Santa Klaus: Year One

Off- the- wall, but per­fectly log­i­cal. Stephen Jewell talks to Grant Mor­ri­son about reimag­in­ing Santa Claus as a su­per­hero, and other projects...

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

Comics’ sorcerer supreme, Grant Mor­ri­son, talks Klaus.

F rom rein­vent­ing the Santa Claus myth for the 21st cen­tury in Klaus to tak­ing charge of cult sci-fi/fan­tasy mag­a­zine Heavy Metal, the fu­ture is look­ing bright for Grant Mor­ri­son. The re­cently com­pleted Mul­tiver­sity – an am­bi­tious jour­ney through the many worlds that con­sti­tute DC’s mul­ti­verse – ap­peared to be the Glas­gow au­teur’s last word on main­stream su­per­heroes, although he isn’t quite done with the likes of Won­der Woman, The Flash and Bat­man just yet.

Ad­mit­ting that he and his wife and man­ager Kris­tan Mor­ri­son have made “a par­tic­u­lar ef­fort to reach out to var­i­ous pub­lish­ers,” the 56-year-old is spread­ing his wings even fur­ther, fol­low­ing up 2013’s Happy and this year’s Name­less for Im­age and 2014’s An­ni­hi­la­tor at Le­gendary with projects for in­de­pen­dents such as Black Mask, Graphic In­dia and Boom Stu­dios. Oddly, Happy is also set

against the back­drop of Christ­mas, but Mor­ri­son denies he’s aim­ing to be­come the comic book an­swer to Charles Dick­ens: “I can’t say I’ve had any par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in Christ­mas since I was a child. But I sup­pose Klaus is in some way an at­tempt to atone for the dis­gust­ing pae­dophile Santa of Happy!”

Comic he­roes: You de­scribed Klaus as an at­tempt to cre­ate your own big iconic char­ac­ter like Su­per­man or The Doc­tor…

Grant Mor­ri­son: I was very much think­ing along the lines of some­thing like Bat­man: Year One, as the ba­sic con­ceit was “What if I treat Santa Claus as the world’s most fa­mous su­per­hero?” This meant ap­ply­ing all the clas­sic tropes of the su­per­hero story – the ori­gin tale, the cos­tume, the se­cret iden­tity, the head­quar­ters, the pow­ers and gad­gets – and I soon found that I had a fairly fresh and en­gag­ing new take on Santa Claus. It was a bit of a no-brainer once I started and I’m sur­prised that no one has ever done this yet.

CH: Fa­ther Christ­mas’s Dutch coun­ter­part Sin­terk­laas can be

What if I treat Santa Claus as a su­per­hero, with an ori­gin tale, se­cret iden­tity, pow­ers and gad­gets?

traced back to pre-Chris­tian Europe and there are links to both Odin and the Wild Hunt. Do you tap into Santa’s pa­gan past?

GM: I’ve tried to in­cor­po­rate all the var­i­ous strands in one way or another with Klaus start­ing off by wear­ing green, as was the case his­tor­i­cally. And there’s a def­i­nite shout-out to the Wild Hunt later in the se­ries. See­ing as it’s me, a big part of this story in­volves the shamanic roots of Santa and the no­tion that his red and white out­fit is de­rived from the colours of the hal­lu­ci­na­tory Amanita mus­caria mush­room. Siberian shamans would also drink rein­deer urine af­ter the beasts had eaten the ’shrooms in or­der to at­tain vi­sion­ary states of flight, or at least that was their ex­cuse! The first is­sue goes quite psy­che­delic.

CH: Do you also al­lude to more re­cent Christ­mas clas­sics like Elf, It’s A Won­der­ful Life or re­cent ver­sions of A Christ­mas Carol?

GM: Happy was my at­tempt to up­date It’s A Won­der­ful Life via Pulp Fic­tion, so there’s noth­ing much like that in Klaus. The idea is not to do a big Christ­mas com­pen­dium with the whole his­tory and mean­ing of Santa Claus rep­re­sented in six is­sues, but sim­ply to tell the open­ing tale and es­tab­lish the prin­ci­pal char­ac­ters of what I hope will be a long-run­ning se­ries of sto­ries. The first one’s like a lit­tle weird folk tale but the pos­si­bil­i­ties for fu­ture vol­umes are end­less.

CH: So Klaus is not a self­con­tained one-off? Is there plenty of scope for fu­ture se­ries?

GM: It’s de­signed to have se­quel po­ten­tial – and given the ba­sic ques­tion “What does Santa Claus do on the other 364 days of the year?” the an­swers are lim­it­less, as is the po­ten­tial to tell all kinds of sto­ries set in dif­fer­ent places.

CH: You’d like Klaus to be­come a peren­nial Christ­mas favourite?

GM: Most def­i­nitely! It’s the se­cret ori­gin story of Santa Claus, af­ter all, and what kid doesn’t want to know what that’s all about?

