This is meant to be a one-stop shop for discussing the works of Grant Morrison. There’s just a few things I wanted to try on a new thread, as well as bring everything under the one roof. This isn’t a complete list, but I’m hoping to add other stuff as we get to them. (Click on the hyper-links to go to discussions of the different books.) Let’s see how many of these stories we can get through…

 

1985-88 Secret Origins

Captain Granbretan - text story Captain Britain #13 (January 1986, Marvel UK),

• "The Stalking" (text story with illustrations by Garry Leach, UK 1986 Batman Annual)

• "Osgood Peabody's Big Green Dream Machine" (text story with illustrations by Barry Kitson and Jeff Anderson, UK Superman Annual, 1986)

Zoids Marvel UK - March 1986 - February 1987 Part 1 Part 2

• Dr Who Magazine Marvel UK - Changes (issue #118-9), The World Shapers (#127-9), Shock! (#139)

 

1988-90 Animal Patrol

St Swithin's Day  (with Paul Grist) Trident 1989

JLA: Ghosts of Stone Secret Origins #46

Arkham Asylum 1989 (See attachment below)

Animal Man (DC, #1-26, 1988-1990): Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3.

Doom Patrol (DC, #19-63, 1989-1993): Vol 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

• "Flash of Two Worlds" (Secret Origins #50, 1990)

Gothic (with Klaus Janson, in Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10) 1990 (Also, see attachment)

• Hellblazer: "Early Warning" #25-26, Vertigo, 1990.

 

1991-94 Odds and Sods

Kid Eternity, with Duncan Fegredo, DC, 3-issue mini-series, 1991

Sebastian O with Steve Yeowell, Vertigo, 3-issue mini-series, 1993

• The Mystery Play with Jon J. Muth, Vertigo, graphic novel, 1994

• Swamp Thing: "Bad Gumbo" (with co-writer Mark Millar and artist Philip Hester,) Vertigo, #140-143, 1994

 

1994-2000 JLInvisible

The Invisibles (Vertigo, 1994-2000): Vol I, Vol II, Vol III.

• Skrull Kill Krew (with co-writer Mark Millar) Marvel, 5 issues, 1995

Kill Your Boyfriend (with Philip Bond and D'Israeli, Vertigo) 1995

• Flex Mentallo (with Frank Quitely) Vertigo 1996

New Toys from Weird War Tales #3 (with Frank Quitely, Vertigo), 1997

 

Aztek, the Ultimate Man #1-10 (with co-writer Mark Millar) 1996

• The Flash: (with co-writer Mark Millar), Emergency Stop / The Human Race 1997

JLA 1997-2000

JLA/WildC.A.T.s one-shot crossover, 1997

DC One Million, 1998 Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Interlude, Week 4, Week 5, Epilogue I, Epilogue II

JLA: Earth 2, 1999

 

2000 - 2004 Marvellous Filth

• Marvel Boy, 6 issues Marvel 2000

• Fantastic Four: 1234 (Marvel Knights) 2001-2

New X-men, #114-156, Marvel, July 2001 - June 2004  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The Filth, Vertigo, 13-issues, 2002

 

2004 – 2013

• WE3 (with Frank Quitely, Vertigo, 3-issue mini-series, 2004

• Seaguy, Vertigo Book 1 2004, Book 2 2009

• Vimanarama (with Philip Bond) Vertigo 3-issue mini-series 2005

Joe the Barbarian, DC 8-issue series. 2009

 

• DC Comics Presents: Mystery in Space (tribute to Julie Scwartz) 2004

All Star Superman, 12 issues, 2005 - 2008

 

The Infinite Book

JLA: Ultramarine Corps JLA Classified #1-3 (with Ed McGuiness) DC 2004 (+ dedicated thread here)

Seven Soldiers 2005 -6 (+ dedicated thread here)

• 52 (with co-authors Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid), DC, #1-52, 2006-2007

Batman & Son (includes issues from #655-666), 2006-07

The Club of Heroes Batman #667-669, 2007

The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul with var writers, inc Batman #670-671, Oct-Nov 2007

• The Black Glove Batman #672-675, 2007-08

Batman R.I.P., Batman #676-681, 2008

• Batman RIP - The Missing Chapter 2010 Part 1 Batman #701 (also here)

Final Crisis, May 2008-January 2009

Batman and Robin, June 2009 onwards

• Batman 700 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 2010

 

2012 - End of the world!

