Jul 17, 2017

Why Grant Morrison Will Never Be the David Lynch of Comics

Why Grant Morrison Will Never Be the David Lynch of Comics
Travis Hedge Coke

David Lynch is the David Lynch of comics.

We forget that Lynch made comics. He was in and out, one strip proper. And, it wasn't for everybody.

Unlike Grant Morrison, David Lynch has, even in such an inglorious format as the newspaper comic strip, refused to give us immediate or traditionally-formatted satisfaction.

I love Morrison and his work, but the Lynch comparison is made because of certain direct appropriation of tropes and a tendency to namecheck Lynch. To reduce Lynch to these blood of visual weirdness or a red and black pattern on a floor, or to ignore Morrison's wonderful and dedicated commercialism, misunderstands both authors.



I love Morrison, and his work is for nearly everyone. Wants to be read and loved. Asks to be. Waits for it.

Morrison would never burn a general audience the way that Lynch has shown himself to be entirely comfortable with. This is identifiably true in their music and visual art, as well as, as is our focus, their comics.

Morrison is one of the biggest names in comics because he makes money. David Lynch is spoken of in reverence, despite his movies not making the big bucks. Exaggeration on both fronts, but a worthy truism.

So, why do we say it?

Lynch, with his nerdy style and his quaintness as a shield, is punk to bones. He is accepted as one of the cinema signposts of our lifetimes without fanfare or sell.

Morrison has to say he's punk, or no one would believe it. His press has to push him as a "spokesman of the counterculture" (which counterculture?) or it probably would not have occurred to us. To me, even, as an old Lither.

David Lynch's comics work is outside the comics mainstream, and outside of mainstream expectations, so much that it is easy to forget it exists. When reminded, it is still a simple matter to deny that it is genuine, that it is real comics.

Simultaneously, Grant Morrison is massively mainstream within the realm of comics readers. He is no more an outsider or non-pop comics author than Steven Spielberg is not a mainstream movie director. His mystique as an insider-outsider is engineered. He talks of when he left comics behind as a young man or when he temporarily out comics away, but an attentive person will notice that he never put all comics away, nor could even this temporary cessation of solid fandom have gone on long, as he launched into his comics-making career quite young.

Of course, Grant Morrison is not a shill or a revival tent litigation of words and pictures. David Lynch is and is not who he is sold as, and he is sold. He has a coffee beans and announced the weather as a novelty act. To make yourself an act of art and promotion is as necessary as making your art an act of promotion. Let’s not pretend there is no commerce of money and ideas, memory and love.

Both frequently have characters speak plainly and directly without cues or the hallmarks of exposition. Both Lynch and Morrison are gone of allusions and resonances that are narratively tangential, but which set the tone of a scene. They like resonances. It is important to stress that they are not dissimilar; certainly, Lynch is a genuine influence on Morrison.

Both embrace "equivocation and totality," as Jacques Derrida calls it, but Lynch 's totality is small, almost cramped into personal space, whereas Morrison's equivocation is rarely demanding. Without devaluing either, I don't think we would make the Lynch comparison of Morrison did not, so often, himself. But that citation and loud allusion is the purest Morrisonian to me. It would hardly be Morrison of there were not constant, shorthanded shoutouts and echoes reminding us of other things.

David Lynch seems to delight in presenting ineluctably unnavigable experience. Morrison wants his audience to navigate. While Lynch has shown distaste for chapter breaks, author annotations, fast forward and external distractions, Morrison most often encourages readers to hit search engines as they read, to flip back and forth between pages, between comics, and to ultimately map their own territory out of his street signs and storefront logos.

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