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The Charlton Heroes Who Inspired ‘Watchmen’ to Appear in Morrison’s ‘Multiversity’

In conversation with British magazine Comic Heroes, writer Grant Morrison confirmed that one of his so-called “Multiversity” projects — where he and various collaborators intend to explore some of the new DC Comics realities created in the series, “52″ — will be “Pax Americana,” a modern take on the “Watchmen” approach to graphic storytelling.

We thought it would be appropriate to re-think and update the kind of in-your-face self-reflecting narrative techniques used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and to apply them to a whole new story which asks ‘what if Watchmen had been conceived now, in the contemporary political landscape and with the Charlton characters themselves, rather than analogues? So the cover has a close-up on a burning peace flag and a Delmore Schwartz quote – ‘Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn’ – and it all blossoms from there.

At the moment, what’s perhaps more important than what “Pax Americana” is is what it is not: namely, a “sequel” or “follow-up” to “Watchmen” (although some blog headlines seem to wish it was).Morrison said “Pax Americana” will star the so-called Charlton heroes like The Question, Blue Beetle and Peter Cannon, who originally inspired the characters of “Watchmen.” DC Comics acquired the characters from Charlton Comics in the 1980s, and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had intended to use them in “Watchmen” before the decision was made to create all-new characters with similar trappings. Those new characters — Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, Nite Owl, etc. — will not appear in “Pax Americana.”

As detailed in “Watchmen” co-creator Dave Gibbons’s recent book “Watching the Watchmen,” however, the strength of the ties between the characters in “Watchmen” and the Charlton characters has been overstated throughout the years. While “Watchmen” was conceived with the Charlton heroes in mind, development didn’t begin in earnest until after they’d been abandoned in favor of less restrictive analogues. Nevertheless, the connection is there, and in typical Morrisonian fashion, the writer is ironically re-casting them in his “Watchmen”-inspired work.

Much has been made of “Watchmen” writer Alan Moore’s estimation of the superhero comics business since he and Gibbons created their classic graphic novel, particularly with respect to Moore’s stated belief that his work has and is being pathetically recycled by an allegedly creatively barren DC Comics. Morrison addressed those concerns in the same Comic Heroes interview:

These stories are designed to be told over and over again. If you were an Aboriginal kid or a tribal shaman, that’s what you’d do, you’d participate in the recycling of old stories, the ‘revamping’ of characters and scenarios, the explaining away of plot holes. Some to the job with more skill than others, but if you work with Marvel, DC or other companies’ pulp fiction characters, you’re basically repainting pictures of the ancestors on cave walls.

Morison previously invoked “Watchmen” in 2008′s “Final Crisis: Superman Beyond”, which featured Captain Adam, the “Quantum Superman” of an alternate reality. The character resembled Moore & Gibbons’s Dr. Manhattan.

“Pax Americana” is thought to be one book of a forthcoming ten-part “Multiversity” series, and will be illustrated by Frank Quitely.

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