Scottish comic book scribe Grant Morrison is one of the most creative writers and out-of-the-box-type thinkers working in comics today, so he was a natural choice to work with Hollywood movie director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Get Shorty) on Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, a multimedia comics and film project (see “Dinosaurs Versus Aliens”). Morrison graciously took time out from his busy schedule to discuss his work on Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, revealing himself as something of a dinosaur maven in the process.
Who came up with the concept of Dinosaurs vs. Aliens?
It was Barry Sonnenfeld’s baby. He had a one-page pitch for the movie with a basic breakdown of the plot, focusing mainly on the two principal alien characters and on the kind of battle scenes he’s been dreaming about creating since he was a kid! I suggested the idea of making the dinosaurs smarter and more colorful than anything we’ve seen before, and I fleshed out the characters, background and story a bit.
What was it like working with Barry Sonnenfeld? Is there a lot of back-and-forth, or give-and-take in the collaboration?
After our initial discussions, Barry pretty much left me alone to write the comic book script. On the screenplay, which has become quite a different take on the same basic story, we’ve been working very closely together. He’s been a fantastic, gracious and inventive collaborator and it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had on a Hollywood screenwriting job.
It was important for the dynamics of the story to give the aliens a legitimate reason for their invasion and to make them much more complex and even more relatable than the typical alien invasion force. We liked the idea of flipping the sympathies and allegiances of the audience repeatedly as the story progressed. This is a film where there are monsters on both sides but where the dinosaurs are ‘natural’ the aliens are ‘synthetic.’ It’s flesh vs. technology, Mother Nature vs. the Mother of Invention.
The story is set in the Late Cretaceous, for a number of reasons, not least of which being the availability of Tyrannosaurs!
You created intelligent animals before (for We3)—how will the smart dinos differ, how will they communicate with each other, will they be able to speak?
At the beginning of the project I saw this as the next step beyond what Frank Quitely and I did in We3. No matter how smart they are, lizards can’t speak so we don’t go there but we’ve devised a whole ‘language’ of gestures, sounds and movements. They can also change color for camouflage and communication. The big archetypal ‘personalities’ of the dinosaurs emerge as a result of what they do rather than what they say.
Absolutely. As part of our desire to do something that looks very different from Jurassic Park, or any other dinosaur movie, our raptors are the feathered and colorful creatures of more recent theory, for instance, and I think this will be the first time the recently discovered and amazing-looking Kosmoceratops has appeared onscreen or in a comic book.
The artist is the incomparable Mukesh Singh, who worked with me on the 18 Days project. He’s still not very well known in American comics so I hope this raises his profile. His work is so far beyond traditional comic book fare that he’s operating on a completely different level entirely. I always start by drawing my stories as thumbnails but I don’t usually send these to the artist, so, as with most of my collaborators, Mukesh is working from a full script only. As ever, I’ve been blown away by his attention to detail and authenticity.