web stats

CSBG Archive

My Top Ten Grant Morrison Comics Can Beat Up Your Top Ten Grant Morrison Comics

Alternate title, Rocky & Bullwinkle style: “Callahan, I’m Callin’ You Out!”

I’m sure you all read “Cacklin'” Tim Callahan’s When Words Collide column over on the CBR frontpage, but, just in case you’re a heathen, this week’s episode was about the ten best– and five worst– Grant Morrison comics. It turns out, despite our shared love of the G-Mozz, that Tim and I don’t quite agree on the Top Ten. Hence, in the comics nerd equivalent of a rap battle, I shall hit back with my own fresh rhymes, in the form of, you know, my own list.

I’ve got some caveats, of course; unlike Mr. Callahan, I haven’t quite read everything Morrison’s written. I still haven’t finished Invisibles, or gotten to Animal Man, and I realize that’s like being the self-proclaimed biggest Kurt Vonnegut fan in the world and not knowing what Slaughterhouse-Five is. Bear with me. I also haven’t read all of Morrison’s JLA run– what I have is great, great stuff, but it doesn’t show up on this top ten due to my personal incompleteness, so let’s just go ahead and nebulize it as an honorable mention, shall we? (Yes, nebulize is not used as an active verb in this type of context, but you know what, I’m the guy with the keyboard here.)

In terms of the Bottom Five Morrison comics, I’m just going to defer to Callahan on this one. I haven’t really read anything he lists there, so they’re probably worthy of being overlooked.

Anyway, you came here for the list, so let’s go ahead and rock it out. And let’s do it countdown style, like Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Grant Morrison Comics or something. Where possible, I’ll link to a 365 Reasons to Love Comics entry I wrote about the book/run (what we call ‘em in Pinochle).

10. The Mystery Play – Art by Jon J. Muth

The Mystery Play starts with a simple enough premise– a small town stages a mystery play. The actor playing God is murdered. The actor playing Satan is arrested. Who really dunnit? The bearded detective you see above enters the fray, determined to find out; he crosses paths with your standard intrepid lady reporter. Nothing is what it seems. Mystery abounds, not just in the case, but in the town itself, and in the detective. There’s some allegory thrown in, some metaphysics… it’s an intriguing work to pick apart.

Many comic readers criticize Morrison for being deliberately dense and confusing. This may be the only work of his, however, that is legitimately so. I hope I’m not ruining anything by saying that the mystery isn’t quite solved, that the story evolves into something more. Morrison refuses to explain the story, leaving it up to us– but I’ve yet to see a really strong argument as to the full meat of the comic. The Mystery Play is therefore a lovely mystery, one that’s stuck with me. It’s a revelation… sort of.

9. The New Adventures of Hitler – Art by Steve Yeowell

I much prefer this reunion of Zenith creators to Zenith itself. Incredibly difficult to find– I don’t think it’s been collected– it remains, however, quintessential Morrison. It follows Adolf Hitler in his younger years, living in England with his cousin and going quite mad. Morrissey and John Lennon live in his closet, trolleybuses are following him around, John Bull’s dog is crapping on his lunch table, and he’s searching for the Holy Grail. Morrison writes Hitler’s descent into mania in marvelous fashion, as his little misadventures get more and more bizarre until he finally does find the Holy Grail, elbow-deep in an overflowing toilet, and at last emerges as the Hitler of history, the man who would be king. Half of it’s hilarious, and the other half is truly disturbing, and you don’t know what’s going to come next with each page turn. I dare you to find a more interesting or entertaining comic featuring the Nazi bastard. Except maybe that one where Jimmy Olsen meets him.

8. The Filth – Art by Chris Weston

Morrison described The Filth as a sort of epilogue to his Invisibles phase– and also as the comic that almost killed him, thanks to those magic sigils and stuff, but which made him a newer, better man by story’s end. And that, my friends, is exactly what happens to our protagonist Greg Feely, who finds out he’s actually secret agent Ned Slade of the Hand, sent to wipe the dirty bum of the world, drawn in gorgeous, lurid detail by Chris Weston. The series is rife with weird, Steranko-Nick-Fury-esque (rumor has it this started as a SHIELD pitch) adventures, complete with Russian chimp assassins and giant flying death sperm. There is some deeply bizarre stuff in this series, but in the end, it’s about a guy who just wants to take care of his cat.

As Greg Feely’s life unravels around him, Morrison takes us through his usual metafictional, multi-layered worldview. He drags us through the muck so that we may understand. The entire thing comes to fruition in one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever read in comics: Greg Feely holds the excrement of the world in his hands and says “I wanted an explanation. I wanted it all to make sense but it’s just shit. … What am I supposed to do with this?” The answer? “Spread it on your flowers, Greg.” Like all Morrison comics, it’s about personal transformation, the individuation of the main character, and the self-actualization of the reader. Brilliant work.

7. Seven Soldiers – Art by  J.H. Williams, Simone Bianchi, Cameron Stewart, Frazier Irving, Ryan Sook, Yanick Paquette, Doug Mahnke, and all the guys who tag-teamed on Mister Miracle

I made this one #7 just to be cute. Oh, what a wondrous experiment this series was to behold and experience as each issue hit the shelves. Each mini more or less standing alone, but all tied together into a magnificent tapestry, a coat-of-arms of many colors. Morrison doesn’t just tell one transformative epic here, he tells seven– heck, maybe more. “We’re telling stories about human dignity, Jake!” Boys, girls, men and women finding themselves and becoming heroes– legends. Disparate genres working together, unbeknownst to their protagonists, to form a well-oiled machine, seven storytelling engines powering one automobile. Stuffed with fresh ideas, fun new revamps. Any one of these mini’s would have made a great ongoing series– and of course, none came to fruition, and pretty much all the characters and ideas here have more or less laid fallow since, aside from the occasional radar blip.

It was a sprawling, lovely mess that congealed into something great. But don’t listen to me, go ahead and listen to Burgas, what with the 31 posts he did on the series back when.

