A primer: each month I will be writing an essay detailing a central topic featured within the issues of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity saga. This month I am detailing The Multiversity #1 and its exploration of the fandom’s approach to comic books.
The Multiversity is a project acclaimed writer Grant Morrison has been putting together for DC for approximately six to seven years. As the title aptly describes, it deals with the ever-growing, increasingly complicated DC multiverse, a staple of the DC Comics brand practically since the company’s inception. DC’s multiverse is an ever-evolving process, with every original graphic novel (OGN) becoming its own world with its own set of rules and continuity. One can see how this might seem problematic to incoming readers, having to deal with all the nuances of multiple worlds with their own canons and sets of rules. Only a seasoned veteran could appreciate the nuances and excruciatingly precise minutiae of the DC Comics line. What this did was create a sort of exclusivity. It separated the newbies from the experts; the casual readers from the comic fandom.
One of the underlying themes to The Multiversity #1 is the exclusivity of fandom and how different types of fans approach comics.
Nix Uotan, returning from Final Crisis, serves the role (quite literally) of that of a comic critic, analyzing and dissecting an issue (in this case, Ultra Comics, an upcoming issue of the Multiversity saga). He judges, he criticizes, and he takes the proverbial bait and attempts to rationalize it. He even calls himself “Superjudge” (Page 4), superimposing his will and thoughts on to the pages and therefore in the mind of readers. Nix Uotan, like any critic, sees himself as a taste-maker, leading blind followers towards new sights and openings. The monkey, Mr. Stubbs, plays the role of the friend that always questions the decisions of Nix. “—But d’ya think it’s normal to be reading the comics at our age, boss?” (Pg. 5, Panel 5). They serve as an allegory for the lapsed comic fan, getting bored with the same old routine and looking for something new and experimental in their heroics.
The villains that pop up, known officially as the Gentry, are the easiest and most obvious parallel to interpret. They represent the angry fan-boy, sucking the life and will out of the medium by taking a regressive approach as to how comics should be presented, pushing their taste onto newcomers and others like. “We want 2 make yu like us,” (pg. 10, panel 2) is a quote that most obviously demonstrates this. The Gentry are sucking the life-force out of the medium by forcing others to become like them at the loss of wider acceptance and progressive advancement.
Captain Carrot personifies that of a hopeful comic book writer, happy with what he’s doing but unhappy with what’s going on. When he talks about liking happy endings (Pg. 26, panel 5), he’s essentially taking on the persona of an old, seasoned industry veteran, sick of all of the grim things going on. Elsewhere, Captain Carrot says “Who else wants to argue with cartoon physics?” (Pg. 35, panel 7), which feels like an attack on those who can’t use the stories in comics for escapism, but rather argue about which character is stronger and how their sciences work. Carrot feels more like an insert for Morrison than anything, someone who thinks comic fans should just accept the stories for what they are and not try to viciously dissect them.
Even the Flash clone of Earth-36 – known as Red Racer – plays to a different type of fandom, the fan-boy willing to serve as the guide with his extensive repertoire of comic book knowledge.
Yet the biggest obstacle Morrison tackles is the Marvel Comics fan-base, using analogues of The Hulk, Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and even Dr. Doom to prove his point. (As an aside, I do enjoy Marvel, and I am by no means trying to disseminate my personal view into the text, this is just an interpretation of the events that follow). Morrison and Reis, on pages 32-33, brilliantly illustrate the proposed idea that Marvel readers will lap up the next event cycle, and then proceed to complain about it because it’s another event of heroes fighting heroes. The marvel analogues start to attack the DC heroes without giving it another thought. What this says is that Marvel’s heroes are not being heroic, and that its readers will lap this up while simultaneously lambasting it. The Multiversity, and by extension Grant Morrison, believes that Marvel and Marvel fandom are locked into a perpetuating depressive cycle.
The Multiversity looks at all of these approaches to fandom and says that they are both valid and invalid approaches. Each one has its uses, but each one also has a certain toxicity about it that keeps it from ever truly becoming perfect. In truth, there is no correct approach to the very idea of fandom, and everyone’s ideals are just interpretations of what a true fan is. There is no such thing as a true fan except for that which exists in our minds.