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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Zatanna #1-4 (continued)

The Mini-series –

“We were doing fine, having our “Thelma and Louise” meets “Bewitched” style misadventures until you hijacked the agenda for your own obscure ends” – Zatanna to Ali Ka Zoom

I didn’t realise it until after I made the case that Zor is the Terrible Time Tailor fallen deeper into his creation, but issue two backs up the argument. For some reason Gwydion and Zor are somehow conceptually mixed up together. It’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Certainly Gwydion is a kind of herald for Zor.

Certainly, when Gwydion says “I serve the new supreme architect of the universe whose name is yet hidden”, it might be Gwydion indicating that his master Zor/The Terrible Time Tailor is the writer/architect of this story, updating and bringing harsh ‘realism’ into the DCU. Similarly, it might be Zor admitting that, like everyone in the story he is only doing what Morrison, the actual architect of this complex mega-story, is having him do.

In Zatanna’s showdown with Gwydion entity immediately after this, she says:

“You’ll wish you hadn’t come here, but it’s too late now...”

“It’s easy to get stuck in a gooey, solid cramped little world like this when you’re confused.”


Then she traps him, first in the hat, then in the “hall of mirrors”, before consigning him to Ali Ka Zoom’s closet.

I think the powerful magic Zatanna performs here pulls Zor even more firmly into Zatanna’s ‘cramped little world’ – the DCU itself. Thus when he appears next, he is a bona fide over-the-top DC supervillain with little knowledge of his previous existence as one of the Seven Unknown Men.

Perhaps this scene was in the back of my mind when I reached my Gnostic conclusions about the relationship between Zor and the Terrible Time Tailor. It seems to be part of Morrison’s technique to work things into your subconscious even when you don’t realise he’s doing it.

It’s worth repeating a line from Phillip K Dick’s novel Valis at this point:

“Watching it carefully, I realised that the surface of the movie made no sense whatsoever. Unless you ferreted out the subliminal and marginal clues and assembled them all together you arrived at nothing. But these clues got fired at your head whether you consciously considered them and their meaning or not: you had no choice.”

Morrison is definitely using the same technique.

In issue 3, we get a bit more meta-text when Zatanna and her apprentice exorcise a long-forgotten outmoded character from the DCU. (He’s so behind the times, he thinks Hawkman is a member of the JLA, which hasn’t been the case since the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even bringing Hawkman up in conversation is a metatextual reference to the unstable nature of reality in the DCU.)

Misty begins to recall her past and it has many elements in common with the old Snow White tale. We’ve seen Gloriana elsewhere looking into her talking mirror and asking ‘who’s the fairest of them all.’

Again and again in Seven Soldiers of Victory we’ve seen similar events repeated over and over again in a cyclical fashion. Here, it seems that Gloriana and Misty are the original actors in the Snow White story. Most obviously, we learn that earlier King Arthurs in the DCU were just echoes of the first true King Arthur that Ystine served 10,000 years ago. Later we will learn that all the heroes in the DCU were superceded by the first great hero, a demi-God called Aurakles. The Manhattan Guardian is the heir to the Guardian of Project Cadmus. Our Seven Soldiers were preceded by the doomed team of Issue #0, the much more successful seven members of the JLA, and the unfortunate Newsboy Army of Nowhere St, not to mention the Knights of the Broken Table.

In issue #4 Zor refers directly to the battle with the Spectre that Luke linked to:

“I brought the wrath of God to its white and knobbly knees.”

Perhaps part of Zor’s problem, like a lot of current DCU writers is that he can only refer to and repeat past DCU adventures. His cosmic battle with Zatanna is a duplicate of his battle with the Spectre. In fact Zatanna beats him by doing something practically unheard of in a comic before. It may be ambiguous whether she reaches out to us, the readers, or to the Seven Unknown Men, but I’m convinced it is the former. Mainly because I can’t help but reach out my own hand to touch hers every time I read that sequence! When else would you get the chance to make a connection with a beautiful DC superheroine? That she needs my help makes the sequence so much more exciting and interactive.

Whatever that pane is that Zatanna is pushing against when she reaches out to us, it works very like the surface of a mirror. This ties back to The Invisibles and all that mirror imagery used there. According to Divine Horsemen, in the Voudoun religion of the Caribbean mirrors have all kinds of symbolical meaning as gateways to the spirit world and the world of the dead. That’s why Zatanna meets her father on the other side of the mirror. First we see her pushing against the ‘membrane’, and then we see her viewpoint as she bursts into the workshop of the Seven Unknown Men.

I think the mirror thing might be the reason why Grant chose Zatanna, in particular, to be a Soldier. She speaks in a backwardly-spelled language to make her spells, almost as if we were holding the comic up to the mirror. Added to this the fact that her magic, like that in The Invisibles, is very much improvised as she goes along, and it’s clear that she and Morrison were made for each other!

Zatanna’s reunion with her father is very touching, and the revelation of the true nature of the ‘Librae Zatarae’ is pure poetry:

“The Book of Water is a kind heart. The Book of Earth is a graceful body. The Book of Air a keen mind. The Book of Fire is strength of spirit.

