The Long and Winding Road - Grant Morrison's 18 Days

posted 5 Jul 2015, 16:02 by Ben Hansom

This week saw the release of the first issue of Grant Morrison's 18 Days from upstart comic book publisher Graphic India, a project 7 years in the making and the cause of some confusion online as to its provenance.  I thought it might be a good idea to get a bit of a chronology up here to iron out once and for all what this book is (and probably isn't) and how it came to be.

18 Days - then called MBX - was first announced in a surprise appearance by Grant Morrison on a Virgin Comics panel at the 2008 New York Comic Convention.  A free-wheeling sci-fi adaptation of the Indian epic poem The Mahabharata - running to more than 74,000 verses and around 1.8 million words in total - Morrison described it thus,

"Like the Beatles took Indian music and tried to make psychedelic sounds…I'm trying to convert Indian storytelling to a western style for people raised on movies, comics, and video games."

A couple of months later Virgin Comics and digital animation shop Perspective Studios announced they'd be debuting footage from MBX at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con - there's a low-quality version still online here, and though I suppose it does look kind of clunky now, but let me tell you young whippersnappers, it actually looked pretty swish back in 2008.  Encompassing a planned "movie" (intended from the beginning to be cut up into shorter episodes if desired) and a video game, there was - initially at least - no plans for a comic book adaptation.  While I don't know for sure I'd imagine this was because at that time Morrison was signed exclusively to DC Comics for his comic book work.  Animation, movies and video games though - all falling outside of Grant's DC contract - were fair game.  No release date was set, but a limited run (1,000 copies) sketchbook was sold at the convention - pulling double duty as a $25 ticket to Virgin's Grant Morrison signing at the Con - featuring excerpts from Morrison's series bible and the complete script for episode one, alongside pages of concept artwork by Indian superstar artist Mukesh Singh.

Not long after SDCC, in September 2008, it was announced that Virgin Comics was to close and, after a management buyout, rename itself to Liquid Comics.  The fate of MBX remained unknown.  Not long after, some foolhardy speculator decided to cash out and put his MBX Sketchbook up on eBay.  I was the only bidder and won it for significantly less than it's $25 retail price.  The script material was brief - the whole sketchbook only runs to 16 pages - but was a cool glimpse at a Morrison project that looked like it would probably never happen.  And you all know how much I dig *that* shit...

Fast forward a couple of years and, in March 2010, Dynamite Entertainment announced they'd be partnering with Liquid Comics to release "an illustrated hardcover book featuring the original scripts created by Grant Morrison for his animated project ‘Grant Morrison’s 18 Days'" - the epic war of the Gods that forms the centrepiece of The Mahabharata lasts for 18 days, hence the retitling.  Released in August 2010, the 120 page book - though awkwardly sized - was immaculately presented.  Featuring the full series bible and complete scripts for episodes 1-3 (each intended to run for 10-15 minutes), the book also featured a ton of previously unseen concept work by Mukesh Singh. 

With no further news on a distribution channel for the proposed animated series, it seemed like the Dynamite book was an attempt to at least make some money off the material that had already been completed.  Morrison didn't do much (any?) publicity for the book though, and it seemed like maybe his involvement with the stalled project had come to an end.

Fast forward once again to SDCC 2013.  Grant Morrison appears on a panel alongside Gotham Chopra and Sharad Devarajan, co-founders of Graphic India - a Liquid Comics-owned "character entertainment company focused on creating leading characters, comics and stories through mobile and digital platforms", where it's announced that Grant Morrison's 18 Days would - finally! - hit the web as an animated series, with the first episode debuting during YouTube's Geek Week in August 2013 alongside a promotional music video by Indian metal band Pentagram.

Though Graphic India reused much (all?) of the MBX CGI material promoting the 18 Days launch, when the series eventually appeared on YouTube the art style had changed dramatically - from Mukesh Singh's intricate paintings to Jeevan J. Kang's much more cartoony/western superhero style.  A more unwelcome change came in the quality of the animation, reduced to the sort of paper-fastener flailing arms and legs of a 1960's Marvel cartoon.  I don't suppose anyone would want the job of Photoshop-animating those concept art paintings to be fair...

Another frustrating feature of the YouTube series was the length of each installment - episode 1 clocked in at three minutes, episode 2 barely hit two.  Graphic India kept up a weekly schedule on new episodes, but you couldn't help feeling like they were just uploading a minute here or there whenever it was finished - an impression not helped by the ongoing story often veering off in wild tangents for weeks at a time.  More salient to this article (I suppose...) is that Grant Morrison is only credited as writer of Grant Morrison's 18 Days for the first two episodes, total running time: about 5 minutes (he does also get a co-writer credit alongside Gotham Chopra on episode 12, and a "Created by"/Executive Producer credit on all of the rest to be fair).  The vast majority of episodes - we're currently on Episode 92 as of this writing, and only just past the end of Day One of the 18 Days War - were written by Chopra/Devarajan and Sarwat Chadda.