6. New X-Men - Art by Frank Quitely and a whole lotta other dudes

Ahh, the gateway drug. The comic that turned me onto Grant Morrison comics. This run features similar trappings of Morrison’s later Batman run, a run you’ll note is not on this list. That’s because G-Mozz did it better here, turning the storytelling engine of the X-Men into the actual story. It took all the old X-Tropes and held them up to the light, spun them around, and then broke them. It used its love of the past to usher forth the electric air of the future. It had its ups and downs and its artistic inconsistency, but it also had twists and turns and air-punching moments. It was loved and hated by so many nerds, but it’s the series in which Grant Morrison took hold of my brain and never let go. Wild Sentinels! Xorn! Weapon Plus! Xavier’s as an actual school! And poor, lovely Beak. Good times.

5. Kill Your Boyfriend – Art by Philip Bond

I unabashedly love this comic. I’ve said before it’s the perfect pop comic, and I stick to it– it invites itself into your life like a Britpop song bursting from the radio, and it doesn’t stay past its welcome. I am so happy Vertigo recently reprinted this so more future madmen may enjoy it. Kill Your Boyfriend is a mile-a-minute farce where Boy meets Girl and they go on a crime, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll spree through England like a cooler, sexier Bonnie and Clyde. Every line is quotable, and most of them are hilarious. It’s the definition of the word zany– a relentlessly charming, madcap, joyful romp. Seize the day. Do something clever, or something stupid. Kill your boyfriend.

4. We3 – Art by Frank Quitely

I almost didn’t buy this comic. I didn’t think it sounded that cool. But then Bandit looked up at me from the cover of #1 with those big browns, and I had to have it. We3 is, I’m pretty certain about this, a perfect comic book– all the heart and soul of a Pixar film with all the terror and grit of an 80s action blockbuster. Brilliant in its construction, marvelously paced, redefining the way a comics page can be constructed, all the while tugging at one’s heart strings with all its might. You cannot be a human being and not completely fall in love with this comic. It’s a pinnacle of comics achievement. And yet there’s three more comics on this list.

3. All Star Superman – Art by Frank Quitely

The Last Superman Story. The perfect Superman story. Morrison’s Man of Steel is the ultimate good– always kind, always believing anything is possible, that any man is capable of greatness, capable of being super. He’s a shining example to the world, and he is not alone. As the spirit of Jor-El says in the final chapter: “You have shown them the face of the man of tomorrow. You have given them an ideal to aspire to, embodied their highest aspirations. They will race, and stumble, and fall and crawl… and curse… and finally… they will join you in the sun, Kal-El.” Morrison holds a mirror up to Superman, putting numerous funhouse versions of him into the tale: Super-Lois, Bizarro, Zibarro, Bar-El, Luthor, the Supermen of the future, and more… but there is only one Superman. The mirror reflects not just his image, but his legacy, and his mythos, and it all coalesces into the greatest of tales. And Quitely draws the crap out of it.

2. Seaguy – Art by Cameron Stewart

Seaguy is a boy’s adventure tale in the form of a fugue. It’s a coming-of-age story– childhood’s end, by way of a superhero tale. His perfect, simple, Prisoner-esque world grows in strangeness and complexity around him, and he’s gotta learn to grow up fast. Mickey Eye’s evil revealed, Xoo’s dark secret, the secret origin of the moon, and more! Superhero tradition meets absurdism as the story goes along, and it all wraps back around again like a moebius strip. We didn’t need a sequel, but I’m glad we’re getting the two follow-ups Morrison intended. We’ll get to see Seaguy’s surly teenager phase and his evolution into a true adult, and I hope the sequels include all the emotion and excitement of the original mini-series, one of my favorite comics of all time.

1. Flex Mentallo – Art by Frank Quitely (boy, that guy gets around!)

But then there’s my favorite comic, period, and it is, of course, Flex Mentallo. You all knew it would be. So impossible to find and most likely never to be reprinted, Grant Morrison himself advocates the illegal downloading of it, just so you can experience it. It’s the ultimate synthesis of G-Mo’s pet themes– personal transformation and superhero metafiction. I’ve run out of positive, hyperbolic adjectives. Let’s just call it great– the work that made me believe in superheroes, wholeheartedly. It’s a love letter to the very concept of the superhero; it looks at each past era of superhero comics and invokes the next. It weaves a divine spell to make those heroes real– and it succeeds. It transforms its characters– and its readers– through the power of belief. It’s the Holy Grail of comic books, and not located in Hitler’s overflowing toilet. Seek it out at your own peril (and expense).

So that’s that. In the end, Tim Callahan and I shared three books in our top ten– and hey, I just think that goes to show how much great stuff Grant Morrison has written over the years. They’re all worth reading after all– those “shitty, amazing comics.” Bless ‘em.

67 Comments

If you combined your list and Tim’s list and then got rid of All-Star Superman, you’d probably have my list. Nice to see someone else has a fondness for The Mystery Play. My list (which changes on a whim):

10. Seaguy
9. New X-Men
8. Doom Patrol
7. Seven Soldiers (just to be cute as well)
6. JLA
5. The Filth
4. The Invisibles
3. Marvel Boy
2. Animal Man
1. Flex Mentallo

I agree with giving Seven Soldiers and the Filth a boost (the Filth especially gets dismissed to offhandedly by too many), but a Morrison Top Ten with no Doom Patrol? Wrong.
Also, the Invisibles just seems too central to everything that Morrison’s work is about to leave out.

Yeah, that’s the Morrison I love to read.
Although 7 Soldiers was my gateway drug.
New X-Men was hunted won after I gobbled up that.

I find Doom Patrol to be middle-of-the-road Morrison. It’s good, sure, but great? I don’t really see it.

The volumes of Invisibles I’ve read didn’t do much for me, either, but like I said, I excluded it from consideration due to not experiencing it in its entirety. With Morrison, you gotta read the whole thing.

