This is happening now. As I type.

The first draft is always the most immediate, isn’t it? That’s why serialised comics are a more interesting form than the graphic novel. You can’t go back and fix things. You can retcon, of course — like the politician’s denial, “what I meant to say when I said I wouldn’t raise taxes is that I wouldn’t raise taxes unless I need to” — but you can’t go back and edit what you’ve already written. (I just wrote “edit the past” and then changed it. You can still do that when you’re writing a first draft). You have to keep pushing forward. Embrace the mistakes. Embrace the errors.

So this is a real-time look at Multiversity. This is the take on it I am writing today, Monday 4th May 2015, 10:53 AM as I type this. From this perspective, here and now, Multiversity is the latest part of a story Grant Morrison, one of the most interesting writers to work in the comics medium, has been working on for decades. It’s fair to say that in many ways he’s been telling the same story over and over — a story of idealism turned to dirt, and of a multiverse that hints at a secret conspiracy behind reality, and of the dirty, bedraggled, idealism reasserting itself. Of betrayal and redemption. Of the difference between the physical and the spiritual. And of the multiplicity of viewpoints.

In Morrison’s work there’s often a struggle between two giant warring factions which are revealed to be aspects of the same thing, while real change comes from those opposed to both viewpoints. The significance of this, in election week, is left to the reader.

But the story has been told in a variety of different ways, and this version of the story is the one that Grant Morrison started in 1988 with Animal Man, and told in the 1990s with JLA, and in the 2000s with Seven Soldiers of Victory, JLA: Classified, 52, All-Star Superman, and Final Crisis. In many ways it’s a leftover from those years — it’s a story that was conceived as a follow-up to Final Crisis, and was originally meant to come out in 2010. It’s a profligate, luxurious, expansive story, of a kind that no-one, not even Morrison, is telling any longer in DC comics. After the economic crash in 2008 we’ve had a kind of austerity of the mind in DC’s work, with the “New 52” comics line that started in 2011 being fifty-two flavours of the same grim, gritty, dull, dim-witted hopelessness.

Multiversity has its darkness, of course, as all Morrison’s work does, but there’s hope in there still. It’s a very 2008 kind of comic, from before hope was revealed to be a bad joke.

But maybe that’s what we need right now. To be told it’ll all be all right. That things can get better.

As I write this, we’re in the middle of an election campaign in the UK. The Conservative Party are campaigning on a platform of austerity, cutting benefits, demonising immigrants, and increased authoritarianism. The Labour Party are, in order to provide people with a real choice, campaigning on a platform of austerity, cutting benefits, demonising immigrants, and increased authoritarianism. My own party, the Liberal Democrats, has had a campaign that has mostly ignored the pretty sensible policies its members have voted for in favour of messaging saying “you know how you can’t get a cigarette paper between those other two parties? We want to be that cigarette paper!”. Everyone wants change, but no-one believes it’s possible. The world has been taken over by the anti-life equation, and we need a way out.

As you may have guessed by now, this is not one of those books that annotates everything, saying “the Batman of Earth-793 first appeared in Batman #793, from 1954, in the story Batman’s Bat-Trousers!”. There’ll be some of that, but this is more a response to Multiversity, a reaction to it, and a guide through the thoughts behind it, rather than a catalogue. Those of you who’ve read my earlier books dealing with Morrison’s work, An Incomprehensible Condition and Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!, know what I’m doing here. The rest of you can either jump off now or come along for the ride.

Do I have your complete attention yet?

Whose voice is this speaking in your head, anyway?

Yours?

[Over a ten-day period I will be posting my long piece on Multiversity. Those who want it in one piece can buy the whole thing as an epub from Smashwords right now for $1, it will be available for Kindle from tomorrow (the link will be in tomorrow's piece), and my Patreons get it for free]

6 Responses to “Multiversity: Introduction”

  1. Zakaria Says:

    This should go very well with my re-read now that the whole thing is complete.

    LOVELY!

  2. Roadswim Says:

    Sounds intriguing and timely, can’t wait to get stuck in.

