Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Updated Schedule + Abstracts

See the updated events schedule and paper abstracts after the cut.

Conference Schedule

Friday 14th September 2012

11.00-12.00 Registration (2nd Floor, Long Room Hub)

12.00-12.15 Welcome

12.15-1.45 PANEL 1: ‘Renaissance’ (chair: Darragh Greene, UCD)

Arno Bogaerts: ‘From Superfolks to Supergods: Grant Morrison in the World of the Superhero’

Philip Bevin: ‘Superman Beyond Binaries: An Analysis of how the Distinction Between Morrison’s “Renaissance” Superman and his Work for the New 52 is Undermined by the Persistence of Old Ideas’
Val Nolan: ‘“Superman Done Right”: Action Comics and the Reconstruction of the Original Superhero’

1.45-2.30 BREAK

2.30-3.30 PANEL 2: ‘Superworlds’ (chair: Anne Sappington, TCD)

Keith Scott: ‘“Let me Slip into Someone more Comfortable”: Fiction Suits, Semantic Shamanism and Meta-linguistic Magic’

Schedel Luitjen: ‘Final Crisis, The Return of Bruce Wayne and Neoplatonic Demonology’ 

3.30-4.30 PANEL 3: ‘Symbolism’ 

Darragh Greene: ‘“The Jungian Stuff”: Symbols of Transformation and of Life in All-Star Superman’

Kate Roddy:  ‘“Screw Symbolism and Let’s Go Home”: Morrison and Bathos’

4.30-5.00 BREAK


Dr Chris Murray, University of Dundee: ‘"I Made the World to End": The Immersive/Recursive Worlds of Grant Morrison’

6.00-8.00 WINE RECEPTION (Ideas Space, Long Room Hub)

Saturday 15th September

10.11.30 PANEL 4: ‘Good and Evil’ (chair: Dara Downey, TCD)

Muireann O’Sullivan: ‘God is Dead; Long Live Superman! Fan Culture and the Superhero as Messiah'

Nicholas Galante: ‘Our Father, Who Art in Gotham: Christian Symbols of Good and Evil in Arkham Asylum’

Will Brooker: ‘The Return of the Repressed: Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP

11.30-12.00 BREAK

12.00-1.00 PANEL 5: ‘Humanity and Superhumanity’ (chair: Greg Hulsman, TCD)

Jennifer Harwood Smith: ‘Killing a Hero: The Last Acts of Superman’

Shaun Treat: ‘Flirting with Fascism: The Utopian Mystification of All-Star Superman

1.00-2.00 LUNCH

2.00-3.00 PANEL 6: ‘Masculine Identities’ (chair: Graham Price, UCD)

Tim Pilcher: ‘Transvestism, Transgenderism and Transformative Personalities in the Life and Work of Grant Morrison’

David Coughlan: ‘From Shame into Glory in Grant Morrison’s The Filth

3.00-4.30 PANEL 7: ‘Meta’ (chair: Kate Roddy, TCD)

Charles Stephens: ‘Morrisonian Meta-Continuity Within the DC Universe: Creativity as the Ultimate Superpower’

Clare Pitkethly: ‘Alienated in the Pages of a Comic: The Self-Reflexivity of Grant Morrison’s Comic Book Characters’

Roy Cook: ‘The Writer and The Writer: The Death of the Author in Suicide Squad #58’

4.30-5.00 BREAK



8.30 DRINKS AT THE DUKE PUB (Duke Street)



Panel 1: Renaissance

Arno Bogaerts
From Superfolks to Supergods: Grant Morrison in the World of the Superhero

From the early 1970s until the mid 1990s, superheroes primarily experienced a realistic, darker (or downright “grim 'n gritty”) period in their careers. Here these amazing, larger than life characters from the Golden and Silver Ages were “deconstructed” and brought down into worlds very much resembling our own, struggling with the same problems as the rest of us. In the mid 1990s however, several creators (and their reading public) said “enough” and worked hard to rebuild and re-establish the superhero and the marvelous worlds they live in, heralding a true Renaissance Age for the genre.

