Whereas The Walking Dead is one of the most successful comic book properties of the past twenty years, most fans might not know that DC Comics’ darkest villains created by Grant Morrison were inspired by the general nihilistic tone of the series. These villains would be the Gentry, the existential threat facing the DC Multiverse in the seminal crossover series. The multiversity.
The multiversity was in many ways Grant Morrison’s ultimate statement about not just DC Comics characters, but all superhero comics in general. Picking up on the threads left from their work on previous DC event series like 52 and Final Crisis, The multiversity was a series of interconnected one-shots, each with a different artist and set in one of the many universes of the DC Multiverse. The story concerns all of these universes under attack by the Gentry, five beings of unimaginable evil bent on reshaping the multiverse in their own dark and twisted image.
Make their debut in The multiversity #1 by Grant Morrison, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado, the Gentry’s are meant to be representations of the villainous archetypes found in pulp genre fiction, such as the Evil Mastermind, the Fatal Woman and the Zombie Horde. As Grant Morrison notes in their recent Multiversity annotations posted on their Sub-stack newsletter“Gentry’s are primarily meant to represent the creative impasse of dystopian thinking, bad ideas that have become cosmic and unstoppable..” Morrison goes on to explain how pop culture drawing has provided a way to comment on the changing times and how those times are interpreted through narrative art. Morrison says:I was fascinated by the way the philosophy of star treka vision of the human future as infinitely expansive, had its ideological opposite in The Walking Deadit is world of nullified potential and existential futility.”
The Gentry, at their core, are this existential futility that you find in the world of The Walking Dead, where the world has already ended and the best humanity can do is live through the consequences. It’s an interesting thematic parallel to draw with the world of superheroes, which Morrison has traditionally seen as the idealized version of humanity – the ultimate expression of human potential. In this way, the über-villains of The Multiversity act as Morrison’s commentary on where they saw popular culture heading at the time; in a very restrictive space that eschews the imagination for conformity. “The Gentry are colonies of toxic living ideas,Morrison elaborates, “moving into the dystopian slums of our imagined territory as new owners, determined to throw us out and develop the place according to their needs, not ours.”
Ultimately, the superheroes of the DC Multiverse are able to prevail, but not before learning that the Gentry’s are just agents of another, greater threat waiting in the wings; proving that the conflict of imagination versus conformity (and, by extension, art versus commerce) can never truly be decisively won. Be that as it may, the thematic parallels that Grant Morrison attracted The multiversity Between The Walking Dead and DC Comics offer a fascinating counterpoint to each other.
Source: Grant Morrison sub-stack