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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 92: 2000AD #477

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This week: Grant “Bow to the Bald Buddha!” Morrison. Today’s page is from 200AD Prog #477, which was published by Fleetway and is cover dated 5 July 1986. Enjoy!

No one likes a spoilsport!

Before I consider this page, I want to say a few things about my favorite comic book writer. I can barely encapsulate his career in seven days – I could probably have a month devoted to the God of All Comics and do a pretty good job. Since he started working on Animal Man, I own almost everything he’s written (there are few short stories I’ve missed, and unless I misfiled it in my long boxes, I don’t have Sebastian O, although I thought I did). Thanks to reprints, I own a chunk of stuff he did before he came to the States, too. I know I own more comics written by a writer, thanks to people like Claremont and David working for over a decade on books I really liked, but I probably own more different comic book series (or mini-series, of course) written by Morrison. So narrowing down seven representative comics from throughout his career is really, really difficult. I won’t have any Animal Man this week, for instance. No Invisibles. No X-Men. No All Star Superman. No Seven Soldiers. No Batman. I didn’t want to use his most popular comics, because a lot of people have read them. I wanted to look at some of his more obscure work to show how he developed. I did select an issue of JLA to represent his straight superhero work, but I also have this sucker (plus tomorrow’s entry). So yes, I know I’m skipping some important Morrison comics. I doubt if anyone except me, Bill Reed, and maybe Our Dread Lord and Master would be interested in me doing an entire month of Morrison comics. Because I could! Don’t you tempt me!

Anyway, this is one of the earliest Morrison comics I own, reprinted in The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks, which Rebellion put out in 2008 (Fleetway published 2000AD back in 1986). I don’t know if the original was in color, and I’m hesitant to post stuff that’s not as close to its original form as possible, but since we’re focusing on the words and not necessarily the art this month, I figure I can let it slide.

John Stokes does a nice job with this page, though. “Future Shocks” were extremely short stories (this is three pages), so both writer and artist have to get to the point, and Stokes sets the scene quickly in the first panel – it’s an alien world, and we’re heading inside Beel’s Omnimart, which proudly proclaims that they “sell everything!” Stokes gives us Siva Goth in the second panel, who’s an impressive fellow, dominating Mr. Beel (or just Beel?), who does seem to quiver in his presence (it’s all an act, though). Siva Goth dresses like some kind of space Mongol, which is kind of cool. Stokes positions the two characters on the page so that our eye goes from the top right to the bottom left, against the grain, so to speak, but which leads us to panel 3, which is underneath panel 1. Here we see Mr. Beel for the first time, and Stokes does a nice job showing that he is, in fact, not that intimidated. In the bottom two panels, we get a good vexed look on Siva’s face when he says “I’ve already got his other four!” and the final panel again shows a good contrast between the giant Siva and the tiny Mr. Beel. Looks, of course, can be deceiving.

Morrison’s script is economical but informative, as it must be. He uses the establishing panel to give us establishing dialogue, and the fact that Siva says “You can quiver, shopkeeper …” with an ellipsis helps to move us to the second panel instead of down to the third panel, because Siva continues his thought in panel 2 with “Quiver in the awesome presence …” Siva Goth is in bold, and so is “atom heart,” which must be deliberate on the part of Morrison and letterer Tom Frame, as the atom heart will be important in the story (unlike some comics today, which seem to emphasize words randomly, this feels very deliberate). Morrison’s script lets us know some things: Siva is a big tough guy, but he’s also a bit of a whiner, plus he has kind of a childish streak because he proposes the bet. This will allow Mr. Beel to turn the tables on him, of course. Mr. Beel doesn’t get to show how clever he is, but we can infer it from the fact that he doesn’t appear all that disturbed by Siva Goth. In a three-page story, the creators need to get to it, and Morrison does a good job with that. Plus, this is kind of weird. It’s a trend!

Morrison was only 26 when he wrote this. He’d get weirder and, naturally, more confident. So next time, we’ll look at another early comic that was reprinted within the past few years and which features a big time superstar artist! Okay, it was some years before he became a superstar artist, but still! If you can’t get enough first pages of comics (and really, who can?), be sure to take a tour through the archive!

16 Comments

Are you kidding, I would love for you to do a whole month of Morrison comics. Your 31 Days of 7 Soldiers posts were great.

