Monday, February 11, 2013

Morrison's 'Goodbye To Action' Tour

I have sung the praises of Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics over the last year and a half. This run has been a 'big' story, covering multiple timelines, pieces of Superman's life, looking back at Krypton, Smallville, T-shirt Superman, and then the established hero Superman, all fighting against Vyndktvx as he strikes from every point of Superman's life.

With the run coming to a close, DC has unleashed the publicity machine. Over on the Source blog ( ), they have links to all the places Morrison interviews landed - an amazing 7 places! All posted interviews with Morrison about his Action Comics run ... and all on Wednesday. Amazing. And worthy of that coverage.

Rather than cover each separately, I thought I would put the 'tour' highlights here. I found all the interviews very interesting, each adding something to the coverage, each revealing some different snippets of what was going through Morrison's head. They are all definitely worth reading in their entirety, so please visit the sites and dive into some backstory. I'll present snippets from three of the sites, answers that grabbed me.

First up, Comics Alliance at this link:

CA: Bouncing off that, you kicked off a Populist/New Deal flavor that reflected a lot of what is going on in America and other places in the world, especially following the financial crisis. What sort of contemporary or political issues influenced the rest of your run and especially coming up to the conclusion?

GM: Symbolically I'm not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I've got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So its gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.

So to bring it back at a time when people are more feeling that again seems very appropriate. But at the same time Superman has to be a lot of other things and that is what this story is about. As you'll see in the last couple of issues, that really is the paramount question, which side is Superman on? Is he on the side of the establishment or is he on the side of the rebel? And that's what it is really all about. And that is where all the tension is on the character.

One thing that I think is clear about this Superman is that he is, as always, on the side of justice. If that means rebelling against the system or working with the system seems completely secondary. 

But I can imagine that does increase internal conflict and tension in the character. Did Clark really think he would be running from the police (as he was in the first issue)? 

CA: Fans can feel the end of your run approaching, especially when it says, "The Second Death of Superman" on the cover of issue #16. What can you tell us about the finale of the book?

GM: Well it's a big crazy story. It's something we haven't tried before and I wanted to do something we hadn't really seen in a comic before. So it takes place on a lot of different levels. We have the fifth dimensional character, the evil, psychopathic Lord Vyndktvx who is making his final move on Superman.

So it's Superman under-fit, you know -- physically, literally, symbolically, conceptually. It's kind of an assault on Superman that is happening on more levels then you would normally see in a comic book and I wanted it to do more with the last question, "What does Superman represent?" as well. What is he in the new world? It's a big one and it's kind of psychedelic in that way and psychedelic in the sense that it implicates that he doesn't have specific way so everyone gets a chance to join in this one.

 As I said when it was announce that Morrison was on the book for one more issue, I really really need their to be some sort of giant ending to this story. So to hear Morrison talk about all the layers this story is impacting makes me think we are in for a treat. A psychedelic answer to 'what does Superman represent?'. Sounds like a classic Morrison story to be sure.

Nice symbolism here, the fallen statue commemorating Superman's first death. And 'Super-Doom' is such a classic 'modern' design with the pouchy belts and ludicrous face.

Next up is a blurb from the Newsarama interview:

Newsarama: How would you describe your goal as you introduced Superman in Action Comics #1, and how did that evolve into your goal for the finale?

Grant Morrison: Yeah, initially the idea was to do a six-issue story, which was all that I'd come in to do back then. When Dan came to me and said I'd be relaunching Superman, or restarting Superman, I had some ideas left over from All-Star, where I'd do a young Superman story. I really wanted to do a T-shirt and jeans and a different idea.

So initially, that's all it was, and that was going to be the Brainiac story, and this superhuman character suddenly brought about a whole culture of superheroes, all wearing costumes. And that was it.
But then we had the Legion story, and suddenly it evolved these time travel complications. And in that way, I thought, well, I haven't done a big Mr. Mxyzptlk story or a Fifth Dimension story. I had done a bunch of the other villains in All-Star. And I came to feel that I wanted to do a Mr. Mxyzptlk story, but it wasn't enough to do just him anymore, because really, what was he, about to commit a crime, with the powers of a god? The whole thing kind of grew from there.

