Friday, January 16, 2009

I hate creativity and children and, this week, Grant Morrison

THE BEAT has this quote from Morrison

“I had the idea to develop an approach to comic narrative that would actually benefit from becoming entangled in internet fan speculation, gossip and research…I’ve always liked to leave resonant spaces, gaps and hints in stories, where readers can do their own work and find clues or insert their own wild and often brilliant theories. I’m often trying to create a kind of fuzzy quantum uncertainty or narrative equivalent of a Rorschach Blot Test effect, which invites interpretation. Lazier readers hate when I do this but fortunately they seem to be in the minority.”

This is one of those ideas that is much better in theory than in practice because it hits something that sounds really nice: the creativity of the reader. Who would argue with that? It is one of those unassailable things, like when some politician gets dumb "give up all your civil rights" style things enacted to "save the children." What kind of monster would be against children or creativity?

In this specific case: me. Or more precisely, reader creativity is great, but I think the best venue for it is to write a Batman story that is a revision or swerve or response or remix or attack or tribute to Batman RIP. Like a story that was going in a similar direction, but then had a satisfying ending. I do not think this wonderful sounding reader creativity should be used as an excuse to introduce a villain, promise to reveal who the villain, then at the end say "Who was Dr. Hurt? You the reader can decide for yourself who it is. I mean I am perfectly capable of thinking Dr. Hurt is Thomas Wayne or an incarnation of Darkseid, or Satan, or Batman's rejected evil side from his Tibetan purification ritual. It is all POSSIBLE. But it is not PERSUASIVE. Many comic book fans, because of no-prizes and whatnot, seem really satisfied to discover something is POSSIBLE, forgetting that a story should persuade you. Firefly, for example, persuades you that life in space would be dirty and not at all like living in a Sheridan Hotel, as Star Trek would have you believe. I just want to hear a good story that will persuade my imagination that THIS is how it must have been, or would be like in this world. Stories should bring pleasure, through careful pacing, not unlike sex.

Self empowerment sounds fun until you engaged in the best foreplay of your life and the woman says toyou "I’ve always liked to leave resonant spaces, gaps and hints in SEX, where MY PARTNER can do their own work and find clues or insert their own wild and often brilliant SEX TECHNIQUES. I’m often trying to create a kind of fuzzy quantum uncertainty or SEX equivalent of a Rorschach Blot Test effect, which invites CREATIVITY. Lazier PARTNERS hate when I do this but fortunately they seem to be in the minority. Finish yourself off while I go home. Bye."

You will have to forgive me for the vulgar metaphor. I am practicing writing in the mode of Warren Ellis today.

16 comments:

Jason said...

Maybe it's just the nature of your analogy, but seeing Geoff Klock tear apart a pretentious Morrison quote is making me feel kind of excited.

That's not weird, is it?

James said...

The Quantum Uncertainty of Dr. Hurt would be much better if it was like Leo Quintum in All-Star Superman: where the text gives a definitive answer (he's Thomas Wayne, say) but there is enough of a hint that the reader can believe another (he's also a Spectre of Darkseid). I know you don't go in for the Lex/Quintum theory Geoff, but it seems like a much more satisfying example of what he's driving at here, in that the story stands with or without it.

laseraw said...

the quote does sound undoubtedly pretentious and particularly if you pair it with BATMAN RIP which isn't even close to one of his best works.
but i do believe that what sounds insultingly arrogant in this quote works, wonderfully on other morrison books like 7soldiers, animal man, doom patrol, seaguy etc...
which are works i hope you enjoyed more

i believe this latest period of morrison's work, particularly the BATMAN run, has been highly affected by multiple editorial interactions, and his personal artistic interests and creative theories may have not been fully applied to the final product we've read...

i've just read FINAL CRISIS #6 and was pleasantly surprised...
so the creative integrity struggle opposing massive multimillion dollar franchises seemed to have more to celebrate there than on BATMAN...

Mikey said...

See, this bit - "I’ve always liked to leave resonant spaces [...] and often brilliant theories" - is true. He has done that in previous works.

But - regardless - the bit that precedes it: "I had the idea to develop an approach to comic narrative that would actually benefit from becoming entangled in internet fan speculation, gossip and research" - that bit is such horrible bullshit. It's kind of like picking up on something that can be levelled as criticism of the work and going "That? Oh yeah, I did that on purpose." It's undignified.

What's the Miracle Machine from the 31st Century called again? "Get-your-dollar", right? Ho ho. Oh.

James said...

"But - regardless - the bit that precedes it: "I had the idea to develop an approach to comic narrative that would actually benefit from becoming entangled in internet fan speculation, gossip and research" - that bit is such horrible bullshit. It's kind of like picking up on something that can be levelled as criticism of the work and going "That? Oh yeah, I did that on purpose." It's undignified."

Actually, in regards to RIP least, I've mainly seen people talking about the internet speculation/wiki research aspect as a fun part of the book.

Mikey said...

Yeah, I appreciate that aspect even if it's not my bag - I prefer the writer to provide me with enough metaphor and interconnection that I have to do a bit of work, but I hate trying to second guess what's coming. Fair enough for those who enjoy that bit of it though.

I think I may be attributing a motive that isn't there, but in this quote it's like Morrison's taking credit for something that would go on anyway. It's also a nice get-out clause.

I guess for me it comes down to whether or not the work does "actually benefit" from it.

And does the work then equally benefit from "becoming entangled" in the internet's crushing disappointment when the gossip and research are ultimately let down by a weak ending? Or because fans have had better ideas in the spaces you've created (like Batman being the Black Glove or whatever)?

