There’s a perfect panel, don’t bother with context or the word balloon, in Grant Morrison1, Frank Quitely2, and Jamie Grant’s All-Star Superman. Superman stares into his Mirror of Truth, not feeling a hundred percent, letting himself droop like Clark Kent. His hair is flattened, he has the glasses. His shoulders are rounded, garbage posture, limp cape, locked knees, pigeon toes.
Grant Morrison is interested in comic book characters as characters in comic books, not wondering what they’d be like, “really”3.
Morrison’s Superman is about how Superman really does interact with us in the real world. One of Superman’s feats while facing impending death is to literally create our universe to see how we do without him. We’d make him into a comic book, it turns out. He’s our Apollo, he’s here to encourage Bizarro outcasts, even when you’re feeling down, the truth is, “You’re much stronger than you think you are.” Plus Frank Quitely is a really good illustrator.
1 I’ve been on an obscene kick, I’m a Grant Morrison junkie, lately. A preteen haunting message boards in 2002, I read hundreds of posts about his series New X-Men. It sounded immoral somehow, but I was really scared off by it not being Uncanny X-Men. I couldn’t trust a series with fewer than 200 issues.
I eventually read it, and earlier this year found the omnibus cheap. I lent it away immediately and by the time I got it back I was drooling over Morrison’s early 90’s Doom Patrol run. A comic writer who loves Jorge-Luis Borges as much as me? And issue 34 with The Brain and Monsieur Mallah? Amazing weirdness, even if using Smiths lyrics is vile at this point in my life.
2 I know Quitely from occasional issues of New X-Men, where the art changed every couple issues. The last big thing I read before New X-Men was Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix. I adore Allred’s art but the occasional fill-in art was painful, just by virtue of not being him. It’s luxurious to read a series with consistent art.
3 I searched for Morrison podcasts and I burnt through over four hours of Kevin Smith interviewing him in two days. The Day the World Turned Day-Glo by X-Ray Spex was the first punk song he “got”. He was straight-edge but would use sleep deprivation to simulate Burroughsian states. Then he made a fuck-ton of money off Arkham Asylum and he decided he was rich enough to use drugs. He composes comics by drawing them out, but never shows the artists his work. I don’t like Kevin Smith, so weigh that into how obsessed I am for the moment.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, DC Comics 2005 - 2008
criticism by Stephen 2014