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Best of 7 | ‘Multiversity,’ ‘Project Superpowers’ and more

bestof7-april20

Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So let’s take a look at the last seven days in comics …

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Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes unlock ‘The Key’ for the BBC

key1

Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes have reteamed for The Key, a wordless online comic created for the BBC’s Freedom2014, a new initiative examining what freedom looks like today.

Set in a dystopian future where drones fill the skies, The Key opens with the apparent government execution of a man in a straightjacket with a bag over his head (BBC News notes the similarity between the pointed corners of the bag and Batman’s mask).

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‘Absolute Batman Incorporated’ to feature new Chris Burnham art

batman incorporated13Chris Burnham confirms he has redrawn the fill-in pages from the end of his run on Batman Incorporated for DC Comics’ upcoming Absolute edition of the Grant Morrison series.

“They’re all done, too!” he emphasized this morning on Twitter. “So I’m not redrawing them, I have redrawn them!”

Batman fan site Gotham Spoilers, which posed the question to Burnham, notes the fill-in art was “unfortunate, because this was one of those stories, that you really just couldn’t slap any artist on, as is the case with most Morrison penned stories.”

Burnham mentioned the undertaking in July, following the conclusion of Batman Incorporated, telling Batman-News, “I’m gonna redraw all of the fill-in pages for the last five issues! You know how the little fill-in pages kinda snuck in? So I’m pretty sure I”m gonna redraw those pages for the big deluxe hardcover.”

That deluxe hardcover, which clocks in at 608 pages, collects Batman Incorporated Vol. 1 #1-8, Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes, Batman  Incorporated Vol. 2 #1-13 and Batman Incorporated Special #1. It arrives Dec. 2.

Grumpy Old Fan | Checking up on Earth-August

Now I want to see the New 52 Congorilla

Now I want to see the New 52 Congorilla

Although the five-years-later setup of Futures End won’t be here until May, it got me thinking about a not-so-new New 52. The current comics take place some five years after Superman and company debuted — plus, apparently, a year for the face-free Joker to recuperate — so if you add five more years, it’s like double the amount of history! Well, double the amount of history that “matters,” I guess.

As I have been pretty critical of the present timeline, I’ll be curious to see how Futures End treats those additional five years. I suspect that, for the most part, they’ll be five years of “filler,” in the sense that mostly bad, Futures End-specific things happened during that time to bring DC-Earth to whatever sorry state we see in FE #1. I’ve heard that when all the New 52 books jump ahead five years (in September, naturally), they’ll reflect where their creative teams would like to take the characters in five years — but those will only be single issues, as opposed to the year-long weekly installments of Futures End. Besides, my bitter, resentful impulses remind me that it might well have been simpler just to start off with a 10-year timeline that would only have tweaked the old pre-relaunch status quo, not thrown out huge chunks of it.

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Quote of the Day | Burnham on playing left brain to Morrison’s right

nameless teaser“I think why we make good comics together is that he – if you believe in the right-brain/left-brain sort of thing – seems to be a really out-there, weirdo right-brain guy, and I’m very literal-minded and I believe in strict storytelling rules. I never break the 180 rule in my storytelling. I have a very literal perspective. I’ve got all sorts of instructions that I live by to tell a coherent story. And a lot of people’s problems with Grant Morrison comics is that they can get a little too confusing for them. I think that my very literal, very disciplined storytelling style can help to sell his crazy flights of fancy and make it a little more coherent – and I don’t really agree with most of the people who say it’s too confusing to follow, but I guess I can see where they’re coming from. I think it helps get the story over if it’s very clear exactly what’s happening. And then the stuff that’s happening is weird enough where you can still have that sense of unease.”

– artist Chris Burnham, on the appeal of collaborating with Grant Morrison, first on Batman Incorporated and next on their creator-owned horror comic Nameless

Comics A.M. | Author’s crusade to get Bill Finger credit

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Creators | Author Marc Tyler Nobleman tells Michael Cavna about his crusade to gain recognition for Bill Finger as one of the co-creators of Batman — including a push to have Google honor him with a Google Doodle on his birthday: “As it currently stands, even the mighty Christopher Nolan could not legally credit Bill as co-creator. However, prior to The Dark Knight, I asked DC if they could use non-subjective language to acknowledge Bill. I proposed: ‘Batman was first called “the Dark Knight” in Batman #1, in 1940, in a story written by Bill Finger.’ DC publications already regularly credit Bill for that story, and the movie’s title doesn’t even include the word ‘Batman’ — it is wholly a phrase coined by Bill Finger. Alas, they said no.” [Comic Riffs]

Passings | Tulsa, Oklahoma, cartoonist Larry Pendleton, who created the syndicated single-panel cartoon Graphic Nature, has died at the age of 59. [Tulsa World]

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Grant Morrison drops a few more hints about ‘Nameless’

nameless teaserSpeaking of Grant Morrison, the writer has offered a few more details about his upcoming collaboration with Batman Incorporated artist Chris Burnham, announced Thursday at Image Comics’ Image Expo.

