Welcome back, gang, for another stab at Grant Morrison's Multiversity. We had a thread about this title once before, but it petered out. Which was fine, until the second issue came out, which just begs for closer examination. So let's begin again. 

I'm no expert on Morrison, or his themes/hobby horses (I'll leave that to Feargal). But I am pretty familiar with comics history, so at the very least let me point out the trail markers as Morrison does shout-outs forward, backward and sideways. In other words: annotation, not analysis.(You guys can do the analysis!)

Step one is necessarily the Map of the Multiversity DC released. It's not only a blueprint of the DCU, but also a roadmap of sorts for Multiversity. Here 'tis (click for larger image):

Note, for example, that at dead center of the multiverse is the "House of Heroes," which will be referenced in the first issue.

More significantly, while there are 52 worlds, there is an Earth-0 (Us?), so the count will be from 0-51 -- meaning there's no Earth-52. Further, there are seven worlds denoted by question marks, presumably referring to the missing numbers 14, 24, 25, 27, 28, 46 and 49. Earth-30 has a hammer and sickle on it, Earth-10 has a red X on it, Earth-29 is square (Bizarro World?), Earth-26 has cartoon eyes and there oddities like Earth-19 where it's hard to tell what is meant.

But I'm getting ahead of myself ...

THE MULTIVERSITY #1

Cover

We see President Superman, Calvin Ellis of Earth-23, where there's an all-black Justice League, first seen in Final Crisis #7 (2009). We see Captain Carrot of Earth-C (which I imagine will get an official number before this is over), first seen in an insert in New Teen Titans #16 (1982). We also see a Mary Marvel, earth origin unknown, and a red-skinned Green Lantern with horns (Abin Sur of Earth-20). 

Page 1

The camera opens on a city with people running around like bugs, zooming in closer and closer to a woman knocking on a door, closer still to lice in her hair. The omniscient narrator intones about life taking root wherever it can. Morrison often announces his themes with the opening panels, Iike with Anthro in Final Crisis #1, and I don't believe this to be an exception. 

Page 2

A young black male is typing in commentary on the Cosmic Cosmos Forum about a new comic book from DC titled Ultra Comics, which is rumored to be haunted. I don't know if it's significant, but there was a comic book published by Fawcett that ran 14 issues from 1951-53 titled This Magazine Is Haunted.

The man is addressing a stuffed monkey as Mr. Stubbs. Mr. Stubbs was a circus chimpanzee in the 1880 children's book Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus, which was adapted into the Disney movie Toby Tyler in 1960.

The young man is listening to music (presumably) on earphones; music will play a big role in this series, so that might be important.

Page 3

The captions in Ultra Comics appear to be warning not just the young black man but also us readers to not read any further. Morrison has often broken the fourth wall, and appears to be doing so here. Mr. Stubbs comes alive (in a pirate outfit) and urges the young black man to change into his alter ego, Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors, as seen in Morrison's Final Crisis.

Page 4

Nix Uotan refers to his super alter ego as Superjudge. That's a new reference, unless you count the obscure album by the obscure band Monster Magnet.

Page 5

The comic book has evidently summoned Nix Uotan to Earth-7, which he travels to in a ship named Ultima Thule. "Ultima Thule" was used in ancient times as a generic reference to someplace far away, generally impossible to get to. By Medieval times "Ultima Thule" was used to denote far Northern lands about which little was known, and at various times was a reference for various far-Northern areas, such as Scandinavia, the Shetlands, even an island in the Baltic Sea. The Thule Society, formed in 1918 in Germany, believed that Thule/Hyperborea was a perfect place in antiquity, possibly Atlantis, far in advance of us technologically, and the birthplace of the Aryan race. (As you can imagine, these Aryan-lovers were tight with the Nazis.) In modern times, Thule is a place in Greenland. Whether Morrison is referencing any of this, or even Conan's Hyperborea, or Aquaman's Atlantis, or Lori Lemaris' Atlantis, or even Arion's Atlantis, isn't clear.

Earth-7 is adjacent to the House of Heroes on the map, immediately to the left.

When Superjudge and Mr. Stubbs arrive on Earth-7, it is in ruins. Dead super-people litter the ruins, although I can't distinguish any of them. The words "We Need Your Help" appear in the air.

