05 May 2011

Grant Morrison Talks Method

I caught a glimpse of Grant Morrison’s current comics scripting method over a year ago when artist Cameron Stewart told me:
Grant's scripts have full page and panel breakdowns, but the dialogue is either very rough or not included. Most of his dialogue is written after the artwork is completed.
That question came up because of an error in Batman and Robin, #7. On looking at Stewart’s panels, Morrison felt the dialogue would flow best if one panel was flopped, moving the Caped Crusader from left to right. Stewart delivered the change, but an older file went to the letterer, and a confusing panel appeared in the magazine.

In a recent interview at Graphic Novel Reporter, Morrison described how his approach evolved over years of working for different companies and with different people: 
I used to do a film script and all the dialogue complete, but then as I started handing in scripts with preliminary guide dialogue, but all of the panel descriptions in place, all the visual information was there, but the dialogue was just purely to let the artist know where the beats came or who was talking first. And once I got the art back, I would then kind of tailor the writing to suit the artwork, and it allowed me to take out a lot of excess, which was good—because once you saw the artist was doing the acting and the nuances of expression really well, you could often drop a lot of the expository stuff. So it allowed me to streamline the process.

And, like I say, in this particular period where I'm doing three Batman books simultaneously, which thank goodness is almost over (laughs), I've been doing the same thing, but this time it's been going in six and eight pages at a time sometimes, so I'm seeing chunks of each issue coming in all the time. . . .

Well, the story is already there as a kind of structure in my head, and it comes into view. I always compare the way I do this stuff to a photograph developing. I kind of know what the photograph is going to be, but as it develops, I start to notice things about it that I hadn't seen before and only by the very end, when I put the last line on it, I get what exactly it's been about (laughs). So it tends to work with that sort of weird way, the work comes into focus for me. It's almost like bringing it into the light.
This back-and-forth is possible now, especially for a writer who lives in Scotland and California, because of digitized art and nearly instantaneous communication. Even so, it must be a challenge to manage, and there have been mistakes, timing problems, and perhaps some grumpiness from other creators who’ve had to fit their storytelling into Morrison’s complex and slowly developing narrative.

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