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#601966 - 03/25/13 02:57 PM Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.!
Lawson Offline
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Registered: 11/11/02
Posts: 11978
Loc: Lexington, Ky.
Earlier this year, DC Comics employee Grant Morrison bitterly complained that people say his career is due, in large part, to Alan Moore's trailblazing success at DC during the 1980s.

Stop lying all you lying liars, Morrison cried. Alan Moore had nothin' to do with nothin'!


I’ve grown tired of the widely-accepted, continually-reinforced belief that Moore’s work either predated my own or that he inspired or encouraged me to enter the comics field when it’s hardly a chore to fact-check the relevant publication dates.

So I’ll repeat until maybe one day it sticks: I was already a professional writer/artist in the late ’70s, doing work-for-hire at DC Thomson alongside “creator-owned” sci-fi and superhero comics. This was at the same time as people like Bryan Talbot, Peter Milligan, Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins, making us some of the earliest exemplars of the British new wave.

If Alan Moore had never come along, if he’d given up halfway through his ground-breaking turn on “St. Pancras Panda,” we would all still have written and drawn our comics. We published our own fanzines and small press outlets were popping up everywhere. “2000 AD” was at a peak. Marvel UK was in a period of expansion and innovation. I’d already submitted art and story samples several times to both DC and Marvel, along with a pitch for a crossover entitled “Second Coming” to DC’s New Talent Programme in 1982. I was on the files and I didn’t stop angling for work.

DC would have found all of us, with or without Alan Moore, who seems curiously unable or unwilling to acknowledge that he was part of a spontaneous movement, not its driving force or sole font of creativity.

Doing my own approximation of the “in” style to get gigs on Marvel UK books was, I thought, a demonstration of my range, versatility and adaptability to trends, not the declaration of some singular influence it has subsequently been distorted into over four decades – mostly by Alan Moore and his supporters, in what can sometimes feel like a never-ending campaign to undermine my personal achievements and successes and to cast me, at all times, in a subsidiary role to the Master.

And I do know that Alan Moore has read a lot more of my work than he pretends to – one of his former collaborators quite innocently revealed as much to me a few years ago, confirming my own suspicions – but until Moore himself comes clean about it that will have to remain in the realm of hearsay.



Harrumph. Very well.

But last weekend, I was rereading an old ANIMAL MAN trade paperback from 1991, collecting the start of Morrison's run on that title at the close of the 1980s.

In his introduction to the book, Morrison wrote this about his arrival in American comics generally and at DC Comics in particular:


In 1987, at the height of the critical acclaim for Alan Moore's work on SWAMP THING and WATCHMEN, DC Comics dispatched a band of troubleshooters on what is quaintly termed a 'headhunting mission' to the United Kingdom. The brief was to turn up stones and see if there weren't more cranky Brit authors who might be able to work wonders with some of the dusty old characters languishing in DC's back catalogue.

As one of those who received the call that year, I had no idea who I might dig up and revamp. ...



So.

Somewhere between 1991 and 2013, Grant Morrison became embarrassed to admit that he owed a lot to Alan Moore.

And if his introduction to the ANIMAL MAN trade hadn't spelled that out, the stories contained therein made it pretty clear, anyway. It was a decent enough run, but most of the better material was lifted from Moore. For example, "The Coyote Gospel," Morrison's poignant tribute to cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, closely resembled in tone, approach and content the classic "Pog" issue of Moore's SWAMP THING, which was a poignant tribute to cartoon character Pogo the possum.

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#601967 - 03/26/13 09:44 AM Re: Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.! [Re: Lawson]
Ceci n'est pas une chaussette Offline
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Registered: 12/19/05
Posts: 2840
I don't know if that's terribly fair. I can understand giving an influence/trailblazer his due credit, and then still being a little annoyed if everyone spends the next thirty years going, "hey, so you pretty much owe everything to that guy, huh?"

Morrison's best comics (in my mind: Doom Patrol, JLA, Zenith*, and chunks of Invisibles) bear very little resemblance to anything Alan Moore's done.** I'm sure Moore was influence on some of his comics; I don't know if you could write comics after Moore and not be influenced by him to some degree. But yeah, I think it's fair for him to be annoyed if someone says, "lookie here at the li'l Alan!"

Geoff Johns on the other hand, never met a three-page Alan Moore backup story he couldn't turn into a company-wide crossover event.

---
*Which is not to say Morrison's best comics don't owe a massive debt to other, sometimes litigious authors.

**I'll also take a little issue with the idea that "The Coyote Gospel" is lifted from "Pog." Each issue sets up one of the dominant themes of its series. In the case of Animal Man: the ugly thrill people get from the suffering of fictional characters. And for Swamp Thing: a kind of hamfisted 80s comics environmental message. "Don't hunt alligators, kids! Animals have wisdom!"

I love Moore's run on Swamp Thing, but "The Coyote Gospel"'s got a lot more going on than "Pog."
_________________________
"When one says 'Africa,' it refers to Africa in the Euro-colonized sense, not the damn bush country or whatever."
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#601968 - 03/26/13 10:29 AM Re: Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.! [Re: Ceci n'est pas une chaussette]
Lawson Offline
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Registered: 11/11/02
Posts: 11978
Loc: Lexington, Ky.
I agree that Grant Morrison went in his own direction with his writing -- sometimes producing good stories, sometimes cranking out crap. He needs a smart, strong editor to separate the wheat from the chaff. Also, he has a hard time with his endings.

But the question here was, how did Morrison come to the attention of DC Comics and get his foot in America's door?

Not knocking 2000 A.D., but that's not the sort of assignment that lets you make a ton of money and establish your own conventions in Las Vegas. Superman, Batman, the X-Men -- that's where the payoff is.

