After years of rumor and delays, comic book writer and MorrisonCon star attraction Grant Morrison officially confirmed and announced his multi-part DC Comics epic “Multiversity,” tentatively scheduled for release late 2013.
An eight-issue miniseries composed of six stories exploring parallel Earths, bookended by a single tale told in issues #1 and #8, each issue of “Multiversity” features a main 38-page story and a back-up detailing the exploits of heroes on one of the alternate universes that make up the DC Comics multiverse. The Earths included are ones familiar to comic books fans, including the world based on the Charlton Comics characters or Earth X of the Freedom Fighters, as well as Earth Prime (our world), Earth-22 where pulp figures reign supreme, a world where the Justice League’s kids are the focus and the Captain Marvel-centric Thunderworld.
Having discussed the project and displayed artwork by frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quietly, who drew the project’s Charleton heroes-starring “Pax Americana” chapter, at the “Future Of The Third Millennium” panel, Morrison sat down with CBR for a one-on-one conversation where he went into detail about the comic. During the course of our talk, the writer explained why “Multiversity” is his magnum opus, the extent to which the New 52 reboot has affected the multiverse and his self-described “Alan Moore” approach to the Charlton characters.
CBR News: During this morning’s “Third Millennium” panel, you mentioned that, unlike pretty much all of your other projects, you thoroughly revised and wanted to spend years working on “Multiversity.” During your career you’ve done so much, from licensed properties to independent work — why is this alternate DC Earths story the one you want to be your big story?
Grant Morrison: I think because it covers so many aspects of these characters. To have Superman and he’s a black guy from Earth-23, the fifth issue where he’s a Nazi from Earth-10 and the other ones where he’s a completely different character — I think this one, for me, is the big spread of what DC can do, and playing with that idea, which is fundamental to superhero comics, of the version. There’s classic Superman, diet Superman — those things! [Laughs] I think when you put all those versions together, you get this massive, amazing composite of what Superman actually is and all the possibilities in the character. So it was to do that on a wider scale with the entire universe and say, “This is why the DC Universe is so amazing.” You can spin it off in ten different directions, and it still makes sense, it still got its integrity and it still makes sense in relationship to the New 52 universe, which is the core universe. The canvas seemed so immense and I had this particular story that allowed me to do something new in comics. It actually has never been done before, and that happens quite rarely. The Earth Prime comic in this, which I think is issue #7, that’s the one set on this world; I think we do things in that, I’m keeping vague about it because I don’t want anyone to steal this technique, but that’s the heart of the whole thing, it’s a completely new way of looking at all that stuff and even the relationship of real human beings too.
Last year saw the New 52 DC Universe-wide reboot. Did that at all change things you’re doing with “Multiversity” or did you have to change things because there was a new continuity and new universe?
No, fortunately not, because our story takes place outside the core DC Universe and it doesn’t affect it at all, even though there’s a sense that it might if our guys don’t save the day. Really, it was set in its own place, so that didn’t affect us at all. The New 52 slots really nicely into the scheme without doing any damage.
When you first talked about “Multiversity” in 2009, you mentioned that you saw these stories like the first issues of their own comics. Is that still the idea? Has anything changed from then to now?
No, it’s still the same, every one one of them is a #1 issue. I want to do all of them like complete stories, but at the same time, they open up potential for, OK, you can imagine this one running for years. The one with Frank Quitely, the “Pax Americana”/”Watchmen” thing; although it’s utterly complete, I couldn’t help but think, “OK, now I know what the next issue is. The next issue is Blue Beetle with his real, miserable, actual life we’re going to contrast with a Blue Beetle cartoon on TV.” Suddenly, there’s this whole structure there and I’m thinking about Nightshade and how she’s always in someone’s shadow, so the whole of her issue is going to be — and I’m thinking of this in an Alan Moore way — what would Alan Moore do? She’d be based on shadows and such. So actually, you begin to see how you can easily spin that out into a series as well. All of them are designed to have that potential. If anyone wants to pick them up and run with them, it’ll work.