“Do you understand? I wrote my books in you, Zatanna. You were my greatest spell, my gift to the world.”


For Zatanna to hear these words of love and pride from her dead father is very moving, and also ties up the underlying theme of parents and children, teachers and students.

Ali Ka Zoom referred to the last rule of magic

“The one where the magician has to vanish along with the trick. Leaving his audience, and his beautiful assistants, to go on without him.”

Given that heroes never stay dead for long in the DCU, Zatanna managed quite a feat when he died for Zatanna back in that old issue of Swamp Thing, and stayed dead. If he was to be brought back, Zatanna would be greatly diminished as a character. What might be implied here is that his fiery sacrifice was what has given Zatanna the strength to continue since as a highly regarded and important figure in the DCU. (Quite similar to how Ali Ka Zoom gets strength from burning his cabinet in issue 3.)

Ongoing Series – There was lots of good stuff here that could have been developed into an ongoing series. Especially, Zatanna’s relationship with her apprentice, Misty the fairytale princess. With Zatanna’s post Identity Crisis guilt and parent-issues resolved, though, a new writer would have to come up with a new theme and story driver, but that’s what writers are for.

Topically, Paul Dini and Stephane Roux’s new Zatanna ongoing is just about to start its run. Roux’s art looks quite Sook-ish and her look might owe something to Seven Soldiers Zatanna, but then again there’s only so much you can do with the whole fishnets and top hat look. She’s based in San Francisco, which wasn’t an element of the present story. Also her recent appearance in the Brave and the Bold #33 looked good, and I might look out for it next time I’m in the comics shop. This readthrough in particular of Zatanna’s mini-series has made me a fan.

I’ll be disappointed if Dini’s run doesn’t acknowledge the events of Seven Soldiers, but not surprised. Dini probably doesn’t want to follow in Grant’s footsteps too closely. We already have evidence of how little service Dini pays to the Morrison-derived notion of Dick-Grayson-as-Batman in his own Batman stories. Also, we have the precedent of Doctor 13 appearing shortly after Zatanna #1 in his own series even though we’d seen him die, so nothing in Seven Soldiers is set in stone going forward.

Still, Morrison’s run did show that Zatanna could star in her own solo series if written well enough. She is the one character of the Seven Soldiers that he changed the least; he used her just as he found her, and left her for subsequent writers to use pretty much intact. It’s not a bad example of how to do this kind of thing in a shared universe.
Figserello said:
Yeah, that scene has a lot of emotional punch alright. It probably gains a lot from being at the end of such a great run with such extremes of emotion leading up to it. It's also the way Morrison keeps the closing action up (almost) at the same level of reality as the reader, as you say. You're right of course that its hard to say why it's so effective. There's something there about the power of these imaginary characters.

My point about it not being as 'real' as me and you at our keyboards, was only to illustrate how the Seven Unknown Men are, like 'Grant Morrison' in Animal Man #26, on a much higher level of 'reality' than Zatanna/The Newsboy Army/I,Spider, but still not as real as you and me.

I've said myself a few times that Morrison doesn't do good endings, but Animal Man's was pitch perfect.

I've thought about those closing scenes a lot (they are so good, and stay with you a long time) and the blasphemous notion occured to me that maybe there was no imaginary childhood friend, and no torchlight signals in the dark. Maybe the cat that died is fictional too. Morrison constructs stories for a living after all. I'd love to think it was all true, and it feels very authentic, but it is such good story that it just might be too good to be true...

If I could ask Morrison one question about his work it would be about these final elements of his Animal Man run. I'd hate to think he made them all up, but its a possibility.

This makes me very cynical, I know.

I take your point about the Tailors. I guess I'm just not ready to assign them a role less "real" than the reader, unless I've missed some clues. They're clearly above the action, operating in a different dimension. But couldn't that dimension be one above our own, as well?

I thought about the possibility of all the "autobiographical" elements in that Animal Man ending being fictional as well. That doesn't make them any less "real" in the context of the story, but it would be interesting to know if they are fictions. Or maybe I'd rather not know. A couple of notions about what that final torchlight signal could mean. It's the power of imagination, Morrison's dreams made real; it's us as readers signaling back to him (we're here, Grant!); it's another dreamer off in the distance answering; it's a random person in the real world simply responding to the signal.
I’ll be disappointed if Dini’s run doesn’t acknowledge the events of Seven Soldiers, but not surprised. Dini probably doesn’t want to follow in Grant’s footsteps too closely. We already have evidence of how little service Dini pays to the Morrison-derived notion of Dick-Grayson-as-Batman in his own Batman stories. Also, we have the precedent of Doctor 13 appearing shortly after Zatanna #1 in his own series even though we’d seen him die, so nothing in Seven Soldiers is set in stone going forward.

Still, Morrison’s run did show that Zatanna could star in her own solo series if written well enough. She is the one character of the Seven Soldiers that he changed the least; he used her just as he found her, and left her for subsequent writers to use pretty much intact. It’s not a bad example of how to do this kind of thing in a shared universe.


