A Very MorrisonCon Sunday by Rob Bass: Drinking With DiDio

Rob Bass writes, with an ending to Saturday's tale…

EPILOGUE: One could make the argument that, for me and me alone, MorrisonCon ends there. That is certainly the climax of my wildest hopes and dreams for the experience. But it's only 8:00 on Saturday night and my flight doesn't leave for another twenty-four hours. And there is the whole matter of another night of play and day of programming. Quick as I can, bullet-point lightning-round edition:

I walk away from the Morrison signing and see a guy sitting by himself on a couch down the hall who's got a jaunty hat and beard and looks pretty much like Darick Robertson. I wave, he waves back, I walk over and sit down, he denies being Darick Robertson, I don't really believe him at first, we start talking comics because of course, eventually I ask him his real name** and it's Markisan and he's from Chicago and brews his own mead and has even just gotten name-checked by Azzarello in the new #0 issue of WONDER WOMAN that came out week before last. He has brought a bottle of his own mead to share with Jason Aaron, who will begin writing THOR in November. Perhaps Aaron will also name-check Markisan as a fine Asgardian brewer of mead, a talent now encompassing and transcending not only The Big Two but their fictitious versions of the Greek and Asgardian pantheons. He and his friend The Captain do a podcast called I Kick Your Face. It turns out Markisan is the one who made the request for Burnham to draw Robertson worshipping Lee, because of course, he's still drinking from the same tankard. I finish all but the last Lone Star sitting there talking with them. It's after nine. We go to the deli for more beer. I get a Fat Tire and sprint upstairs to drop off all of my autographed. I drink the Fat Tire on the way down to the Body English. There's Schedel. He introduces me to someone I never see again. There's Sage. She's mad at Akira the Don for his shabby treatment of my question. I decide that he probably owes me a drink just on general principle and head on over to tell him so but he's in the middle of a conversation and it seems impolite to interrupt with such news, those are the kind of tidings one shakes hands before delivering, but not five minutes later, he's in the DJ box, where he will be spinning records and beats all night long. I will have to fend for myself.

I find Markisan and The Captain. We sit down at an enormous booth with some other people we don't know. Brian walks by in a suit and we invite him to join us. He buys me a Heineken. Dan stops by and is quite dashing, having also changed into a suit. Then he's off to the dance floor to show us how it's done. Markisan spots Jason Aaron up on the second floor and makes his move. The Captain follows suit and I am right behind them. Aaron is up for it, and we all have some mead. It is sweet and a damn fine thing. I want to rave to Aaron about my love for SCALPED but am afraid to really start engaging him because he's got "y'all" misspelled in that thing through and across all the volumes with the apostrophe between the "a" and the "l" and those aren't the kind of vibes I want to put out tonight but can sense that once I get going, I'm probably not going to be able to stop myself, so I just shake his hand and try to keep it all together for a few more hours.

I see Dan Didio hanging out at the bottom of the stairs and walk up to say hello, because surely the Publisher of DC Comics remembers me from that time we met in Dallas in November 2007 for five minutes, and but we stand there and shoot the shit for maybe ten minutes. He's headed out in the morning on a 10:30 flight back to shepherd his 52+ titles through their various stages of deadline but would never have missed this, repeats the fact that he's here for Grant, to show his support. I tell him that that is a fine thing and elect myself the positive vocal minority, to counter the effects of all the faceless everyones on the Internet bitching about the New 52, I instead tell him what about it is that's working for me in the form of solid little nuggets like not resetting INCORPORATED was clearly the smartest move of all and also it's certainly within his best interest to keep the teams on all Batman books as happy as possible because he's got a pretty sweet little thing going over there, and Snyder & Lemire should be allowed to do whatever they want. I just barely manage to choke down my unique understanding of the fundamental framework for the ultimate THE ATOM story and also THE NEW ADVENTURES OF GRANT MORRISON & BUDDY BAKER but pitching right there on the spot feels like a bushwhacking dick move unworthy of this momentous occasion so we just keep bantering. At some point, Jim Lee and a couple of women and Mr. & Mrs. Quitely and Jason Aaron all roll up and everyone's kind of talk/shouting at each other in the way that groups do in clubs with loud music playing. I shake hands with the great Jim Lee and tell him that I have been buying his books in singles since the halcyon days on UNCANNY. He thanks me but does not ask me to dance.