In this essay I will focus on the work of writer Grant Morrison in this particular period, primarily discussing his work for DC Comics (JLA, All-Star Superman, Superman Beyond, Final Crisis) and the comments he made in Supergods (2011) about the DC Multiverse, continuity and characters as ideas that are as organic and real as the world we ourselves live in (and maybe even more so). In the work of Morrison, several DC characters are elevated (again) from the Dark Age's “superfolks” to godlike, mythological beings that herald a better tomorrow and an ideal humanity should set for themselves. Furthermore, discussing the writer's own trips to the comic book page (Animal Man), I do not ask the question what it would be like if superheroes would live in our world, but instead ask what it would be like to live in the world of the superhero?


Philip Bevin (Kingston University London)
Superman Beyond Binaries: An Analysis of How the Distinction Between Morrison’s ‘Renaissance’ Superman and His Work for the New 52 is Undermined by the Persistence of Old Ideas

This paper will examine the role of Morrison’s Action Comics (2011) within DC’s New 52 (2011) in reference to his ‘renaissance’ (Supergods, 2011, p. 267) work featuring Superman, particularly All-Star Superman (2006-2007) and Superman Beyond (2009). Through my analysis of these texts, I will argue that Morrison’s present tenure on Action Comics, contrary to promotional discourses, represents a continuation of the themes explored in the
above stories, rather than a ‘reboot’.

This paper will suggest that, within Morrison’s ‘renaissance’ Superman stories of 2006-2009, the title character either functions as an embodiment of a perspective which transcends binary oppositions, or has to achieve such an outlook in order to surmount a seemingly impossible task. It will also imply that the destabilisation of binary outlooks remains a
central concern for Morrison’s current Action Comics. Consequently, I will propose that the relationship between Morrison’s earlier ‘renaissance’ work and his contribution to DC’s New 52 is one of evolutionary development and not the radical disjuncture that is implied by the paratexts used by DC Comics to contextualise the revamp. I will propose
that Morrison never intended his current tenure on Action Comics to represent a revision of his understanding of Superman as a character and concept. Furthermore, I will call into question the status of Morrison’s Action Comics as a genuine re-launch of Superman and will conclude that, rather than a dramatic change in direction, Morrison’s Action Comics represents an attempt, on the part of DC Comics’s editors, to repackage established authorial ideas in order to make them appeal to a contemporary teenage audience. As such, it also serves as a valuable case study in the negotiated struggle between celebrity authorship and author-function, and the editorial steer of the overarching DC Comics brand.


Dr Val Nolan (NUI Galway)
‘Superman Done Right’: Action Comics and the Reconstruction of the Original Superhero

While Grant Morrison has written the character of Superman before, most notably in the out-of-continuity All Star Superman (2005-2008), the Scotsman’s recent elevation to Action Comics (2011 to present) has seen his work become one of the cornerstones of DC’s fictional universe in the ‘New 52’ era. Throughout the first story arc, Morrison’s
working-class superhero faces not just an alien menace, but also the dangers posed by media conglomerates, the military, and big industry; human threats which resonate with ‘the zeitgeist of current economic and global turbulence’. Whereas many of Morrison’s previous superhero projects have deconstructed the genre, his work thus far on Action
Comics represents an attempt to reconstruct the original superhero. As he writes in his non-fiction volume Supergods (2011), Siegel and Shuster’s Superman ‘was a hero of the people […] a bold humanist response to Depression-era
fears of runaway scientific advance and soulless industrialism’. With Action Comics #9, Morrison extends this crusade into a surprising realm: that of creator’s rights. Depicting an alternate universe version of the character (the African-American ‘President Superman’ introduced in Final Crisis #7), Morrison proceeds to examine how a figure created ‘to change lives and inspire people’ became – in the hands of a villainous corporation – a ‘marketing icon’ and a ‘brand’ with ‘maximum cross-spectrum, wide platform appeal’. No doubt it is a story he would not be allowed tell with the in-continuity version of the character.