Never read New Adventures of Hitler. (Never read Zenith, either.) Didn’t like X-Men or Seven Soldiers. (I LIKED ‘em, just not as much as y’all.) I love the Filth. And Kill Your Boyfriend IS ESSENTIAL.

But you’re not qualified to comment on … what did you call him, G-Mozz? til you’ve read the Invisibles.

Sorry. You’re not.

(IdisagreewithyoubutIlikedyourreview.)

Zenith, Invisibles, Doom Patrol, and Animal Man must be on any Morrison Top 10, or I just walk away. Like I’m doing now. Walking my badass walk. Away.

Also, one of these days, Nevett will love All-Star Superman. I’m sure of it.

I’ve yet to read Flex, Zenith, Sebastian O, and Hitler so I’m probably not worthy, but my list would be-
1. The Invisibles
2. All Star Superman
3. We3
4. The Filth
5. Doom Patrol
6. Seven Soldiers
7. New X-Men
8. Seaguy
9. Animal Man
10. JLA

Bottom? Um…. I guess Fantastic Four 1234, Arkham Asylum, Vinamarama aren’t all that great. I still like them, though.

are you kidding with this list?
my top ten grant morrison comics will take your top ten grant morrison comics’s mother out to a nice seafood dinner and then never call her again

I don’t know why DC 1,000,000 didn’t make either good list. It was the Silver Age on too many steroids and Jolt colas. The big drawback was the number of tie-ins you had to read to make sense of the story, but otherwise, I liked it.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm

1) Mystery Play
2) Doom Patrol
3) The Invisibles
4) We3
5) Animal Man
6) Seven Soldiers
7) Kill Your Boyfriend
8) New X-men
9) The Filth
10) Flex Mentallo

That’s just my opinion. ;-)

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 28, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I’ve never read Zenith, so I’m wondering if there’s any chance of they’re being reprinted someday?

I haven’t read Morrison as broadly as others, so I can’t conjure a Top 10, but here’s my Top 5…

5.) Batman RIP ( not making this up )
4.)We3
3.) Doom Patrol
2.) All-Star Superman
1.) Animal Man

I haven’t read Invisibles beyond the first trade, nor have I read Zenith or Flex Mentallo or the more obscure early works. New X-Men and JLA I don’t list because of their inconsistency, and I found Seaguy, the Filth, and Vimanaramma were unsuccessful in their reader effort/reader reward ratio.

Anthony Cheng

May 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm

It sounds like you would really enjoy Animal Man, Bill.

I was not as impressed with We3 as most other Morrisonites. It’s an artistic achievement but Morrison’s story is merely “very good” not “crap-your-pants-spectacular.” I wouldn’t put it ahead of New X-Men, Seven Soldiers, Animal Man, or Marvel Boy.

These lists have motivated me to give Invisibles another shot. I gave up after Vol. 1.

Patrick Joseph

May 28, 2009 at 6:46 pm

10. Animal Man
9. Zenith
8. X-Men: Riot At Xaviers
7. All Star Superman
6. Doom Patrol: Painting That Ate Paris
5. JLA: Rock Of Ages
4. Flex Mentallo
3. Kill Your Boyfriend
2. We3
1. Invisibles: Vol 1

I read Flex Mentallo and had a vivid dream that night where I met Grant Morrison in a Quietly drawn landscape of giant hands holding us in their palms.

Is that gay?

“I find Doom Patrol to be middle-of-the-road Morrison. It’s good, sure, but great? I don’t really see it.”

No, you’re thinking of JLA, or maybe even Animal Man.

My two cents.
10: The Authority (Sadly forever unfinished, but the 2 issues which did come out were brilliant)
9: The Mystery Play
8: Kill Your Boyfriend (These 2 being on your list automatically make it better than Callahan’s.)
7: Seven Soldiers (Yes, I’m being cute as well, but it’s definitely in the top 10.)
6: The Filth (A girl moved to New York with my copy. I’m never getting it back.)
5: The Invisibles (The first Morrison I ever read. I found a copy of Counting To None at the library when I was a kid and read it on a car trip. I didn’t read the rest until I bought them years later, but the damage was done.)
4: All-Star Superman
3: Seaguy (Cameron Stewart gets a lot of the credit for this one, the imagery from book 1 will stick with me forever.)
2: Flex Mentallo (I have the actual physical issues. Got them from eBay, in a lot with about 30 other Morrison books, for only $40. Jealous?)
1: Doom Patrol (Specifically issue #63, my single favorite comic book EVER.)
Honourable Mention: 52 (Most of it is a very good comic book, but the stuff with the mad scientists and the space heroes are amazing. Y’know, the Morrison-y bits.)

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 28, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Zenith, Invisibles, Doom Patrol, and Animal Man must be on any Morrison Top 10,

If someone would release Zenith, I’m sure it would rate higher!

Doom Patrol though… I think it may have been greater at the time, than it seems now.
Which isn’t it’s fault, it just well… isn’t that extraordinary when you’ve already read some of the crazier stuff he did later.

My only fault with Animal Man, which isn’t really, is as Morrison says in the book, he thought it was going to be much more epic.
The aliens erasing people to sketches and stuff isn’t really an important part of the narrative, yet feels as though it is at the time etc.
But it’s like complaining about a lesser song on a Beatles album – it’s just not as good as all that is around it.

But yeah, Doom Patrol wouldn’t hit my top ten I don’t think.
(Haven’t even completed the run – just was never motivated to get the third trade… liked the story where they may or may not have killed god though).

I’ve read everything that G-Moz has written from Near Myths on, and am very interested in the different lists. Respect to BillReed for a nice article!

My own personal top 5 would be:
5. Filth
4. New Adventures of Hitler
3. St. Swithin’s Day
2. Bible John
1. Invisibles

I agree more with Tim Callahan, but I would put ‘We3′ in for sure, and not ‘Batman’ or ‘Invisibles’.

