We all know that DC wants to put their storied continuity behind them with the New 52 project.
However, we also know that DC lets Grant Morrison do whatever he wants to do, and they follow along and try to paste over the cracks. Or not, if it's Batman Incorporated.
At his own convention over the weekend, Morrison previewed a tidbit of his long-brewing Multiversity project, which will be an 8-issue seriess comprised of 6 one-shots and a two-part conclusion, each with a 38-page lead and 8-page backup story, and each one considered a #1 issue profiling a new parallel world alongside the New 52. It's not due out until late 2013, but DC says it will define the Multiverse for the New 52, and the first images we've seen are a work in progress from Morrison's All-Star Superman cohort Frank Quitely, who will be providing art for a story called Pax Americana, featuring the Charlton Comics characters in their own world. Meaning the original Blue Beetle Ted Kord is involved, not to mention the original, non-demonic-god-thing Question.
Take a look at this.
The Hollywood Reporter has some more images, including Captain Atom, and also has Morrison telling us that, in an interesting inversion, the Charlton world will be evoking Watchmen, which famously used archetypes based on Charlton characters for its dramatis personae when Alan Moore was denied their actual use. Captain Atom = Dr. Manhattan. The Question = Rorschach. Blue Beetle = Nite Owl, and so on. The story focuses on how the heroes in this world failed to stop the assassination of the president.
“We’re taking the characters and applying it back to Watchmen and seeing what we could get," Morrison said. "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 also made sure to clarify that "It’s not trying to be Watchmen, it’s more of an echo of a storytelling technique of Watchmen."
Morrison also said that he's trying to make this the best thing he's ever done, hoping it will be his Lord of the Rings, since he's been working on refining it for six years, since the idea was born in the aftermath of Final Crisis. “Most comics are done in a improvisational way," he said. “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."
In fact, he got into working this way so much that he's leaving his monthly books, Action Comics and Batman Incorporated. He does assure us all that he's not leaving superheroes altogether, reminding iFanboy he's got a Wonder Woman project in the works as well.
So, we've got New 52, Earth 2 and a Charlton universe, and an "Earth Prime" (whatever that means now) book called Ultra, and Morrison says they'll all be aware of each other because each one exists in the comic books of the other worlds, and ain't that meta. Barry Allen can read about Jay Garrick in funnybooks, and so on. And that's not all.
"We’ve not only got all the multiverse versions of DC characters, but we also have multiverse versions of every other comic book company in existence," Morrison told iFanboy. "So we have multiverse versions of Image characters and Marvel characters… you know back in the day, DC would do their own kind of take on The Avengers where they would do those heroes from 'that other place' with a Thor who was kind of an Aboriginal Thor. So we’ve kind of taken that aspect, the stuff that DC and Marvel used to do, the Squadron Supreme type stuff, and I’ve kind of done an update on that thinking as well. So yeah, it’s got everything."
Squadron Supreme, as you may recall, is Marvel's Justice League allegory. Hyperion, Power Princess, Nighthawk, etc.
With all the high-minded rhetoric aside, that leaves us, the fanboys, to wonder a few things. One – what exactly is considered "Earth Prime" these days? Is it different from "Earth 1," or "New Earth" or what-have-you? Does Earth Prime refer to the New 52, or the Old DCU? A lot of Morrison's talk sounds like he's trying to do new things, but it's with a classic sensibility focused on that visceral curiosity about "elseworlds" in general, so it's hard to say whether or not he'll officially establish the O.G. DCU as another parallel world in this day and age. It would be cool, but it would also open a huge can of worms. We can already hear the internet yelling "HEY, IT'S THERE! MORE STORIES THERE PLEASE! MORE OLD LESS NEW!"
Then again, DC says "Each universe (which have been brewing in Morrison’s mind for years) will open up an endless series of worlds and realities for future writers and creators to use, expand upon and enjoy." So, if the series is endless, DCoU has got to be in there somewhere, if only as a place to occasionally revisit when ideas strike. Or to continue Secret Six. *koff*
Slightly more likely, one would think, is that he may give us a world where Wally West, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown exist, but it won't be in the old way we knew them. Let's just hope they're not all vampires. However, he's dealing with icons and big-talk and 'my best ever work,' so it's likely to be strange and edgy and high-minded more than it would be trying to sate the desires of the fans who miss their favorites. Like the Secret Six. Ahem.
We've got a long time to wait, until after whatever DC's "Trinity War" brings us next year, before we start learning these answers, so it's best not to get hung up on it quite yet. Still, a little hope for the previously hopeless.