By the time Grant Morrison's The Multiversity launches in August, readers will have heard about it for several years — ever since it was first announced five years ago.
But those years of hints about the comic add up to a lot of information for the 10-issue series, because Morrison has been telling various outlets about different things concerning the multiverse-spanning story.
According to information released so far, it appears that there will be 10 issues — two that serve as a framing story, seven that visit seven alternate earths in the DC multiverse, and one that serves as a "guidebook."
Morrison told Newsarama last year that the story will include more than just the seven earths — it's about "all of the 52. Because part of the Multiversity series incorporates a multiverse guidebook with maps and stuff, and there's a story in there as well. So there's that kind of maps and blueprints aspect of it as well."
Each of the issues in the series are supposed to be drawn by a different artist — at least the seven that focus on different earths. So far, DC has only released the names of a few of the artists, including Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Ben Oliver, Frank Quitely and Cameron Stewart. The artwork from The Multiversity #1 that was released this week also revealed work by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Nei Ruffino.
According to DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio's comments to Newsarama in 2009, DC wanted to wait on Morrison to define the DCU Multiverse.
"I almost wish that people could sit in on a conversation with Grant about the Multiverse," DiDio said. "It's so clear in his mind, what he wants it to be. And the changes are so important, so dramatic, but so subtle, that if not executed properly, it will just feel like more of the same. But executed the way he discusses them can make it feel extraordinarily special. At this point, there's no reason for us to just have more incarnations of our characters floating around in different worlds. We need them to be extraordinarily special. And it's worth the wait for a person like Grant on those things."
The story will be part of the DCU, but won't interact extensively with the New 52 heroes, according to Morrison's comments to iFanboy. "Fortunately for me the change over for the New 52 didn’t affect much because the parallel worlds are still out there and we don’t really deal at all with the DC Universe in this," Morrison said. "Well, there’s a little… there’s a little sort of wave over to the DC Universe, but the actual book is set in a bunch of completely different worlds and none of them have been affected by what’s happened in the New 52, thank God for me."
"Multiversity is a lot more along the lines of the feel of Seven Soldiers, I think," Morrison told Newsarama in September 2011. "I'm very pleased with it. I took a lot of time with it. And I think it's the best thing I've ever, ever done. If I stop after Multiversity , that will be good enough."
Back in 2012, Morrison told The Hollywood Reporter that there would be back-up stories — but he also used a different number of issues, so the structure may have changed.
However, one interesting tidbit he mentioned in several interviews at the time is that each issue will feature comics about the adventures of the previous story’s heroes.
“If you’re having a war across multiple parallel realities, one way they can contact each other is to publish comic books that others can read and know what’s going on," Morrison said. "So in each parallel reality you’ll see one of them is reading the comic that you just read the month before and finding out what happened to the good guys, giving them a chance to defeat the bad guys in the next one. They are kind of passing on, in a chain, their own adventures."
They warn each new world of "a gigantic cosmic threat which is the most terrifying thing I think anyone's ever created in a comic," Morrison told Crave Online.
According to Morrison's descriptions over the last few years, among the Earths visited in The Multiversity will be Earth Prime, Thunder World, Pax Americana, the Society of Superheroes, a Nazi Earth and many, many more.
When Newsarama asked Morrison about Multiversity about a year ago, the writer mentioned that "the Superman from #9 [Action Comics] from Earth-23" is "the lead character in Multiversity."
The Superman from Earth-23 has dark skin, hailing from an island on Krypton, which essentially makes him a black version of the character. In a nod to U.S. President Barack Obama, this Earth-23 Superman has a secret identity on Earth of Calvin Ellis, president of the United States. The character first appeared in Final Crisis #7, but he got his own post-New 52 reboot adventures in Action Comics.
According to the Crave Online interview, the Earth 23 issue will show how the Justice League of the Multiverse comes together, and Morrison is hoping it inspires someone to continue Calvin's story. "I bet [Calvin Ellis] gets his own series," Morrison said. "Once you see him in Multiversity, he's so great in that, he deserves his own series.""