Called Nameless, the six-issue miniseries was described at the event by Burnham as “the ultimate horror comic.” However, that barely scratches the surface.

As Morrison tells USA Today, “We’re taking all the dark stuff that Western culture’s kind of obsessed with — the zombies and everything — beyond the limit and doing hopefully for now what H.P. Lovecraft did for the wartime generation.”‘

Nameless, it turns out, is the name of the protagonist, whom the writer characterizes as both a screw-up and highly intelligent, a person “super high functioning in how he makes connections between things.”Beyond that, Morrison isn’t offering any specifics, except to say, “”I’ve been studying nihilistic philosophy, which is basically the most depressing stuff on Earth.” But Burnham teased at Image Expo that, “[Morrison] has never done a straight-up, ball-to-the-wall horror book. That’s what I told him I wanted, and that’s what we’re doing. I think it’s going to be awesome and terrible, and hopefully some 11-year-old kids will steal it, and it’ll ruin their lives forever.”

Quote of the Day | Moore vs. Morrison, Round … something

alan moore“I announce From Hell and in short order he ‘has the idea’ for a comic strip account of a historical serial murderer. I announce Lost Girls, a lengthy erotic work involving characters from fiction, and within a few months he has somehow managed to conceptualise a Vertigo mini-series along exactly those lines. What I at first believed to be the actions of an ordinary comic-business career plagiarist came to take on worrying aspects of cargo cultism, as if this funny little man believed that by simply duplicating all of my actions, whether he understood them or not, he could somehow become me and duplicate my success. It would appear that at one stage, as an example, he had concluded that the secret to being a big-time acclaimed comic-writer was to be found in having a memorable hairstyle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the possession of talent, hard-earned craft or even his own ideas would seem never to have occurred to him.”

Alan Moore, delving deep into his history with Grant Morrison (such that it is), whom he refers to as “some feverishly fixated non-entity” and “my own personal 18th century medicinal leech,” who “through the early years of this present century [...] somehow managed to perpetuate his career seemingly without the accomplishment of any major or memorable works.”

The interview, conducted via email by Padraig O’Mealoid, is a fascinating and contentious read, with Moore also taking aim at journalist Laura Sneddon and The Independent. But he devotes a lot of space to Morrison.

Grumpy Old Fan | 10 from 2013, 10 for 2014

Lead On, O Bat Eternal

Lead On, O Bat Eternal

Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.

First, let’s see how I did with 2013:

1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it).  Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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Kieron Gillen details comics that influenced ‘Young Avengers’

young avengers15Following the conclusion this week of Kieron Gillen and Jame McKelvie’s run on Young Avengers with Issue 15, the writer turns to his blog to break down the comics that influenced the well-regarded series. And a couple of them may surprise you.

Grant Morrison is well-represented on the list, with We3, Kill Your Boyfriend and The Invisibles, and so is Peter Milligan. But Gillen also gives a shout-out to the 1970s oeuvre of the late Steve Gerber.

“Just have a wander through it. Howard the Duck, obv, but also his Defenders – a parallel I picked up when reading Colin TBTABC talk about it,” Gillen writes. “I’m not the biggest 70s connoisseur, so my knowledge is piecemeal, but his approach to superhero comics was something that resonated in the back of my head when writing Young Avengers, in terms of thinking of people who were absolutely mainstream while doing things that I wanted to do. Trollingly calling an arc STYLE > SUBSTANCE could have only been more of a Gerber move if I called it ON THE NOSE or something.”

There’s more at the blog, including a funny nod to one of Gillen and McKelvie’s previous collaborations.

Quote of the Day | Alan Moore on superhero comics, fandom

alan moore“Now, see, I haven’t read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”

Alan Moore, addressing modern superhero comics in an interview with The Guardian about Fashion Beast, his collaboration with Malcolm McLaren. Moore also touches upon the influence of his work on other writers, and gets in a jab another in the process: “Grant Morrison has actually self-confessedly made a tactic of not only basing some of his narratives on my style or my work but also trying to make himself more famous by slagging me off at every opportunity. I have nothing to do with him.”