 

2013 Beyond Batman

 

Happy (with Darrick Robertson), Image, 4-issue mini-series, 2012-13

 

(682 - 20/03/12)

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As I said earlier, I've been reading the series a character at a time. Morrison made a big deal when this came out first that it could be read in a number of ways, so I decided to put it to the test.

I also mixed up the order I picked each character instead of basing it on the publishing order as the TPBs do. It does read quite differently in concentrated hits of four issues of each character. With the TPBs, it's hard to come back to a character again after getting absorbed in the story of someone else, and its hard keeping all the different story details in your head across 7 characters.

I've just read Mister Miracle and so have only Klarion left to read. I left it until last because I had picked up a few single issues of his mini before I bought the TPBs and I'd read his story several times. I'm hoping it might be different reading it after everyone else's story. I'm not going to start it just yet, though, as I'm still mulling over Mister Miracle, which might be the most 'Morrison' of the 7 minis in that respect.

I'll get down a few thoughts on Shining Knight and Guardian when you reach the end of Vol II.

You mentioned a possible subtitle for each of the four TPBs in the other thread, Mark. These collections are completely arbitrary, really. The publishing order is probably as good a way to read them as any, but there is no reason they need to be 4 books. I think they have been released as 3 thicker hardbacks, or its due to happen soon. Regarding these four collections, the 'panning out' effect (with each cover,including the one before it) is a pretty original concept. Each done by a different great artist. It's one way to tie in otherwise very disparate contents. It'll be a pity if future collections discard this idea.
I also mixed up the order I picked each character instead of basing it on the publishing order as the TPBs do. It does read quite differently in concentrated hits of four issues of each character. With the TPBs, it's hard to come back to a character again after getting absorbed in the story of someone else, and its hard keeping all the different story details in your head across 7 characters.

I can see how sticking with a single character would work. The virtue of putting them in publication order is that then you're reading them as the original readers would have, assuming they were following the entire series on a weekly basis. Morrison must have had that in mind as he wrote them. And as I get further in I start seeing more cross-references between the various miniseries, which would have a different effect if they were read in a different order.

Regarding these four collections, the 'panning out' effect (with each cover,including the one before it) is a pretty original concept. Each done by a different great artist. It's one way to tie in otherwise very disparate contents. It'll be a pity if future collections discard this idea.

I've only got two of the collections in hand. I noticed that there were common design elements, but missed the panning out effect. That is original, as far as I know. There have been several miniseries that employed covers that can be laid side to side or overlapped to form a single bigger picture.
Alright, on to the last of Vol. 2:

Shining Knight Part Four: The Last Stand of Don Vincenzo

The Sheeda Queen pits the great Galahad against the Shining Knight, for sport. Turns out Justin is a girl, but that doesn't buy mercy. Melmoth is Gloriana's husband...a connection between Klarion and this series. The Don is revived by the magic cauldron, and mounts Justin's winged steed to do battle with Neh-Buh-Loh and the Sheeda, but falls in battle. Justin beheads Galahad and comes for Gloriana, and the issue ends with a flashback to Camelot when Justin was knighted.

Zatanna Part Three: Three Days of the Dead

Zatanna & her apprentice Misty face the Tempter, and Misty exorcises the demon. Then they (literally) run into the magician Ali Ka-Zoom, who was thought dead ("Didn't that guy have legs before we hit him?"). Zoom tells them about the seven kids who faced the Fairy Queen and the Terrible Time Tailor (which we see in the next issue in the collection). They come to the Don's estate from the last Shining Knight issue, where they see the carnage, the winged horse being tormented by Sheeda, and Zoom greets his childhood friend Don Vincenzo. He escorts him onto the bus of the dead. When Zatanna & Misty face Neh-Buh-Loh, he recognizes her as the Sheeda princess whose life he spared. She mounts the flying horse with Zatanna and they run for it.

Guardian Part Four: Sex Secrets of the Newsboy Army!


Opens with a fantastical Newsboy Army story set in Africa, told by Ed the baby brain. Then he tells about the boxer Mr. Colley, who was taken over by a small Sheeda attached to the back of his neck, in the same way the Ultramarines were controlled in the earlier JLA series. The Newsboys travelled to Slaughter Swamp, where they faced the Tailor and were defeated. Returning to the present, Ed tells Jake that he was chosen to be a superhero. The current seven soldiers can't be targeted by the Sheeda because none of them recognizes the others. As the Sheeda converge on the building, Jake takes Ed and tells him to call out the Newsboys.

