Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Grant Morrison's latest interview over at Comicon.com's Pulse certainly has attracted a lot of attention all over the comics blogospheriverse. Why this one's different from other Morrison interviews, in which he alternately bullshits and attempts to enlighten the reader and leaves it up to you to figure out which is which, I can't say. But I read it, and would like to address a couple of things he said:

I must admit I have no time for the '80s style "serious superheroes" books riding the retro wave; never resisting any chance to gratuitously stick the boot in, I thought Watchmen was self-conscious, derivative, and heavy-handed when it first appeared and time hasn't mellowed my opinion of this vastly overrated series - so the comics I dislike most of all at the moment are filled with unsexy '80s retro "superheroes-in-the-real-world" type stories. All these soldiers-in-tights comics seem miserly and lacking in wonder, surrealism or novelty...So why anyone would look to the awkward pomposity of mid-'80s comics for inspiration is baffling.

I certainly agree with this in principle; I do think there's too much fondness and nostalgia these days for hyper-complicated, cosmic sagas with men and women in tight pajamas- witness the last few issues of JSA, or more recently JLA/Avengers. But in attacking Watchmen, I think Grant is being a bit disingeneous and it doesn't become him. And since we can't jump in a time machine and go back to 1986 to ask young Grant what he thought about Moore's opus after he read it, I guess we'll just have to take his word for it that he held this opinion. Of course it's "self-conscious, derivative and heavy-handed". That was the entire point of Watchmen, was to take the stodgy old characters of Charlton and put them in a more realistic milieu, to point out the ludicrousness of the 70s and 80s-standard superhero. Derivativeness and self-consciousness was the nature of the beast. And how else could Moore have approached such grandiosity, except with a heavy hand? And that being said, I don't think it was all that heavy-handed anyway. Moore's dialogue and characterization rarely lapsed into overkill, at least to me. I think if we must blame someone for the sorry state of superhero comics, one must look back farther to the late 70s-to-early-80s efforts of such luminaries as Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Jim Shooter. The issues of Teen Titans, X-Men, and Avengers, to name a few, that they produced attempted to marry overblown cosmic opera and soap opera-style dramatics with just enough real-world touches to cause undemanding fanboys (like, yes, I admit-me back then) to lap it up and ask for more. Moore was attempting to apply a harsh spotlight to the early 80s superhero comic clich├ęs and is not to blame for its continued excesses.

But you know, it's become fashionable and trendy to bash Moore's writing and Watchmen in particular anyway, since it begat so many lame (and some not-so-lame) imitators, plus it has the disadvantage of being 17 years old now, and people seem to have forgotten how different it was back then, and what an impact it made as a result. Maybe Watchmen is overrated, but as far as I'm concerned not by much.

Even Alan Moore himself ran screaming from this kind of story and began an ungainly, 15-year long attempt to reinvent himself as me.

Hm. Don't know why, but it sounds to me like Grant's "taking the piss" as our friends across the pond like to say. I'll bet Grant secretly wishes that he could get his ideas across as succinctly as Moore without lapsing into incoherence as he is so wont to do.

Don't get me wrong, I like Morrison, and I like his writing. Some of my all time favorite series were scripted by the Mad Scotsman. But I like Moore's even more, and I happen to think he's one of the all-time best, so I felt obliged to disagree with what seems to be an increasing trend around message boards and the like.

No comments: