SDCC '15: Grant Morrison's Heavy Metal Will Be Psychedelic And Sexy – Talking With The New EIC
It was announced earlier this week that Grant Morrison was taking over as Editor-in-Chief at Heavy Metal Magazine. The iconic magazine, known for its enticing blend of science-fiction, dark fantasy, and gracious nudity, has been the home to such artists such as Moebius, H.R. Giger, Alex Ebel, Walter Simonson, and several others since 1977. Morrison will be taking over next year, and was kind enough to take some time out of his extremely busy Comic-Con schedule to sit down and answer a few of my questions.
Cameron Hatheway: You're one of the most creative, most widely recognized writers in comics, hands-down. What made you decide to delete all that and take the reins of Editor-in-Chief at one of the most iconic comics magazines?
Grant Morrison: Well the thing is I don't have to delete anything, because I'm still doing all the same things anyway, it's just another thing I'm piling on top of my schedule. I came here because I'm friends with Jeff [Krelitz], and we've been friends for a couple of years and Jeff said, "You should do something for the magazine, we should get you to do something," then suddenly, "Do you want to edit this?" And it seemed like such a weird left-field thing that I had to say "Yes," because I like taking on challenges, and doing things I haven't done. Once you've been around a long time you've kind of done it all, and it just seemed like real fun. And I was never a great fan of Heavy Metal—When I was a kid the first magazine that started out was Near Myths, and that was my professional job, and they were a kind of Scottish, home-grown attempt to do an adult magazine in the vein of Heavy Metal, so at the time as a little punk I was viewing it as competition, even though it was no competition against Moebius and those guys! But I got excited about this idea of going back to the stuff that inspired me in the very first place, and contemporize that and play with it. And the way that I do revamps with Superman and Batman and immerse myself in it all, I thought, "I should do this with Heavy Metal and see what we can make."
CH: Who are some of the creators or stories that left a major impression on you when you first started reading it?
GM: It was mostly the artwork. I loved the French guys that did the artwork but I didn't like the stories so much—I thought they kind of didn't reach the point, I was much more of a fan of American comics and the way they told stories, but in my head all fused together were the Warren stuff with Vampirella, and Marvel with the Savage Sword of Conan. The more you graduated from, when you stopped reading the Marvel cosmic books like Warlock and Dr. Strange, you kind of moved up to these sexy sci-fi, girls-with-tits comics, because it made me feel really kind of grown up and naughty. So it was that, I loved the artwork, but I wasn't a fan of the stories. Not until Richard Corben, when Heavy Metal
started running Corben's stuff and I really got into that. But it was mostly for the art, honestly, that's what I liked about it, and there was always the sense that, "Yeah, we could do that better if they just let us write the stuff."
CH: Some of your critics say you need an editor, and yet, now you're editor in chief. Did you talk to any ex-editor-in-chiefs like Mark Waid and get advice on how to approach things, or are you planning on just going with your gut and going into it guns blazing?
GM: I kind of have an idea of what I'm looking for, and also I don't have to do the hard craft, I just get the easy job; I get to select the material and determine the tone of the magazine. I've got a lot of friends in editorial, but they do it as a serious job, that's their job. For me this is more of a selection job and kind of guiding the aesthetic. I feel that I'm capable of handling it. And I always do have an editor, everyone says, "You need an editor!" I've always got an editor, but nobody edits me! [Laughter]
CH: What do you plan on bringing to the magazine with your ideas and connections? Any word from Chris Burnham or Frazer Irving yet on if they'll come play in the sandbox with you?
GM: Yeah Burnham wants to do it, Ryan Hughes wants to do a new take, things like that. So people are already getting in touch with me, but right now it's at the very start of the process so I've just started reaching out. I've also got a lot of fans in the music industry, and I think so many of them are into comics that it would be great to bring them and see. Gerard Way, we know Trent Reznor, things like that. It was kind of, "Who could we bring in to add a weird dimension to this, but who also comes from that world?" It's a bit more industrial, techy, stuff.
CH: Keeping it a bit more punk rock.
GM: Yeah! There's a bunch of people—Steve Aylett does these weird comics, I don't know if you've ever seen the stuff that Steve does, but he's an amazing novelist from Britain who's like an underground, young guy who does amazing stuff. People like that, and Michael Kupperman from Thrizzle has got in touch and said, "Yeah I'd like to do something for Heavy Metal," I'd love to have Michael Kupperman in there. It's a broad span, but basically its psychedelic, that's where I want to take it. To also make it more sexy, but kind of grow the sexuality, because for a long time Heavy Metal's traded in that kind of Mötley Crüe video, which was cool in the day, but we need to broaden it. Because kids don't need to read Heavy Metal to see airbrushed tits these days, they've got the internet. They can see anything they want! So I think we have to broaden the focus of that and kind of deal with that in a way. But that's going to be something psychedelic, sex, science fiction, and from that, anything goes.
CH: Your name on the cover, along with that great illustration by Brain Ewing alone will get new readers flocking to stores to pick it up. What's going to keep them coming back for more?
GM: I wanted to be like a place you go, kind of like a club. It was always like that when we were doing The Invisibles and the latest pages were such a big deal that made a very strong connection with the readership. And especially now in the age of the internet, when I was doing the Multiversity stuff, it's all about the changed relationship between the creator and the audience, because it's much tighter. People can comment immediately, it's almost like this live performance thing. And people are kind of adapting to the comments, you see people apologizing immediately if they get something wrong and fixing it in the next one. I'm kind of fascinated about that breakdown about it, so I want Heavy Metal to be very reflective of that, in the sense that this is your place to come, we're all into the same stuff, let's build a club. I'll get the hammer, you get the nails, let's build this and put on a show!
CH: Since you start next year, will you be spending the rest of this year writing and wrapping-up current storylines and series, or will you still be writing other comics while simultaneously editing the magazine?
GM: I'm still doing a bunch of stuff. I've got a couple of DC things that have been announced, I'm doing this Santa Klaus thing at BOOM!, I'm finishing up Nameless at Image, and I've got another couple of projects coming soon. I'm still doing it. It's amazing the amount of time that was freed-up once I stopped doing the DC monthly comics, because those were such an intense drain of time. It just kind of opened things up, which is why you see me spilling into every area. But I haven't left DC behind, I'm not really stopping anything to do this. It's just going to be a part of this new energy I'm feeling right now.
Special thanks to Grant for taking time to talk to me, and Jeremy Atkins for helping set this up.