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Waiting For Tommy XXIII
Interview with Grant Morrison
RICHARD: Okay then, The Filth, The Invisibles, Doom Patrol. stripped away of the glossy covers, these appear to be very traditional superhero, spy and sci-fi action stories. Reality, authority, society, a sense of identity, belonging, rebellion, questioning what is, accepting what isn't - these are all themes of your work. Why then, when you address these themes in comics, must they be accompanied by a concerto of choreographed kicks and explosions?

GRANT: Nevertheless, the reason these themes are accompanied by violent spectacle - sometimes - is because that's the traditional nature of mainstream comic books, your alleged area of interest. Would you waste your time in an interview with Elmore Leonard by asking him why he explores his themes to a concerto of stab wounds and path reports? Why does Philip K. Dick dress his themes in sci-fi drag?

RICHARD: Ah probably. It's just that you don't always.

GRANT: I just do the work that feels right at the time - most of it has some element of the 'fantastic' because that's how the real world seems to me - filled with the bizarre, the inexplicable and the downright f***ing ridiculous, so to do 'realism' in the strict black-and-white, kitchen-sink sense of the term would be, for me, to deny the facts of life and living. The real world is a lot more like David Lynch than it's like Coronation Street (why has no-one ever see a ghost in Corrie? Or been visited by talking animals and en in Black like ordinary everyday people I know?). I like to use the images and colours of old comic books in the way Dennis Potter used old songs - to add poignancy, to evoke the lost nostalgia of innocent days etc etc. The Filth may well be a gritty realist drama about a middle-aged bachelor losing his mind in suburbia but I like to think the drama is given added pathos by contrasting its dull daylight world with the rich, fluorescent inner life of Greg Feely. I felt that the super-spy genre was a perfect framework on which to hang a story of double identity, cover up, and bad sex. Just as New X-Men is the perfect framework for a frontline allegory of our world on the cusp of wild transformation.

RICHARD: Yes, Greg Feely. In The Filth, your central character is initially named Greg Feely and described in rather unflattering terms, depicted as a sad, lonely man, masturbating to transsexual pornography and suspected by his neighbours of being a paedophile? What relation is he to sci-fi critic Greg Feeley, and has Feeley covered your work in any detail of late?

GRANT: I'd never heard of this sci-fi critic Greg Feeley until Harlan Ellison called me and said 'Nice one mate! Greg Feeley must be squirming after that...' And I said 'WHO ?' I don't read science fiction books or watch it on telly so I'm not really familiar with that subculture at all.

The character in The Filth - who is depicted in a very sympathetic and human light, in spite of your gruesome tabloid-style attempts to make him sound depraved - is named Greg because Greg means the same as Grant (he's an inversion of my own 'King Mob' self-image in The Invisibles) and 'Feely' because the word suggests both emotionality and intrusive touching.

I have no idea if the real Greg Feeley has even HEARD of me, let alone 'covered my work'. If he has any taste at all, I'm sure he'll vote the Filth this year's Uppermost Spy-Fi Award Magnet at some old dinner or other.

Anyway, f*** that! What about Chris Weston? Weston is doing the greatest work of his career. He drew VENICE! He drew a giant boat AND Venice! In tiny detail. He does it EVERY month (well... as near as dammit and better than the rest)!

RICHARD: I was privileged to buy some Authority art from Chris at the ludicrous price he was selling his stuff for a couple of years ago. One is framed on my wall, the other I sold on eBay, just to prove a point, getting well over double what I paid for it the weekend after and sent him the details. He soon put his prices up, much to his wife's appreciation. Backfired on me though, you should see what he tried to charge me for the windmill in Ministry Of Space.

GRANT: That was a lovely page.

RICHARD: Mmm. Still, a black and white printout framed on the wall looks pretty much the same. Sorry, where was I?

Ah yes, Grant, your writing. what you've written. .yes! As to what you've written and what you haven't. Certain West Coast creators claim you entertained them with the story that you were responsible for many of Mark Millar's credited writing works. Aside from Authority 28, which Mark freely cops to, is there any truth in this report and the allegations herein? Mark Millar has also reported a division between the two of you, related to these events. Can you elaborate?

