Throwback Thursday: Looking back at Seaguy – Grant Morrison’s surreal and heartbreaking comic book miniseries
Way back in 2004, industry titan Grant Morrison helmed a comic book that was far outside the realm of his more popular output. Along with artist Cameron Stewart, he created Seaguy – a comic that holds far more depth and quality that its silly-sounding title would have you assume.
Set in a time when war and crime are things of the past, the world that Morrison creates is one where superheroes (or indeed heroes of any kind) are simply no longer needed. Instead they are dead and memorialised in stone, or living mundane and simple lives.
The narrative follows Seaguy and a his talking fish companion Chubby Da Choona (a flying tuna fish who talks like a 1920s gangster and who is afraid of the water). Seaguy is a simple man (dressed in a diver’s suit) with aspirations of becoming a hero, all so that he can win over She-Beard – a female warrior who will bed no man unless he can best her in battle (i.e. evidence his superior heroism).
In the dystopian (dressed up as utopia) world that they live within, a creepy corporation called Mickey Eye runs everything – from theme parks to television shows – all under the creepy mascot image of a giant eyeball with arms and legs. The populace are subdued (even brainwashed) and obedient – under the illusion that they are happy and content – never failing to stay firmly within the rules set out by this giant corporation. When a new mass food is introduced and Seaguy and Chubby learn that it is actually a sentient life form, Seaguy and Chubby go on the run to rescue the small, pink, pleading creature.
Right from the outset, two main influences for Morrison’s world are strikingly evident (and they are two excellent and classic pieces of SF to draw from). One is George Orwell’s 1984, which is always the forefather of narratives that feature omniscient overpowers. This is evident from Morrison’s overbearing creation that is Mickey Eye – who even go so far as to brainwash citizens into their desired way of thinking.
One of the lines (which is from 2009’s sequel) that best highlights this brainwashing is when Seaguy states: “You’re right – who needs Heroes when life’s perfect.” And the twisted rationalisation of those behind Mickey Eye is best highlighted when one of the villains states: “Soon everyone will be happy. The kind of happiness only we can enforce.”
Forced happiness through “free” imprisonment a something that mirrors the comic’s other main influence (and this one is something that Morrison has confirmed). This is the 1967-1968 cult and ingenious television show The Prisoner, which depicts a village where ex-spies and retired citizens with Government information are kept. The Village is a quaint, colourful location, full of forced, smiling faces, where things like board games pass are used to pass the time – just like in Morrison’s vision, in which Seaguy regularly plays chess against Death (which is reminiscent of The Seventh Seal).
The Prisoner follows Number Six (played by the legendary Patrick McGoohan) – a spy who was kidnapped and placed in The Village after he resigned, who then opts to continually defy the rules by trying to escape. Although initially Seaguy is very much the opposite of Number Six, in that he is placid and obedient, all of this changes once he and Chubby realise that the new food Xoo is a actually a sentient life form (something a little reminiscent of Soylent Green). Through his reluctance to give up this cute little life form, Seaguy and Chubby take on the rebellious role, fleeing the authorities at every turn, while uncovering truths about their world along the way.
The series (by design) only ran for three issues (until its sequel in 2009), but even within this short space of time, Morrison crafts a beautiful, wacky, diverse and deeply layered world. Filling his unique narrative is a host of sharp satirisation, tongue-in-cheek humour and importantly: real heart. Not all of the credit can go to Morrison either; Cameron Stewart’s glorious art shines just as strong and he contributes the perfect style for Morrison’s bizarre universe.
Issue #1 sets up the world and shows us Seaguy’s placid place within it, as well as his endearing buddy relationship with Chubby. We’re introduced to She-Beard; the powerful warrior woman who feels that no one is heroic enough to be worthy of her love. Within this issue there’s an entire page that depicts a war between a whole legion of superheroes (the war against Anti-Dad, back when things were less quaint), which is is a great example of Morrison’s ability to layer his world with a deep and meaningful history (and a great example of Stewart’s skills).
Issue #2 ventures out into the ocean, where we learn more about the Xoo, as well as getting to see the long lost city of Atlantis. This is also the heartbreaking part of the narrative. In precisely what fashion, we won’t reveal, lest we spoil it for you, but trust us when we say that it’s a narrative turn that majorly took us by surprise and which tore relentlessly at our heart strings. There’s even a very slight and very dark ambiguity underneath this event that can be interpreted very bleakly or very loyally.
Issue #3 then takes the strangest turn of all, depicting a moon conspiracy run by Mickey Eye that relates back to the Ancient Egyptians. As the narrative progresses Seaguy becomes ever more worn – now wearing a bristled stubble – but also ever more confident and resolute. The narrative ends in a manner that we love. Again – we won’t give anything away, but it’s a bleak and cyclical kind of ending that leaves you marvelling at Morrison’s bravado.
Our intention here is to inspire readers to go back and read this little-known gem. It’s one of those short and sharp narratives that truly grips you and makes certain that you never forget it. It’s something that’s dear to Morrison’s heart too; so much so that he decided to return to the narrative in 2009, with a three-part sequel titled Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye. Morrison’s Seaguy comics didn’t sell as well as expected, to the point where it was thought that the sequels were unlikely to be published. A rumour then circled that Morrison decided to hold DC’s 52 (another project of his) as ransom, reportedly offering to write on the series only if Seaguy went ahead as planned.
Whether this rumour is true or not, we’re very glad the the sequels arrived because they are just as brilliant and ingenious as the originals, whilst also providing a truly conclusive ending for the over-arcing narrative, which the original run never delivered. On these sequels, Morrison has commented the below, which highlights his passion for this cult pet project:
“This is my Watchmen, really. This is where I’m really getting to talk about the idea of the superhero… It’s kind of a conspiracy story. It’s something like The Prisoner… This series is a transition from the world we’re living in today into the world of Seaguy, which is taking place maybe 50 or 70 years in the future. So believe it or not, it’s actually quite realistic in the end in the sense that it’s going to explore how the world got that way and why it got that way and the real piece of sh*t that’s behind it all.”
This is one throwback gem that we adore to pieces and we implore any comic book fans to check it out. You’re bound to come away thoroughly impressed, as we were, and itching to delve into Morrison’s 2009 sequels. If you love The Prisoner, love Morrsion, or even just love a sincere and warm-hearted comic book tale, then give Seaguy a try. As Chubby might say: why da fug not?
Seaguy and its sequels are available to buy on Comixology.
Image credits: Vertigo