And I like your idea of the same list for Alan Moore.

Top 5:
1 – JLA.
2 – DC 1 M.
3 – Flash.
4 – Aztek.
5 – Batman.

Bottom 5:
1 – All Star Superman (Yawn).
2 – New X Men (Xorn, anyone?).
3 – We3.
4 – Seaguy.
5 – Seaguy 2.

I agree with people who said Doom Patrol should be number one. Morrison’s later works may have been more mature, but the pure unadulterated flow of weird and crazy and cool ideas that took place in that book is still unmatched. Plus the flow of ideas didn’t yet muddle the storytelling and pacing, which has happened with some later Morrison comics. Also, I think Doom Patrol had probably the best and most likable characters in any Morrison comic, especially Cliff and Jane. As great as Invisibles was, Jack Frost and King Mob were pretty dull and cliched as characters. It’s true that some bits in Doom Patrol were kinda repetitive (the Scissormen, the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the Sex Men felt a bit too similar) or too far-out (the space adventure), but the book got better and better towards the end. The final Morrison issue has got to be the best single issue he ever wrote, alongside the final issue of his Animal Man. It’s one of the few superhero comic books ever that has made me cry.

Travis Pelkie

May 29, 2009 at 4:19 am

I’ve been reading G-Mozz like crazy lately. I picked up some issues of the second half of his Doom Patrol run, finished my New X-Men run, and read through Batman and Final Crisis. And the new Seaguy. And DC 1mill. Damn, and that’s just scratching the surface.

I don’t know if I have a good list, I haven’t read more than an issue of Animal Man, only half of DP, scattered issues of Invisibles, and the non Xmen Marvel stuff I’ve missed. But off the top of my head, and the lists above:

1. We3, without a doubt. Every time I read it I cry. The themes of anti-animal cruelty and anti-militarism, philosophy of self-actualization, wrapped in a f—in’ cool blockbuster movie package. “Home means run no more” The Incredible Journey, except with battle armor. I was going to make my girlfriend read this and dump her if she didn’t cry over it, but she dumped me first. Did I just type that?

okay, beyond that, I dunno about the order.

Seven Soldiers rocks overall, even though bits and pieces fail. Burgas’s 31 days is great too. And your pic above features Zatanna in possibly her hottest outfit, if I can get crude.

New XMen works to a degree, but the reveal of Xorn is too WTF? to me. I don’t see it coming, even though I knew it was coming. The first half of the run gets me going more than the second.

Batman started off strong, then faltered in RIP, not unlike New Xmen.

Final Crisis has good bits, but I’m not sure how much I like it. I do dig the “ellipsis” storytelling though, figuring we’re smart enough to follow what’s going on without spelling it all out.

JLA had some kick ass-ness, but I haven’t read it all.

The Filth was hard to grasp. I better read it again. Damn you Bill and Tim!

Seaguy is far out and the images haunting.

All Star Superman is Supes at his best. Although I didn’t dig the Zibarro issue quite as much. Must get 10-12!

I liked what I read of Zenith many years ago, through a bunch of 2000 AD Showcase issues that somebody donated to a local library (really!). If they were still on the shelves I’d be tempted to steal ‘em.

I encountered Batman Gothic part 2 in a grab bag early on in my collecting days (’92, probably) and the Janson art creeped me out. It’s still awesome, the head in the wastebasket scene.

And not to brag (too much), but I swear to god, not too long after it came out, I picked up Flex Mentallo 1 in a cheapo bin at a local comic store. Probably paid 50 cents or less, and loved it. Never heard of Quitely before that and probably didn’t connect G-Mozz with Gothic or anything else I might have read of his, but damn, that is one fine issue. I need issues 2-4, but I like this thing called “eating” which prevents me from trying to find and pay for those issues.

I’m such a dork. Love the post.

Stephane Savoie

May 29, 2009 at 5:17 am

Worst Morrison ever?
Skull Kill Krew

Sorry – your list loses all credibility by not having Animal Man.

My top 10:
10 Big Dave
9 Batman and Son (all I’ve read of his Batman run so far)
8 New X-Men: Riot at Xaviours
7 Zenith
6 Doom Patrol
5 JLA
4 WE3
3 The Filth
2 Flex Mentallo
1 Animal Man

The worst suff for me (in no order):
Seaguy
Kill Your Boyfriend
The Invisible Kingdom (the rest of The Invisibles was fine. If the ending was better it might have made my top 10)
The Mystery Play
Fantastic Four: 1234
Vimanarama

“Bottom 5:
1 – All Star Superman (Yawn).
2 – New X Men (Xorn, anyone?).
3 – We3.
4 – Seaguy.
5 – Seaguy 2.”

Argh!!!!!! Please tell me you’re just trolling.

I thought DC One Million was a fun enough story, but that dumb, dumb, dumb time travel logic ruined it for me. He didn’t even try to have it make sense.

I really didn’t like We3. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it bothered me to read it.

All-Star Superman was overrated. WAY overrated.

I like most of the otehr stuff listed, though I’d have Animal Man at #1.

I haven’t really dared to reread Kill Your Boyfriend in years. That was the first Morrison comic I ever read, back when I was a anarchist teenager, and it made a huge impression on me. But since the whole point of the book is to encourage teens to say “Fuck off!” to anyone and anything that tries to hold them down, I’m not sure if I would be so impressed by it now that I’m almost 30. I’m not saying that it’s a good comic, but maybe it’s best appreciated if the reader is in the same age group as the protagonists.

I know that I am in a major minority, but I have never gotten into Grant Morrison’s work. I have read Invisibles vol. 1 and 2, JLA, Seven Soldiers, ect. and think that his work is too dense and purposefully confusing to actually be enjoyable.

That being said, I think Kill Your Boyfriend is brilliant and Mystery Play was one of the better comics that I have ever read.

I don’t think WE3 was perfect, and it broke my heart to come to that decision, with issue #3. Issue #1 was absolutely perfect, though; in fact, it could stand alone and still work.

