Don't say he didn't warn you.
During Comic Con International in San Diego, superstar comics writer Grant Morrison admitted that his August-debuting miniseries Multiversity is really going to "f*ck people up."
"It plays into stuff I'm interested in," Morrison said during the Multiversity panel in San Diego, "breaking down the barriers of what's real and what's not. We developed this hypnotic induction technique to really f*ck people up. It has mental effects and psychic effects that I think are quite bizarre."
Writing comics that can be called "bizarre" is nothing new for Morrison, yet his mind-bending storytelling has made him a darling of critics and a favorite among fans — particularly at DC, where he just finished a seven-year run on Batman and will next release Earth One: Wonder Woman.
But the San Diego release of Morrison's trippy map of the Multiverse made it clear that this time, the writer is not only being given an outlet where he can create a slew of new concepts and characters, but readers will be given details behind Morrison's ideas and canonical information about the entire DC Multiverse.
In San Diego, Morrison also filled in some details about the map, the series and the characters that readers will meet. Newsarama takes a look at what we've learned so far:
Perhaps the most important thing to note the graphic depiction of the Multiverse is that DC Group Editor Eddie Berganza said he'll be using Morrison's map to guide the storytelling directions of other creators in the future.
So this isn't just a one-time thing.
As we've noted before, the map (drawn by artist Rian Hughes) features familiar concepts like the Speed Force and the Bleed.
Morrison said the map has a light and dark side — one side includes light-hearted universes, and the other features grim and gritty worlds. The Sphere of the Gods, which surrounds the Earths, also skews light and dark, with Apokolips in the middle of the dark side, and New Genesis in the middle of the light.
In a straight line from Apokolips is Earth-6, which Morrison said is the Stan Lee "Just Imagine" Universe, and the writer told the audience in San Diego that Stan Lee's world lies directly opposite the Jack Kirby Universe (presumably, Earth 51, the highest numbered Earth, which lies in the same line as New Genesis).
There are seven "unknown worlds," which Morrison said used to be a DC theme. By Newsarama count (of the Earths with question marks on them), the "unknown" worlds are Earths 14, 24, 25, 27, 28, 46 and 49.
Some of the numbered Earths have obvious symbols on them, such as Earth 30's Soviet emblem, which relates to it being the universe of Superman: Red Son (where Kal-El's rocket landed in Soviet Russia instead of the American midwest).
There's also a red "X" on Earth-10, which Morrison has described in past interviews as a Nazi version of the DCU. On this Earth, the Mastermen are fascist versions of DC heroes, and the Freedom Fighters are represented by people targeted by the Nazis.
It's also interesting to notice that Earth-1, which may be the Earth represented in DC's "Earth One" graphic novels, is an oddly bright shade of yellow. And Earth-3, which was supposed to have been destroyed by the Anti-Monitor during the past year, shown as a dark shade of red.
Earth-3's placement as a direct opposite of Earth-16 might also be noteworthy — on Earth-3, the evil versions of DC heroes eliminated threats to their control of the world, while Morrison has said that on Earth-16, threats have also been eliminated — but by the good guy heroes.
Morrison hasn't clarified yet what the great threat in Multiversity will be, but he's described it in the past as "a gigantic cosmic threat which is the most terrifying thing I think anyone's ever created in a comic." And the threat is so significant in scope that heroes from across the Multiverse must unite to combat it.
Multiversity will be nine total issues, with two bookends (numbered as issues #1 and #2), and seven #1 issues in between that depict various Earths in the Multiverse. According to Morrison, each issue tells an individual story while being part of the larger story.
The first character to defend against the threat will be Nix Uotan, whom readers last saw in Morrison's 2008 miniseries Final Crisis. The character is the last of the Monitors, Morrison said, and he's "set in place to protect the Multiverse," so he's "kind of my author's character."
The Monitor will pull together heroes from other Earths to form a team, including the President Superman from Earth-23 (seen in Action Comics) and Captain Carrot, as well as other characters.
In fact, every character in the DC universe will make an appearance, according to Berganza, who made the promise during the San Diego panel.
Characters within the story will contact each other by publishing comic books that others can read, Morrison said. "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," Morrison said.