Page 6

The words in the air are apparently a message from an ethereal, vaporized Invisible Woman analog. A fiery face appears to be a transformed Human Torch analog. A stretched-out Mr. Fantastic analog dominates the foreground, while some of the ruins are sentient and moving, apparently all that's left of this planet's version of The Thing. 

Page 7

Superjudge describes Earth-7 as "so badly out of tune, the laws of physics have been disabled." Another reference to music.

We also meet The Thunderer, the Thor analog of this world, likely based on Australian Aborigine myths or folklore, given his dialect. At his feet are various dead super-people that are avatars of both Marvel and DC characters, including Captain America, Superman, Vision, Blue Devil and Wonder Woman. (There are more, but I can't distinguish them, although one of them is possibly Cyclops.)

Page 9

The chief bad guy appears, announcing he and his kind as The Gentry, who want to remove all hope. Weirdly, he reminds me of the sidekick in Berni Wrightson's Captain Sternn. It's essentially an eyeball with bat wings. That's actually a fairly common image, but I don't know where it comes from.

We see The Thunderer from behind this time, so the figures in the background are clearer. Still can't tell if that's supposed to be a faux-Cyclops or not.

Page 14

Thunderer mentions "the Rainbow or Worlds," possibly a reference to the Multiversity Map. (He also loses his "Thor" powers -- and his front teeth -- as he reverts to Don Blake an ordinary Aborigine.

Page 15

Thunderer says "the Pitiless Ones" are from "behind the invisible rainbow" and are "opposite of everything natural." One must assume again that he is referring to the Multiversity Map, and that The Gentry are from beyond its borders. 

Nix Uotan references "The Orrery" and the "House of Heroes" from the Map.

Page 16

We meet the other Gentry: Dame Merciless, Hellmachine, Lord Broken, Demogorgunn and Intellectron. These names are not familiar to me. The latter two are portmanteaus of Demiurge/Gorgon and intellect/electron. There is a demogorgon in mythology, but it's not a significant figure.

Page 17

The "anti-death equation" is described as something that won't let you die and/or extends the moment of death indefinitely, as opposed to the anti-life equation -- central to Final Crisis -- which removes free will.

Page 18-19

We visit Earth-23 and President Superman. On Earth-23 Brainiac is apparently Superman's computer/major domo. 

Page 20

The President's assistant is Courtney. I am unfamiliar with any significant Courtneys in DC history that look like this twentysomething brunette. Courtney Whitmore is a blonde teenager.)

Page 21

We meet Earth-23's Justice League, whose headquarters resembles the pre-Crisis Justice League's satellite. Members include Steel, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Zatanna, Black Lightning, Batman, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Vixen and a man in a leather jacket with a half-helmet of gold -- likely Mr. Terrific, but possibly Dr. Fate or Guardian. All are black except possibly Batman, who is probably black, but if he is, he's very light-skinned. 

Superman has destroyed a robot of unknown origin and unknown materials that degrades upon contact with real-world physics -- obviously, something from The Gentry's neck of the woods. Wonder Woman suggest they look for its origins "in higher planes and rare geometries, or in the harmony of spheres where endless worlds and voices sing in rhapsody sublime." 

This might be a good time to mention that all of this talk of music, musical spheres and harmony has resonance with the ancient theory of "the music of the spheres" as well as the original separation of Earth-One and Earth-Two by vibrations.

For Music of the Spheres I can't do better than Wikipedia:

"Musica universalis (lit. universal music, or music of the spheres) or Harmony of the Spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the SunMoon, and planets—as a form of musica (the Medieval Latinterm for music). This "music" is not usually thought to be literally audible, but a harmonic and/or mathematical and/or religious concept. The idea continued to appeal to thinkers about music until the end of the Renaissance, influencing scholars of many kinds, including humanists.

The Music of the Spheres incorporates the metaphysical principle that mathematical relationships express qualities or "tones" of energy which manifest in numbers, visual angles, shapes and sounds – all connected within a pattern of proportion. Pythagoras first identified that the pitch of a musical note is in proportion to the length of the string that produces it, and that intervals between harmonious sound frequencies form simple numerical ratios.[1] In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum (orbital resonance) based on their orbital revolution,[2] and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear.[3] Subsequently, Plato described astronomy and music as "twinned" studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions.[4]

Meanwhile, the original concept introduced in "Flash of Two Worlds" in Flash #123 (1961) was that each universe vibrated at a slightly different rate, so the Flashes could travel from one world to another by adapting their internal vibration to the universe they wanted to visit. 

