Okay, so let's take your ambitions for superheroes. You once
said that Superman should be selling a million, and given
the opportunity that's where you'd take it. Is that goal still
achievable, given that Marvel's best-seller -- X-Men, subject
of one blockbuster and an upcoming sequel, has struggled with
sales of late?
Waiting For Tommy XXIII
Interview with Grant Morrison
I don't think comic books are in trouble but I'm no longer
convinced that we can raise sales appreciably on these items.
I think they're clearly becoming a niche market, like poetry,
but with more hand-to-hand combat. The glossy, overly-expensive,
hand-drawn periodicals we're now used to are such luxury aesthetic
items that it's unlikely they will ever sell in quantity again.
If they could be made much cheaper or else packaged as 200
page shinies, it might help, but compared to a game, a lad's
mag, a CD or a DVD, a typical comic book is just too damn
expensive and esoteric for most non-specialist consumers.
think comics will survive and thrive and that the work will
be of a much higher and purer standard, so it's not all gloom
and doom - it's unlikely that many young people will want
to pursue this as a career when other options are open, but
it will always be an outlet for maverick and anti-authoritarian
talents who want to see their work published almost unedited.
should be selling a million, yes. In fact, the comic should
be selling lots more than a million - perhaps a million six
hundred thousand two hundred and fifteen or thereabouts. The
Superman symbol - like the Mickey Mouse head and the Coca
Cola logo - is one of the single most familiar and instantly
recognisable brand logos on the planet, but there does seem
to be an inexplicable unwillingness to exploit the obvious
potential. Comics have yet to find a zealot willing to market
today's very different product to new demographic areas. I
have to drop the blame squarely into the empty coffers of
the promotional departments at the major companies. Unfortunately,
I only have time to write the stories and have no real control
over imaginative marketing and promotion. If I did, Superman
WOULD sell millions.
Well then, is there any truth to the rumour that Superman
is indeed where you're headed shortly? And is that only because
DC refused to publish LeSexy?
I just completed New X Men #152 so I'm not 'headed' anywhere
at the moment. Your sources are shite, Johnston.
They usually are. Most people don't notice.
I'm so far in advance on my X-deadlines (152 won't be published
until summer 2004) that I can now take a break to travel,
start some new projects and focus on the movie work.
I love Superman and have a lot of ideas about what I'd do,
but my priority at the moment is to create some new material
and continue to explore new media. I'd also like to help all
the starving children of the world by sending them to live
on the moon. Lifespan is short but the view's unbeatable...
DC didn't to publish LeSexy because Karen Berger felt it was
a bit dark and parochial for her tastes. British comedy, unlike
the American variant, tends to focus on self-important losers
(Basil Fawlty, Captain Mainwaring, Rigsby, Alan Partridge,
etc.) and when I tried to create a British sitcomic for an
American publisher, it didn't stick. If I choose to do any
work on Superman it'll be because I have a good story, not
because Eddie LeSexy wasn't upbeat enough to appear as MAY
on the Vertigo calendar.
wants to do a British humour comic aimed at the Brass Eye/Big
Train/League of Gentlemen/The Office audience...I have the
perfect story. In the end, I may adapt the scripts for TV
and try again there. It started out as a TV idea.
I'd buy that. No seriously. Anyone got some venture capital
out there? Jamie Boardman, you're at Rebellion now, if you're
reading this, pass that idea upstairs. Who knows, might help
smooth over things with Grant. Okay, more on that later. Returning
to an earlier point, trying to rephrase it to make myself
sound more clever than I clearly am, you've stated that your
current fascination with superheroes is, in part, based around
what we will soon be able to do with our own bodies, augmentation
to superheroic levels. Just how much is this post-rationalised
justification and equivocation for taking advantage of the
opportunity to create easier works that pay a stack of cash
and open doors, but don't pack the literary punch of, say,
Mystery Play or The New Adventures Of Hitler?
None of it. I've been writing superhero stories which deal
with politics, culture and human evolution since the days
of Zenith and before. This is hardly bandwagon jumping.
the cash vs. culture argument, to be honest, it's not really
any easier to write X-Men than it is to write something like
Mystery Play. The X-Men is as 'deep' intellectually, mythically
and symbolically as Mystery Play or any of the other works,
if not more so. In fact, X-Men is definitely more allegorical
and hermetic than Mystery Play - X-Men tells a surface story,
then a secondary story about change and mutation, then a third
symbolic story about the current world political situation,
on top of a fourth symbolic strand about personalities and
issues in the current comics scene and a fifth symbolic level
of magic and intent where the White Queen, Jean Grey and Scott
Summers are the figures on the Tarot card 'The Lovers' but
MOVING in a drama instead of static as an image...and so on,
past all this stuff I deliberately put in there and out to
the equally valid interpretations and correspondences readers
are able to bring to the stories.
mainstream comics doesn't pay a stack of easy cash - let's
get that out the way as a possible motivation for writing
comics. If you have a good imagination and can write tons
of them (which will take up most of the hours in your day)
you can make a very comfy living but the page rates don't
really match inflation and the royalties haven't been particularly
impressive since the early '90s. The days of immense Madonna-style
salaries are gone unless you're Frank Miller perhaps and even
then I'm not so sure about all the rumours. Most of the creators
left in the business right now are doing it because they love
the form, they like the applause, and it pays well enough
to support the wife and weans.
more actual cash on books like Mystery Play or Kill Your Boyfriend,
which still bring in regular royalty checks and option inquiries,
so the 'literary' works you refer to are the real cash cows
in the end. Working with company characters tends to be a
labor of love with no great reward at sunset when the new
guy is shunted into place to goose sales up notch or two.
'literary' stuff all the time - in fact I'm one of the few
mainstream comics creators who does so on a regular basis.
Doing company franchise stories has never got in the way of
creating my own properties and I do the franchise stuff because
I genuinely love the free play my imagination has in those
little ongoing, living continuities. I love the huge symbolic
dramas I can create using primal figures like Wonder Woman
and the Hulk. To me, there is absolutely no question that
these worlds and these characters demand my full intelligence,
skill and attention as a writer.