GRANT: Authority 28 caused some problems for me personally because I wrote the story as a favour and then, surprisingly, wasn't paid or acknowledged for it until I called Wildstorm and the situation was quickly resolved. I wanted the issue to go out under some whimsical credit like 'The Mock Millar Experience' but otherwise I had no intention of putting my name on it. It was a gag. This is the story of watch gears turning and bureaucratic springs unwinding - hardly the fuel for so much rumour among so few. The best bit no-one saw was the first page - another victim of the censor's scythe. My original had a splash page with Jesus Christ, Allah, and Buddha all standing in front of a bullet-pocked wall. Each wears a blindfold and sweats nervously, fag in the lips. A big balloon from off panel reads...'FIRE!'. Turn the page and it goes into the Surgeon's speech before they meet Religimon.

As well as being best mates off duty, it's no secret that I occupied an informal position as Mark's mentor, advisor and champion for most of the last decade; in response to those highfalutin' 'allegations herein', all I can say is... distance and a keen critical eye make it pretty easy to spot my contributions to the canon of the bulging Monty Millar. Otherwise...there's no story here.


GRANT: To be honest, the only thing likely to cause any real divisions between us are daft attempts to talk my artist out of upcoming creator projects, which fall under the heading of deliberately interfering with another writer's 'earning capacity', a disgraceful habit the saintly Mister M. seemed so staunchly opposed to in his own recent interview with you. Maybe it was guilt. Otherwise, the comics biz is like the f***ing schoolyard, Rich. All 'I hate you' notes and whispers up the back but they're always there with the luvvie gush on tap when the phone call comes to say 'He's dead...have you any SPECIAL memories?'

RICHARD: Until that day, and for the record "Grant Morrison was an inspiration for me, though I only nicked three of his ideas. He will be missed - Rich Johnston", let's keep going with the whispers up the back. There has been speculation about certain Marvel concerns making their way into your work of late. A recent scene where Henry McCoy reiterated that he wasn't gay to Cyclops seemed over-elaborated, especially when he had done so, slightly less obliquely to Emma Frost an issue or two before. Editorial concerns pushing aside storytelling concerns, or too many fans with too much time on their hands? Both?

GRANT: It's always fans with too much time. The Beast thing was my mocking, ironic take on the whole 'Let's have a Gay on the team' current I was seeing elsewhere. I thought it would be more fun and more sophisticated to explore the very concept of 'gayness' and people's strange need to define themselves using such off-the-peg labels. It was also to point out that, like the Beast, it's possible to be flamboyant, stylish, witty and 'gay', without being homosexual. I've had people shout 'POOF!' in the streets at me all my life and I've been immensely influenced by 'gay' culture for want of a better word (the 'gay' influence is so strong in my work that I had to write 'Boys Ahoy!' - a punky sea shanty for the upcoming 'ass2ass' CD ''There was Cocteau and Jarman and Hockney and me, and Billy Burroughs the cabin boy, aged 23...'), but I like to make the sexing with the ladies and don't find men very arousing, despite all my efforts and experiments with drugs, drink and drag... so I wanted to have a character stand up for the people who are neither gay nor straight nor anything other than just plain ODD - the people who don't have shops to shop in and helplines to phone, but who feel as alienated and persecuted as any 'Gay'. The scenes with Beast were presented exactly as I'd intended and the whole thing will play out and make its little point as intended.

The only things I've had imposed on me at Marvel are those stupid 'PREVIOUSLY' pages which nobody reads anyway. Everything anyone needs to know is there in the story so I really don't understand the fascination for these ugly text pages - they look like '60s DC's.

Oh and Marvel have a 'no flashback' rule, supposedly, which I think is f***ing stooped, but has only affected me once and no-one noticed, so...

Otherwise, they're a bunch of wholesome blokes and I've had very few hassles at Marvel. My stuff goes in, my stuff comes out. I wish Frank Q. was drawing every issue and then I'd be famous.

RICHARD: Fame comes at a price. In this case it would be only having four issues out a year.

GRANT: It's working for Millar and Hitch!

Continued here...

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Updated: 07/05/22 @ 3:25 pm






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