Grant Morrison, MBE (born 31 January 1960) is a Scottish writer, best known for the complex use of meta-fiction within their stories.
Their first published comic book work was Gideon Stargrave in 1978. After a few attempts at Marvel UK, they started writing Zenith for Britain's 2000 AD magazine. Like pretty much every superhero comic by English/Scottish/Irish writers during the eighties, it was both a superhero deconstruction and an excuse to take shots at Margaret Thatcher. It was because of Zenith that Morrison was hired to do a comic about Animal Man, a character few knew and nobody cared about, and started their long tradition of taking total losers and transforming them into something completely awesome. Next was the Doom Patrol, turning them into the greatest constant Mind Screw ever put into Four Colored pages.
After those critical successes, they wrote Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which became the best-selling graphic novel up to that point, and featured selected members of Batman's rogues gallery - as well as the Dark Knight himself - as different aspects of non-comic book, medical insanity, such as schizophrenia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. They then wrote several miniseries in Britain and for Vertigo Comics, and rose to stardom with the relaunch of Justice League of America, which featured DC's big superheroes together again for the first time in years. Besides being aptly described elsewhere on this website as "made up of back-to-back Crowning Moments of Awesome", Morrison's JLA also served as inspiration for the DC Animated Universe's Justice League, usually made up of back-to-back Crowning Moments of Awesome itself. At the time they were writing JLA, they were working on Vertigo Comics' The Invisibles, their most personal world, which they described as information given to them by Aliens during an abduction in Kathmandu.
Since then, they've worked with Marvel Comics, writing the controversial New X-Men run, and the Marvel Boy and Fantastic Four: 1234 miniseries. They returned to DC, and wrote The Filth, Seaguy, Vimanarama and We 3 for Vertigo before cutting loose in the DC Universe with the seven Seven Soldiers miniseries and the universally beloved All-Star Superman. They proceeded to yet again redefine the mindscrew in their Batman run, attempting to reconcile the character's 70 years' worth of interpretations, and finally realized their lifelong dream of somehow making the DC Universe a sentient being in Final Crisis. They then went on to work on the new Batman Incorporated and Action Comics series.
They also authored the non-fiction 2011 book Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero, a mix between a critical history of superhero comics as they see it and autobiography.
Whether or not their stories are good is a topic of much debate. Lots of people love them, lots of people hate them, and a good amount think they're just some wacky person who can't write a story without severe Writer on Board and whose constant forays into This Is Your Premise on Drugs end up dominating their books to the detriment of plot and character. They did once state in the letters page of The Invisibles that their protagonist, King Mob, a Tuxedo and Martini Author Avatar only got laid all the time because the comic book was a magic spell Morrison was casting, and so making their main character get laid would get them laid in turn. And if you think they're joking, you haven't read their biography Supergods.
Recognizable in real life by their shaved head and their already difficult-to-follow topics being uttered in a nearly incomprehensible accent. In an anecdote in the first volume of 52, their conversation with the other writers and editor goes like this:
They also appeared in Mom and Dad in a cameo role and came out as non-binary in October 2020.
Works by Grant Morrison with their own trope pages include:<!—index—>
- 18 Days
- 52 (co-written with Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid)
- Action Comics (the New 52 relaunch)
- All-Star Superman
- Animal Man
- Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
- Batman (including Batman and Robin, The Return of Bruce Wayne, and Batman, Inc.)
- Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt (co-written with Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson)
- DC One Million
- Dinosaurs vs. Aliens
- Doom Patrol
- The Filth
- Final Crisis
- Flex Mentallo
- The Green Lantern
- The Invisibles
- JLA: Earth-2
- Joe the Barbarian
- Marvel Boy
- The Multiversity
- Nameless (2015)
- New X-Men
- Proctor Valley Road (with Alex Child)
- Rock of Ages
- Seven Soldiers
- Superman and the Authority
- We 3
- Wonder Woman: Earth One
Tropes associated with Grant Morrison:
- All There in the Manual:
- Anarchy for the Masses for one thing offers a mighty effort at deciphering The Invisibles. Most notably insightful are the numerous interviews with Morrison and crew. Otherwise tends to give away tons of more or less required information about their work in interviews, which usually end up unread on obscure corners of the Internet.
- Final Crisis Sketchbook, essentially a collection of notes and "behind the scenes" comments on the creation of Final Crisis, contained tidbits of information that never appeared in the actual comic ... like, say, the identities of some of the characters.
- The later chapters of Supergods also contain a fair amount of Word of God, especially regarding the genesis and intended meaning of The Invisibles and Final Crisis.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Invisibles revolves around them.
