Scott Morse

Batman: Room Full of Strangers (April 2004)

Skitched 20131111 161751Room Full of Strangers is a depressingly little story about Jim Gordon going on vacation after retiring and finding himself in the middle of a film noir. Except it’s all very brightly colored and playful film noir, courtesy Scott Morse, who somehow makes the cartoonish atmosphere perfect.

It’s not just how he moves his characters around–each has a very distinct, caricature look in Morse’s style–rather, it’s how he colors the scenes. He’s able to set a mood with just a single color over his art; the night time scene is fantastic, but there’s also some beautiful stuff with Gordon walking around this coastal setting.

Morse’s attention to character isn’t just finding them the perfect physical representation, he drops a devastating little setup in Gordon’s lap. His pacing feels cinematic too–he even references the Key Largo connection.

Strangers is a wonderful mainstream comic. Morse accomplishes quite a bit.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and colorist, Scott Morse; letterer, Janice Chiang; editors, Nachie Castro and Bob Schreck; publisher, DC Comics.

Strange Science Fantasy 6 (December 2010)

215840_20101204160413_large.jpgHow unfortunate.

Morse finishes up here (and has the series’s first dialogue no less) and it’s a disastrous wrap-up. For whatever reason, he felt the need to bring everything together for the final issue.

It opens as a crossover Indiana Jones and The Lost World, but only for a few pages. It soon turns in to some strange mix of Joe Versus the Volcano and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There are aliens, there’s deception, it’s very confused. Morse has a lot of action going on, then he brings it back (out of the dinosaur and alien infested jungle) to civilization.

Where he has the big reveal of the issue and of the series.

Both fail miserably.

Morse’s had a lot of trouble keeping Strange Science Fantasy engaging and here, it’s like he just gives up.

Pope surrenders too, turning in an alternate cover instead of a conceptual retelling.

CREDITS

Temple of the Manga-Ka!; writer, artist and letterer, Scott Morse. Strange Science Fantasy; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope. Colorist, Morse; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Strange Science Fantasy 5 (November 2010)

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Morse unfortunately does not arrest Strange Science Fantasy’s decline this issue. In fact, the previous issue’s problems just compound here.

Morse has a hero again—this time it’s a Mr. Fantastic-type; an accident of science turns a boxer into an elastic man. He uses his power to beat up those who wronged him, then he unknowingly saves someone but still ends up hounded by the law.

Lots of full page panels here, once again they do not work for Morse’s storytelling. But what’s really wrong this issue is the lack of thought. Morse has a small event and he… no pun intended… stretches it out.

He’s got characters, but no character development. Without dialogue, it might not even be possible.

The visuals are okay, nothing exciting. Doing a Plastic Man riff is not the best use of the title.

Even Pope’s static pin-up shows complete lack of interest.

CREDITS

The Foolish Fling; writer, artist and letterer, Scott Morse. Rusty; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope. Colorist, Morse; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Strange Science Fantasy 4 (October 2010)

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So it’s a war comic, mixed with an alien comic. All done very fifties… should be fine.

But it’s not.

Morse changes up his format here. Instead of the three panels a page, he includes multiple single panel pages (with the same amount of text as if he was doing the normal format). They slow the pace.

Also different is his use of protagonist. I didn’t even notice he added characters the previous issue because it was all so seamless. Here he’s got a hero (a sort of Captain America guy, without the outfit) fighting the alien invaders. The guy disappears for a while though. Morse opens with him then drops him for the alien invasion. It makes the issue a disjointed read to say the least.

Even the relatively interesting reveal at the end is ineffective.

Good thing Morse didn’t open with this one.

Even Pope’s page is unenthusiastic.

CREDITS

The Big One, Pacific Theater!; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Scott Morse. Where Do We Come From?; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope. Editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Strange Science Fantasy 3 (September 2010)

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This issue features Morse’s most concise, yet most ambitious (just because he’s sticking to a formula) work on the series so far.

I get the concept.

I’m just not sure how successful it all works out.

Morse does a film-noir set in Hollywood, with very literal looking characters (the projectionist has a projector for a head, the script girl has a typewriter for a head, the location scout has a globe for a head). Morse draws it all rather well for a foreboding noir and it looks absolutely wonderful (Pope does a poster for the story).

But Morse uses a lot of film jargon in the script, usually as the punchline of a bit of exposition. It seems forced and a little silly—like a Roger Rabbit gag on steroids.

It’s a beautiful issue and it might be exactly what Morse intended….

So maybe it can’t work any better.

CREDITS

Celluloid From the Void!; writer, artist and letterer, Scott Morse. Qualcunovoleva Lui Morto; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope. Colorist, Morse; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Strange Science Fantasy 2 (August 2010)

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Returning to Strange Science Fantasy raises a question about expectation. The first issue ends with a “to be continued.” How does a story without characters get one interested enough to come back? I didn’t really see what Morse could do with that story, certainly not for five more issues.

Well, he doesn’t continue it (this issue’s story does not have a “to be continued”). Instead, he starts with a cross between Japanese samurai movies and giant monster movies. Then he introduces a mythology about intergalactic stone beings. About halfway through the story, it’s progressed to the point I had to force myself to remember to started as this tonal fifties and sixties thing, then Morse makes his own way.

The storytelling is grandiose; relating to the characters, even if they had dialogue, would be impossible. Morse does a fine job in those constraints.

Lovely one page retelling from Pope too.

CREDITS

Survival!; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Scott Morse. …And The Cosmic Mind Cried…; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope. Colorist, Morse; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Strange Science Fantasy 1 (July 2010)

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Morse takes a peculiar approach here. I imagine he chose it to lessen the illustrating load. He has three panels a page, no dialogue, all very overdone exposition. He’s mimicking the tone of a sensational movie poster or comic book cover.

And it works.

There’s not a single character in the comic, yet it’s totally engaging. The story is set in the near future where some kind of car racing celebrity becomes the new messiah. Oh, he shines a light out of his face, but he’s basically just a race car driver.

Morse mixes visual elements from all sorts of fifties and sixties pop culture media. The racing movie, the sci-fi movie; but he also embraces the modernity (particularly when showcasing “normal” people).

It’s a successful amalgamation of popular culture, put to a familiar plot structure. Interestingly, he doesn’t bother with a cliffhanger.

Pope contributes a nice final page.

CREDITS

Dawn of the Gearheads; writer, artist and letterer, Scott Morse. The Headlight; writer, artist and letterer, Paul Pope. Colorist, Morse; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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