Drawn by Cameron Stewart, the Thunder World issue will focus on the classic Shazam/Captain Marvel characters. According to Morrison's past comments, it will be all-ages, and he's compared it several times to a Pixar movie — saying he's hoping the story will connect with modern audiences even though he's not attempting to make the character "edgy."
Morrison has said in the past that the story would be titled, "Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was!," saying "[it's] my definitive take on the Marvel family."
In his latest announcement, Morrison mentioned "the legion of Sivanas," presumably referring to Captain Marvel's arch nemesis.
Early artwork that's been released for the issue shows what appears to be the wizard Shazam sitting within what looks like the Rock of Eternity, with the seven deadly sins nearby.
In Morrison's announcement, he said this issue would feature the "latest, greatest superhero of Earth Prime — you!"
As long-time DC fans know, the idea behind Earth Prime is that the world where readers live is, in fact, a part of the DC Universe — but on Earth Prime, the heroes from other worlds exist only in comic books. In the past, the heroes of the DCU have even traveled within the comics to visit the writers and editors in person on Earth Prime.
Morrison has indicated in the past that the "Prime" tale be "the world's first haunted comic book." He's also previously said that it will feature a new version of the superhero Ultraa. (In DC's Silver Age stories, Ultraa was an alien that was rocketed to Earth Prime from another planet, similar to Superman. However, Ultraa decided our Earth wasn't ready for superheroes and went with the Justice League back to the main DCU Earth.)
Although this latest announcement doesn't mention Ultraa, Morrison was probably referring to the "Prime"-set story when he said, "The Multiversity is more than just a multi-part comic book series, it's a cosmos-spanning, soul-shaking experience that puts you on the front line in the Battle For All Creation against the demonic destroyers known as the Gentry!
"But beware! Power has a cost, and at the heart of this epic tale waits the cursed and malignant comic book called 'Ultra Comics,'" he said. "How safe is your head?"
Drawn by Frank Quitely, the Pax Americana book will be Morrison's take on the Charlton characters (named after the company bought by DC in 1983). The characters are known for being an influence on the creation of the historic DC comic Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Morrison's version of this world, which he's said in the past will be designated Earth 4, will modernize the Charlton characters while keeping the theme of the Watchmen in mind. Morrison has previously said that the comic would include his versions of Blue Beetle, The Question and Captain Atom.
"We thought it would be appropriate to re-think and update the kind of in-your-face-self-reflecting narrative techniques used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and apply them to a whole new story, which asks 'What if Watchmen had been conceived now, in the contemporary political landscape with the Charlton characters themselves rather than analogues?" Morrison said in an interview in the U.K. magazine Comic Heroes.
"It's a whole new story," Morrison told Crave Online. "It starts off with the president being executed in reverse. That's where it begins. There's a peace sign on fire – you know, Watchmen had the smiley face with blood? We're taking that and doing the Rutles doing the Beatles. We're taking the peace sign, which is equivalent to the smiley face, and settling it on fire, which is equivalent to the blood. There's a quote from Delmore Schwartz that says 'time is a fire in which we burn, time is a school in which we learn.' The issue's called 'In Which We Burn.' It works backwards through a man's life, but it starts with the death of the president. It all goes in reverse. The president's been shot from space. Then you cut to the Charlton character Peacemaker tied up, and a bunch of men looking at him, saying 'we don't understand, we've run the tapes backwards and forwards, why did you do it, Chris? Why'd you kill the president?" That's our first four pages. It tells you the whole story of this superhuman initiative. It's kind of taking what Watchmen was and putting it in the current political climate, and that changes everything. It's replacing those characters with the originals, so you've got Captain Atom himself now instead of Dr. Manhattan, and that changes everything. It's about this one man who discovered who he really is, and there's a 'Rosebud' moment at the very end in the last panel. That's all I want to say about it."
