Grant Morrison Talks Annihilator and Why There Aren't More Comics About Comics Culture

Grant Morrison is one of the biggest names in comics, and so when he and artist Frazer Irving joined up with Legendary Comics to create a new, creator-owned book, it was hard not to take notice.

Morrison joined names like Frank Miller, Judd Winick, Matt Wagner and Mark Waid at Legendary, all creating comics for the fledgling publisher owned by Legendary Pictures.

Morrison's particular book, out tomorrow, is titled Annihilator and revolves around washed-up Hollywood screenwriter Max Spass, who discovers he has a brain tumor after having sold a partially-completed script about what Morrison has described as a "haunted house in space."

Morrison joined to talk about the project. Check back tomorrow for more, as well as a review of Annihilator.

One thing that really struck me about Annihilator is that it plays in a somewhat different way with many of your themes. What is it about, say, the meta-text, that draws you back over and over?

I'm just kind of interested in that interface where our fictions and our reality kind of intermingle. I think it's basically the world we live in.

Before 9/11, movies and comics had destroyed the two towers a thousand times, you know? As soon as those two buildings were built, King Kong was kicking the s--t out of them and then they were being hit by meteors. So I kind of was really interested by that permeable membrane between what we imagine and what actually happens.

I guess I've always been fascinated, especially with the superhero books. For me, superheroes can never be real so I'm not very interested in books that try to tell me what it would be like if a superhero existed and what his psychology would be like. They don't exist and they never will. But they do exist in the form of comic books and they exist as ideas and they exist as a set of instructions that we can follow to think a bit more cleverly about the world.

So I guess my work has always been interested in that weird boundary between the reality of what we are reading or consuming in our fictions or in our movies and how that affects us and how it changes the way we actually live. I guess that's been my territory to explore since I got in comics.

Your comics have often been talked about as being very cinematic, so I feel like when you touch on film it's inherently a fruitful area for you. Did you find that to be true in Annihilator?

Well, I love comics because basically I don't get edited. I can do the kinds of stories that I'm interested in. But at the same time I've been working in Hollywood for the last thirteen or fourteen years. I've been working here for a while and I've written several studio screenplays and been paid nice money for them but nothing has been created.

So Annihilator is kind of me saying, "Here's what Hollywood is, the kind of people I've met. Here are the men I've met, the kind of women I've met, here's my take on this strange world where people are creating fictions which sell to the entire globe. This one was very much about my Hollywood experience and I think you can probably see that in it.

Obviously with Annihilator, you have a character who seems as though he's a Bruce Springsteen song: he's struggling because he isn't who he thought he was going to be.

Absolutely! And Ray Spass is a very dark character and part of the idea of this story is it's kind of about media as well in the sense of the media represents a lot of the things you deny about your own personality and character. Ray is not necessarily a nice man but the thing that redeems him I think is he's quite a funny man. He's not a nice person.

I think he represents a lot of the shallowness of Hollywood but there's more to it than that. I'm trying to deal with a character who represents a lot of the people I've met in Hollywood in the attitude toward women and the attitude toward business and all of these people are human beings who have great depth so I'm trying to explore that -- the emotional shallowness but beneath it all there's this black river of reality running

I've always said that somebody needs to write about the comics community in this kind of examined way but that once they do, they'd never work again.


Do you think Hollywood is more open to that? Movies are often almost kind of masturbatory. Everyone makes their movie about Hollywood.

Absolutely. I remember Alan Moore tried to do a thing which was called Convention Tension which was his take on the comics industry and he never wrote it. I did a story for Vertigo, like four issues about the comics industry told through a kind of false history and they didn't publish that either. So yeah, I think if you talk about your own industry, it's death.

Fortunately in Hollywood, you've had Robert Altman doing things. Hollywood has been a subject of art for a long time and I think I fit into that strand. It's a lot easier to talk about Hollywood than it is to talk about comics because no one has really talked about the personalities in comics. There hasn't been a lot of great art about the people who make comics or the world that surrounds it, the conventions, the people that go to them.

I've tried and even Alan Moore's tried and they've never published those books. It could probably be a career-ender, you know? [Laughs]

That's interesting from a reader's perspective, of course, because often you'll hear, "Well, Grant gets to do whatever he wants because he's Grant." So the idea of something of yours getting shelved seems odd.

You know what that means? "Because he's Grant" means that I'm the third best-selling comic book writer in the world. This is a fact: There's Stan Lee, then there's Alan Moore and then there's me -- and that's why they publish my stuff! [Laughs] Because it's really successful and if you think of the other two guys, Stan is really old now and he's not doing as much; Alan Moore has kind of walked away from the mainstream. So it's kind of just me doing superheroes and thinking about it a certain way. And that's what it means -- when people say, "Oh, Grant gets to do what he wants," it's because it sells like hotcakes, honestly."

Check back tomorrow for more from our conversation with Grant Morrison.