I keep forgetting that there was any intention of this series being the start of anything. It seems so odd and self-contained. I observed the same thing about Zatanna, that Morrison liked her just the way she was, unlike the other Soldiers. She was also the one character I was already interested in when the series was originally published, and I remember thinking I might buy a collection of the Zatanna series, since they were supposed to be able to be read independently. But now that I've read most of the series, including all of the Zatanna issues, I completely disagree. None of the individual Z issues was really standalone; the whole storyline depended upon knowledge of the rest of Seven Soldiers to make sense; and the conclusion isn't, ending on a cliffhanger as it does. I would have been very disappointed in a collection that just contained the Zatanna miniseries.
On to Vol. 4...

Frankenstein Part Two: Red Zombies

We're on Mars with Frankenstein, with vintage Gothic horror narration. Then we see Melmoth and his child laborers: turns out this is the Red Zone that was talked about in the Klarion miniseries. Melmoth tells Frankie that it is his blood that gave the monster life: Frankenstein is a Grundy-Man, like the deathless corpses in Limbo Town. Nevertheless, Frankenstein tosses Melmoth to the flesh-eating Martian horses, and leads the children home.

Mister Miracle Part Three: Radio Bedlam


Shiloh has a competitor named Baron Bedlam who is somehow anticipating his escape stunts. Shiloh asks him to open for him at his next big show. Bedlam reveals that he achieves his escapes by transferring his consciousness into replaceable bodies (these were the bodies seen at the end of MM Part Two). Shilo's therapist reveals his involvement, takes the Mother Box, and the Dark Side whispers the Anti-Life Equation. Shilo wanders the streets in despair, until one of the New Gods reminds him of the Life Equation. He returns to rescue his friends, but the Dark Side takes him and beats him to within an inch of his life. At the end of the issue we see him nearly immobilized in a wheelchair. Two New Gods tell him that the Life Trap has him in its grip, and there's only one way out.

Bulleteer Part Three: 21st Century Schizoid Superman


Love the King Crimson reference. One of my favorite brands, and the hardest cover tune I've ever learned. The Bulleteer is working as a bodyguard for a Hollywood starlet at a superhero convention, but Spyder is stalking her, not the starlet. The other members of Greg Saunders' failed group of six superheroes are there: apparently he's the only one who died. The convention offers lots of opportunities to explore the "superhero wannabe" culture that exist in the DCU. The Bulleteer isn't really interested; she just wants to find Sally Sonic, the woman her late husband was having some kind of affair with. Spyder shoots an arrow at the Bulleteer and misses. But he never misses, unless he means to. Saunders confronts him--he's pretty lively for a dead guy. Alix figures out that her new roommate is Sally Sonic. Sally reveals herself, and begins the Bulleteer's first super-fight.

Frankenstein Part Three: The Water

Frankenstein comes to a place called Salvation Valley, where something in the water has caused all the residents to become like zombies. He joins with a black ops unit called S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive), which includes his Bride. They kill the wet form A.I. that was causing the trouble, and take the head of the super-pilot who has been infected. The explanation for the infection is very Invisibles-like: water had been found to take on the characteristics the beaker containing it had been labeled with, and they had tried to turn water into a weapon. Frankenstein declines the offer to join the group, and walks away from the nuclear destruction of the town. Of all the miniseries, the Frankenstein issues are the closest to being self-contained. Each individual issue features a new crisis unrelated to the one before, although there are still ties to the larger Seven Soldiers story.
I take your point about the Tailors. I guess I'm just not ready to assign them a role less "real" than the reader, unless I've missed some clues. They're clearly above the action, operating in a different dimension. But couldn't that dimension be one above our own, as well?

As obtuse as Grant can be sometimes, I'm basing my opinion on the simple fact that I'm real* and the Seven Unknown Men are in a comicbook I'm reading.

The Zatanna mini is the most consistently metatextual. (eg her encounter with the Tempter) Zatanna's magical workings make her most aware of the reality of her world. She doesn't realise she's in a comicbook world, but she's aware of us out here reading and supporting her (by my reading of it...)

Its a question often asked in serious comics circles - Why bother writing mainstream DCU/Marvel/Superhero stories at all?

For most its the chance to work with the great icons, and to add something to the grand narrative. Morrison has done great work with the icons and knows better than anyone that anything you build will be wiped out in the next Crisis (or just with the next writer.) Obviously he has to write superhero DCU stories to keep the fans happy, keep his name up there, and to cover his more experimental work, but it looks like the mechanics of the DCU/superhero stories is the subject of his DCU stories, which is the very definition of meta. (Also it's like his "think about the 'you' who is thinking this thought" lessons in the Invisibles.

I think it is safe to say that his latest body of work in the DCU are stories that depend on the 70 year history of this particular fictional universe, these particular characters and the conventions the DCU relies on. He's not interested in stories for their own sake. Totally original ideas are for Seaguy or Joe the Barbarian. The fact that it is the DCU is one of the main points of any story he does set there. Because of her magical induction, Zatanna is the Soldier who comes closest to realising how the DCU works and what it really is. The 'gods' who most directly affect her particular universe are the writers, bound as they are by their own restrictions. Like the Unknown Men, Morrison and co can't do just 'anything' when deciding their character's adventures.

