Thursday, October 28, 2004

That Grant Morrison quote

Here we go. From Arthur magazine. A question regarding that super-strong German toddler led to speculation about the emerging supermen, and what Grant tried to accomplish on X-Men.
"And when supermen do come along, what are they gonna want to find? A role model. Like everyone else on the planet. We all want to find people who've trod our path before, who can suggest some ways to help us feel significant. So the idea behind a lot of what I was doing in X-Men and really all of my comics is to give these future supermen a template, to say 'Okay you're a superhuman, and maybe it feels a little like this. I've tried really hard as one of the last of the human beings to think what it might be like in your world.' Rather than bring them to us, which is what a lot of superhero fiction in the past has tried to do, I've tried to go into their world and to understand what's going on in the space of the comics, and to try and find a way to make that into a morality, almost, or a creed, or an aesthetic, that might make sense to someone who has yet to be born with powers beyond those of mortal man. I think we have to give them images of rescue and ambition and cosmic potency, rather than images of control and fascist perfection."
That's completely awesome. It is also not how I really remembered that quote, so it doesn't quite fit in with what I was planning to say in regards to Spurgeon's essay. He asserts,
I feel compelled to mention the reason Morrison's work on New X-Men may have felt to Dirk like Claremont "without all the stupid bits" (a funny line, admittedly) is because Morrison was in part writing an overarching commentary on Chris Claremont's original Uncanny X-Men run in the guise of new adventures. The result was a savvy pop-culture do-over sampled from old comics riffs, a self-aware re-hash as helpless before nostalgia as any back to basics movement, a deep look inwards disguised as outreach. The underlying joke of Morrison's run is that the X-Men always ends up in the same place no matter how shiny the uniforms or how many throw-away lines referring to character sexuality.
Morrison made no secret that Claremont and Byrne's seminal early-80's run was the launching point for his take on the X-Men. Look, there's the Phoenix! Look, there's a "Days of Future Past" pastiche! Look, there's the melodramatic soap opera romance that we've all known and loved for years! Yes, it was all there. But then, in the background, Morrison made important fundamental shifts in the X-Men's entire approach and philosophy. Rather than remain a shadowy team of vigilantes, the X-Men went public, opening their school to actual students, and opening a chain of X-Corporations around the world, so that they could address mutant concerns on a global scale. The mutant population grew exponentially, just as Beast discovered an "extinction trigger" in the human genome. While mutants were still subjects of persecution, they were also subjects of admiration, the hip new thing among the youth culture. And in the end Morrison took down both Magneto and Charles Xavier, arguing that their notions of human/mutant relations were too archaic to function in the new status quo Morrison created. (That quote ties in a bit more than I thought.)

Now granted, if you're not into superheroes, a shift in the X-Men status quo is not going to do much for you, but if you grew up reading X-Men during the comic book nadir of the 1990's like I did, wondering where all the excitement and suspense had gone from those early Claremont days, Morrison's run was like a godsend. Morrison's primary ode to Claremont and Byrne was to re-introduce the thought that anything could (and would) happen in X-Men.

Of course, the moment Morrison left the books attempted as best they could to go back to business as usual. Only Joss Whedon seems even remotely concerned with the ideas Morrison set forth, merging the editorially-mandated return to costumes with the idea that the X-Men are now public figures concerned with public relations. Claremont introduced the promising concept of his team as the XSE Mutant Police, but it should surprised no one familiar with Claremont's recent work that he has barely touched on that concept over the eight issues he's written of Uncanny X-Men so far.

One last quote from Spurgeon:
I fail to see why we should spend a lot of energy bemoaning the loss of slightly more clever X-Men comics in a period of growing excellence through the art form entire.
Let's keep in mind that he didn't really like Morrison's run. Then why spend a lot of energy bemoaning the bemoaning? Granted, Spurgeon does put a disclaimer at the top of his piece, saying that he declined to send it to The Comics Journal and instead put it up on his site for discussion's sake, but one can't help but get the feeling that he feels Deppey's efforts were a waste of time, considering all the actual comic art happening at the same time. To which I have only to say: lighten up, man. It's just X-Men.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have that issue of Arthur Magazine! They give it away for free at the Amoeba on Haight Street. The Morrison article is great.


10:05 PM  

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