So what exactly is Grant Morrison building out there in the Nevada desert?
This September the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas will host “a once-in-a-lifetime” event called MorrisonCon, which sounds not that different than, say, last month’s Comicpalooza in Houston, Megacon every winter in Orlando, Fla., or the recently launched Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo, a brand that will meet the public this September in Los Angeles (and soon be cloned for China).
But on closer examination, the plans for the Sept. 28-30 MorrisonCon are quite different than the standard comic book convention — just as the 52-year-old Morrison is the most distinctive voice in comics today with his Dada superhero excursions and carefully cultivated trickster-shaman persona.
The writer, who splits time between Los Angeles and his native Scotland, describes his event in a way that sounds more like a TED Conference with a dash of Nocturnal Wonderland, The Bowery Poetry Club and, um, maybe a pentagram?
“The ideas of comic books have exploded off the pages to influence our entire culture so we wanted to create an event to celebrate that,” Morrison said. “Something that would combine visionary ideas, occult ritual, music and spoken word performances, art workshops, experimental films, DJ sets and in-depth discussions inspired by the comics.”
The event was curated by Morrison and Ignition Sequence of San Francisco (the people behind iFanboy and Isotope Comics)) and though it sounds heroic — as cool as a Coachella for comics — it should be noted that the event is just a wee Ant-Man (1,000 fans, maximum) compared to Comic-Con International (130,000-plus fans expected this year). To old-school fans, the July 12-15 pop culture expo is as oversized and ill-mannered as Godzilla — and looks like the same shade of green with its cash-register priorities.
Still, MorrisonCon is an intriguing experiment to create a next-generation rebuttal to the morphing Comic-Con, where more and more terrain is taken up by Hollywood ventures, video game brands and toy companies; the press coverage, meanwhile, is fixated on the film and television celebrities who come to promote their upcoming work.
The dispossessed of Comic-Con have an alternative plan with another indie-spirited rebuttal event: Dozens of noted comic book creators have added their names to a nearby alt-convention, Trickster, which is a gallery and retail space attuned to creator-owned and creator-driven work.
Trickster has a garage-band spirit but MorrisonCon is more like an international DJ gathering in Ibiza. Morrison is hailed and cheered by those DJs too — check out the reception he got at a speaking event in this excerpt from “Talking with Gods,” a documentary about his career and philosophies.
The plan is to go for class, not mass. The event is limited to 1,000 fans and the least expensive ticket costs $523 per person (the price included access to panels, a late-night party, a hangover breakfast, a program and some collectibles) but those are sold out, according to the event site. The remaining packages are $699- $1,099 (those include a Hard Rock room and more goodies).
Ten guests have been announced and they include My Chemical Romance singer and “Umbrella Academy” writer Gerard Way; “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman; superstar artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee; and “Transmetropolitan” artist Darick Robertson. There’s also Morrison, of course, the idea piñata behind the surreal-tinged “All-Star Superman,” “Batman Inc.,” “Animal Man” and “Doom Patrol.”
“This is a much more intimate and intense experience, where smart, forward-thinking readers will get to hang out for two days with a group of incredibly creative people, all of whom count comic books as an inspiration and a passion,” Morrison said.
The writer said this is absolutely not the beginning of a tradition.
“It’s a one-off, unique event which will never be repeated,” Morrison said. “Everyone’s doing something special for it. I’m collaborating with Gerard Way, for instance, on a new spoken word piece with music to be performed once and only once at this location…. The plan is to have a number of surprise guests who love comics – friends from the allied worlds of music, film, TV and the arts – turning up over the weekend too. What can I say? It’ll never happen again so if you miss it you miss it forever.”
Morrison’s mojo is surging these days and it’s not confined to the counterculture scene and comics industry; the same evil genius who pretended to gun down Way in a My Chemical Romance music video was just awarded an MBE as Queen Elizabeth II released her birthday honors list this month.
Morrison was called a “vulnerable Virgil in the underworld of geek culture” by the New York Times last year in a less-than-glowing review of his nonfiction book, “Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.” The book, which arrives in paperback this week, rummages and rampages through comics history, myth, magic, film and other vivid corners of pop culture; it veers between the turfs of Kirby, Kubrick, Kant, Keef and Kent with equal affinity. It’s not for everyone — the same can be said for mad-minded MorrisonCon.
“Well, 2012 is the year of the Mayan apocalypse and we reach the omega axis of Terence McKenna’s Timewave Zero graph so on the off-chance the world is about to undergo a radical and unprecedented shift in consciousness and/or translation into higher dimensional space, we’re here to help kick it off.” Morrison said. “So I suppose this is what might have once been described as a Happening. If anything, it’s going to be more like one of those life-changing, paradigm-shifting weekends where everyone goes mad and sees flying saucers.”
– Geoff Boucher
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