He's not overt about the Unknown Men/Writer anology, but that's part of his method. I'll certainly give a little thought to the Unknown Men being above my level of reality, and I wouldn't be able to do that if Grant specified exactly who they were. He likes to leave gaps that can be filled any number of ways.

Admittedly, some of my argument is based on how his later DCU work pans out, but there is an argument, which I hope I'm building, that they all form part of one great epic. Just as the minis here form part of a larger story, so too is Seven Soldiers a smaller part of a larger tapestry.

A couple of notions about what that final torchlight signal could mean. It's the power of imagination, Morrison's dreams made real; it's us as readers signaling back to him (we're here, Grant!); it's another dreamer off in the distance answering; it's a random person in the real world simply responding to the signal.

I'm glad that you followed up your point that the closing scene of Animal Man #26 was beyond analysis by analysing it. You make some good points as to its meaning. I hadn't thought that the signal might be from us the readers before. It makes sense. Communication is two way, and especially in the last issue, Grant has communicated a lot of personal stuff to the readers. Not just the autobiographical stuff, but the professional frustrations of trying to say something meaningful through the medium of dumb chin-punching superhero comics in a shared universe.

The mysteries of that ending are of a different type however to some of the narrative puzzles I've been trying to work out to my own satisfaction on these posts. Animal Man #26 does work on a different level than when Morrison relies on anologies with Gnostic philosophy and multi-dimensional maths.

I keep forgetting that there was any intention of this series being the start of anything....But now that I've read most of the series, including all of the Zatanna issues, I completely disagree. None of the individual Z issues was really standalone; the whole storyline depended upon knowledge of the rest of Seven Soldiers to make sense; and the conclusion isn't, ending on a cliffhanger as it does. I would have been very disappointed in a collection that just contained the Zatanna miniseries.

You could write a whole thesis on the -often tenuous - relationship between Morrison's promotional interviews and the actual work produced. The monthly comics format does mean that creators have to sell something that largely doesn't exist yet in the run-up to the first issue coming out. His Batman run was supposed to feature Bruce as a "hairy-chested love-god" and Dan DiDio was apoplectic at how far 52 strayed from the series he'd commisioned. (Which is a selling point in itself, when you think about it!).

In reality, it would be hard to write stand alone minis or single issues that also tied into the larger story unless you could somehow have the words in the balloons have two different meanings depending on either context. It's possible in theory - modern English is full of ambiguity, as Shining Knight discovered - but impossible in practice.

I will say a few things in support of the idea though, as I think the minis and the single issues can be viewed as standalone when viewed in a certain light.

Firstly, the single issues mostly do set up and resolve a conflict or situation in each one. Compare them to the 'writing for the trade' single issues that would have sat on the shelves beside them at the time. It's possible to apply the 'Friends' test to each issue. They could have names like:

"The one where Ystine confronts the Sheeda Mood 7 Mind-destroyer."
"The one where Klarion becomes a member of Melmoth's child-gang"
"The one where the Guardian visits the population theme park"
"The one where Zatanna and Misty encounter a ghost, who takes them to a scene of a massacre"

Admittedly the last one interweaves with other stories, but a case could be made that we're told enough to enjoy this story, albeit you enjoy it more when you know more about some of the story elements.

Which, don't forget, is exactly what the experience of reading superhero comics was like for most of us.

Avengers #165 was the first comic that really hooked me. The Avengers were getting an economy-sized pack of whoop-ass handed to them by Count Nefaria. Even though I knew nothing about: the Whizzer's 1940s origins, his relationship to Wanda and Pietro, the cause of Wonderman's cowardice or his complicated backstory, the reason why the Vision was in a recuperation tank (or even who the hell he was!), or even how the fight had started, or how it ended**, it still knocked me for six, and as I said, I was hooked for life. Finding out all that other stuff over the years obviously added to my understanding of what exactly was going on, and my appreciation of how these long-form stories are built up over whole decades, but its still a great superhero comic of its type.

No-one would argue that Avengers #165 is a standalone comic, but Grant is playing on exactly this kind of interaction that we traditionally have with superhero comics. We fill in the gaps as best we can and continue on with the story. Consider that Seven Soldiers is full of gaps that aren't filled in other issues of the series. As well as Neh-Buh-Loh's backstory in Ultramarine Corps, some of them are in other long-forgotten comics, like Zor's battle with the Spectre, or perhaps the backgound of the Mindgrabber Kid. Others aren't filled in anywhere - Ali Ka Zoom says that his cabinet was used to trap several cops as well as Captain 7. That sounds like quite a story that we will never hear of.

Even once we do know everything that happened in every panel, there is a lot that's fuzzy. We see the Knights of the Broken Table go from their last encounter with the Sheeda, to annihallating their civilaisation with Atom bombs, but there is so much we don't know about them and the ebb and flow of their encounters with the Sheeda. What happened between Captain 7 and Chop Suzy is crucial to the story surely, but there are only a few hints.

So even the Maxi-series isn't a standalone series, but you have to decide where you are happy to circumscribe it.

