As is probably the case for most parents, I don’t get as much time to read to myself as I once did. My reading list typically comes from the children’s section of the library but, despite the fact that there are some phenomenal kids’ books out there, it is nice to occasionally read something for ‘grown-ups’.
My ‘grown-up’ read this month is ‘Supergods‘; an effervescent, detailed history of our comic book heroes: those costume wearing vigilantes and demigods who have become an integral part of modern culture. I’m not done reading yet but the thing that stands out most so far is how unusual superhero writing actually is.
In many cases a modern comic book writer or artist is being handed the reins to a character who is older than they are. It’s fiction writing but not as we know it, and to be honest I think I’d find the whole thing pretty intimidating.
If you’re really lucky you’ll create something on par with what has come before, if you have actual talent behind you as well then you may manage to create something that stands out as a new and definitive chapter in that character’s story. However, the flip side is the prospect of fending off negative reactions from fans, and when it comes to comic book fans I’m not sure I’d have the mettle to put myself up to that task.
Two or three of the characters that feature regularly in the Jack Reusen books at least seemed to have come from somewhere outside my own mind. However, it must be a whole other level of adjustment to draw together a tale involving a character that you know was never yours to start with.
What I’ve found from Morrison’s book though is that great comic book writers somehow manage to push past these difficulties. They take charge of a character and sometimes even see themselves as raising the flag for a new and more culturally relevant incarnation of the character.
I’m not typically a non-fiction reader but I’m pleased I picked this up. It’s proving to be an interesting insight into a type of writer that, I’m sorry to say, I never gave much thought to before. Their job clearly comes with its own set of challenges and rules. Their word count is alarmingly tight, yet at times they are expected to convey huge ethical, metaphysical, or even deeply human concepts.
I love comic books (I have a couple of suitcases full of them to testify to that) and now thanks to Morrison’s book I have a deepening appreciation for the talent and work that goes into creating them.
Is there a particular superhero storyline that has struck a chord for you? Do you have a favourite character, is there a version that you consider better than other incarnations?
As always, thanks for reading, all the best, John