Edinburgh Book Festival: Grant Morrison

Third and final of the reports I penned on the comics related events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August for the Forbidden Planet blog:

Top comics scribe Grant Morrison returned to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for his second visit following his very successful Book Fest gig last year and again it was an absolutely packed late-night audience. Grant seemed pretty happy to be back and was in very good form, obviously delighting in getting the opportunity to talk directly with some of his readers. Much of the discussion centred around Supergods, his very interesting book which combines a short history of the American superhero comics with autobiographical elements from his own life as a reader and a writer (just out in paperback from Cape).

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(Grant Morrison at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, pic from my Flickr, click for larger version)

Grant told us that the book originally started as something quite different, but the publishers liked what he had written on the history side of comics and the personal angle, asked him for more of that and the book we now have started to take shape over many months. A history of comics he had been reading all his life as well as writing for decades, how hard could that be, he said, smiling – no need to do a lot of research, know most of that already… And you can guess what’s coming – the more he expanded on chapters on different periods the more he realised he had to mention (can’t miss that comic, that artist…), entailing more words, more research. In fact he said that the finished book represented roughly half of what he had, after much editing, there could have been a lot more and it could have been a different read, although better or not is hard to say, but it gives you an idea of the amount of work he had to put into it. And bear in mind this work was running parallel with his regular comics writing duties, including, of course, some pretty major flagship DC titles. Asked how he managed to juggle these various competing deadlines he smiled and answered a lot of very late nights.

(forthcoming Happy by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, published Image Comics)

Discussion ranged from his childhood comics favourites (like Sheldon Cooper The Flash remains one of his all-time favourites, especially some of the great Carmine Infantino work – can’t blame him for that) through working in his own experiences, such as his world-travelling, into his work, the difference between working on creator-owned material (including his new Image title with Darick Robertson, Happy – which, as he explained, means no money up front for the creators until the work is out there and selling) and future projects. One audience member reminded him that last summer at the Book Fest he mentioned he had been trying to figure out a new approach to Wonder Woman, inspired by the inherit sexuality she had when her original creator William Moulton Martson gave her comics life; he was of the opinion that she lost something after that which the character required and he’s confident that he’s found a way to tap into that sexual identity element without being exploitative. Alas, although at the previous Book Fest he said he hoped to have that by next year (now this year), with all his various projects it has slipped back a bit and is likely to be next year now, but he is writing away on it, you’ll be pleased to hear.

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(Grant singing for a very, very long line of appreciative fans)

Having managed to get my copy of Supergods signed last year I decided not to wait in the very long line after the event. Last year it was the best part of an hour for me to get to the front and I was not that far back in the line; Grant mentioned that the line was so long last summer that he ended up signing away until 2am (the talk had finished at 10.30pm!), so I do hope he didn’t have to stay quite as long this time! But he does seem to very much enjoy getting to not just sign the books but getting the chance to chat for a few minutes to each of his readers, which I’m sure they all appreciated. Another good comics event at the Book Festival, and there’s more to come this Friday with Bryan Talbot paying a return visit, this time with his wife and collaborator Mary, which I’m very much looking forward to.