Unfortunately, to say the web series has departed somewhat from Devarajan's contention that "most of the Asian epics and themes don't define good and evil in the same very linear way that we see black and white in the West; it's much more about the gray," would be putting it mildly.  The extremely limited voice cast has dictated that all the good guys sound like good guys, while the baddies all sound like mustache-twirling pantomime villains.  The story itself is undoubtedly epic in scope and puts the characters into some complex moral binds, but the delivery has often left much to be desired.

A couple of months back, unencumbered now by exclusive contracts DC or otherwise, Graphic India finally got around to soliciting an 18 Days comic - or soliciting it in the West at least.  It seems that there are already a couple of trade paperbacks of Grant Morrison's 18 Days comics available in India published by Westland Books, running to 288 pages between them (I think that's about 12 regular sized issues?).  Curiously, both the existing Indian books and - more noticeably -  the ongoing YouTube series seemed to have been completely overlooked by the comics internet when the Grant Morrison's 18 Days solicits appeared - with at least one site reporting it as "The Return of Grant Morrison's 18 Days", as though the series had never been seen since the Dynamite book some 5 years ago.

Once again, Morrison hasn't really been involved in the marketing push for this book, and it seems pretty unlikely at this point that he would produce all-new material for Grant Morrison's 18 Days #1 - I'd imagine what we have here is an adaptation of Grant Morrison's 7 year old scripts for 3 ten minute episodes of an animated series, repurposed into a comic series.  That's not to say the book is neither good nor worthwhile...

Just don't expect it to go on for a whole lot longer with a Grant Morrison solo writing credit.


While I was writing this, I found this blurb for an upcoming panel at this year's SDCC - happening this Thursday (9th July) in fact:

"Legendary creator, Grant Morrison (Batman, All Star Superman, 18 Days, The Multiversity) discusses storytelling, global mythology, mysticism, the rise of Indian superheroes and his latest comic launch, 18 Days: The Mahabharata. Morrison will also announce his latest groundbreaking, mythic/sci-fi project with Graphic India for the first time."

So it looks like we'll find out a bit more about Grant's ongoing involvement with Graphic India and 18 Days (and what if any new stuff he's got up his sleeve) later this week.  Should have just saved writing this til after then really shouldn't I?


Crisis on Memory Lane - The Supermen of the Multiverse

posted 20 May 2015, 14:55 by Ben Hansom   [ updated 22 May 2015, 04:58 ]

Was just looking through Final Crisis #7 earlier and it struck me how well a lot of the alt-Supermen there match up with the ones we saw in the Multiversity Guidebook.  Pretty impressive for two comics published six years apart...

This is the first group shot we get of the Supermen of the Multiverse.  Obviously that's Earth 5's Captain Marvel down front with The Question; behind them are (from left to right) Earth 35's Supremo, Earth 34's Savior and Earth 8's Hyperius.  Behind them, again from left to right, are (I think) a pre-New 52 Ultraa (he appears later on in the issue with very red hair and I'm taking that as a decent sign that that's who he's supposed to be), next to him in the headgear might be Earth 11's Wondrous Man (maybe, not very sure at all about that as he kind of looks like the Guidebook version, but nothing at all like the version that apperared in Countdown - also he's supposed to be a Wonder Woman analogue, not a Superman one) and Earth 36's Optiman; and right at the back is Cyclotron from the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents-esque Earth 39.

Things are maybe not so hot with the big double page spread (there are *a lot* of generic Supermen in the background here).  All of the guys from the earlier group shot are here, and you might also be able to pick out the Superman of Earth 23, Sunshine Superman from Earth 47, Earth 10's Overman and Red Son Superman from Earth 30.  A couple that weren't in the Guidebook for one reason or another are a goatee'd Superman way over on the far right, who I think is supposed to be Zod-as-Superman from Earth 15; and old man Superman, who I think is probably a decent bet for Earth Frank Miller's Man of Steel before they swapped that out for a bunch of post-apocalyptic pirates...
I think I see Steve Gerber's Omega the Unknown in between Savior and Captain Marvel there.  Oh, and Apollo and Mister Majestic.  Remember those guys??

