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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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Grant Morrison: Master & Commander
PART 5: Dancing Through Shells

Introduction
Interview - Part 1
Interview - Part 2
Interview - Part 3
Interview - Part 4
Interview - Part 5
Interview - Part 6
Interview - Part 7
Interview - Part 8



Before the X-Men took centre stage in Grant's portfolio, he and Chris Weston were co-creating the Vertigo maxi-series, The Filth. Recently collected in trade, the Filth proved to be too dark or too peculiar for some audiences who were more used to the sexy, shiny heroic figures that took precedence in works such as The Invisibles or the JLA. Greg Feely, the main character of the Filth, didn't wear red tights or know kung-fu, he watched over his cat, picked his nose and watched porn. For more on the Filth, read our recent Review.

But something else happened around the time the Filth was being made, when I first read about it, it was a sidenote. A slight mention. A comment which simply seemed to go unnoticed as if unimportant. But it was, it was very important, and it scared me.

It was the sort of thing I would never want to hear come from the lips of someone of such creative genius as Grant Morrison. When this interview began it was the one question I knew I had to ask, you can read the results below.


Recently released in trade-paper-back format is the Filth collection. Though not as widely publicized as the Invisibles did you feel the series to be successful as to how you wanted it to come out?

Artistically I'm really happy with the Filth and I keep going back to it with wonder and affection. It's about the 'tightest' piece I'd ever done. It saw me through some bad times and did everything I wanted it to but I have to admit I was very disappointed by the lack of intelligent critical engagement with the piece. I keep reading stuff by people insisting that there was no story, no plot, no characterization etc in the face of all evidence to the contrary. I'm utterly fucking baffled sometimes by the denial response to what seemed to me a very straightforward, funny, visually beautiful, inventive and direct piece of satire.

Anyway, I predict a rediscovery of the Filth now that the trade paperback is out.

Everyone who liked The Invisibles should read the Filth if only for the reason that if you follow the conclusions of The Invisibles to their limits, you will NEED The Filth to make sense of what happens next in your life. There is no 'magic'. We're all going to die, like all our heroes. It's already happening and is just a question of waiting for the moment. Life is an in-between state, a bardo where consciousness sees its own reflection in matter and hopefully learns something painfully beautiful about its nature and purpose.

One thing I found rather disturbing was a comment you made in an online interview, which seemed to go unnoticed by the site, you mentioned you had felt suicidal at certain points during the series creation.

THE FILTH comic was created as a filter or cleansing plant - a colourful pseudo-kidney, if you like - a disordered Qabalah of failure and exploitation through which I could pass and purify damaging and seductive ultra-violet left-hand material and examine all the bad feelings and images I was coming to associate with life at the start of the new century - the skin crawling paranoia of surveillance film set reality, the endless mass murders in the name of stupid causes that weigh less than farts, Western culture's frightening self-hatred, its increasingly obscene fascination with entertainment inspired by the results of poverty and ignorance, the use of pornography as a narcotic and its subsequent impact on how men now regard women, the incoherent narcissism of 'reality' TV. These were all trends I thought were worthy of satire and mockery, dangling unprotected bollocks of our culture calling out for a brutal conceptual kicking - so I saw The Filth as the visible 'art' part of a much wider-ranging attempt to process so-called 'qlippothic' or 'negative' energy during a 'crossing' of the ABYSS, as it is known to magicians.

To ease the passage, I immersed myself in books about anti-life, death and decay, shame, dirt, chaos, nervous breakdown, mind control porn, humiliation, cruelty, schizophrenic art and disease pathology and fed the sickness back in the form of a cartoon narrative inoculation - no wonder so many people hated it (the project achieved a kind of weird dissonance in monthly form and very few of the people who commented seemed able to extract any meaning from the simple images and words before their eyes. It was fucking bizarre for me to read people saying, of this very meticulously planned and executed story, that 'the structure is a complete mess' or 'The Filth has no discernible plot, characters or themes.', or the meaningless phrase I hate more than any other 'Weirdness-for -weirdness' sake'. I've yet to see anyone attempt to denigrate WATCHMEN as 'superheroes for superheroes sake' or MAUS as 'the Holocaust for the Holocaust's sake' and get away with it). We all hated polio booster injections, didn't we? Nobody likes to feel a prick, after all, even if it's for their own good.

