Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More on Supergods

I recently posted my short review of Grant Morrison's Supergods on Goodreads. I really loved this book, as a comics fan from way back. But it's time to mention some of my concerns about portions of it.

The main one -- Morrison's discussion (or lack thereof) about the financial fates of Siegel & Shuster and Jack Kirby -- is well addressed by Paul Gravett, here.

For someone who used to be such a punk and rebel, Morrison is rather accepting of corporate control over his beloved superheroes, even when he discusses his own troubles with corporate overlordship during his run on New X-Men. There is a disconnect here that really could have used further discussion: the intersection between the individual creator, the audience, the corporate owner and the "real" superhero existing in the 2D world of ideas. I suspect Morrison shied away from the topic not so much to appease his own corporate bosses but because he's just not that interested in the topic. At heart, he's still that fan boy who wants to continue interacting with his idols in a personal relationship between his imagination and their archetypal existence in the Mundus Imaginalis. The sordid histories of corporate betrayal of comics creators are just more examples of the scummy 3D world with which we're trying to infect the 2D world of our heroes. Like shots of superheroes using the bathroom, discussions of corporate screwjobs don't belong in their world.

The other thing that bothered me about the book is the cumulative feeling I get that Morrison is way too enamored of money as a mark of success, which is ironic as he lauds Superman's great and enduring success at the same time he recognizes that his creators hardly saw a dime off it. Morrison repeatedly uses words like "lucrative" and "financially rewarding" to back up his arguments about successful comics, especially the odd sun-spot theory of culture's see-saw between rebellion and conformity. I get the impression that Morrison hasn't really gotten over his blue-collar class upbringing in Glasgow, where making money is the marker moving up and of liberation from 9 to 5 Hell.

All that aside, the book is still a good paean to our archetypes, which, as Jung has so often pointed out, are eternal. They exist beyond the exigences of our worldly financial dilemmas, and yet still come to life amidst them, just as we do.


Allen Varney said...

It verges on patronizing to infer Morrison's concern with money stems from his childhood. Many notable creators have been deeply concerned with money throughout their career -- see any biography of, for instance, Mozart, Beethoven, or Charles Dickens -- because money (or rather, freedom from precarity) leads directly and immediately to creative freedom. No Citizen Kane-style psychoanalysis is needed or wanted.

Boris the Spider said...

I shouldn't psychoanalyze from afar, but reading the book, I got that impression, not just because his constant mentioning of it, but because of his autobiographical remembrances about his upbringing. The two seemed linked to me, but sure, I could be full of it here. Morrison won creative and monetary freedom from Arkham Asylum (as he tells us in the book), so it just seems odd to me that he keeps throwing in money references. There are so many of them that I get the idea he's not conscious of just how many.

As for the other creatives you mention, some had issues of needing to live up to certain expensive class standards or of supporting large families. Morrison just has, by his own admission, travel and parties. I am not knocking him for this, but taken in light of his comments on Seigel & Shuster and Kirby, he seems on the surface to have a cavalier attitude about money and yet he constantly mentions it as a benchmark to prove his success at keeping his thumb on the zeitgeist.

But really, this all just sidebar speculation, which is why I put my comment here on my blog rather than in my Goodreads review.