I just finished reading The Filth…

So this week is Grant Morrison Week. Normally I can just write about anything – well – anything comic related. This week, Conor suggested that in light of Grant Morrison Week I should read The Filth. OK – no problem. Got it from my LCS – put it on the old stack… read it and write a review. Can do!

So, it’s 12:34am on Friday and this review was due t-minus 34 minutes ago. I won’t say that I am a procrastinator – rather I’ll say that I had a hellish week.Regardless I just finished reading.

The first thought in my head is this – if you are a procrastinator and you have to read this book and then write a review on it – DON’T PROCRASTINATE!

The next thought in my head is – I currently have a million thoughts in my head. I feel like I need to do them all at once. I’m going to try and break it down.

1. I feel like a need a shower.
2. I am not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight, at least no without sleeping pills (or “benadryl” as we call it in my house).
3. I think I need to read the book again so that I know what just happened.
4. I worry that reading the book too soon will cause severe harm to me mentally and physically.
5. Oh Craig Ferguson is coming on TV – maybe he can distract me for a little while… stop the burning in my brain.
6. Actually – this review might potentially be a lot better with just one reading – getting all the initial thoughts out.  Yeah – go with that.

There are more thoughts… many more… but I don’t want you completely in my mind… I’ve got to keep some secrets. Okay – so on with the review. But first – here’s a little nugget for all the Grant Morrison fans out there.

Since my first convention in 2006 I’ve heard Grant Morrison speak three times. Each time was memorable. Extremely memorable. It seems that he was always on the offensive – which is part of his charm. Anyway, we were all sitting in a panel and I remember at one point somebody (poor fan – had no idea what was coming) mentioned that all the people involved in 52 are White Anglo-Saxon Protestants – basically American men, and how could they possibly relate to any minority characters, women characters, etc. There was a grumble from the panel… somebody began to discuss their thoughts on this potentially serious issue and all of a sudden Grant Morrison stood up – and this is where I paraphrase – “Fuck you. I’m fucking Scottish. If you want to say there’s not fucking ethnicity up here, look at a fucking map. I’ve got nothing in common with these people except we’re working on a comic. My county’s been fighting for years to be free of England, you’ve been free from it for hundreds of years. Don’t fucking tell me I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority… (he kept going).” At least that’s how I remember hearing it. If you were there – please jump in and share.

So – The Filth.

<shakes head and shrugs>

If you’ve read it, I think you know what I’m talking about. If you read Jonathan Hickman’s article this week, he pretty much sums up the book in one sentence – “There is absolutely nothing off limits when telling a story.” Personally, I am rarely offended. Actually, I cannot think of a time I have been offended. You can hit me with language, dirty jokes, just about anything you want — it just doesn’t shock me. Maybe I’ve become desensitized… I guess there’s no maybe to it. I’ve become desensitized. This book pushes the limits. I really didn’t know what to expect on each page. Even after I finished it – I’m not entirely sure what I read.

At one point a few hours ago my wife popped her head in my office to see how I was doing. Apparently I had a look on my face – because she immediately asked me what was wrong. I peeled my eyes away from the book, and informed her that all the fertile women in Los Angeles were being killed by enormous sperm. And with that she left the room… and I continued reading.

I am reading this book in TPB form (is it available other ways?) – and at the beginning there is an extensive warning. The warning in some ways is tongue-in-cheek, although also serves as a good introduction to the book. If you are planning on reading the book – make sure that you don’t skip that. It helps to put everything in some type of crazy context, I think.

So what is this book about? Well – in its simplest form – I’d say it is a book about a secret agency – The Filth – that cleans up the messes that humanity doesn’t want to deal with. We enter this world through a man named Greg Feely. He is a seemingly ordinary porn watching, cat owning, creepy neighbor – however we soon learn that this persona is some kind of cover for his true life as a high ranking officer in The Filth named Ned Slade. Greg/Ned seemingly has no recollection of this former life, and would prefer to spend time with his cat Tony.

As the story progresses, Greg/Ned is constantly in flux between to the two worlds. When he is Ned Slade (And saving the world) he is longing to be with his cat – and when he is Greg Feely – well – he’s basically just a creepy cat guy. That’s the surface view of this book.

If you view the book as a metaphor (as you are instructed in the warning/introduction) then the meaning can get pretty deep. However, as deep as it gets it is still, obviously, open to interpretation.

To me it was a look at humanity – modern humanity. The things that make us tick. Violence. Sex. Greed. Power. Money. Other stuff. The Filth is not in the business of getting rid of those things – mostly just getting rid of them when they go too far. But, what is too far? Maybe that is the greater question that the book is asking… maybe it’s also asking what’s real? What’s okay in this world that we live in? If I tell my wife that huge sperm are killing fertile women in Los Angeles – should she just walk away like nothing happened? Is that normal? Agh! I’m getting to heady for myself!

Okay. I’m going to stop. Let me put it this way – this book is interesting. I am very glad that I read it. I did not know what to expect – and I am still not completely sure what I got. At some point I’ll read it again and I know I’ll have a different opinion.

Right now I just want to curl up with my dog.  I hope I can sleep. 


  1. i tried to read the filth once. got it from my public library. really good looking book, but i found it a bit inpenetrable. 

    i’d pick it up, but lose interest after 10 pages of reading. never finished it. and i usually love grant morrison. i’ve read the entire invisibles and really enjoyed morrison’s psuedo-scientific-intellectual-cyberpunk-fantasy style of storytelling. but the filth? 

    not so much.  

  2. Very underrated book. Perhaps a bit ahead of it’s time. Much of The Filth relies on readers having some degree of knowledge of the concepts that inform the work.

    The Filth was one fo the few times where the medium of comics failed Morrison. The ideas didn’t come through on the page as his previous works. 

    Impenetrable, no. Dense, absolutely.

  3. Dense is probably a great word for it.  This book also is probably much "easier" to read in TPB form.  I actually got it when it was coming out in single issues.  I don’t actually remember finishing the story, because it was (a) getting too weird; and (b) in monthly format the story kept getting lost on me.  Morrison only seemed to be trying to push the limits for the sake of pushing the limits.  I vaguely remember the story, but what I do remember was that the story seemed to always take a back seat to over the top sex and violence.

  4. re: Labor

    What concepts inform the work? 

  5. I have to disagree i think morrison’s  ideas were presented really well in this book due mainly to the consistant art from Chris Weston. Compair it to The Invisibles with the constantly changing art team.

     Anyway, I think the book was massively enjoyable. It was one of those stories where you not sure if it’s actually happening or if it’s just the mad dream of the main character like Molholand Drive. So in a way it becomes a character study. In this case, it’s about the fantasies of a dirty old man. HILARIOUS!

    but, you know, there were a lot of tampon references, the message of the tampon and the scene in Venice with the shopowner "tamponie, good for the blood" WTF

  6. @edward – I agree…and I love character studies.

  7. i just so happened to have listened to the podcast of that panel and as i’m of scottish descent i love the quote and transcribed it tm my myspace, the way i heard it was: "i’m not a white man, i’m a scot, ok? my fucking country has been ruled by the fucking english for 500 years, so don’t talk at me!" – Grant Morrison

  8. Ha, this was by far Grant Morrison’s darkest work. I got to tell you that once you read this book it becomes part of your psyche. Now your screwed. I did like the ending and felt that it did a bit to bring you out of the Filth.