CH: Much like to­day’s comics, Charles Dick­ens’s nov­els like The

Pick­wick Pa­pers were ini­tially pub­lished in shilling in­stal­ments be­fore be­ing col­lected…

GM: I imag­ine that were he alive to­day, Dick­ens could eas­ily be per­suaded to write su­per­hero comics and I’m sure he’d be great at it – he’d mas­tered the se­ri­alised form, the broad, mem­o­rable char­ac­ters, the mawk­ish sen­ti­men­tal­ity and glee­ful cru­elty. Think­ing about it, I can al­most see a case here for po­si­tion­ing Stan Lee as the 20th cen­tury Dick­ens! Or imag­ine Arthur Co­nan Doyle do­ing a Bat­man graphic novel, or Clark Ashton Smith’s Sand­man!

CH: You’re paired with Dan Mora on Klaus. What qual­i­ties does he bring to the book?

GM: Among other things he has a beau­ti­ful ‘wa­ter­colour sketch’ ap­proach. It re­minds me of pro­duc­tion stills from clas­sic Dis­ney car­toons, which was part of the feel that I was go­ing for. He has a bril­liant com­mand of anatomy and com­po­si­tion and a beau­ti­ful sto­ry­book il­lus­tra­tion qual­ity to his work, which re­ally suits this story. He does the most amaz­ing work in what seems like an ef­fort­less way.

CH: Why did you de­cide to pub­lish Klaus through Boom? Were you en­ticed by their younger read­ers range, Kaboom?

GM: Boom seemed more ap­pro­pri­ate for Klaus. For while it’s not strictly ‘all-ages’ as I have claimed, it’s still aimed at a much wider fam­ily au­di­ence than the other stuff I’m do­ing right now. In terms of be­ing scary or vi­o­lent, it’s

prob­a­bly on a par with The Hob­bit or Doc­tor Who, so it’s maybe not for five-year-olds but older kids should hope­fully en­joy see­ing a tougher, more badass Santa Claus!

CH: You take over as Edi­tor-in­Chief of Heavy Metal in Fe­bru­ary. How did that come about?

GM: I’ve been friends with Jeff Kre­litz, one of the new own­ers of

Heavy Metal, for a few years and he in­vited me. I like to do things out­side my com­fort zone, so I agreed. My job on the mag­a­zine in­volves se­lect­ing sto­ries and cu­rat­ing the style and ap­proach of the mag­a­zine. I don’t have to do all the hard parts of an edi­tor’s job, I just get the fun bit! I’ll be writ­ing a story in each is­sue and I’ll be bring­ing in a few friends from

CH: Heavy Metal started in 1977 as an Amer­i­can ver­sion of French

mag­a­zine Mé­tal Hurlant. Were you a fan of the mag­a­zine then?

GM: Not re­ally. I fol­lowed Richard Cor­ben’s work there for a while but that was about the ex­tent of my in­volve­ment. I’ve al­ways been aware of the mag­a­zine but I‘m not a par­tic­u­larly vo­ra­cious reader of comics and gen­er­ally I’ve only ever been in­ter­ested in main­stream su­per­hero stuff or Ver­tigo books. I was never into the un­der­ground, al­ter­na­tive or small press scenes, for in­stance. That’s not to say that there isn’t amaz­ing work in those ar­eas, just that I’m too lazy to seek it out. I’m usu­ally too busy comics and the mu­sic busi­ness to help cre­ate new con­tent.

cre­at­ing comics to read them, and apart from the DC comps I get ev­ery month, I tend to just fig­ure out what’s go­ing on in the comics busi­ness by read­ing re­views. CH: You’ve talked of restor­ing

Heavy Metal’s “1970s punk en­ergy” but it was maybe more prog rock at the time… GM: In the ’70s, I was con­vinced

Heavy Metal was a sort of Euro hip­pie thing. In the ’80s it seemed to be all hair metal and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls.’ In the ’90s, my at­ten­tion was else­where. In all cases, I was dis­miss­ing the con­tent in an un­fair and prej­u­di­cial man­ner. Hav­ing now read quite a lot of the back cat­a­logue, there’s a lot to like and a lot to think about as I try to push the mag­a­zine for­ward into a new and hope­fully more con­tem­po­rary di­rec­tion.

CH: With Mul­tiver­sity con­cluded, you’ll be launch­ing Mul­tiver­sity

Too, a new line of graphic nov­els set in those var­i­ous re­al­i­ties, kick­ing off with The Flash…

GM: Mul­tiver­sity Too was a ban­ner Dan Didio de­vised to en­com­pass the projects that I still have on my slate at DC. It in­cludes a Flash story, which I fig­ured I could place as Flash: Earth One, but Joe Straz­cyn­ski is do­ing Flash:

Earth One. So Dan sug­gested we bring back the Else­worlds idea, brand it as Mul­tiver­sity Too and launch with this Flash thing, and I be­lieve other creators will also be part of the Mul­tiver­sity Too roll­out. Although, to be per­fectly hon­est, what I’m do­ing has barely the slen­der­est and most tan­gen­tial con­nec­tion to the [orig­i­nal]

Mul­tiver­sity se­ries.

