This will hopefully be an insightful part of our Grant Morrison Reading Project and a continuation of my own Bat-Journey. As I gather some references and take some notes before I delve deep into the Morrisonian version of the Greater DCU, I want to look at Final Crisis Sketchbook (Jl'08) which came out the same time as FC #1. It contains, naturally, some sketches by J.G. Jones and comments by Grant Morrison in this comic book version of a DVD extra. Some highlights, note-wise:

  • Darkseid--he appears to be "ossifying" and is in great pain. He is the shadow of decay!
  • Desaad-torturer of the gods and a hidden cross-dresser. Which gives certain scenes from JLA some unintentional comic visions!
  • The Black Racer-from goofy to frightening!
  • Terrible Turpin-- "Jack Kirby as drawn by Frank Miller"
  • Orion- No longer the Dog of War but the Soldier of the New Gods. His symbol is the sun!
  • Mister Miracle-he is the same one from Seven Soldiers! I'm going to have to finish that soon!
  • Kamandi-- how does the Last Boy on Earth fit in with Kirby's Fourth World?
  • The Forever People--- from Hippies to Goth?
  • Libra- nice to know that Grant and I read the same comics as kids!!
  • The Monitors--bridging the two Crises! Cosmic soap opera!
  • Big Science Action-- Morrison's Japanese JLA. The Silver Age meets Anime!
  • Super Young Team-- interesting combinations of classic DC heroes with a modern twist but these teen heroes are annoying!

Everyone please feel free to comment on this as I want this to be, as Figs believes, the culmination of the Post Crisis DCU that deserves to be celebrated!

Next: Who is the God Destroyed? or Just the Cosmic Facts, Ma'am!

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Man, it would be such a fantasy come true for me to have a New Gods book, written by Grant Morrison with art by Pascal Ferry.

Yeah.  The first issue of Mr Miracle in the 7 Soldiers sequence was one of the best Morrison comics I've ever read.  Possibly amongst the best work ever produced by Mr Ferry too.  It takes the reader on quite a journey and blows the mind as much as any Morrison comic does.  Much of the artwork for 7 Soldiers counts as career best for many of the artists involved (and I include Ed McGuinness' 'Ultramarines' work in that. His work was marvelous and couldn't have served the story better.) I'm not sure why Ferry fell off the cart.  It's barely documented.  Having studied the back-story to many of Morrison's projects, I'd guess that Morrison was slow producing the scripts.  This doesn't just mean that there are practical difficulties for a busy freelance artist configuring their workload for months ahead, but if you get the script late and a deadline still applies with most of the timeline already lapsed, then as an artist you are not going to be able to put your best work on display.

If you are drawing a Morrison comic, this is a big problem, as possibly more people will read and remember and critique that work going forward than would otherwise be the case.  Igor Kordey, who bashed out several issues of New X-Men on tight deadlines because of late Morrison scripts now regrets doing them, because so many people judge his entire ability on those rushed issues.

Consider too that the artwork for the fiinal 3 issues of Mr Miracle seemed to be rushed, and badly thought-through because of time-constraints, and it looks like Ferry jumped ship because of late scripts.  It's probably a case of once bitten twice shy for the possibility of a Morrison/Ferry New Gods book.

Speaking of SSoV: Mr Miracle, it really is the prequel to Final Crisis, and totally explains what FC is about! 

To quote myself from the Seven Soldiers of Victory discussion:

Metron shows Shilo the terrible outcome of the war in heaven – “The wrong side won. The Dark Side won.“

As well as leaving Shilo wrestling with the very Gnostic suspicion “What if I live in a world where evil came out tops?”, this revelation lays the groundwork for Final Crisis which wouldn’t see print for another 4 years! Interestingly, apart from Orion’s little skirmish, the War in Heaven and its result is only related to us second hand. We hear it happened, and the result, but don’t really see any of it. Maybe only the outcome is relevant to Shilo's story, but in any case, perhaps a clash of purely symbolic metaphorical forces is probably best kept off the page!

And just to comment on the endless meta-circularity of Morrison's work:  I've mentioned both the JLA: Ultramarines and SSoV: Mr Miracle in this post.  Both are part of the broader tale Morrison weaved in his 3rd major phase as a DC writer, but both sit in the same way in regard to the broader story they are a part of.  JLA: Ultramarines is undoubtedly the (not officially acknowledged) prequel to Seven Soldiers of Victory, but Mr Miracle, which was one of the SSoV mini-series, is also the (not officially acknowledged) prequel to Final Crisis.  All so strange, and endlessly commentable!!

