Supergods by Grant Morrison

Summary from Goodreads

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names as familiar as our own. They are on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and in our dreams. But what are they trying to tell us? For Grant Morrison, one of the most acclaimed writers in the world of comics, these heroes are powerful archetypes who reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves. In this exhilarating work of a lifetime, Morrison draws on art, archetypes, and his own astonishing journeys through this shadow universe to provide the first true history of our great modern myth: the superhero.

Supergods, chronologically traces the evolution of caped crusaders through four eras: The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Dark Age and the Renaissance in what I think is a thorough approach. Grant Morrison covers everything from the characters, the writers and creators, the cover and panel layout, the societal and political influence of comics and more. But what separates this from all the other superhero history books is that Grant Morrison writes with the passion of a fanboy writing for fanboys. His voice can be accurately described as "punk", a term he once used to refer to himself. He writes with hubris and bravado. And he is extremely opinionated which makes the reading experience all the more entertaining. It's true, this book is riddled with Morrison's biases. You cannot miss the fact that there's  friction between him and the legendary Alan Moore of Watchmen acclaim, as well as a strained relationship with his old boss, Marvel Comics. But he is still a gentleman (gentleman punk) about these issues, quick to point out the things he admires about Moore's work, as well as all the important changes Marvel brought to the superhero tapestry. 

On one hand, Grant Morrison, in his narration, is somewhat of a loose canon. Here he is talking about Doom Patrol and then suddenly we are in New Zealand on his bungee jumping trip. And next we taken to Kathmandu where we witness his experience of spiritual "transcendence" after having one too many drunken days. While I acknowledge him as being among the important names, certainly important enough to make it as part of comics history, but the autobiographical turn somewhat feels a tad self-serving. It kind of threw me off the rails. 

That aside, Grant Morrison manages to accomplish what he sets out to do, that is, to make us see superheroes in a whole new light.  That they are more than just paper people in spandex but a reflection of our fears, deepest longings and aspirations. They are a sign of the times. They are in some sense, an image of our best and worst selves. They are us and we are them. And there is always a shred humanity in every supergod.

Despite superhero movies always making a killing at the box office (okay, maybe not Green Lantern..and Green Hornet) comic books, as a medium, is still grappling for legitimacy. Perhaps a little less in this day and age, that is true, but if I go out with a comic book in hand, one or two people in my vicinity will judge me and my book. But reading Supergods, I now couldn't care any less.


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