I have not read MYSTERY PLAY in the better part of a decade, but I found it to be a little too heavy on the smoke and mirrors. And, like Peter Greenaway’s film DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, though there is a mystery to be solved, I am not sure that there is any possible solution beneath all the pretense. JJ Muth, of course, is wonderful.

I’m reading through Seven Soldiers right now, minus some issues of Zatanna, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’d put it well above his Batman run. I don’t know that I’ve read 10 series to put on a top 10 list, but JLA, Arkham Asylum, All Star Superman and Final Crisis make me want to pick up his other work more than JLA/Wildcats turns me away.

I’m with those who say you’re not worthy of writing a list til you read The Invisibles. But that’s neither here nor there.

My list of G-Mozz’s ten best in no particular order

All Star Superman
JLA
The Invisibles
The Filth
We3
Sebastian O
Doom Patrol
Animal Man
Doctor Who “The World Shapers”
Flex Mentallo

The best of Morrison is clearly a subject to be debated endlessly. But in case anyone was wondering, the worst he’s ever produced – really, don’t read it – is his limited stint on Judge Dredd. Sure, he can share the blame with Mark Millar for ‘Book of the Dead’ and ‘Crusade’, but ‘Inferno’ was all his own fault. Silly comics, and poor handling of a great character.

Funny, Kill Your Boyfriend and The Filth are at the top of my worst of Morrison list. I had to take the Filth off of my pull list after about the fifth issue because it was so unreadable. Different strokes, I guess.

No Animal Man, Doom Patrol, or Invisibles? Blasphemy. And Tuomas, Kill Your Boyfriend definitely holds up. One of the few works I return to over and over and give a read (I am not much of a re-reader, no matter how much I love something… just too much good stuff out there).

My list:

10. Final Crisis – I know it is fashionable to pan this, but it was brimming with great ideas which were, for the most part, strongly executed. It was nice to see the entire DCU as Morrison’s toy box. In my mind, this stands up there as one of the strongest explorations of the nature of good and evil in superhero comics.

9. WE3 – Equal parts riveting and poignant, WE3 is in many ways a continuation of ideas first expressed in Animal Man about animals and our relationship to them (in fact, there is probably a good article waiting to be written on the topic of animals in Morrison’s works, between this, Animal Man, and the Filth).

8. Batman: Arkham Asylum – A beautifully rendered exploration of what makes the Batman tick. This one made the list primarily on the strength of Dave McKean’s art, but is still a wonderful graphic novel, in the truest sense of the term.

7. The Filth – Possibly Morrison’s most under-appreciated work. The art is top-notch and consistent throughout, and the story is both truly disturbing and incredibly moving. At the time this was being serialized, I was living in a relatively new place, and the few friends I had met there had moved on and away. In short, I was depressed and lonely. The Filth really resonated with me for that reason, and in some part at least helped me through that as I went out, made new friends, and began to enjoy life.

6. New X-Men – I still vividly remember the day the first issue of Morrison’s X-Men run hit the stands. I must have read it at least 10 times before the next issue came out, then read those two a combined 10 more times before the third issue. Morrison took everything I loved about the X-Men while growing up, refined it, and then transcended it.

5. Doom Patrol – For me, Doom Patrol is as much about the thrill of the hunt for the individual issues (I started trying to track the whole run down a few years before they collected it all in trades) as what was contained therein. But what I found once I pieced it all together was worth the time digging through bins, trolling the floor at cons, and scouring listings on e-bay.

4. Animal Man – The comic that convinced me once and for all that Morrison is a comics genius. I bought the full run (again, before the trades were issued) and devoured it in one marathon sitting. This would probably make my list for “The Coyote Gospel” alone, but the entire run is absolutely amazing.

3. Kill Your Boyfriend – Probably the only comic that gives me a palpable, physical rush when I read it. Short, concise, straightforward, filled with the unrestrained energy of pure anarchy and unconstrained possibility. The greatest punk rock single ever, and it isn’t even a song.

2. All-Star Superman – This series IS Superman. In fact, # 10 alone IS Superman. I don’t think anyone has ever encapsulated and completely expressed the essence of any character (especially one as oft-used and universal as Superman) this well. If the entire Superman canon is the Bible, All-Star Superman is the gospels — definitive and essential.

1. The Invisibles – The signature series of Grant Morrison’s career. Incredibly dense and layered, this is not Morrison for beginners. Both surface readings and deeper explorations of the text are rewarded, though trying to untangle every reference and allusion can be almost maddening. This tops my list because it was my first introduction to Morrison, and every new reading still reveals something I had not seen or considered before.

Caveats: I have not read Flex Mentallo or Zenith, due to difficulty of procuring same. Also, I did not consider Batman, because I consider that run unfinished.

On the bubble: Seaguy, Marvel Boy, Seven Soldiers

Well, I haven’t yet read Invisibles, but I will soon.

I also haven’t read the harder-to-find (unless you’re willing to shell out a small fortune) stuff (like Zenith, Flex Mentallo and -Hitler). Also haven’t read The Mystery Play (but I will soon).

My top 10:
1. Animal Man
2. WE3
3. Seven Soldiers
4. ASS
5. Seaguy
6. Marvel Boy
7. Doom Patrol
8. New X-Men
9. Arkham Asylum (though a lot of that love may be for McKean)
10. Kill Your Boyfriend

Honourable mention to The Filth (maybe I need to reread it) and JLA.

I’ve enjoyed Batman so far. Let’s see how he wraps up.

One day there’ll be a trade of Flex Mentallo. I simply can’t justify paying £30 for four single issues.

that thing he did with those 50ies batman comics and how he incorporated them into into modern bat myth was freaking genius. not perfect storytelling but way more bold than all star superman.

flex mentallo is nice. but hes played that theme a bit too often. (see seaguy for a recent repeat)

and his x-men left me mildly amused to indifferent.

Doom patrol rocks, but some of those artists were the pits.

