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Grant Morrison is ready to unleash his Lord of the Rings.
Or Use Your Illusion or Citizen Kane, depending on the analogy the iconic comics author is using.
Morrison — in the midst of curating this weekend’s MorrisonCon, perhaps the first comics-plus convention to revolve around one personality — and DC Entertainment are finally unveiling the long-rumored and long-in-the-works Multiversity comic book story.
The story is an eight-issue series comprised of six one-shots and a two-part story, featuring different titles but working under the rubrick of Multiversity. Each issue features a 38-page lead story and an eight-page back-up. They are set for release in late 2013.
Additionally, each issue will be drawn by a different artist, and while DC is keeping most names under wraps, it is confirming Frank Quitely as the artist for the fourth book, Pax Americana. Morrison worked with Quitely on landmark runs of All-Star Superman, Uncanny X-Men and We3, among others and Heat Vision presents an exclusive first-look from the book here.
Multiversity presents alternate realities and parallel worlds, something that DC was on the forefront comics-wise when, in 1961, it had the original Flash from the 1940s meet his more modern counterpart.
The success of that story, which appeared in Flash #123, allowed DC to re-introduce its heroes from comics’ golden age and have them fight side-by-side with the characters that had been relaunched after superheroes’ near demise in the 1950s.
An Earth where the Justice League are bad guys and Lex Luthor is the only hero? Check. A planet where World War II never ended? Yup.
“There’s something always appealing about a Russian Superman and a vampire Batman,” Morrison tells Heat Vision. “It’s a different way of looking at the archetypes that we’re familiar with. And I wanted to a really massive story that would be my Lord of the Rings and it would be the best thing I’ve ever done. Whether it is, I don’t know. But I’ve certainly spent a long time on it.“
Morrison has been working on the comic for the past six years and he says he has never approached writing a comic the way he is writing Multiversity. Nor has he ever spent so much time on a project.
“Most comics are done in a improvisational way,” he explains. “Deadlines make it so you don’t have a lot of time to really work it and do a lot of revisions, so most of what you see is first draft. But for this one, I wanted to do a proper book about superheroes. So I’ve been writing this more like a screenplay, where you write drafts and then redraft and redraft again. And basically polish things down to as much as a sheen as I can possibly manage.”
Each issue will feature comics about the adventures of the previous story’s heroes, an idea introduced in that historic issue of Flash.
“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,” says Morrison. “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 happend 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.”
Pax Americana, being unveiled at MorrisonCon, features heroes such as the Blue Beetle, The Question and Captain Atom, part of the group of characters known as the Charlton heroes, named after the company bought by DC in 1983. The heroes were supposed to be used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the mid-1980s, but after the company saw Moore’s controversial plans, it balked and made him create new heroes, which led to the groundbreaking Watchmen.
The Pax story revolves around the assassination of a president and how the Charleston characters failed him. “We’re taking the characters and applying it back to Watchmen and seeing what we could get. Nobody has really used those Alan Moore tricks in 25 years so it seemed right to take that very tight, controlled, self-reflecting storytelling and seeing if we can do something new with it.”
He adds, “It’s not trying to be Watchmen, it’s more of an echo of a storytelling technique of Watchmen. Despite some reports, Multiversity is not Morrison’s swan song to superheroes. He is leaving the monthly comic grind after his Batman Incorporated run ends with issue 12 and Action Comics with issue 17 (not the previously reported 16), and says he will focus on “finite projects.”
“All I ever said is I’m not doing the monthly comics once I finish up Batman and Superman. I’ll never leave superhero stuff because I really enjoy doing it.”