Two of the world’s greatest comic book writers are wizards. No, seriously. Their work has not only changed comics forever, they’ve spilled over into literature and especially film. A lot of the movies you loved, and even more of the movie-plots you loved, were influenced by these two guys. So even if you never actually heard of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, you know their work.
Both men are British; both are only a few years apart in age. Both present themselves as rebels of a sort. Both are passionately dedicated to a personal practice of the occult, and their occult writing has been taken seriously and influenced the scene.
But here’s the kicker: Moore and Morrison freaking despise each other. So much so that it’s actually bled into their work. Some of the greatest comics of the last 25 years have been a direct product of Moore and Morrison’s wizard-fight.
First, some background: both men started out writing comics in the 1970s, and became famous in the 1980s (internationally, Moore became famous a few years earlier than Morrison).
Alan Moore is probably most famous for V for Vendetta, From Hell, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and a little miniseries called “Watchmen” that changed comics forever.
Morrison wrote Animal Man, and Doom Patrol, and The Invisibles. He was the driving force behind the ‘vertigo’ line of DC comics which focused on weird fiction with occult/horror overtones, which had a huge influence on subsequent movies and TV.
His work was groundbreaking, but he was also responsible for incredibly significant work on mainstream comics like the X-Men, the Justice League, Superman and Batman, radically renovating each of those titles and producing some of their most memorable stories of recent years.
Moore did mainstream superhero comics too: in the 1980s his writing on Green Lantern had a significant influence on that character, he turned Swamp Thing from a failing monster-comic into a major character, invented John Constantine, wrote “The Killing Joke” for Batman and a couple of Superman stories that were extremely memorable. But he had a falling out with DC comics over royalties for “Watchmen” and in opposition to a plan to put ratings systems in their comics; after that he quit working for the big mainstream comic companies and never looked back.
By the early 90s, it was already obvious Moore had issues with Morrison. He claimed to have helped give Morrison a leg up in his career (Morrison later pointed out he was making comics, though much less famous ones, before Moore had become known at all), and that Morrison in return just ripped-off all of Moore’s work.
Morrison, on the other hand, claimed that Moore’s own work was derivative of a 1977 novel called Superfolks, and that “Watchmen” was not as great as everyone thought, and that Moore wants to take credit for everything great in comics while slagging anyone he sees as competition.
Moore has continued to insinuate throughout the years that Morrison has kept ripping off his ideas, once notably saying, “I’ve read Morrison’s work twice: first when I wrote it, then when he wrote it.”
Even the question of which one of them is the more “occult” comic book guy has been a bone of contention. Moore’s coming out as a magician was better known and got way more press, and he did that in 1993. On the other hand, Morrison was talking publicly about being involved in Chaos Magick a few years earlier than that, and Morrison has claimed that Moore only decided to come out because Morrison was already public about it.
It’s not as if either of them were really secretive about it. Moore’s magical ideas were already mostly evident in his early work, and Morrison’s pre-1993 work was already highly esoteric. Moore’s V for Vendetta openly espoused gnostic concepts and Aleister Crowley‘s magical philosophy.
Magically, the two believe in very different things. Neither of them are exactly orthodox, but Moore is a more traditionalist kind of wizard. He is an admirer of Aleister Crowley’s “Thelemic” magick, and the philosophy in his Book of the Law. He appreciates the value of magick as a kind of art form, and in turn, considers art to be a kind of magick.
Grant Morrison is from the school of “chaos magick”, who practice magick that is less worried about rules and ritual and more about trying to get things done. Magick can be done from just about anything, as long as you have the right intention. Chaos magicians tend to like mixing up elements from a whole variety of different cultures and history, to reinvent it all to fit whatever they’re in the mood for, and have no problem with doing magick for personal gain (or to change the world) rather than just for human transcendence.
Moore’s very loud statement of declaring himself a Magician in public may just have been a factor in motivating Morrison to go whole-hog with the ‘occult comic book’ thing, when he started on “The Invisibles” in 1994.
“The Invisibles” is a 1500 page (59 issue) masterpiece of Occult Literature, written in comic book form. Its winding plotline tells a single long story (with various sub-plots) about a group of occult rebels using magick to try to liberate mankind, opposed by a cabal of black magicians in positions of power and authority trying to use sorcery to control and oppress humanity. It is, simply put, one of the greatest comic series of all time.
According to Morrison, if you want to take him at his word and not just assume it’s a chaos-magician metaphor, he was told parts of the story by space aliens when he was abducted by them in Kathmandu. The entire comic was intentionally designed to function as a kind of spell’, meant to create powerful changes in consciousness in whoever reads it. It also had weird effects on Morrison’s own life.
His character “King Mob” was meant to be based on Morrison’s ideal version of himself as an occult rebel-hero; Morrison started to find that when he wrote bad things happening to King Mob, bad things happened to himself. When King Mob nearly died from magical bacteria in one of the comic’s issues, Morrison himself caught a life-threatening infection. Later, King Mob was shot and almost killed, and Morrison himself had to be hospitalized for blood poisoning. After that, Morrison started writing King Mob as having great things happening to him, and Morrison started to have unexpected fame and fortune of his own.
While “The Invisibles” hasn’t got its own movie or TV series yet (it’s probably too weird and too hard to make), it was enormously influential on a ton of sci-fi and fantasy writers, as well as filmmakers. In particular, the creators of The Matrix were hugely influenced by “The Invisibles.”
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