As well as all those gaps being a commentary on how we used to read comics, Morrison has often said that he makes his comics more like 'real life' by leaving all kinds of gaps of information, which reflects how we all deal with going through each day without knowing the full facts.

Perhaps historically Seven Soldiers will come to be seen as a transitional comics series. On the one hand it shares qualities with the monthly comics which kids read avidly despite not knowing huge swathes of the narrative information. On the other, taken together as 30 books, it is a self-contained story in the Vertigo model. As ever Morrison is playing with these extra-narrative aspects of these contradictory definitions.

As to whether the 7 mini-series are standalone, I'd have to agree with you that they are much more satisfactory as an interlinked epic. They are however standalones in terms of tone, art and thematic content. The looming Sheeda threat is the throughline of the epic, but merely the background to each character's personal arc in each mini. Shining Knight is about Ystine finding a way to integrate her chivalric values with our much diminished world. Zatanna's arc dealing with her guilt and parental issues is tied up with a bow by the end of issue 4. Klarion's novel-like tale is complete when we find out everything about the strange village he was born into.

If you complain that each mini ends with '...to be continued', well, this is the DCU. It's elaborated on in Final Crisis, in one fantastic scene, in particular, but there are no endings in the ongoing marketing strategy that is the DCU.

The personal arcs in Bulleteer, Frankenstein and Mister Miracle are problematic in different ways, and I'd love to hear your opinion on them when we get there.

None of the above verbage negates your point that its meant to be read as a complete self-contained epic, but there are indicators in the comics and outside them that Grant is playing around with and commenting on our expectations, and unspoken assumptions, of how superhero comics work.

I did decide that it might be fun to take Morrison at his word for once (never a good approach with writers) and see where it led me to look at each #1 as an origin ending in a cliff-hanger, to look at each issue as a self-contained adventure (we've got a contradiction already!) and to see if the mini could work as a springboard for an ongoing series. Given that you are doing a great job of reading the series as an entertainingly diverse epic, I thought it would give us another way of looking at the project. It's made some things jump out at me that otherwise wouldn't have.

Given that everything done in the DCU is grist to some later writer's mill, these characters having a life beyond this series is worth thinking about. Thinking about how they'd typically be used does throw light on aspects of Morrison's technique and approach that differ to his colleagues, which is one roundabout way of critically appraising these comics. It's hard to think of another writer who could match the deep reading and poetic language that he diplays in Shining Knight, for example, or the way he uses 70 years worth of backstory to tell an original Zatanna story which has such meaning and depth.

*At least I think I am...

**It would take ten years and the appearance of Direct Market comicshops before I got the issues either side of this story.
Seven Soldiers actually made the NY Times while it was being published.

Here's an article on Grant's "Cinderella City", the alternative New York, that exists in the DCU.
Frankenstein #1-4

“If men called Sheeda come this way, if dark Melmoth shows his hand again, tell them they have, in their folly awakened my vengeance. Tell them I will find them and make hammers fall upon them like rain. Tell them, Frankenstein lives!” – Our Frank

The Origin – The quote above, from the end of issue 1 tells us everything we need to know about Frankenstein’s personality and motivation. He exists to bring punishment to evil-doers, especially the Sheeda and Melmoth.

I’ve said that each of the remaining 3 Soldiers are problematic in different ways. His mini-series is problematic insofar as he is basically a wonderfully simple personality. He doesn’t really change or grow in his arc. He has no doubts about his mission and performs it with fantastic cold efficiency. I love Frankenstein!

Perhaps the lack of complexity comes down to the fact that he is dead. Nothing like being alive to afflict one with doubts, contradictions and self-deceptions.

He does have depths, and his own cold passion, but they don’t get in the way of his mission at all. One of the advantages of such a simple hero is that we know where we stand with him, and the writer can get on with presenting a succession of imaginative, fully realised locations and adventures. We don’t have to waste time on how Frankenstein is feeling or reacting to his environment. (He’s very like Conan, actually, even down to his dependence on violence as a first, middle and last resort!)

Even the first adventure, set in a small American town is able to spend so much time with the background characters because, Frankenstein, when he appears again, uses just one page of the 6 he appears in to end the threat.

Like the original monster from Shelley’s novel, this one is very familiar with Milton’s Paradise Lost, and even quotes from it.

The girl zapping him with the self-defence thingy was a nice illustration of how the world has changed from the early 1800’s and an update of the iconic lightning conductors in the old 30s movies.

It’s worth asking if Grant isn’t being too sore on ‘the youth of today’ here. Are they all really so shallow? There are the two unaffected (in both senses of the word) kids, but everyone else is a teenage cliché. Also the depiction of the spotty, overweight people who frequent the ‘Butterfly and Games’ fantasy shop is a bit close to home!!!

Does the sword Frankenstein acquire in the Fantasy shop have any significance? If it's just a replica sword from a fantasy shop, like those Lord of The Ring swords you can buy, I’d fancy they're not much use for actual hacking and slashing of really tough ground-in evil-doers!


The Mini-series – There’s probably a whole body of pulp literature where the prose is like we see in the narration of issue 2. The main author that I have read whose work reads like this is Clarke Ashton Smith, most of whose work is set on weird time-lost worlds. Decadence and decay suffuse everything, and some of his stories are even populated entirely by the undead.

