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Signals from the Multiversity #7: In History, All Men Have Masters


This, by far, feels like the most out of place issue in the Multiversity lineup: art by Jim Lee, a story about a world of Nazis and Hitler on a toilet (in what is probably the most outrageous first page of this year, and possibly of all time). From what I can gather, there are quite a few historical accuracies at hand here, one involving the Hitler-toilet in the hallway (if I remember my history correctly, Hitler thought the idea of bathrooms were inefficient – this just seems to be taking that to its logical extremity). To me, this issue in a way represents the sort of core of what Multiversity is about – playing with history and being able to appreciate multiple histories on a different level.

What makes this weird is that the art is done by Jim Lee, an artist whose style seems so distinctly anti-Morrisonian that it oddly makes sense for this collaboration to be done with him. Jim Lee is a big spectacle kind of guy, and even though he gets a chance to play with that big spectacle here, it mostly feels subdued, but definitely not restrained (as evidenced by Hitler on a toilet).

As a whole though, Mastermen plays with history by playing with the historical legacy of Superman’s famous origin story. It twists and construes the basic narrative (boy crash-lands on a farm in a rocket, is discovered to have extraordinary powers) by having baby Kal-El raised by Nazis as opposed to quaint farmers. It plays with a modern myth and twists it enough to where it seems extreme, but is actually quite reflective of certain aspects of Superman’s current life. At first, it seems like a simplistic narrative of “What if Hitler raised Superman?” but it sort of delves beyond that by playing around with creation myths and epic stories and telling them from an evil perspective. And somehow Morrison and Lee manage to make the struggles of Overman relatable, even though we shouldn’t empathize with him on account of his Nazi background. Morrison has the American heroes act as bad guys for a moment of small moral relativism seemingly designed to create the symbolic idea of “Superman always wins, no matter the side”. It show Superman as a Christ-like figure with an inability to lose, regardless of his affiliations or moral alignments.

About three-quarters of the way through the issue, that moral relativism comes back into play with Uncle Sam’s group of freedom fighters becoming the heroic party. This leads me to ask the question: who is more heroic? A superman-like figure who believes in their ideals and only ever fought for a utopia (even if that utopia resulted in near-cultural genocide), or the freedom fighters who wish to restore balance to the world even if it means bloodshed and chaos? We’d like to thing “of course it’s the freedom fighters” but it could be argued both morally and ethically that Overman was just as much of a heroic figure, even if he was heroic for the wrong reasons.

This all plays into the idea here that even if you twist and alter the history of something, its basic structure and ideals will still exist in some form. This is what makes Multiversity and DC’s multiverse so great. Despite all the changes and variables and alternate earths, there are some things that remain unchanged in the process. Like a rock unshaken from its perch, forever held up on the axis of the world beneath it.

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