Don't get me wrong, I really liked RIP, and had no problem at all with how it ended. The more I think about it, the more I'm satisfied with the identity of Dr Hurt. I also appreciate that, although it may seem otherwise, the internet is not actually "most readers", who read the stories and contemplate them and enjoy them or don't but who don't immediately take to the computer. It's just something about that comment irked me - and because I actually really like RIP and Final Crisis this strikes me as strange.

James said...

So who is Dr. Hurt? I haven't even read the thing. (But I have enjoyed it via the internet! How's that for a resonant space?)

Marc Caputo said...

Nothing beats a quote that separates the apologists from the pack. It's almost like a Skrull-revelator ray.

Darius Kazemi said...

Hah, now you have me thinking about the kind of counterintuitive prudishness to Ellis' writing where he writes explicitly "about" sex but never really writes about sex.

Adam said...

If you really wanted to write like Warren Ellis you'd have to include a few more deragatory quips about America, and make sure to include the phrase "Brain Custard" somewhere.

Dork said...

I'd like to quote something said by Chuck Dixon very recently: DIXONVERSE.net article

"Ambiguity is the new hip in comics."

That's a criticism.


Bang! Batman killed the Joker. Shock! Commissioner Gordon is dead. Headline! Gotham gets nuked. Changing everything forever! Alfred killed the Wayne family and molded Batman into his own tool all along.

Anyone can tear down what might be called the storytelling engine, because that was all set in place for you by someone else. That's not telling an original story. That's just taking apart a storytelling engine you didn't create. A good writer, a writer not bankrupt of craftsmanship, uses the elements of a storytelling engine set in place to... tell a new story with a real plot! Not this naval gazing, self-serving, what about Jason Todd? What really happend in Batman's origin? It's as said in the article I linked, shallow "creators who look to improve their own standing over that of the characters they’re writing."

Use that storytelling engine. Come up with a plot and plug it in to the storytelling engine. Just stop taking it apart. It's dull.

Andrew said...

I'm disturbed that Morrison is under the impression that the serialized form hasn't been taking advantage of fan speculation since the early 19th century. It seems to be that the biggest change the internet has created in this regard is that author's are more privy to this speculation than they used to be, but where/when two or three fans are gathered, there will be speculation whether it's about Batman or Little Dorritt.

I'm even more disturbed that he thinks he needs to intentionally leave in "spaces, gaps, and hints" in order for fans to do their own work. Human communication inevitably produces spaces, gaps, and hints. Hence, the act of reading is always an act of interpretation (Hence, my object to the term "Biblical literalists" as if people who refuse to acknowledge context are somehow not interpreting). I doubt Charlotte Bronte conceived of spaces, gaps and hints in Jane Eyre, but I make my living off of the fact that they're there.

At this point, I would like to note that I would probably less "disturbed" and more "mildly amused" if I hadn't been awake quite so long. I'm enjoying Final Crisis, I'm waiting for the trade on RIP, and I think there are lots of ways in which Morrison is trying to mobilize the entire Batman story engine and not necessarily break it apart.

Mikey said...

On a different note - I've been reading a few comments abroad about how much cooler it would've been if Morrison had Batman whipping out a can of Omega Sanction Repellant Spray (Anti-Anti-Life) in a kind of "oh no he didn't!" move. And I agree, that would've been great (if nonsense).

I'm also reminded that in 7S: Mister Miracle the "Omega Sanction" (as opposed to Kirby's original Omega effect) forces the target to live out a series of doomed and crappy lives. But it doesn't, as I remember it, create a charred corpse. Mind you, if it's just an editorial snafu, I can forgive it.

bobsy said...

Has anyone ever been to that alternative universe where the quote that sparked this post was uttered by Matt Fraction?

It's funny, because the Dock-Klock next-door thinks that it's spot-on.

Pa-Zow?

James said...

bobsy: Ah, cheap shot, and kind of silly - aside from the fact that Geoff has had that exact accusation made re: Morrison in place of Fraction, Mindless Ones is at least as pro-Morrison as Klockspot.com is pro-Fraction, yes?

Play nicely, now.

bobsy said...

Well, of course: a cheap shot, a low-blow even, but I feel Doctor Geoff's codpiece is sturdy enough to take it. [And for clarity and to demonstrate self awareness: MO is probaby far *more* pro-M than GK is pro-F.]

But you-got-mes aside, this post is whiny and fails to properly tackle the experiences that bloggers like the Klockatron and the MOs are getting - realtime feedback interaction with our favourite comic books. It's not new, Dickens' fan-sac was doubtless bulging, and I'm sure plenty of his readers guessed the endings right, but reader-creative interaction is increasingly becoming quicker and clearer than ever, and throwing up novel, interesting and important considerations that his post doen't fairly deal with.

Today's fan has a place to air his dirty smalls that is *easier* for the audience to acess and *more frequently renewed* than the monthly-ish funnybook starter-fuel itself. From my perspective anyway, and I know I'm not alone in this feeling, this is rapidly forming a whole new way of reading my 4-colour fixes. Who's read Final Crisis fully until they've been to FBBabylon and Doug Wolk's blog? Who's fully read their XMen back issues until they've been here?

This process is worthy of comment and/or acknowledgement from the industry pros, and it's good that Morrison has done so - I daresay that quote could be the first chapter in an imortant onging debate about how ye blogosphere and yon comixphere interact from this point on.