I think the many ‘purple prose’ passages in Seven Soldiers is Grant bucking against the prevailing trends of the day. Verbose, tone-setting narrative is one of things that comic-books can do that movies generally can’t. By limiting their bag of tricks to devices only available to movie-scripters, modern comics writers are ignoring a whole range of tools at their disposal.

You can see a few visual references to Jonn Jonnz' long-gone Martian civilisation before Frankenstein reaches the deeper caves of ‘Aboriginal Mars’.

There are some mysteries in issue 2. Melmoth says that he heard of Slaughter Swamp and “found the cauldron of rebirth there, giving life to a village of corpses”. This would seem to be a reference to Limbo Town, but when was the Cauldron there? Did it fall there during Ystine’s battle on Castle Revolving and Vincenzo found it on a return trip to Slaughter Swamp? How does this fit in with Melmoth’s impregnating the Puritan women back in colonial times?

Melmoth is associated with Satan many times in Seven Soldiers. We see him burning as he leaves Limbo Town in Klarion, for instance. Yet here, he seems to be working on some plan to foil Gloriana’s invasion and save mankind. Not that Frankenstein will spare him.

Like Klarion, Frankenstein owes his very existence to this ‘devil’. That the devil might be working to some higher plan is another Gnostic idea.

Like Swamp Thing, Frankenstein’s impassive demeanour does conceal deep feeling and pathos. In some ways perhaps getting his free will back when Billy Beezer stops Melmoth using the hex sign on him is a burden to him.

You… you were made for me”. These very simple words to the Bride in issue 3 also conceal a lot of deep feeling, but Frankenstein is too dignified to resort to hysterics. It’s hard not to feel for the big guy, though.

Masaru Emoto’s experiments with water are from our real world btw.

In regard to the Sheeda threat, our Frank seems to be the guy that gets things done. He’s already stopped them breeding spine-riders in Sunnydale, and in issue 4 he seems to hasten Neh-Buh-Loh’s death before going to Summer’s End to banjax the entire invasion fleet!

Gotta love Frankenstein. (And Doug Mahnke too. What great art.)

What did you think of the callback to The Ultramarines here, Mark?

An Ongoing series - Frankenstein and the Bride look like good break-out possibilities. They are quite original and as you say very unlike anything DC has been producing for years, albeit with shades of great 70’s Marvel horror, like Tomb of Dracula.

The fact that Frankenstein is so psychologically simple, means that he can be introduced into any fantasy set-up, the wilder the better, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time with him deciding what to do. This leaves more space for exploring wildly fantastical concepts.

His simplicity is deceptive though, and it would take a good writer to recreate his penchant for perfectly judged Milton quotes, and the very direct poetry of his own utterances; “Let that be your epitaph, then!”

His relationship with the Bride has a lot of legs (like she has a lot of arms). She obviously thinks a lot of him – “You’re hard to forget”, and his feelings run deep, but obviously they are one of those couples that are only almost perfectly matched.

S.H.A.D.E looks like a great organisation. Like S.H.I.E.L.D., but with a weird remit. I think it has been used a few times since this series was published, with Father Time depicted as a white guy for a while, if memory serves. So much for respecting the source material!

Frankenstein also had a cameo in Final Crisis, but it’d be a real waste if we didn’t see more of him in the years ahead. He seems to have way more stories in him than we see in this mini-series.
In some ways Seven Soldiers of Victory may have been more suited to monthly (or whatever) releases than as a collection of 4 books. Certainly each issue stands up to a lot of analysis and its worth tying each to various threads running through the issues published before it.

There's not just a few themes, but loads of them seething under the surface and breaking through here and there.

The fairytale imagery - Snow White is referenced a lot.
The parent-child ruminations - Zatanna is most explicit in this, but Melmoth is the 'Dark father' to Misty, Frankenstein and Klarion. Bulleteer is a descendant of note.
The illusion/reality themes - each black flower is a secret buried in slaughter swamp. Limbo-Town's whole religion and belief system is a sham.
Micro-versions of larger stories - The issues that seem to stand alone illustrate the larger themes. Century Hollow is about a man and wife that bring chaos to a whole world (Glorianna/Melmoth). The Government's experiments with water, end with it revolting against its slave role - as Frankenstein and many of the Soldiers do.
Slavery/Freedom is a big theme, as is predetermined prophecy and free will.

Those are only examples. Then when you think about how all those themes and motifs all interract with each other, you get something endlessly complex. Ultimately, too complex to ever tie down definitively. I think you'd get different meanings out of it each time you read it.

At the moment I'm very aware of how the industry is limiting itself in so many ways, especially with the superhero universes, so I am seeing a lot of that, and its probably stopping me seeing other meanings that were put there just as deliberately.

This is a link showing how much and varied commentary is out there (perhaps only the tip of the iceberg), but I don't think they are definitive. There's probably even more meanings and connections in the series if you know what to look for.

I don't know what my point is. Maybe that its a series that you can keep coming back to.

