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Interviews with Grant MorrisonBarbelith Interviews » Interview with an Umpire
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Kristan: They've just asked everyone to put their mobile phones off.
BY: Is the Band about to start now?
GM: It's Diamanda Galas!
Grant to Kristan: What have we got? Half an hour? Where do we go?
BY: We could just sit outside - but it's a bit cold maybe. Y'know I'm doing this article for Cog? Have you seen it?
GM: No.
Kristan: I have.
BY: I know the guys who do Cog. It's very well produced. It started out almost like Wallpaper for Glasgow to a certain extent. A friend of mine though has taken over as Editor and is trying to steer it in a certain direction but I dunno what you'll think of it - it's hit and miss - it's got a lot of nice photography but some of the articles are a bit y'know, not great, but it'll be coming out in November I think.
GM: Just talk about the way the lunatic fringe is infecting the mainstream - that's what's happening. We've seen it in Hollywood and the same is happening everywhere else. They're looking for oddballs.
BY: You've mentioned that the time for low-fi weirdness is upon us?
GM: It's just that I sensed corporate interests scavenging further and further into the outback of authenticity.
Kristan: I think we should head to Stravaigan! (a pub nearby)
GM: The outback of authenticity!
BY: I'm going to get all this (tea and cakes) organised.
GM: Run for it!
BY: I'll pay with comics - 'I've got an Invisibles no. 3!'
GM: (laughs)
(In Stravaigan:) (concerning The Invisibles)
GM: It's been transcendental material that I've been drawn towards but that's just a framework. These experiences can be useful, you can sell it as a myth for the 21st Century To disseminate; as a concept, a nice unitary concept - it changes certain things about how we might think.
BY: I think what was appealing to me was that it presented a kind of modern view of magic. I mean I'd never been into the Occult particularly but as a child I'd always been very involved in stories - I loved Myths and Legends and I was also very into Pop Culture and with The Invisibles, and kind of with Mirkin the Mystic (comic tale by Milligan/McCarthy in Paradax no. 1 - Vortex Comics) as well, I was presented with the idea of using modern iconography as magical symbols and I suddenly realised that what I'd been doing all along myself was...magic!
GM: Yeah! That's the moment you become emancipated! (laughs)
BY: The whole fictional reality thing is terrifying. I had a very scary experience. I'd written a comic strip all about violence basically, and the surveillance of violence and how culture feeds on this and it was written in Glasgow patter, it was all, y'know, 'A'hm gonnae slash you, ya prick!' and I'd never been involved in a fight in my life but as the football hooliganism thing started up again in the year 2000 there was lots of clashes between English and Turkish fans and I was drawn to Belgium and Euro 2000 - I thought: I'm going to go and watch Turkey and I knew it was going to be a real trouble spot and I ended up getting in a terrible fight. I got the shit kicked outta me absolutely annihilated y'know - beaten up by five or six people and....I wanted it! One of the characters in my story gets a vicious beating and the whole story is about him trying to work out how to deal with this beating.
GM: There's something - I just think is the ultimate mantra, in one of the Strange Days, Brendan's got a picture there, its one of these character, Ruff and Reddy, one of the Artoons, and it says: 'We who solve mystery become mystery.'
BY: Aye.
GM: And that's what it is. You've got to do the shit. You're talking about magic. For me, it was like my Uncle Billy would give me magic books, like you I was into myths and legends, my family were very witchy, my mother read tea leaves but nothing interesting ever happened to me, or so I thought, like you say - I never thought about it in those terms, I would sit and talk with imaginary friends, communicating with foxes in the hills and all that kinda stuff which I later realised was quite shamanic or totemistic. But Billy would give me these books, this was when I was a teenager having a shitty time above Fine Fare - I started looking at these books: instead of just window dressing for the kind of stories I was making up when I was a teenager, y'know, you'd do some occult thing and the witch is wanting to say something with the entity, so I'd look up the book on witchcraft and copy out the spells an I began to think, 'Well, what are these actually saying, what is this?' and I was like 19 and I did a ritual from one of the books to se if it worked and it worked! I got a manifestation of energy which seemed to exert a gravitation pull on me - again, this is no bullshit - it was an intense, emotional vortex, or whatever the hell it was, with this strange visual component. And when I realised it worked I began to do lots of experiments and I've been doing it ever since to see how it works. In the nineties I realised the work I was doing was the magic, it was the same thing, which is where Flex Mentallo came from initially and then The Invisibles came from that, The Invisibles became the ongoing experiment into how closely I could get these things to work by actually drawing things by actually writing things down and making them happen. As is legendary to anyone whose read The Invisibles, I ended up in hospital-
BY: I thought you were going to talk about the wankathon! (laughs)
GM: Well, the wankathon (a magically charged global mastubation session initiated in order to increase the sales of The Invisibles) is there, y'know, (laughs) - Jill Thomson always says that's what put me in hospital! (laughs)
BY: The kickback!
GM: Astral Sperm!
BY: It's a great concept!
