Superman starts all over in September with a clean slate of adventures to be published in "Action Comics No. 1." The re-boot of America's oldest superhero will be handled by artist Ralph Morales and writer Grant Morrison, who injected comics with a whole new level of metaphysical depth when he co-created Batman's twisted game-changer Arkham Asylum.
In Morrison's upcoming memoir Supergods (Spiegel & Grau), the British graphic novelist recounts rip-roaring head games and world travels while offering deep thoughts on the art of comic book storytelling.
Here are four excerpts from Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.
BATMAN IN A BRA: "After completing Arkham Asylum, the first shock came when I was told that the book had been cancelled. Eager to embrace influences form Cabaret to the Theater of Cruelty, the Joker was supposed to have been dressed in the conical bra worn by Madonna for her "Open Your Heart" video. Warner Bros. objected to my portrayal on the grounds that it would encourage the widespread belief that Jack Nicholson, lined up to play the Joker in an upcoming 40 million Batman movie, was a transvestite."
UNIDENTIFIED FRYING OBJECTS: "After a few drunken days in Thamel [Katmandu] we crawled back to our room at the Vajra hotel. . . I looked up from my notebook to see the temple reararrange itself like a Transformer into some kind of lion-like configuration with exhaust pipes and tubular spirit conduits. I stumbled downstairs in the grip of a seismic shift in awareness i could not attribute to the sole action of the tiny piece of hashish I'd ingested."
MEN IN TIGHTS: "There's really only one question everyone wants to ask when the subject of Superman comes up. If he's so god-damn super why does he wear his underpants outside his tights?. . . The insight arrived when I came across photographs of circus strongmen in the 1930s. There was the faintly disturbing overpants-belt combo worn by men with handlebar moustaches, pumping dumbbells in their meaty fists and staring bullishly at the camera. Underpants on tights were signifiers of extramasculine strength and endurance in 1938. [Superman's] cape, showman-like boots, belt and skintight spandex were all derived frorm circus outfits."
INSPIRATION THROUGH SLEEP DEPRIVATION: "I stayed up late to induce delirium. At four thirty in the morning after fifty hours writing without sleep, I ransacked my dream diaries and most frightening childhood memories for content. In the end ... I delivered what felt like the kind of high-level comic book I knew was possible and showed that the serious superhero story didn't always have to be realistic."