As the various miniseries progress, more and more connections between them are drawn. I question the assertion that any of them can be read independently, though. Judging by the two that finish in this volume, they take a lot of their meaning from the larger context, which can't be seen in any one of the miniseries. And neither of these series come to a satisfying conclusion: in fact they both end with a cliffhanger. Hopefully the answers will be given in the other series issues to come.
I never knew this existed. According to the GCD, in the mid 70s DC ran a Seven Soldiers of Victory story in Adventure Comics using an inventory script from the 40s by Joe Samachson and new art. The sections of the story were drawn by Dick Dillin, Howard Chaykin, Lee Elias, Mike Grell, Ernie Chua, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and the story appeared in ##438-443.
If they didn't change the script at all, it would be an interesting curiosity. Maybe a good comic too if it was as good as the best of the 40s stuff.

I wonder did they set it in the present or the 40s? The JLA/JSA crossover around this time might have led on from it as part of that story had to do with the Soldiers being lost in time. In the work under discussion Vigilante admits to spending years in the real Wild West because of that storyline.

More likely is that the crossover story was so popular that they dug around for some more SSoV stories to publish.
The story appeared in 1975. To me it calls to mind the redrawn version of a Golden Age Flash story that appeared in DC Super Stars #5 the next year, with art by Rico Rival. It wouldn't surprise me if the original idea was to run the SSoV story in a special of some kind, but I'm just speculating.

The JLA/JSA crossover with the SSoV appeared in 1972, and DC reprinted the story from Leading #2 in Justice League of America ##111-112 in 1974.
By 2004, after several ground-breaking series within the superhero genre and outside it, Morrison just might be getting a little bored at his word processor. To keep his interest up, he has set himself a writing task that is like a game with certain very constricting rules, which would put demands on the most expert writer. An Irish poet once described why he wrote using very strict rhyme schemes and metre, as wrapping the work up in ‘chains of gold’. Another similar exercise is the use of the strict 14-line sonnet form to express a particular thought, feeling or impression. That the poet is able to manage it within those strictures makes it something even more worthwhile.

Seven Soldiers of Victory boasts perhaps the most elaborate form a superhero epic has ever been presented in. 30 comics that lock together in different ways. It was for this elaborately worked out and presented structure that I mentioned it during The Filth discussion.

I’ve already mentioned the rules that are working on Morrison from without. Some rules aren’t often acknowledged: eg he can’t really create brand new properties. And some rules are so obvious that most people forget they are there: eg the shared fictional universe has its own rules and history that have to be respected.

Some of the rules he has set for himself: this super-team has to save the world even though they don’t meet and don’t even realise they are a team. Events in different books will affect each other even if the heroes don’t meet.

Some of the rules may have been worked out together with Dan DiDio or the Powers That Be at DC. Morrison seems to have been employed as an ‘ideas man’ in DC at this time. Some of the One Year Later restarts after Infinite Crisis, such as the new Atom, were based on ideas by Morrison. Morrison was also acknowledged as the creative engine room of the 52 weekly series by his collaborators on that fine project. With Seven Soldiers of Victory, there may have been an element of DC getting a vehicle that would introduce several new properties to the fanbase at once, and see how they fly. It is, of course, a way more sophisticated vehicle than Bloodlines, or Millenium. As such, Morrison has also stated that he set himself the restriction that each 4-issue series would have to be self-contained, (re-)introducing the new character, and establishing what that character’s possible new series would be ‘about’.

Even more specifically he declared that each mini-series would show the origin in the first issue, which would end on a cliff-hanger, followed by 3 self-contained issues.

‘Does it do what it set out to do’ is sometimes a criteria bandied about on this board for what makes a good work of art. It’s not something I usually agree with, as its hard to say what the author’s intentions were (to pay the mortgage?), and sometimes the interest of a work of art lies in what the author is trying not to say*. However, I’m going to use Morrison’s own declared intentions when looking at each of the 7 mini-series here. I’m somewhat lazily taking the view that the comics in this maxi-series are entertaining, and while clever, more or less explicable to the careful reader. Using Morrison’s stated aims will hopefully allow us to talk around how the comics work, how they differ from each other and about the larger contexts they all work in.

