Tag Archives: Grant Morrison

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

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being HumanSupergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human by Grant Morrison

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

In the title of Supergods, Grant Morrison seems to be promising an exploration of ‘What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human’. Does he live up to that promise? No. If you take up this book expecting moral philosophy or some kind of analysis on how the values in our fiction will help us be better humans, boy, are you in for a disappointment.

I have a sulky feeling that the only reason Grant published this book was to take advantage of the predicted upsurge in importance of comics that his pet theories tell him and the reason why publishers went ahead was to cash in on the sudden elevation in the status of pulp comics following Nolan’s reinvigoration of Batman.

So with a serious sounding title and an alluring subject matter, Morrison proceeds to happily serve up a brew of 75 years worth of comic book history, his own bildungsroman and literary criticism on his colleagues and praise for his favorites. The history that he presents is thoroughly colored by his own biases, but at least he never makes an attempt at projecting a dispassionate observer persona. The book is cursory and without focus for the most part; the history is too superficial for an ardent fan and would be way too detailed to serve as an introduction to comics. The analysis that he attempts to bring to the art of story-telling has already been done in much better fashion by Scott McCloud and the evolution of ideas and causal connection to real historical events could also have been better handled by a historian or in conjunction with one. The constant comparisons to Beatles, to Picasso and to Wagner, among others, makes one feel like Morison is trying too hard to fit something that we all know to be a mass product to the exclusive category of High Art.

Almost half the book is about the Golden and Silver ages which saw the birth of Superman and was followed by a burgeoning pantheon of copy-cat heroes like Batman and soon by original and radical version like Captain Marvel. One of Morrison’s pet ideas is the idea of the author inserting himself into the page. He gives a detailed analysis of how this grew in him and of his experiments in sending a 2D version of himself into the comic world to interact with the characters and this makes more and more sense as he himself blends into the narrative of the book in the last two-thirds and the book becomes more an autobiography than a history. Of course, the book becomes a completely psychedelic trip at this point with Morrison using up most of the remaining pages to convince us that he is God’s agent on earth to spread peace and truth. These quasi-religious ideas and Morrison’s long rants about peers soon make the book seem loose and untidy and it just plain comes apart in the last few chapters and all the good impression one might have built up for the book erodes away as the reader struggles through Morrison’s repeated assurances that there is more to the world than what we see and that extra-dimensional super heroes has made him the vessel to reach us through his art. As we close the book, even though we are thoroughly impressed by the force of his language and the wild imaginative scope of his ideas, it would be an effort in credulity to take Morrison or the book too seriously. At the very least, it pointed me to some excellent graphic novels and artists. For that and for the writing style, an extra star.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books


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Rogan Gosh: The Acid-Masala Curry Comic

Rogan GoshRogan Gosh by Peter Milligan

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Rogan Gosh is designed to be as incomprehensible to the reader as the original dish must have been for Milligan and McCarthy. The name comes from rogan josh, a spicy Indian curry dish, rich in chillies and dangerously red in appearance.

As Grant Morrison says, Rogan Gosh was a product of the new psychedelic period of the nineties. The focus turning from outer concerns to inner ones, along with the presence in many of the artist’s lives of the new psychedelic drugs.

It was also supposed to be inspired by the Amar Chitra Katha tradition of story telling. This was the reason I decided to take a look at it. The cover was a weird blue half-god, half-acidhead, with an assortment of images that assaulted my good sense.

But I decided to be forgiving and carried on. The first page of the comic convinced me that I will not only read this but also love it, no matter how much of a hallucinogenic trip it might be. McCarthy had reprocessed the lush, painted look of the Amar Chitra Katha comic books from India and also imbued them with a sort of deranged other-worldliness that was impossible to resist.

That tanned man with the mustache you see in the crowd is Rudyard Kipling himself, one of the possible contenders for the lead character in this book, where dream-world meets reality, shakes hands and sleep together.

Rudyard Kipling goes into a drug-house in search for truth after some serious accident involving his servant and then lapses into a euphoric dream in which he dreams of two characters who are pre-incarnations of a future “Karmanaut” called Rogan Gosh. And then the whole of the psychedelic adventures unfold.

That or the whole thing is a dream by a rejected lover who drinks and cuts his wrist and hallucinates ever closer to death.

Or, it might all be real and Rudyard Kipling might really have been a form that Soma Swami, the ultimate villain who tries to keep us all veiled in Maya, took to trick Rogan Gosh into destroying himself and he pre-incarnated as the two characters and all their adventures are real.

The text too flows between several narrative voices, including Rudyard Kipling and an unnamed dying youth representing the voice of bleak rational existentialism in the face of the uninflected void. Blending their stories like the spices of the Curry that inspired them, they dress it up and serve it forth for your dining pleasure.

Got all that? Now remove all the “Or”s and replace them with “And”s. Yup. Rogan Gosh is supposed to be an experimental story where it is not a Either/Or world but a world were dreams and reality are all happening at the same time, one inside the other, creating each other.

The concept is good and the presentation is mind-blowing. But, I wish they had given it the definition it deserved instead of making this such a free-flowing story with no ends or resolutions and absolutely no structure. The art work seemed slovenly at times and completely random at other times.

Don’t worry about all the plot details I covered here, they were not even half of the possibilities and they were not spoilers. You can’t really spoil a good curry.

PS. Today might be a good day to appreciate Rogan Gosh, especially if you too look like that cover after your Holi celebrations. Happy Holi!

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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books


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