Using issue #9 as a lens, this paper will examine Morrison’s reimagining of Superman in Action Comics as ‘a bit more pro-active and a bit more socialist,’ a ‘blue collar, rough-and-ready character’ who stands in opposition to contemporary fan desire for ‘violent, troubled, faceless anti-hero[es] concealing a tragic inner life’. Crucially, it will be demonstrated that Morrison’s efforts to explore and expand the possibilities of Superman are consistent not just with the original intent of the character’s creators, but also with Morrison’s own sense of the idealised superhero archetype as something ‘hopeful, not embarrassed to be optimistic, and utterly fearless in the dark’.

Panel 2: Superworlds

Dr Keith Scott (De Montfort University Leicester)
'Let me Slip into Someone More Comfortable': Fiction Suits, Semantic Shamanism and Meta-
Linguistic Magic.

"the world is made of words [...] if you know the words that the world is made of you can
make of it whatever you wish."
- Terence McKenna, Alien Dreamtime

"You'll have to excuse me...I've been trying to learn an alien language and it all came back up."
- Helga, The Invisibles

The sheer variety of the Morrison canon can astound a reader; how can such diverse work spring from a single writer? Is he, like the Joker of Arkham Asylum, 'a brilliant new modification of human perception [...] He has no real personality. He creates himself each day.'? My reading of Morrison will be informed by memetics, semiotics, and one of the works cited as influencing The Invisibles: Michel Bertiaux's Voudon Gnostic Workbook. Why choose this work over any of the dozens of other texts Morrison has acknowledged as inspirations? Like Morrison's work, Bertiaux's is synthetic, a combination of apparently unrelated material leading to a new model of the world. As with voudon/voodoo, Morrison presents a vision of multiple universes, literal and fictional, where travel from one realm to another is both possession and the adoption of a persona. Finally, Morrison is a profoundly Gnostic writer, repeatedly dramatising paradigm shift or conceptual breakthrough. An intellectual cartographer, his maps are constructed through language and meta-language; this paper will investigate the nature of these constructions, and the web of connections between words and worlds in Morrison's work.


Schedel Luitjen
Final Crisis, The Return of Bruce Wayne and Neoplatonic Demonology

In his treatment of the New Gods in Final Crisis, Grant Morrison richly weaves Platonic ideas into the DC Universe, from the Radion 'Essence of Bullet' that can kill gods to Darkseid's Hyper-Adapter, a living curse, a spoken idea given form in physical reality, to Darkseid himself, as the Hole In Things, comparable to the Neoplatonic conception of evil as a lacking of good. By making the Fourth World and its elements into a realm of Platonic Ideal Forms, Morrison gives a deeper meaning and an eternal hyper-significance to the events of Final Crisis and the following stories; furthermore, by thrusting Batman into this world and having him fatally wound a god and then travel from the distant past to the infinite future, Morrison makes his Batman an ever-present feature in the history of DC's Earth, essentially making him into an idea as essential to humanity as any other idea in the DC universe, and making him into a new god, an idea powerful enough to be pitted against the idea of crime itself in Batman, Incorporated. My paper will trace the roots of the evil gods of Final Crisis to Neoplatonic sources in sources from the Late Antique and Renaissance flourishings of Platonic thought, including Plotinus, Apuleius, Augustine, Justin Martyr, Iamblichus, Marsilio Ficino, and Giovanni Pico. Further, I will explore how this use of Neoplatonic concepts broadens the DC Universe and adds to the story of DC's stories which is Final Crisis. 

Panel 3: Symbolism

Dr Darragh Greene (University College Dublin)
‘The Jungian Stuff’: Symbols of Transformation and of Life in All-Star Superman

Morrison’s Superman is a type of solar god who combines aspects of Christ and the archetypal pagan sun god Mithras; however, unlike Mithras, just as Christ combines a divine and human nature in the hypostatic union, so does Superman combine his transcendent identity, Kal El, and terrestrial alter ego, Clark Kent. From a Jungian perspective, he is as such a model of our own dual natures: a limited ego on the edge and in the midst of but rooted to a vast, unlimited Self that is the equivalent of the God-Image in man or, perhaps even as Jung sometimes vacillated, God Himself. In my reading of All-Star Superman, I will explore the Jungian patterning subtending how Superman’s voluntary and enforced death and subsequent solar-stellification figures forth the apotheosis of our own vital force; that is, I will examine how Superman’s passion, the vulnerability of the invulnerable, is a symbol of our own difficult transformation of never-ending individuation from a split and defensive ego to an unlimited Self that is like unto a god. What will be of most interest is the character of this unified Self: self-sufficient but not isolated; the end of individuation is paradoxically life lived for others.


