Supergods by Grant Morrison – A Book Review

I have to be honest – I’ve always found Grant Morrison to be fantastic at creating concepts, but his actual writing in comic books always left a bit to be desired.  I fully acknowledge that this may have been more to a lack of available space or a miscommunication with artists than actual ability, yet his work tended to feel rushed near the endings and often discombobulated.

However, it goes without saying that he is a master of the medium, wildly appreciated, and a student of the art, and so when I discovered he had written a nonfiction book exploring the industry, revealing his back story, and philosophizing about the nature of two-dimensional characters and their eternal lives, well, I couldn’t buy the book quickly enough.  I knew I wanted to know the man’s thoughts on a first person basis.

Furthermore, I found myself excited by the notion that finally I would experience Grant Morrison unbound, unfiltered, and unfettered by a page count or panel limit.

If you’re in a hurry and you’d like to stop reading now, I’ll leave you with this – if you love intelligent (and sometimes trippy) conversation about comic books or super heroes, you will not be disappointed in this book.

Still reading?  Good.  Let’s dig deeper.

I enjoyed every aspect of this book.  Morrison started by explaining his own love of comic books and where that love began and why it persisted.  He then moved into a brief history lesson of the industry that I found riveting.  I’d heard most of it before, but he put it in his own words so entertainingly that it felt fresh (though I did learn a few new things such as Jack Kirby punching out neo-Nazis).  He then focused on pinnacle characters and important eras.  Finally, he delved deeply into his own storyline and how it intermingles with the stories he writes.

Morrison is clearly a smart man – and after reading Supergods I do wonder if he is a genius on some level.  Interestingly enough, I never would have thought this without reading Supergods.  You see, in Supergods, Morrison pontificates about chaos magic, fiction suits (I love this idea), and the possibility of these characters existing on a plane of reality all their own.  He discusses at great length his own mindset and philosophies behind different eras of his professional life.  Suddenly, past work that I had dismissed as overreaching and poorly executed had to be perceived in a new light.

For example, I distinctly remember feeling that Final Crisis became a jumbled mess near the end with no sense of plot.  Lo and behold, Morrison stated in Supergods that he meant for Final Crisis to lose any semblance of story, for he intended to convey that evil had won so greatly in that work that even a story could not be allowed to continue unmolested.

But that may be the problem with Supergods.  If it takes a large volume of nonfiction work to explain past storylines and elucidate upon them, then perhaps the storylines don’t stand on their own.  Maybe Supergods illustrates a weakness rather than enforces strengths.

On the other hand, however, having read Supergods has now made me approach Morrison differently with new readings.  For example, I just read Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne which is an offshoot of Final Crisis for fans in the know.  In the past, I would have balked at the notion of Batman traveling through time first as a caveman, then as a pilgrim, then a pirate, and so forth.  But, now having an inclination towards Morrison’s leanings and themes, I completely accepted it simply as a work of Morrison.  In fact, with the dark, serious nature of Christopher Nolan’s Batman earning global appeal, I am actually glad someone like Grant Morrison has been willing to play up the sci-fi element of a character who regularly rubs shoulders with human lightning bolts and cops wielding magic rings.  I’ve been reluctant to read Morrison’s Batman over the last five years because of his psychedelic tendencies, but now I really want to check out the opus of a man clearly dedicated to the beauty and wonder of the super hero, and this is specifically a result of having read Supergods.

Is this a good thing?  I don’t know, but it is my reality when it comes to the work of Grant Morrison.

Supergods was at times trippy and, quite honestly, when it comes to his personal life, a little crazy, but overall it was overall extremely enlightening and a joy to read.  I recommend all lovers of super heroes and comic books give it a try.  You’ll look at the industry, its characters, and the Grant Morrison himself with a new appreciation.

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