

Aztec’s final fate is revealed toward the end of Morrison’s run on JLA, better known as Justice League of America to simple souls like myself. Morrison took over the then moribund-title in 1997, attempting both a back to basics approach by bringing in heavy hitters like Superman and Batman and giving the series an epic scale by having them face off against some seemingly staggeringly tough opponents. It was an enormous success and garnered a new group of fans for Morrison that had previously found his work alienating or confusing. In retrospect, however, the series suffers a bit from repetition: each plot involves the JLA facing being painted in a corner, either by a super villain or a universe-shattering event, only to come through at the last possible second. The series was also a slave to the vagaries of various plot threads going on in other books, which can be irritating (Superman’s blue and electric! Now he’s normal again! Wonder Woman’s dead! Now she’s not!). And then there’s Howard Porter’s art, which is serviceable at best. The entire run is collected in four oversize volumes, the fourth of which collects also collects JLA: Earth-2, a stand-alone story where the heroes face evil versions of themselves. It’s far, far better than the bulk of the rest of the JLA material, perhaps due in large part to the fact that — you guessed it — it was drawn by Frank Quitely.

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Ancillary materials

Morrison teamed up with Mark Waid, Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka for 52, a year-long, weekly series that juggled various plot threads to reveal what was going on in the DC universe after the events of Infinite Crisis. It’s a bit all over the place, but still entertaining. One of the most fun parts is trying to figure out what sections were written by Morrison.

Remember Virgin Comics? At one point they planned a multi-part animated Internet-0nly series based on the classic Indian text the Mahabharata, to be written by Morrison. It all fell apart when Virgin collapsed, but you can read Morrison’s lengthy story pitch and some of his initial scripts in 18 Days, published by Dynamite. The book also features some lavish illustrations by Mukesh Singh that, combined with Morrison’s conceptual ideas, make you wish the project had come to fruition.

An enormous amount of Morrison’s early work, especially his work for 2000AD and other British comic magazines, has yet to be collected in the states, including Big Dave, Bible John and the New Adventures of Hitler. Some of these are available online in various illegal fashions. Probably his most notable early work is Zenith, another epic superhero saga starring a snotty youth who would rather be a pop star than fight crime. It’s a bit too jam-packed, though it settles itself out a bit as it goes on, and you can see a lot of his initial ideas on the superhero genre being laid out here. Eclipse published two volumes of Zenith but those have sadly long since fallen out of print. Supposedly a collected edition will be coming out from 2000AD sometime in the near future but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting, as Morrison and the publisher have supposedly been at loggerheads about who truly owns the rights to the character.

One early Morrison comic that did get reprinted here in the states was St. Swithin’s Day, which Oni released only to let fall back out of print again. The comic, featuring some lovely art by Paul Grist, follows a sullen teenager who may or may not be plotting to kill Margaret Thatcher (Morrison has gone on record as saying the comic is at least partly autobiographical). The whole thing’s terribly earnest, but sweet in its own way and worth tracking down.

Fans of the classic British TV show The Avengers will want to check out Steed and Mrs. Peel, in which Morrison and Ian Gibson dream up new adventures for the classic spy duo. It’s pretty amusing, but really only if you’re a fan of the source material. BOOM! plans to re-release these comics in January.

Finally there’s Dare, a modern politicalized rethinking of the classic British Dan Dare sci-fi comic done with artist Rian Hughes. As with The Avengers, it helps to be familiar with the source material. Dark but still entertaining, the comic is more of a showcase for Hughes’ considerable talents work than for Morrison’s writing. The story can be found in the Hughes collection Yesterday’s Tomorrows, which is well worth tracking done because Hughes is such a masterful artist.


The Mystery Play

Don’t let the subtitle to Supergods fool you. The book is not really about “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.” Instead what you get is a rambling, warmed-over, rather problematic (to put it mildly) look at comics history, along with some rather self-aggrandizing reminiscences by Morrison. On the other hand, it is a good place to find out more about a number of events the author has hinted at in various interviews, particularly a transcendental experience he had in Katmandu. More than anything, though, this book was in really bad need of a good editor.

