Riku Sayuj'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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Mar 15, 12

bookshelves: r-r-rs
Read from March 04 to 07, 2012

In the title of Supergods, Grant Morrison seems to be promising an exploration of ‘What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human’. Does he live up to that promise? No. If you take up this book expecting moral philosophy or some kind of analysis on how the values in our fiction will help us be better humans, boy, are you in for a disappointment.

I have a sulky feeling that the only reason Grant published this book was to take advantage of the predicted upsurge in importance of comics that his pet theories tell him and the reason why publishers went ahead was to cash in on the sudden elevation in the status of pulp comics following Nolan’s reinvigoration of Batman.

So with a serious sounding title and an alluring subject matter, Morrison proceeds to happily serve up a brew of 75 years worth of comic book history, his own bildungsroman and literary criticism on his colleagues and praise for his favorites. The history that he presents is thoroughly colored by his own biases, but at least he never makes an attempt at projecting a dispassionate observer persona. The book is cursory and without focus for the most part; the history is too superficial for an ardent fan and would be way too detailed to serve as an introduction to comics. The analysis that he attempts to bring to the art of story-telling has already been done in much better fashion by Scott McCloud and the evolution of ideas and causal connection to real historical events could also have been better handled by a historian or in conjunction with one. The constant comparisons to Beatles, to Picasso and to Wagner, among others, makes one feel like Morison is trying too hard to fit something that we all know to be a mass product to the exclusive category of High Art.

Almost half the book is about the Golden and Silver ages which saw the birth of Superman and was followed by a burgeoning pantheon of copy-cat heroes like Batman and soon by original and radical version like Captain Marvel. One of Morrison’s pet ideas is the idea of the author inserting himself into the page. He gives a detailed analysis of how this grew in him and of his experiments in sending a 2D version of himself into the comic world to interact with the characters and this makes more and more sense as he himself blends into the narrative of the book in the last two-thirds and the book becomes more an autobiography than a history. Of course, the book becomes a completely psychedelic trip at this point with Morrison using up most of the remaining pages to convince us that he is God’s agent on earth to spread peace and truth. These quasi-religious ideas and Morrison’s long rants about peers soon make the book seem loose and untidy and it just plain comes apart in the last few chapters and all the good impression one might have built up for the book erodes away as the reader struggles through Morrison’s repeated assurances that there is more to the world than what we see and that extra-dimensional super heroes has made him the vessel to reach us through his art. As we close the book, even though we are thoroughly impressed by the force of his language and the wild imaginative scope of his ideas, it would be an effort in credulity to take Morrison or the book too seriously. At the very least, it pointed me to some excellent graphic novels and artists. For that and for the writing style, an extra star.
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Reading Progress

03/04/2012 page 31
7.0% "history of the super heroes was not what I signed up for... but it is entertaining nonetheless."
03/04/2012 page 115
25.0% "getting more and more disappointing as it becomes a linear history of the genre..."

Comments (showing 1-12)




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message 12: by Mayank (new)

Mayank have you been reading comics/ graphic novels or any of grant's work before this? it would help me interpret your review better :)


message 11: by Riku (new) - rated it 2 stars

Riku Sayuj Mayank wrote: "have you been reading comics/ graphic novels or any of grant's work before this? it would help me interpret your review better :)"

I have read his 'crisis' efforts, all-star, x-men, his batman comics, am almost done with Flex Mentalo and had started invisibles once before giving up due to lack of availability...

So I was familiar with most of his own works that he cites in the book. I have also read most of the 'serios graphic novels' that he gives considerable air time to.

Of course I consider myself a novice and that is one of the reasons I picked up the book, but it was too shallow even for me. I guess with your exp of comics, it might be even more so for you...


message 10: by Mayank (new)

Mayank so you've read quite a few. glad to hear that, that means you already know the comicbook universe of grant's inside out. hmm guess i wont be picking this book up then.. exelsior (not) :)
PS: why i asked was to be sure ur opinion was not biased ;)


Riku Sayuj Mayank wrote: "so you've read quite a few. glad to hear that, that means you already know the comicbook universe of grant's inside out. hmm guess i wont be picking this book up then.. exelsior (not) :)
PS: why i ..."


I so wanted to like it ::) But as I said, I have gotten some good leads on which ones to pick up next. Have you read The Authority, Vol. 1: Relentless or anything by Ellis?


message 8: by Mayank (new)

Mayank I have. its excellent. since you've read some comics you will understand the backhand pun the book makes on mainstream heroes as wel as conventional politics (from its own time)
Also check out JMS's Supreme Power. After authority... JMS steps it up even further by using JLA *(DC Universe) spinoffs in an Authority setting. beauty.


Riku Sayuj Mayank wrote: "I have. its excellent. since you've read some comics you will understand the backhand pun the book makes on mainstream heroes as wel as conventional politics (from its own time)
Also check out JMS..."


Naiice. Sounds awesome!


message 6: by mark (new)

mark monday uh oh. just got this one last Christmas.

agree 100% about Scout McCloud. have you read his Zot! series? ingenious. and of course Understanding Comics, which is no doubt what you are referencing.


message 5: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Herting My thoughts exactly. I was looking forward to brilliant analysis, not descriptions of his acid trips.


Riku Sayuj Claire wrote: "My thoughts exactly. I was looking forward to brilliant analysis, not descriptions of his acid trips."

Ha. maybe that is all the analysis possible ;)

mark wrote: "uh oh. just got this one last Christmas.

agree 100% about Scout McCloud. have you read his Zot! series? ingenious. and of course Understanding Comics, which is no doubt what you are referencing."


Have to look into Zot! Thanks!


message 3: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Johnston Jesus Christ, comparing Grant Morrison's genius to Scott McCloud's mediocrity?? That's messed up. No, it's just stupid. I don't understand why you would read this if you didn't have some sort of respect for his work. And if you got absolutely nothing from the history he presented, then that's just sad.


message 2: by Riku (last edited Jul 24, 2013 07:00AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Riku Sayuj Ashley wrote: "Jesus Christ, comparing Grant Morrison's genius to Scott McCloud's mediocrity?? That's messed up. No, it's just stupid. I don't understand why you would read this if you didn't have some sort of re..."

I compared only the clarity in telling of history, not of their respective creative genius. And I did not say I got nothing from his history. It was fun but you have to admit that it is a highly personal history and very difficult to take too seriously.

You are entitled to your opinion, of course. But for me, in spite of liking a lot of Morrison's work and many of the major comics he talked about, this book, as a work-in-itself, didn't quite cut it.

I read this out of curiosity and not out of respect or some obligation as a fan. Maybe that is just sad, but I am OK with that kind of sad.


Riku Sayuj Claire wrote: "My thoughts exactly. I was looking forward to brilliant analysis, not descriptions of his acid trips."

Exactly.


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