    The approach of looking at all GM’s work holisitically as one great story-myth sounds like a cosmically, psychologically and politically fruitful one, and probably the only way to get a decent angle on Multiversity.

    A slice of late Morrison superheroism, it’s a series quite stunningly dense in its demands on the reader yet many of the riffs are perhaps becoming slightly over-familiar? Have we reached peak-Morrison, at least in the mega-conceptual sense? Having traversed for us the backstage areas of the multiverse, what more can a man say about the scaffolding that holds it all up?

    Maybe it’s time for Morrison to return from the super-hyperion of his/the ideaspace and visit some of the trillion scintillating worlds he glimpsed on his way up. Maybe smaller, more eccentric stories, like he used to do so well. I’d love to read more Seaguy, it’s one of my favourite of his books.

    But it’s very presumptuous to make such demands of a decent writer. He must go where his dayglo raving Muse leads him, this is just the view from seat 45b in the peanut gallery!

    And then there might be something William Blakey about the over-lapping narratives in Morrison that, like Blake’s prophetic books, seem to circle endlessly around a great, unchanging central theme /spiritual insight.

    Loved the observation you make about the warring factions finally being seen for what they really are, “aspects of the same thing”, and of this movement – from false opposition to a constructed alternative to a transcendent recognition of the wider structure that includes (and contains) both the tyranny and the rebellion – being perhaps THE key dialectic running through all his stuff.

    Wonderful observation – it’s right there, staring us in the face, but we missed the emphasis. Once made, that insight flashes back through the whole GM ouevre, very clearly in stuff from the Invisibles on, of course, but clearly present in Animal Man, Doom Patrol,Zenith – questions of authority and control, rebellion and reaction, constantly in turmoil – even Big Dave I’d say (is he a revolutionary or a reactionary figure? Grant sets that one up then leaves it to the reader to decide through the blur of beatings and broken teeth in the foreground).

    Good stuff, sir, keep it coming.

    R

  3. jonesy Says:

    “Loved the observation you make about the warring factions finally being seen for what they really are, “aspects of the same thing”, and of this movement – from false opposition to a constructed alternative to a transcendent recognition of the wider structure that includes (and contains) both the tyranny and the rebellion – being perhaps THE key dialectic running through all his stuff.”

    MATHEMATICAL LAW OF TWO-FACE’S COIN.
    WE’RE THE VILLAIN.
    WE’RE THE HERO.
    WE’RE RUINING COMICS.
    WE’RE WHY COMICS ARE STILL RELEVANT.
    ALL ARTISTIC MOVEMENTS ARE THE FRACTAL TANGENTS OF FALSE OPPOSITIONS.
    WHAT THE HELL IS BREEDING IN THE SPACE BETWEEN MY EYES AND THE PAGES, ANYWAY? I’M CREATIVELY BANKRUPT! NEH-BUH-LOH HAS HUNTED AND KILLED MY INSPIRATION AND COME HOME EMPTY HANDED.

    But hell if I know when to take any of it at face value anymore.

  4. Stephen Says:

    Worst. Blog. Ever.

  5. Illogical Volume Says:

    OH MY GOD IT’S TRUE! Let’s burn the site down guys! Burn it down and piss on the ashes!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    “That’s why serialised comics are a more interesting form than the graphic novel. You can’t go back and fix things. You can retcon, of course — like the politician’s denial, “what I meant to say when I said I wouldn’t raise taxes is that I wouldn’t raise taxes unless I need to” — but you can’t go back and edit what you’ve already written. (I just wrote “edit the past” and then changed it. You can still do that when you’re writing a first draft). You have to keep pushing forward. Embrace the mistakes. Embrace the errors.”

    What about alterations made to collected editions of the serialized work? I’m thinking of Morrison’s own Final Crisis which, for the Absolute edition and subsequent trade versions, was expanded, partially redrawn/recolored and had edits made to dialogue and narration to clarify previously muddled story elements. Or situations like the Flex Mentallo recoloring which, while not altering the narrative, definitely changed the book’s overall atmosphere.

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