Grant Morrison is one of those writers you love to hate or hate to love. He can also see into the fifth dimension, which is how I keep him straight from all the other sassy, bald comics writers out there like Bendis (Powers guy who hates cats), Brad Meltzer (guy with the terrible television show), and BK Vaughan (guy who wrote the best episodes of Lost). Oh yeah, and Mark Millar is “the one with hair.”
I knew I was in for something special with this book, and I was excited to read it even though superheroes aren’t really my thing (other than X-Men). I’m more of a Fables/Y: the Last Man/Sandman/ElfQuest kind of gal. But, all comics owe something to DC and Marvel. Before writers and artists could break all the rules of comics, those rules had to be established.
The first part of Supergods, titled The Golden Age, examines first Superman and then Batman as heroes of their times. We were on the brink of a horrific war in 1938 and America needed a strong, wholesome, Hitler punching hero. But with the light came the dark, and Batman with his subversive brand of vigilante justice also emerged. Morrison examines what it was to be a comic book fan in these early days and what Superman and Batman had to say about the (mostly) American psyche.
Morrison provides us with a mix of history, psychology, and autobiography throughout, but he diverges a bit from history in parts Two: The Silver Age, Three: The Dark Age, and Four: The Renaissance. Through these middling to later chapters, Morrison provides a history of comics through his own experience with them from his early years as a fan to his attempts as an artist, to his powerhouse status with both DC and Marvel.
Morrison has written an interesting and smart memoir/history thingie here. If you love comics, even non-superhero comics, it’s worth checking out. If you love Morrison, check it out. Hell, if you hate Morrison, check it out – the dude has some amazing tranny adventures while tripping balls.
Supergods is really an incredible sociological study of comic fandom. However, I did have one problem that got in the way of the message of Supergods: Grant Morrison loves hyperbole.
I had a difficult time following some of the history of comics because I felt that Morrison wasn’t really capable of describing trends except in terms of love or hate, and both emotions were always applied to the same comics phenomenons at different places in the comics history timeline. For example, Morrison gushes over Stan Lee’s insider approach with the creation of Marvel. Marvel blew DC out of the water and left it for dead. Until DC did the same thing to Marvel, until Marvel did the same thing to DC, etc. In Morrison’s world, if one of the big two was doing well, the other had to be on the brink of destruction. Morrison describes characters in the same bi-polar way. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or the X-Men go from fresh to hackneyed and back again in .2 pages.
Later in Supergods, Morrison sometimes attributes a character’s awesomeness or suckitude to whoever is writing said character at the time. However, Morrison also doesn’t always separate what most of us perceive as reality from the world of fiction. He discusses all of these characters as if they were capable of acting of their own volition, and this often makes his opinions a bit convoluted. I would have liked a deeper examination of the minds behind DC and Marvel as opposed to the fan base that drives them.
Morrison had no problem explaining his own thought process in terms of his own major comics, such as Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, Doom Patrol, The Invisibles, and the JLA. Love him or hate him, you can’t not respect him. Morrison will do anything and go anywhere for his characters whether he created them or is simply borrowing them for a time. I don’t believe Morrison is capable of half-assing a project. When Morrison sits down to write, he commits, and he takes characters to the places he feels they need to go. Or to the places they tell him they need to go. Occasionally, Morrison comes off as a complete dick in Supergods, but he’s dedicated, not so much to fans, but to the creations he is working with. That’s the best sort of writer a person can be.
So, the long and short of it is this: Read this book if you love comics. Just forget for a minute that Grant Morrison the Megawriter wrote it. Forget for a minute how much you might have hated New X-Men or the weirdness of The Invisibles. Sure, Morrison writes about his own work, but this is Grant Morrison the comics fan writing this book. His excitement over and love for superhero comics is infectious and his exploration of why we have loved such an incredible, unrealistic, often mocked narrative genre is entirely compelling.
Supergods comes out on July 19th.