Grant Morrison's Opus Interruptus
How many masterpieces
does one man get? By my count, Grant Morrison has had three already:
Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and The Invisibles. His next one, Seaguy,
is only three issues in, but already boasts a plot so Byzantine
and world so rich that you suspect Morrison’s been grinding copies
of Gravity’s Rainbow in with his coffee. Unfortunately, DC Comics’
Vertigo line has not given the man the go-ahead to continue his
new magnum opus for reasons that are, at best, unclear. There’s
petition here designed to convince DC Comics to let the man
finish what he’s started, but online petitions have, thus far, mostly
proven unworthy of the paper they’re not printed on. Consider the
non-rescue of beloved cult tv shows Firefly and Wonderfalls. Anyway,
Morrison’s one of the most interesting talents working in comics
today, one of the few working to take comics to the next level Leonard
Pierce discussed in these (virtual) pages, and it’s a shame
that work as rich as Seaguy hasn’t been embraced by the industry.
Discerning comic book geeks know that Grant Morrison
soars in confinement. Slap the loosest restrictions of genre superhero
books on him, as with Animal Man, The New X Men, or Doom Patrol,
and the man delivers genre-smashing, philosophical writing with
bone-real characters and enough advanced plotting to shame Charles
Dickens. By the time you reach his twists (which, in a real twist,
are not merely surprising, but actually shocking), you find yourself
furiously flipping back to the beginning of the book to if he really
laid the groundwork. He did. You missed it.
But Morrison knows why the caged bird sings,
too. When he’s working under his own rules, he has a far
more novelistic and challenging approach. His stories are a convoluted,
nonlinear, twisted morass of brilliant ideas. Take his greatest
achievement to date, the Illuminatus!-and-X-Files-inspired, long-running-yet-finite
series The Invisibles. Morrison imposed certain rules on the series
to make it feel somewhat like a superhero comic, and then broke
them with the same deliberate deconstructive instinct with which
he broke his major title superhero books to make his overarching
point about the limited nature of comics and fiction and the uncertain
nature of reality. The best moment in the whole series, and perhaps
the best moment in any comic series, comes towards the end, after
he’s spent the best part of the series inviting the reader
to sympathize with his icon King Mob. In several previous action
Mob dons a horrible fright mask and storms secret fascistic government
facilities, shooting government soldiers with barbaric glee.
compatriots and ex-girlfriend have already called him out on his
penchant for cold-blooded murder. King Mob more or less shrugs
off with a lame touchy-feely excuse (and Morrison invites the reader
to do the same), but suddenly here it is — an entire issue looking
back on the life of a scared, dying man who has been shot by King
Mob: his abusive brother, his cerebal-palsied daughter, his
to his wife that he will try to stop hitting her and learn to live
his life well. The fear and sympathy that Morrison cooks up
that issue is the real deal, and it smacks the reader into looking
at the story in a completely different way. It is, quite simply,
(drawn in an appropriately cheery and visually appealing style by
Cameron Stewart) questions the idea of heroism. This is somewhat
familiar territory for Morrison, and indeed for the whole slough
of Great British Comics Writers, and Morrison has answered the question
differently in the past. In Doom Patrol, heroism was nobility in
the face of insanity and loss. In Flex Mentallo, which is highly
deserving of reprint, lawsuits
be damned, heroism is a profound re-creation of the universe.
In Animal Man, heroism is questioning why one can be thrown about
by an arbitrary god. In Seaguy, Morrison has raised the stakes by
approaching heroism without some Grand Guignol bugaboo evil (in
fact, this evil has been destroyed prior to the events of the story),
but in the face of subtle corporate fascism masked as entertainment.
Seaguy’s world is crying out for a more subtle type of hero, but
unfortunately, heroism is so subtle that no one can see it. Spoilers
Seaguy himself is a wetsuit-sporting Peter O’Toole-type
longing to prove himself a hero in his highly corporate post-superhero
world. Seaguy lives in the seaside villa of New Venice (which appears
to be in California or Florida), and the story opens with him playing
a gondolier Death (complete with combover) at a chesslike game.
Seaguy wins by taking advantage of Death’s colorblindness, as he
is unable to tell black from white (naturally, ahem). Morrison’s
point is that this guy was born to cheat Death.
Seaguy has a sidekick, Chubby Da Choona, an anthropomorphic
hovering fish with a sailor’s hat. As with so much of Seaguy, Chubby
is drawn to be cute, adding an extra dimension of weirdness in the
story. We learn later that Seaguy found Chubby at some point in
the past, and they’ve never been apart since. Maybe Chubby is the
manifestation of Seaguy’s soul. Their bond is essential to the story.
a May 2004 interview, Morrison states that Chubby is the questing
beast of Medieval Grail romances, and that Seaguy is Sir Percival.