I might be wrong, but I think all Future Shocks were in black and white.

Can we have Grant Morrison month in June? Please?

’86 is a good beginning year for your morrison week… before that , he only did combat stories publihed in england ( dont remember the name of the publisher ) and did draw some of thoses stories.. .and he did draw quite nicely ( even though he doesnt think so)

i prefer morrison’s stuff up to ‘The invisibles’ , there were good , and great thing after the invisbles.. but.. i am less ‘surprised’ by those stuff ( love most of his xmen run, JLA run .. less fan of his batman work .. )

Hope to see some of his othr great 2000 ad stuff in there (no plug )

I think a whole Morrison month might drive off several readers! I’ll see, though – I have SOME ideas for theme months to come, but if I’m feeling crazy, I might commit to doing one for the God of All Comics!

ollieno: It was more by necessity – I don’t own any earlier Morrison stories, even though I know of them. I wish I did, though!

“I don’t know if the original was in color”

It was black and white, exactly as you have there. I’m pretty sure that 2000AD was largely B&W still at this point, with just a colour cover and colour centrespreads (the latter usually being given over to Dredd, but I remember some great ABC Warriors once in their original run and Strontium Dog, and they tend to be reprinted in B&W). You can see the shift to more colour as the first part of Zenith was B&W but the last story was in colour. Although Future Shocks still tend to be in B&W.

Hmmm…

I like Grant Morrison. I really do. And it doesn’t surprise me that younger readers think he’s the greatest ever. There are so many worse opinions to have out there that that one doesn’t particularly bother me at all.

But, having said that…

I’m really surprised that anyone who read Alan Moore in the 1980′s and sort of experienced that formative era of comics along with Alan Moore’s rise could ever think anyone else was better.

I’m not trying to start a big debate or argument, I’m not trying to question or lay judgment upon other people’s taste, and like I said, I like Grant Morrison. He’s surely one of my 10 favorite comic writers, probably top 5.

But for someone who’s A) read the majority of Moore’s work, and B) has a pretty good understanding of the trajectory of comics’ history and development, I just don’t understand how they could like Morrison better. And I’m not saying everyone should think Moore is best. If you like Kirby best, or Chris Claremont, for example, that makes perfect sense because it just means that what you respond to in comics the most runs in a slightly different vein to Moore (not inferior, just different). But Morrison and Moore are pretty well on the same taste wavelength, for lack of a better way to describe it. Their strengths and styles have an incredibly similar range of appeal.

Like I said, I’m not trying to attack, or say your taste sucks, or anything like that. I’m merely curious. What is it about Morrison that you find superior to Moore?

I like both Morrison and Moore. So there’s that.

And I was actually going to bring up Moore here, because I know that he’s said before that part of the reason he developed the “massive info dump” scripts that he writes for his artists was because he started with these 2000 AD short shorts, and was never sure who was going to illustrate them, so he wanted to be as exact as possible so the artists wouldn’t mis-illustrate his work. I think that comes into play here.

I have to respectfully disagree with you about this page working. I don’t think the transition from panel 1 to panel 2 is clear enough; I read down instead of to the right first, and I know I’ve read books on panel layout that suggest not doing it this way. I’d say either go with the blunt, unartistic arrow to indicate reading order, or have the first balloon in panel 2 overlapping with panel 1. Either way, there should also be ellipses before “quiver” in the first balloon in panel 2, so that we know where the ellipses in panel 1 are “going to”.

That said, Tom Frame’s actual lettering is awesome.

I’m not sure if the problem is Morrison’s script, Stokes not placing panels well, or merely the page count issue. Possibly a combination of all 3.

As to 2000AD being in B&W vs Color, I don’t know about the originals, but I have (or have read) some of the Eagle versions published in the US (from the mid-late ’80s) of 2000 AD Showcase, I think it was called. I have the one with the first Zenith, and it’s in color there. Also, I’ve read issues of Strontium Dog, also in color. I also have some Judge Dredd stuff, and now I’m thinking that maybe the Early Cases ones weren’t originally in color. I suspect Eagle was trying to make headway with the characters in the States, and knew they had to go color for it. Even if the color is often…not great.

And while I dig Morrison and think a month of him would be cool, I find it intriguing if you hold it to 7 days and I want to see what you choose to represent GMozz. I hope you decided on 7 different artists.

