I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with Grant Morrison. That said, even if you’ve gone back and read through everything from Animal Man on up trying to put together a comprehensive, unifying theory of his work, then there’s still a piece of the puzzle that you might be missing: Zenith, the story about a teenage superhero that he and Steve Yeowell created in the pages of 2000 AD. Aside from a limited edition hardcover that sold out quick last year, it hasn’t been reprinted until this week, when 2000 AD released it as the first title that they’ve ever simultaneously printed on both sides of the Atlantic.
Morrison and Yeowell would go on to collaborate on titles like Sebastian O, The Invisibles and Skrull Kill Krew, but it started here with the story of what 2000 AD calls “the world’s first Superbrat – a vain, self-obsessed, egotistical pop singer whose only interests are girls, partying, and where he is in the music charts,” a trend that would go on to dominate superheroes in the ’90s and 2000s. But if that’s not enough to get you excited, then keep going: You can readthe first 12 pages of Zenith: Phase One right here at ComicsAlliance.
“Once upon a time there was a comic strip named Zenith. The creators created, the publishers published, but not a contract was there to be found. 21 years later, Rebellion are going to the printers – but who owns what?
"This then is a collection of the facts – and nothing but the facts – born from my respect and admiration for Grant Morrison, my fondness for 2000 AD, my love of Zenith, and my anxiety around the tricky ethical minefield of creator rights disputes. My biases are, as ever, laid bare for all to see!
"Those involved in legal proceedings around Zenith are not at liberty to comment.”
These are pages 17-20 of The Invisibles #1, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Steve Yeowell. They are also a great example of how changing the physical format of a comic can change the entire meaning.
Most of this comic is drawn in a realistic style, as you can see in pages 17 and 20. The colors are muted, and the characters spend most of their time on dark streets or in drab buildings.
Pages 18 and 19 are completely different, drawn in a psychedelic style reminiscent of a Peter Max poster. This change in style is done for a reason: a character has taken LSD and performed an occult ritual to contact the spirit of John Lennon. This shift in art style reflects not only the character’s experience, but the difference between normal, mundane existence and the shift in consciousness brought about by drugs and magic.
In the original comic, pages 18 and 19 are presented side by side: 18 on the left, 19 on the right. This creates an intentionally jarring effect: you turn the page to 18 and 19, and everything has changed, almost like you’ve entered an entirely different comic. Like the character, you’ve left behind the way things used to look and entered a world that’s suddenly bright and magical. Then you turn the page again, and you’re right back in the world you’d left behind.
In the collected edition, this effect is lost. Page 18 is on the right, and when you turn the page, page 19 is on the left. In each case, you have a real-world page on one side and a trippy page on the other side. The story still works, the plot is unaffected– but the simulated feeling of entering and then exiting an altered state of perception is not preserved.
And when you read this comic in a digital format, you’re likely reading only one page at a time– which means there’s no left or right. This is probably close to the original intention, because you’re seeing the psychedelic pages by themselves, without any real-world pages intruding. But it might feel subtly different, because you lose the experience of turning the page once, changing things, and then turning the page again and changing them back.