Grant Morrison: Google Glass is 'half-fish, half-man' (Q&A)

The influential author, who has created cult classic comics and written popular heroes like Batman and the X-Men, tells CNET's Seth Rosenblatt that as technology makes us superhuman, personal privacy will die -- and that's a good thing.

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Author Grant Morrison was surprised to meet the actress Lee Merriweather, who played the role of Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie based on the TV show, and had stopped by the DC Entertainment offices unexpectedly. Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Superman has been able to leap a tall building in a single bound since he was created in 1938, but author Grant Morrison's ideas seem to know no limits.

DC Entertainment held a press event recently to celebrate the conclusion of Morrison's seven-year run writing Batman, in which he posited that all of Batman's adventures, from his dark crime-busting origins, to the crazy science-fiction romps of the 1950s, to what he calls the "hairy chested love-god" tales from the 1970s, to today's Dark Knight, have all happened to the character.

Morrison's authorial interests stretch like spandex beyond superheroes, and a conversation you think you're having about how Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster created Superman suddenly turns to the 1960s and 1970s working-class Glaswegian world Morrison grew up in, scared of The Bomb and anxious about the military-industrial complex.

If you're not familiar with his work, Morrison cut his comics teeth by writing new takes on obscure superheroes such as Animal Man and The Doom Patrol. He's since written nearly every major superhero in American comics, and many of his self-created comics, including the Matrix-influencing The Invisibles and We3, a book about household pets outfitted with bleeding-edge military technology, have become instant comics classics.

The extreme edges of science are never far from many of his most popular stories. Quantum physics and theories of a fourth- and fifth-dimension beyond our own three-dimensional world have permeated his work since the 1990s, and play a major plot point in his upcoming Multiversity book for DC Comics, home of Superman.

Morrison, however, is no Clark Kent. Hardly the mild-mannered milquetoast scribe, the author often makes public appearances in an all-white suit, starred as a villain in a music video by My Chemical Romance, and has even written himself into a few of his comics, breaking the "fourth wall".

As we spoke during our brief interview, Morrison would lean in close to emphasize a point, then recline back, only to zoom in again seconds later. His passion for his stories and ideas was palpable. Outfitted in a sport coat, jeans, and a faded, bleeding Superman S-shield T-shirt, and his head shorn clean, you wouldn't be wrong in thinking he bore more than a passing resemblance to Superman's arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor.

Q: With superhero technology, things like wearable Internet-connected devices like Google Glass, becoming real, is there a place in the future for superhero stories?
Morrison: This is why we love superheroes. They're a version of our future that's not food for zombies. There's a lot of vectors for technology. Medical technology, prosthetics, is making us superhuman. And computer memory chips are making us smarter, remembering what we can't.

How does the Internet fit in?
Morrison: The big superhuman leap is in the communications technology. If you've looked at the phone like it's an organism. First it fits in your hand, then your ear, then your eye, and then the back of your head. Skynet's about to become self-aware, but it's not going to nuke us, it's going to f*** us.

So is something like Google Glass important?
Morrison: Glass is an intermediary stage. It's half-fish, half-man. Like the Victorian malodorous super-accordion, it bridges the gap.

If that's the case, what will it mean to live in a world where we're all super-connected superhumans?
Morrison: When you're connected to everyone and everything, it'll be the end of privacy, of the dual self. It'll be like a snowflake, and the snowfall is more important than the flake. Everybody will have seen your naked pictures, and nobody will care. There's no terror at all, it'll just be the way things are. It'll change the way that people will look at themselves as an organism, a human organism.

What about current technology? What's out there that you like, or at least use?
Morrison: You know, I haven't sent an email since 2005. [Grant's wife and business manager Kristen writes his e-mails.] Back home in Scotland, I tend not to use it. It just takes up too much time. I remember editing emails like they were novels. I couldn't find enough time to do that, it doesn't suit me.

 

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