A few words on Final Crisis: Submit

Every time I reread this issue in the middle of my Final Crisis tpb collection, I find myself repeating the question: "Why does this issue even exist?"

Here's what I wrote in summary of Submit waaaaay back on another discussion thread.  In some ways it chimes with your assessment above, Michael, but perhaps there are a few tidbits in here too, that are a bit new to this discussion.

I thought the 'redemption of the Tattooed Man' ie Final Crisis: Submit was a strong little comic. It was a great little done-in-one.

On the old board, Jeff of Earth J compared Final Crisis, which he'd just read as an almost complete story, with an issue of the early 90's Legends of the DCU which covered one little world's encounter with the end of the Multiverse during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. I thought it wasn't quite a fair comparison, as one is a ground-breaking multi-issue blockbuster and the other was a little single-issue story with a mega-crossover as a backdrop.

The fairer analogy would be to compare that issue of Legends... with FC:Submit. Both show one small group’s response to the big Crisis that is going on in the main storyline. I think it would show up a lot of the changes in comic styles from 1986 to 2009. I don't have the Legends issue handy to compare it to, but even structurally, Submit is very modern. There are only a tiny amount of scene-changes. Maybe 3 and then everyone is on the bus and that remains the location until just about the end. There is only one traditional superhero in the story - Black Lightning.

I've just read Animal Man #6 (the one where the Thanagarian artist tries to blow up San Diego) and two of the main story elements there are illustrated in Submit. The idea of fractals, that if you look at one thing closely it will start to reveal more and more complexity the closer you look, and the theme of the son trying to understand the father and that of the son reliving the father's life again. (These themes are tied together both here and in Animal #6)

...Bear with me! :-)

A major theme of FC is that the DCU keeps producing heroes to defend it and make it better. You cite the different threads in FC where different heroes were each working on separate ways to defeat Darkseid or lessen his damage. (This is one of the problems people have with it. The different schemes are worked out by the heroes in isolation from each other. This isolation is the test that FC puts them all through, but it doesn't make for a coherent read as they are all working independently.) In Submit we have a supervillain with a lot to be angry at society about, who gets taught a lesson in self-sacrifice by a superhero who has had to come up through his own trials and tribulations. Jefferson Pierce and Mark Richards are like mirror images of each other, both coming from the DCU ghetto.

Education is a big theme of FC:Submit. Black Lightning is a teacher by profession, and much is made of whether the Tattooed Man should encourage his son to get an education and try to save the system that has caused him so much trouble or to have nothing to do with law and order, like the Tattooed Man. The whole issue is very tightly focused on these questions, (eg Black Lightning is distributing newspapers to keep everyone informed when he encounters Tattooed Man’s family) which makes the ending very satisfying.

Back to the comparison with Animal Man #6 there is the obvious parent/child relationship within the Richards family.

As for fractals – we see that this one stand-alone issue reflects in miniature the larger concerns of the overall series. (Heroes in isolation, retaining hope, self-sacrifice.) Related to this, the closer we look at parents or teachers, especially the two male adults in this book, then we have to start seeing the effect they have on those they influence. Look back at who influenced Jefferson Pierce and Mark Richards and you’re starting to see the fractals going back and forward in time. The same patterns in infinite complexity.

All of this adds up to a very satisfying issue, done in a completely different style to the rest of Final Crisis. This has very intense unity of time and place and people, instead of the continuous bewildering jump-cutting of the main series. Morrison’s way of showing us that he can do straightforward and emotionally involving if he wants to.

It also shows that it was unfortunate that we didn’t get to see in their own books what the other DC heroes would have been doing during Darkseid’s absolute rule over the Earth. I know it would have been a continuity nightmare for the creators of the other books and it’s good that we are beyond the stage where they would have been forced to take part in a crossover that they weren’t interested in. Still, this one issue shows that the civilised world under siege by Darkseid’s drones looked like a great setting for horror/adventure stories.

Continuity is over-rated anyway. :-P

Ferry signed an exclusive contract with Marvel right at that time. It was awful timing, and he went on to pencil a forgettable run of Ultimate Fantastic Four instead.