If you can put a name to the face of any of the others let me know via the usual channels.
UPDATE: OK, so we can maybe put a few more names to loosely-inked background faces thanks to the Twitter hivemind.  The blonde guy top centre looks like a pretty good bet for The High from Warren Ellis's Stormwatch run (thanks @PaulJonMilne!), and the Superman on the far right with the copious Silver Age neck flesh on display might be the New Frontier Superman from Earth 21 (thanks @DispenseroTruth!).
Also, in Superman Beyond #2, Zillo Valla mentions a bunch of alt-Supermen that missed out on the Ultima Thule's jaunt to Limbo - Savior, Guardsman, Icon and Principle.  Earth 34's Savior makes it into this issue but none of the rest do.  Guardsman is probably intended to be an alternate version of Marvel's Sentry, created by Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee and Rick Veitch, so it seems sensible to put him on Earth 8 alongside Hyperius. 
Icon, created by Dwayne McDuffie and M. D. Bright, was the Superman of the Milestone comics imprint.  When Final Crisis was published in 2008-9, DC were in the midst of attempting to fold the Milestone characters into their main Earth 0-centric publishing line but I believe that, like the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, that was part of a licensing arrangement with DC that has since expired. 
Principle is likely a nod towards Bob Jacob, Gerard Jones, Len Strazewski, and Norm Breyfogle's Prime from the Malibu Ultraverse, and might well be the character I identified above as Ultraa (Prime also has reddish hair and a similar chest emblem).  The Ultraverse characters are currently owned by Marvel, but they seem happy to let them rot in obscurity due to the possibility that they might (shock! horror!) actually have to pay the creators to use them under the terms they originally signed with Malibu.  I'm going to go ahead and place Principle on the "anything goes" Earth 7, home to analogues of the Ultimate Marvel characters, a bunch of Dark Horse properties and Neil Gaiman's ex-Image now-Marvel character Angela.

Awesome Almanac - The Multiversity Guidebook - Part 3

posted 1 May 2015, 15:03 by Ben Hansom

Another day (Dude, it's been nine freakin' weeks since you did the last one of these!), another fifteen alternate Earths (There's nothing on four of these Earths!  This is a total rip-off, I want my money back...)

Half-hearted apologies for the delay, I've been pretty busy.  I am getting bits and bobs done when I can though, so stay tuned for annotations for *all* of The Multiversity issues I haven't got around to yet (i.e. significantly more than half of them...)

Once again, thanks for all the comments and corrections, and please do keep them coming.  Let me know in your customarily brutal fashion if I've missed anything (else), or got something horribly wrong (again) - you can always reach me on the Twitter, or alternatively you can email me here.

Little bit more that four thousand words this time around on Earths 21 through 35. For anyone keeping score at home that means we've passed 10k words on just the guidebook bit of the Guidebook alone, if you know what I mean.  There's quite a bit to say about the story itself as well so this one's probably going to end up like a Stephen King-esque doorstop.  Anyway, that's all to come...


Awesome Almanac - A Journey Through The Multiversity Guidebook - Part 2

posted 22 Feb 2015, 13:58 by Ben Hansom

Another day, another nine alternate Earths...

Thanks for all the comments and corrections last time out.  I know I haven't updated anything yet but I will once this all goes into a proper annotations post when it's all done.  As usual, let me know this time around if I missed anything (else) or got something horribly wrong (again) - you can always reach me on the Twitter, or alternatively you can email me here.

*Obligatory joke about checking the spelling and putting some pictures in it when it's properly done*.

A measly three thousand words this time out on Earths 11 through 20.  Kid's stuff...  let's get on with it.

The Unseen Grant Morrison: The ARK Reviews

posted 14 Feb 2015, 06:40 by Ben Hansom   [ updated 14 Feb 2015, 06:45 ]

Not seen since their original publication in Paul Duncan's ARK magazine, here are Grant Morrison's reviews of  Howard Chaykin's Black Kiss (from November 1988's ARK #26), Bryan Talbot's The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (from April 1989's ARK #28), and Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy's Strange Days (from June 1989's ARK #29).

Grant obviously wasn't a fan of Black Kiss, but Chaykin's revenge came when he called Morrison "the most pretentious asshole I've ever read" in a Comics Interview piece the following year, recalling a pal of his reading the first page of the Arkham Asylum script to him over the phone.  Chaykin's comments obviously stung Morrison, as he referenced them (naming no names) in his retrospective piece in 2005's 15th Anniversary Edition of Arkham Asylum.

As usual please bear in mind that these reviews were written more than 25 years ago, and that Grant's opinions on these comics might very well be totally different these days...