Oh, and some new trades of Zenith would be nicee too. I won’t hold my breath for a New Adventures of Hitler trade though.

” that thing he did with those 50ies batman comics and how he incorporated them into into modern bat myth was freaking genius. not perfect storytelling but way more bold than all star superman. ”

Agreed, and it irks me that more people besides us didn’t put it on their favorite Morrison comics list. Hopefully the debut of the new Batman and Robin comic will change that.

oh and invisibles just stunk.
the esoteric new agey stench made me quit the book quite early.

Nice to see New Adventures of Hitler get some respect – definitely one of my favourite Morrison stories.

[…] only read about 1/3 of the combined list. Update: Comics Should Be Good fires back with another Top 10 Grant Morrison […]

@Wombat: ”that thing he did with those 50ies batman comics and how he incorporated them into into modern bat myth was freaking genius. not perfect storytelling but way more bold than all star superman.”

Also agreed, and (@Nitz) what irks me isn’t that more people didn’t put it on their favorite Morrison comics list — it’s that DC didn’t release more comprehensive HCs/TPBs including the original stories as contextual backups. Give comic readers fish, and they’ll eat for one night; teach comic readers how to fish, and they’ll make better-informed choices when compiling top-ten lists.

Everyone’s comics are subjective. That’s what makes it so much fun.

I’m probably going to forget something I love, but here’s ten Morrison comics I loved:

Doom Patrol
Final Crisis
We3
New X-Men
Kill Your Boyfriend
Batman
Arkham Asylum
Seven Soldiers
All-Star Superman (and I really find Superman boring!)
The Invisibles

I read Zenith in parts in 2000AD, but didn’t really appreciate it at the time… Skipped (or missed out on) some progs, which didn’t help… I probably would now, but no longer have the issues… Doh!

” Also agreed, and (@Nitz) what irks me isn’t that more people didn’t put it on their favorite Morrison comics list — it’s that DC didn’t release more comprehensive HCs/TPBs including the original stories as contextual backups. Give comic readers fish, and they’ll eat for one night; teach comic readers how to fish, and they’ll make better-informed choices when compiling top-ten lists. ”

By original stories as backups, do you mean the wacky 50’s sci-fi stories? I honestly don’t think that’s necessary, since all you need to know is that those trippy, post-Code strips have been integrated in the form of Bruce trippin’ balls.

I think Morrison’s fans tend to be excellent fishermen in regards to close reading, so it’s an unfortunate surprise that Batman R.I.P. didn’t catch on as well with them. Morrison’s detractors, on the other hand, tend to demand that the writer chauffer them to the store to buy the Van Camp’s fish fillets…

my own top five Morrison stuff, in no particular order:

THE INVISIBLES – ultimately an autobiography; i agree with the others saying that this is a flawed masterpiece, but only in the sense that Philip Dick’s RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH or VALIS or UBIK are flawed

THE FILTH – an addenda/b-side autobio; i admit though that this is only really good when read after THE INVISIBLES, and alongside NEW X-MEN

NEW X-MEN – the first year or so, THE INVISIBLES as a mainstream superhero bigscreen popcorn Claremont-pastiche comic book, and RIOT AT XAVIER’S was a very good four issues of 21st century brathood

NEW ADVENTURES OF HITLER – wasn’t as good as i thought it’d be, given the title, but one of his better more microscopic stuff that he did so well with DOOM PATROL (the Beard Hunter) and THE INVISIBLES (All Fall Down); best read with Peter Milligan and Brendan MaCarthy’s SKIN

ST SWITHIN’S DAY – if this list had ranks, this’d be number one; again, it’s Morrison doing microscopic stuff, and he really does that sort of thing well (like Milligan and Gaiman and Moore), and this is really the best of that sort of thing, and also his best all over

DOOM PATROL and ANIMAL MAN would be in my list if they just didn’t feel like they were more just being weird for weirdness’ sake instead of just trying to tell stories in new ways. and their more “human” were more “evocative sentimental” than actual “story” story (as opposed to SWITHIN’S and HITLER being more “story” than “senti”)..

I actually read some of Zenith when it came out first. It was Phase 3 or 4 and I was about 10 years old and hadn’t a bloody clue what going on! How I wish I kept those old issues of 2000AD.

New X-Men got me back into comics after a few years away. Morrison is probably my favourite writer but I haven’t read everything of his yet so couldn’t possibly give a Top 10, instead I’ll just list some of my favourites in particular order.

All Star Superman
New X-Men
Marvel Boy
Seaguy
We-3
Flex Mentallo
Seven Soldiers
The Batman arc with JH Williams (it’s name escapes me right now)
I also have a soft spot for Vinanarama but that’s mainly because I liked the first issue, the rest of it wasn’t so good

No Zenith? Fuhgeddaboutit.

I have my trades safely squirreled away but for those still seeking, the entire series is available from the same sources as Flex Mentallo…. or so I’ve heard.

My favourites in no particular order would be:

Doom Patrol – The Empire of Chairs brings a lump to my throat every time I read it, kudos also to Richard Case’s development over the series as an artist.

The Invisibles – The gateway drug for me, read Say You Want A Revolution in my early twenties and it still holds up as I reach my late thirties.

We3 – Want to convince someone that comics are a powerful medium that can convey things in a unique and accesible manner? give them this, that alone puts it on my top ten of comics fullstop.

NEW-X-MEN – Maybe it’s slighty OCD of me to capitalize the title but the symmetry the logo uses is one of it’s charms, not that the series is weak on ideas but it’s that unique way of looking at the world that makes Morrsion’s work so interesting.

Seaguy – absurd super-hero adventures told with affection for super-heroes.

Seven Soldiers – the invention across each mini-series unifies the story.

JLA – Worth it for Batman in #3 & the way Darkseid gets taken out in Rock of Ages.

Animal Man – Coyote wisdom.

