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Comic Book Superstars: Grant Morrison

Superstar writer Grant Morrison talks terrible 80s costumes, and tries to defend Aquaman

Grant Morrison is the coolest cat in comics: not content with being both a punk rocker and a chaos magician, he’s almost single handedly changed the industry over the last 30 years. Beginning with his critically acclaimed run on DC’s Animal Man, followed by the number one selling graphic novel of all time, Arkham Asylum, and record-breaking stints on JLA, X-Men and Batman, Morrison will be remaking the Superman mythos (again!) beginning this September with the re-launch of ACTION COMICS #1. Oh, and he happens to have an awesome new history of the comics industry out this month called Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.

What’s the one thing you would tell someone who thinks comics aren’t cool?
I don’t think it’s something you should have to explain. Comics are cool because they’ve been created by outsiders, and usually things created by an outsider culture have a natural coolness because they’re not part of the mainstream. For me, comics were always cool: It was like Rock and Roll, it was like pop art, and a lot of stuff that I loved anyway.

The pejorative connotation of comics comes from the 50s, when comics were actually burned on bonfires, the creators were targeted and discredited and were accused of being pedophiles (by a book called Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertham)—they had a really bad atmosphere hang over them for a long time. We forget because we weren’t around back then, but that image hung over comics for a long time – a slightly disreputable air.

Growing up, Marvel or DC?
I was always a DC fan: I never really liked the Marvel Comics because they were always angry—when I was a kid I just always wanted everyone to get along. That’s why I loved the Justice League, because they all sort of teamed up and they always used their powers to defeat the bad guys, so I appreciated that.

Which superhero is the biggest douchebag?
Oh God—the minute you said that I immediately thought of Aquaman, but I feel so sorry for him because he always gets the shit end of the stick. He’s actually pretty good—I did a film treatment for Aquaman when I was a consultant for DC. Nothing ever came of it. Green Arrow is another one, with his little gay beard—and I mean gay the way teenagers use gay—he was so pompous back in the 70s when he was always on a new issue every week, like, “This week, it’s women’s rights!” He’s just the most obnoxious, millionaire, born-again guy in a suit, who’s always telling someone what to do…

Who’s got the stupidest costume of any hero or villain?
There was period in the 80s when costumes were ridiculous. They were just terrible. I mean, Nightwing—Disco Nightwing—with that collar and weird little bits of his body exposed—him and Cosmic Boy.

Have you ever had a story rejected by an editor?
In Animal Man. I just had seen an animal documentary where I saw what goes on in an egg farm: I was very shocked, so I had this angry anti-meat tirade—and then I wrote this trippy bit where Buddy Baker thinks he’s being eaten alive by people, cut open and such, and Karen Berger rejected it on the grounds that it wasn’t much of a story to justify all this abuse.

Which are the best and worst comic book adaptations?
I didn’t like the Daredevil movies, but then I am not a huge fan of Daredevil. The Batman movies and the X-Men are great and The Dark Knight. I think the best cinematic superhero movie ever was one that was not based on a comic, which was Unbreakable. I think that was the most grounded and realistic.

What’s the project you’re most excited about right now?
Dinosaurs and Aliens, that I’m doing with Barry Sonnenfeld, it’s the most fun I’ve had in a while.

What’s been your strangest Comic Con experience?
Well, there was one where I was walking around with editor Dan Raspler and we saw this guy dressed as Superman and he was just perfect. He was so relaxed and confident that it occurred to me that, if Superman were real and invulnerable, that’s how he would be… that guy was the inspiration for my interpretation in ALL-STAR Superman.

If you were going to do Cosplay, who would you dress up as?
Oh, I do it all the time—I go with easy ones for me since I’m bald now: Lex Luthor if I’m feeling naughty, or Professor X!