Morrison appears to be tying the vibrational concept to a literal Music of the Spheres.

Page 22

On Earth-23, Lex Luthor was trying to access the multiverse with a "Transmatter Symphonic Array" -- which suddenly activates and whisks Superman to ... 

Page 24-25

... the House of Heroes, "outside of normal time and space -- between universes" at the center of the Multiverse (according to the Map). We learn this and a whole lot more exposition from Captain Carrot, who has also been pulled to the House by a Transmatter "Hutch' as have a host of other heroes, each pulled by a Transmatter machine of some kind, which materialized on their worlds after Thunderer sent out an SOS. Captain Carrot describes the fluid in which the worlds exist as "Bleedspace" that's rotating through the fifth dimension (where Mr. Mxyzptlk lives) around a fixed point of the multiversal Orrery of Worlds."

Addendum: Captain Carrot thinks he has met Superman, but he's thinking of the Superman from Earth-One, whom he met in Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew #1. CC says that all humans look alike to him -- a racial slur on our planet, but here, the reverse: Captain Carrot literally cannot tell the black Superman from the white one. They're all equal in his eyes.

He also refers to the House of Heroes as "a watchtower," which has JLA resonance.

It is also called Valla-Hal, Valhalla sideways.

Page 26-27

We meet more heroes snatched up by the SOS. We see (and will later be introduced to) Spore and Dino-Cop (Spawn and Savage Dragon) from Earth-41, Red Racer and Power Torch (Flash and Green Lantern) from Earth-36, Vixen and Bloodwynd (no Earth specified), a Hawkman of unknown origin, Aquawoman of Earth-11 (probably the world of gender swaps we've seen before), Lady Quark and Lord Volt (of Earth-6, first seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, 1986, and subsequently killed, so these may not be the same ones), plus chibi versions of Wonder Woman and Steel.

Incidentally, the Image planet Earth-41 is exactly on the opposite side of the Map as President Superman's Earth-23, which is probably significant, as we'll see next issue.

Page 28-29

Superman's Brainiac belt buckle makes contacts with the computer which is ... Harbinger. Or "Harbinger Systems," with a big floating Lyla "Harbinger" Mychaels head. Of course, she's been dead for a long time, and even showed up as a Black Lantern in "Blackest Night." She refers to herself as having been sleeping, but ... oh, who knows? Can't have a Crisis without a Harbinger, I guess.

Harbinger says "Earth-4. Earth-5. Earth-10. Earth-16. Earth-20. Earth-33. The Multiverse needs you!"

However, the team that goes to rescue Nix Uotan are not from those planets, so I don't know what that means.

ADDENDUM: Since Earth-20 needs help in the next issue, maybe those are the six Earths we're going to see imperiled in issues #2-7.

Page 30-31

The rescue party will consist of Superman of Earth-23, Thunderer of Earth-7, Red Racer of Earth-36, Aquawoman of Earth-41 and Captain Carrot of Earth-C. (I wonder if Earth-C is Earth-26, the one with the cartoon eyes on the Map? Seems likely.)

We learn that the Ultima Thule is made of "frozen music." 

We learn that Red Racer, like Barry Allen, is a comic book fan.

We learn that the adventures of the various heroes appear in other universes as comic books, just like Barry Allen reading about Jay Garrick back in "Flash of Two Worlds." 

We learn that Red Racer's civilian name is Ray (Palmer?) and Power-Torch's is Hank (Hall?). Their good-byes are very intimate, and one assumes they are gay. Their world's Superman was named Optiman, and he's dead.

The Justice League on Earth-36 is called Justice 9.

Marvel Comics on Earth-36 are called Major Comics.

Page 32

Morrison drives home the Music of the Spheres bit.

Red Racer: "-- vibrations! Of course -- the worlds of the Multiverse vibrate together! Separated only by their different pitches."

Thunderer (who has gotten his powers, and his front teeth, back): Fifty-two worlds occupying the same space. All ringing. It's all one big song."

Superman discovers the Ultima Thule is a trans-dimensional yacht powered by sound vibrations. "A musical engine for traveling between universes." He powers the ship by playing music, and selects destination by alter the pitch. 

Page 33

The crew sees a horrible monster in the Bleed between universes. Remember life taking root wherever it can, filling in every niche? I think that's what is happening here -- and possibly with The Gentry as well.

