Speaking at the "Future of the Third Millennium" panel at the convention he curated and gave his name, writer Grant Morrison confirmed for the MorrisonCon audience in Las Vegas that work is finally underway on his long awaited Multiversity project. The book will be serialized as eight 38-page issues (with 8-page backup stories) featuring two bookend chapters, six middle installments that each take place on a different Earth of the DC Comics multiverse, and a ninth book featuring a 20-page story and supplemental material. Each of the six middle chapters will be drawn by a different artist and feature trade dress appropriate to the relevant aesthetic, i.e. pulp comics, Captain Marvel/Shazam-style comics, '90s comics and so forth, and be identified as a #1 issue.

Morrison explained that he's been actively writing and rewriting the series since Final Crisis concluded several years ago, marking a break with his traditional process of what he likened to improvisation. The panel also included a first look at pages from the only confirmed artist on Multiversity, Frank Quitely, who is working on the "Pax Americana" issue which stars heroes like the Question and Blue Beetle in a story inspired by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, which was itself partly inspired by the same characters.

ComicsAlliance was on hand at MorrisonCon to speak briefly with Morrison about some of the different worlds of Multiversity and why it's "the biggest" project he's ever done. We weren't able to get to the specific threat that the heroes of Multiversity combat, but Morrison told us the narrative would be informed heavily by DC's original parallel world story, "The Flash of Two Worlds," in which the Flash of the 1960s, Barry Allen, met the Flash of the 1940s, Jay Garrick, whose adventures he'd read in comic books and inspired him to take the same name.

"One of the things I loved was that Barry Allen got his name from a comic book because he used to read about Jay Garrick in the Golden Age," Morrison explained. "So the idea that each of these worlds read comic books featuring characters from the other world seemed really interesting to play with. So each of the worlds sort of communicate with the other worlds by comic books. In the second one, you see guys reading the comic book you just read the month before. They see the bad guy moving closer to their reality, through comic books."

Earth 22 - The Pulp World

This issue will re-imagine some of DC's pulp characters including Doctor Fate, Immortal Man, Lady Blackhawk and the Atom.

"It's a version of the Earth where there's two billion people, even though it's 2012," Morrison said. "There's just been a war kind of like World War II, and there's a group of heroes called the Society of Superheroes -- S.O.S. -- led by Doc Fate who's an amalgam of Doc Fate and a kind of Doc Savage type. He appeared in Superman Beyond. There's a bunch of primitive pulp characters that we brought back and recreated. They're dealing with the first incursion of the bad guys across the multiverse."

Earth Prime - Our World

This issue will be Morrison's attempt to depict a superhero-style threat in a realistic setting.

"We've created this thing that I think has never been done before... technology that explains what a superhero would actually be like in this world."

The Just - Legacy Heroes

This issue spotlights the children or grown-up sidekicks of the Justice League in a world that their parents and mentors have made completely safe, leaving them inexperienced and aimless.

"What happens when your mom and dad fix everything? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have kind of fixed everything so the kids have nothing to do," Morrison said. "Connor Hawke and all those guys, Kyle Rayner, all those guys are hanging around and doing battle reenactments. 'It's my turn to defeat Starro the Conquerer!' The whole idea of superheroes has been taken to this exhausted end point so no one's got anything to do. They're all just trying to deal with it. Damian Wayne is the Batman and Chris Kent is the Superman of that world. These kids, they dress up but they've never fought anything. So they have to deal with [the threat] on that level.

"We designed it to be like The Hills, where we introduce these characters with their names underneath and these banal conversations. It's taking all those '90s characters and doing it as The Hills."

Thunderworld - Captain Marvel

Based on the classic Fawcett comics starring Captain Marvel, known today as Shazam!

"It's a Pixar version of the complete story of Captain Marvel, who's drawn into the conflict," Morrison said.

The Nazi World - The Mastermen vs. the Freedom Fighters

Morrison likened this issue to Superman: Red Son, in which baby Kal-El was raised in the Soviet Union. Here, Superman landed in Nazi-controlled Europe in 1938 (the year Action Comics #1 was published), and the story details how the Nazis used the Man of Steel to bring about Hitler's vision for the world, which of course necessitated killing a lot of people. Seventy years hence, the planet is without war but Superman questions whether the ends justify the means as a new group of heroes rises to reclaim the world.

"The first page is Hitler on the toilet reading Action Comics and suddenly he gets [a superman] of his own," Morrison said. "Suddenly it cuts to the '50s and we see this Nazi Superman walking in Washington and the place in flames. We have Uncle Sam, who's the kind of trampish Alex Ross version, is watching them burn American comic books and records. It's based on the idea of what if the Nazis had won. What happens is Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters come back and they're all representatives of the people who were killed by Hitler. Dollman is Jewish, The Ray is homosexual, there are Jehovah's Witnesses, that kind of thing. They're the huddled masses and Uncle Sam has brought them together in this terrorist cell. It' this big Shakespearean-style story of this Superman dealing with his own guilt and wondering if his world should be destroyed.

Click to enlarge

Pax Americana - Charlton World

The cover of this issue plays on the iconic Watchmen motif of the bloody smiley face badge by depicting a peace sign in flames. In the story, the Peacemaker (re-imagined as the Comedian in Watchmen) assassinates the American President from a weather balloon in space. The Question and Blue Beetle also star, although the two are estranged. While Steve Ditko's The Question and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Rorschach were preoccupied with Ayn Rand's objectivism, the Question of Pax Americana is concerned with spiral dynamics, which considers the world in terms of distinct modes of behavior or thinking that are represented by different colors.

Pax Americana references Watchmen's famous nine-panel grid by adhering largely to an eight-panel grid, which Morrison explained was inspired by music, specifically octaves. He'd previously written stories about the multiverse vibrating on a musical frequency, and the eight-panel grid (or the multiples-of-eight grid, as the case may be), is a continuation of that theme.

"It's like the Rutles version of Watchmen," Morrison joked.

Multiversity's ninth book will be what Morrison descried as a guidebook featuring a 20-page story and 20 pages of maps and concordances detailing the cosmic hierarchies and other details of the entire DC Comics multiverse.

Morrison told the Vegas crowd that Multiversity is the "biggest" comic project he'd ever done. Obviously he's written much longer works, but the writer told us that his method for Multiversity has raised the stakes. "It's big in the sense that I've spent all this time working on it," he said. "I'm not doing it in the improv way, which is the way I usually prefer to work. It's more about rewrites and rewrites and rewrites, making everything as perfect as I possibly can. Especially because it's the multiverse and all these DC characters, I really wanted a big hefty thing where people could feel the weight and the grinding hours i put into it [laughs]. I wanted to do it that way because I've been working in movies and that's the way they make you work, perfecting stuff."

Multiversity is expected to debut some time in 2013.

More From ComicsAlliance