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Grant Morrison Talks Straight about Superhero Sexism and the ‘Death Spiral’ of Comic Books

Supergods and Action Comics writer Grant Morrison has long been known for his frank, revealing interviews, and his latest Q&A at Rolling Stone is no exception, full of blisteringly (and admirably) straight talk on a wide range of topics: sexism in superhero comics; the disturbing use of rape in Identity Crisis and Alan Moore’s work; why he no longer hangs out with Mark Millar; and perhaps most worryingly, the “death spiral” of the comic book industry and why he thinks superhero comics may be “going off the rails.”The most striking and timely remarks of the interview — putting aside the gossipy desire to hear creators talk about their problems with each other — involve Morrison’s thoughts about the declining sales of comics that are widely believed to have inspired the DC Comics relaunch next month. Asked whether he thinks this is the “death spiral” of comics, he replies, “I kind of do,” and describes his feeling that the energy of comics and the medium’s ability to transmit ideas may now be eclipsed by more “effective” platforms like movies — where Morrison himself is working now as well — and video games:

Comics sales are so low, people are willing to try anything these days. It’s just plummeting… There’s a real feeling of things just going off the rails, to be honest. Superhero comics. The concept is quite a ruthless concept, and it’s moved on, and it’s kind of abandoned, the first-stage rocket… and moving on to movies, where it can be more powerful, more effective.

Also of interest to us — since we’ve talked about this a lot — were Morrison’s remarks on the gender imbalance of creators in superhero comics, and the accusations of misogyny against storylines like Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, which retroactively added a brutal rape to the backstory of character Sue Dibny:

It’s hard to tell because most men try to avoid misogyny, really they do, in this world we live in today. It’s hard for me to believe that a shy bespectacled college graduate like Brad Meltzer who’s a novelist and a father is a really setting out to be weirdly misogynistic. But unfortunately when you’re looking at this beloved character who’s obviously been a**-raped on the Justice League satellite, even saying it kind of takes you to that dot dot dot where you don’t know what else to say.

Which echoes much of what we’ve said before about the problems with race and gender that can result from having good intentions but few creators and editors who understand the experiences of women and minorities, or who lack a broader consciousness about how their portrayals of those characters could resonate with existing stereotypes and other problematic representations.

Morrison further addresses the unfortunate prevalence of rape in superhero books by focusing on the work of no less than Alan Moore:

I pick [an issue of Marvelman] up and there are fucking two rapes in it and I suddenly think how many times has somebody been raped in an Alan Moore story? And I couldn’t find a single one where someone wasn’t raped except for Tom Strong, which I believe was a pastiche. We know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!

For more on Morrison’s estranged relationship with fellow Scottish comics writer Mark Millar, his problems with Chris Ware’s comics, his interactions with comic book groupies and a ton of other stuff, read the full interview at Rolling Stone.

What are your reactions to the interview?

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