Next year we’ll finally get to see Brendan McCarthy‘s Mad Max story ideas and designs come to life in the long-promised sequel, Fury Road, built on work that McCarthy completed back in 2003.
Around that same time, McCarthy also collaborated with Grant Morrison on another movie project, the original Shatterland. Truly, honestly original.
It was when McCarthy and Morrison bumped into one another in Hollywood ’03, completely by chance, that McCarthy mentioned his story idea, explaining that he couldn’t quite make the plot work. Morrison liked what he heard and said he’d like to give it a look, and see if he could sort it out.
He apparently came back just one week later with the treatment storyline fixed, and with lots of fantastic new ideas and it became a jointly-owned property.
The story of Shatterland is about a man whose son is stolen by Mirror-creatures, bizarre cubist denizens of a world behind the glass – the Shatterland of the title. The reflections of two very famous people, Lennon and Presley step out of a cobwebbed mirror to track down the child’s sole parent.
They are being directed by the reflection of JFK – who they speak to via small hand-mirrors – assisted by Marilyn Monroe, who runs the vast Library of Reflections, a “hall of infinite regress” where the images of everyone who has ever looked in a mirror are stored.
As you might imagine, there would have been a whole lot of sarcastic banter between Lennon and Presley.
McCarthy and Morrison’s hugely ambitious cinematic idea was to use CG techniques in order to ‘skinwrap’ the actual faces of Lennon, Kennedy and the other reflections onto the actors who were playing those roles.
Sadly, the first major producer McCarthy spoke to said that, while this was a great idea and story, getting permission from the estates of the famous faces would be a legal nightmare. Maybe Spielberg could pull it off, but not a pair of comic book surrealists.
This was a bit before the big comic book boom in Hollywood, not to mention ten years of technical advances and commercials peopled with digitally-recreated deceased celebrities. Perhaps things would have been a bit different if they pitched the idea now.
Somewhere shortly after this discouragement, the project got mothballed. It’s just been gathered dust for a decade. Cobwebs, like Lennon and Presley’s mirror.
But now, dusted down, are some of the initial design images and the opening text page from Shatterland. It’s incredibly original and, as you’d expect from McCarthy and Morrison, heady and thought-provoking.
A statue of insanity? And it’s Hitler in a straightjacket? That makes me wonder why McCarthy and Morrison don’t work together on everything.
Incidentally, a collection of McCarthy’s classic 80s strips, The Best of Milligan & McCarthy is released on September 11th from Dark Horse. It comes fully recommended.