Welcome to The Multiversity Projections, our monthly column focused on the Image Comics series “The Manhattan Projects” from Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. Each month, we’ll be taking a look at the most current issue of the series and comparing notes from actual history and the alternate version presented in the book, and trying to use actual historical data to predict where the series is going next. This is a spoiler-heavy column, so if you have not yet read the most current issue of “The Manhattan Projects”, be warned that many major plot points will be discussed.
The column logo is designed by the incredible Tim Daniel, whose work can be found here.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert in either science or World War II history; all of the information I will be using in this column is either easily found on the internet or is purely my opinion.
This month, writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra join us to talk about golden keys and orgies – how can you not read on after that?
If you’ve been granted security clearance, read on for your briefing.
This issue is all about collaboration and the growing pains that sometimes occur when situations go too well.
“We planned for betrayal. They planned for deceit. No one ever thought to plan for harmony.”
It is fitting that this issue comes out the day after Election Day in the United States, where every four years people expect riots, pundits cry revolution, and all we get is a peaceful transition of power. Sometimes things just go well.
Helmutt – Well, things go well except for Helmutt. In addition to get a big boot to the face, he also appears to be next in line to be a battery for a Torii. Poor, poor Helmutt.
Fermi – In the “Cast” section of the book, it has never been a secret that Dr. Fermi is not human, but here we get to see the first real evidence of that. I chose to highlight this panel because of the amazing face that Daghlian is making as he watches him transform.
Laika – Despite being “limited (again, from the “Cast” page),” Laika is smart enough to say yes to the joining of Star City and Los Alamos. Plus, he shows us what we already know – everyone, everything, loves bacon.
We’ll get to more Nick Pitarra goodness later on, but this is especially fun. Pitarra decided to include some of his artist buddies in this issue as soldiers. On his Facebook page, he identified who is who. From Left to Right, Joe Eisma (“Morning Glories”), Ryan Stegman (“Superior Spider-Man”), Charles Paul Wilson III (“The Stuff of Legend”), Werner Von Braun, Tommy Patterson (“Game of Thrones”), Riley Rossmo (“Bedlam”), and Pitarra himself!
The same gang also appear, as drawn by Eisma, in the upcoming “Morning Glories” #23 (Via Joe’s Tumblr).
“Legend says Romulus slew Remus and then built Rome. Imagine if they had worked together and built something better.”
“Something better,” eh? What could the end goal of the Projects/Star City joint be besides total universal dominance? What sort of wonderful creations could come about when the entire universe is at the disposal of these men? Or what untold destruction could they bring about? Only time will tell.
Later on, artist Nick Pitarra is going to give us a complete rundown of this scene, but just feast your eyes on this scene. There are so many wonderful things in this image.
The FDR AI is being set up as a potential threat for our boys in the Projects, and he would seem to be a pretty easy foe to defeat: just unplug him.
But, of course, things are never that simple. FDR may not be happy with his role in this brave new world, but he also may be smarter than to make a fuss just yet. How would an AI defend itself? Are we going to see some HAL locking Dave out of the ship type shenanigans?
“Who stands on a hill and declares that they are kings? Fools.”
This quote is a pretty accurate theme for the book as a whole, with the Projects and their kinsmen being the forces that change the world from the shadows. Truman, Gagarin, Hitler, all these men are subjugated by the scientists, the thinkers, the men unafraid to ruffle feathers. It is for those reasons that these men must remain in the background, but they appear to be more than happy to stay there.
I usually do 5 of these, but we’ve got a lot from our creator pals below, so let’s trim back this section a little bit this month.
A very focused shot on the Japanese Kanji on the Torii is shown and, again, this symbol means death. Does traveling through the Torii do something to slowly kill you? Or is this simply a reference to the energy needed to run this wonderful machine?
I’m going to say it is the former – those who are wise will limit their travel through the Torii, or face some dire consequences.
2. Raal’s Return
Our pal Raal, last seen in #5 scolding humans for genocide, is very angry, and due to return one of the issues. Raal might be the first impediment to Earth’s dominance in the universe, but I’m going to presume he is also one of the stronger ones. To not be irradiated when Daghlian’s helmet was smashed shows some serious toughness, and since Earth’s greatest weapons, thus far, are nuclear, it means that Raal will not be susceptible to their weapons.
3. Oppenheimer in the Spotlight
The series began with Oppenheimer’s story, and then he has simply been in the background, talking with himself and, on occasion, eating a dude or two. But as the story progresses, I see the man in red becoming more and more of a player, and more and more of a threat to the stability of the projects.
First up, I asked Jonathan Hickman about Feynman’s literary career, chronicled throughout the series.
