Monday, March 26, 2007

Animal Man

I recently received the first two TPBs of Animal Man in the mail, courtesy of Spencer Carnage. (Thanks again, bud!) I was pretty excited to get these for perhaps one of the strangest reasons I can think of. Namely: I can't stand Grant Morrison's writing.

Every piece of work I've read by Morrison has been, by my estimation, drek that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. He's one of three authors on my avoid-at-all-costs lists. Everything I've read by him has been poorly structured, filled with clumsy dialogue, and featured characters that can't even stay in character with how Morrison defines them in his own writing, much less compared to how they've been written by everyone else. The absolute best piece of his that I've ever read was Skull Kill Krew and that didn't really make all that much sense on several levels. (I mean, why would a shape-shifter be at all concerned about what his "basic" form looked like? Couldn't he just, I don't know, say, shape-shift into what he wanted to look like? And that early scene with Captain America playing peek-a-boo from behind his shield -- oh, that was disturbing!)

And yet, to my amazement, Morrison not only keeps getting work but he's got a rather devout following!

So here's the thing: every time I've voiced displeasure with Morrison's work, someone always comes back with, "Well, you need to read Animal Man." No real explanation, just that Animal Man is excellent and the extended implication that reading Animal Man evidently gives you this cypher that allows you to suddenly understand and appreciate everything else he's ever written. Maybe there's some kind of drug embedded in the ink, I don't know. But I gave up mentioning him because, frankly, it's generally not worth my effort. There are tons of comics out there and I'm certainly not going to like every one. But somebody probably is going to like the stuff that I don't, and as long as they don't try to force them down my throat, not a big deal. To each his own.

Now, despite everyone raving about Animal Man, I've been burned by Morrison too often to actually pay to investigate it. But since Spencer was kind enough to give me those TPBs, I have every intention of trying to approach these books with an open mind. Since I didn't have to pay for them myself, I'm not out anything if I don't like them. No harm, no foul.

Whether or not I ultimately like Animal Man is something of a moot point, really. I'm curious to see why people fawn over it (and, consequently, Morrison himself) and my interest is in using these two books to guage what type of fan is drawn to Morrison's work. And, for that, I am quite grateful to Spencer -- it's not an avenue of fandom that I'd like pursue without some cajoling and, as always, I appreciate the opportunity to experiment!

I'll post my thoughts on the books after I've gotten a chance to read them.

5 comments:

sean witzke said...

Just a thought - what have you read by Morrison? I haven't read Animal Man yet (can't rewally stand the art actually), but I'd be considered one of his rabid fanbase. I can't really recall anything where either the structure or characterization were what you're describing. Maybe Arkham Asylum...

Sean Kleefeld said...

Excellent question!

I have in my collection (in no particular order) Skull Kill Krew, Fantastic Four: 1 2 3 4, several of his New X-Men, and the first half of Marvel Boy. I did read Arkham Asylum once upon a time, but I don't honestly recall anything about it (good or bad) except some small detail about trying to get Harvey Dent to upgrade from a coin to a die to a deck of cards.

I have actually considered that perhaps I simply have happened upon the worst of his work by sheer coincidence. But I found it all so bad that I haven't been willing to shell out my own money for a creator who, so far, has proven to be towards the bottom of the barrel. Especially when there are plenty of authors out there who I can reliably count on for a good story.

I'm willing to take chances on unknown (to me) creators if it looks like they've got an interesting concept to start with. But I've taken several chances with Morrison and been burned every time.

That's why I'm quite pleased to receive Animal Man -- I can read what is generally considered some of his best work and not risk feeling gypped if I end up not liking that either.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I'm with you in not getting Morrison's appeal or rabid fanbase. I made the mistake of starting out with an Invisibles TPB, but I've read a good amount of his other work since then -- including the first Animal Man TPB -- and have remained unimpressed. I wouldn't call it all "drek", but he's definitely overrated.

Spencer Carnage said...

Here's to hoping you like it. If not, I'll be happy enough just to provide inspiration for some more angry comix blogging.

Alot of Morrison's stuff is crap, but he hits some notes really well that no one else can pull off.

RAB said...

This is utterly fascinating to me -- you and I agree on many things, but I'm among the most rabid of Morrison fans. And yet I also understand where you're coming from on this: there are at least two or three comic writers who are major fan favorites, almost universally adored, whose work I find shockingly bad and utterly self-indulgent. It astonishes me that these people have such huge success. I wouldn't even mention their names in public for fear that their rabid fans would be all over me with "But have you read this particular work of towering majesty?" As if one work would somehow invalidate my first-hand experience with all the crap I've read from these guys!

With all that in mind, I wouldn't hold out much hope that Animal Man will somehow magically change your perception of Morrison and give you new insight into his appeal. Maybe if you had never read anything by him ever and this was your first exposure to him, you would come away with a slightly more favorable initial impression of the guy. But given your past experience? Doubt it.

One thing I will say -- at risk of sounding like some kind of Morrison apologist -- is that it sounds like you actually have happened upon a lot of the weakest work Morrison has done and none of what I'd consider his best. For a start, all his stuff for Marvel was dodgy at best, so it's not entirely coincidental. I know he had a lot of trouble there and the editors weren't sympathetic to what he wanted to do; I don't know how much effect that had on the published work. I personally liked Marvel Boy but it was an experiment that didn't entirely pan out. In general I'd say (and this really is being an apologist for him, I admit) Morrison has a higher number of creative failures than most writers simply because he's always trying so many new things and taking risks...and the cost of that is falling on your face and looking like a complete idiot a fair percentage of the time. I'd prefer that to the guys I mentioned above, who do the same thing over and over again to the evident delight of their fans and never risk anything.

On the plus side, Animal Man will give you a chance to see his treatment of the Native American physicist James Hightower, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you think about him.