Morrison has also told several outlets that the art in this issue will be laid out in a rigid eight-panel grid system similar to Watchmen.
According to the Hollywood Reporter article, Morrison said, “It’s not trying to be Watchmen. It’s more of an echo of a storytelling technique of Watchmen."
In the current announcement, Morrison talks about the "Nazi New Reichsmen of Earth 10." We have to believe that this is related to a story from the 2012 Glasgow Comic Con, when Comics Anonymous reported that a story called "Mastermen" will include a fascist version of the Justice League.
In an interview with Zap2it last year, Morrison indicated that one issue deals with what Superman would have been like, had his spaceship landed in Nazi-occupied territory during World War II.
"Imagine you're Superman and for the first 25 of your life you were working for Hitler," Morrison said, "And then you realize, 'Oh my god, it's Hitler!' … Not only is he a Nazi Superman, he's a Nazi Superman that knows his entire society, though it looks utopian, was built on the bones of the dead. Ultimately, it's wrong and it must be destroyed."
According to Morrison's past comments, the issue will see the Nazi version of the caped hero going up against enemies he realizes are right, and he faces the fact that the principles on which he was raised are wrong.
Another mention from the 2012 Glasgow Comic Con was "The Just." Morrison has described it Earth 11, where the world has "celebrity youngsters."
This week's announcement includes the mention of "the super-sons of Superman and Batman," and Morrison has said previously that the descendants of superheroes have incredible abilities on this earth, but the previous generation made the world such a utopia that the youngsters aren't able to channel their energy. In the Zap2it interview last year, Morrison referred to these descendants as "MTV's The Hills with superheroes."
Morrison has also said that second- and third-generation heroes from the 1990s will show up on this world, including Conner Hawke, Kyle Rayner, and Walker Gabriel.
Society of Superheroes
At Glasgow Comic Con in 2012, Morrison mentioned the "Society of Superheroes," or "S.O.S." for short, which is an Earth that contains a pulp version of the DC characters. Other interviews describe this world as one where a major world war has taken place, depleting the earth's population.
In a 2009 interview with CBR, he called this Earth 20 and said, "[There's] kind of a Doc Savage-come-Doctor Fate guy who teams with the Mighty Atom, the Immortal Man, Lady Blackhawk and her Blackhawks and Abin Sur, the Green Lantern."
Besides the characters we've tried to attach to past statements from Morrison, the writer also mentioned a slew of other characters in his announcement this week, including the Vampire Justice League of Earth 43, the Justice Riders of Earth 18, Superdemon, the rampaging Retaliators of Earth 8, the Atomic Knights of Justice, Dino-Cop, Sister Miracle, and Lady Quark. He's also mentioned in the past that readers will see Captain Carrot, a fan-favorite character from the Zoo Crew.
"There will be a couple of new [characters]," Morrison told iFanboy. "Because what we’ve done also is, we’ve not only got all the multiverse versions of DC characters, but we also have multiverse versions of every other comic book company in existence. So we have multiverse versions of Image characters and Marvel characters… you know back in the day, DC would do their own kind of take on The Avengers where they would do those heroes from “that other place” with a Thor who was kind of an Aboriginal Thor. So we’ve kind of taken that aspect, the stuff that DC and Marvel used to do, the Squadron Supreme type stuff, and I’ve kind of done an update on that thinking as well. So yeah, it’s got everything. It’s got multiple versions of everybody, including us."
The Aboriginal Australian character that Morrison mentioned, called Thunderer, got a lot of attention when the writer visited told The Feed that Thunderer is "a big tough dude."
"He's got an ax and a lightning spear," he said, calling him a "Thor-style character - a very powerful, god-like being with a particular way of talking which I think will be recognizable to Australians.
"I'm taking a lot of the [Aboriginal] dreaming stories and science fictionalizing them for the background of the character," he said.