Dr Kate Roddy (Trinity College Dublin)
‘Screw Symbolism and Let’s Go Home’: Morrison and Bathos

‘Nothing is so great which a marvelous genius, prompted by his laudable zeal, is not able to lessen.’ 
- Alexander Pope, ‘Peri Bathous, or, The Art of Sinking in Poetry’ (1727)

Pope introduced the literary world to the term ‘bathos’ in an attempt to shame the poetical bunglers of his day, yet bathos has become more than an accident of style. Used consciously by a writer, it can serve as a means to test readers’ expectations and expand the limits of genre. 

This paper examines key examples of bathos in Morrison’s writing, reflecting upon how he achieves the effect and what purpose it serves in his works. It initially focusses on the early serials for DC Comics (Animal Man, Doom Patrol), arguing that the ‘downbeat’ feel of these comics and their reliance on Dada and the absurd is indicative of Morrison’s troubled relationship with post-Crisis continuity and editorial authority. A comparison is then made with more recent works (All-Star Superman, Batman RIP), where bathetic elements are seen to be less pervasive, yet individually crucial to the crafting of more hopeful and uplifting narratives. In moving towards a conclusion, the paper considers if Morrison’s work constitutes a meaningful challenge to Pope’s notion that bathos is antithetical to the artist’s pursuit of ‘the sublime’.


Dr Chris Murray, University of Dundee
‘"I Made the World to End": The Immersive/Recursive Worlds of Grant Morrison’

This lecture will explore the relationship between two key features of Grant Morrison’s writing, the immersive strategies he employs to embed both his own persona (often in terms of an avatar) and an analogue for the reader in his comics, and the ways in which this is linked to recursive strategies.

Recursion is a central motif of Morrison’s work, with its emphasis on repetition and cyclical structures. The theory of recursion also touches upon several of Morrison’s key themes and interests, including language (linguist Noam Chomsky believes it to be a defining aspect of human communication), fractal geometry (where recursive patterns dictate the development of non-Euclidean natural structures), and what the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter refers to as “strange loops”, whereby a return to origin is the end point in certain kinds of relations, and where hierarchy disappears and becomes “heterarchy”.

Many of Morrison’s comics blend immersive strategies with recursive structures, and both are realised at the level of theme, and in the form of the comics themselves, on the one hand exploring notions of identity, storytelling, apocalypse and transcendence, but also tapping into the very fabric of communication and cognition. Morrison’s comics integrate these concepts and themes in a dizzying roller-coaster ride of playful intertextuality, pop-magic and intellectual seriousness, making him one of the most fascinating authors working today.

Panel 4: Good and Evil

Muireann O’Sullivan (Trinity College Dublin)
‘God is Dead: Long Live Superman!’ Fan Culture and the Superhero as Messiah

Friedrich Nietzche once proclaimed ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?’ As comic books and graphic novels are often purported to have created an almost fanatical religious culture, with fans identifying themselves by the stories they read, this paper will explore, indeed, how humanity has chosen to comfort themselves, by replacing one authority with another, in the form of Superheroes. Focussing primarily on ‘All-Star Superman’, this paper will discuss the sociological aspects of fan culture, and the characters created by Grant Morrison, who claim to be worthy of human faith.  Superman in particular has graduated from ‘cult followings’, to cultural phenomenon, and as a protagonist who consistently triumphs in the face of seemingly insurmountable figures of authority, has consequently become a figure of worship. As humanistic constructions, these heroes are creations in mans image, rather than humanity being created in God’s, and this paper will discuss conceptualisations of authority, and whether or not it is a requirement for society. This paper will examine Messiah-like constructions of the Superhero, and indeed, Superheroes inspired by Gods, and question the chaotic society which believes without belief. Finally, this paper will attempt to unearth the sheer magnetism of a character who replicates the powers of an omnipotent Christian saviour, in a genre which for the most-part, rejects conventional religions.


