Book Review – Supergods by Grant Morrison

9 08 2011

Supergods – What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And A Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

By Grant Morrison

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I’ve been a fan of superheroes for as long as I can remember. As a preschooler, I would wake up every Saturday morning to watch “The Superfriends,” a 1970s kids’ version of the Justice League of America. I remember having action figures (not dolls, LOL) of Batman, Batgirl and Robin. There were probably other superhero action figures in my collection but more than three decades have passed filling my aging brain with other “more important” memories than which superhero action figures I had at the age of 4.

Usually, I stick to reviewing fiction, but given the subject matter of this book, I had to share my thoughts on it with the world. “Supergods” by comic book writer Grant Morrison is a stange mishmash of a book – part study of the symbiotic relationship between society and comic books, part trippy autobiographical ride through Morrison’s life. Of course, from what I’ve read of Morrison’s comic book work (“Batman,” “JLA,” and “Final Crisis”) I should have expected nothing less.

As a lifelong fan of comics I was of course drawn to this book when I saw it on my library shelf. I’ve always been fascinated by comic books and their ability to mirror what is happening in our real world. In college, for a pop culture class I took at Bowling Green State University, I once wrote a paper on the X-Men and how they mirrored the plight of any down-trodden segment of society, but given that they were started in 1963, the parallels between mutants and African-Americans was undeniable.

That interest in superheroes and society is probably why I enjoyed Morrison’s analysis of comic book history more than his descriptions of his experiments with drugs and esoteric rituals. Of course, I have to believe that his experience with the former shaped his perception of the latter.

His insightful look at the history of comic books is worthy of a doctoral thesis. This book is the best, most engaging analysis of the superhero genre I have ever seen. I wish he would have stuck to that topic. The portions of the book dealing with his journeys to other plains of existence and his encounters there made me feel like I was reading a 1970’s creation by Timothy Leary. As a writer, I’m all for an author taking a book in whatever direction they want, but I felt like it was a little too much off the path the book was meant to tread, at least if you believe the title of the book.

If you are looking for a well-crafted, detailed commentary on the past 80 years of comic book history, and don’t mind having to sift through the author’s psychedelic ramblings, “Supergods” is a book you should give a try.

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