Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Grant Morrison. Spiegel & Grau, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6912-5
A Scottish playwright and comic book writer, Morrison (Arkham Asylum) traces the rise of superheroes from the 1940s golden age to the comics industry of today. This excellent survey of pop deity origins begins with "the ur-god and his dark twin," Superman and Batman. As Morrison sees it, "archetyped, pop-mythic tales of superpowered heroes and villains" soared into our collective imaginations in an explosive fashion. Superman, "the personification of a thrusting industrial tomorrow," had a primal impact. Soon there was a pantheon of gods and figures from legend and myth: Hawkman ("an avatar of hawk-headed Horus"), the Flash ("the Greek god Hermes") and Captain Marvel, whose magic word, "Shazam," was an acronym: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury. When writers brought the superhero gods down to Earth and gritty real life (as in Watchmen), Morrison went back to basics: "I decided I would plant my flag in the world of dreams, automatic writing, visions and magic." The second half of this engrossing book covers his own comics career while also probing his personal psyche. Morrison is a skilled word magician, seeking creativity in a cosmological dimension. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/09/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
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