Nicholas Galante (Trinity College Dublin)
‘Our Father, Who Art in Gotham’: Christian Symbols of Good and Evil in Arkham Asylum

Morrison’s fondness for religious and occult symbols is well known, and though Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is an exploration of Batman’s psyche, it also deals heavily with religious symbolism and the roles of hero and villain as well as of good and evil. This paper explores Morrison’s depictions of good and evil in Arkham Asylum, predominately in the way that Morrison uses the chaotic, illogical environment of the asylum as an opportunity to toy with the perceived roles of these well-established characters and twist them in upon themselves. Batman, the Joker, Killer Croc, and even Amadeus Arkham are all examined in relation to this. Their portrayals are elaborated upon using the original script, Dave McKean’s illustrations, and Morrison’s own notes, and compared to passages from the Bible and, in one case, Paradise Lost. Through these analyses, I argue that Morrison breaks from the tradition of hero as inherently good and villain as inherently evil. He presents the notions of good and evil not as enemies or even as polar opposites, but rather as complimentary parts of a complete whole. Each character is both good and evil, shifting between the two to best suit the situation.


Dr Will Brooker (Kingston University London)
The Return of the Repressed: Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP

This paper draws on my recent monograph Hunting the Dark Knight: 21st Century Batman, which in turn builds on my previous book Batman Unmasked (Continuum, 2000) – based on my PhD into Batman’s first sixty years – and my other published work such as ‘The Best Batman Story’ in Alan McKee’s Beautiful Things in Popular Culture (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), and ‘Hero of the Beach’, on Flex Mentallo, in The Journal of Comics and Graphic Novels (2011).

It examines Grant Morrison’s approach to Batman’s history as ‘as the events in one man’s extraordinarily vivid life’ and argues that Morrison’s sustained run on the flagship titles, from Batman in 2006 through the stories of The Black Glove and Batman RIP to Batman Incorporated in 2011, subverted the normally-repressive rules of continuity by bringing long-forgotten stories – including science fiction, fantasy and camp – back into mainstream canon. 

Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of carnival, the paper discusses the ways in which Morrison’s portrayal of Batman embraced diversity and fragmentation, and captured a sense of Batman’s prismatic, mosaic totality, for a brief period before the containment and reduction of the character’s history in the New 52 reboot of October 2011.

Panel 5: Humanity and Superhumanity

Jennifer Harwood Smith (Trinity College Dublin)
Killing a Hero: The Last Acts of Superman

All-Star Superman follows the fatal solar poisoning of Superman up to his final effort to save the planet by flying into the sun to cure it from its own poisoning. Given the knowledge of his coming death, his amplified powers and a basic knowledge of the future, Superman spends his final days performing twelve legendary feats, which are often achieved because he is saying goodbye to friends and family. While preserving his Kryptonian heritage, the series also highlights Superman’s human upbringing and behaviours, from Kansas to Metropolis. The All-Star Superman reality is one heavily imbued with DC mythology, continually referencing the past while constructing an intricate future, and becomes a literary death monument to Superman not simply as a hero but as a man. 

I will examine how Morrison contrasts the mundane farewells to loved ones with the series’ hyperstylised events and imagery. I will focus on issues such as ‘Sweet Dreams, Super Woman...’, ‘Funeral in Smallville’, and ‘Neverending’ as examples of Morrison’s ability to bring the personal into the epic and intertwine the two. I will also look at Superman’s relationship to history in the series and how this informs his relationships as his death approaches.


