Life in the Third Dimension

 “Real life?” What’s that?”

– Grant Morrison

For those who don’t know who Grant Morrison is, the above quote pretty much sums him up.

The 51-year-old comic book writer has long been my favourite in the field. In my experience, no one has thought as big as he has, written with as much flair or immediacy or pushed the boundaries of the comic book form quite as far. In my own writing endeavors, I try to honour and not emulate. To think big without changing the way I think. To try and look ahead and look deeper, without changing my direction. I don’t think I’ll ever follow him and agree with him on a lot of things, but I’ll do my best to learn from him. You can only imagine how I felt meeting him.

Morrison recently gave a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which I was lucky enough to attend. The talk was primarily about his new book, Supergods, Just like the book, he talked about the history of the superhero, and what the concept could mean in real life. He talked about the how he thought the concept was designed to be indestructible, unassailable. No matter what happened to them, the superhero would always stand up again. I liked that. He talked about how he thought there was a superhero in everyone, that everyone had a part of them that was their perfect self, their wisest, their strongest, their most hopeful and unstoppable self. I liked that even more.

That’s when it got weird.

Anyone familiar with Morrison’s work and ideas will know he’s always been fairly meta, placing himself inside his fictional works and pulling fiction into the world as far as he can. He’s even met Superman, or at least that’s how he’s chosen to interpret it. Morrison went on to talk about his experiences writing King Mob in the Invisibles, and how what he did to the character was reflected back onto himself. He even went as far as to have a conversation with the virus that was eating his flesh at the time. (They negotiated a truce, whereby the virus would be written into the Invisibles in exchange for not killing him. Told you it got weird.) I’ve always chosen to believe that when Morrison talks about putting on a “fiction suit” and stepping into literature, it’s all just a bit of performance art designed to emphasise how he looks at our relationship with books and comics and our entire culture. Ideas have power, and an idea on a page can have huge, lasting consequences in the real world. The truth is, I never know what to make of it when he goes off on a meta tangent like that, but it’s entertaining at the very least.

I can’t really go any further without mentioning this – in a move that all but surgically attached the crown of “world’s best girlfriend” to her head, my long suffering girlfriend made the trip to Edinburgh with me, went to the talk and waited with me for an autograph. We waited for three hours, missing the train and getting a 3am bus home. Just another reminder of how lucky I am. I can’t thank her enough and owe her big time. I see a 90s boyband concert in my future…

While in the queue, we got talking to some fellow fans and made some new friends. It always surprises me how many people are looking to make their way into the comic book industry like I am. It’s encouraging, and after a talk like that, it’s inspiring. Writing comic books for a living didn’t seem so far away. Imagination could become reality. I have the girl of my dreams and an amazing son, why can’t the dream job be next?

Real life? What’s that?

Whatever I want it to be.

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2 responses to “Life in the Third Dimension

  1. You know the weird stuff? It’s actually all bloody true, every word of it. The problem with magic though is that we’re talking about something that by its nature is dealing in symbol and linguistics.

    One can see the things he talks about as METAphors, but that’s to diminish the reality of it. The way to see this is to accept everything he names, but not to accept any definition for it. So if he talks about speaking to a godform, he has done. It’s just that ANY attempt to describe what that is falls into fiction. Robert Anton Wilson talks about how the nervous system anthropomorphises big ideas in order for us to deal with them directly.

    In dealing with them directly, we can allow our neurological constructs and pathways to dissolve and re-emerge more efficient and capable of processing the world around us in a better way. And in doing so, get better at making what’s in your head, out of it and into the real world. That’s a belter of a way to describe magic if you ask me.

    Nevertheless, whatever way we describe it, everything he says works. Trust me, I know. I came to the queue for Morrison with a sigil inscribed on my hand that was designed to bolster self-confidence, as I’m not always the first person to put myself out socially.

    It was only two days later when I was talking to my partner that I remembered the sigil, and realised that it had, in fact, worked perfectly – I got talking to you, Eilidh and Dave…

    I first read The Invisibles about 12 years ago, and I’ve been “doing” magic as long. It’s not spooky, or supernatural, it’s just a symbol system, a way of seeing the world differently and affecting changes in it. Morrison is the best, most incredible exponent of magic because he visibly lives it – look at him, living the dream, yet still a sociable, humble man who spends time to talk to his fans. His comics are so great because he’s probably the single most honest mainstream comic creator out there, and he’s living through them, talking directly to us as he does so.

    And I’m with you on the last part – this country is teeming with future creators, so much so that I feel real hope for the future of comics. I can’t wait till we all break through and take over the world!

  2. “long suffering girlfriend” here. I agree with both of you but on slightly different fronts. I’m not as qualified to jump in here given my serious lack of knowledge in Grant Morrison’s work…but from the talk it sounded to me like he just had a different definition to the usual interpretaton for magic. Some of it was still a bit far out for me, but he talked about placebo’s, and hypnosis as a form of “magic”. If you will yourself to give something a chance, however abstract or strange the concept of what your trying to embrace is, sometimes it can work. I can relate to what Garry says about the sigli etc….My issue has never been chatting to people, but as Stephen will testify from his 6 years of knowing me even before we were together, I have chronic panic attacks when it comes to exam time – to the extent that sometimes the whole experience once I’m in the exam hall is utterly blank. I can have studied for months and all of a sudden things fall out my head and I can’t breathe or think anymore, I’ve hyperventilated and blacked out, or completely forgotten the experience altogether. I’ve been like this as long as I’ve faced serious exams, and I had tried just about everything I could think of to fix it. Then in second year of uni I, very sceptically, gave hypnotherapy a second bash. Having tried it before in high school to no avail I wasn’t convinced it was going to work, but the panic had reached silly heights with the previous years exam schedule, partly because it coincided with a traumatic bereavement. Second time round, with some slightly different techniques though, hypnotherapy worked for me. And trust me, to me that is amazing, and I think it makes up a tiny portion of the kind of thing Grant Morrison regards as “magic” although I could be wrong. I know there are lots of studies that suggest hypnotherapy is placebo based, and others that take a more scientific approach, but whatever it is I don’t care, I had tried everything else I could think of, but it really does help me. That and some super strength beta blockers 😛 but still. I know that’s not necessarily what you meant Stephen, or what Garry was on about…but hey Grant Morrison talked about it a bit! And I agree that sometimes if you will yourself to believe something will work then it can….and that’s sort of a more toned down version of him talking to his illness etc right? Who cares how it worked? No? anyways…I may be talking utter nonesense.

    More importantly, there are ABSOLUTELY 90’s boyband concerts in your future Mr Sutherland…

    Sorry about the waffly nature of this comment folks,
    x

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