Page 34

We see Lord Havok (Dr. Doom) facing off against the Future Family (Fantastic Four) on Earth-8. He has the Omni-Gauntlets (Nega-Bands? Infinity Gauntlet?), the Genesis Egg (no idea) and the Lightning-Axe of Wundajin (hammer of Thor) which he claims will give him the Power Eternal (Power Cosmic?).

It should be noted that a Thor analog named Wandjina first appeared in Justice League of America #87 (1971) as part of the Champions of Angor, which included Bluejay (Yellowjacket), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch), Captain Speed (Quicksilver), Bowman (Hawkeye) and Tin Man (Iron Man), all of whom are dead, at least they were.

Pages 35-39

We meet the Retaliators (Avengers) of Earth-8, which include Wundajin (Thor), Crusader (Captain America), Machinehead (Iron Man), David "Behemoth" Dibble (Bruce David "Hulk" Banner), Bug (Spider-Man) and characters that look suspiciously like Falcon, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Hawkeye.

The Behemoth isn't just childlike like the Hulk, he's actually a giant, blue, super-strong baby in a diaper (like Baby Huey). 

Red Racer is the one who knows the names of their foes, from reading Major Comics (Marvel Comics) and seeing their movies. He also mentions the G-Men (X-Men) and Stuntmaster (probably the Daredevil analog, given that the Stuntmaster was a DD villain, but he rode a motorcycle, so he could be a Ghost Rider analog). 

Captain Carrot is governed by cartoon (Tex Avery) physics, which appears to be a super-power of sorts.

Pages 40-43

Lord Havok cracks open the Genesis Egg, apparently killing him (with the help of "Hawkeye") and the Future Family. He dies saying "I saw their faces," which I'm guessing is a reference to The Gentry.

Page 44

Nix Uotan is now calling himself "The Judge of Worlds" and has apparently been corrupted by The Gentry.

Once again the captions speak directly to the reader. If nothing else we should assume that the comic book we are reading is telling true events from elsewhere in the multiverse, and that it is, perhaps, haunted.

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Replies to This Discussion

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

I think a multiverse can be a fun place and continuity can be a very good story building tool, but they both require writing effort beyond a one-shot story and they both require a consistency of editorial philosophy that I don't think we'll ever get again. In my opinion almost everyone's looking to get in, make their mark on comic book history and then maybe move on to Hollywood.

This reminds me of the books like "How to (Draw/Write) for Comics." Not "How to Write" or "How to Draw." Some people got bent out of shape when writers like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore showed up on the scene and then showed up the other writers. They not only knew how to write comics but how to write, period. I see no problem with a writer or artist not limiting himself/herself to comics. If someone loves to write of create art and is good enough to get paid for it I see no problem with their wanting to write or create art in other media. He's being hired now, but Peter David lamented just couple of years ago that he was being frozen out of comic assignments. Many of the old pro writers and artists found themselves out of favor in the 70s. It's something that's likely to repeat.

Don't forget about Uncle Elvis!

Captain Comics said:

The only feedback DC got in those days was from letter writers, mostly the same veterans over and over. And, trust me, people like The Mad Maple and Walter Lilly III and Irene Vartanoff were not people who wanted the board turned over.

And before that Roy Thomas was complaining that Barry Allen wasn't Jay Garrick.

Older artists learned to draw by copying classic artists. Modern comic artists tend to have learned by copying older comic book artists. This is why we keep seeing bad anatomy in comics like Invaders. Kirby broke the rules but he knew what the rules were.

Captain Comics said:

The only feedback DC got in those days was from letter writers, mostly the same veterans over and over. And, trust me, people like The Mad Maple and Walter Lilly III and Irene Vartanoff were not people who wanted the board turned over.

Richard Willis said:

And of course from Roy Thomas, Denny O'Neill, Marv Wolfman, Mark Evanier and Tony Isabella. We should probably ask just how representative of the general audience these letter writers were. How representative are the members of the Round Table? I think that's the question the editors finally asked. Roy Thomas is notorious for trying to tie everything up in a ribbon, continuity as if it was a drug addiction. I think most of the fans who finally became writers and editors realized that trying to maintain the continuity that we all loved made their jobs (and deadlines) a lot harder.

Corrollary to above: I think we, as a community of readers, have screwed up everything when comics fans who insisted continuity was more important than writing entertaining stories started working at the comics companies.

