Interview: Grant Morrison on SUPERGODS, Now Available in Paperback

Supergods, now available in paperback

Last year saw the publication of Grant Morrison’s Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human. In addition to his extensive chronicle of superhero lore and theory, it’s a fascinating primer on the industry from one of its most celebrated luminaries as only he could deliver it. You can check out our review of the book here. But that’s hardly the end of the story.

Morrison’s treatise on the importance of superheroes is now available in a newly updated paperback edition with a terrific cover. If you’ve yet to pick up the book or want to take advantage of Morrison’s expanded thoughts and the additional afterword, this is the edition you want to bring along for an autograph at MorrisonCon next month in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, we spoke to Grant Morrison about the process of writing and revising the book and his future goals in prose writing:


iFanboy: Your unique perspective and experience made Supergods a truly insightful look at the comics industry and its history. But did you learn anything that really surprised you in the process of researching the book? What was the biggest take away after immersing yourself in all that lore?

Grant Morrison: The most exciting side-effect of the research came from the new understanding I gained into the raw dynamism and modernity in those early comics They came alive for me in ways I’d never suspected. In the past I’d looked at the Golden Age books as historical artefacts. I’d accumulated a lot of assumptions about those books – they seemed crude and poorly-drawn compared to the comics I grew up with but when I engaged with these early stories as the physical pen-to-paper work of young people, making crazy comics jazz, I really got into the velocity and excitement of it all. The early Siegel & Shuster Superman stuff in particular, was a revelation and I developed a new admiration for the clever plots and extravagant mood-setting, pulp writing style of Bill Finger.

Then there was ‘The Kree-Skrull War’ – with Roy Thomas’ multiple narrative voices and constant references to sound and cadence. I felt I was appreciating the comics on several new levels, like hearing the Beach Boys or the Beatles on acid! In fact, the chapter was originally entitled “Captain Marvel’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“.

Every book I re-read, movie I watched, or period I looked at inspired new thoughts about old familiar material, so it was as if my entire comic collection had been repainted to glow in the dark. Everything seemed new and full of energy. I picked up a thousand writing tricks and absorbed dozens of different approaches to writing superhero stories – all of which fed into my own work in comics and suggested interesting creative avenues to explore.

Most importantly, the book’s main theme – the one that was sadly neglected by critics in the comics fan community – is that superhero stories have come to dominate popular entertainment because they embody a naturally emergent ‘counter-narrative strategy’ that’s developing in response to suicidal dystopian cultural narratives – and that gave me a lot to think about. The book’s big ideas about stories as weapons, and military research into the same, the idea of placebos in the form of superhero fiction, have continued to inform a lot of my upcoming work.

iFanboy: This new paperback edition of Supergods features some additional material. Can you tease a few of the additions or revisions you’ve made to the text?

Morrison: The original manuscript for the book was 180, 000 words and we had to get it down to the 100,000 I’d contracted for so there’s actually an immense amount of material – mostly from the Golden Age section – that didn’t make the final cut. There’s a whole other book there!

The glaring omission of the section on Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies has been corrected. There was also a page or two on Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s Astro City which I restored, mostly because I’d included Astro City in my Recommended Reading list but there was no mention of the book left in the actual text. So that went back in. Then there’s a little round-up of the superhero films that were released in the year since the hardback came out – and a bit about DC’s Nu-52 initiative. Otherwise, I corrected a few typos and factual errors in the book (although typically at least two errors still remain, which I can at least correct here – the Qabalistic Tree of Life has ten sephiroth – minus the ‘false sephiroth’ Daath – not twelve, and on my birthday prior to my dad’s death I turned 44 not 43). I know I’ll find more irritating glitches if I scour the book again but for now, this is the definitive edition.

iFanboy: Do you see revisiting the material again, whether updating your chronicle of comics and superheroes in other editions or sequels? Or is that for someone else?

Morrison: It’s the sort of book that could always be added to as new developments occur but right now, it’s not a priority for me. I’ve said my piece, the new edition is pretty up to date and the chances are I’ll leave it at that.

iFanboy: One of the most fascinating threads in Supergods relates to the trends and patterns you’ve noticed over the years. Can you talk a bit about the Sekhmet Hypothesis and where we are in the cycle now? You’ve suggested that while it’s not a perfect system for evaluating culture, it often matches up with the kinds of comics on offer. Are we back to a more hopeful era?

Morrison: Yes, that much is obvious. In terms of movies, you can look at The Dark Knight Rises as the conclusion of a trend and The Avengers as the beginning of one. This doesn’t mean a return to ‘60s camp for Batman. The times are different. But I do expect to see things trend toward the fantastic.

I’d become aware of cyclical trends in comics publishing long before I discovered the Sekhmet Theory, which simply added fuel to my speculations. We don’t even have to involve sunspot activity – enough history has accumulated that it’s easy to track the regular pendulum swing in superhero storytelling styles between periods where realism/relevance is in ascendance and periods where the fantastic and surreal are more popular. Interestingly enough, these cycles do seem to follow a roughly twenty-year pattern.

Despite my attempts in the book to point out that the so-called Sekhmet Hypothesis is simply a grid , a filter, which we can use to organise historical facts in a particular creative way, I’m often accused of endorsing the theory as if it was ‘real’, so I’d probably prefer to separate myself from it. Even Iain Spence, originator of the Sekhmet Hypothesis, appeared to be a little upset that I’d oversimplified and misrepresented his schema so I really don’t want to promote this idea or get behind it in any way.

Having said that, once you apply this particular grid to comics history it does quite accurately match up to publishing events and can be used to ‘predict’ pop cultural shifts between dominant and underground modes. You could match comics history up to the Tarot or the Tree of Life and probably get similarly useful correspondences.

iFanboy: If you were to write prose nonfiction about any other subject, any other aspect of history or science of life, what would it be?

Morrison: I’m not an academic so I’m really only qualified to talk about my own experience. The only other area where I have some expertise is the practice of magic. I’ve been sidetracked away from finishing Pop Mag!c – outlining my personal occult system – for over a decade but I’ve just gone back to it, so that will likely be the next non-fiction book. Otherwise, my book agent is keen for me to write some fiction so I’ll probably try that as soon as I’ve wrapped up the monthly comic book work early next year.

SUPERGODS by Grant Morrison


On Sale Now
ISBN 978-0-8129-8138-4
E-BOOK ISBN 978-0-679-60346-7

From one of the most acclaimed writers in the world of comics comes a thrilling and provocative exploration of our great modern myth: THE SUPERHERO

SUPERGODS tells the story of how artists and writers created these memorable characters and why we embrace them, but also explores the surprising social, political, and cultural movements that drove their emergence and evolution.   Morrison leads us through the four “ages” of the superhero – the Golden Age of Superman and Batman, the Silver Age that saw the emergence of Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics, the Dark Age personified by Alan Moore’s haunted Watchman, and the Renaissance, the ongoing explosion of superheroes across the media landscape – and how each age of the superhero matched the temperament of the time, giving each generation the heroes they needed.

In riveting detours, he also tells his own story: that of a writer dedicated to this epic, near-century-long narrative and of a dimensional explorer who found a way to penetrate the superworld and come back with its stories. SUPERGODS is not a story about the comics. It is a story about how an art form has fashioned and been fashioned by modern culture, spirituality, and history. It is a story about us.

There’s still plenty more to talk about, and if you want to hobnob with Grant Morrison and other creators like Robert Kirkman, Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, Frank Quitely, J.H. Williams III and more, book your tickets for next month’s MorrisonCon right now!


  1. Morrison’s “counter-narrative strategy” really influenced my taste in stories over the last year or so since I’ve read the book. It’s why I’ve chosen to reject the barrage of post-apocalyptic scenarios that inundate our fiction in favor of works that aren’t afraid of the responsibilities of the modern world. It’s why I connected so strongly with films like The Avengers and Prometheus, and comics like Hickman’s FF run. It’s a scary world, but our stories can remind us of the kind of people we want to be, and give us courage to face the future.

    • And this is the reason why so many people, including myself, like Superman.

    • Interesting, I thought Prometheus had a fairly negative and pessimistic view of humanity and its ‘progenitors.’ In what way did you find it aspirational or optimistic?

    • I see where you’re coming from, but I guess I focused on Noomi Rapace’s arc and the way she represented a humanity that wanted more than just survival… her journey was about the quest for truth, even if the answers are horrifying. Hell, even the set-up of a future with a functioning society, technological innovation, and exploratory spirit stands in stark contrast to the bombed-out husks and industrial graveyards of a lot of genre fiction these days.

  2. I read the hardcover when it first came out but now that I see there is extra material I am tempted to pick up the book again! I wish there was a way for people who already own the book to get that extra material somehow…

  3. effin hell. I’ll prob wind up buying the expanded edition again too….

  4. I have a feeling Morrison could write a book about drugs. Call me crazy….but I think he knows a lot about them.

  5. I just finished the audiobook for a third time. Love it. I already booked my tickets to morrisoncon. As a result I will be living on a very limited budget for the next 2 months, but I think it will be worth it!

  6. haven’t read Supergods. seems like a good time to. i love reading Morrison’s thoughts. he’s an interesting fellow.

  7. I’m not ‘upset’ Grant, I’m okay now, nice one : )

    I was recently delighted to discover the life-script quaternity turn up in The Invisibles,
    (Bloody Hell in America) in the ‘element game’. So I guess we were homing in on the
    same analysis: one for youth trends, one for superheroes. The cover to Counting
    to None, is kind of interesting too, Ragged Robin completing the mandala.

    I keep laughing each time someone questions Grant on my daft old hypothesis.
    It’s like he’s picked up some dodgy statuette out of an antique shop, done a magic
    ritual with it and thrown it away. And now it follows him about grabbing his trouser
    legs & tugging at him.