A Very MorrisonCon Sunday by Rob Bass: Drinking With DiDio

And maybe it's time to go? Chantal Claret's playing at Vinyl and I've been listening to Morningwood the past couple weeks to get ready but then by the time we're at the club maybe half past midnight, a guy is slow-mopping the floor in the definitive picture of The Gig Is Over. Which is terrible, I was looking forward to her set. Maybe I go back to Body English but don't find any friends still there? It is time to shut it down.


I wake up facedown on my bed at 8:38 AM, fully dressed in suit and boots. oh no. The act of raising my head up off the pillow is filled with throbbing pain and regret. I've got a little less than an hour before Burnham's Hangover Breakfast & Sketch thing. Call it an even hour. I set my phone for 9:38, kick off my boots and pants, and go back to sleep.

Wake up at 10:28! Emergency! Morrison panel in two minutes + I need to hurl everything I own into my bags and check out of my room. I bound about trying to effect all of this as best I can, managing the checkout over the television I hope, not as much hitting Barry Allen levels of velocity but closer to a Baron/Guice version of Wally West who has had exactly the same Saturday as me and could really use a few hundred-thousand carbs to ramp up the old super-speed. This time, there's no line for the seven-dollar peach smoothie that tastes like total forgiveness and redemption and I'm in the back row listening to Morrison answer all kinds of mad questions from the audience before eleven. He talks about how most often the connections we see in the universe are nothing more than what we create for ourselves or that are embedded for us by creators who are resonating on the same frequencies that we are, which is why 23 keeps showing up everywhere or why there were so many 108s all of a sudden all over the place after the second season of LOST. Any time someone asks him for some kind of general life advice, Morrison always deflects it with the sentiment that he's just another human being, not a guru or leader or demi-god of any kind. Which might sound disingenuous delivered from a man at his own panel at a convention that's bears his name, but it's delivered with such sincerity and absence of pretense that the effect is empowering. Quit looking for solutions from outside sources. Become the answer to your own questions.

My favorite thing he says at this panel, I think it's at this one, everything starts blurring pretty hard from here on out as we approach the singularity of the last panel, maybe he even says it in that one, but it's the story he tells about his mom taking him to see 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY three times in the theater when it opened back in '68 and the profound effect it had on him creatively, but what of course really did a number on his eight-year-old psyche was naturally the psychedelic stargate scene that closes out the movie, the first-person POV shot of Dave Bowman actualizing humanity's evolutionary potential and becoming the Star Child, or whatever you think it means, it's not like Kubrick in any way makes it explicit, but the second time she took him, he brought along his favorite teddy bear and when it got to the stargate sequence, he hid his eyes but held the bear up to soak up the entire thing as some sort of proxy. The bear is the first stuffed animal he received as a baby and the story goes that he reached out to it and uttered his first syllables "buddhi," which we all know is the female Sanskrit noun derived from the same root*** as the more common masculine version ending in –a, denoting an aspect of mind higher than rational thought and translated roughly as "intuitive intelligence" or "higher mind." I would have to call bullshit on just about anyone else claiming those syllables as his or her first word but with Morrison am by now just like, "Of course you named your teddy bear that right before you picked up a red marker and drew the Barbelith circle on your own forehead chakra."

Marvel's former Talent Coordinator Bon Aligmano runs the next panel, leading the entire audience on a collective pitch for a new series based on a character who's entered the public domain with Aaron, Burnham, and Williams playing the role of editors. The character is Little Nemo. All kinds of wonderful ideas get thrown around the room, Nemo as an old man confronting death or cancer and dreaming of his childhood or maybe invert the entire original situation and have him badly injured, in a coma and trying to fight his way out of the dream into the real world. I wish we had Brendan McCarthy here to splash some of the images getting kicked around up on the big screen in his one-of-a-kind palette.

We pause for lunch and then Hickman does a panel on how to break in with creator-owned comics, lots of numbers and a few anecdotes that boil down to "be very very good and diversify your output." Probably the best advice that comes out of it is that if your resources are limited, particularly if you're a writer who has to pay an artist, it's much more intelligent to put together four five-page previews of four unique projects across a variety of genres rather than putting all your eggs in one basket and producing a single twenty-page issue. Quadruple your odds of finding a concept that connects.

