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Monday, March 23, 2020 

What Grant Morrison thinks of the Silver Age, or his flawed idea of how it should be

CBR interviewed pretentious Morrison to know what he's doing with his next Green Lantern run, and it doesn't sound like he really appreciates the Silver Age if he thinks thought balloons are worthless. But, it does sound like he's turned Hal Jordan into somebody sporting a metaphorical leftist view of the whole planet Earth:
There's something that struck me in issue two: Hal dismisses Earth as this authoritarian planet; he hates the idea of going back, and yet, he's an intergalactic space cop. Grant, if I remember correctly, you come from a bit of a punk rock background. What has been the appeal in writing space police for over a year now?

I think it's the fact that it's space police that makes interesting because Hal is super anti-authoritarian -- he's kind of not an authoritarian figure. And the way we played the Guardians and the Green Lanterns was not necessarily as an authoritarian police force in the way that we understand it but that they police disputes between planets, they try to uphold certain cosmic or eternal laws, and we'll see more of that as we explore the young Guardian stuff in Season 2.

I think it's because he's such an unusual cop, he's a beatnik cop. And I think those two elements of his personality, the duty and responsibility along with the need to be free and never tied down, make him really interesting; there's a lot of tension and push-and-pull in Hal Jordan's personality. So I think it's that and I hear people say that "Hal doesn't hate Earth, that's [where] he has all his friends!" and I totally agree. I don't think it's so much that he hates Earth but, I think if you were Hal Jordan, and you spent time with highly advanced beings and you travel to civilizations where they really have got it all worked out, to come home to Earth -- no matter how much you love the people -- it's like coming home to a place where the environment's messed up and the DC Universe is in crisis every week [laughs].

The people [on Earth] must live in a constant state of fear and anxiety and, I think, for Hal Jordan, that's just hard to watch. As much as he loves his friends and visits them -- I've got a lot of great friends in America and maybe only see a lot of them once year -- I feel like that's what Hal is like. He's got a lot of affection but he doesn't really like seeing what's happening with this constant level of emergency existence.
I remember over a year ago, Morrison depicted Hal "locking up" the Earth, while voices emanating from it cursed him as a "fascist". I thought that was ludicrous, but no less so is the idea of blanket smearing the entire planet as authoritarian in such a negative sense. And what's this, the environment is the most concerning element? Ridiculous. And when Morrison refers to Hal as a "beatnik", does he mean in the pre-hippie sense of the late 50s? I just don't comprehend that either.
In a lot of ways, both seasons have been a love letter to the Silver Age, not just comic books of that era but also pulp science fiction by guys like Asimov. I remember quite a bit of your Batman run had drawn heavily from the Silver Age and so had All-Star Superman. What is it about the Silver Age that you find so richly inspiring as you craft these stories within the DC Universe?

I think that was a time when superhero characters were probably at their best and at their most appropriate to the culture. And I wasn't a fan of comics during the Silver Age; I became a fan when Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil were doing Green Lantern and the sort of weird stuff by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart over at Marvel. So, for me, it was sort of going backwards and discovering that stuff and I just thought the stories were better, they were more universal and you could read them as an adult; those [Hal Jordan co-creator] John Broome stories in The Flash and Green Lantern, in particular.

They're just beautifully constructed as an adult and -- even as a kid with all that "Gee, whiz!" stuff -- they're fantastic, just great stuff happening all the time. And again, with all these one-off stories, I was really trying to do a John Broome-type story and they're harder to do than anyone might think. And it's not to copy his style or copy how he would do it but to take the kind of essence of it. And I think all these short stories are me trying to do John Broome in very different ways.

So the stories were much more universal, they were at their peak for their audiences. Superheroes were confident and represented a forward-looking kind of time when there was a lot of youthful energy. I love superheroes who get the job done so that just seemed like the time when they were at the pinnacle of their most effectiveness and I always go back to that to get the feel of that and hope that it can translate in the ways the characters can convey.
If he really thinks the Silver Age is the best era, why does he insist on depicting planet Earth and/or the Guardians as authoritarian in a negative sense, something the Silver Age didn't do? That was only in the Bronze Age that they began depicting the Guardians as more flawed in their thinking (yet far from bad guys), which later led to the decision to join the Zamarons and depart for a different world in the 200th issue in 1986, leaving the GLC to work things out for themselves? As somebody who's read a lot of the GL stories up to 1988, I have a huge appreciation for that era, and think it a shame it all had to be ruined long after. Morrison, with his ultra-liberal-laced vision, does nothing to improve it, and certainly not with this:
It's something I've noticed throughout all your work, this sense of deconstructionism through comparison.