CH: You’re also writ­ing a new se­ries of Bat­man: Black and White, and your Won­der Woman:

Earth One graphic novel with Yan­ick Pa­que­tte is out in spring…

GM: I had a bunch of ideas for Bat­man short sto­ries that I never got around to do­ing, so now we’re putting them out with art by some amaz­ing al­ter­na­tive artists and pho­tog­ra­phers who haven’t re­ally done comics be­fore. And Won­der

Woman is fin­ished! I’m tweak­ing di­a­logue right now but it’s all done and coloured. It looks as­ton­ish­ing!

CH: You pre­vi­ously told us that 21st cen­tury su­per­heroes will go “onto the cinema screen first and then into real life.” How do you feel about their pro­lif­er­a­tion on TV in shows like Ar­row, Agent

Carter and Agents of SHIELD?

I gen­er­ally can’t be both­ered watch­ing telly. I’ve never seen those box-set favourites

GM: The last TV se­ries I watched was the first sea­son of True De­tec­tive. Apart from the news, Re­port­ing Scot­land, Doc­tor Who and the odd Hori­zon show, I gen­er­ally can’t be both­ered watch­ing telly. I’ve never seen The So­pra­nos, Break­ing Bad, Game Of Thrones, The Wire or any other of those box-set favourites, let alone

The Flash, Dare­devil or Gotham, so I’m the wrong per­son to ask about this. I know so much about all of these via cul­tural os­mo­sis that the time ex­pended in ac­tu­ally watch­ing them would just seem like wasted time. I ex­pect that now the bar­ri­ers are down, we’ll see all kinds of su­per­hero shows, though. Hav­ing moved fairly suc­cess­fully from the comics, su­per­heroes will be­come just another ac­cept­able TV genre.

CH: From Ant-Man to Bat­man vs. Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice, su­per­heroes are also be­com­ing main­stays in the cinema…

GM: I don’t think I’ve seen any great ones for a while. Age of Ul­tron was solid but nat­u­rally not quite the game-changer the first Avengers was. Sui­cide Squad looks quite in­ter­est­ing and I’m ex­cited to see Jared Leto’s Joker. He called me to talk about his ap­proach to the char­ac­ter and I steered him in a few di­rec­tions. I’m keen to see if any­thing other than slicked-back hair and the Mar­i­lyn Man­son vibe made it into his per­for­mance. Oth­er­wise, we’re all fa­mil­iar with the meat-and-pota­toes su­per­hero stuff, so I think it’s time they made Mir­a­cle­man, Enigma, Flex Men­tallo or some­thing else that’s a bit more chal­leng­ing.

CH: Black Mask is turn­ing your script for Si­na­toro, your pro­posed film with di­rec­tor Adam Egypt Mor­timer, into a comic se­ries drawn by Vanessa Del Rey. Any other screen­plays in the pipe­line?

GM: My shad­owy Hol­ly­wood ca­reer has ac­tu­ally been de­liv­er­ing the goods this year: I just fin­ished the lat­est draft of a screen­play for a ma­jor stu­dio, I’ve also sold a TV pi­lot co-writ­ten with the writer/ di­rec­tor of two of my favourite films of the last ten years, and just this morn­ing we got the of­fer in for a pi­lot based on another of my books, so it’s all go­ing well. It would cer­tainly be nice to see some­thing made be­fore I die!

Op­po­site: Mor­ri­son has de­scribed Klaus as “part ac­tion thriller, part sword-and-sor­cery, part ro­mance, part sci­ence fic­tion.” With magic mush­rooms, nat­u­rally.

Above: “Who is Santa Claus re­ally? How did he get his start? Why does he do what he does? How does he do it? What’s the deal with the chim­neys? And where does he get all those won­der­ful toys?”

Above: “The first im­age that came to me is this fe­ro­cious-look­ing, al­most Co­nan the Bar­bar­ian young man with black hair and a black beard; the snow is com­ing down onto him, it’s turn­ing his hair and beard white. We’ve never seen him young. We’ve never seen how the hell this hap­pened – how did he get to be Santa Claus? It seemed such an ob­vi­ous, ridicu­lous idea, that I re­ally seized on it and it be­came a kind of Lord of the Rings meets Bat­man Be­gins.”

Above: Dan Mora’s in­cen­tive cover im­age per­fectly en­cap­su­lates how he and Mor­ri­son are “com­bin­ing the tropes of su­per­hero sto­ries with epic fan­tasy to cre­ate a new take on the se­cret his­tory of Santa Claus.”

Above: Mor­ri­son’s

Mul­tiver­sity also re­vis­ited fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters, such as Cap­tain Atom, the ba­sis for Watch­men’s Doc­tor Man­hat­tan.

Above: Mul­tiver­sity was less weird than most of the work that Mor­ri­son is famed for, like Doom

Pa­trol and An­i­mal Man. Like his Fi­nal Cri­sis, it treated su­per­heroes with af­fec­tion. Plus, yes, some un­pre­dictabil­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.