- Author Appeal:
- Morrison loves the sillier Silver Age characters, something they share with Geoff Johns. They fought and lost to have Egg Fu have his prehensile mustache in 52, for instance.
- They're a big cat-lover. The Invisibles features quite a few cat characters.
- Author Avatar:
- King Mob, Mo G., "The Writer" * , No-Beard, both Wally Sages, Mind Grabber Man, Professor X, The Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp, the "Batman" architect from Tales of the Unexpected * , and many more.
- As The Invisibles was collected without the letter columns from the single issues, one deeply odd fact about Morrison has been mostly lost to memory. After their analogue, Kirk Morrison/Gideon Stargrave/King Mob, spent a few issues slowly dying of a gunshot wound to the stomach, Morrison themself nearly died from what turned out to be a collapsed lung; they just fell over one day after martial arts practice and spent three days lying on the floor. Morrison draws a straight line between what happened to King Mob and what happened to them, which may explain why King Mob spends most of Volume 2 balls deep in Ragged Robin...
- Really, if there's a bald main character in a Morrison book, it's not a stretch to think it's just a Self-Insert of them. Even the bratty Damian Wayne shows hints of evolving into one with his decision to become a vegetarian and adopting a cart.
- Author Guest Spot: Famously in Animal Man. Hilariously, fellow DC writer John Ostrander realized not long after that by writing themself into a comic, Grant Morrison had put themself in continuity, and made "the Writer" a member of the Suicide Squad for one issue. They also appear in Titans episode "Dude, Where's My Gar" as themself, talking directly to Beast Boy.
- Author Phobia: Morrison's childhood fear of the atomic bomb (their father being a hardcore pacifist and anti-nuclear activist) has caused the themes of nuclear war to loom over most of their works. If an ultimate evil shows up in Morrison's work, expect it to be compared to a nuclear weapon sooner or later.
- Author Stand-In: As seen above, often.
- Author Tract: Morrison pretty much likes to either add themself, or characters who act like them, in a large amount of their stories. Most of their comics (most notably Final Crisis and Flex Mentallo) are tracts speaking against the Dark Age of comics, specifically the idea that comics should mirror Real Life in their violence and morally ambiguous attitudes. Morrison's takes on Superman and Batman are extraordinarily optimistic and straight-forward; Superman is often shown as a borderline God (especially in All-Star Superman) who tirelessly works toward the betterment of mankind, while Batman represents the peak of human ingenuity and intelligence, who can break free from any trap and defeat any villain.
- Bittersweet Ending: We 3. 3 dies, but there is an investigation going into the military project and public outrage, and 1 and 2 find a loving owner with a kind homeless man.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: Kill Your Boyfriend!
- Body Horror: One of the two defining characteristics of Nameless.
- Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Deconstructed in a lot of their work, especially The Invisibles. Unsurprising since Morrison themself is also an anarchist.
- The Cameo: In the final season of Titans.
- Canon Welding: The concept/character of "Qwewq" or "Earth-Q" has shown up in almost all of their DC work. It was a miniature universe created as an experiment by Superman with no superhuman elements. It was "poisoned" by the intrusion of a supervillain named the Black Death and the Ultramarines were sent in to restore order, but it was too late and the Sheeda manipulated it into becoming Ne-bu-loh AKA The Nebula Man. It was eventually impaled by Frankenstein. It's also implied that this is the "Real World" that Animal Man and the Doom Patrol visited, and may also be the "caged baby universe" powering The Authority's shiftship. If you're feeling particularly philosophical, you could make the case that it's supposed to be our universe, meaning that Superman created us and our universe is destined to become a supervillain due to humanity's overwhelming cynicism.
- Card-Carrying Villain:
- Morrison seems to dig villains who are openly and exultantly evil: Darkseid in JLA and Final Crisis, the Black Glove in Batman RIP, Luthor in All-Star Superman, Leviathan, a.k.a Talia al Ghul in Batman Inc, etc.
- Also Cassandra Nova in New X-Men, who gleefully commits genocide, although even she is rehabilitated in an alternate timeline presented in their run's finale.
- Their attempt to turn Magneto, Marvel's poster child for the Well-Intentioned Extremist trope, into a Card-Carrying Villain, though? Not well-received. Their succeeding writers couldn't retcon the whole thing away fast enough.
- Cloudcuckoo Lander: Understatement of the year, dude.
- Continuity Porn:
- Morrison is known for bringing back obscure (and even unpopular) ideas. Some dislike this and believe these ideas are best forgotten, while others think they make these concepts work much better than before. This is a reflection of their personal belief that EVERYTHING that has ever been published is somehow still in continuity.