Awesome Almanac - A Journey Through The Multiversity Guidebook - Part 1

posted 1 Feb 2015, 13:38 by Ben Hansom

Here at Transmissions Towers, we're well aware that the ol' Deep Space Transmissions hasn't been updated as often as it should of late.  While my multitude of assistants toil in obscurity finishing the annotations for Pax Americana and Thunderworld (lol - they will be done eventually though, honest guv), I thought I'd take the opportunity to share with you the work being done on the hot-off-the-presses Multiversity Guidebook *as it happens*.  There's a couple of reasons for this - firstly because I can't seem to get anything in a finished-enough state to put up lately so this keeps the wolves from the door content-wise, and secondly because this thing is going to be REALLY long...

Finally, it's also a prime opportunity for you (yes, YOU) to join the team by letting me know if I missed anything or got something horribly wrong.  You can always reach me on the Twitter, or alternatively you can email me here.

All of this will of course be folded into a proper annotations page for the Guidebook when it's finished.  I might even check the spelling and put some pictures in it if you're lucky.

So without further ado, here's a bit more than three and a half thousand words on Earths 1 through 10...

The Multiversity: The Just #1 Annotations

posted 4 Jan 2015, 03:48 by Ben Hansom

So, in my usual prompt and timely fashion, I've finally finished the annotations for The Multiversity: The Just #1.  Just two more 40+ page issues to catch up on before the Guide Book drops in a couple of weeks... [groans]

Morrison and Millar - Who Wrote What?

posted 11 Dec 2014, 14:50 by Ben Hansom   [ updated 11 Dec 2014, 14:52 ]

I found out today how the scripting for Morrison & Millar's VAMPIRELLA issues was broken down between the pair (care of an ancient Usenet post from Mark Millar himself), which makes SKRULL KILL KREW the last M&M collaboration (at least of their US stuff) where I don't know for sure who wrote what.

Apparently all of their stuff was plotted together (in the pub...) and then each issue was scripted solo by one of the two - they don't seem to have collaborated at all on the scripts themselves.

Here's who wrote what in case you were ever curious -

Morrison scripts #140 and 142, Millar scripts #141 and #143.  I've got the first few pages of the scripts for #140 and 141 which confirm those two, the other two are an educated guess based on one being a interesting Clive Barker-esque horror issue and the other being a nonsensical rip-off of Terminator 2...

I re-read this tonight (it's still rubbish) and I'd guess that Morrison scripted #4, possibly #5.  I'd say definitely Miller scripts for #1, 2 and 3.

Morrison scripted #1, 5 and 6; Millar scripted #2-4 and 7-10.  I'd be very surprised if Morrison didn't write the 'Citizen Vane' text piece in issue #3.  Issue scripts confirmed by Mark Millar in a (long deleted) Millarworld post from 2004.

Millar scripted #1-3, Morrison scripted #4, Steven Grant scripted #5 and 6 from a Morrison 'plot' (which, for issue 6 at least was one sentence of solicit text according to SG).  Nobody knows who scripted #7 (Millar and Grant both say it wasn't them, and it's very unlikely to have been Morrison).  #8-9 were written by Steven Grant with no involvement from Grant or Mark beyond their original outline document (all confirmed by Steven Grant/Mark Millar on Usenet).

Morrison wrote 'Emergency Stop' in #130-132, Millar wrote the three done-in-ones in #133-135, Morrison took over again to write 'The Human Race' in #136-138.   Millar gets a solo credit for #139-141 even though it's likely the Black Flash was a co-creation (again, confirmed by Mark Millar on Usenet).

So there you go, you need never accidentally read a Mark Millar comic ever again. You're welcome :)

The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes #1 Annotations

posted 9 Oct 2014, 15:40 by Ben Hansom

The next exciting chapter is finally here!  Rejoice as I can now go and read everybody else's annotations and commentary a mere three weeks after they were first posted!

I'll try and be a bit more timely next time.  I said try.  You don't own me...

Read on for thrill-packed annotations greatness...

The Mutiversity: Society of Superheroes #1 Annotations

The Multiversity #1 Annotations

posted 22 Aug 2014, 14:55 by Ben Hansom

The five year wait is over, and Grant Morrison's latest final word on superheroes is here at last.  In case you haven't seen (yeah right, who am I trying to kid?) the legend that is David Uzumeri has returned to Comics Alliance for their annotations, and Yeezus of the New Gods Jim Harbor is crafting an epic analysis for the ages on his own blog (multiple thousands of words on the first three pages so far - link as soon as it's done!).  I suspect (hope, pray) the Mindless Ones will cast their esoteric hat into the Borromean ring as well at some point, and I I'd urge you to check them all out - there's a lot to be said for fresh pairs of eyes, and, if The Multiversity proves to be half as dense as Seven Soldiers or Final Crisis, you could comfortably read a million words on it and still not cover every wrinkle that hides between the pages.

So why not get a head start on those million words right now, and dive in to the annotations for issue #1?

The Multiversity #1 Annotations

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