Shaun Treat (University of North Texas)
Flirting with Fascism: The Utopian Mystification of All-Star Superman

Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, heralded by fans and critics alike as a visionary masterpiece of superhero graphic literature, offers a fantastic RetCon of the SuperMythos and an archetypal rebirth for the iconic American Übermensch as both myth and commodity. As his best-selling metacommentary SuperGods acknowledges, this Kryptonian "Man of Tomorrow" inspires and exemplifies what I'll explore as Morrison's Utopian MystiFiction, a utopian imagination of/for the comics form as a quasimystical medium for expanding consciousness, altering perceived reality, and exploring themes central to the human condition. In particular, this essay examines how All-Star Superman navigates the mythic tensions and potentialities of protofascism by imagining a humanistic ideal within the contradictory specificities of an American fantasy. As a mystical metafiction for inspiring transhumanistic spiritualism rather than tribal politics, Morrison's holy alien trinity of Kal-El, Clark Kent, and Superman operates as a global Lacanian fantasy wherein the power of the story ennobling humanity to being/becoming/be stronger than we think ourselves to be also demands we accept and channel our inner-Übermensch. Because Superman is a fictional meditation upon the Nietzschean and Fascistic potentialities of the Übermensch fantasy, a desireous circuit that is inspired by rather than inspiring the ambivalences of the human condition for what Henry Jenkins finds is a multiplicity of ‘becoming’. Morrison invents a fantasy that inverts and mystically re-shapes our conditions for 'reality' as a ritual enactment of invented fictions. In short, within this Utopian Mystifiction of Morrison, readers are invited to become participant co-authors with a SuperGod who is dreaming the promise and perils of all humanity... and ourselves.

Panel 6: Masculine Identities

Tim Pilcher
Transvestitism, Transgenderism and Transformative Personalities in the Life and Work of Grant Morrison

This paper examines Morrison’s recurrent themes of transgendered characters, transvestitism, in both his personal and creative life, and will focus on his concept of the “Liquid Personality.” It will explore how many of Morrison’s characters evolve, both physically, emotionally and psychically, and how the sense of “the self” is in fact a malleable form capable of being manipulated, either by internal or external forces. Works examined include Animal Man, Kill Your Boyfriend, The Mystery Play, The Filth, The Invisibles, Flex Mentallo, Doom Patrol and All Star Superman, amongst others. It will also examine how Morrison has taken these concepts and used them on himself, reinventing his public face to present different personalities to the world at large. From lonely, post-goth geek in Glasgow, through “angry young man of comics”, to hip, counterculture L.A. guru to the stars. As Morrison himself has stated, “I use media exposure as a means of playing with multiple personalities. Each interview is a different me and they're all untrustworthy.” The paper aims to peel away the masks of Morrison and his work.


Dr David Coughlan (University of Limerick)
From Shame into Glory in Grant Morrison’s The Filth

The double identities of comic book superheroes are structured in such a way as to suggest that strength in the masculine public sphere is the truest sign of manhood. At its extreme, the hypermasculine superhero embodies a dominant masculinity armoured against any possible infection by the feminine, even if that means rejecting love, marriage, and the home. Yet, at the same time, this armoured self can be read as the expression of a sense of male shame and inadequacy, with the hero removing himself from the home because he cannot trust himself given the, often sexual, violence that defines him as a man.

As early as 1993, Grant Morrison was concerned with “the idea of diffusing the hard body,” the results of which are evident in Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Flex Mentallo, for example. But it is in The Filth that he tries to show how, as he says, “the shabbiest, shittiest life you can live,” one defined and limited by shame, guilty, fear, hatred, and loneliness, “can be redeemed into glory by the power of imagination.” Here, the hero seemingly is Ned Slade, a high-ranking officer of the “supercleansing” operation The Hand, whose off-duty persona is Greg Feely, a single man, addicted to pornography and accused of paedophilia, but fiercely dedicated to his cat Tony’s well-being. Shifting between worlds of differing scales and dimensions, The Filth, as its name suggests, studies the interactions of perversion and policing and, in the process, the superhero’s part in redeeming male shame.