It definitely rewards close reading, but by the same token it might have been very off-putting as a monthly series. Without making the effort over its long publishing schedule to tease out the connections, it would indeed be the meaningless gibberish that Morrison's detracters accuse it of being.

But like Invisibles before it, it is now a series of TPBs and will have to stand or fall as that.

I also think the final issue (Issue #1 - Hah!) has coloured a lot of people's opinion of the work overall. If you've read it you'll know what I mean! It doesn't quite do justice to the build-up, for many people, and "its the last reel of the movie that people judge it on."

So as we reach the end of the series, I was wondering what any other readers thought of it? Where does it stand in Morrison's work? Or as a part of the DCU's larger grand narrative?

Jupitor Jeff? Alan M?

I also think its a pity that Morrison's experimentalism and often non-linear style scares off very long-time superhero fans, as so much of this series, in particular, is just for them. Erdel Gates, Wild West Mystery Men and Silver Age 'Also-rans' in therapy are lost on the rest of us, but would be really appreciated by them. Not to mention the sub-text of their childhood universe being tampered with and soured by a dark revisionist agenda.

Also, just before you reach the end of Mister Miracle, Mark, I'd love to know how you think it relates to the rest of the series. On this readthrough, I found it very hard to relate it at all, on the level of incident and plot. Most of it seems to be experienced by Shilo beyond time and space in the heart of the black hole.

Perhaps it has links on the thematic level?
I've actually finished the final volume, but I thought I'd respond to some points first.

I will say a few things in support of the idea though, as I think the minis and the single issues can be viewed as standalone when viewed in a certain light.

Firstly, the single issues mostly do set up and resolve a conflict or situation in each one. Compare them to the 'writing for the trade' single issues that would have sat on the shelves beside them at the time. It's possible to apply the 'Friends' test to each issue. They could have names like:

"The one where Ystine confronts the Sheeda Mood 7 Mind-destroyer."
"The one where Klarion becomes a member of Melmoth's child-gang"
"The one where the Guardian visits the population theme park"
"The one where Zatanna and Misty encounter a ghost, who takes them to a scene of a massacre"

Admittedly the last one interweaves with other stories, but a case could be made that we're told enough to enjoy this story, albeit you enjoy it more when you know more about some of the story elements.


I see your point. Viewed from a DCU perspective these issues are indeed relatively self-contained, and I suppose that's the perspective Morrison was starting from. From a Vertigo perspective, though, they're nothing like self-contained. Take Peter Milligan's Enigma, for example. The individual issues don't stand alone, but the miniseries does: you read those 8 issues and you've got the entire story. The first Death mini (Death: The High Cost of Living) barely refers to the Sandman series at all, so it's virtually self-contained. But the second (Death: The Time of Your Life) features characters you would have to know from The Sandman for it to be fully meaningful. SSOV requires even more context than that. Even if you don't know any of the DCU lore it references, none of the individual miniseries are truly independent of the others.

What did you think of the callback to The Ultramarines here, Mark?


I was waiting for some direct Ultramarines references, so I was tickled when this finally popped up. Back at the Ultramarines discussion I think it was Jeff who said that JLA: Ultramarines should be read either just before or just after SSOV (despite the fact that it was published first). I'd say that SSOV has illuminated what I read earlier in the Ultramarines story more than vice-versa. This callback was an exception to that rule, though. The reference certainly illustrates what elaborate planning Morrison puts in to these stories. Whatever else they are, they're not simple, and he's not just making it up as he goes along.
Here's my final summaries, and a first shot at a wrap-up.

Mister Miracle Part Four: Forever Flavored Man


Flashes back and forth between Shiloh's childhood and scenes from his possible lives, which he experiences while trapped in the Omega Sanction. He convinces Omega to escape with him, and reemerges from the artificial black hole a week after his first escape.

Bulleteer Part Four: Bad Girls


Shows Sally Sonic's long life of abuse, interspersed with her brutal fight with Alix. Alix concludes that Sally is insane, and finally gets the upper hand. Saunders (The Vigilante) appears to her and tells her she's the seventh soldier, the key to victory. Alix quits, saying the world can save itself, and vows to get Sally to a hospital.

Frankenstein Part Four: Frankenstein in Fairlyland


Franky faces Neh-Buh-Loh, who initially appears to be winning. But the Ultramarine Corps invasion of him while in his larval/baby form as Qwewq the Infant Universe has taken effect, and Franky finishes the job. He is sent to Miracle Mesa to intercept the Castle Revolving. He takes control of the ship one billion years into the future, and pilots it to judgement.

Seven Soldiers of Victory Part One: The Miser's Coat


Lovely detailed summary in Wikipedia:

After undergoing various trials and tribulations in their own miniseries, the soldiers eventually take part in the climactic battle against the Queen of the Sheeda in New York, each affecting different parts of the battle without having any idea of the larger picture.

The climactic sequence is initiated by Zatanna casting a spell: "Seven Soldiers Strike!" This is the final push the universe required to move the soldiers into position.