It’s interesting, you saying you’re trying to approach the Charlton world in an Alan Moore way. Obviously there’s been a lot of attention paid to those characters now, not just because of “Watchmen” but because of “Before Watchmen.” Obviously “Before Watchmen” happened way after you began working on “Multiversity,” but why did you want to use the Charlton characters when we already had “Watchmen?”
That was the fun of it. Because the Charlton characters were always part of the DC multiverse, and we brought it back in “52” — there’s a little panel with the Charlton characters — and originally the notion was when “Multiversity” started, it was going to be the whole bunch of us, the “52” team, were going to write these books. Greg Rucka was going to do the Charlton one, Mark Waid was going to do something else, we were going to farm these out. Then it ended up that it didn’t work that way and I had the project, so I ended up developing it.
One of the first ideas I had was, I said to Greg, wouldn’t it be great if you just did this real dark espionage comic and what we did with the Charlton characters kind of referred to the fact that most people are more familiar with the Charlton characters and the iteration that became “Watchmen?” It just seemed like a fun way to get a Charlton revival comic with a universe with Blue Beetle, these guys doing kind of 1960s stuff. We thought maybe we could combine it with “Watchmen,” because then it made it fun, gave it an edge and allowed us to also take some of those techniques which no one’s used since Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did them, really, kind of very flashy narrative techniques and reflective stories and do an update on that kind of stuff — and suddenly it looks fresh. No one’s really doing these high grids where the grid becomes a really important part of the storytelling. So it was just a fun way of doing it. That was before any of the “Before Watchmen” stuff, but I don’t think this will have any of the same controversy because really, all we’re doing is taking techniques. We don’t use the same characters, we don’t tell a similar story, we don’t do “Watchmen.” We do a take on the idea of the construction of “Watchmen.”
Frank did the artwork for “Pax Americana” — at this point, is he doing art for more issues, or do you have multiple artists?
No, he’s just doing this one thing. It’s taken him so long; it’s quite enough for him! [Laughs] It’s different artists in each of them because they all look very different. Each comic looks like it comes from a different parallel world, so they’re all slightly different.
For the individual Earths, did you make up any of them or were you taking pre-existing ones and playing around with them?
A lot of them were pre-existing, but I just ran with it. There was this idea that somewhere there was this Nazi Earth, and that went back to — I think there was a comic in the ’70s that Len Wein did that was basically Earth X, I think they called it. He wanted Earth swastika and they wouldn’t let him put a swastika on the cover, so it became Earth X. The story in that one was that they were reviving the Freedom Fighters, the Quality Comics characters, so his idea was to set the Freedom Fighters on a world that had been taken over by Hitler in the war and so they’re still fighting that war in the ’70s.
I took that basic idea, and then rather than fighting a war with Nazis and Hitler, I thought, what would happen if fifty years, seventy years after the war — that’s been won by Superman (He was on the side of the Nazis quite by accident because he happened to land there and they indoctrinated him.), but then, because he’s Superman, he realizes he’s done something terrible. In fact, he’s done the worst thing in the world. In order to create Utopia, he’s murdered millions of people, or at least he’s turned a blind eye to the murder of millions of people. So again, it’s not the original story, but it draws from it. We’ve got the Freedom Fighters and done them in a very different way. It was taking, as I said, parallel worlds that had been in existence before and completely rethinking them from the ground up and trying to give them more scope. In the past, a lot of these parallel worlds were created just for a one-panel gag, and it’s really annoying ’cause I’ll go through them and you’ve got Earth-44. It’s just some Captain Atom gag that we destroyed in one page, so there’s nothing there! I actually have to go in and fix a lot of stuff. I combined all the DC steampunk of Elseworlds into one so it fit a little bit better and it makes more sense, things like that. I’m just streamlining it and ratifying it.
“Multiversity” is tentatively scheduled for release from DC Comics in late 2013.