The news that Morrison was going to return to Superman in Action Comics as part of the new DC revamp was heralded by many, but so far the series has proven to be something of a disappointment, feeling tired and rote where it should be vibrant and fun. Perhaps it will improve as it progresses …

Morrison can be a little too “on the nose” sometimes, and that’s absolutely the case with The Mystery Play, a graphic novel team-up with Jon J. Muth that reeks of symbolism and allegory to the point where you want to scream “Enough already.” The story takes place during the modern re-enactment of a medieval mystery play, see, only God gets murdered in the first act. The rest of the book is more of the same painfully obvious allusions that cause the reader (or me at any rate) to wince inwardly when reading them.

That “on the nose” thing also plagues  Kill Your Boyfriend a “youth on the run” comic with Philip Bond that despite its apparent desire to shock and awe seems a bit too overly familiar and annoyingly cute. You don’t necessarily have to “avoid” it but I’d recommend saving it for last.

Next month: Jessica Abel



Wow i love this series amd this one was excellent too. Nice to see im not the only one a little underwhelmed by jla

Supergods is like a somewhat opinionated publication of Wikipedia on comics. Interesting parts, but “rambling” is a good description of it. It really doesn’t have a point other than to take the reader through some decades of comic styles. To the typical person who would be interested in reading it, it is 90% rehash, no great revelations.

Seaguy is his best. Can’t wait for the final part. Hopefully it’s coming out – nobody buys that series……

Certain story arcs of his Batman run are second. (Morrison has crafted easily the best Batman ever)

Action Comics disappointing? Denied.

Kill Your Boyfriend is seriously my favorite Morrison comic.

Action Comics is a bit boring and conventional, yeah…

Wow… Here I thought an article like this would try for objectivity. Obviously not what was delivered.

I cannot agree with the ‘avoid’ stuff.

Mystery Play and Kill Your Boyfriend are absolutely some of my favorite Morrison’s comics.

Mystery Play may be a bit confusing but is BEAUTIFULLY illustrated and extremely re-readable. I revisit it every year and marvel at all the detail’s in Muth’s paintings and Morrison’s games with the reader.

On the other hand, KYB is as straightforward as it gets. It is cute and simple but as well a lot of fun. And Bond is great at cute and seemingly simple. Kill Your Boyfriend is one of those comics that is filled with energy and always leaves me smiling.

Oh, and while reading Mystery Play I scream “Mastert! More! More!” :D

With regards to the JLA, if you want to avoid the repetition, his run was also published in trade paperbacks (don’t know if they are still in print), personally I’d suggest New World Order, Rock Of Ages & World War III for respectively, one of Batman’s coolest moments in the modern age, Morrison’s first take on Darkseid & the final fate of Aztek.

Also DC One Million as Morrison’s first event, more condensed than Final Crisis, also available as a trade with a few of the tie in issues.

An opinion is like an anus. we all have one. Hopefully. On both counts.

I have been wanting to check out his run on Doom Patrol for awhile. I LOVE DOOM PATROL!

As much as I can understand how big a deal Grant Morrison’s work can be….I don’t like the works of most modern comic creators. I know I’ll probably get lambasted for quoting Alan Moore’s opinion of how ‘the fanboys have taken over the comics’, but I just feel that the crop of today’s creators are just too either complex in their writings or who knows what. I grew up on the cartoon series for a lot of superheroes, and the stories, while simple and moderate in level of understanding, were fine enough for me, and a lot of people. When I read some of the older comics, I liken their storytelling level to those of the cartoons (most of the cartoons anyway). They just go above and beyond with today’s superhero stories, and for most of them, where’s the underlyning theme of being ‘fun’? It’s like this: Golden and Silver Ages saw the super hero being built up and established; the Bronze and “Dark/Modern” ages saw them deconstructed. What’s being done to them now? Can’t we just have one thing being done and stick with it? Morrison is an example of the current contradiction I’m presenting.

I was underwhelmed by Doom Patrol, myself– he tackles those same themes in better ways in later works. Kill Your Boyfriend is a pop masterpiece, though, and I like the Mystery Play, the one willfully obtuse comic he’s done where it’s actually okay to say it’s too hard to understand.

