Grant Morrison is well-known for their many acclaimed contributions to comics—with writing credits for Marvel (Fantastic Four, X-Men) and DC (Batman, Superman), as well as the upcoming Flash movie, Peacock’s Brave New World series, their nonfiction book Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero, and so much more. But now they’ve written their first fantasy novel, Luda, and io9 has a first look!
Today we’re thrilled to share the cover for Luda, as well as a chat with Morrison and an excerpt from the book. Morrison fans, look no further—and if you’re new to the writer’s work, keep reading and get hooked.
Here’s a brief synopsis of Luda:
Luci LaBang is a star: for decades this flamboyant drag artist has cast a spell over screen and stage. Now she’s the leading lady in a smash hit musical. But as time takes its toll, Luci fears her star is beginning to dim.
When Luci’s co-star meets with a mysterious accident, a new ingenue shimmers onto the scene: Luda, whose fantastical beauty and sinister charm infatuate Luci immediately... and who bears a striking resemblance to herself at a much younger age.
Luda begs Luci to share the secrets of her stardom, and reveal the hidden tricks of her trade. For Luci LaBang is a mistress of the The Glamour, a mysterious discipline that draws on sex, drugs, and the occult for its trancelike transformative effects.
But as Luci tutors her young protegee in the art, their fellow actors and crew members begin meeting with untimely ends. Now Luci wonders if Luda has mastered The Glamour all too well... and exploited it to achieve her dark ambitions.
What follows is an intoxicating descent into the demimonde of Gasglow, a fantastical city of dreams, and into the nightmarish heart of Luda herself: a femme fatale, a phenomenon, a monster, and perhaps, the brightest star of them all.
And here’s the full cover by artist Chad Sell:
“As a lifelong comics reader and graphic novelist, I was thrilled when Del Rey contacted me about illustrating this new book by comics legend Grant Morrison,” cover artist Sell said in a statement provided to io9. “I have been reading Grant’s work since I was a teenager, and the fact that they’ve written this story about a darkly magical drag queen felt like a perfect fit for me! For many years, I was best known for my illustrations of drag queens, and I loved exploring how queer creativity can transform queens into more magical versions of themselves. Illustrating the Luda cover allowed me to return to that world of the gorgeous and the garish—the design tries to balance artistry and outrageousness, the impeccable precision of this queen’s beat contrasted with the lipstick spontaneously scrawled across her face. I hope the final result is magical, mesmerizing, and a little bit menacing.”
Next up, we’ve got an email interview with Morrison, followed by a brief but tantalizing excerpt from Luda!
Cheryl Eddy, io9: You are obviously very well-known for your acclaimed work in comics and graphic novels, but Luda is your first novel! What inspired you to shift mediums at this point in your career?
Grant Morrison: The last time I finished a novel I was 19, so after numerous false starts, it felt like time to commit!
io9: What can you tell us about Luci LaBang, the main character of Luda, and her specific magical powers?
Morrison: Luci’s primary power, I hope, is to weave an unlikely tale so convincing her audience will come to accept everything she tells them no matter how outlandish!
Otherwise, there’s nothing supernatural in Luda—or IS there?—and nothing that couldn’t easily be happening now... except it’s strained through the bizarre, psychedelic, occult filter of our unique narrator’s mind!
io9: Is Luda the antagonist of the story? How would you characterize the dynamic between Luci and Luda?
Morrison: Is the face you see in the mirror an antagonist or an ally? Our story begins as a tale of teacher and pupil, master and padawan... until it becomes something more complicated and dangerous.
io9: What made you want to center a speculative fiction story in the world of drag queens?
Morrison: At the root of it I was mining and interrogating my past personal experience as young, working class, “genderqueer” and obsessed with performance...
As I grew older, the day came when make-up made me look like my gran in an open casket and I was struck by a poignant nostalgia for the old clothes and selves and possibilities that no longer fit so snugly!
As anyone in the circumstances might do, I saw a way to unpack my feelings into a twisty psychological thriller!
io9: What are you most excited for readers to experience while reading Luda—and is this a standalone story, or can we expect more adventures in this world?
Morrison: I hope readers will enjoy the vulgar flamboyant language, the showbiz glitter and glam, the tricky, puzzle box narrative, the naked humanity, and the trip of a lifetime into an unrepeatable extraordinary individual’s mind!
Luda is its own complete story but the “world” in which it’s set—the part-Brooklyn-part-Glasgow city of Gasglow—could play host to innumerable interconnected narratives!
In the beginning, I had no separate stage name for what I became when I was dressed and made up; as I said, there was no inner division. It was only later, when we started up the Troupe, that I christened myself at the font of Mercurius:
I became Luci LaBang, a nom de plume dripping with steaming pearls of meaning.
But latterly, I’d given up Luci. I’d made my tearful farewells. Her dresses haunted the closet, unworn, sulking spooks. Being honest, I was scared to call her back, certain she’d never allow my face, that pocked and dimpled canvas retrieved from a carpet-bombed museum, to distort her beauty. I was frightened of what I might find when I dug her up, smelling of mothballs and accusation.
But I knew there was no backing down; Widow Twankey, avatar of the Three-Times-Perfected, had delivered the perfect excuse. I was being presented with the opportunity to surrender to something stronger, faster, more real than anything I’d been for so long. I would light my old lamp and dust off my wand, my rusty dagger, my cup, and my books. My Louboutins and Agents Provocateurs.
I would summon the Glamour one last time and let it burn me to chemical incandescence in its blue occult flame.
A couple of pills started me down the Yellow Brick Road. Vodka tonic, double. What’s the worst that can happen? I thought. I’ll shit myself and choke on my own vomit in the back of a taxi or onstage. At least I’ll die with dignity.
Excerpted from LUDA by Grant Morrison. Copyright © 2022 by Grant Morrison. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Grant Morrison’s Luda arrives September 6; you can pre-order a copy here.
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