Batman – the integration of Batman mythos from throughout his history working to tell a cracking adventure yarn allowing Bat-mite to deliver a genius line about the fifth dimension.

Not read all of All-Star Supperman (waiting for the 2nd volume to come out in softcover to match by copy of the first), not read Flex Mentallo, Zenith or New Adventures of Hitler, I dream of the various copyright disputes been resolved. I’ve not included Skrull Kill Krew, Aztek The Ultimate Man & his Flash run beause I don’t know how much of them are Morrison and how much Millar, but I’d recommend Flash & Aztek as good super-hero comics, Skrull Kill Krew is entertaining but insubstantial.

As for poor Morrison I’d like to clarify my list by stating that poor Morrison at least takes chances, and it’s the ones that don’t work (for whatever reason) that I’d class as poor

Final Crisis – oh for some editing
Fantastic Four 1234 – jPicked up issue one, didn’t feel any need to pick up it up after that.
Kid Eternity – just meh

Karl A Russell

May 29, 2009 at 4:26 pm

What, no Dare? My first encounter with Morrison way back when it was sandwiched alongside Milligan’s Rogan Ghosh and Purple Daze in Fleetway’s trippy 2000AD spin-off Revolver. It’s one of his better revisionist hero tales, with Rian Hughes’ art both futuristic and busted up at the same time. It’s not even that expensive to obtain now that the big Hughes compendium Yesterday’s Tomorrows is out (and it includes a second dose of Morrison too, the lesser Really & Truly from 2000AD).

Beyond Dare, my top ten in no particular order also includes:

Zenith (pop superheroics and pan-universal hippies, preferably in the black and white Titan volumes – the best way to showcase Steve Yeowell’s starkly beautiful art)
Flex Mentallo (Reads like the pure essence of The Invisibles boiled down to four perfect issues)
The Invisibles (especially the Gideon Stargrave issues – Entropy In The UK etc – The ultimate mind f*** for non-comics readers)
JLA : Earth 2 (Morrison & Quitely’s first take on Superman, with the big guy completely eclipsed by his evil counterpart and a bigger, badder Batman)
JLA Classified (How many ideas can you get in three issues? Crazy apes, malevolent universes and Batman has a sci-fi closet. Great as a standalone tale or as a prologue to Seven Soldiers)
Seven Soldiers (a thirty part jigsaw puzzle with ideas firing off in all directions – Zatanna is the highpoint)
Kill Your Boyfriend (still the funniest thing in the Morrison back catalogue)
Marvel Boy (Is it wrong to read this as an alternate universe tale with a pervy, twisted Tony Stark as the bad guy?)
New X Men (more superheroics, on the widest canvas possibe. I’m not that au fait with the Marvel universe, so I have to ask – Did he completely rewrite the background and purpose of the Phoenix(es) in that last issue? Either way, you have to love that 150 year break.)

Plus honorable mentions to Batman The Black Glove, The Mystery Play and Fantastic Four 1234 (again, I probably appreciate this more as I’m not normally a fan of the characters so this slightly off-beam take works more for me).

Rock bottom worst? Spawn, Book Of The Dead and Vampirella (but we can blame those last two on Millar).

Dare was alright and all, but far from my favorite Morrison work. I think it’s the only truly cynical comic he’s ever written.

My problems with We3 were:
1 – putting three household pets in suits of armor (huh?).
2 – giving them guns (double huh?).
And what was the point of Seaguy / Seaguy 2?

Man, Final Crisis doesn’t get no love a’tall. It will never cease to amaze me how completely thwarted the majority of the Morrison-discussing internet by what was, honestly, a pretty linear plot with a whole bunch of subplots and a few major digressions.

I dig Final Crisis a lot, but come on, who would put that in their Top Ten Morrison comics? He has WAY too many great comics to put Final Crisis in his Top 10.

This is a really great top ten list Bill. The Filth and Kill Your Boyfriendare OK, I think a lot of people picked out the good ones like New X-men and We3, much stronger comics both visually and plot. Anyone can post their own list to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

I haven’t read much, a third or so of Morrison’s output, but nonetheless, here’s my Bottom Five and Top Five so far,

Bottom Five:

1. JLA and WildCats – If you’ve read this, it’s pretty self-explanatory why it’s here. A recent issue of Spider-Man Family featured art by Val Semekis. His style now is surprisingly clean and pleasant to read.

2. Arkham Asylum – I have to say I’m surprised that this made it into so many people’s Top Tens. I had a long rant prepared about Asylum’s shortcomings, but then I thought better of it, panning it more succinctly by inclusion in this list.

3. Final Crisis – The first four issues blew me away (“Thumbs up for the eternal triumph of the human spirit, thumbs down for a day of holocaust that never ends” – so awesome), but then five was a generic event comics battle issue, six rubbed me wrong, and then seven was just an utterly horrid sequence of narrative left fielders (“Here’s some animal characters!”, “Nix Uotan, I am your father!” “Oh btw reader, Aquaman came back”), none of which could move me to a feeling beyond perplexity.

4. Batman: Gothic – Nothing particularly awful about this, it’s just an unspectacular Batman story (yes, yes, stymie your snarky words, hecklers of RIP, and find out why you’re wrong by clicking my link).

5. I can’t think of a fifth Morrison comic/series that I didn’t enjoy, but since I refuse to resort to anything so barbarous as a “Bottom Four,” I’ll stick the first TPB of The Invisibles here, which I confess, I read well before “getting” Morrison comics at any level. I’ll reread this probably and buy the other trades eventually, and after that, who knows, it may nuzzle its way into the other list below.

Top Five:

1. Animal Man – “Cliff 9 27,” that’s some creepy stuff. Also, coming from the minority obviously, but I love Chas Truog’s artwork. The cartoonishness provides an awesome counterpoint to the spectacular and often harrowing stuff happening in Animal Man’s life. I was really upset to find a fill-in artist on the other half of the “Spooks” storyline, “Time in a Bottle,” where symmetry seemed of great importance. Anyway, I don’t need to mention “The Coyote Gospel,” possibly the best standalone issue of all time, and hey, whose frozen heart didn’t melt at the story of Foxy the light-shining fox.

