Spanning from the dawn of the superhero in the golden age to the jaded modern era, Supergods is a personal account of writer Grant Morrison‘s knowledge of and love affair with superhero comics.
Supergods is not a perfect book, but hardly anything is. It poses a bit as a textbook on the history of comic books from the presentation of the work itself including chapter titles, index, and sections. The first few chapters covering the golden age are told mostly as historical information that helps the writer truly learn more about comics and the creation of characters like Superman and Batman. There are a couple of opinionated interjections within these chapters, but most are commonly accepted in the industry as fact. So, that’s perfectly acceptable. You start to realize, however, that this is not a book about the history of comics as much as it is about Grant Morrison’s history with comics. It’s not so much an analysis of superheroes, as much as it is a book about how superheroes affected the life of one of the most fascinating writers in the history of comics.
The first half of the book is so enthralling that you literally do not want to stop reading, and then you hit a road block when you get to where Morrison starts discussing his experiences within the industry. Part of the what makes the writing in this book so problematic, is also what makes it unique. Morrison uses Supergods to not only give a history of superhero comics, but more so uses the history of superhero comics as a tool to tell his own life story. There’s a great deal of confusion, as with a majority of Grant Morrison’s work, because his life experiences are so strange. Grant Morrison is a man that successfully practices chaos magic, and swears by the fact that he’s been to another dimension and physically saw time as non-linear as he was guided through the secrets of life on earth by mystical beings. And these experiences are presented as a factual recollection in the book. That is going to be a lot for the average reader to process, let alone accept as fact.
However, it’s this mentality and experiences that make his outlook on mainstream superhero, well comic books in general, as he uncovers the secrets of gods and creators. Morrison uses this to argue the point that the characters and events in comic books are as real as you or I, and after reading the book, I have to agree with him on that point. The idea of the writer or artist as a creator, creating a universe is much in line with the ideas of God or any other creator that would be in control of the events of our daily life. This concept has been explored in Morrison’s previous work like Animal Man and The Invisibles, but I don’t think it ever hit home to me until I read his actually experiences within the pages of Supergods. If this topic is hard for you, then in the words of Doc Brown, “You’re just not thinking fourth dimensionally.”
Unfortunately for the narrative, his personal accounts do tend to skew the actual history of the comic book industry as his personal relationships with other comic book writers do tip the scale in his favor when he recalls certain events in their personal history. He also states that Superman is the greatest creation of mankind and that, as a result, the character belongs not to the two men who created him, but instead to the human race. Which, there is warrant to that, and I don’t believe he means to discount the creators, but I could see it being as interpreted that way by some. It’s in these two sections of the writing that most of the people I know who read this book stopped and came back to later, myself included.
If you’re looking for a completely accurate portrayal of the history of comic books, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. But, if like me, you’re interested in seeing the personal accounts of one of the most enigmatic creators working in the comic book industry and why comic books are so important to him, then Supergods is an absolute must-read.