Trey'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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M_50x66
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Mar 15, 12

Read in November, 2011

I started out thinking this was going to be a fantastic book. The well-reasoned critical discussion of comics history (for example, I had never thought to do an in-depth artistic analysis of the Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 covers) and its relation to the contemporary culture that influenced it is terrific for many chapters. Everything was going smoothly... until Grant Morrison was born.

Once Morrison reaches an era where he can access his own memories, he immediately inserts himself into the story (as he famously did during his run on Animal Man). The book becomes comics history as autobiography, relying too heavily on the books Morrison read and liked, the work he did, and the work his friends created. Once Morrison starts telling us about his experiences with psychedelic drugs, the book delves into the questions of philosophy alluded to in the subtitle (What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human). At this point, the book becomes a weird hodgepodge of sociology, history, and Eastern philosophy. Though not exactly what I expected, Supergods is still well worth reading.

I could almost forgive Morrison for the merely half-brilliant book if he hadn't been so loose with his description of the multimedia rundown of Superman's end-of-the-century escapades. He claims the mulleted version of Superman "hung on grimly until 2000," but Clark actually got a haircut in time for his wedding in 1996. (He also carelessly says Superman Returns came out in 2007, not 2006.) It might seem like I'm nitpicking, but it's a detail like that that makes me wonder if there are any other typos or misrememberings I'm not picking up on. I'm not claiming this to be true, but I'd believe that Morrison would rely on his vast knowledge of comics for facts and dates instead of rigorous fact checking. Though he is clearly grateful for the opportunity to be in the comics business, it's fairly evident that his healthy ego is the lens through which the entirety of comicdom is viewed. I wonder if Morrison felt this was really the only way to tell his life's story, by showing early comics to be his ancestors in a de facto family tree, and his ideas, comics, and predictions as his descendants. Morrison has woven himself into the fabric of comics, the medium that birthed him, as the ultimate product of the masters and the driving force of change and predictor of future trends from the '80s onward.

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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Ari (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ari Melman This exactly encapsulates my feelings. The first half was engaging, and then it seemed like comic history stopped going anywhere when Morrison was born. He has an expansive vocabulary and I learned a lot of new words, but the content just shrivels up when he stops relying on other's research and creates his own.

His own spiritual discovery is so vague and shallow as to do injustice to the Superhero myths that helped define him. From my understanding, the 90s holographic covers and collectors fad set back comics for years. He didn't even mention Marvel's bankruptcy and DC's near bankruptcy. One of the reasons coffee table graphic novels became so big in those days is because issue comics were so empty and incomplete. People wanted a story in their comics. He touches on these ideas but never covers them in a satisfying way.


message 2: by Liz (new) - rated it 3 stars

Liz I found a few typos: at one point the character Vision's name is written lowercase and he calls J.G. Ballard "J.C. Ballard". He also says The Killing Joke was drawn by Dave Gibbons (it was actually Brian Bolland).


Trey Liz wrote: "I found a few typos: at one point the character Vision's name is written lowercase and he calls J.G. Ballard "J.C. Ballard"...."

Liz, thanks or pointing those out. That's exactly the kind of sloppiness I was disappointed to see. If Morrison gets the artist of The Killing Joke wrong, how can you trust any of the other facts?


James Yeah-- I think you are right on with how the history goes downhill once the author puts himself into it. I will say that the audio version as narrated by John Lee is excellent (without annoying typos). I am curious: is the print version illustrated? It would be worth going back and picking it up if, say, there was an illustration of the Action Comics/Detective Comics side by side.


Trey James wrote: "Yeah-- I think you are right on with how the history goes downhill once the author puts himself into it...."

James, there are some black-and-white pictures to illustrate the important covers and images that Morrison discusses. However, it might be helpful to have Google handy to check out the ones that are missing or to see the ones that are included in all their four-color glory.


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