Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods (Halo-8 Entertainment, NR)

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It’s surprising to see someone who appears to live in the same world as you and I describe how he uses chaos magic as casually as someone else might describe using the internet.

Grant Morrison is one of the more prolific comic book creators today and he’s been successful with both well-known franchises (Batman, the Justice League of America) and his own original, edgier material (The Invisibles, The Filth). The two impressions I take away from Patrick Meaney’s documentary Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods are 1) Morrison is a hard-working guy who takes comics seriously and 2) he’s a bit out there.
 
The first should be self-evident: you don’t create a body of work like Morrison’s without putting in the time and effort and you have to take the medium seriously to go to the trouble, as he has, of rethinking classic franchises and creating new universes. The second is not a shocker if you know anything about his work, which often incorporates references to magic and to magical objects like Ouija Boards. Still it’s surprising to see someone who appears to live in the same world as you and I describe how he uses chaos magic as casually as someone else might describe using the internet. I’m not criticizing because it clearly works for him, and he’s as straightforward in talking about magic as he is in discussing his life or his working process.
 
The film is constructed around a series of interviews with Morrison which are interspersed with comments from a regular murderer’s row of the comics universe (including Warren Ellis, Dan Didio, Geoff Johns and Jill Thompson) and lesser amounts of re-enactments, footage from comics conventions, and large blow-ups of Morrison’s work. More often than not we hear Morrison telling his own story, from his childhood as a comics geek in Glasgow through his stunning success with Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth and the ups and downs of his career and personal life since then.
 
The close relationship between Morrison’s life and his work is a recurring theme of this film and in that light, even fairly mundane biographical material becomes interesting. His father was an anti-nuclear activist who sometimes enlisted young Grant on his missions, getting him to throw his ball over the fence of a nuclear facility so Dad could take some pictures as they were retrieving the ball. His mother read tea leaves and once told him, out of the blue, that they came from Sirius while an uncle was an aficionado of the occultist Aleister Crowley. Morrison was profiled in a local newspaper at age 16, published his first comic in Near Myths at age 17 and began practicing magic at age 19. He says magic gave him the courage to start a rock band (and his “rock star” persona has served him well in his comics career, in no small part because it’s such a contrast with the way most comics creators present themselves) and provides a demonstration about how to make and use a sigil, making it seem the most ordinary behavior in the world. To him perhaps it is.
 
If you’re unfamiliar with Morrison’s work this documentary provides a good introduction, while if you are already a fan you’ll enjoy the extended interviews and variety of voices talking about the man and his work. My main criticism is that the film doesn’t really get into anything controversial or even ask any hard questions: instead it’s Grant Morrison presenting himself as he would like to be seen. That’s not entirely a bad thing but it would have been nice if the director had tried a little harder to dig below the surface. 
 
Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods is a co-production of Respect Films and Sequart and is distributed by Halo-8 Entertainment. You can purchase the film in download or DVD format from the Halo-8 web site (www.halo8store.com) or in DVD format (at a slightly higher price) from online sources like amazon.com. You can read more about the film and see the trailer at the film’s web site (www.grantmorrisonmovie.com) and if you’re interested in films about comics you should check out the Sequart web site (http://sequart.com) because they offer two other relevant documentaries: Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts and Diagram for Delinquents: Fredric Wertham and the Evolution of Comic Books. | Sarah Boslaugh

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