I don’t see how you can blame the artists for Final Crisis or the lesser elements of the Batman run. Both read — in their more confusing parts — like an incomplete outline for a longer take on the story. It’s not that about the reader meeting Morrison half-way, in those cases it feels like the reader is being asked to do 85% of the work because he couldn’t be bothered to finish writing.

Just some personal notes on your writing: Next time less opinion and more information please! What you give is not a introductory guide to Grant Morrison but some highly subjective reviews on most of his works. Don’t consider your own views too important if you’re doing something like an artist portrait. There’s a place for reviews, but this isn’t it. Your overall question in an article like this should not be “What do I like about Grant Morrison and want to recommend?” but instead “What makes Grant Morrison the important comics writer he is today?” That will make you write way better artist guides in the future.

All-Star Superman is avalaible as a one-volume paperback :

George Bush (not that one)

November 27, 2011 at 10:14 am

Yes Kater,this reads more like a blog than an article,but that is where the world is now. Everyone is a star (LOL). Morrison is one of my favorite comic writers because he actually writes comics.In Final Crisis much of the info is visual and takes a few readings to uncover. Like it or not.

Thus proving that Morrison’s work is terribly dividing.

I’m not sure “Skrull Kill Krew” really has any right to be on here if the other Morrison/Millar stuff isn’t. SKK is, far and away, the worst of those; it’s to the extent that I really wonder how much of it Morrison really wrote at all. Derivative as hell.

One of Morrison’s comics being described as “conventional” is a new one.

“this reads more like a blog than an article”

This is a blog. So, bingo.

Final Crisis really does read a lot better in book format with the Superman tie in.

like a whole lot better

“five easy-to-find trade paperbacks:
1. Crawling From the Wreckage,
2. The Painting that Ate Paris,
3. Down Paradise Way
4. Musclebound,
5. Magic Bus and
6. Planet Love.”


Kater — The whole point of Comics College, at least as I envisioned it, is to make suggestions for new and wary readers about where to start in a particular creator’s bibliography. Of course it’s subjective and opinionated! That’s kind of the whole point. I hardly hold myself to be some sort of expert however, and welcome other thoughts and opinions; a couple of good points have already been made, like Tim B’s (perhaps one of the reason I had the reaction I did with JLA is because I read it all at once rather than piecemeal over time).

I knew I was going to get into trouble with my comments about Kill Your Boyfriend and Mystery Play, but those really are some of my least favorite Morrison books. My problem with Mystery, as I said, isn’t that it’s too confusing or enigmatic but that it’s too “on the nose.” The allegories — “God is dead,” the empty church at the mini-golf park, the crucifixion — are too obvious, at least for me. I understand opinions may differ. That’s one of the interesting things about Morrison’s work. It can be difficult to build any real consensus about it.

Koen — that’s for catching that. It’s fixed now.

A “Would you like to seal the deal with a complimentary blowjob?”
B “Frankly you couldn’t handle the competion love – my father now there was a cock-sucker”

Yes the FILTH was a fun comic. Highly recommended.

Yo Chris, that’s how you see even people in Belgium are reading your articles. Keep up the good work !

@Chris Mautner
I respect your opinion and can only agree with most of the points you rise in the article.
Definitely I’m not going to condemn you for having an opinion :D

Still, on the Mystery Play… I think the allegories you mention are usually secondary. I always read it as more of a Play on Mystery than a Mystery Play. I believe the crossword, the coats and the overall chaos theory that Morrison built were more important to the essence of that comic. But, you know, I am not going to argue that everyone has to like it :]

However, KYB is pure unadulterated awesome. To me the comic is ‘read it first’, not ‘read it last’.

Kind of silly to praise Gothic for being a straightforward Batman story but also describe Morrison’s Action Comics as “tired and rote”. Addmittedly there’s a 20 year gap between the two, but Morrison had less time to develop Action Comics and probably tailored its accessibility for new readers.

right on – Gothic was also bordering on boring. If I want standard fare cape I’ll buy Geoff Johns. (which I am not)

Uh oh, someone was slightly critical of Morrison. LET THE TEETH-GNASHING BEGIN!!!!!

