Earlier today, superstar writer Grant Morrison announced that he would launch a new, six-issue miniseries for Legendary Comics titled Annihilator.
Annihilator is a film within the comics, written by Ray Spass, a hard-living screenwriter who sees a major summer tentpole movie as his last opportunity to turn around his flagging career.
The story was inspired in part by the true life of a '30s screenwriter that Morrison was reading when he came up with the idea. "He spent his days writing Hollywood features" that were fit for family consumption, Morrison told ComicBook.com, but at night would write "insane Marquis de Sade type of stories" and released books of his own.
The story is also a bit meta, which should be no surprise for fans of Morrison's work. Spass, while writing a movie about an action hero who's found a cure for death while sentenced to hard labor inside of a black hole, is struggling with a newly-diagnosed and potentially fatal brain tumor.
"With [creator-owned comics] you lose the instant emotional connection that people have to something like Superman or Batman," Morrison explained. "But as a writer, there's something special about creating a character from nothing and giving him a spark that makes people connect with him emotionally."
To that end, Spass may be a flawed character, but he's neither as lovable and incorruptible as Superman, nor as terrible and irredeemable as the characters in his new comic Happy!, which was just optioned for a feature film. "He's got his own problems, but he's much more relateable to you and me," Morrison said.
He added, "With Superman or with Batman, you're under the microscope right away. People know what Superman should do, they know what Batman should do, and if you get it wrong or if they think you've got it wrong they'll tell you."
Morrison also noted that moving from superheroes to doing a crime story like Happy! or a Hollywood story like Annihilator all have their own separate sets of expectations and tropes to subvert.
"It's a lot like [superheroes] in that way," Morrison said, "in that you have certain elements that everyone recognizes" and as a writer you have to try to work around those to make the story surprising and entertaining both to new readers and to those in the know.
On the matter of Happy!, Morrison echoed praise for Legendary that Matt Wagner had voiced when he spoke to ComicBook.com about The Tower Chronicles. "I appreciate that they just wanted to make this comic--this little six-issue story--and to do that well," Morrison said, suggesting that while he'd be open to working with them on a future film adaptation, nothing in that vein is planned yet, and it's not something he's really considered.
The five- or six-issue miniseries format that Happy! and Annihilator are set in is probably the new normal for the writer in the near future, as he comes off a sixteen-issue run on Action Comics that was preceded by five years on Batman, Batman & Robin and Batman Incorporated.
"I really wanted to step away from the grind of a monthly deadline," Morrison explained of his decision to do more shorter, creator-owned work, "but that doesn't mean that I won't have an idea for my next big, epic project when I'm halfway through these six issues."