But what it became for me was a way of also hinting at what happened to Superman in the five years between Action Comics and the current continuity. So from taking the point of view of a Five Dimensional being allowed us to show the days from Superman's life, with prom night and the night his parents died and you get to see him in the Justice League.

So it was a structural thing, once I got the idea of the longer story, was to do a story that could encompass Superman's entire life, as seen from the viewpoint of a villain who was about the destroy that life.

Much of these interviews reviews Morrison's original plans (6 issue Brainiac story, young Superman) and how that branched out to include some left-over ideas from All-Star Superman and a sideways look at Mr. Mxyzptlk and General Zod.

I do wonder just what Morrison would have accomplished if he stayed on the book. Instead of working all these times and all these events into one story, maybe he could have done a story for each of these. Now don't get me wrong, I think the idea of a villain attacking Superman from all points in time is unbelievably imaginative and has worked here. But I would have liked more.

Nrama: Issue #16 touched upon the idea of learning from tragedy, from the process of overcoming challenges and failures, which I think we can all identify with, as we go through life and at least hope we're growing that way. Is that an important theme in the story? 

Morrison: You've hit a nail on the head, because nobody can be Superman, but the best of my stories are about that part of us that feels like Superman. You know? The part of us that allows us to struggle on through adversity and get up when we're hit down. And I think that's where Superman has value, as a symbol of that thing we all feel inside, you know, and it comes forward in certain situations.

So yeah, the whole run is about that. I didn't want to make it literal or political really. You can see elements of that, particularly in the early issues. But it's more about what Superman means in the world as a fictional character. Is he inspirational or is he not? Is he pernicious? Is there something dark coiled in it all? And that was part of what this story is about.

So what you see is a Five Dimensional being assaulting Superman on every one of those levels, from the literal on the giant monster level right up to conceptional and what does Superman mean, you know? We see them all being attacked.

I guess, that's what Superman about, is about the indomitable self.

What a great summation of why I love Superman. I know I can't be Superman, not even from just an immutable ethical point of view. But I can strive to be like him, to feel like him. And the fact that he fights a never-ending battle and is 'indomitable' just adds to that.

And then for Morrison to explore Superman's influence on that world - does he inspire - is crucial. Because this is comics world where heroes aren't trusted, Superman is a loner, and smacks around Supergirl. I need a Superman who can somehow ascend above the fray, be a true hero, and inspire. I think this Superman has done that, perhaps best seen in in Action Comics #0.

Here is the link to the Comic Book Resources interview:

CBR: People often make a complaint about the way some of the DC stories and your work in particular has developed the past few years which always boils down to this vague complaint about things getting "more Silver Age." Do you have a sense for where that comes from?

GM: I think these things are natural for a fantasy character. I've always said, it's not that I'm a huge Silver Age fan. People always get that wrong. It's more that in the Silver Age, those stories were more popular and appealed to a wider audience. So I'm always thinking, "Why did they appeal?" Those Silver Age Superman stories were about stuff. They weren't just superheroes wrestling with one another. They were about feelings we can all understand. Superman's guilty, or Lois is in love but Lana's in love do you deal with that? All of those things were very much about something real people could understand. I think that's why comics were so popular.

So it's not a fetish for the Silver Age I have. It's more a fetish for good stories that people in the real world can relate to. I'm trying to tell stories that have an emotional value rather than a punch up or a concordance of heights and weights and power measurements. I've always gone back to those stories for that reasons. But with current comics fandom, "Silver Age" has become an almost meaningless term. It's either a term of abuse or a term of endearment, but it doesn't really attach to much at all.

I think people talk like that because when they see news things, they to react by reaching back to find something it's a bit like so you can fit it into a box in your head. I don't even consider "All-Star Superman" to have much in common with the Silver Age at all. It's a pretty modern Superman story to me. 

Nice question on CBR.  I think All Star Superman had a much greater Silver Age feel than this Action run so interesting the hear that Morrison doesn't agree with that.

I do like that Morrison acknowledges just why the Silver Age is often beloved. I know that I am in the 'term of endearment' group in regards to the Silver Age. So I don't think it is a bad thing to channel to beats that worked in those stories, to reference them, and build on them.

Hard to believe it is almost over! I do think Action has been one of the best things to come out of the New 52.

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