Anyway, I was bigging up The Filth in my own head as a devastating vivisection of Where We Are Today and as usual, I used my life and my work as a laboratory and wrote down the results in the form of a story. Although I was familiar with The Abyss or the 'Ring-Pass-Not' as a concept from various 'Rising on the Planes' meditations way back when I was doing my early Tree of Life and Enochian 'Aethyr' experiments, I was almost unprepared for the ferocity of the state of consciousness which engulfed me and transformed my world. I entered the Abyss shortly before 9/11, I think - on that morning, I woke up in a terrible state, roaring and crying uncontrollably and that's around when it all kicked in. Things became their own opposites - all thoughts, all concepts, all possibilities came equipped with their own annihilating negatives until there was no meaning in anything that was not erased by this process. It became impossible to think of anything at all without also imagining its corresponding, negating complement, all of the time, until eventually all this conceptual particle-smashing vaporised 'me' to fuck and released enough energy to fuel the birth of an inner sun, which then stabilized into a very odd new view of reality (this 'Choronzonic' consciousness and beyond is a hallmark of the Abyss experience). Prior to the atomization, every illusion I had ever entertained about myself and the world was ground to powder and particle in that brutal mill, I have to say. During the period of writing The Filth, which coincided in part with my tenure on New X-Men, I was so distressed and affected by what was happening and by the 'dark' material I was trying to process and resolve, that I hurled myself at a 3rd floor balcony in a hotel on Sunset Boulevard only to be hauled back by Kristan, scarred my chest and stomach with a jagged metal broom handle, and slashed at my own wrists ineptly but with sheer class, using a broken champagne bottle. Among many other idiotic and self-mutilating tangos with madness, designed, you might think, to look good in the biography (please, please, please don't try this at home, folks. the people on stage are professionals and experts, we are assured.). I was NOT MYSELF for a lot of the time and prey to all manner of obsessive disorientations. The same thing that pulled me through when I was dying in hospital in 96 saved me again here; context and the inexorable demands of Real Life. My 'reality tunnel', as Robert Anton Wilson calls it, is one that allows me to conveniently frame every experience and state of consciousness, good or bad, in the context of my magical initiation and progress. The disciplines of magic bring structure, meaning and pattern into the apparently unstructured, senseless and painful times of anyone's life. As do the grounding disciplines of earning a living and sharing a relationship.

To truly embrace Chaos, of course, is to surrender to the ultimate, inflexible expression of Law and Order in our universe - Here Everything Changes. That's about as much as I can say about it until Pop Mag!c comes out with all the wild theory and visionary malarkey. Craig was interviewing me through the worst, darkest period of all this folderol so I'm sure it comes across like a bad smell in his book. You'll literally split your sides laughing.

I have to say I did come to the 'end' of all magic as I'd known it and been practising for 25 years and, like a man standing blinking and dazed, ears ringing at ground zero of a nuclear blast, I'm trying to find novel ways to explain what has happened and present it to the world in the form of Blank Magic. The Filth was written from the eye of the experience. All the really good stuff is still to come.

For anyone who cares to keep up with these things, (and I'm sure many of my readers are practitioners), the Qabalistic wisdom I carried home from The Filth Working is very simple and profound and is expressed by Greg Feely in the scene behind the flower shop - the Crown Is In The Kingdom, and The Reverse Is Also True. And for Enochian magic enthusiasts, Greg can be read as Nemo tending his garden if you like.

Of course it took me a long time and a lyric from the new Monster Magnet record to finally get the real message of the Abyss.

'Shut your mouth, you big fucking baby!'

So I will and Horus, crazy Child-God of the Aeon, will too, if you tell him. IAMIUHUAMI.

Well hopefully you're over that, still hurts I know but you can't freely climb the tree if you confine yourself to the dirt.

Of course. I feel a whole lot better now but times were fucked up for a while and it's shaken me right down to my boots.

Introduction
Interview - Part 1
Interview - Part 2
Interview - Part 3
Interview - Part 4
Interview - Part 5
Interview - Part 6
Interview - Part 7
Interview - Part 8

 


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