The American comic book scene went through a major shake-up in the late 1980s when the “British Invasion” landed on its shores. Led by legendary creators like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, this era ushered in a new wave of comics that explored more mature themes and thought-provoking storylines. Among the key players in that movement was the eccentric Scottish writer, Grant Morrison. While their contemporaries were trying to move away from superhero stories, Morrison embraced them and has since been a creative force behind many unforgettable runs in the modern era.
Grant Morrison has truly done it all in the world of comic books. Whether they’re writing about superheroes or exploring more grounded tales of regular human beings, Morrison has an uncanny ability to inject a unique twist into every story they tell. In this article, let’s dive into GONKBONK’s picks of Grant Morrison’s top 5 best comics:
Animal Man was the book that launched Morrison’s career in the US. While originally planned to be only a four-issue mini-series, it was upgraded into a full run after readers raved about the initial issues. Even by the infancy of their career, readers were fascinated by Morrison’s unique writing style. Many of the tropes that define Grant Morrison as a legendary creator can already be seen in this wonderful book, from their deep adoration for the Silver Age of comics to the exploration of metafictional storytelling.
Animal Man is the story of Buddy Baker, a lesser-known superhero with the power to take on animal traits for a brief period. Morrison plays with the idea of Animal Man being perceived as a small-time hero in the eyes of both the readers and the DC universe itself. The book takes you on an existential journey of a man doing his best to balance life as a husband, father, and hero in a world populated by gods. Buddy may not be the strongest, the fastest, or the flashiest superhero, but it’s his kind heart that embodies him as something truly special. After all the struggles Buddy goes through, the story culminates in an unforgettable final issue that needs to be read to be believed.
Leave it to Grant Morrison to take one of their most absurd characters and tell an engrossing metafictional story about how superhero comics offer a gateway into enlightenment.
Flex Mentallo is told through two parallel stories. On one side is Flex Mentallo, the titular burly private detective who’s out to solve a mysterious conspiracy involving the disappearance of superheroes. On the other side is Wally Sage, the comic writer and creator of Flex Mentallo who’s going through a suicidal downward spiral. In his drug-addled haze, Wally can’t help but reminisce about his life spent reading, writing, and talking about comic books, and if any of it mattered in the end. These two perspectives blend seamlessly together, telling the story of how comic books have changed through the ages and how society changed alongside them. For such a short comic, this Grant Morrison book takes you on a wild ride.
In their semi-autobiographical book Supergods, Morrison talks about how their fascination with Superman is deeply rooted in their upbringing. They grew up in Scotland a few miles from RNAD Coulport, home of the UK’s nuclear submarine force. Living near such destructive weapons meant Morrison grew up terrified of “the Bomb” and how it could wipe out all life as they knew it. However, their idea of the bomb changed when they discovered Superman. To them, Superman represented something faster, stronger, and better than the Bomb. All-Star Superman was Grant Morrison’s chance to show the world who Superman was in their eyes.
All-Star Superman has the Man of Steel coming face-to-face with his mortality after overexposure to solar radiation. The thing that once gave him power is now slowly killing him. With 12 months left to live, Superman carries out his life the only way he knows how, by helping others and making the world a better place. With a simple concept, Morrison delivers a profound and ultimately heartwarming story of a man who will do everything he can for what is right. Even when Superman is most vulnerable, that does not stop him from being the embodiment of hope.
While most readers credit Chris Claremont as the writer who brought the X-Men into mainstream popularity, Grant Morrison was the writer who saved the mutants from obscurity. New X-Men may not be the best book in the franchise’s rich history, but it is definitely among the most important. Starting in 2001, New X-Men ushered in a turning point for the franchise. Donning sleek and sexy black and yellow costumes, the X-Men stepped into the millennium with a new look and direction ready for the future.
In true Morrison fashion, the run began with stripping everything down as a reason to build everything back up again. In one of the most shocking moments in modern X-Men history, the entire island of Genosha was wiped out, killing over 16 million mutants. This tragedy served as the foundation for Morrison’s entire run. With the mutants being on the brink of extinction, we see characters go to new lengths to save their people. New X-Men is the book many consider to be a great starting point for anyone looking to get into reading modern X-Men titles today.
Reboots and restarts are a regular occurrence in the world of comic books. For a character like Batman, who first debuted in the late 1930s, these restarts are meant to provide readers with a fresh entry point to the story. However, continuity often takes a backseat during restarts to avoid the baggage that comes with decades worth of stories. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say. But for Grant Morrison, they took Batman in a bold direction with a simple proposition: What if everything that happened in the past actually mattered?
Due to the events that occurred in Infinite Crisis, the entire history of Batman was merged into a single continuity. This meant that every adventure of Batman, from the wackiness of the Silver Age to the darkness of the Bronze Age, was recognized as the biographical history of the Dark Knight. The result is a thorough deconstruction and recontextualization of the Batman character. This was a Batman who’s been to hell multiple times, fighting every kind of villain imaginable, and always came out on top. The run introduced a Batman that had all the tricks, counters, and answers to defeat whatever evil force was put in front of him. Because it became a fact, in the universe, that Morrison’s Batman had truly seen and done it all.