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February 8th, 2005 - Trickle of Consciousness — LiveJournal
David Welsh, Precocious Curmudgeon that he is, threw out a link the other day to Brian Cronin at Comics Should Be Good, wherein Brian muses on style versus shtick.

Just prior to this, I finished Grant Morrison, Richard Case, and Doug Braithwaite's Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage (yes, another victim claimed from the Stack of Unread Shame). As with a lot of the Morrison I've read, I'm not fully sure how I feel about it. Morrison has this ... shorthand, I guess. A tendency to give you just enough to figure out what's going on, then skip ahead to the next bit of business.

The perfect example is from the first Animal Man collection: Animal Man is out and about, trying out his powers. In this scene, he's running at super-speed. In the foreground, unnoted by Animal Man, is a banana peel.

Skip to the next scene, where there is no mention of the banana peel, or of a fall. Animal Man is talking about something else entirely, but now he's sporting bandages. If you're playing connect the dots, you know the damage is due to the high-speed pratfall he no doubt took when he hit that banana peel. Or, rather, you assume. There's no scene with the fall. No character telling you that's what happened. Just a peel in one panel and bandages in another. You fill in the rest.

On the one hand, yay for giving me credit. I mean, anyone with half a tic of pop culture knowledge knows the banana peel gag. Give me enough of it and I can see what's coming (and if I can see what's coming, why bother showing it, right?). On the other hand, if it's all that simple, if you don't need to tell me, what purpose is served by even giving me the set up? If it's that old a chestnut, why even go near it in the first place?

From my perspective, that's one of the prominent elements of Morrison's writing style. He skips around a lot, jumps from set up to set up, and whenever humanly possible skips a lot of the middle bits (and some of the endings) when he figures you already know all that.

The Doom Patrol collection just underscored this for me. Lots of crazed ideas, all thrown at the reader. Lots of jumping around wherein you either keep up or give up. Morrison assumes you know how a lot of this plays out, giving only the most passing of explanations in most places. It's a bit like he offers it up to you, expecting you well know how super-human comics run, and thus he spends his time on the freakish concepts and convolutions of same, and jams you through the resolution because, well, of course it will wrap up. It's super-hero fiction, yes? As at least one characters says, "some stories have no meaning."

Morrison's style, then, seems to be an extension of the above sentiment. The story, the basic trappings, aren't quite so important. You'll fill that in with common cultural elements from your own experience, or you'll not care to; either way why spend the time doing that for the reader when you can instead spend the energy on the important elements, the ideas that ricochet all over the place in a Morrison piece? That's what you'll be left chewing on in the end, so that's where he puts the bulk of his efforts.

Or, at least, it's thus far been my experience with his work, which certainly isn't remotely comprehensive. Like I said above, I'm still trying to decide if I like it, but if nothing else, it seems, well, an interesting idea.

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