A Month of Wednesdays | ‘Endless Wartime,’ ‘Death of the Family’ and more

endless war timeAvengers: Endless Wartime (Marvel Entertainment): Marvel’s new line of original graphic novels — note the “Marvel OGN” logo on the spine — is off to a pretty strong start with this continuity-light Warren Ellis-written, Mike McKone-drawn story of an Avengers squad facing a new form of semi-sentient weapon evolved from a generation-old attempt to marry Nazi science with Norse magic.

That’s a good conflict for an Avengers comic, as the team includes a Nazi-fighting hero and a Norse god, and, better still, both Captain America and Thor were tied to the this new weapon’s origin.

Ellis does his usual fine job of mixing current science, speculative next-level science, elements of our zeitgeist and corporate superheroes with something that feels appropriate, cool and like the writer has something to say. Additionally, he has a pretty decent handle on the characters, and does a relatively good job of singling out particular voices (this is the first time in a long time that I’ve read an Avengers comic where  everyone didn’t talk like Brian Michael Bendis).

Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Hawkeye, who reflects Matt Fraction’s version, are a bit of a rag-tag group, but they seem to be assembled primarily for their military backgrounds. “Do you know, I just realized I’m the only non-soldier in the room,” Tony Stark says at one point, and Captain Marvel sneers back, “That’s right, Tony. You’re just an ex-arms manufacturer in a metal death suit.”

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Comics A.M. | New ‘Asterix’ lands in middle of political debate

Asterix and the Picts

Asterix and the Picts

Graphic novels | France 24 examines the Thursday release of Asterix and the Picts — the first album by new creative team Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad — from a political perspective, noting that the story, in which Asterix and Obelix journey from ancient Gaul to Iron Age Scotland, has already become part of the current debate about Scottish independence. [France 24]

Creators | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who spent a night in police custody last week on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance,” spoke to the press this week. Liming, who has more than 300,000 followers on his microblog account, first ran into trouble two years ago for one of his cartoons, but police told him that China has freedom of speech and he could continue drawing. Nonetheless, another of his cartoons, depicting Winnie the Pooh (a frequent cartoon stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping) kicking a football was deleted and suppressed by censors. “For them, drawing leaders in cartoon form is a big taboo,” the cartoonist said. “I think the controls on the Internet are too harsh. They have no sense of humor. They can’t accept any ridicule.” [Reuters]

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Comics A.M. | IDW’s ‘My Little Pony’ comics hit 1 million in sales

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Publishing | Sales of IDW Publishing’s My Little Pony comics, in single-issue and graphic novel format but not counting digital, have topped 1 million copies. (It does really well in the iBookstore — there are multiple issues in the Top 10 every week — although it seldom registers on the other digital comics platforms.) IDW’s Ted Adams says this is because it’s such a great comic, but shrewd marketing such as offering a special Scholastic Book Fair edition with a bonus pony figure probably helped a lot. [ICv2]

Digital comics | The motion-comics platform Madefire has secured $5.2 million in funding. In July it announced agreements with four comics publishers — IDW, BOOM! Studios, Top Cow and iTV — and the first IDW comics came out in August. Madefire also has a partnership with DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]

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Grumpy Old Fan | In 1993, the Superman books made it ‘Reign’

Which one has the Toni perm?

Which one has the Toni perm?

Summer is officially over, so this is a little late, but I’ve been meaning to talk about a certain arc from the summer of 1993. It was the height of the speculator bubble, when everything came with cover enhancements, trading cards, unfortunate hairstyles and/or superfluous pouches.

For many DC Comics readers, 20 years ago was also the summer of “Reign of the Supermen!” That’s not necessarily enthusiasm — the exclamation point was part of the title, which in turn was inspired by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s early proto-supervillain story, “The Reign of the Superman.” The third (and by far the longest) chapter of the “Death of Superman” saga began with teasers at the back of Adventures of Superman #500, published around April 15,* and ended with Superman Vol. 2 #82, published around Aug. 26.** Those four and a half months may not seem like much, but they saw 20 issues of the four regular Superman books (including Action Comics and Superman: The Man of Steel) spread over 20 weeks. In fact, “Reign” was front-loaded, with all four titles marking the official start of the arc on April 29 or so, two weeks after Adventures #500. That meant there were some weeks without a new installment, and those were sometimes hard to take.

“Reign of the Supermen!” is not the greatest Superman story ever memorialized in print. On one level it is very much a product of its era. However, for the Superman books, that era was energized not just by the efforts of their creative teams, but by the overarching framework the books had developed. While “Reign” wasn’t the only big DC event of the summer — for one thing, the debut of DC’s imprint Milestone Media has much more historical significance — it’s a reminder of the ebbs and flows of serial superhero storytelling, and it remains instructive today.

Warning: This is a very long post, because I think there’s a lot of background to be explored.

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