Thinking about it now, it might be fun to list the influences that each mini is drawing from too. Applying this thought to Shining Knight has thrown up a few surprising comparisons in my head just now.

Shining Knight

"Mythology. Mythology. Mytho-" - Vincenzo the Undying Don's last words.


Issue 1 The Origin – We learn here everything about who Justina is and how she came to be. The essentials anyway. A member of King Arthur’s Knights who was with them on their last mission together after Arthur died. We see her fall through time and land in modern day Los Angeles with the mission of preventing the Sheeda from doing to us what they did to Justina’s time. We also get introduced to the Knights of the Broken Table and get an impression of the glory of Avalon just as we see it fall.

The Mini-series - Of course, we don’t learn that her name is really Justina/Ystina or even that she’s a she until the last episode, but that’s just a late story twist that throws a slightly different light on what we’ve already seen.

The most amazing thing about Shining Knight’s story is that we only see Avalon at its fall. Morrison has invented a whole world and culture that is now completely in the past. He does show us over the course of the mini-series how this Avalon would have been used in an ongoing series. It is the world of grandeur and heroism that our world/the DCU would be measured against.

Avalon “which girdled the Earth in forgotten times” is a kind of Utopia, where “even the microscopic races bow down to Arthur’s rule”. Even the glimpses we see of it show up some of its limitations, however. Ystina’s subterfuge shows that women obviously have very prescribed roles in it, and its heroes are only of the strongman warrior type. That these warriors established a worldwide utopia of sorts in Arthur’s lifetime would make for great stories, but in short, Utopias themselves are boring. The flashbacks to Avalon have to be carefully used, so that they are part of the ongoing story.

Morrison doesn't always live up to his rules. Ystina's adventures have a strong throughline, as she is most aware from the outset that she is fighting the Sheeda, and her plight seems the most urgent, as she is is flung forward through a series of related adventures, where she slowly grows in understanding. So I'm not sure how much each episode will stand alone.

Still, I believe Morrison is partly writing SSoV as a manifesto on how good comics can be written, and even though we are largely past the Claremont stage of comics where plotlines drag on for years, the 6-issue 'writing for the trade' habit, with nothing much happening in most of the individual issues, being in full swing in 2004. In contrast to a lot of contemporonous comics, each of these issues has a seperate problem that Ystina has to face, which is resolved in that issue. In the first one it is Guilt, the Mood 7 Mind Destroyer, in the third, it is Gloriana herself, in the form of Ms Friday, and in the fourth, it is her relationship to her past, in the form of her beloved Galahad, who she has to slay.

An Ongoing series - If there was an ongoing series of Shining Knight, there would probably be frequent flashbacks to key scenes from the era of Arthur’s Knights, as we see in each issue of this mini-series. Events in Avalon would serve as commentary on action in the present. As we glimpse it at its fall, it seems like a wonderful, fantastic enchanted place, but I’m sure it would lose its charm if we saw too much of it. That would be the main pitfall of an ongoing series. Perhaps Kung-Fu type flashbacks would be used often to juxtapose lessons Ystina learnt growing up there with her readjustment to her new world.

One of the key turningpoints of the drama plays on this juxtaposition. In Issue 2 we see Ystina decide to take arms against her sea of troubles while the commentary quotes a prophecy from her age of what our world would be like:

“In the Age to come…

Women would be shameless, men strengthless. There would be trees without fruit, fruit without trees, and seas without fish", the bloody-black three-times Goddess foretold.

"Old men would give false judgements, legislators would make unjust laws, warriors would betray one another. Men would become thieves.

And virtue would vanish from the world.”

“No”,
vows Ystina. “not while one knight of Camelot endures.”

That right there is the central engine of Ystina’s character and future stories. She has the responsibility of embodying all that was great about lost Avalon in our fallen world.

Part of what makes Avalon so grand and different is the language that is used there. The best example is in the last chapter where Ystina vows vengeance against the Sheeda queen.

“Red am I in battle. Red the Ravens that follow at my heels. Gloriana. I am your death.”

This is aping the language of the old stories that were preserved by Irish monks and the writers of the Mabinogion of Wales. It is grand, proud, larger-than-life, poetic and boastful all at once. It would take real application for a writer to produce it over a long series. Pat Mills managed it beautifully in his Sláine series in 2000AD. Like Morrison with Shining Knight, Mills used his series to explore his Celtic roots, and his preparatory reading was immense. Just like Morrison, Mills conjectured that the Celtic stories we have been handed down were actually a distorted account of a period long before known history, and he too mixed in science fiction and time-travel with his Celtic mythology.

