One of comics' most influential and popular writers is back at DC, and he's launching what could be his most mind-boggling project yet.
Grant Morrison is known for his ambitious, often unapologetically complex approach to comics, from his magic-layered saga The Invisibles to his Silver Age love letter All-Star Superman to his reality-unraveling Final Crisis and, of course, his seven-year run on DC's Batman comics, which continues to hook readers. In the eyes of many fans (including yours truly), Morrison is a guy who just exists on another plane, who understands superheroes in ways we simply don't. He's cast his spell on loads of iconic characters over the years, including the X-Men, Animal Man, the Doom Patrol, Batman and Superman, and he's still working on his Wonder Woman take. Before we see that, though, we'll see The Multiversity, which will show us the DC Multiverse through Morrison's eyes.
(The Multiversity #1 cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Nei Ruffino)
Morrison's been working on the project -- which will feature seven stories in seven different universes, plus a two-part story that frames and links the whole narrative -- in some form or another since 2006, back when he and fellow writers Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka and Keith Giffen re-worked the DC Comics Multiverse in the wake of the Infinite Crisis event. Along the way the project has picked up superstar artists including Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Ivan Reis and more, and next month the first issue finally hits comic-book stores. The book's release date has been known for months, but at San Diego Comic-Con this week, Morrison made an appearance to shed more light on the book's characters and big ideas, and his vision for the Multiverse as a whole.
The overarching story of The Multiversity follows Nix Woton, the last of the Monitors, as he goes on a quest to stop a force that threatens all of the 52 universes, but Morrison's also weaving metafictional elements into the story. Just as Barry Allen read stories about the Flash Jay Garrick as a kid, only to eventualy discover that Flash was real and living in a parallel universe, so too will Morrison's universes interlock in a similar way. The bored superhumans of Earth 16, with no villains left to fight, read the adventures of the World War II-style heroes of Earth 20, and then find that the chaos enveloping the Earth 20 heroes somehow affects them too. But even that's not the most meta Morrison gets here. He's also used the Multiverse version of our Earth as the setting for a character that not only lives in a comic book, but is a comic book.
"What does a superhero look like in this world? Well, it’s made of paper, or it’s something that appears in celluloid. So I set up the task of making the world’s first superhero and the comic being that," Morrison told ComicsAlliance. "I’m interested in the idea of religions of 'the book', that we have in this world. The way they thrive is an actual book, which is the god. It’s not just the word of god, the book itself is God. So people take instruction from it and it becomes a programming language that’s easy to go back and refer to like a manual. So I kind of wanted to do what with a superhero comic."
The saga will jump through several different universes and feature many different versions of classic DC characters, from the original Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel family to the Charlton Comics characters that inspired Watchmen to President Superman to a Vampire Batman and a dinosaur police officer. Morrison's thrown it all out there, going so far as to call the book his "ultimate statement of what DC is." That might sound daunting if you're someone who's never taken a dive into Morrison's twisted brain, but don't worry. He's also worked hard to ensure that, at its core, The Multiversity is still an accessible comic for readers of all stripes.
"The stories are good. The art is brilliant. The basic comic-book stuff is all solid. The most interesting stuff for me, and what I loved as a kid, was just the variance and the versions," Morrison said. "I think there’s just something always appealing about Vampire Batman or President Superman, these little iterations of characters, and I think that's mostly what it’s all about. That’s where the real fun lies, in creating the spectrum of how far can you get it from the core before it disintegrates? I think that in itself is just always appealing. There’s more color. There’s more powers. There’s more Earths. So if you like all that stuff in the first place, this is like more of everything. The ultimate banquet of that."
To help readers along with their journey through the 52-universe landscape Morrison's re-created for this book, a guidebook to the Multiverse will also be released in August, featuring detailed looks at each of the universes, including ones not even in the story proper. Morrison said his goal was to make each of the universes in this Multiverse a detailed, rich, viable place for fellow DC Comics creators to go and tell their own stories, and not simply a place where you find slight variations on characters you know. The guidebook will also feature this absolutely stunning map (Via EW) designed by Morrison.
You can see a much larger version of the image at the EW link above, but even then you won't be able to see everything. You'll have to pick up the guidebook for that.
What all of this adds up to is a superstar creator realizing an idea he's had for nearly a decade in spectacular fashion. This seems to be Morrison stepping up to DC's plate and leaving it all out on the field for us to dig into, and it's likely to be an event that many of his fellow creators keep going back to for inspiration for years to come. I can't wait.
The Multiversity #1 hits comic-book stores next month. For even more details (and yes, there are many, many more) on what the book's all about, check out ComicsAlliance's excellent interview with Morrison (also featuring more artwork), and CBR's recap of Morrison's San Diego Comic-Con panel.