Friday, June 1, 2012

Mindscape of the Comic Gods


On his fortieth birthday, writer Alan Moore turned to magic.

DEZ Vylenz's THE MINDSCAPE OF ALAN MOORE consists of a seventy-eight minute monologue, in which comic writer and magus Alan Moore talks about his life, career and beliefs from his sitting room. Vylenz illustrates Moore's profound words with comic images, recreations, animation and shots of Northampton, and with no testimonials from others the documentary is an intimate yet dense affair. The subject evaluates changes in communication and fame - lamenting the one-hit wonders who burn out and feed the press - and also the importance of acknowledging self, at one point questioning if drugs, alcohol, TV et al are in fact desperate attempts to shy away from such responsibilities. Ultimately, Moore wallows towards a rudderless world driven by multiplying strands of information: "in the beginning was the word."

Moore has introduced human grime - yet high emotion - into the graphic medium. Grant Morrison - "the rock star of comics" - has created the opposite, celebrating superheroes and imposing a forceful sentientality. GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS - directed by Patrick Meany, the author of Our Sentence is Up, which examined Morrison's The Invisibles - takes an in depth look at the mind of the man behind such pivotal titles as We3, Final Crisis and All Star Superman. Here is a more rounded piece than Vylenz's, as we are introduced to an array of writers, artists and other eccentric characters from Morrison's world. An infinitely imaginative creator and explorer of consciousness, Morrison possesses a humbleness that keeps him from pretentiousness. In an alarming sequence, Morrison reveals previously little known details about the origins of his ongoing feud with Moore: allegedly, Glasgow's infant terrible approached Northampton's most famous resident with permission to take over the Marvelman strip in Warrior, only to receive a Mafia-like missive.

Since assuming control over Batman in 2007, Grant Morrison has orchestrated the Caped Crusader's demise in Batman R.I.P., charted the exploits of replacements Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne in Batman & Robin, mapped the Return of Bruce Wayne, and developed the Dark Knight ethos globally in Batman Incorporated.

From his early years as an isolated youth to his anarchic adulthood, GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS flows beautifully, as the subject recalls how circumstance has affected himself and his works. He tells of spying on missile silos as a boy with his father, and being brought out into the night by his mother, shown a distant star and told, with no explanation, that that is where his family came from. What is most amazing about Morrison is how he has harnessed all the chaos in his life and moulded it into productive, creative energy. Turning to magic at a young age in order to gain some sense of influence, Morrison was always open to unconventional ways of living. It was when Arkham Asylum became a breakthrough hit on the back of Tim Burton's BATMAN that he finally had the monetary means of exploring sex and drugs at every worldly stop ("to see how close I could get to the complete and systematic derangement of the senses.")

Warren Ellis - who contributes some hilarious anecdotes to the documentary - describes Morrison perfectly, as a pragmatist: he simply identifies the things that work for him, and continues using them. Critical and commercial triumphs have allowed him a flamboyant lifestyle of travel, substance experimentation, cross-dressing and fetishism (Morrison lovingly recalls the Silver Age Flash to sport "the best boots ever.") In his book Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero, Morrison states that the 1966 Flash story 'The Flash Stakes His Life on - You!' is seminal in his mindset of blurring borders between fiction and non-fiction. While he has been branded a space case, his well-documented eccentricities have added to a mystique that complements his impressive - if sometimes near-impenetrable - body of non-linear storytelling.