GM: It gives everybody sanction to wank. It's that one non-guilty wank -
BY: Yeah? But you know what, I was reluctant to try it, cos I didn't want to waste a wank! I was like, 'I don't want to waste a wank on magic! I want to toss off to some sexual image!
GM: How can you waste it on magic? What's up with you?!
BY: Ah , but what I did was I incorporated it. I was like, 'Right - Tatoo on some beautiful ass!' (laughs)
GM: That's how to do it, y'know! Think of it on the head of a kimodo dragon that's eating you from the waist down! (laughs)
BY: (laughs). The other thing about magic and comics is that there seems to be a few people involved in comics who are involved in magic.
GM: Pat Mills is the one they always forget!
BY: Aye, Pat Mills, I knew about that.
GM: Pat Mills is the most outrageous of all. He lives with six eighteen-year-old girls!
BY: Does he!?
GM: Yeah! Rockbitches! The ones that fist each other on stage.
BY: Woah, I didn't know that! Pat Fills, maybe?
GM: He was very much in the sex and wicca kinda deal. (laughs)
BY: I met him and he had an awful lot of time - I was sixteen, I went to UKCAC 88 in London, y'know, a big comic convention and I'm up at Pat Mills like this, 'Oh why did you do this? Why did you do that?' and he spent loads of time with us chatting away - He was really fuckin' great guy!
GM: He's good. All his stuff is really great, it just kinda misses the mark cos he doesn't really care enough.
BY: His dialogue's not brilliant.
GM: The actual concept, the set-up are brilliant, worked out to the last degree; the characters, everything's brilliant.
BY: The whole Nemesis thing is superb, Marshal Law as well.
GM: Marshal Law is great - I read that all the time that's one of Mark's favourite things as well as you can imagine
BY: Aye, I can imagine - that was the right direction for the post-Dark Knight genre to go in but I don't know why it didn't-
GM: Image came along.
BY: Of course - I lost interest in the whole industry at that time.
GM: Image comics were just a pure hit for people, they just took the posters out and turned the posters into the comic - splash pages became the comic - they'd just introduce a new team every 2 pages cos then you could sell the pages as an introduction to a new team and always with that guy with the Wolverine 'Flock of Seagulls' hair.
Kristan: (laughs)
GM: So they came along and did so well and strip-mined everything and they became famous and suddenly no-one was buying comics anymore.
BY: Yeah, it was a pretty bad period because I mean, I can't remember why I drifted away but I did. I hadn't picked up an Image comic but the shelves looked bare...
GM: Vertigo was good. The British stuff was good...Shade was out and there was like Rogan Gosh and Sandman...
BY: Sandman!? Don't start me man!
GM: (laughs)
BY: It's absolutely shit! I was going to say, Alan Moore's got this quote, which is unfair, in that he says Vertigo was sprung from a bad dream he had in 1985 or something, or from a bad mood he was in 85, and I think that's an unfair thing to say - because there's a lot of good work that's come out of Vertigo, but....Sandman is synonymous with Vertigo and Sandman is basically American Gothic spun out over ten years - y'know 10 issues of Swamp Thing spun out over ten years in Sandman.
GM: For all that, I think Neil Gaiman is more literary, he's got some knack.
BY: Why is he given so much respect within the industry, y'know, it's like we should be all really grateful for him just strolling in...
GM: (laughs) - because he's sold tonnes of comics that no one thought would sell at all and he brought a respect that they never had - he still wins Hugo Awards - they love him! The public loves Neil!
BY: I know that. I mean I appreciate your criticism of Neil Gaiman in that you have respect for what he's done, but do you actually respect his work?
GM: I like him - I like the early ones where he was more viscous, more brutal but then it became all that Fairy, Oberon and Titania-
BY: It was always just trying too hard, ever time - the whole Black Orchid thing when it started, I dunno, I didn't believe it, basically. Dave McKean was helping him out big time - The fact that he was allied with such a powerful visual artist I think kinda helped.
GM: Well that's what smart people do. (laughs)
BY: (laughs)
BY: Fuck - where was I?
GM: Black Orchid - she was beautiful wasn't she? Floating through the skies...
BY: I found the whole thing really kinda wet, y'know.
GM: It never worked for me, it wasn't really my kinda thing but I love the fact that Neil was successful and he hung out with Alice Cooper (laughs) Y'know, that whole golf thing with Alice Cooper - how sick is that?
BY: I didn't know about that
GM: Yeah, Neil goes golfing with Alice Cooper. That's just like, so warped!
BY: And Alice Cooper probably asked him!
GM: Alice Cooper will ask anyone to go golfing with him!
BY: Good quote!
GM: Y'know Neil bounced on the bed with Tori Amos?
BY: I dunno - as soon as he became the ascendant star in comics I just totally lost interest, I thought - It's gone down a kinda boring Goth route that I 'm not interested in - I never really found much to take from that whole nineties American Goth scene. It actually took certain observations that you'd made about it for me to reconsider it: the whole straight edge thing, the fact that really are test-driving personalities.
GM: The more I thought about it, I just kinda grew to like them. And also because they were glamourous. And certainly you have to be glamourous...

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