Next, Sime and Baldock sit down with J.H. Williams III, whose pages look absolutely gorgeous up there on the big screen. The previous day, the guy talked about being intimidated by various other talents in the industry, which is insane because ever since at least DESOLATION JONES was coming out, I was so grateful not to be a sequential artist whose livelihood was dependent upon innovative page composition, because as stirring and inspiring and beautiful as every Williams layout is, it seems like they would make the next white page impossibly difficult to fill with anything even remotely worthwhile. But he walks us through some of his relatively recent work, a couple of pages from the "The Black Glove" arc with Morrison then on to Batwoman. The labyrinth that she and Wonder Woman make their way through in #12 took four-and-a-half days, an incredibly short amount of time for such masterful work, one that turns out to have completely screwed-up perspective lines that you just can't discern because the drawing makes you believe in it, not unlike Kirby anatomy. He shows us the artwork he did for the new The Sword album Apochryphon**** and explains that the band threw out his first pitch to put a sword on the cover, a bit on-the-nose, but then how he found a way to slide one in anyway via the shape of the logo combined with all of the elements they wanted. And he's doing Blondie's next album cover and designing new costumes for the band, the latter Sime's idea when he met the band backstage during their recent run through San Francisco.

Quitely's panel is just him and Morrison sitting on a couch, joking around about any- and everything, just a real relaxed intimate vibe, you can tell they're dear friends. We get a look inside Quitely's sketchbook, thumbnails for a series of interconnected short stories called THE BUMHEIDS he's been working on when not producing pages for Morrison. He's on Page 24 of 38 of PAX AMERICANA. Someone from the crowd asks what tattoo he should get to commemorate the event. The crowd consensus is Barbelith's eye but a guy a few questions later opens with suggesting Nanoman and Mini-Miss from FLEX MENTALLO, the founders of a new universe, and Morrison loves this. At some point, the evil joker running the projector throws up this Flickr stream of Olympic 2012 mascots Wenlock & Mandeville juxtaposed with dialogue uttered by INVISIBLES antagonists The Archons of the Outer Church, which really and truly fill me with such panic that I'm very very close to running screaming for the hall. The panel runs fifteen minutes long to accommodate all of the people asking questions and then Akira the Don once again leaps up onstage, spilling just a few drops of screwdriver before plopping down next to Morrison. Quitely excuses himself and the pair dive into an in-depth discussion of the Singularity or Eschaton or end of the world as predicted by the Mayans and Hopi Indians and Terrence McKenna, et al, whatever you want to call it. The Don is really quite knowledgeable about the whole thing, seems to have read most of the books that have been published on the subject, even correcting Morrison a time or two. Apparently, McKenna's original calculations put the date sometime in late October 2012 but then he bumped it back a couple of months upon learning of the Mayan prediction. I have to leave, the last flight out is at 7:35 and I have to work the next day and get to see my little girl first thing in the morning. It tears me up to walk out of there with no definitive conclusion but when 6:00 rolls around, I get up from my seat on the second row with at least a dozen people still lined up to ask questions. I run into Sime on the way out, thank him from the bottom of my heart and give him a handshake that turns into as profound of a hug as I can manage.

A Very MorrisonCon Sunday by Rob Bass: Drinking With DiDio

An hour and a half later, I'm sitting in the back row of the plane battling a slight twist of regret, still floundering for punctuation, some definitive endpoint that I can tag as the conclusion to this transformative experience. I put on "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" by Camera Obscura because the melancholy ache of the pop is perfect, soothing, exactly encapsulates me at this instant in space and time. I look up and realize that I'm sitting in Aisle 23 and suddenly understand that none of this has to end, ever, I never saw them stop, Morrison and company could be in that hall taking questions and sharing themselves forever, until the end of time or December 22nd, whichever comes last, channeling that enlightening embracing awareness out into the lives of anyone who comes into contact with their work. We can do anything, the only thing standing in the way of actualizing our potential is our own inertia, all we have to do is ignite our own escape velocity. We are all supergods.


* or quite possibly it was "neutrinos," another example of the kind of poly-dimensional simultaneity flying around all over the place by that point, both versions exist in my head


** this thing with guys looking like Darick Robertson turns out to be a motif throughout the evening, before all is said and done, I wind up bumping into two other false articles with a beard and the same jaunty hat before finally running into the actual individual near the end of the evening, but only by the fourth time, I'm so jaded by the exchange that I perfunctorily ask, "Darick Robertson?" and when he replies in the affirmative, I just nod because it finally had to happen some time and then shamble right on off without another word


*** budh: to awaken, enlighten, to know


**** which means "secret writing," naturally, due 10.22.12

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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