Foyles of London is a grand old bookshop of much note, ostensibly for its heritage in providing a higgledy-piggledy browsing experience, with books stacked in any old order to encourage surprise and happenstance.
These days it looks far more professional, in that you can actually find what you’re looking for. And what I was looking for was on the third floor in a secluded and very full room. Where men of a certain beard had gathered to hear Grant Morrison launch his new book Supergods, a part memoir, part examination of the role of superheroes in modern culture, society and civilisation.
No photos were allowed, nor any kind of recording. Which leaves me with a few random notes and beer sodden thoughts. Let’s see how I do.
Grant told us how Supergods began as a collection of interviews he’d taken part in, then adding an introduction and then being persuaded to write a whole book out of new cloth.
He talked about how people relate to gods and create those they need to portray certain qualities, from the feeling of being sixteen, to love and rage – gods as qualities that we dip into, and how superheroes “developed in the darkness” which only “added to their power” now as culture finally takes a proper look at them. And gave us that headline quote about The Flash, before diving into the qualities of Captain Marvel and how both reflect Kabbalah teachings and symbols, if subconsciously, about lighting paths. Expect a lot of this in Supergods.
How continuity is like playing twelve bar blues, you can do pretty much anything but you stay within certain parameters, how “Superman is more real than we are”, “only in fiction do the dead come back, your mum is still dead, your dad is still dead, unless your dad is The Flash”, and how an alien abduction taught him that global warming is incubation.
As to writing superheroes, while he states that Watchmen is beautifully written, he objects to the theme or writing “realistic” superheroes, as the actions of a missionary rather than an anthropologist, pointing out what is wrong with them and infecting them with our issues, rather then accepting their rules and playing with them.
Oh and taking the topic of how superheroes go to the bathroom in their costumes, “Batman has never pissed ever, he has no bladder”… which seemed rather resonant with those who have read Kevin Smith’s Widening Gyre.
He talked in depth about the nature of reality, are we being written in the same way as characters we write? Do they have a life of their own just as we feel we do? And are we nothing but three dimensional illusions of a two dimensional brane reality, just like the comic book character?
Grant called his own take on Superman in Action Comics #1 as being the champion of the oppressed and hero of the working class, “the Bruce Springsteen of superheroes.”
He tells us his new Seaguy series is the best book he’s ever written, that superhero characters are more powerful that the companies who own them in that “even the owners die” and that soon everything will be open source anyway.
Oh and, I forget how we got onto this, looking at the progression of the telephone over the last century, “machines don’t want to fight us, they want to fuck us – and we want to fuck them!”
He also told us that he’s not a big comic book fan and that “I actually just like super hero stories – I’m interested in one particular aspect of it” although he recognises that, looking at how media is changing, with digital comics and more, “I think everything will be video games in ten, twenty years.”
I think that should do it.
Tomorrow Grant Morrison will appear at Orbital Comics in London to record a podcast before heading to Forbidden Planet for a signing for Supergods. So if you missed tonight, you do have another chance…