Writer Grant Morrison has destroyed – and built – new universes in the pages of comic books for years. But never before has he created two of them at the same time, in the same comic – and luckily, this one has an appropriate title: "Annihilator."
The first issue of the eagerly anticipated book hits stores this week, so MTV News hopped on the phone with the writer to talk about his influences for the book, his flirtation with Hollywood, and how he's dying to do a "Godzilla" movie:
MTV News: I remember chatting with you about this about two San Diego Comic-Cons ago, so this has been in the works for a while.
Grant Morrison: I came up with it a few years ago, and then we got Frazier [Irving] on board, and he's been working on it since. We waited until we had enough material to feel comfortable to start releasing it. That's why it's taken two years, probably. But it's the most recent thing I've made, so I'm pretty excited.
MTV: Given that it's a Hollywood satire, and things change in entertainment so rapidly, were you at all worried that the business would be totally different by the time this book was released?
Morrison: There are certain things that will always been in play. There will always be big franchises, and in the next few years they'll be darker and darker, and more Batman than Batman. So we're obviously talking about that, but at the same time that opened up a much deeper and more interesting archetype of the glowering cheek-bone boy with his hair swept back, like Hamlet, or Mephistopheles, or Milton's Satan.
I decided to take that, and a sort of Tom Cruise character, and the people who create these characters, and work with the interactions between the characters and their creators.
MTV: So did you have a specific franchise in mind when you wrote this? Is it just Batman, superhero movies in general, or what exactly are you looking to skewer?
Morrison: It's a little bit of all of that. It's just taking that character, that Dracula, the dark man, and foregrounding him and saying, "He is my ultimate destiny." Imagine the story of the greatest artist, the greatest love of all time, and put it in a haunted asylum orbiting a dark hole at the center of our galaxy. And it's kind of this ridiculous high frequency of horror, and chills.
I wanted to tell that story, but at the same time contrast it with the broken, fallen monster who has to create the story.
MTV: What about your experiences in Hollywood? Was there anything in particular you pulled on for this book?
Morrison: Absolutely, the entire experience, and even the way the light works. It's in Frazier's work, because he's captured that orange, chemical look of Los Angeles. It's everything about that, because I've had a home there for quite a few years now, and spent four months in North Los Angeles. I kind of like the place, but this is my attempt to put into the work how I felt about it.
Ray Spass is a lot more like other people I've met than about me. [Laughs] Usually it's me working through something and talking in character in well. It's been more expansive, with the notion of devil deals, and the dark undercurrent of LA, the satanic anthem of the Sunset Strip's serpent power… It's a very glitchy and weird place, and I was trying to get it in one story.
MTV: Having had experience in both, what's your take on the differences between the comic industry and the movie industry?
Morrison: Comics is much more a free-for-all, even though it's starting to get more controlled. The budget is quite small to make a comic book, so people get the opportunity to expand their imaginations, and try things that don't work.
Once you move into television, or movies, or games… The money that's expended on making one movie, it could be for a Middle Eastern dynasty. [Laughs] That's the difference, comics allow for more freedom. I like the movies as well because of the structure. I like to learn structures. I like to learn the grammar of different media, how they built movies on specific machinery.
MTV: In the book, the main character pitches this very simple idea for a movie: what if we did a haunted house movie in space. That's a pitchline right there. But almost immediately, as soon as he starts writing it, it turns into being about a man trying to conquer death. In certain way, it feels like that's how your work boils down – that you come up with a simple pitch, and then it becomes quickly about something more epic, more about human truth.
Morrison: For me, things expand in fractals, honestly. I have real trouble condensing to a pitch, which is I've almost parodied that in this series. Because it's about all kinds of things. It can never be about one thing, one dimension.
MTV: So what about working with Legendary… What's that been like, and given the subject matter, is there any interest in feeding this back into the movie side of the company?
Morrison: Obviously because Legendary has more experience as a movie studio than as a comic book company, there's always potential. But I really wanted to do a good comic book, not even thinking about the film yet. To get Tom Cruise, that wasn't the intention. I wanted to tell this story, and the chance to tell it with a company so deeply entrenched in Hollywood – I couldn't say no.
It was really targeted to Legendary, and I got along so well with Thomas Tull, and Bob Shreck, who was my Editor there. I felt comfortable there, and it's been an interesting experience.
MTV: What about the other way… Is doing a "Godzilla" movie, or something with "Skull Island" of interest to you?
Morrison: I have a great idea for "Godzilla!" I have the best "Godzilla" idea, but no one has ever asked me it.
MTV: Hey, I'll ask you right now.
Morrison: No, I'm not telling you my "Godzilla" idea! I want to use it. I'd love to tell you, honestly, but… No. [Laughs] One day, maybe, you'll see my "Godzilla" idea.
"Annihilator" is in stores now from Legendary Comics.