Although full of oddly dressed people, Seaguy’s
world has no heroes; they became unnecessary some years before with
the defeat of Anti-Dad, a world-spanning evil. Seaguy reflects on
Anti-Dad’s defeat while gazing at a statue of Teknostrich, a mechanical
bird who was someone instrumental in Anti-Dad’s defeat. Cut to a
splash panel showing hundreds of little heroes fighting the gigantic
Anti-Dad (and each other) high above Australia, looking like nothing
so much as Gulliver at the hands of the Lilliputians. A careful
inspection finds a tiny Teknostrich picking at Anti-Dad’s volcanic
fingers — nothing overly notable, given the activity in the panel.
Anti-Dad is an interesting way to describe the essence of all evil,
too, and Morrison is surely drawing on William Blake’s Nobodaddy.
present-day corporate master of the world is Mickey Eye, a surreal,
fascistic Disney satire. Chubby and Seaguy rush home to watch Mickey
Eye on the television, as they always do, and go to Mickey Eye’s
theme park the next day, as they always do. The TV show makes both
feel depressed about themselves (Chubby: “I’m a weird-looking
thing that shouldn’t even exist.”). What we see of the show
has Mickey Eye, an eyeball with legs and a right arm (but no left),
smashing birds eggs and killing the mother bird while saying, “Am
dek eyeeee. Gidt! [Your guess is as good as mine here about what
this means] Equals ambiguity!” Mickey Eye is pretty clearly
what evil has become: a corporation operating in the open as entertainment.
Our first view of Mickey Eye Park shows crying children and frightened
adults wandering through such exhibits as the boiling gumpit (a
Mickey Eye worker is tossing shovelfuls of boiling gum at a terrified
child), the Future Swamp, which is littered with destroyed buildings
and fallen airplanes, and a giant geodesic Epcot Center colored
to resemble a blankly staring eye. The font that Mickey Eye uses,
both for his words when he speaks on the TV show and on the park
exhibit signs, is made up of missiles and telephones. As Seaguy
buys improbably named food for them (Seaguy: “What flavor is
’bowler hat’?” Concessionist: “Harsh and ashamed. How
should I know?”), Chubby notices Mickey Eye minions shoving
crying people into sacks through a grate in the street. Chubby tries
to bring this to Seaguy’s attention, but is diverted by a piece
of falling rock from the moon.
Moon rocks have been falling since the fifth
page, when Seaguy’s mentor, Old Seadog (unnamed until later) shows
Seaguy and Chubby a moon rock covered in Egyptian (well, Boustrophedon,
to be exact) hieroglyphics. Their discussion is, however, interrupted
by the appearance of She-Beard, a hirsute woman who practices her
swordplay while lamenting the lack of real men. She-Beard is the
reason Seaguy wants to prove his heroism: he’s horny, not trying
to better the world. When the rocks fall in the park, Seaguy notices
that one of the rocks has an American flag in it.
Enter Doc Hero, a remnant superhero wearing Agamemnon’s
helmet and golf attire. Doc Hero is riding a Mickey Eye tilt-a-whirl
(true to the nature of the park, all the other riders are shown
in tears or puking). He soon explains that it’s the only thrill
he can get since he lost the power of flight, and that he’s never
missed a ride since. Seaguy shows Doc Hero the moon rock with the
American flag, and, using his powers, Doc Hero carbon-dates it to
four or five thousand years old. Doc Hero mentions that the flag
is Buzz Aldrin’s flag from the first lunar mission, and makes a
reference to using it as a weapon against giant moon-scarabs made
of intelligent pewter. Seaguy tries to interest Doc Hero in joining
a superhero team, but Doc Hero runs back to his ride. Chubby tries
to bring something else to Seaguy’s attention involving the ferris
wheel, but it is unclear what has shocked him.
This is where Xoo comes into play. Xoo is a
new foodstuff that is suddenly everywhere in Seaguy’s world. Seaguy
drinks Xoo Cola (and shows how deeply controlled he is by corporate
slogans when he makes a face and says, “Weird taste, but mmmmm
Good.”), and buys as much Xoo as he and Chubby can eat. However,
in the park, his mouthful of Xoo Cola refuses to go down. He spits
up a shapechanging pink thing that pleads that he “help Xoo.”
