I was looking at Douglas Wolk’s essay on Grant Morrison, in which he says, among other things:

“Fortunately, Morrison makes it easier for our own vision of The Invisibles, as readers, to be multiple, too. Return and begin again with what we asked earlier: who’s telling this story? Who’s making it possible to see? The Invisibles is comics, not prose: the creator of its images is, to a significant extent, the person telling the story. But various sections of the series are drawn by roughly 20 artists, and there’s no single “true” or “correct” representation of any character. The climactic storyline is drawn “jam”-style, with everyone taking a few pages, including the one Morrison himself drew. Morrison nonetheless has a prior claim as the image-maker, since he’s the one who directed the images via his own use of language.”

In other words, Wolk argues that the inconsistency/multiplicity of the artwork fits into Morrison’s themes of multiple identity and identity indeterminacy.

Okay…but this ignores a major point. The Invisibles’ artwork sucks. In fact, in virtually every title Morrison’s worked on, the artwork sucks. I know some people like Frank Quitely, and, by contemporary super-hero standards he’s not bad…which is to say, if you’re not grading on a curve, he’s pretty lousy. Moreover (with the possible exception of Arkham Asylum) Morrison hardly ever makes an effort to collaborate with his artists. You don’t get the sense with Morrison (as you do with Alan Moore) that he chooses people he wants to work with based on a particular project. At the end of Animal Man, he noted that he had yet to even communicate with his artist, if I remember correctly. In the recent “Grant Morrison: The Early Years,” when asked if he gives any consideration to his artist, he responds, basically, by saying “no”. “I just write what I feel the need to write and expect my collaborators to be professional enough and creative enough to interpret my stuff to the best of their abilities.” He notes that some artists interpret his ideas better than others…but it never seems to occur to him that he might be inspired by particular artists, or learn something from them in a back and forth creative process. Nor does he think visually in his writing. Where Alan Moore (for better and sometimes worse) experiments with layout and panel transitions and different looks for his comics, Morrison clearly couldn’t care less — which is why so many of the comics he works on are, visually, either boring or desperately cluttered.

Rather than being some sort of pomo strength, I think Morrison’s indifference to art is his signature weakness…and not coincicdentally, a major weakness of super-hero comics in general. Its says a lot about the field that the person who is, in many ways, its most thoughtful and intelligent proponent has no discernable visual aesthetics. I’ve actually read a couple of Grant Morrison’s straight prose stories (in an old series of erotic horror anthologies) and they’re great. It might really have been better if he’d stuck with that, though it pains me to say it. I love Animal Man and Doom Patrol, and have enjoyed Morrison’s other work as well. But, and alas, no matter the care and genius he puts into the writing, even his best efforts look like shit.

Tags: ,