Edinburgh International Book Festival Part FourA comics news article
Food for Thought
Somehow after only being in Edinburgh for two days, I've become a regular at this falafel joint. The restaurant is called Yum Yum (located in the Grassmarket area), but I must say, one cannot achieve the world's greatest falafel order on their own. No sir, all falafel greatness is a team effort.
An essential member of this falafel team was the receptionist at my hostel, a New Zealander who's been living in the area for a while. He suggested Yum Yum to me mostly because it was like two o'clock in the morning and nothing else was open. After a short jaunt through some creepy back alleys, I found Yum Yum inconspicuously located on the corner. One would hardly suspect that the world's greatest falafel lie in wait. I shamefully admit, I was almost tempted away by lesser meals: paninis and such. Shameful.
After entering, I made the sensible choice and got a falafel pita because that's the sensible choice. I was soon informed by the kind Israeli man running Yum Yum that I did not want a falafel pita. No, I wanted a falafel wrap. And I also wanted garlic sauce. And chili sauce. As I bit into the falafel wrap, I was swimming in a realm of taste, a new world of falafel fantasmaorgasm. It was a dimension where falafel was king and everything was okay because everybody had falafel. Planet Falafel. I let them keep my change because creators deserved to be rewarded for creating falafel perfection.
On my second night, I went back. I was given a free vegetarian salad and charged a pound less than my meal cost. I thanked him for his falafel greatness. This falafel story is a message to the kids out there: together we can achieve. That's right, together, we can achieve falafel.
Aside: I met the Hair Liar, the kid who stole Neil Gaiman's hair. He's actually staying at my hostel. He's from Italy. He's a nice kid. Apparently, all these people that pass us by actually have whole lives behind them and have happiness and disappointment and sometimes they eat pizza and sometimes they have their hearts broken. Weird. And I thought they were all just extras in my movie.
Aside #2: In addition to participating in Melinda Gebbie and Grant Morrison's panels, I also attended a fun panel about the history of comics hosted by Paul Gravett. Gravett pointed out many of the influential figures in comics, including lots of people I'd never heard of. As soon as I can get my hands on a piece that I found incredibly interesting to review, Little Nemo in Slumberland, I'll detail more about Gravett and the artists he spotlighted during his panel.
Grant Morrison is the person I look up to more than anyone else in the universe. I haven't read everything he's ever written, but I want to say that I've read almost 90%. I've read all the most notable things (with the exception of The Filth). I bashfully admit that I even have a song by The Mixers on my computer. That's right, a song by his band from when he just a kid who wanted to be a rockstar. It's actually pretty good, really, if you like that sort of retro British sound. You can find it online.
So what's it like to meet the person you admire most? It breaks my heart to say that it's... underwhelming. Or at least that's the way I felt at first. First of all the panel came with somewhat conspicuous timing. The piece that was being proliferated and sold on the shelves at the book festival was Supergods, so naturally, the panel was supposed to be about superheroes. Which is altogether strange because Grant is currently transitioning out of that sort of work. Early on, despite the works he still has in the pipeline, Grant dismissed the idea, saying he's quickly getting bored with superheroes (though later on he did say he misses Batman).
I read a thing once written by James Robinson -- perhaps it was an introduction to one of his Starman collections (I think it was) -- and in it he described a conversation he'd had with Morrison while Grant was writing Doom Patrol all those years ago. Morrison told Robinson that what writing needs more of is honesty, a creed I've tried to follow ever since, injecting the fragile version of myself into everything I do, letting the strong version be the one that isn't made of words. Which one is my real self? I'm not sure I have any idea at this point. I'm sure anyone who's read the things I write on here would be shocked to find me as a competent, complicated person in real life, as opposed to the weak buffoonish, bumbling Clark Kent self I end up as in my writing.
What I'm trying to say with this is Grant Morrison is honest in every aspect. He's willing to inject that fragility into everything he does and quickly admits his own silliness and faults. Out of all the panels I've been to, despite all of them trying to be loose and fun, this one was easily most fun. Pounding Red Bull like he hadn't slept in days, Morrison was always joking, always laughing. He has a reputation for being so spacey, so out there, but if you look closely at his interviews you'll see how much he's always reminding us that he's just a working class kid from Scotland, with an eye for skepticism in everything.
The panel began with a discussion of Near Myths, a comic series where Morrison got his start in the UK. The formula for Near Myths was simple, explained Morrison, "Science fiction and tits." He then elaborated that the office where he and the other writers met to discuss stories was simply a den of smoke. That was the other half of the Near Myths formula: smoke dope and put it in your work, which the young, straight-edge Morrison looked down upon with a disapproving gaze. Although, he admitting to often leaving meetings and immediately indulging on his addiction to chips, which he joked is the title to his next autobiography, Dope and Chips.
On the subject of superheroes, Morrison insisted that they seemed to get more militant, more soldier-like with time, something that was a response to 9/11, much in the same way that Captain America punching Hitler was a response to WWII. The best question asked in the long Q&A session requested Morrison to elaborate on something he'd mentioned in an interview, that he often acts out his stories as he's writing them. Quickly embarrassed, he bashfully and laughingly insisted upon changing the subject, before doing his best Lex Luthor impression, exclaiming, "Now you're fucked, Superman!" His honesty at work once again, Morrison recounted his Katmandu story, and although I've heard and read it maybe ten times, if you ever doubted the story itself, you'd be shocked to see the conviction in Morrison's eyes as he tells it. Katmandu happened. Shit was real.
Neil Gaiman was friendly when signing books, but he was nothing like Morrison. While Neil had an entire posse available to streamline the process, surrounded by publicists and other people, Morrison just had himself. He sat and talked to each person that came through as long as they wanted to talk to him, no matter what about. Again, he truly reflected the incredibly down-to-earth working class self.
Grant Morrison was not the person I'd thought he'd be, the person I was expecting, but then again, if he was, he wouldn't be Grant Morrison. After talking to Morrison about experiences taking drugs, I sat in the lobby of the signing area trying to draw things I'd seen on mushrooms in Amsterdam the week before. There was this major babe standing next to me and I complemented her on her incredibly cool shoes, laced with spiked on the toes. Only right after did I realize that, uh, I had accidentally flirted with Grant Morrison's wife. So clearly, I know how to get ahead in life. Oh god.
- Tyler Gross