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Supergods
Grant Morrison
Vintage, 468 pages

Supergods
Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison is the biggest name in today's comic book industry, bar none. After his break-through work for 2000 AD, Zenith, in the 80s Morrison went on to create mind-bending cult classics such as The Invisibles and Doom Patrol for DC, before reinvigorating the world's most famous superheroes -- Superman, the X-Men and Batman -- in award-winning runs. He is also a counter-cultural spokesman and expert on the impact of technology in society.

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A review by Nathan Brazil

'If Pico is correct, we can write new lives and new futures, and, more important, live them. Stories can break our hearts or foment revolutions. Words can put electricity into our hearts or make our blood run cold. And the idea of Superman is every bit as real as the idea of God.'
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Anyone who has read Marvel or DC comics over the past couple of decades will recognise Grant Morrison as someone who first came to prominence in what amounted to a British invasion. A cultural and creative exchange that, like its musical equivalent back in the 60s, helped to both reinvent and ultimately revitalise the art form. His personal contribution is vast and varied, covering such titles as JLA, New X-Men, Seven Soldiers, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, The Invisibles, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and DC's New 52's reboot of Superman, in Action Comics. Been there, done that, is a phrase that insouciantly covers Morrison's career, and that is only to date. In Supergods, he presents a freewheeling overview of the superhero comic book industry, delving deep into the impact, meaning and importance to the real world of various characters and their creators. All liberally sprinkled with his unique perspective on the creative process. But, is this a masterwork from one who truly knows, or the wittering of a writer as mad as a meerkat on acid?

There is always the potential for any work detailing history to become textbook dry. Happily, Supergods avoids this from the start, presenting a personal and highly informed view from the mountaintop. Not that Morrison is looking down on anyone, rather he uses his elevated position and the lessons learned on his journey to offer insight. While this work is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, Morrison blends significant comics history with insider knowledge and the wide-eyed wonder of a true fan. Above all, his enthusiasm and positivity toward the genre shines through. Even when the narrative makes it clear that he personally dislikes another creator, his tone remains respectful and diplomatic. There's no room here for dishing dirt, settling scores, or bitterness. Morrison has far more interesting tales to tell.

From an early age, he saw superheroes as capable of being much more than just comic book characters. It is a viewpoint that he has refined and expanded upon over the years, developing a theory that the 2D worlds inhabited by the superheroes are no less real than our own 3D experience. Although obviously very different places, and without the possibility of physical travel between universes, he contends that the 2D and 3D worlds can influence one another, often in very positive ways. It's a mind-bending example of how the author thinks and an indicator, perhaps, of what has given him an edge that even after so many years in the business, is still sharp. Personally, I was delighted to find that Supergods reacquainted me with characters I had loved in the past, and caused me to think of them in different ways. I also found my enthusiasm ignited for selected titles missed during the twists and turns of life that saw me estranged from comics. Becoming successful brought Morrison the expected financial rewards, but before reading Supergods I had no idea that such rewards could pay for a lifestyle not unlike that of a minor rock star. The author joyously recounts jetting around the world and taking lots of drugs, behaviour he claims was self-therapy combined with a quest for insight that would inform his creative output. Morrison now considers himself to be a real life chaos magician. One of the stories he tells with reference to his experimentation with occult forces concerns a spiritual awakening in which he believes he made a mental journey to the place we all go when we die. There he claims to have met and conversed with extra-dimensional beings, before returning to earthly life. Whether we believe that or not, his belief in the reality of magical powers has clearly resulted in works that have won him millions of fans. The one thing we don't get here is the big secret; how a man who was writing himself as King Mob in The Invisibles, a comic that was the nearest thing to a printed hallucinogen, persuaded Marvel to give him creative control of The X-Men, and later had DC let him loose with Batman. Sure, these bold experiments worked and were both terrific successes, but the very fact that they happened at all to such an unconventional, idiosyncratic and provocative writer is what I call magic!

In summary, Supergods is intelligent critique, noir memoir, archetypal exploration, psychological noodling, occult manifesto, exhilarating fun, egotistical rambling and moving personal exposé, all written with more angles than an explosion in a coat-hangar factory. It's also a book about innocent wonder, harnessed belief, and passion for a genre which, more than six decades after its inception, is still going strong.

Copyright © 2013 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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