If Shining Knight whets your appetite for this kind of story I’d have to strongly recommend getting your hands on Sláine The King, The Horned God, or Time Killer. Great escapism, beautifully crafted comics and ridiculously well researched. Sláine is a big favourite of mine.

Without the grand, poetic Celtic phrasing, Shining Knight would be just another medieval-themed superhero on a flying horse, which restricts the list of writers who could possibly continue her adventures. Perhaps Pat Mills himself?

Influences - Pat Mills, obviously. Like Sláine, Ystina probably owes more to European comics than American ones. Just the elaborate world created for her, and the singular art style used. The surprising connection I made was that even though this Shining Knight is ostensibly based on DC’s previous knight on a winged horse with the same name, she is of course female, so her closest analogy is actually ... Marvel’s Valkyrie, winged horse and all. Whereas Valkyrie has put her femininity ‘out there’, with those scary steel D-cups, Ystina, with her bound down breasts, most definitely has not. Two very different attitudes from warrior women who want to be seen as equal to men. One archetype, but two very different types of feminists.

The other influence is Gaiman. (I see a pattern forming here.) Ystina’s pretence reminded me of the girl in the Sandman: World’s End story who masquerades as a boy to sail the seven seas. There was something also in the timing of the revelation that was structurally similar.

Kudos to Bianchi for walking the line so skilfully in his depiction of Ystina. We accept Ystina first time through as a young knight, and then if you reread it, she looks like a young woman. Cool.



*check out what I thought of Moffat's The Beast Below, for instance.
BTW - Bianchi is a Bona Fide European illustrator, so European comic-craft is a bit more than an 'influence'.
On to Seven Soldiers of Victory Vol. 3:

Klarion The Witchboy Part Four: Burn, Witchboy! Burn!


Opens with Klarion (and his cat, on a separate stake) about to be burned at the stake. Wonderful facial expressions, something I meant to mention earlier. Melmoth and an armed force arrive in the digging machine stolen from the museum earlier. He declares himself pleased with his experiment in eugenics: he fathered all of their progenitors. His men must fight off the Grundy men, then the Horigal formed by the combination of Klarion and Teekl. Melmoth escapes, and Klarion heads back to the world above, to be a soldier.

Mister Miracle Part One: New Godz

Shilo Norman, the escape artist known as Mister Miracle, is staging an escape from a black hole. He falls into the hole and meets Metron, who reminds him of New Genesis and the war won by Darkseid. He must free the Bright Ones and join the forces of light...then he pops out of the event horizon and back into the world. Shilo remembers his vision, and wonders if his life shouldn't be more than celebrity. He is tempted by some party girls who aren't even human: they're from the Dark Side. At the end of the issue he meets a man in a wheelchair who reminds him of Metron, and finds himself running for his life from a car.

Zatanna Part Four: Zor!

Zatanna and Misty arrive in Slaughter Swamp on the flying horse. Zatanna stays to find the Seven Unknown Men, sending Misty to a place called Gorias for protection. Zor the evil sorcerer appears and attempts to bend Zatanna to his will. She releases Gwydion from the jar to use his shape-shifting powers in the magic battle. She defeats Zor after a wonderful sequence of shifting realities, and meets the SUM. They explain that Zor was a renegade Time Tailor who had introduced a deadly plague into the world: if the seven hidden warriors fail, if Sheeda strain isn't stopped, the damage to our universe will be irreparable. Zatanna has just considered the episode closed, when Misty and an army of flying horses descend from the sky. Misty says "My step-mother's about to invade the Earth. I thought of you."
Could that Zor be Golden Age Spectre foe listed here?
It's him exactly. Down to the beard and the evening suit. Great find.

Zatanna even fights him in a very similar sequence where they grow in size and throw planetoids at each other.

Zor fills the role of Zatanna's powerful anti-Dad perfectly.

I see that in your version of events, Mark, Zatanna defeated Zor, so I'm presuming you reached out to the fourth wall and transferred your psychic energy. Otherwise presumably, Zor would have been triumphant...

I love that sequence myself.
If it has any bearing, Melmoth the Wanderer is a gothic novel by Charles Maturin, dating from 1820.

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