Grant Morrison on Redefining DOOM PATROL

Joe McCabe

Joe McCabe

March 21, 2019


Calling Grant Morrison a comic-book writer is like calling Jimi Hendrix a guitarist. Both men work their chosen medium with a finesse that veers closer to alchemy than art. Arkham Asylum, The Invisibles, and All-Star Superman are just a few of the many DC titles for which Morrison is more than justifiably famous. Yet amongst his fabled accomplishments, Morrison's 1989-1993 run on Doom Patrol (with artist Richard Case, the first story arc of which you can read here) still holds a particularly special place in the hearts of fans. Reinvigorating classic characters like Robotman and Negative Man while creating new favorites like Crazy Jane, Danny the Street, and Mr. Nobody, Morrison brought a new level of surrealism to the team that's helped inspire their depiction in the fourth episode of DC Universe's Titans ("Doom Patrol", bowing Friday, November 2nd) along with their own eponymous 2019 show. We recently chatted with Morrison about what inspired his take on the World's Strangest Heroes. Here's what he had to say...


"I always just go back to the original concept. It’s never as radical as people assume, because I’m just going back and thinking, 'What was the original impetus? What made this different from all the other features?' With Doom Patrol, it was simply 'The World’s Strangest Heroes.' I thought, 'You have to take that seriously.' That means, 'Let’s get surrealism, let’s get Dadaism,] let’s get real strangeness. Let’s look around the culture and see what is genuinely strange and bring it into this book.' And just by adhering to that basic principle, you find you’re going into strange waters. You’re suddenly doing something that seems quite radically new. But ultimately, again, it’s just sticking to the core concept. I think that’s always the thing I’d advise anyone who’s doing this stuff -- to look at what made this work. What is the engine of this? See if you can clean that engine up and rebuild that car, but keep it true to its core values."




In the case of Crazy Jane, his Doom Patrol run's breakout character (played by Diane Guerrero in the upcoming series), Morrison explains how he created a hero with 64 different personalities, each of which wields a different super power...


"At the time in the '80s when I was writing Doom Patrol, there was a famous book by Truddi Chase called When Rabbit Howls. It was about her experience with this 'multiple personality disorder,' as it used to be called. A lot of people have since called that book into question, but for me, it was about looking at what was on the outskirts of neurological research. What was on the outskirts of philosophy. What was on the outskirts of the human experience. I was very open to new ideas. So I read that book and thought, 'Wouldn’t that be great if each one of these personalities had its own super power? Wow, there’s a character.' And Crazy Jane was born.


"Another inspiration was also a desire to take her away from the classic image of the comic-book 'babe' of her time -- the big-breasted, tight-suited, long-legged female. We kind of based her look on Patti Smith at that time. We thought, 'Let’s have a woman who’s really strong and powerful, but isn’t THAT.' So there were a lot of influences from the period that went into it -- watching surrealist movies, reading books about science and all kinds of things -- and bringing it all into the book."


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