Panel 7: Meta

Charles Stephens (Texas A&M University)
Morrisonian Meta-Continuity Within the DC Universe: Creativity as the Ultimate Superpower

Morrisonian Meta-Continuity within the DC Universe: Creativity as the Ultimate Superpower
This essay examines Grant Morrison’s use of magical, multiversal, and metafictional storytelling techniques and the creation of a Morrisonian sub-continuity within larger continuity that allows him to deconstruct the tropes of superhero comic book storytelling and reconstruct them into something more hopeful, transcendant, and powerful. The major focus is on Morrison’s work within the DC universe, with an emphasis on the connecting elements between JLA, Seven Soldiers, Final Crisis, Animal Man, and various Batman and Superman titles, as well as the Morrisonian sub-continuity developed and utilized within these linked narratives. Morrison utilizes chaos magic, multiverses of character variants, and metafictional graphic narrative in the creation of an over-arching Morrisonian metanarrative call to arms. Some focus is also spent on Morrison’s tendency to include metafictional avatars of himself in his narratives, and the movement by other authors to include Morrisonian avatars, often in the form of shamanic artists, in their own work. I argue that Morrison’s effects on the superhero genre, both textual and visual, are not limited to his own work, but also reflected in the work of those who have followed him, and continue to be seen in the evolution of the superhero. While many of Morrison’s British contemporaries are also utilizing similar techniques, Morrison’s devotion to and love of the superhero genre allows him greater character insight and acceptance within the industry, and grants him more editorial control over the continued development of superhero stories. Scholarship utilized include McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Waugh’s Metafiction, Morrison’s Supergods, and Morrison-specific criticism. 


Clare Pitkethly
Alienated in the Pages of a Comic: The Self-Reflexivity of Grant Morrison’s Comic Book Characters

I know us for what we truly are. Not supermen but super-slaves in a synthetic prison. Playing out crummy meaningless adventures...
– Grant Morrison, The Filth #3: 18

Grant Morrison’s comic book characters often find themselves subject to the textual properties of the comic, as his self-reflexive narratives incorporate elements of the text’s very form. This paper will draw upon examples of self-reflexivity in Morrison’s comic book narratives, and will demonstrate the subjection of his characters to comic book textuality. I will demonstrate the place that Morrison’s characters occupy within his narratives, and the distance that they acquire from the fictional worlds in which they dwell. Morrison’s comic book characters recurrently become alienated from their surroundings; they find themselves out of place, in strange and alien realms. The worlds within Morrison’s comics also take on self-reflexive qualities, just as if the comic book character is trapped within the formal properties of the comic book. There is a recurrent tension that is apparent between the comic book character and the world that they inhabit; it is almost as if Morrison’s characters are placed beyond the fiction that is their text. His characters acquire a distance from the illusory worlds that surround them, and they are able to reflect upon their place within the fictional comic book. Morrison’s comic book characters are self-reflexively aware; they find themselves trapped within the fiction of the text,  and unable to escape the pages of their comic.


Roy Cook (University of Minnesota)
The Writer and The Writer: The Death of the Author in Suicide Squad #58

In Animal Man, Grant Morrison meta-fictionally interrogates the comics art form by inserting himself into the narrative, and hence into DC continuity, interacting with his protagonist Animal Man in-panel and highlighting the complex relationship between creator and created. While Morrison’s role as the writer of Animal Man (‘the writer’ as creator) has been a focus of attention in comics studies, his fictional role as the Writer in DC continuity (‘the Writer’ as character) has been less well examined. I shall focus on the Writer’s only other appearance: Suicide Squad #58. In this issue the Writer can control events within the narrative by typing on his word processor. Although killed off by the writer of this comic, Joe Ostrander (providing a novel perspective on old debates about the ‘death of the author’) the Writer is, prior to his death, aware that his control over events is limited by the fact that he – that is, Grant Morrison – is now a character within DC comics continuity. As a result, Morrison (the writer) no longer has sole control over Morrison (the Writer), since other writers (e.g. Ostrander) can control the character in other comics. Hence, this issue of Suicide Squad forces us to re-conceptualize the relationships between the author as creator and the author as meta-fictional construct within his own creation, at least when this creation is a massively collaborative fictional universe like DC continuity.


  1. Are there any plans to collect these papers into a book?

    1. Yes, there are plans afoot to publish a collection. Keep an eye out for more specific news.