♦ Yesterday was the 58th birthday of legendary Scottish comic writer Grant Morrison and here’s 13 of his greatest works to celebrate…
- Zenith: Phase One
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Steve Yeowell, Rebellion, 1987
Morrison’s debut in 2000AD was back in 1987 and he instantly made an impact. Collaborating with artist Steve Yeowell, Zenith was a bold reinvention of the idea of a superhero, unlike any we had seen before. The two follow-up books were intriguing but they lack the impact of the first one.
- Animal Man
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artists: Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood, DC, 1988-1990
Zenith led seamlessly to Morrison’s run on DC’s Animal Man. Taking a cheesy DC creation from the 1960s, he managed to incorporate the concepts of animal rights and other dimensions with a rare skill and panache. The distinctive covers by Brian Bolland didn’t hurt either. The end of his run continues to split audiences to this day.
- Doom Patrol
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artists: various, Vertigo/DC, 1989-1993
After his 26 issue run on Animal Man, Morrison stuck with DC to turn his hand to another bizarre DC creation, Doom Patrol. Another 1960s series, here he brought his unique brand of surrealism and subversion to bear in a long run that introduced a number of concepts that had never been seen in comics before. Despite the fact that it did go slightly off the deep end at the end, there is no denying the invention on display here.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Dave McKean, DC, 1989
Published in 1989, Arkham Asylum rode the wave of popularity that comics were surfing at the end of the 1980s. Collaborating with The Sandman cover artist Dave McKean, Morrison gave us a deeply disturbing tale of the Dark Knight, delving into his psyche while looking at the history of the place that tries to contain his most deadly foes. At the time, Batman: Arkham Asylum sold over 200,000 copies and was a huge commercial success as well as a critical one. If it was in doubt before, Morrison had well and truly arrived.
- The Invisibles
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artists: various, Vertigo/DC, 1994-2000
This series, which kicked off at Vertigo in 1994 and ran for six years until 2000, was his most ambitious to date. Tackling alternate dimensions and alien intelligences, Morrison was joined by some of the best comic artists working at the time. At turns surreal and unsettling and very visceral, despite the fact that like Animal Man, the end is still hotly debated now, The Invisibles is a hell of a roller coaster ride with some wonderful touches. Many of the concepts he touched on here were a huge influence on people like the Wachowskis and many others.
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artists: Howard Porter and various, 1997-2000
While he was exploring the multiple worlds of The Invisibles at Vertigo, Morrison was also revamping DC’s biggest characters in renamed Justice League Of America book JLA. Taking a widescreen superhero approach to proceedings, a lot of Morrison’s JLA was surprising and innovative. He brought an imaginative flair to the book which had been sorely lacking beforehand. He even brought his regular artistic collaborator Quitely over for hardcover JLA graphic novel Earth 2, which cemented Morrison’s deft hand at mainstream superheroes.
- Flex Mentallo
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Frank Quitely, Vertigo/ DC , 2000
Spinning out of his Doom Patrol run, Flex Mentallo was Morrison’s strongman superhero character. The four part Flex Mentallo miniseries was probably his most bizarre and metatextual work ever, with the familiar Morrison touches very much in place (breaking the fourth wall, subverting the superhero form). Quitely has collaborated many times with Morrison and Flex Mentallo is a brilliant synthesis of an inspired writer and a uniquely talented artist. The trade took years to come out because the Charles Atlas estate blocked them for years from reprinting this.
- The Filth
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artists: Chris Weston & Gary Erskine, Vertigo/DC, 2002
The Filth was a thirteen issue series that ran at Vertigo that touches on many similar themes that he explored in The Invisibles like the nature of reality and the blurring of the fourth wall, something that Morrison has played with since his run on Animal Man. Working with Weston and Erskine really helped to lift this series to make it one of the high watermarks of the decade. Amazingly, The Filth was originally designed as a Nick Fury story for Marvel. A wonderfully paranoid tale.
- All-Star Superman
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Frank Quitely, DC, 2005-2008
Another entry for Morrison and Quitely sees the pair bringing their comics magic to DC’s Man of Steel. Running over twelve issues, Morrison stripped back Superman to his constituent elements while Quitely gave him a visual revamp which felt contemporary and classic at the same time. Morrison’s love for the Big Blue Boy Scout is very much in evidence here. There is a sense of pure naive wonder here that DC has rarely matched since.
- Batman & Robin 1-3 Batman Reborn
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Frank Quitely, DC, 2009
The year after All-Star Superman, Morrison and Quitely reteamed on this new Batman book. They only worked on three issues together but they are some of the best comics produced this century so far. Quitely brings the same level of manic energy to Batman as he did to Superman and Morrison obviously has an affinity with the Dark Knight too. Morrison wrote a lot of Batman stories during this time but Batman Reborn was his finest effort.
- Joe The Barbarian
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Sean Murphy, Vertigo/ DC, 2010-2011
Returning to Vertigo, Morrison teamed up with new artistic face at the time, Sean Murphy, and this eight part fantasy series was a great showcase for Murphy’s art while exploring many of Morrison’s familiar themes and tropes like alternate worlds. But it was Morrison trying his hand at a straight fantasy story in the vein of Lord Of The Rings or Alice In Wonderland and it is another bold comic series from a man who has made a career out of trying to turn things on their head.
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artists: Various, DC, 2014-2015
Perfect by no means, Multiversity was Morrison’s attempt to make sense of the concept of the multiverse in a modern DC universe context. Working with some exceptional artists like the inevitable Quitely, newcomer Doc Shaner and Cameron Stewart, Multiversity collapsed under its own ambition. But the ride to get to the final issue was such fun and displayed such invention that you can forgive Morrison the shortcomings of the series. Multiversity reads like a love letter to everything in comics that Morrison adores in American and British comics.
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Darick Robertson, Image, 2013
Joining forces with former Transmetropolitan artist Darick Robertson, Happy! is perhaps Morrison’s most twisted series to date. Morrison and Robertson make for a great creative team. Mixing fantasy with hard-hitting reality, Happy! offers ultra violent scenarios, a talking blue horse and a fallen hitman. Last year it made its way on TV on SyFy.
- Zenith: Phase One