Grant Morrison’s Multicultural, Intertextual Multiversity

Morrison’s latest DC Comics series “The Multiversity” breathes much-needed life into the nearly exhausted superheroes dragging their (mostly white and male) shells of former glory across our screens large and small. It doesn’t take more than a cursory look at overwrought television series like “Arrow” and “The Flash,” or jingoistic blockbusters like “Man of Steel” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” to find the supergods of DC Comics on their last, wobbly legs. Even the forthcoming, painfully titled blockbuster “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice” is coded more like a marketing bonanza than a transformative narrative with anything important to say about the globally warmed Earth our children are inheriting. Ben Affleck finally gets to play Batman, and Wonder Woman — played by Gal Gadot, an actress who served in the Israeli army, no underdog — is thrown a token cameo bone.

Roll credits, cash checks.

This empty-headed hyperconsumption and narcissism is gleefully skewered in “The Just,” one installment of Morrison’s destabilizing “Mulitversity,” which accelerates outward as a series of first issues in search of an existential convergence. The culture industry’s racial and sexual sameness is also sharply dissected — if accidentally, according to Morrison, who now splits his time between Scotland and Hollywood — in the first eponymous, apocalyptic issue of “Multiversity,” which doesn’t include a single straight white male.

Along the way, comics, history and fringe science are retconned, reimagined and rebuilt from the genes up, in what Morrison calls a dizzying “hyperfiction” — revolutionized most notably by his ’80s and ’90s work on “Doom Patrol” and “Animal Man.” In this new century, hyperfiction has stepped into the void of 20th-century postmodernisms like metafiction and the fourth wall, which, like most everything humans desperately try to hold onto, have lost their once reliable meanings. Whether he’s swimming in the multiverse’s primordial soup, or the shark tank of Hollywood still loathe to commit to a DC Comics risk-taker when boring golden boys like Geoff Johns (“Green Lantern,” “Arrow,” “The Flash,” ad nauseam) are getting paid to do nothing challenging, Grant Morrison is always pushing the tenuous envelope of our tender existence well past its breaking point. Even if that breaking point leads directly to, as he explains, “Orange Batman, Diet Avengers, Butterscotch Wolverine and Sabertooth Praline.”

Salon spoke to Morrison about all of this and much more, including the infinite crisis that has sadly become humanity’s cultural continuity. You know, the one where, as Morrison explains, “any given baddie has to gnaw at the very roots of Batman’s being, fuck up the private lives of his friends and relatives, make him doubt his raison d’etre, set his postal district on fire and blow up his cave.”