Googam son of Goom

November 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm

It was the Seven Soldiers of Victory that brought me back into reading superhero comics after a 23 year absence. I was drawn by the quality of art and the concept, as the seven soldiers were a bit mythic to me having appeared in an early 1970s cross-over with the JLA and JSA. After reading the first volume i though wow comics are so much better than when I wa sa kid. Alas after a while i discovered that I had stumbled across an exception. I still love the genre but few writers are able to create the way Morrison does. And to those who don’t get it. Too bad for you. Go read what you read.


Always a fan of these. It’s perfect as is. Please do keep them coming.


I have been wanting to check out his run on Doom Patrol for awhile. I LOVE DOOM PATROL!

How can you love the Doom Patrol without having read Morrison’s run? It’s like saying that you love sandwiches, but have never eaten bread.


November 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Wow Dean, the hyperbole is so thick in here that it makes an outhouse smell like a prairie.

Morrison’s supposed best work, Invisibles, was meandering rubbish. His best work was probably We3 and All Star Superman.

Anyone who can’t see the highs and lows of a creator is really a blind fanboy

I’ve got to agree with oliverclothesoff… Grant Morrison is not all that. He’s written some good stuff like All Star Superman & Earth 2, but the majority of his work is derivative, cliched & over uses “grim dark” as a tool of spectacle writing (while relying on name recognition).

I personally would like to see a DC title with Morrison where his name is not on it & no one knew it was him working on it. That way we could see if Morrisons work really was all that, or if he’s just become this cliche of himself: The Chuck Norris of comicsbookdom.

Morrisons has a tendency to kill any rape any canon he gets his hands on, leaving nothing for the next writer. He’s the comic book equiviliant of that guy who drinks the end of the milk & then puts the empty carton back inside the fridge.

There are many writers this project could have started with who deserve the recognition, Morrison isn’t one of them. Next time try picking someone everyone in comics hasn’t heard of

Aaron Scott Johnson

November 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

While I’m not a huge fan of Morrison’s work, I do on occasion enjoy it. In fact, it was he and Mark Millar that first made me pay any attention to the Flash, a character I otherwise always found rather bland and boring.

Also, not to be that dude, but it was Howard Porter who worked with Morrison on JLA, not Harold. Just a heads up.

@Matthew Lane: Actually this is the 24th in a series; collect them all:

@Aaron: thanks, it has been fixed.

Being such a Morrison die-hard, I was pleased to see such praise for works like Doom Patrol (which should be required reading for any super hero fan).

Have to disagree with many of your assessments, though. Change everything in your “Avoid” pile to “Essential” and that would be a start. Mystery Play invites countless rereadings and Kill Your Boyfriend is near-flawless. Morrison did Tarantino while Tarantino had ever bothered to pick up a typewriter.

Morrison’s weakest moments have easily been his collaborations with Millar, which is strange, given how strong each are on their own. Put em together, though, and… bleh. Skrull Kill Krew and their Flash stories were slightly better than status quo, but that’s not saying much. Aztek? Worst thing ever printed with Grant’s name on it. If there’s one Morrison comic to avoid, Aztek is it.

Invisibles is, IMHO, possibly Grant’s greatest triumph. But I’ll be the first to admit it’s not for everyone. If you’re willing to engage Invisibles on its own level, it’s transcendent and even life-changing. Anyone considering picking it up, though, would do well to grab one of a few different annotated companion pieces that have been published. Difficult reading like this deserves to be read well.

And while I’d agree with the assessment that Flex Mentallo is one of his finer moments, it’s definitely Advanced Grant and I’d warn anyone from jumping into the deep end too early with that book.

Love all of his Batman stuff (and thank god Arkham Asylum takes itself seriously. Why shouldn’t it?), but my favorite of his recent stories involving the caped crusader is easily Batman R.I.P. It takes finesse to pay that many threads off over the course of one story, weaving in countless moments from Batman’s long and storied history, golden age onward. R.I.P. was the big cymbal crash, still echoing through all the Batman material of today.

