Simeon Berry's Reviews > Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Supergods by Grant Morrison
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's review
Nov 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, history, memoir, non-fiction-read
Read in December, 2011

As a history of comic books, Supergods does an excellent job of surveying the past 70 years (although the lack of footnotes or endnotes is enraging, and leads to suspicions about the provenance of this material). Even after reading a bunch of comic book histories, there was Golden Age and Silver Age stuff that I had not come across before.

However, once the history becomes contemporary with Morrison’s career, the prose gets a lot less evenhanded, and there are some spectacular (and telling) omissions. While some of the insider baseball stories (such as why The Authority got neutered by the powers that be at D.C.) are great, his assessments from the 90’s onward tend to be a more unreliable.

I found it especially disappointing that Morrison seems to have a deep desire to prove that Marvel is no longer relevant (which is--sadly--unsurprising, given that Morrison now pretty much works exclusively for D.C.). A few cheap shots at Brian Michael Bendis in particular stand out, which I find irritating, but to be expected, I guess, as Bendis was the franchise at Marvel during the oughts. Still, the reader starts to feel that Morrison has some scores to settle.

Maybe this is due to some of the critical drubbing he received in his career. As an example, I was dismayed to see him effectively disown Arkham Asylum--a landmark in superhero comics, in my opinion--which I clung to when Chris Claremont melodrama, Jim Lee/Image anatomical bombast, and sci-fi narrative incoherence seemed to be the only things on the menu in comics. I guess when Alan Moore calls it a “gold-plated turd,” you might find it hard to shrug off

As a memoir, the actual amount of information about Morrison’s life can be condensed into modest, apertif-sized portions. In short, while there are gestures toward confession, the lack of thoughtful detail makes the personal history far less intimate than one would assume at first glance. You would think that deciding to become a Chaos Magician would be a life change that would be discussed at great length, but there’s something curiously abstracted and unsatisfying about his recounting.

Altogether, though, Supergods has a lot of good stuff to say about comic books, and, since the list of comic book histories is very short--and not all that impressive--this is an excellent addition.

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