Monday, August 11, 2008

Grant Morrison: Mercenary Or Awesome?

The Red Bee -- Apparently A Favorite DC Character To Pitch

Just a footnote to this quote by "James" on Grant Morrison spotlighted by today's Journalista:

"During the brief time I worked at DC, it was interesting to contrast Morrison's proposals to others'.

Morrison's proposals were always driven by economics and re-establishing brand identity. This is what DC Comics are good at; this is an untapped market need; these characters are valid trademarks and can perhaps be rehabilitated into spin-off children's cartoons.

I'm not clear whether Morrison can take this approach because of his high level of authority within the DC creative structure... or whether Morrison attained his high level of authority because of that economically-minded approach.

But for all of his reputation as a madcap, drug-addled sentimentalist, his approach is extremely mercenary. Nobody else apparently gave any thought to such matters in pitching new series, and it shows."

What I remember -- granted (pun!) this was several years ago --

Grant (and many other writers) would pitch stories and series featuring really obscure DC characters. And I'm not sure if there was a tacit understanding between him and management that he was creating these characters to extend "brand equity."

Specifically, I remember the complaint (and this wasn't just regarding Grant):

"All they're giving me is Red Bee pitches! Rag Man and Red Bee pitches!"

If anything, the "crew" were a little exasperated that Grant chose to focus on those characters more than, say Superman. And so what you really had was more of a trade-off -- "I'll see you your obscure mini-series for one blockbuster Superman series."

Which makes Grant a little less of a "mercenary" and more like, say, Owen Wilson.

Owen Wilson does awesome arty movies (either as an actor or behind-the-scenes), and then he does "Shanghai Express IV." He does "Shanghai Express IV" in order that he can do awesome arty movies.

Let's take another look at Owen, just for my edification:

See? "Drillbit Taylor" -- but also the writer of "Rushmore." And rocks a Black Sabbath T-Shirt.

And if he was a comic book writer? Red Bee pitch. Absolutely.


  1. Read Alan Moore's original Twilight pitch. The preamble is full of branding and merchandising ideas. Maybe it's just what smart writers do to get their ideas considered by editorial.

  2. Agreed. When pitching, it's beneficial to include some commercial hooks.

    That's mercenary? Unless this was pro bono, perhaps. (Doubtful.)

  3. Isn't dropping branding, merchandising, and economic upside into your presentation just smart pitching?

    In fact in grad school we were taught to put our pitches in sellable terms that execs would understand. i.e. here's my pitch for a TV series, not only is it a quality story but it's like show X which made a ton of money,and has character Y which could launch a star and create a face for your network. You give the execs something economic they can take to their boss that justifies the gidonkulous check they are asking them to write for you.

    It let's execs/studios/editors know that you're at least aware and aimiable to the buisness side of things.

    It's not going to overcome a bad story or concept, but all things being even it can get you the nod over someone who doesn't include the same thing.

  4. Hm. Hipster-esque actor wearing -- certainly not "rocking" -- a "vintage" Mullet Rock-era shirt? Now that is mercenary.

  5. I vote Awesome. The target audience of the pitch is not the eventual comics reader, it's the folks that want to make money of the comics reader. Morrison knows what he's doing. Just think about where the DCU was prior to his JLA. Yipes. Scary thought.

  6. Red Bee? Fah... give me more "Red Son"! So easy to sell to the generic bookstore customer. "What if...Superman's rocketship landed in Soviet Russia instead of 1950s Kansas?"

    Oh, and one of the most important rules of employment: "Make your bosses' jobs easier."

    "Here's how *I* am going to make *YOU* look good."

  7. Anonymous2:13 AM

    Ooo, better yet, Red Bee, Red Son -- an alternate history in which the Red Bee was raised in Soviet Russia! Someone needs to pitch that.

  8. I like your Owen Wilson tie-in. I think it'd also work with George Clooney. Sure, he's done "Batman and Robin" but he's also directed "Good Night and Good Luck", he cranks out a bunch of "Oceans etc" but then he uses that money to finance personal projects.

    He'd be the guy that would pitch a Superman book and then a JLA book and then when DC is saying "ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO IS FINE BY US" he goes "Yeah, I'd like to bring back Hitman. Then I'll do Batman and then I'm going to do Phantom Stranger."