Sunday, 4 September 2011

Supergods by Grant Morrison

I have reviewed Grant Morrison's book Supergods over at the Zone. I knew I was going to have a lot to say about this, so when Tony asked me if I wanted to review it, I said yes. Making it a review means I have to focus it a little more than I might if I did it here, so I thought that might be a benefit, as well.

The review was an interesting one to write because the book engages three of my favourite topics: comics, cranky beliefs, and authors writing about their own fiction and process.

Grant Morrison is part of what I consider my generation of artists and writers. He's one of those 80s guys I first encountered in 2000AD and Warrior, who stormed America and beat them at their own game. He's the same sort of age as me, and clearly has had a lot of the same cultural influences on his life. When I was a kid, there was a section of the book shop called “cult”, which covered everything from Aleister Crowley and the Marquis de Sade, to William Burroughs and Hugh Selby Junior, to underground comics and Robert Anton Wilson. I read deeply from that shelf, and so, apparently, did Grant Morrison.

Unlike Grant, I was never really a believer. I wanted it to be true, I still do, but it never seemed to work for me, and I found the jargon and convoluted philosophies confusing. When I do puzzle it out, it always seems a bit platitudinous and mundane to me: work hard and you'll do well, listen to your inner voices and go where they suggest, visualise your problems away. It looks to me like a variation of mental training, a way of focusing and organising one's mind, a sort of motivational manual for self-improvement. That's fine and all, but I don't think there's anything supernatural about it.

While I was reading it, I wondered about the relevance of this material to the decline in political activism among my generation. This kind of cranky stuff – and similar material on conspiracies or UFOs – reframes the world in terms of cosmic concerns that make the day-to-day worries of dreary politics seem drab and banal. How important are the state of care homes or the treatment of asylum seekers when compared to the hard work of contacting your archetypal self?

More mundanely, we seem to be a generation that simply pushed the hard questions aside in favour of hedonism and fruitless introspection. As Grant puts it, in relation to grim, realistic comics that confronted political themes, “I could see all that on TV and longed for mind-expanding tales”. I don't except my self from blame. I'm a perfect example of the de-passioned, hyper-ironic, media jaundiced generation who has been watching kids die on TV since I was old enough to hold my own head up. We've got the governments we deserve, because we have voted for ourselves, patting ourselves on the back for being so well-adjusted, “clever and classless and free”, for having a historical perspective that we have confused with simply giving up.

Ah well, maybe the next lot will do better.


  1. The thesis about fringe beliefs and the decline of political activism seems to be similar to one of the themes of Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum". At least, I think it is: Eco's a lot smarter than me.

  2. It's the old army game, isn't it? Even Jesus Christ started out addressing the needs of the poor and the down-trodden before it all got mixed up with the idea of going to heaven.


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