Also, kudos for mentioning the criminally overlooked Kid Eternity.

I agree with the 3 previous posters (excluding Robot 6’s JK Parkin). All educated comic fans know that GM is not in the same league as Moore, Miller, Gaiman, Willingham, or even Mignola. GM’s best work was Doom Patrol and Invisibles and it’s been downhill ever since.

Love the article, and agree with most of it. However, I have felt that his Action Comics run has been refreshing, if somewhat straightforward. Not his best work, but not something worth “Avoiding.”

I would also move JLA up on the list, as it is pretty straightforward, and it was interesting to me. Yes, it suffers from some things, but on the whole, it’s one of his best works. Loved it.

I pretty much agree. Batman R.I.P is groundbreaking stuff. (save for the ending)
How genius is it to retrofit utterly silly and or dreamlike 50ies Batman sci fi into present day Batman?
To bring Batmite back and make psychological sense of it? Not to mention that Dr. Hurt is the quintessential (super creepy too) villain.

Having read most of Moore and Miller just a few years ago, I feel their 80ies work reads somewhat stiff and outdated. I.e. “must make Superheroes realistic”

And Gaiman is best left to teenage goth girls.

Having read Doom Patrol after many of his other works I agree with the comment that some of the stuff he did there, he’s done better since. Had I read it as it came out, I’m sure I’d have a much stronger opinion of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing some of the concepts — he tossed away more interesting concepts then some writers ever manage to hold onto — but I found I enjoyed it more when I put myself in the frame of mind of what was going on in comics at the time, and the stage of Morrison’s career he was at.

I haven’t read The Mystery Play in a long time but I definitely loved it and read it more than a few times. I’ll have to check it out again

For JLA, it’s really tough to get past Porter’s designs. “Servicable” is as good a way to describe the art as any.

His Batman stuff left me flat initially, and I dropped it. Then I picked it up in trades once RIP was done and I really enjoyed it and stuck with him through Batman & Robin and Batman Inc. One day…maybe in 20 years or so…I’d love to see a single artist take his scripts and draw out the full epic.

I read Superman in the 60s, but quit it in high school. After 40 years of abstinence, I read All-Star Superman and found that it made no sense. It may have been a great tribute to the myth, but without a lot of the back story, it went nowhere for me.

Great work and I enjoyed the article. I will, however, happily throw in my 2 cents that I’m enjoying Action Comics–very glad to see Rags on such a high profile book and get teamed up with Grant, I think they work well together.

And We3 was amazing. I finally found a copy about a month after I adopted two labs. Breaks my heart that Quietly won’t sell any of the original artwork because I was ready to buy any page I could from that story so I could look at it every day. Didn’t someone along the way say that if Grant had had more cooperation from Marvel that 1, 2, and 3 would have been Weapons II, III and IV? Maybe I misinterpreted Wikipedia.

I agree with Acer that fanboys have taken over the industry. I am NOT impressed by the likes of Bendis, Johns or Loeb. They’re substandard writers that are desperately trying to graft ‘adult’ violence and dialogue over their silly, childish stories.
A better writer embraces the (very silly) conventions of the superhero genre and uses them to tell good stories. Examples include Lorenzo Semple Jr. (TV’s Batman show), Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, Alan Moore, and yes, Grant Morrison.
I think he does it best.

amanda hugandkiss

November 28, 2011 at 8:51 am

Mike El – I think Morrison is capable of telling unique and interesting stores – but he has become a hack writer for DC. He produces poorly thought-out and even more poorly-executed tales at a fast rate for big pay – pretty much the definition of hack writer

Read the second to last paragraph of this CBR article, where Garth Ennis talks about DC becoming a publishing machine, while Morrison sits there with nothing to say

There aren’t many comic writers with as great a track record as Grant. Alan Moore, definitely. I’d say Frank Miller too, but he’s been slowly turning into a parody of himself these days.

Anyone saying Morrison isn’t one of the greats just reminds me of those guys who run around trying to say Alan Moore wasn’t all that great.