- Their Sixth Doctor comic "The World Shapers" from Doctor Who Magazine features the return of the Voord who evolve into the Cybermen and Jamie McCrimmon as a mad old man who gets killed. This is all based on a throwaway line from The Invasion about the Doctor and Jamie having encountered the Cybermen on "Planet 14". It even namedrops the Fishmen of Kandalinga, who showed up exactly once, in the 1966 Doctor Who annual.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Seaguy is pursued by an evil corporation, and Morrison's portrayal of Lex Luthor in their JLA run was explicitly based on this.
- Cosmic Deadline: The Filth, The Invisibles, Seven Soldiers, Final Crisis. It's practically their style.
- Cosmic Flaw: They seem to enjoy these:
- The Big Bad of their Batman run, Doctor Hurt, claims to be "the hole in things" and "the piece that never fit." It's eventually revealed that he's not quite that bad, though he is a Humanoid Abomination.
- Darkseid becomes one of these in Final Crisis; after his body was killed by Orion, he fell back in time and became a "black hole at the base of creation" that threatens to consume the entire multiverse. The series' other villain, Mandrakk, can be thought of as a metatextual version of this, as Word of God says he is essentially the personification of negative trends in the comic book industry itself.
- In the Grand Finale of their New X-Men, set in a Bad Future, the Stepford Cuckoos make frequent reference to the fact that reality wasn't "supposed" to have gone down that path, and that there are "holes" in existence. In the final issue, the "hole" is revealed to be Cyclops quitting the X-Men; the Phoenix, which "burns away what doesn't work," sets things back on track.
- Darker and Edgier: Basically everything they've wrote, but especially their run on New X-Men...
- Death Is Cheap: A recurring theme in their mainstream books is the acknowledgement by characters that in comic books, death doesn't really mean a damn thing. Some characters aren't scared to die because they know they'll just come back later, others snark about how they've died before, and other others still find a death a sad occasion but hope for a resurrection regardless.
- Deconstructor Fleet: Most of their work revolves around deconstructing, subverting, and mashing together as many tropes and genres as possible. Sometimes this covers a staggering variety of things (see The Invisibles), and sometimes their focus is narrowed to merely the entirety of the DC Comics universe (see Final Crisis) or the history and mythos surrounding a particular character (see All-Star Superman, their run on Batman), but they're always doing it in one form or another.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: While they did start writing comics in their late teens, it took them a while to start feeling it as their true calling. At one point, they worked as a filing clerk for a year.
- Deus ex Machina: They Handwave most of their run in Animal Man themselves.
- Everyone Has Standards: They might have experimented with drugs in the past, but they claim they've never indulged in anything as severe as crack cocaine.
- Gainax Ending: As of this writing, there are eight entries in the "Comic Books" section of this page and four of them are about comics they wrote.
- Genre Savvy: Both Grant themselves and their characters know how death works in comics. They made no attempt to convince people Batman wouldn't return from the dead. When Metamorpho died, the implication was that he was most likely going to come back. Even Jean Grey's tombstone states "She will rise again."
- Gentleman Thief: Fantomex from their New X-Men run is based on Italian comic book thief Diabolik and the French crime fiction character that inspired him, Fantômas.
- Gentleman Wizard: Grant themselves. They might've accepted female fans taking them dancing once in a while, to make the fans a little happier, but unlike lots of other celebrities they never take advantage of them.
- A God Is You:
- The Invisibles, The Filth and their DC superhero writing all contain examples of unique, bizarre or transcendent self-empowerment.
- Deconstructed in Comic Book/Annihilator where Max Nomax created our universe out of spite and does his best to ignore every epiphany and opportunity for self-improvement.
- Government Conspiracy: Again, from The Invisibles.
- Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Morrison talks candidly about epiphanies they've had while on drugs, and often included this trope in their works.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Losing their pet cat impacted their writing of Animal Man, and they discuss it in their appearance during the final issue.
- Lighter and Softer: All-Star Superman, as befits their depiction of the title character.
- Lost Technology: Maggedon from their JLA run is an ancient, universe-ending weapon.
- Metafiction: This is what they're most known for. They love to play with the rules of storytelling in comic books. Their run on Animal Man and The Multiversity are probably the biggest cases.
- Mind Screw: At least one per issue. Also, the other defining characteristic of Nameless.