Rather than combat books he did a few Starblazer comics for DC Thomson-they were 68 page digest size. Specializing in Sci-FiHe illustrated one Algol the Terrible-Number 15.

A great comic in itself which ran for 281 issues-the latter ones are rare as hens teeth

If we don’t get zoids I am boycotting this article :)

@Third Man
Why The Bald Buddha and not The Bearded Ancient One?

I guess, you could objectively say that Moore is a better writer or a more important writer for comics as a medium. But I don’t have the strong emotional connection to his work. I love rereading my Morrison tpbs a lot more than those of Moore. God of all comics puts a smile on my face more often and can still surprise me. He doesn’t really design perfect plot structures the way Moore does, but is more unrestrained and wild. More fun and more ‘in the moment’.
All matter of opinion, I still like both these guys.

Though, don’t forget that Greg is joking up there. He is really a well-known Morrison hater! I’ve seen him rip Action Comics to shreds! And he did it on the internetz! And he called it boring! I’ve seen it! I’ve seen him do it! (Still, Sebastian O is bad comics. I have it and don’t like it at all.)

Third Man: I think a distinction needs to be made between who is a better writer and for whom one might have a preference. I agree that Moore is technically-speaking a more gifted writer, but I find that Morrison’s themes appeal more to me. I think this has to do with the fact that (generally speaking — and I understand that this is a gross over-simplification) Moore writes about the darkness hidden in the light while Morrison writes about the light buried in the darkness.

Travis: I have a feeling the way the page is laid out is a combination of all three. I do think both G-Mozz and Stokes make it work, but I certainly understand why you don’t.

Third Man: Well, Moore is my second-favorite writer, so there’s that! It’s hard to put my finger on why I like Morrison better. It’s possible that I was introduced to him first (in Animal Man), so it’s a vestige of that. Emotionally, I respond more to Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Flex Mentallo than I do to any of Moore’s work; technically, Moore is probably better, but when Morrison is on, I think he is better at working with more outre ideas (not that Moore doesn’t) and with actual human interaction. None of this is to say that Moore doesn’t do that, and I can easily think of many examples of it in his work, but when Morrison does it well, I don’t think there’s anyone better. Plus, I don’t think Moore has aged all that well. His latter-day work is still very good, but he seems to have found a comfort zone and doesn’t want to leave it. Morrison, even if he doesn’t do superb work every time out, can still dazzle. I can believe that Morrison could still write another masterpiece, and I don’t get that feeling from Moore. If that makes any sense!

I’d also like to submit a vote towards a Morrison Month; I’m not as devoted a fan as you Greg, but he’s definitely one of my top 3 favorite writers

Travis Pelkie

April 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm

RE: Moore vs Morrison: I think part of Moore seeming “played out” might have to do with his frustration with getting screwed over by the comics business so much, and therefore not engaging with the medium as well as he used to. Or having different interests, of which comics are not one of them.

I actually think Morrison is suffering lately from NOT having any sort of antagonism with the companies — Seven Soldiers was pretty damn good, and I think that flowed from frustration with Marvel. He did great stuff between then and now, but Action is just…blah. Maybe he needs to be shaken up.

I don’t really agree with then notion that Morrison and Moore are “on the same taste wavelength”. Moore is an incredibly precise and controlled writer, who from his earliest Future Shocks was crafting perfectly constructed little stories with every element beautifully balanced. Morrison on the other hand is unruly and wayward, energetic and constantly surprising. Final Crisis may have been a mess, with an unrelated antagonist wandering in during the final issue, artists bungling important details in multiple scenes, and numerous character and plot threads not being adequately resolved, but it vividly evoked a mood of apocalyptic chaos. It has a quite different effect on the reader from, say, the (brilliant) depiction of societal meltdown in V for Vendetta.

I think this manic edge is what makes a lot of people (including me!) get more excited by Morrison’s work than Moore’s, even if they can’t commit to declaring it ‘better’.

@ Rand:

i totally agree with your simplified explaination of Moore Vs. Morrison. i love Morrison comics, cause they feel alive to me, while Moore’s material feels more clinical.

i think that Moore is more technical & in that sense a better writer. But i’ll read Morrison over Moore any day of the week & twice on Sunday.

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