In 1991, Morrison was open about the fact that DC recruited him and some other Brits to recreate what Alan Moore had just done for the company.

In 2013, though, Morrison says his work predates Moore, he was in the U.K.-to-U.S. corporate pipeline already when SWAMP THING and WATCHMEN were published, and he was going to be a star regardless of whether Moore ever tread the earth.

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#601969 - 03/26/13 11:07 AM Re: Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.! [Re: Lawson]
Ceci n'est pas une chaussette Offline
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Registered: 12/19/05
Posts: 2840
Think of it like pop music: nobody wouldn't give credit to the Beatles for the British invasion. That doesn't mean, if the Beatles never existed, that Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend would have gotten jobs as chartered accountants.

Morrison's absolutely right that Alan Moore was part of a wave of talent coming out of Britain at the time. He was the top of the wave; he was the Beatles of that particular invasion. And I doubt Morrison would deny that. If Moore never wrote comics, that wave would have kept going. It might not have taken the exact form it did; some guys might have written different comics, and sure, some guys might not have gone as high as they did. But the wave still would have happened.

Quote:
Also, he has a hard time with his endings.


By and large, I agree with you. But I do think his last issue of Doom Patrol would be on my personal list of top five superhero comics ever published.

Originally Posted By: Lawson
Not knocking 2000 A.D., but that's not the sort of assignment that lets you make a ton of money and establish your own conventions in Las Vegas. Superman, Batman, the X-Men -- that's where the payoff is.


Okay, let's be real. Morrison's superstar years kicked off in 1997, with JLA #1. Six months before that, he was writing letter column essays begging readers to tell friends about the Invisibles so it wouldn't be cancelled.

Yeah, DC's headhunting mission got him the job on Animal Man. That leaves a ten year gap before he started getting those big money Superman/Batman/X-Men jobs. Did Moore's success help? Sure! Was that the sum total of his success? Seriously no.
_________________________
"When one says 'Africa,' it refers to Africa in the Euro-colonized sense, not the damn bush country or whatever."
- Ed Gauthier, DCP

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#601970 - 03/26/13 11:21 AM Re: Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.! [Re: Ceci n'est pas une chaussette]
Lawson Offline
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Registered: 11/11/02
Posts: 11978
Loc: Lexington, Ky.
Originally Posted By: Ceci n'est pas une chaussette
That doesn't mean, if the Beatles never existed, that Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend would have gotten jobs as chartered accountants.


Good thing, too. I imagine that Mick Jagger or Keith Richards preparing your income taxes would mean you'd be going to prison for a stretch.

Yeah, Ceci, you make fair points all around.

'Tis true that Morrison was an overnight success after years of low-visibility projects at DC. (Though I would argue that his 1989 ARKHAM ASYLUM graphic novel, painted by Dave McKean, initially put him on the map. Batman + big-ticket project.)

It's possible that you touched on the most relevant point in your first post -- that after a quarter-century at DC, Morrison has gotten extremely sensitive to the Alan Moore comparisons, whereas in 1991, it was probably more flattering than anything.

Also, it sounds like Moore has made some dismissive comments about Morrison that, frankly, hurt his feelings. I dunno any of that back story, though.

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#601971 - 03/26/13 11:30 AM Re: Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.! [Re: Lawson]
Lawson Offline
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Registered: 11/11/02
Posts: 11978
Loc: Lexington, Ky.
Huh.

Here's Alan Moore on Grant Morrison. This may explain why Morrison no longer relishes the comparison.


The reason I haven’t spoken about Grant Morrison generally is because I’m not very interested in him, and I don’t really want to get involved with a writer of his caliber in some sort of squabble.

But, for the record, since you asked: the first time I met him, he was an aspiring comics writer from Glasgow, I was up there doing a signing or something. They asked if I could perhaps – if they could invite a local comics writer who was a big admirer of mine along to the dinner.

So I said yeah. This was I think the only time that I met him to speak to. He said how much he admired my work, how it had inspired him to want to be a comics writer. And I wished him the best of luck, I told him I’d look out for his work.

When I saw that work in 2000 AD I thought ‘Well, this seems as if it’s a bit of a cross between Captain Britain and Marvelman, but that’s probably something that he’ll grow out of.’ It was on that basis that I recommended him to Karen Berger when she was starting Vertigo.

Then there started a kind of, a strange campaign of things in fanzines where he was expressing his opinions of me, as you put it. He later explained this as saying that when he started writing, he felt that he wasn’t famous enough, and that a good way of becoming famous would be to say nasty things about me. Which I suppose is a tactic – although not one that, of course, I’m likely to appreciate.

So at that point I decided, after I’d seen a couple of his things and they seemed incredibly derivative, I just decided to stop bothering reading his work. And that’s largely sort of proven successful.

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#601972 - 03/26/13 11:39 AM Re: Grant Morrison: Stop calling me Alan Moore Jr.! [Re: Lawson]
Ceci n'est pas une chaussette Offline
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Registered: 12/19/05
Posts: 2840
Originally Posted By: Lawson
Though I would argue that his 1989 ARKHAM ASYLUM graphic novel, painted by Dave McKean, initially put him on the map. Batman + big-ticket project.


That's fair. Although rereading it as an adult (I was 11 when it came out; I probably read it for the first time around 15), McKean's contribution to that comic is way more impressive than Morrison's.

Quote:
Here's Alan Moore on Grant Morrison. This may explain why Morrison no longer relishes the comparison.


Oof. F'ing burn, Alan.
_________________________
"When one says 'Africa,' it refers to Africa in the Euro-colonized sense, not the damn bush country or whatever."
- Ed Gauthier, DCP

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