- New Media Are Evil: It's safe to say that Morrison might not have the highest opinion of The Internet:
- Final Crisis shows Apokolips weaponize it to transmit the Anti-Life Equation to all of Earth, bending almost all of sentient life to Darkseid's will.
- The Red Hood uses social media to broadcast his violent vigilante justice to the world, even attempting to stream Batman and Robin (2009)'s humiliation on his website. Once they get freed they have this to say to those pathetically curious enough to tune in to the stream:Batman: Batman and Robin say—
Robin: Get a life!
- In their Action Comics run, Brainiac is revealed to be the Internet itself.
- Superman and the Authority has Natasha Irons fighting misinformation sites taking corporeal forms and literal Internet trolls rampaging through the streets.
- No Fourth Wall: Some creators like to break the Fourth Wall. Grant likes taking an RPG to it.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A real perpetrator of this due to their tendency for, to paraphrase Linkara, cramming a thousand ideas into a twenty-two-page comic book. We never really see Batman beating up four White Martians or Stephanie Brown taking down an entire student body of an assassin school by herself.
- Old Shame:
- Never, ever bring up their time on the UK Zoids comic. It tends to be "conveniently forgotten" by their biographers and fandom, and they seem to prefer that it remains obscure. However, Zoids fans who know about it generally rate it high and wish the ending was known...
- They also eventually apologized for their take on Magneto, significantly later, as before, they'd stand by the idea as they weren't a huge fan of Magneto beforehand and wanted to give them the ultimate send-off as the X-Men's Arch-Enemy, being that had they gotten their way, New X-Men would've been the Grand Finale of the classic era.
- Order Versus Chaos: A common theme in their work.
- Porn Stash: According to a comment by Julian Darius in 2011: "Grant Morrison has confessed (in our documentary Talking with Gods) that they used to draw superheroes having sex." You know they didn't throw those drawings out, they're hidden in a box somewhere, famous Rule 34 waiting to happen.
- Reconstruction: Morrison likes to put things back together as much as they enjoy pulling them apart, even if they do put them back together in very different ways than they started out; in particular, their recent superhero works have been largely an attempt to bring back Silver and Bronze Age superhero tropes after the lengthy process of deconstruction they've been subject to, albeit in a way that works post-Dark Age.
- Recursive Reality
- Reimagining the Artifact: Frequently employed:
- In their JLA run, they brought back such goofy stuff as Aquaman's Silver Age imp sidekick Quisp in a way that fit the tone of the new title.
- Seven Soldiers was a project whose entire remit was to take dated or underused old characters and re-imagine them for today.
- All-Star Superman is almost nothing but Reimagining Artifacts from the 1960s and 1950s stories.
- Their Batman run has tons of these, as part of their mission to make everything canon.
- Morrison's unconventional take on Robin with the character of Damian Wayne deserves special mention. Where many fans have previously taken the very concept of a Kid Sidekick with a grain of salt (see above) because of the obvious dangers of the superhero profession, Damian shook up the classic Batman/Robin dynamic in that he was a scarily competent fighter who was raised as an assassin from an early age, and he could be even more deadly in the field than Dick Grayson, who served as the Batman to his Robin.
- Grant also brought back Bat-Mite, who was a thoroughly Silver Age thing that wasn't used beyond that point if not in some kind of Mxyzptlk story or something. They reimagined him as the drug-fueled guide to Batman on his journey in "Batman R.I.P."... but then Mite disappears implying he actually averted this and really was an imp from the fifth dimension. Really, it's up to the reader's interpretation.
- The Club of Heroes that Batman belonged to is reimagined as a kind of parody of the Legion of Super-Heroes; they were formed by a bored billionaire who wanted a club of heroes of his own, and Batman never even showed up to their first official meeting, and the club disbanded after that.
- On a more general note, Batman's aversion to alcohol, at least as far as The Silver Age of Comic Books had it, was originally part of his goody-two-shoes personality. Now, it is part of his fear of losing his physical and mental edge if he drinks, so he has good reason to prefer milk.
- The Rival: They and Alan Moore don't get along. At. All. Moore has accused Grant of, essentially, being his Kenny Bania and stealing his schtick ("It's gold, Jerry, gold!") and art style. Morrison has taken an equivocal stance over the years, variously suggesting that they consciously dulled their own "esoteric" style and mimicked Moore to get a shot at writing for DC, while pointedly emphasizing that THEY had professional comics work published first (back in the days when Moore and Morrison were both working in fanzines and British small press comics) and that they are contemporaries who came up in comics at the same time but Moore just caught mainstream attention first. Morrison also once suggested that they'd been offered an opportunity to pitch a run on Miracleman after Moore left the book and that Moore sabotaged it out of spite, though this is more debatable (Moore has long maintained that he had picked Neil Gaiman to follow him on Miracleman and if Morrison was offered the chance to pitch for it, he wasn't aware of it). Though, in a 2018 interview, Morrison did claim that the "feud" between them has been overstated by fans, saying that "a feud would actually need to involve people’s interest". Basically: while they don't like each other or their respective works very much, it doesn't go any farther than that.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: In their superhero work, they're usually high up the idealistic end. Their other work can vary, but has a strong tendency towards the optimistic.
