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"Everything's so clean. Everybody's so clean...I'd like to infect them all with something."
-- St. Swithin's Day

Grant Morrison's work is a blitz of ideas on a reader's psyche; the majority of them being hit and miss as to whether they will actually take hold but the potential remains that a few (or many) will burrow into our subconscious and actually change the marked readers outlook on an aspect of everyday living. Be it social rebellion, animal rights, denying one's own reality or just plain sexual awakening, we are all on Grant Morrison's path to enlightenment. Some choose to dismiss his writing as pretentious ideals but I think that anyone who approaches Morrison's work with an unfettered mind will find genuine intellectual stimulation that sets it apart from the rest of the predominantly lobotomized marketplace.

This column idea came about when I was recently at a loss on how to sum up Grant Morrison's work. How could I? He had been a favorite writer of mine for over a decade now; his work on the Doom Patrol and Animal Man is a major part of what changed me from occasional comic buyer to a real fan of the medium. His catalog of work carries some of the most unique and diverse titles that it would be impossible to generalize them. They deserve individual attention and analysis and so The Grant Morrison Project was born.

In this column, I'm going to be taking a look at nearly all of Grant Morrison's written comic works. This is not intended to be a series of reviews per se but instead more of an analysis and, above all, an appreciation of not only Morrison but also his collaborators. With that, I will have to give the reader fair warning that I may drop spoilers in the midst of writing but I'll try to keep climaxes somewhat ambiguous. (However, I have known some European cinema enthusiasts to prefer knowing the secrets to a movie ahead of time to greater appreciate storytelling, so to each his own.) The first work I'm going to be taking a look at is the Paul Grist illustrated St. Swithin's Day; a story first serialized in four parts by Trident Comics, later collected by Oni Press nearly a decade after in a convenient one-shot.

Reading St. Swithin's Day immediately draws parallels to J.D. Salinger's novel of disillusioned adolescence, Catcher in the Rye; in fact, in St. Swithin's Day we are first introduced to our unnamed protagonist as he is shoplifting a copy of that very book. Both works are considered to be what is commonly referred to as "coming of age" stories but what does that really mean in a world where the Brittany Spears movie is called a "coming of age" story, anyway? Instead, the similarity between the two works is in the way their respective protagonists are teenagers at a crossroad of life who, rather than play by the rules of the world, are on a quest to impact it. Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield wants to save the world from falling into the phony conventions of society while St. Swithin's Day's "hero" wants to publicly assassinate the fascist, then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Our lead character is stealing a copy of Catcher in the Rye not to read it but, as he puts it, "I want them to find it in my pocket when this is all over." An attempt to emulate the famous murdering psychopath, Mark David Chapman. For those who don't know, Chapman was the man who killed John Lennon in December of 1980. He suffered from delusional paranoid schizophrenia and became so fixated on Catcher in the Rye that he started to believe himself to be the real world embodiment of Holden Caulfield. After John Lennon emerged from a self-imposed five year exile from the public spotlight, Chapman assassinated him for reasons that most believe was an attempt at preserving Lennon's near perfect image before he too fell victim to the fakery of the world. When Chapman was apprehended, a copy of Catcher in the Rye was found in his pocket.

So you can see why our hero would want to emulate Caulfield/Chapman, right? Unfortunately the rub is that our main character is not pining for unrealistic ideals like Caulfield. He doesn't even have any delusional "callings" as Mark David Chapman had. Instead, he takes the book just to satisfy his own delusions of grandeur when the experts formulate their post-mortem analysis of him. He wants people to conduct studies and write papers on him decades after he's gone. Much the same with another book he picked up in the hopes of adding to his psychological legacy, The Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud. Unlike Catcher in the Rye, he at least did try to read this book and at a moment where he may have gotten something out of Rimbaud's unique philosophical, introspective writings, all our hero can do is make a joke out of the pronunciation of Rimbaud's name.

The truth is, our main character is not the dark, tortured psychopath as he wants people (and himself) to believe. He is just going through the stereotypical motions of one because he is a pretentious child whose only goal is to be acknowledged. He looks at the smiles on peoples faces around him with contempt because he wishes he was like them. Unfortunately, to make the friends and lovers he seeks would require him to advance his life, to move forward; something that he is unable to do because he wants to remain in a holding pattern of life. "I hate being nineteen. I want to be nineteen forever," he says. He wants the security that he had as a child but he is nineteen years old, technically an adult and at an age where that is no longer an option and he must move on to the rest of his life.

St. Swithin's Day is probably Morrison's most ground-level works and it's also one of my favorites. He creates a character that has the contradiction of being both sympathetic and unlikable at the same time which is only further realized by Paul Grist's deceptively simple artwork. In the hands of lesser creators, this story would be just another Manchurian Candidate cover but what Morrison and Grist present to the audience is a socially awkward, aspirationless boy walking along a dreary landscape who believes he found his life's purpose. In reality, he is only running from his own fear of growing up.

That's it for the first column, I hope you enjoyed it and I encourage you to seek out St. Swithin's Day published by Oni Press (1998, 32 pages, $2.95) if you don't have it already. The Oni Press online store currently doesn't have it in stock but your comic shop may have it or may be able to order it. Please send your feedback to NickCapetillo@hotmail.com. Thank you for reading and please comeback next time where I take a look Grant Morrison and Phillip Bond's Kill Your Boyfriend.

St. Swithin's Day is Grant Morrison and Paul Grist. All artwork used for review purposes only.

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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