Yeah, I think it's definitely there but I think less in the way of deconstructionism -- the way I look at it is more like is I'm kind of trying to get the essence of a figure, to get the whole feeling of it. It's almost like extracting the song out of a long ballad that's been going for fifty years or more [laughs]. I always feel it's that! So part of what I'm doing tends to also, like, teach an overview of the character because I can't escape from that; I've got to talk about what they mean in the real-world, even in the context of a story.

So that stuff tends to be like "How do we view Superman? How do we view Batman?" You know, there's guys like Moon Knight and Nighthawk [laughs]. If you put characters like that against them and push-and-pull against them, you kind of get to see why Batman is still the coolest of all.
Considering he compounded the vision of X-Men as isolationists, and shoved Magneto into a role where he wound up being all but slain yet again by Wolverine, I'm not sure why claims he's not thinking in deconstruction terms. But if he believes Batman's the coolest of all, then no matter how much I appreciate past Bat-stories, that's still troubling, if he's saying it at Superman's expense.
Have you kind of developed who you know Hal Jordan is or is that something you and Liam are still kind of working through?

No, I feel like I got a pretty good grasp on the character but I also see him as very complex which why you can tell stories from slightly different points of view. But yeah, I feel like I got a good handle on him but there's always more to discover and that's what the rest of Season 2 is hoping to do. What I like about Hal is that you don't get to see his thoughts in this comic, pretty much like we didn't get to see Batman's thoughts or Superman's thoughts in All-Star. And, again, I think it's good to see a superhero by what he actually does and what he achieves. We never know what Hal's thinking and Hal's thinking is probably high-level anyway, he never gives anything away and he's always pretty relaxed. We never know what he's thinking and I feel like he's a steel-trap in a way, he's working stuff out all the time.
This is why I don't understand his claim he thinks the Silver Age is better, if he shuns thought balloons so we don't even know what's on the player's mind. Besides, it never kept past writers from presenting the heroes doing and achieving.
What has surprised you the most about getting into Hal Jordan's headspace?

Well, it's kind of like with Superman -- he's expansive and he's a good character [laughs]. Batman is a more devious and more Machiavellian type of character who can really bring you down if he wants. But with Green Lantern and Hal Jordan, it's really fun to put yourself in that headspace, this is a guy who doesn't break. You know, so many heroes have been made fallible as an attempt to make them relatable and, I think with Jordan, the less fallible you make him, the more fun -- and honestly, the more relatable -- I think we know guys like him, guys who get their heads down and just do the job, that would get their arms blown off and just be like "It's just a scratch!" [laughs].

And to take him seriously and be in his head, he doesn't have hang-ups -- he's a cop, he's like an astronaut. And so, for me, that's a really interesting mindset and see how that guy reacts to things and sees things with that absolute lack of fear. He knows himself and he's been to Hell and back.
Getting inside the hero's head? I seem to recall J. Michael Straczynski using that kind of talk back in the early 2000s when he took over Spider-Man, and it led nowhere. Sure, he does make a valid point about way too many heroes being turned fallible for the sake of relatability. But the way he's handled things in the past, I wouldn't have confidence in him to do it well. Let's remember, he's depicting Hal all but shunning the Earth as authoritarian in a negative sense.
I feel like this is the first Green Lantern run in awhile where he isn't haunted by Parallax. I feel like every issue is a standalone adventure, just another day on the job.

And that's a big part of it and I'm glad you noticed that because he gets it done. There's not a lot of stress for Hal until maybe midway through the run. I like to see him coming in like a cop; the minute a cop comes in with the hand of authority and defends and then gets to get up and go home and I like that he has that authority to just come in and sort things out.
Well if he does avoid referencing a reprehensible moment in GL history, that's one silver lining. But if he's only doing it as some sort of "consensus building" to obscure anything tasteless he's written, under the confidence that, so long as he avoids certain mistakes, others will be seen as acceptable, that just won't do. His type of vision, accompanied by cynicism, is just what's soured superheroics.

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"And what's this, the environment is the most concerning element? Ridiculous. "

Not from Hal's perspective. He is an interplanetary cop. who sees Earth from outer space, as one world among many, and as a global whole. So threats to the planet and mankind as a whole- environmental degradation, pollution, species extinction, habitat loss, climate change - would have a vividness and immediacy to him that guys who work the streets, like his friend Bruce, would not be able to entirely share.

You live in a desert region with exponential population growth. Even if you never make it to outer space, how can environment not be a central concern to you?

Thought bubbles were a matter of taste, even in the Silver Age. Roy Thomas disliked them, thought they were artificial, and never used them at all in his Conan stories. Some of the older books used words inside of brackets in balloons, rather than bubbles, to put over thoughts and asides to the reader. Now in the Marvel and DC books thoughts are mostly expressed in captions rather than bubbles, although you still see the bubbles outside the mass market superhero books.

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