Brian: “Clavis Aurea” has been used as an elegant and effective framing device for the series thus far. My question is in two parts: throughout the series, quotes have been “culled” from volumes 1-4 of the text. When you assign each quote to a volume, is there a methodology as to which volume it comes from? Do you have predetermined themes, or a chronology, for the work, or is it just a random assignment?
Secondly, as a writer, what does the framing device do for you? Is it a place to recap, to hint, to deflect, or to deceive? Or is it simply something, aesthetically, that you enjoy?
Jonathan Hickman: Cool question. To the first bit, yes, there’s a methodology to what would appear in what volume. I’m thinking about it from an old man Feynman’s perspective and how the events he’s reflecting on match up with the ‘four seasons’ of his life.
As for why I do it, I like to project out stories I want to do down the road — locking myself into at least touching on the direction the initial idea suggested I head. Or, in much fewer cases so far, I flat out telling people what’s coming up soon.
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One of the fun things about doing this column is that I get to correspond with Nick Pitarra, who is always up for whatever weird tangent I want him to expound on. This month, it was easy: it had to be the orgy. Click on the image below for the full experience.
Nick Pitarra: This scene was a lot of fun! I think Jon knows (and readers do by now) that I like to let loose once or twice an issue with a crazy Where’s Waldoy type shot. It’s part of the zany fun that is comic book making. I remember reading an interview with Geof Darrow (obviously an idol of mine) where he said people would ask why did he draw this and why did he draw that, and he exclaimed flabbergasted “Why not! It’s a comic book!” I’ve always felt that way about comics, there’s something uniquely absurd and wonderful about them…and Jonathan’s sanity be damned I try to add that as much as possible to “The Manhattan Projects.” Luckily Jon is the best (and handsomest) comics has to offer and makes it all work seamlessly.
The first thing I did was read the script, which Jonathan kind of tee’d up for me. We work casually, when he adds a quality jab or joke in the script he’s kind of putting me in the mood to have fun and in his oh so loving way letting me know it’s OK to go crazy in a particular shot.
So no dicks or vaginas and I’m off! I’ll start with a rough doodle and build the drawing up in a hand drawn perspective grid…kind of letting the drawing take on a life of it’s own. I knew I wanted to walk the line of sexual versus nonsexual per the script. So dudes in robes praying/kneeling suggestively close to one another was a easy call. Chopped up lambs seem to pop up when Truman’s around so those were a must. Snakes always seem to be in ceremonial stuff and blow up kiddy pools and top hats are fun…so combine them. A few nuns over seeing the action just incase we didn’t piss enough people off turning the oval office into a debauchery/slaughter pit.
There’s a pizza man running like mad, he obviously didn’t know what he was getting into when he took the gig to drop the pizza off. Much like the amazing Jordie Bellaire didn’t know what she was getting into when she took the MP coloring gig (hence her name on the pizza box). A guy chilling in a coffin seemed legit (I erased the dude on top of him before inking it). A little hello to Pulp Fiction (guy with sword chasing a gimp). Man baby, horse, snorkeler w/ knife, and alligator on leash because those four always go together.
By far my favorite part is the guy with a toilet seat on his head. He’s just holding the girls hands that he’s with…trying to work out some deep seeded issues. I kind of love the fact that the toilet is in the oval office with no seat (b/c he’s wearing the damn thing).
The Twinkie mascot dude is in there b/c well….pantsless cream filled phallic symbol in a cowboy hat! That’s why! No actually it was originally Muno (an equally horrific phallic symbol) from Yo Gabba Gabba, but with that being a popular kid show I figured I better switch him out. Plus I heard a rumor they were discontinuing Twinkies, so it makes sense that Twinkie the Kid could rise the ranks of the Masons with all that time off. Add a few pineapples in a radio flyer for good measure….and WhaLa! Truman Masonic Sexy Death Orgy is served.
Hope that sheds some light on that silly scene!
P.S. Forgot Hickman’s name is smeared in blood above the guy pinned to the desk whose pissed himself and I love the bootie socks that Jordie colored onto one of the masons…too cute.
Last issue correlated with issue #2 nicely, and we see that continuing with this issue. Issue #3, really, is about the subjugation of the US Government by the Manhattan Projects, and here, that becomes official, with the Projects no longer recognizing the government.
Next time, it is foretold that “They Rule.” “They” appear to be the rich and powerful folks of Earth who may not be so happy with the way the scientists of Earth are handling themselves. I truly hope that we get a glimpse at a Donald Trump analogue with some awesome hair!
If you have any questions, thoughts, or observations, please leave them in the comments below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can purchase “The Manhattan Projects” at fine comic book stores everywhere, or digitally here.
See you next month!