To be fair, despite misusing his talent, Marvel was smart to snatch him up. They got Bianchi at the same time, but his run on Shining Knight had ended by that point.

Figserello said:

I'm not sure why Ferry fell off the cart.

I'm not sure whether Frazier Irving also signed a contract, but he went on to work at Marvel at that time too, on stuff like a Joe Casey Iron Man miniseries and an Inhumans thing called Silent War.

But the problem is Black Lightning isn't really "under" a suit. It's a single piece of spandex with a domino mask. You can clearly see he's black in the suit, let alone under it. Hell, "black" is part of his name! If the kid was so concerned about the lack of black superheroes, it's weird he wouldn't know about Black Lightning until midway through the apocalypse.

Far be it from me, of all people, to express this about a Morrison post, but you may be overthinking this somewhat.  :-)    "He's just a dude like us under the suit" struck me as perfectly natural(-istic) in the circumstances (ie 'he's not a Justifier') while also starting to dig into the themes of the issue.  ("Like us" does have a helluva lot of significance in this particular seemingly racially-charged case.)

Clearly race (and racially-based social alienation) is one of the themes of this issue.  It's a massive topic, and I find people don't like really getting in too deep about it, and also white people get very defensive regarding it. 

In discussing a topic like race regarding a superhero comic, we are definitely coming up against one of the difficulties that superhero comics face.  Kurt Busiek does a great riff in the introduction to the first collection of Astro-City about how so many great superheroes are symbols for different ways of being and thinking (Superman = optimism, Captain America - patriotism, Spider-man = youth etc.)  Obviously superhero comics can use these characters and superhero situations to explore these topics often in great ways other forms can't, but there are limits too.  Optimism is all very well when you have near godlike powers, Captain America's values are a waay idealised representation of America's values (as expressed in their actual actions) and being young is tough, but none of us had to contend with a mad professor with mechanical arms.  Clearly Submit is a comic about race, on some level, but a superhero comic is a somewhat blunt scalpel to dissect such a sensitive issue.

It's a corporate comic too, further tying Morrison's hands, I feel.  From the same company that around this time shied away from G Willow Wilson's very valid looking Superman story about how a Muslim-American superhero had to contend with the racist pre-conceptions of his fellow Americans towards him.  I think Morrison is tending towards understating his position with regards to the reasons families like the Tattooed Man's tend to distrust authority figures and members of the 'security forces' as we might term the Justice League of America here.  The Tattooed Man's beef with isn't so much with 'superheroes' per se, as with the state-sanctioned JLA who definitely are part of the Status Quo, and who uphold it.  The status quo is great when you are largely a beneficiery of it, but it's not hard to see why certain sections of society don't have much love for the status quo - or its agents. (Unless it is hard to see, in which case, start here, and allow that someone is telling you their truth.)

How many comics have we read where a JLA member is having trouble sleeping and visits the member who is keeping watch over the world from their fortress/watchtower/whatever, and the conversation covers how things are quiet and - tacitly-  that there's no wrongs right now for the team to address? The Justice League of America certainly seem happy enough with the way Justice in America is ordered, and don't do much to change it.  That is probably the basis of Richard's distrust and loathing of them.  (Morrison wrote a Doom Patrol story where the superteam very heavy-handedly ensure the status quo, with all its faults is maintained, so this is something he's given some thought to.)

So in a way I see Richards' position as reasonable, just as I saw that old black dude's remonstrance of Green Lantern as reasonable back in the 60s.  In some ways I see Morrison's white liberalism in this story as problematic, actually.  Yes, the family should get on board with Black Lightning's crusade and helping him restore the status quo is the right thing to do, but that does leave unaddressed all the questions that Morrison has opened up here with his references to what minorities in the US have to put up with. 

BTW - One of these things is 'stop and search' and presumption of guilt which the dialogue refers to directly when Richards refers to being pounced on by superheroes every time they are looking for a bad guy.  It's a superhero metaphor for what happens in the real world, and as such it doesn't quite fit (the superheroes seem to know Richards personally and he does have a history as a bad guy) but it seems clear to me that Morrison is talking about racially-motivated stop and search and presumption of guilt more generally.

