Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us


On one of my random adventures through San Francisco’s comic book stores I stopped at Isotope Comics (my favorite comic book store). I happened to be in on the day that Grant Morrison was there promoting his new book Supergods. While it was unfortunate that I was there an hour early and completely unaware of him being there in the first place (thus unable to actually buy a ticket to see him), I did buy the book. I read through it pretty quickly and liked it a lot – if you’re a comic book reader, this book is a must-buy.

Supergods tells us what comics mean about us as humans. This naturally entails a discussion on the history of comics, which takes up a majority of the book, and even though I had a good familiarity with it beforehand, Morrison does a great job of filling in lots of areas I knew with more information and bringing me up to speed on areas I knew nothing about. There’s lots of fun little trivia-ish things in there that are great for the alpha-nerd to pick up on (like all the old-school Batman movies/actors), and lots of discussion on famous and obscure comics of the day. Morrison definitely has his history down, and ties in why certain comics were popular with social events of the times, as well as a good discussion of how the characters have evolved with them.

The rest of the book (told mostly in parallel with the main history lesson) focuses on Morrison’s life itself, how he’s changed, and how his comics have reflected it. Morrison clearly has had a rockstar life, with all that entails, and it makes for fun reading as well. It breaks up the history parts just often enough to keep both parts interesting, and his life plays like this psychedelic mind-trip of wacky experiences.

Morrison also chats a bit about the comics he’s been involved in, including DC’s controversial Final Crisis. I’ve gone on record before as completely hating it, to the point that I put down all comics altogether until extremely recently, largely because I felt that the use of a deus ex machina is rarely justifiable, but he explains (a lot better than I’m going to right now) that it was all in pursuit of making the comic serve a bigger picture. Specifically, he’s talking about issues of hope and giving up, and that hope could triumph over all at the end of the day. At the time, I saw it as changing the fundamental motivations of one of DC’s awesome baddies (Darkseid) and just making him into a boring villain, as he switched from being a fascist seeking order at all costs to just being a bastard (which was one-dimensional and boring). Now I see how it served the big picture he was going for but I still agree with my original assessment. Regardless, it taught me to keep my eyes out for this more often, and I saw a bit of it going on in Marvel’s Vengeance - more on that in a future post.

Supergods includes a great discussion of the comics of the last few decades, so it also has provided me with a list of a few greats I’ve missed out on. It answers its thesis well and kept my interest throughout, so I recommend it highly!