Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grant Morrison's New York

Grant Morrison is one the top writers in comics today. His current DC Comics mega-event, Final Crisis, has been an impressive series so far. In it, he revisits some ideas that were present in a group of books he put out a few years ago called Seven Soldiers. That's led me to revisit his earlier work as well.

One of the Seven Soldiers books was The Manhattan Guardian, telling the story of Jake Jordan, a disgraced former police officer who becomes the eponymous hero, having fantastic adventures while in the employ of a local tabloid which documents them. But Morrison's New York City is very much a supporting character in the book, and it takes on some intriguing characteristics that diverge from the city outside our windows.

Since DC Comics already has Batman's Gotham City, and Superman's Metropolis, in many ways Manhattan's dark and light reflections respectively, New York City has seldom played a prominent role in DC stories, in stark contrast to Marvel Comics, where half of the world's heroes seem to live in the five boroughs. Morrison played it to the hilt, dubbing his New York "The Cinderella City" on account of its two ugly step-sisters. Playing on the mythic qualities of NYC, he also looked to architectural dream projects that never came to pass, adding a "what if" to the city.

Morrison's New York skyline includes the Hotel Attraction (designed by Antoni Gaudi), the Chase-Manhattan Bank Building (designed by Hans Hollein to resemble the grill of a Rolls Royce), and the Mid-Manhattan Expressway (proposed by Robert Moses). In the harbor sits The Ellis Island Key Project (conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright and seen above). 

When Morrison was intrviewed about the project in 2005, he told the Times, "I want it to be a more exalted New York, where things that were dreamed of were finally brought into reality."

The Cinderella City is a strong backdrop for Morrison's stories of transformation and mythology in both Seven Soldiers, and to a lesser extent, Final Crisis. Unlike the New York of Marvel Comics, which looks so much like our city that they felt the need for Spider-Man to comment on the fall of the WTC towers in 2001, Morrison's NYC is raw myth. This is a city of dreams and possibility. The journey of Jake Jordan from failure to hero could as easily have been the journey of anyone who comes to New York City for a better life. The essence and mythology of New York City, where anything is possible, is laid bare through it's people and architecture in the work of Grant Morrison. It reminds us of what might have been and what might yet be.

No comments:

Post a Comment