Hordes of Mickey Eye minions and police helicopters with Mickey
Eye insignia appear out of nowhere. Seaguy’s heroic instincts
in and he and Chubby follow Xoo to their boat. As they race off,
blazing rocks from the moon destroy the helicopters and police
following them. Seaguy instantly knows that the moon is crying
for help, and that this is his chance to be a hero. On to the
This one opens on Easter Island. The giant stone
heads are smoking huge cigarettes as Mickey Eye police copters land
(Mickey Eye apparently employs the sole police and military forces
in Seaguy’s world). Eye-helmeted police confront Seaguy, who is
“disguised” as an octopus farmer wearing a baseball mitt
on his head, a Texas flag, and huge distorted lenses over his eyes.
When Seaguy pretends to attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on
an octopus (played by Xoo), the Eye Police run off, afraid that
his insanity may be catching. Chubby, pretending to be a fish, reveals
that he hates water. Three one-page adventures follow: Seaguy, Chubby,
and Xoo head to Cape Horn, then steal chocolate from the ice caps
(which have been covered in chocolate to prevent them from melting)
while being chased by a brown polar bear, then listen to a whale
sing — badly — during a terrible storm.
Xoo’s home turns out to be a huge floating industrial
ship belching waste into the air and water. Seaguy is captured and
Xoo is revealed to be the first artificial living foodstuff. The
corporate suits try to feed Xoo to Seaguy after drugging him, but,
because he is the hero, he suddenly is no longer drugged and escapes.
Unfortunately he and Xoo (his friend) falls into a vat of Xoo (the
foodstuff). His small sentient friend becomes a giant hostile sea
serpent (which also turned up, strangely enough, in the first issue
as a giant pink balloon destroying a cruise ship in a news flash
during the Mickey Eye tv show), which kills the men aboard and destroys
the industrial ship. Seaguy and Chubby flee by boat, only to run
into a signpost directing them down to Atlantis.
Leaving Chubby with the boat on the surface,
Seaguy swims to Atlantis, which is, as he says, “exactly as
Old Seadog described Plato describing it in his Dialogues.”
It surrounds a sunken mountain. Seaguy reads a pamphlet telling
him that heroes of old proved themselves by climbing the mountain,
so Seaguy (who is still underwater, mind you) climbs the mountain.
The peak is sticking out of the water, and Chubby has brought the
ship, now covered with melted chocolate, over to the island. Chubby
cheerfully bumps a wasps’ nest and is immediately covered with tiny
Later, the ship can’t move because of melted
chocolate in the sea (cleverly commenting on how quick fixes are
often worse than the problem themselves). Seaguy picks 800 wasps
from Chubby while explaining that the mechanical wasps were build
to turn pollen into oil that ran the city. Chubby is ill, covered
in wasp stings. Mickey Eye copters fly overhead but refuse to rescue
them. They run out of water, and Seaguy sings Chubby a song while
fireballs fall from the moon. In the morning, gondolier Death is
there, and Chubby is dead. On to issue three.
is still stuck in the chocolate. Chubby is a desiccated corpse.
With no water for days, Seaguy is a raving lunatic. Buckets fall
from the moon and yipping jackal-men capture Seaguy. The buckets
are pulled up through space to an Egyptian palace on the moon. Cannons
fire moon-rocks at the Earth while Seaguy’s bucket lands. With some
water in him at last, Seaguy looks up at a nearby pyramid and says
that “it looks like science lied about this place big time.”
Naturally enough, the pyramid is occupied by a mummy, who demands
that Seaguy read his story from a nearby wall. Luckily, Seadog has
taught Seaguy to read Boustrophedon. The mummy turns out to be a
hubristic Egyptian pharaoh who, five thousands years previously,
spurned family and bankrupted his country to build a testament to
himself — the moon. When he proves to be long-lived, his furious
descendents attempt to explode his tomb (which has his face engraved
on it), sending it into space (and creating the Nile Delta for good
measure). The mummy breaks in (in Esperanto, which is revealed to
be Seaguy’s native tongue), explaining that Doc Hero and Teknostrich
taught him the language when they visited.
Seaguy asks about a particular hieroglyph, Zullibdig,
represented by a giant scarab. The mummy explains that he sent down
the moon-rocks to summon heroes to turn the moon. Australia was
destroyed when Anti-Dad fell on it, and the mummy has been heartbroken
by the loss of his favorite continent, so he wants to turn the moon.
The mummy, Seaguy, a butterfly, and two jackals head out across
the moon to fight Zullibdig, who is apparently a god. A giant scarab
leaps on one of the jackals, but Seaguy wrestles it, getting bitten
in the process.
