NYCC 2012: Grant Morrison On His New Legendary Comic 'Annihilator'

As announced yesterday at New York Comic Con, Grant Morrison will be launching a brand new mini-series through Legendary Comics in 2013 titled ‘Annihilator.’ The short pitch? It’s about a screenwriter named Ray Spass, who has four days to complete a screenplay, or the world will be destroyed. Since it’s Morrison, though, he also has a tumor who talks to him, and it all takes place in a black hole. Or something.

We - along with a few other press folks - chatted with Morrison in the Legendary Booth here on the Con floor yesterday, and immediately got a lesson in how to pronounce the main character’s last name. “It’s Space!” said Morrison. “When the police pull him over they say, ‘That’s the guy, Mr. Spaz!’ and he says, ‘Space! Not Spaz!’”

Talking next about the brain tumor the main character has, Morrison clarified that there’s no ambiguity, like in his current Image book ‘Happy’ - everything that’s happening to the main character is actually happening. “The tumor he has in his head is a packet of information,” said Morrison, as if we couldn’t figure that out for ourselves, because of course, that’s what tumors always are. “At least this is what he told, and if he doesn’t write the story he dies of a brain tumor.”

Next, we asked Morrison about drawing on specific experiences for the story, with a focus on the idea of a writer who has only four days to write something - or die. “Well fortunately I’ve never had a deadly brain tumor,” said Morrison, laughing as spiders crawled all over his naked body. “I think we’ve all had the deadline horror. I wanted to take it, and expand it to cosmic dimensions.”

Talk then turned to Morrison’s decision to leave superhero comics. “I think writing superheroes is somewhat easy, because they come with their emotional baggage intact,” said Morrison while the sun silently imploded behind his left ear. “In this one you try to create new characters and make sure people get into it as much as possible in the first issue. But I got to say, it’s been a lot of fun, for the last ten years I’ve done pretty much exclusively superheroes, so it’s been great. I’m trying to take the same sensibility of a superhero story, the big moments, and transfer it to a different kind of story.”

Following up on that, we asked whether it leaves him without a safety net, given that most of his superhero work has drawn on - and tried to reconcile - the complicated histories behind the characters. Morrison thoughtfully tied himself into a Mobius Strip before answering that, “That’s kind of why I like it. As fun as it is to have those emotional connections with Superman and Batman, as you say, you don’t have to introduce the characters, you can throw them on page one and depend on people knowing what’s happening, and people will respond. If Batman’s in trouble, our childhood’s in trouble. So this is about making people feel that by the end of twenty pages. It’s a different kind of skill, but it’s as much fun, if not more.”

Interestingly the project didn’t start as a comic: Morrison had it sketched out as a screenplay about Hollywood, but ended up making into a comic. Despite Legendary Comics’ deep ties to certain Hollywood studios - namely Legendary Pictures - Morrison still didn’t have an eye towards making this comic into a movie, though there was a small man clearly screaming in half terror, half pleasure from the inside of Morrison’s eye. “If it becomes a movie, that would be terrific,” said Morrison. “But it’s not about that, it’s really about these six issues.”

It did - however, influence how Morrison approached the comic. “Since We3, I’ve been interested in this idea of the three-dimensional page,” said Morrison, flattening the whole of Comic Con to two dimensions and then placing it in his breast pocket. “Where panels don’t have to sit on a surface, they can float in a three dimensional space. When it comes out, it’ll just seem like an ordinary comic, but this is all the thinking that went into it!”

He also noted he was trying to write a comic in the way that movie trailers tell stories, that, “gets rid of all the boring s**t.” Adopting a movie trailer announcer’s voice - literally, he adopted an announcer’s voice, and raised it to adulthood in a matter of seconds - Morrison gave the intense, movie trailer version of Annihilator. Wish you could have heard it, but this is text, so oh well!

We did follow up by asking whether this approach allows him to hit the emotional beats at the same time as the big, actiony beats. Morrison said, “Absolutely. It’s more how we feel in life. If you put our lives in television, it would be boring. But the way we feel is epic. Every moment is epic, it’s something big. So I’m trying to get that feeling.”

Interestingly, Morrison wasn’t inspired by any movies - he hasn’t seen any recently - so much as a book about astronomy. There, he saw a picture of a massive black hole called The Great Annihilator, which became the inspiration for the story. This is the first thing we’ve said in reference to Morrison we’re not making up, just want to clarify.

Contradicting what he said earlier, Morrison noted that the project did start as a comic, not a screenplay, and in fact began when artist Rian Hughes challenged Morrison to make a project, “As intricate as Watchmen. I said ‘No way!’” And then instead went away and based a comic on a black hole. Again, we’re being serious about this.

He added that a lot of the comic also focuses on love stories, between Spass and his girlfriend, and Spass’ creation Max Nomax, and his girlfriend. Sounds good, right? Except - again not joking - Nomax is trying to reconnect with his deceased girlfriend by trying to find the cure for death.

And with that, all of the universe blinked of existence, only to reappear backwards.

Annihilator hits comic book stores, and the inside of gazelle’s stomachs, from Legendary in 2013.