So characters in issue 3 will be literally be reading Multiversity #2, Morrison said. And characters in issue #4 will be reading #3.
After the introduction, the story will visit various locations in the Multiverse, including:
Society of Super-Heroes: Earth-20 will be the focus of the issue that hits in September with art by Chris Sprouse. The story will feature the Society of Super-Heroes, or "S.O.S." for short. It's an Earth that contains a pulp version of the DC characters — one where a major world war has taken place, depleting the Earth's population to only 2 billion people.
Readers will see heroes on this world like Doc Fate (a sort of combination of Doctor Fate and Doc Savage), Mighty Atom, the Immortal Man, Lady Blackhawk and her Blackhawks and Abin Sur, the Green Lantern.
Plus, Morrison announced in San Diego, there will be zombie paratroopers.
The Just: The next world is Earth-16, where the world has young celebrity superheroes. Drawn by Ben Oliver, it will focus on the famous children of superheroes, who now have nothing to do but be famous, because they've defeated all the villains.
Morrison said in San Diego that the kids re-enact battles for fun, and there will be trouble between the son of Batman – Damian Wayne, a character Morrison co-created — and the son of Superman when the Damian dates Alexis Luthor, daughter of the man who killed Superman.
Besides Damian, readers will see Green Arrow Connor Hawke's daughter Arrowette (a "Miley Cyrus-type") a version of The Atom who turns 18 and never grows up, and Offspring, Plastic Man's son.
Pax Americana: The fourth world depicted will be Pax Americana, drawn by Frank Quitely — 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 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.
The story starts off with the president being executed, Morrison said, then readers find out what happened in reverse. Instead of the smiley face with blood (from Watchmen), this story will start with a peace sign on fire, the writer said.
And the art in this issue will be laid out in an eight-panel grid system, similar to Watchmen. Morrison has said "it’s not trying to be Watchmen. It’s more of an echo of a storytelling technique of Watchmen."
Thunderworld: The fifth book is Thunderworld, on Earth 5, drawn by Cameron Stewart. Morrison describes the story as an “all ages, Pixar-movie version of Shazam,” that features classic Shazam foe Doctor Sivana, who's duplicating magic via technology.
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."
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.
Home Sweet Home: Morrison has previously said that the seventh issue of the series will be called “Ultra Comics”, and will be based on Earth Prime — now known as Earth-33.
In Morrison's announcement of Multiversity, 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 would 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 Morrison hasn't mentioned Ultraa since, the writer referred to Earth-33 in San Diego, so we can probably expect our home world to show up as planned.
Other Worlds: Morrison also mentioned in San Diego an Earth that is home to the Justice Riders, which will be tied into the history of DC's Western characters, with Johnny Thunder as a Shazam, and Tomahawk as Tomahawkman — all riding steampunk horses.
Morrison has also talked about the "Nazi New Reichsmen of Earth 10." The issue will see the Nazi version of the Superman going up against enemies he realizes are right, and he faces the fact that the principles on which he was raised are wrong.
"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."
Readers will also see a Vampire Batman, 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.
The writer also talked in San Diego about the Aboriginal version of Thor, which he'd mentioned in interviews of the past. "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."
Midway through the series, readers will get a guidebook that has a concordance of every Earth, with who lives there and which superhero teams are there. The guidebook will feature the Morrison-written, Ryan Hughes-drawn map showing each of the 52 worlds.
"There is a big story there too with Kamandi and Batman,” Morrison said.
It's a unique move in the post-reboot, New 52 landscape, a timeframe that hasn't been rigidly defined and origins that are only now being described in DC's ongoing Secret Origins title.
As far as the book being canon, as Berganza indicated, Morrison said he's brought the story into line with the New 52 universe, even though he's been working on Multiversity for many years.
And while he said there's nothing that specifically represents a "pre-52" universe, Morrison said there is a section of the Guidebook that addresses Flashpoint, and "all of the history becomes true." Morrison said he also tried to keep on top of what’s happening with Darkseid and the build up that’s going on in Justice League — including, presumably, the appearance of the Anti-Monitor at the end of Forever Evil.
Readers may be looking for signs that Morrison's book is connected to the expected April 2015 event that will presumably be tied to the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Morrison specifically said "these characters aren’t cannon fodder for the next crisis."