The comic has more value to me if Morrison is talking about hot topics in the USA, and it's fair to say that he pushes the right buttons regarding an issue that should be discussed more.  However, because of superhero conventions, corporate restrictions, and his own white liberalism, the topic doesn't quite get the full serious treatment it deserves.  But hey, superhero comics, right??  :-D  You can only go so far, when your script has a bus explosion to reach by page 18!

As I say, race a sensitive topic, and it's great to see it being addressed in a study of Final Crisis: Submit.  I hope you don't mind me throwing my own 2c worth into the discussion as regards how this issue deals with it.

Just as an aside, I'm sure Morrison would hate me bringing up his White Liberalism.  When asked about how his whiteness affected how he told certain stories, Morrison was very offended and said that he wasn't white, but Scottish!  I see where he's coming from, actually  as an Irish post-Colonial fellow Celt myself, but 'intersectionally speaking' I think it's safe to say Morrison is white, as I am myself!  :-)

Speaking of race in Final Crisis, I thought it interesting that Morrison had Glorious Godfrey incarnate in what looks like Al Sharpton's body.   I don't know that much about Sharpton.  He's no Martin Luthor King, I gather, but is he really deserving of being represented as the embodiment of Dark Side's agent of rhetorical masses-manipulating mayhem? Isn't he just someone who tries to advocate for minority rights in America?  He seems to have earned the distrust and dislike of lots of Americans, but is it fair to paint him as an agent of pure evil?

Or is this more white liberalism on Grant's part?  I've never seen the portrayal of Glorious Godfrey in FC discussed.  Perhaps Al Sharpton is actually an agent of pure evil, and portraying him as such is uncontentious?  I'll admit to a degree of ignorance on my part concerning the fellow.

Actually, Godfrey seems to resemble Don King, He's basically a modern-day carnival barker, which is kind of fitting with Gidfrey.

Figserello said:

Speaking of race in Final Crisis, I thought it interesting that Morrison had Glorious Godfrey incarnate in what looks like Al Sharpton's body.   I don't know that much about Sharpton.  He's no Martin Luthor King, I gather, but is he really deserving of being represented as the embodiment of Dark Side's agent of rhetorical masses-manipulating mayhem? Isn't he just someone who tries to advocate for minority rights in America?  He seems to have earned the distrust and dislike of lots of Americans, but is it fair to paint him as an agent of pure evil?

Is this more white liberalism on Grant's part?  I've never seen the portrayal of Glorious Godfrey in FC discussed.  Perhaps Al Sharpton is actually an agent of pure evil, and portraying him as such is uncontentious?  I'll admit to a degree of ignorance on my part concerning the fellow.

I can see that might be one way to interpret the look.  But Don King never had the measure of political clout,  the 'reach' or intention to sway the masses politically that Sharpton has.  Sharpton's mission seems closer to Glorious Godfrey's and he seems more of a demagogue than King. 

Yes, Dark Side's minions in FC are debased, grubby and bargain basement versions of their Kirby selves, but Don King (a huckster for self-aggrandisment via entertainment) seems a long way from Kirby's Godfrey, whereas Sharpton, a demagogue, a politician, someone who appeals to people's sense of grievance, and a promoter of ideological arguments, an advocate for change, a TV social and political commentator, seems much closer to the original character.

In any case, as soon as I saw him back in 2008, I thought 'Al Sharpton', probably because he was appearing on TV talking about a section of the US population being neglected and hard-done-by, which is Sharpton's thing.  I only saw that he could be Don King when I looked up a wiki article on the Final Crisis Glorious Godfrey this morning.

True, Don King is not usually associated with politics, but there is this: http://www.cc.com/video-clips/vv5nik/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewar...

Figserello said:

I can see that might be one way to interpret the look.  But Don King never had the measure of political clout,  the 'reach' or intention to sway the masses that Sharpton has.  Sharpton's mission seems closer to Glorious Godfrey's and he seems more of a demagogue than King. 

Yes, Dark Side's minions in FC are debased, grubby and bargain basement versions of their Kirby selves, but Don King (a huckster self-aggrandisment via entertainment) for seems a long way from Kirby's Godfrey, whereas Sharpton, a demagogue, a politician, someone who appeals to people's sense of grievance, seems much closer to the original character.

In any case, as soon as I saw him back in 2008, I thought 'Al Sharpton', and only saw that he could be Don King when I looked up a wiki article on the Final Crisis Glorious Godfrey this morning.

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