Grant Morrison has been traveling the DC Comics multiverse for a long while, and soon, readers will finally be able to join him with the release of "The Multivesity" – the world-hopping event years in the making.
At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the publisher held a panel on the event featuring the Scottish writer, artist Cameron Stewart and Editor Eddie Berganza to give fans their first look inside what the final series will be -- including a wave of new art and design work posted below!
"I'm not even me. I'm the evil version of Grant from Earth 3," joked Morrison at the start. He then described the long time the series has been underway. "I've witnessed dynasties rise and fall, continents shift...I actually started this thing right after '52' ended."
The panel then started talking about the history of DC Comics that led to this series including Carmine Infantino's classic "Flash of Two Worlds" story. Morrison related how the reason this story existed was because the Barry Allen character took on the Flash identity because he read a comic of the Jay Garrick Flash. If comics and metafiction were a part of the story from the beginning, it made sense to the writer that there would be more such connections all through the multiverse. The pulp generation of issue #2 will be read by the teen cast of a later issue who are board with their own world, and other small comics connections will bleed into the story through the event.
Musing on the idea that vibrations are what carry characters from one world to another, Morrison came upon the idea that music and sound waves were a strong theme for any multiverse story. "A lot of people didn't understand why at the end of 'Final Crisis' Superman sang Darkseid to death," he joked. "But that's kind of what the whole series is about: singing comic books."
The writer's own personal origin story for the multiverse was discussed as "Final Crisis" revealed that the Monitor of the original universe would mutate as he divided into more and more Monitors -- much like ink blots on page spreading and getting more chaotic in shape. "It's a gigantic consciousness bigger than anything watching the DC Universe -- it loves to study it, but it's also kind of afraid," he described of the force outside the worlds of the multiverse.
Nix Woton -- the last on the Monitors from "Final Crisis" -- will be the through line of the entire series as Morrison joked "He travels the multiverse in a yellow submarine." When a threat challenges all the worlds, he goes on a quest to stop it. That story kicks off in "The Multiversity" #1 before splitting the story into non-chronological one-shot chapters focusing on each world and then tying up all the threads in issue #2.
Morrison praise the work of Ivan Reis on issue #1 as an artist who (combined with inker Joe Prado) is able to match the style of some of Morrison's favorite DC artists like Neal Adams, though the style will move through all the one-shot issues as Stewart and others take on each world.
The writer also gets to play with his frequent theme of comics that break the fourth wall in the event. "When I was writing the book 'Supergods' and doing my research into the early MArvel stuff, I became fascinated that Stan Lee used to talk directly to the readers," he recalled before launching into a pretty solid Stan Lee impersonation to explain how communicating through to the reader used to be done. "The Multiersity" will take a similar track with much more mental results.
The pulp world of Earth 20 featuring "Doc Fate" takes place on a world that may be in the future but is just getting over its own world war, as drawn by Chris Sprouse. Characters like Lady Blackhawk and the Immortal Man were redesigned by Morrison himself to fight zombie paratroopers in this one-shot. The story will also include a new version of the original Green Lantern Abin Sur. "My idea is that Abin Sur is the Green Lantern [of earth's sector]...but the reason we never see him is because he looks like Satan," he said. "His costume is based on the original Mart Nodell Green Lantern comic from the 1940s but slightly updated."
"The Multiversity: The Just" takes place on Earth 16 featuring the descendants of Batman, Superman and others as inspired by the classic Bob Haney superhero stories. Here, the teens no longer have any villains to fight, and Morrison calls them "flat, kind of feckless characters" in the vein of reality shows like "The Hills" (which he joked, "Does anyone remember that?") while Connor Hawke will be the Bill Ray Cyrus of the world trying to stop his daughter from becoming involved in the superhero world to be corrupted. "This is quite a fun book, and the more I see of Ben Oliver's art, the more fun it gets," the writer explained. Morrison himself designed the Atom for this world based on the teenage Ray Palmer from Dan Jurgens' "Teen Titans" run in the late '90s.