WE3 and his Batman work are definitely favorites and his New X-Men run was one of the last times up to recently that I really loved the X-Men.

amanda hugandkiss

November 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

Morrison’s New X-Men run is very, very much like Bruce Jones’ Hulk run. They both started off really good and they both got REALLY bad about 2 thirds of the way in.

The funny thing is – people say Morrison’s New X-Men is an all time great, while people hate the Bruce Jones run. It must the the Chuck Norris of Comics effect that was mentioned above

I’ve never read the Bruce Jones Hulk run; I did hear it was fairly decent though.

I agree that Doom Patrol represents the zenith and The Mystery Play belongs among the works at the nadir of Morrison’s career. Didn’t Morrison more or less say that The Mystery Play was intentionally “on the nose” because it was an attempt to rewrite Arkham Asylum for those who didn’t get it?

Please don’t remove your opinion from this series. It would not be nearly as useful.

There’s a lovely bespoke hardcover of ALL the Zenith Phases currently on Ebay. This is handmade by a guy I know and contains the original progs for ALL the phases. Probably the only major Morrison work unlikely to ever be reprinted…

FWIW, Chris, you can count me as another vote for Filth over Invisibles

I was tired of comics when I read Doom Patrol (The painting that ate Paris). It’s a brilliant story, energetic, full of ideas and humor. I loved it and it still is one of my favorites of all times. Other highlights from wonderful Morrison’s Doom Patrol: the second confront with the Brother of Dada and the bittersweet epilogue with Crazy Jane.

St. Swithin’s Day is a little gem that impressed very much. The Invisibles I thought too ambicious and less energetic and humorous than Doom Patrol, but I can give it another chance. JLA , DC One Million and All-Star Superman were great superheroes stories.

Morrison isn’t a hack writer and his Batman run proves it. Even Final Crisis is good if read in TPB. Action Comics is a little slow, but give Morrison a chance and time. He deserves it for his previous works.

“(Morrison has crafted easily the best Batman ever)”


Wait… You were serious?


First, this article is more honest than some obviously and overly Morrison-bias websites! Those who understand and love Final Crisis are first-rate masochists! Morrison admitted this in an interview that this was a hellish experience to write it down! Second, I believe and agree that Morrison’s best is All-Star Superman. Peerless and very entertaining! If only he could write that way, he may surpass Moore as the GREATEST comic writer of all time. But no, Morrison insists of writing the post-modernist way! Third, Batman and Robin is definitely the best Batman assignment Morrison handled. I found first skeptical, but later, my doubts were removed completely! And wait a minute, where is his take of the JLA? And why he can’t just accept the fact that many fans still believe Alan Moore is still the BEST? Other than these, a great article!

My apologies. JLA is mentioned.

Hi Chris,

As you note, your feature is not meant to be the definitive word, but good job. I think it’s a pretty smart and reasonable look at Morrison’s highs and occasional lows, but part of the fun is in the disagreeing. Actually, anyone disagreeing has already been through this particular course in Comics College and the feature isn’t really meant for them.

That being said, I am apparently in the minority on Supergods, which I liked a lot and found a useful, amusing personal tour through Morrison’s life and comics influences. Perhaps a combination memoir/comics history was too ambitious or difficult to weave together entirely successfully and should have been two or three separate books, but it didn’t feel all that self-aggrandizing to me, or maybe it’s fair to say I have no problem with Morrison giving himself credit where I think it’s due. If anything, I would have liked more on his obviously conflicted feelings on Mark Millar, which felt truncated in the book. I also thought he addressed Moore’s work pretty fairly, in a way that made clear how different Moore’s and his approaches were, without a reader feeling he couldn’t like both.

I would recommend that readers start with “The Filth” for a number of reasons: it’s well-crafted, well-executed, and probably represents Morrison at his most literary and experimental (presenting many of his themes from “Doom Patrol”, “The Invisibles”, and “Seven Soldiers” in a more concise manner) ,and most importantly for new readers: it fits into a single volume and doesn’t demand the reader have more than the most cursory awareness of the superhero genre.

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