I have a large collection of comics. Though I stopped collecting a few years ago, I've been a fan of the genre since I started reading. I haven't been happy with every change the industry has seen, certainly not the decreasing page counts and word counts in this unique storytelling medium. It saddens me as a writer. The genre's fusion of words with pictures to tell complex tales has always been a major part of its appeal. Great writers and great artists have both been important to the whole of the craft.
Of the many creators who have given of themselves through comic books, I've long touted Grant Morrison as one of the great writers of our time. His new historical tome Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero is one more piece of evidence attesting to that. If you still doubt it, just ask Mr. Morrison. Or just read Supergods, he tells you in there what a great writer he is. My purpose here isn't to review the book. I haven't gotten into the habit of doing book reviews here, but I'm sure Supergods will receive plenty of the attention it deserves without my input.
Sadly, though, I've seen behind the curtain and learned things about the wizard I never wanted to know. Naturally, I'm disillusioned.
I'll take a moment to be clear on a few facts: I don't know Grant Morrison, I don't presume to sit in judgement of Grant Morrison and I don't think he owes me anything. Grant Morrison has contributed to the sum of entertaining moments in my Life, even managing to be impressive in doing so, and I appreciate that.
I'm hard on salespeople and I'm not easy to impress. I still have vivid memories from the many years when my many readings included many comic books. Some of the memories I have treasured included reading about "The Bone City of Orqwith", "The Cult of the Unwritten Book" and other gems that Morrison scattered to delighted readers. These were moments of weird amidst a sea of conventional superhero action. One of the things that made Morrison's odd offerings stand out for me as a writer was that they actually made me wonder how he thought of such offbeat things. It's rare for anyone's work to make me wonder that. Could I ever have thought of such bizarre material?
Unfortunately, among the rich historical recountings offered in Supergods was Grant Morrison explaining how he had made a habit of using powerful hallucinogenic drugs while producing his work.
That was it? My admiration-inspired pondering actually had an answer other than "creative genius"? Weak. "This is Grant Morrison's brain. This is Grant Morrison's brain on drugs." I'm no sports fan, but I guess it's like finding out a star player's greatest moves were fueled by steroids. If this sort of thing extends to Leonardo Da Vinci or Harlan Ellison or Nikola Tesla, please never tell me.
If Grant Morrison wants to use drugs, that's his business. I wish he'd kept it that way, but I'm not likely to become amnesiac anytime soon. Knowing takes the luster off some of his writing for me. Now I know that I or maybe anyone else might well have come up with work just as off the wall if only we'd partaken of the same mushrooms. The inspired weirdness loses its magic when you show how cheaply the trick was accomplished.
Maybe part of the difference for me is that I'm a writer and there are elements of my own creative writings that people have asked me "How do you come up with this stuff?" and told me "I could never have thought of this." I consider that to be high praise. It's a huge validation to any work to take it out to the public and receive confirmation that it's like nothing else under the sun. Finding that I can do that without sliding a few bucks to a drug dealer I wouldn't ask to collaborate, I guess produces some bias. I know there are a lot of people who would argue that different drugs have helped produce art and music and writing for years, perhaps unlocking realms of the brain that their creators might never have accessed otherwise, and I still enjoy the work, but it still leaves me less impressed with the accomplishment.
So we may need to start doing urine testing before handing out "Creative Genius" labels. How about hair follicle tests for award nominees? Do you think it would have an impact on music and writing awards?