In this world, Lex Luthor's daughter Alexis is dating Damian Wayne -- however this doesn't sit well with Superman's son since Lex killed Superman in this world. A twist on "the World's Finest romance" as Morrison described it. The book will also include other legacy characters from the '90s like Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Wally West and Offspring from "The Kingdom."
The issue focusing on the Charlton Comics-based world will remix the original Steve Ditko characters with the style of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen." Morrison called the story a "political, cosmic, philosophical piece." "It's not the same story as 'Watchmen.' Nothing that happens in that story happens here, but we use some of those techniques," he explained. So instead of the Comedian dying at the beginning of Watchmen, here we start with the Peacemaker assassinating the president to get the ball rolling.
Stewart said that he visited Frank Quitely's studios years ago to look at pages of the work, and he called it the best work of the artists career. Morrison said that in the style of "Watchmen," he wrote five pages of script for every one page of comics -- something which drove Quitely up a wall as he laid out his eight-panel grids. "I've forced him to do terrible things," laughed Morrison.
The "Thunderworld" issue with art by Stewart will focus on Shazam and the Fawcett characters, and as that art appeared on the screen, Morrison cried, "It's the best Shazam ever!!!" Stewart recalled that Morrison announced his involvement on the one-shot before he even knew he was doing it, but he was willing to go wherever Morrison wanted.
"I didn't want to do a flat out emulation of CC Beck...but I wanted it to have the same quality," he said of his take on the characters. Morrison said the effect is that the Captain Marvel of this series really looks like Captain Marvel rather than just another version of Superman. Set on Earth 5, the book will be more of the all-ages book of "The Multiverity" as Morrison said he wanted to make each book completely unique so as to appeal to as many readers as possible. "Thunderworld" is Morrison's Pixar story or -- as Stewart called it -- the "All-Star Superman" of Shazam's world.
Dr. Sivanna will be a major villain for the whole project as he tracks Shazam's lightning back to its source and finds a way to build "a technological Rock of Eternity" by scientifically reverse-engineering that magic. Stewart said that he and colorist Nathan Fairbairn were the first artists done with their part of the event, and now he's enjoying seeing art from other creators coming in. "Frank Quitely's taken two and a half years with a little detour into Millarwolrd, but [Cameron] was finished in five minutes!" Morrison laughed.
The series will also have an accompanying guidebook that will feature Jack Kirby's Kamandi as well as a full accounting of the 52 worlds of the multiverse, of which Morrison said, "After all this time, we felt we owed you that much." That will include the full version of the multiverse map which is full of in reference like the fact that the world dedicated to "Just Imagine Stan Lee Created..." universe being on the exact opposite parallel from the Jack Kirby inspired world. Morrison said that fans should demand a blacklight version of the poster from designer Rian Hughes. Posters of the map were given out to all attendees of the panel.
Importantly, the map will open up the multiverse to other creators moving forward and leaves seven unknown worlds to be discovered later as DC wants. Overall, Morrison said that he felt past attempts to make worlds in the multiverse were always "just an excuse to make an evil Batman" but these worlds are fully developed ideas that can live on in comics for a long time to come.
Fan questions started with a reader wondering what attracted Morrison to the project. "I've always been fascinated by alternate versions of the superhero characters," he said, recalling his childhood love of Professor Zoom as well as the early Earth 2 stories. "There's something incoherent and not intellectual about it, but I find that all exciting."
One small story in the series will be inspired by a 1970s story by Martin Pasko about what would happen if Bruce Wayne was not inspired by a bat flying in his window but by anything from a knight to a shooting star. All the versions of the character from that story will work their way into the event on the edges.
Some of Morrison's past characters like Animal Man or the team of Superman from "Final Crisis" won't appear, but by the end of the event, there will be a team of characters drawn from across the multiverse which Morrison promised "will only include on straight white guy."
The idea that Earth 16 was marked off as "Young Justice's" world while Morrison picked the name for his own legacy character world came up, and the writer said that when he learned of the conflict, he personally devised ideas for how the "Young Justice" cast could have existed in this world/how his characters could occasionally use holograms in order to look like cartoons. It won't be a major focus of the story in any sense, but everything can fit together for fans who care about that.