Supergods by Grant Morrison | Book review
The comic-book writer airs his grievances.
Grant Morrison is pulling a fast one on us. You wouldn’t guess it from the title (or even the lengthy subtitle: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human), but Supergods is not just an insider’s dissection of American comic books—specifically, the one particular genre that’s influenced popular culture for more than seven decades.
Even if that were all it intended to be, it’d still be noteworthy, coming from a rock star like Morrison. (His bibliography includes best-selling runs on DC and Marvel’s biggest characters—including the Kryptonian who begat them all—along with more personal and emotionally resonant comics like Animal Man and We3.) Arguably the best living comic-book writer (though not yet as famous as fellow contenders Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore), the Scottish scribe casts a wide net, cleverly teasing out connections between music, film and comics.
But Morrison has more in mind: Midway through the book, he begins to weave in unexpected memoir passages, and that’s precisely when it gets really interesting. The insider stuff is worthwhile—like his account of his rivalry with Watchmen author Moore, whom he characterizes as fundamentally different in his approach to superhero fiction (Moore as missionary, Morrison as anthropologist). The more personal he gets, the more thrilling the book becomes, particularly when the formerly straight-edge creator begins to experiment with drugs, culminating in a stirring spiritual revelation in Kathmandu.
His compelling autobiography enables Morrison to convince us humanity needs superheroes: “Superman, Batman and their kin were conceived, designed, and unleashed,” he writes, “to be unstoppable warriors on behalf of the best that the human spirit has to offer.”