2. Seven Soldiers – Morrison always does a great job when he conflates the campy and comical with the tragic and real (ala The Coyote Gospel), and I think those parts were the real standouts of Seven Soldiers. “Sex Secrets of the Newsboy Army” and the back narrative of Sally Sonic illustrate how a story can be truly sad while not being dour or devoid of comic irony. Plus, Frankenstein on Mars. Nuff said.

3. ASS – “You’re stronger than you think.” Man, ASS #10 was the first comic to bring me to the verge of tears (I said “the verge” dammit, “the verge”!). Remember, “thumbs up for the triumph of the human spirit”? Well, this is it.

4. We3 – Morrison and Quitely again. “Home? Home is run no more.” True story: I had a dog named Bandit for thirteen years who died maybe two months before I bought this comic. Needless to say, I’m really happy he makes it here.

5. One fourth (give or take) of 52 – While no one but the creators can say for certain which parts are whose, every beat in that series resonated with me. So no matter how you may slice it to avulse the Morrison parts, they’re in my Top 5, because 52 makes one of my favorites ever.

“I dig Final Crisis a lot, but come on, who would put that in their Top Ten Morrison comics? He has WAY too many great comics to put Final Crisis in his Top 10.”

Obviously, I would, but you probably figured that out. In terms of DCU stuff, I’d easily take it over JLA and Batman on account of not being hamstrung by inept artists like Porter, Daniel, and Garbett (and the merely mediocre Kubert), and in terms of its clarity of tone (where the comic provokes a visceral reaction before an academic one) it’s probably Morrison’s best overall. Then again, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the Invisibles enough to like it, I found Doom Patrol merely fun, and I can’t quite remember how I felt about Animal Man (not a good sign), so maybe I’m just a troglodyte. Top 5 for me is something like Seaguy, Final Crisis, Seven Soldiers, Kill Your Boyfriend, and I dunno, New X-Men. No particular order between Seaguy at the top and NXM at the bottom. And throw in Viminarama as an honorable mention for being both such lovely disposable fun.

final crisis had a LOT of problems.
its worst being that morrison bit of more than he could chew.
(in terms of concept and coherence)

a crossover done right would be his 7 Soldiers, i guess.

Interesting stuff. I bought The Mystery Play when it came out but haven’t been able to find it for years.

My top Morrison:

1. Kill Your Boyfriend.
2. Zenith. Reread the whole lot recently and it really is brilliant. Yeowell’s art in Phase 3 is jaw-dropping. For anyone interested, it’s never going to be reprinted but you can usually get relevant 2000AD back Progs on eBay for very little and you get a whole load of other good stuff into the bargain. Same applies to the Crisis issues with Hitler.
3. Doom Patrol. I got the the whole lot for £5 on ebay six months ago and thought it was brilliant. Interesting to see so many things that he’ll return to again and again so early on.
4. Invisibles (vol 1) If the rest of the series had continued on it’s original path it would be number 1 of all time.
5. Seaguy. Lovably daft.

I’ve been waiting for a single collected volume of Superman. I started buying his Batman instead, which seems like a mistake in retrospect.

I never really got into Animal Man or We3: I don’t think they’re bad, they just didn’t engage me. I also find Flex Mentallo unspeakably boring. However, as somebody else mentioned, comfortably the worst thing Morrison’s ever written is Book of the Dead and his other Dredd stuff wasn’t much better: for a writer who always seems able to give big characters the right spotlight, he made a right mess of that. I wouldn’t have thought his little mate Millar helped much.

Wow, here’s a coincidence – While reading through this, I’ve just heard that Danny La Rue has died, aged 81.

I know that I am in a major minority, but I have never gotten into Grant Morrison’s work. I have read Invisibles vol. 1 and 2, JLA, Seven Soldiers, ect. and think that his work is too dense and purposefully confusing to actually be enjoyable.

That being said, I think Kill Your Boyfriend is brilliant and Mystery Play was one of the better comics that I have ever read.

In that case try Animal Man and WE3. Neither of those are at all dense or confusing – but both are top notch Morrison.

That said – how can you say you don’t like “purposefully confusing” and then say you like The Mystery Play?

The best of Morrison is clearly a subject to be debated endlessly. But in case anyone was wondering, the worst he’s ever produced – really, don’t read it – is his limited stint on Judge Dredd. Sure, he can share the blame with Mark Millar for ‘Book of the Dead’ and ‘Crusade’, but ‘Inferno’ was all his own fault. Silly comics, and poor handling of a great character.

Book of the Dead was okayish, Crusade was absolutely terrible, but Inferno is one of my favourite Dredd stories ever. If I’d remembered it when I wrote my list it would probably have made my top 10.

If you can read the stories Morrison wrote for Verotika magazine, give it a try. Kinda cool reading, twisted as hell.

Danny LaRue – Danny the Street. I never got that until now. wow how sad. and I call myself a morrison fan (to be fair I was doing a lot of drugs when I was reading doom patrol – now I don’t do drugs, I just reread the Filth).

Kingdom of Chairs; Animal Man last issue; Flex Mentallo last issue; JLA w/Quitely and the Injustice League; All-Star Superman where his dad dies; last issue of the Filth (we have love); the tyrant sun as superman’s absolute nemesis; chubby the chuna; and for some strange reason The Avengers (Steed & Mrs Peel): he just totally nailed that. I wish he’d do his version of the patrick magoohan prisoner

@Deco
That would be Seaguy.

Speaking of SG, I like the use of the term “fugue” to describe it– works on both of the 2 most popular definitions.
Nice work, Mr. Reed.

It’s hard to take someone’s opinion on GM when they haven’t read Zenith, Animal Man, or The Invisibles– these comics are essential Morrison that contain almost all of his major themes and ideas of writing.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives