Who is Grant Morrison

Review: Grant Morrison's Superheroes - A Very Personal Story (Hannibal)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What can ordinary people learn from superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and similar characters? This question is at the forefront of Grant Morrisons Superhero. The star author embarks on a journey through the history of the medium, which is closely intertwined with his own biography.

Grant Morrsion is an old master and a genius among comic book writers. Especially in Dark Age he made an immortal name for himself in comic history. He is mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Frank Miller, Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman. In Superheroes - What we humans can learn from Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman & Co. Morrison not only describes the deep connection between his own life and the colorfully illustrated pages. At the same time, it provides a fantastic journey through the history of superhero comics from their beginnings to the present.

Table of Contents

The journey through time

In its 2013 under the original title The Supergods Grant Morrison takes the reader on a fantastic and philosophical journey through time. He follows the history of superhero comics from their beginnings to the present and records in lively language the way in which his personal world, the general world situation and the development of the comics influenced each other. In doing so, he is not afraid to open dark chapters in comic history and to name things that were previously mostly rumored rumors. He shows how the two big American comic publishers forced each other to develop further. He clearly states that Marvel saw itself as a publisher of the common man and proletarian while DC Comics cultivated the somewhat stiff nimbus of the pop culture aristocrat.

He describes how the comic genre turned to new topics through the Kennedy era and the technical developments in the age of space travel, how gamma radiation became the magical miracle path to superpower, and how an arrogant American psychologist brought the comics to it through rumors and slander to almost self-destruct. He doesn't mince his words when exposing the Communist traits of a Superman or the S&M elements in Wonder Woman becomes visible. And it clearly shows how all these elements led the young Grant Morrison on his way to becoming a successful comic book writer. He also clarifies how all of this affected the psyche of a reading youth and thus drew its way in pop culture, how Flash and Hulk Physics and science suddenly made interesting topics.

But Morrison does not dwell in the glorious times. This book is not a hymn of praise, it is more like a revelation of secrets. The author also describes the fall of the superheroes into darkness, the thirst of abysmal subcultures for their own icons and saints, the urge of a predominantly British authoring scene to reshape the world according to new rules in the 1980s. And it shows the reader why the superheroes still experience an almost religious admiration, why they appear so much larger than any real person can, why they could become our new super gods, at least as long as someone has the trademark rights to the name of the Figures paid.

The style

Superhero is not a simple book and it is not aimed at the completely inexperienced reader. You should be familiar with many comic book heroes in order to be able to enjoy large parts of the book at all, because Morrison writes in the natural sense of a person who has dedicated his life to this art form. And at times it may seem like he expects nothing less than that from his reader. He describes various comic book covers in order to illustrate a certain mental attitude through the representation of the characters. But if you have never seen the cover, you will find it difficult to follow the author. Illustrations are used very sparsely in the book and hardly help with orientation. Sometimes the reader will find himself having to quickly look for a comic book cover on the Internet in order to even guess what Morrison might mean. But those who do not shy away from this gaze of the initiated will be rewarded by the author, because seldom has another book offered such deep and intimate insights into the world of superheroes, the market apparatus around them and the cultural contexts.

Superhero is also not a book for the fanboy who wants to reminisce. Morrison unmasked characters and myths too relentlessly, too clearly he traces the sometimes dark paths that the comic industry has taken. Too often the stale, slightly bitter taste of the revealed and failed illusion remains, which is already Arkham Asylum as a graphic novel. Morrison doesn't want to be nice. He wants to be honest, in a very grown-up, not glamorous way.

So is Superhero a book for the seeker, the restless and the questioner. It is a book for those readers who are not satisfied with the surface. It is aimed at people whose lives also benefit from Superman, Batman and all the other characters have been touched and who can no longer leave the illustrated stories. Superhero tries to answer the question why. And it takes the reader way beyond the answer to that question.

The author

Morrison is an icon of comic art. The Scot celebrated his big breakthrough with the extremely dark and atmospheric one Arkham Asylum, in which Dave McKean supported him with extraordinarily haunting images. The story, which takes the reader deep into the halls of madness in Gotham City, shaped many of the graphic novels that followed and set a new standard in adult comics. Morrison worked mainly in the dark areas of the world for a long time DCU.

He oversaw a number of VertigoTitles as well Legends of the Dark Knight. With Mark Millar he worked on Judge Dredd and received an Eisner Award for his series in 2006 and 2007 All Star Superman. At the same time he started a very successful run in the series Batman, the one with the legendary series Batman R. I. P. culminated in the death of the Dark Knight. Grant Morrison has influenced and changed the superhero genre with his adult, dark way of storytelling and his courage to take provocative paths.


The book looks modest and yet strangely attractive. There is not much more to read on the black cover than the name and subtitle. The main part of the cover picture is black, but the outline of a kind of Batman mask can be seen in broken lines so that it could be cut out. The cover picture cleverly reflects the program of the book. Simple, haunting, at first glance like a memory from childhood, at second glance almost a little threatening: this is how the mask seems to want to see the reader directly into the soul. The interior of the book consists of nearly five hundred text-filled pages with very few black and white illustrations. The paper quality is mediocre, as if the publisher did not want to dazzle the reader with elaborate processing, but instead wanted to concentrate the view directly on the essentials, the pure text.

The hard facts:

  • publishing company: Hannibal
  • Author (s): Grant Morrison
  • Publishing year: 2013
  • language: German
  • format: Paperback
  • Number of pages: 496
  • ISBN: 9783854454182
  • price: 9.99 EUR
  • Source of supply: Amazon



Superhero is a very strange book that can cast its spell on the reader with its almost hypnotic atmosphere. Star author Grant Morrison succeeds here, similar to his graphic novel Arkham Asylumto captivate the reader with the familiar at the same time, but also to show him the depths behind the familiar. Here he not only traces his own life story, but also the story of the superheroes and their influence on their readers. The path described leads from the Golden Age of the 1930s through the Silver and Bronze Age into the gloom of the Dark Age of the early 1990s and finally into the renaissance of the genre. Morrison processes impressions from religion and mythology, influences from politics and science and, last but not least, knowledge of iconography and art history and weaves them into a coherent carpet of pop culture. As a Scot, he doesn't stop at American society, which is refreshing when it comes to the superhero theme.

It will be difficult to find a similarly informed, well-founded and factual work about the heroes in masks and capes. Morrison is terrifyingly honest at times, but he loves the world of meta-beings and mutants, the monsters and supermen into which he has entered with his work. And yet he does not succeed in ideologizing much.

Article picture: Hannibal Verlag
This product was privately funded.