Book 101: Supergods by Grant Morrison
For this kid who has devoured comic books for the best part of six decades, contemplating Grant Morrison's survey of the history of comics was like the promise of a hot bath after a long run.
The trouble is sooner or later the bath water always cools.
Supergods is launched faster than a speeding bullet as Morrison opens with the creation of the sun god, Superman, and four chapters that comprise a brilliant exposition on the Golden Age of Comics.
The Silver Age, which is where I enter the picture, follows in equally brilliant fashion. Morrison serves up Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, the Fantastic Four and Spider-man. Marvel madness grips the world of comics, and it's never the same again.
(In the interest of disclosure: I am a Marvel fan. Make Mine Marvel. It's clobbering time. etc. etc. etc.)
It's in the final two sections -- The Dark Age and The Renaissance -- that the book falters. What began as an astute history of the comic books becomes Morrison's personal story.
Some overlap between the two is expected -- Morrison is a towering figure in the industry today, but an unpleasant smugness filters through the book in the final half. Morrison begins to channel Dire Straits (money for nothing and chicks for free.)
That's bad enough, but what had been a balanced and thoughtful approach to comics goes a bubble off level as Morrison contemplates his peers. Morrison isn't a great fan of Alan Moore's The Watchmen. (For what it's worth -- neither am I.). He's willing to acknowledge the impact Moore's had on comics, but that's about as much as he'll concede. Frankly, he's a bit pissy about Moore's success.
Some of us feel that way about Morrison. I didn't like his work on the Justice League or Batman & Robin. I thought it a bit overrated. WE3 was clever, but I'm starting to realize that it's the work of illustrator Frank Quitely, not Morrison's writing, that draws me in.
Back to Supergods. It's OK. Only that. Starts strong, but tapers off.
In the current parlance of comics, Morrison is no meta-human.