The jackals run off from the group, pointing
at Seaguy. The mummy tells Seaguy and the butterfly that the inner
part of the moon is taboo. Seaguy asks the butterfly how it became
a hero, and it explains that it flew from Earth to Moon on one deep
breath. They arrive at the dark side of the moon, which is unfinished.
The mummy is a bit embarrassed by this, explaining that he meant
to get to it someday.
The butterfly tells Seaguy that the mummy has
Alzheimer’s, and that Zullibdig is a construction site. Zullibdig
is a giant scarab lying in a milky reservoir. There is a spaceship
parked next to it, and men all over its back. Hordes of giant scarabs
surround the reservoir. The men (or the spaceship) are singing about
Mickey Eye. The butterfly tells Seaguy that they’re giving it a
makeover and teaching it the song. Seaguy becomes agitated and leaps
into the reservoir, which is filled with Mickey Eye scuba divers.
As Seaguy comes out of the water (or whatever it is), the butterfly
is making a deal with the mummy for the rights to develop a lunar
Mickey Eye theme park. Seaguy screams, “You can’t do this!
Zullibdig’s from mythology! It’s taboo!” The butterfly mentions
Seaguy’s bite from the scarab and all they’ve done to make him happy.
As we leave the scene, Seaguy is overrun with scarabs.
Next we see the butterfly huffing and puffing
as it lands on the finger of a powerful suited man with an office
somewhere in the geodesic Mickey Eye. They discuss Xoo briefly,
which was somehow the suited man’s fault. The butterfly tells him
(calling him “Lotharius”) that he looked away when he
should have been watching Seaguy. As the suited man changes clothes,
he mentions how the games with the gondolier (Death) will keep Seaguy
out of trouble, commenting “The sooner romance and love and
all that rot’s wiped out, the happier we’ll be round here.”
This breaks the butterfly’s heart, who starts lamenting their lost
love. The suited man is revealed to be Seadog, secretly Mickey Eye’s
(and I-Pol’s) Chief of Security. Seadog tells the butterfly (who’s
now named Vertzebelion) that when it kissed him beneath the moonlight
in Madagascar with its three tongues, it was over.
Seaguy is being dragged down a hallway by Eye
Police past a rocket-mounted shell that was worn by one of the heroes
who fought Anti-Dad back in Issue 1. The Eye Police tell him he
was bitten by a crazy thing. In another room, a group of Mickey
Eyes circle Doc Hero telling him that only bugs and birds fly. He
cries that his hat isn’t stupid, and they suggest that he take a
few more turns on the Eye-Go-Round.
Seaguy is now bolted to a chair in a room filled
with cheery Mickey Eye images. The monitors say “Am Dek Eyeee!”
while Seaguy, in a daze, explains how much he misses Chubby. Men
in containment suits, telling him that he’s only missed one episode
of Mickey Eye’s tv show, push a nearly dead Xoo at Seaguy’s face.
Xoo is running down his chin. Behind him a ghostly Chubby yells
at Seaguy not to forget him. Seaguy, his eyes rolling back in his
head, says Chubby’s catchphrase: “Da Fug?”
In the end, Seaguy wanders wordless through New
Venice with a talking parrot on his shoulder, ignoring She-Beard,
the Teknostrich statue, Seadog, and a talking horse who was killed
in the first issue by moon rocks. He walks up to the gondolier Death,
who is unsuccessfully trying to interest passers-by in a game of
chess, and says that he’ll play. Death is visibly unnerved by Seaguy’s
presence. Seaguy says he’ll play black and, in a close-up, winks
while saying that Death will play white. They sit in opposite chairs
from the first image of the first issue, playing opposite colors,
and the moon above them is now colored as a blankly gazing Mickey
Eye. End third issue.
is much left to explain here. If Seadog is Mickey Eye’s chief of
security, why did he teach Seaguy Boustrophedon? Why did he try
to interest Seaguy in the moon rocks in the first place? Does Seaguy
remember Chubby and what has happened to him? Is Mickey Eye a manifestation
of Anti-Dad or is it, as conjectured here, a completely new kind
of evil? Why does Mickey Eye only have one arm? How did Seaguy know
that Zullibdig was sacred and that teaching it the Mickey Eye song
was taboo? How does Seaguy fight a corporation holding the world
in thrall (mirroring the living corporation from Morrison’s short
series Marvel Boy)? Who runs Mickey Eye? What role does the butterfly
play? As Seaguy and Death have traded positions at the end of the
three issues, does this imply that Seaguy will become a killer?
What happened to all the other heroes?
DC Comics needs to allow Morrison and Stewart
to complete Seaguy. The series shows all evidence of being one of
the smartest comics ever produced. There’s too much at stake to