- Status Quo Is God: Morrison adheres to this but also makes it clear they're not exactly thrilled about it. Almost any in-canon run they've written is done with the intent to shake up the status quo to the point where nothing was really recognizable anymore. If Grant Morrison wrote it, you'll know they wrote it by the time they're finished. That said, even with all the shake-ups, they always end each run with enough room for other writers to come in to undo it. More often than not though, these are done with a somewhat back-handed connotation. Their Batman run ends with almost everything they've built in ruins or shambles to make room for Scott Snyder's tenure with the character, and Bruce Wayne continuing his crusade against crime is treated as a tragedy rather than a heroic triumph. They even told Snyder to feel free to do his own thing and take Bruce wherever he wanted from there.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: Morrison is famous (or infamous) for using metafiction to play with the storytelling conventions underlying comic books. For example, in JLA: Earth-2, they include the twist that even the narrative rule that The Good Guys Always Win is inverted on the Antimatter Earth so it's the villains who always succeed.
- The Unintelligible:
- According to the notes included by other members of the 52 writing staff in one of the TPBs, Morrison themself.
- An anecdote in Bryan Talbot's book The Naked Artist has Morrison appearing on-stage at an Italian comics convention, and needing a volunteer Scottish interpreter to translate them into standard English for the official Italian interpreter.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Morrison writes believing this wholeheartedly. Of course, your opinion, as stated above, may vary. We suspect if you've read Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger trilogy then you'll get most of Grant's references.
- Villainy-Free Villain: The Joker of all people. While most other writers have spent the last few decades trying to follow Alan Moore's take on the Joker as a foe who'll commit the most depraved acts imaginable just to antagonize Batman, Grant Morrison simply lets the Joker hang back and laugh while other villains try to surpass him in terms of cruelty. And yet the Joker still manages to be the scariest motherfucker in every scene!
- Walking the Earth: After earning a large amount of money from the sales of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Morrison proceeded to travel around the world for a while.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Invisibles as a group are that.
- What Could Have Been:
- Supposedly, My Chemical Romance wanted them to make an appearance in the music video for "Mama" that never got made, where they would've played Satan opposite Liza Minnelli (who would have played the Virgin Mary). Though the "Mama" video never came to be, fans later got a consolation prize when they played the Corrupt Corporate Executive Korse in the videos from Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.
- Morrison considered a Spider-Man story where the modern, popular John Romita version of Peter Parker met the original Steve Ditko version Parker.
- They planned an Ultimate universe version of The Kree/Skrull War, The Kree/Chitauri War, which would've followed up on some story threads from The Ultimates (2002). However, they left Marvel before the story came to fruition and the ideas they planned to introduce note were abandoned.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: A recurring theme in their work, from Danny the Street to Sir Ystin to Jimmy Olsen. Morrison themselves mentioned (on coming out as non-binary) that they had been cross-dressing privately from a young age.
- Who's Laughing Now?: Morrison invokes this in their notes for the 15th Anniversary edition to Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. An early version of the script was passed around for people to look at and most of them balked at the attempt to integrate psychological horror and heavy symbolism. They then said, "Who's laughing now, asshole?"
- Writing for the Trade: Morrison has said their run on Batman is to be divided up into "separate books" that all go together. This makes some of the more unusual issues make more sense. Final Crisis also becomes much more comprehensible when reading it as a trade rather than individual issues being released each month.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Morrison is a follower of chaos magic, which practically runs off this trope. They pray daily to various Gods for a variety of reasons (to Hermes and Ganesh to aid them in their writing and has also prayed to Hermes when they had to make radio appearances). They've cast spells to make their friends' lives better and claims to have healed their cat using magic. In their view, their conviction and belief that the magic will work actually changes reality to suit them. Morrison also believes this happens to them and their readers when reading their comics, which they regard as like spells - notably, they once got seriously ill coincidentally after writing part of The Invisibles where King Mob, their Author Avatar, gets seriously ill, further solidifying their belief in the magic power of their writing.