After travelling into the future kingdom where the Sheeda live, Frankenstein takes Castle Revolving, the Queen's time-travelling floating kingdom, to present-day New York so that the Queen can be brought to justice by the paranormal special ops group S.H.A.D.E.. Once Castle Revolving arrives, the Shining Knight - who had chased the queen to the future - successfully attacks the Queen, severely injuring her and leaving her open to an attack by supporting character I, Spyder, who shoots an arrow into her and knocks her down to the New York streets below.

There, Guardian has rounded up thousands of New Yorkers into a militia that is successfully fighting off the Sheeda invasion. At approximately the same time, Bulleteer comes tearing down the street in her car, hoping to take her critically ill arch-nemesis, Sally Sonic, to a hospital. Sally, utterly insane, attacks Bulleteer, who loses control of her vehicle and crashes into the Queen. Guardian arrives on the scene, but Bulleteer is the only survivor.

Prior to all of this, Klarion, who had drilled up into New York from hidden caves beneath the city, had stolen a magic die from Misty, Zatanna's sidekick. Together with his own die, the two dice comprise Fatherbox, one of the lost treasures of the ancient superhero Aurakles. Klarion had then travelled up to Castle Revolving. With the Sheeda Queen dead, Klarion uses a binding spell on Frankenstein, forcing him to pilot the ship back into the future where Klarion becomes the new King of the Sheeda. Thus, Klarion becomes the "traitor" that was prophesied.

Finally, Mister Miracle confronts Darkseid in his club. There, Darkseid explains that he gave Earth to the Sheeda in return for them giving him Aurakles, the primordial superhero. Mister Miracle offers himself in exchange for Aurakles' freedom and Darkseid accepts. However, once Aurakles is freed and Mister Miracle is shackled, Darkseid shoots him through the head - thus making him the soldier that was prophesied to die. Miracle is later seen emerging alive from his own grave, "escaping death".


The resolution of any question about the Time Tailors appears in the first few pages, as one of the Tailors sports a DC Comics logo tie-tac. He knocks on the window of the fourth wall, addressing the readers directly. And he looks a lot like Grant Morrison, as I noted in the beginning. So you were right, Figs. I just needed proof!
I have to admit I haven't reread #1 yet. Still cogitating and ruminating on the minis. From a glance at your summary, it looks like Mister Miracle is tied into the series there more than anywhere.

Been reading some annotations, and it seems that the Shining Knight is there on Miracle Mesa when Frankenstein hitches a lift to the future. She's standing behind a helicopter wheel. How did I miss that?
I've been reading up on Barbelith's threads on the Seven Soldiers. A huge one for the overview of the series and a big one each for the minis.

Lots of fun stuff there but Morrison's work has such built in complexity, that, like our own world, whoever looks at it sees something different in it depending on where they are coming from.

Anyway. One passage in particular I thought had a lot of merit as to what is happening in Seven Soldiers in terms of why this particular group of individuals become involved and why they are so different to each other and to mainstream superheroes.

Miss Wonderstar take it away:

" 'Helligan pointing out that [Bulleteer] should have been there at Miracle Mesa, that she should be more integrated into the story but she ran off in the other direction. I think that's actually important to the story, because her absence continues to make her a threat to the Sheeda - they're used to fighting Seven Soldiers who stand together, united in purpose. Disparate threads who don't even necessarily want to be involved, ofen nowhere near each other - that's a new tactic for them.'

Yeah, I hope that becomes meaningful in the conclusion, because it would make a lot of sense and justify a great deal about the failure to integrate and overlap... the fact is (according to this theory) that the Sheeda would have wiped out your conventional hero crossover, where they all meet up, gather their forces, visit each other's cities, appear on each other's front covers, put in guest cameos and pose for group-shot splash-pages.

The Sheeda (again, if it works the neat way you're saying) will lose because this is a departure from conventional superhero mega-narratives. It's not playing to rules they recognise. It's not a team they recognise. Because these guys aren't even in a genre they recognise (?) -- they're not superheroes, they're a monster, a page-girl, a subterranean teen, a cop, a hip-hop celeb, a second-string magician, a wannabe who doesn't wannabe any more. Mostly they're oblivious to the Sheeda threat until the last page, or even beyond the last page. They have their own problems. They're from gothic horror, gossip mags, journalism, counterculture magick, time-travel legend, fairy-tale -- not mainstream superhero comics.

Maybe the Sheeda are vulnerable to them because they're not a team, they're not a narrative, they're not costumed and caped wonders. They're not the known enemy. They're not readable. They're not coherent.

So... and yes, I hope this is true, because it's the only great way out that I can see right now... the seven soldiers will win because of what seem to be the "flaws" in the series, which are in fact their one hope and unique strength. Their gaps, their lack of linearity, their hybridity, their lack of integration.

Which suggests that the Sheeda are traditional "readers" of culture and history, used to simple, straightforward generic codes and conventions, and linear, traditional-realist narratives. I wonder if that holds any weight."


The argument is a little bit meta, because the whole thing depends on the Sheeda only being able to understand superhero narratives. There's lots of little hints that the Sheeda are like the current superhero comics market/industry, unable to create anything new, and resorting to the wholesale ransacking of previous golden-ages to keep going, leaving those ages despoiled in their wake, a la Meltzer.

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