Whatever Bob Haney's faults might have been, he didn't let continuity get in the way of entertaining, God bless him. 

I liked the Multi-Verse because Captain Carrot could exist alongside the Joker who could exist alongside Sivan who could exist alongside the Atomic Knights who could exist alongside the Watchmen who could exist alongside the Haney-Verse. 'Twas fun--didn't need to make that much sense.

Maybe instead of what they gave us they should have made the Haneyverse the regular DCU. Anybody from anywhere could show up there and nobody cared. Sure, Batman hadn't aged in over 30 years of adventures but if Tarzan and Doc Savage can be effectively immortal why not Bruce Wayne?

One hears so often from the anti-continuity camp---"Continuity doesn't matter, as long as it's a good story!" Yet, take a group of anti-continuity folks who are Superman fans, and then suppose I wrote a Superman story that got published, and further suppose that it was the comic-book equivalent of the Great American Novel---the kind of tale that takes one's breath away.


. . . but, with no in-story explanation, my tale insisted that Superman's secret identity was Ferd Burfel, shoe salesman. And that, as Ferd, he was married with a child. And among his powers were the ability to elongate his body and grow to twenty-five feet in height. And Lex Luthor was a Frenchman with a full head of hair.  In the Superman tale I wrote, all of those things were the norm.


You know what all those "Continuity doesn't matter, as long as it's a good story" Superman fans would be screaming? They'd be yelling about how I got all those facts wrong, that I completely ignored Superman's established history, and that it ruined the story.


When the anti-continuity people say, "Continuity doesn't matter!", what they really mean is----"Any continuity that I didn't know about doesn't matter!"        

 

Ed O'Neil as Superman? That might actually be fun to watch.

I just saw Superman split into two people today. Another episode had him walk through walls like a ghost. Superman 2 implied he could levitate people. So clearly he has powers he doesn't normally use.

But as a continuity buff I can only accept Bill Dunn or Ernest Smalley as Superman's other identity.

Commander Benson said:

One hears so often from the anti-continuity camp---"Continuity doesn't matter, as long as it's a good story!" Yet, take a group of anti-continuity folks who are Superman fans, and then suppose I wrote a Superman story that got published, and further suppose that it was the comic-book equivalent of the Great American Novel---the kind of tale that takes one's breath away.


. . . but, with no in-story explanation, my tale insisted that Superman's secret identity was Ferd Burfel, shoe salesman. And that, as Ferd, he was married with a child. And among his powers were the ability to elongate his body and grow to twenty-five feet in height. And Lex Luthor was a Frenchman with a full head of hair.  In the Superman tale I wrote, all of those things were the norm.


You know what all those "Continuity doesn't matter, as long as it's a good story" Superman fans would be screaming? They'd be yelling about how I got all those facts wrong, that I completely ignored Superman's established history, and that it ruined the story.


When the anti-continuity people say, "Continuity doesn't matter!", what they really mean is----"Any continuity that I didn't know about doesn't matter!"

What he said.

Continuity was one of the things that attracted me to comics. Knowing that there were hundreds of stories about Superman and Batman that I hadn't read made me hungry to read them. Seeing the JSA for the first time made me eager to find out more about them. Learning the names, planets and powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes was fun.

When Alan Moore wrote "The Anatomy Lesson," he didn't discard previous continuity, he accepted the challenge to completely change his main character without violating a word of what had gone before ... and I think that made it an even better story.

Sure, continuity can strangle writers and editors. I'd argue that it strangles the mediocre ones.



Ron M. said:

Since DC has made all those attempts to fix what wasn't broke in the first place, and fans keep complaining about Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis and Screwy the Crisis Bunny, why does Marvel suddenly want in on the "fun"? "Look at all the publicity DC is making ticking their fans off! Let's tick ours off and get them talking about us like that!"
 
I would read Screwy the Crisis Bunny.

Mutliversity is a good example of how continuity can and can not work for a writer. If you embrace it fully then you have to be very careful but that can lead to a massive project that many people find rewarding and fun to read. But just as many people won't care so the writer might have done all that work for nothing. Nothing perhaps except his own enjoyment.

The main problem occurs when continuity becomes a fad that one editor won't pay attention to and another will. The one who does comes in and decides to fix everything or streamline it or just restart it.

Just an update, since we're talking about continuity here: Convergence will apparently not be wiping out DC's New 52 continuity, as the line continues (albeit with 24 new books) in June. 

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