Grant Morrison writes weird comics. Comics filled with streets that talk, a Joker that squeezes Batman's butt and a Superman who saves the universe by singing to it. Some of those lovingly bizarre ideas get pulled from his own life and experiences. But the head-trip material from his newest stuff comes from this reality's nexus of shiny desperation: Hollywood.
Mild spoilers follow for the first issue of Annihilator.
Announced two years ago at New York Comic-Con, Annihilator chronicles the story of two intense men at the seeming end of their ropes. Max Nomax is an arrogant, anti-hero science-artist about to be imprisoned in a black hole. Ray Spass — who insists that people say it as 'space,' not 'spaz' — is the screenwriter charged with turning Nomax's fictional story into a big-deal movie franchise. Because this is a Grant Morrison comic, creator meets creation with the pair destined to start a journey that gets darker and more desperate than their lives already are.
Annihilator's a gorgeous book thanks to co-creator Frazier Irving, a top-shelf artist who's able to bend perspective, colour and body language better than the vast majority of his peers. It's a dark satire of the machine that churns out celluloid for the silver screen. In the interview below (conducted by phone two weeks ago), Morrison explains where all of Annihilator's dark matter comes from.
Kotaku: This is a pretty depraved comic book. So, the first question I have for you — given how you've written about how your work bleeds into your life, and vice-versa — is to ask you if you're OK? Are you OK, Grant Morrison?
Grant Morrison: [laughs] Yes. I'm always OK. I have a very charmed fucking life.
Kotaku: That's good to hear because Ray to me feels like the kind of character you were writing about during your Animal Man run and some of your other previous work. He's down and out on his luck, and he's at a crossroads, and he needs to finish a script for a blockbuster action movie to happen in order to keep going. Where did this stuff come out of emotionally for you?
Morrison: Ray Spass is actually based on people I've met in Hollywood. For the first time, I've not been drawing on my own life or my own experience, my own feelings. I've been looking at people and starting to create a character because I felt most of my stuff is about me. It's been a bit narcissistic.
I wanted to do something about the people I've met and the kind of men I met in Hollywood who were screenwriters, and who were quite embedded in that world. They were quite involved with that hectic nature. The drugs, the pressure, the meetings and hanging out with sexy Romanian models. So, for the first time, it's about people I've met. There's a little bit of Hunter Thompson there as well obviously.
Kotaku: It's funny that you mentioned Hunter Thompson because this issue has a kind of shamanistic bacchanal happening in it. That kind of sequence has been another recurring theme in your work. Why do you keep going back to that stuff? The idea of an altered state mindset?
Morrison: Because I think it drives everything. The whole idea of Hollywood is especially about the illusion. The greatest film Hollywood has ever made, the most honest film is The Wizard of Oz, because it's all about "here's an illusion."
That little man behind the curtain that projects the gigantic head that controls everything. It's cowboys and Indians and Arnold Schwarzenegger and all the stuff you guys are into. It's all just an illusion.
I wanted to write about Hollywood but explore underneath that illusion — there's a really dark, satanic, diabolic, Anton LaVey, the Manson murders, Jim Morrison, and all that weird Area 51, Jack Parsons, occult stuff. I wanted to honestly write about my experiences in Hollywood and make it mythological and try to get down to the heart of what Hollywood seems like. The illusion. The fakery. The sexism. The ghettos. All that stuff.
Kotaku: That's interesting because there's a bit of a metatextual thing too. This is coming out from Legendary, an imprint that's been created by big-shot Hollywood producers.
Morrison: Absolutely. This is why I chose this project for Legendary. I've been working with Image and Boom and other publishers. This one is about writers, though, and I thought, wouldn't it be perfect to do a story about Hollywood with this Hollywood comics company?
Kotaku: How did you try and gear the script to Frazer Irving's strengths? I know you guys have worked together before but that's been more work-for-hire company-owned stuff...
Morrison: I created this story for him. We'd done Batman together. I wanted to explore that Byronic antihero, satanic archetype. That high cheek-boned Heathcliff dude, all long-faced, and Mephistopheles. I thought Frazer is the only guy who could draw it. Honestly, this story was written for that guy to draw.
Kotaku: I know you've done visual design work on your work before, was Max Nomax's look something that you came to Frazer with? How did he come out looking that way?
Morrison: I went to him and I said, "I want to do The King of the Ants." There's an amazing French pop song called Le Roi de Fourmi. The King of the Ants. It's by this...I forget the guy's name. He came out at the same time as the Beatles. He's like this major French pop star. [note: it's Michel Polnareff.] There's a song called the King of the Ants. The entire comic came out of that song, this French pop song.
Kotaku: At the end of the first issue Ray heads off and meets Max, the character he's been bringing to life in this story. What's next for him?
Morrison: Well, it's as if you just met Mephistopheles, like in Faust. It's about what happens when you meet the devil basically. What happens next...then the ghetto comes into it.
Kotaku: It seems like there's no redemption out there.
Morrison: There's no redemption. This is not about redemption. This is about exposing the dark sides of men.
Kotaku: It's funny because the black hole is your conceit here, but there's no coming out of that.
Morrison: It's like the period at the end of a sentence. The period at the end of all your favourite books.
Kotaku: You're trying to channel a certain kind of experience but, when you're using the women like the props in these crazy party scenes, do you feel you need to justify that in any way?
Morrison: The way women are pitched and used in Hollywood is fucking ridiculous. These young models who come from Eastern Europe, getting pulled into disgusting situations. It's a bit of that.
Kotaku: You were just trying to replicate the stuff that you saw, then. I know you were in LA. You were working on scripts and trying to get stuff off the ground.
Morrison: I've got a house in LA. I actually have a house that we bought in West Hollywood. I'm totally involved in that side of things. I love Los Angeles. That's what this book is about, my love of that, but also the dark side, the satanic, diabolic kind of thing. You know?
Annihilator #1 is out in comic shops and digital storefronts today.