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What's With All the Alternate Realities?

Why do the fans like them so much?

 15 years later and this storyline still seems fresh to me, somehow.

While writing a recent article about the mecha standard, Gundam, for our sister site, Anime Vice, I found it a might tricky to keep track of the many alternate series and timelines that all fall under the big Gundam umbrella. I believe I got a taste of the vexation new readers must experience when they’re getting into comics from the big Two. Think about it. There’s at least 52 versions of Superman from different Earth’s spotted over different universes. Which Spider-Man origin is the real one? Does that story where Batman’s old and angry and Gotham is a crumbling warzone count? You can imagine how tough a nut this must be to crack.

From that outside perspective, you’d think of alternate realities and interdimensional doubles as being as much a part of the American superhero comic as a colorful outfit.  And, coincidentally, what are most of the big storyarcs fans remember? KINGDOM COME. DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. NEW FRONTIER. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. EARTH X. AGE OF APOCALYPSE. You’ll notice that none of them are set in the main continuities.

Sadly, this year I was too busy to do any foolin’ but, normally, I relish in April Fool’s Day.  There’s something so deeply appealing about breaking the rules of the norm. Stepping, if only for a moment, outside of reality. I think the appeal of these alternate-reality stories flows from the same wellspring. Obviously, if a title’s been running for decades, you really need these conceits to cover ground you haven’t covered before, but I think the other appeal is that continuity can sometimes accumulate such that the amount of stories you “can’t see” outnumber the ones you “can see.” And I think that these alternate reality stories are an avenue out of that.   They can let you break “the rules”, if only for a finite time, and that's a big part of their appeal.

Anyway, that’s my opinion on the matter. One of my favorite storylines - - in terms of just unbridled fun - - was the Marvel/ DC fusing Amalgam event from the 90s and it’s one that “doesn’t count” in either universe. What are your favorite parallel dimensions, oh reality-hopping Comic Vine community? What alternate futures, divergent pasts and warped presents do you hold in the highest regard?

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Comics and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. Watch out for the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover collection this April - - available for pre-order now on Amazon.com .

59 Comments
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Posted by sora_thekey

That's why What If?s always have bad things happen.. so you get to like the cannon better.... 
I never had a problem with alternate universes, I could easily ignore them since it's not real... for the exception of House of M and Age of Apocalypse that affect the cannon universe directly. 
Moderator
Posted by CATMANEXE

your in one right now, didnt you know that?
your actually an alternate reality Tom Pinchuk,
while the Prime Pinchuk exists in a different reality.

Posted by jordama

I love alternate realities. It is really cool to see what little differences can have on the world
Posted by Mbecks14

because they're awesome! i love alternate realities!

Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir

Infinite Earths, Infinite Possibilities.
See Earth-2 where you fought in world war 2
marvel at Earth-9 where you're a terrifying creature of the night
Oogle at yourself as the opposite sex on Earth-12
and bop over to Earth-(0-*) where life is Broadway musical
all before lunch

Edited by Crackdown

I agree with Mbecks
 
Also as a huge gundam fan, alternate realities are great to do different things and try new techniques.
 
 Favorite alterante reality? Probably Marvel Noir, would be Earth 15, where Spider is from(Exiles Weapon X) but I know nothing about it. Gundam wise I would say Seed ((Hear me out! I like the Astray series and Stargazer only))
And I don't care what people think of me, i am GODLY TIRED OF UC

Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir
@CATMANEXE said:
" your in one right now, didnt you know that? your actually an alternate reality Tom Pinchuk, while the Prime Pinchuk exists in a different reality. "
I want to see Pinchuk Prime
Posted by CATMANEXE
@Emperor Gonzo Noir: 
you cannot. no living creature can survive viewing the 
combined unlimited beauty and terror that is Pinchuk Prime.
no one has lived to tell the tale.
Posted by Nateabusa

This is why I really miss the Exiles book. It was always fun to see all the alternate realities and "What If's" in a semi-logical way without it having much, if any, real effect in the "real" reality. And I agree that the Marvel/DC Amalgam would have been a great series that could do alot of cool stuff with both companies creations (especially the Batman/Wolverine and JLA/Avenger books)

Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir
@CATMANEXE: I think I could handle it, Gonzo Prime was something that just plain ungodly







Posted by CATMANEXE
Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir
@CATMANEXE: SWEET SASSY MOLASSEY!!!!! ....me....heart......
Posted by courtney12490
@jordama said:
"I love alternate realities. It is really cool to see what little differences can have on the world "

I totally agree, which is why I love the Exiles series soo much
Posted by cmaprice

Alternate realities (apart from big ones like the Ultimate Universe at Marvel) give writers a chance to go balls to the wall and just tell a great story without having it restricted by a more convoluted continuity, or have their work undone (as poignant as Civil War was, everything fresh about it has been reversed in order for Marvel to reinstate the status quo. Pretty much the only thing that still stands is the death of Bill Foster-- Cap's alive, Tony erased the files and is no longer director of SHIELD, the Initiative is kaput, Aunt May's un-shot, Spidey's identity is secret again, etc. etc. So why did any of it matter in the long run?)
 
Part of the appeal is a fresh start, a simple jumping on point, but for me it's larger than that. Anything can happen. Wolverine is tricked into killing all the heroes and is living out his old age in exile as the villains divide America? Great. Superman is a communist? Brilliant. Nick Fury is Sam Jackson? Bad*ss Motherf*cker.

Edited by cmaprice

PS. Tom, when in April does Hybrid Bastards officially get released? Amazon doesn't have a date.

Posted by Golden Cod
I like the alternate realities when the publisher isn't doing it simply as a marketing gimmick.   The recent 2009-2099 book from Marvel comes to mind.
 
I do like it when it's used for the purpose of developing interesting stories though.   It allows writers to take risks and ignore convoluted backstories.   It may be why producers are so keen on rebooting franchises.   My favorite alternate realities are Ultimates (pre Jeph Loeb), Kingdom Come, Red Son, Bullet Points, Marvel Zombies before the milking, some of the alternate-world Batmans, and a bunch of others that I can't remember at the moment.
 
 
 
@sora_thekey: 
I noticed that too.   Recently though Marvel seems to be doing good/bad combination What-Ifs for its events.   The Civil War What-If had a story where Gyrich took over and eliminated all superheroes and another story where Tony tried harder in reconciling with Steve and the Heroic Age started sooner with both co-leading the Avengers Academy.   World War Hulk had a story where Caiera was the one who survive Sakaar's destruction and enslaved all the heroes and another story where Hulk actually ended up where the Illuminati wanted to send him and finally found peace in a savage world.
 
 
 
 
@Crackdown said:
" Gundam wise I would say Seed (Hear me out! I like the Astray series and Stargazer only) "
/Turns off beam saber and puts back in pocket.
Posted by Decept-O


   
No matter how I try to write it, I both hate and love alternate realities.  Just wish some concepts and stories were narrowed down in "regular" continuity concerning the respective Big 2 comic companies.   
 
We've already seen the Disney/Marvel mash-ups.  Will Punisher MIckey come along and riddle the Marvel U with mouse ear shaped bullets?   
 
That would be cool.........

Posted by courtney12490
@Decept-O:
i just lol'd reading that
Posted by Edamame

They are all stories, showing escapism from the 616. 

Posted by sora_thekey
@Golden Cod: Exactly the What If?s are either really bad, total death, total destruction endings or boring endings
Moderator
Posted by Meteorite

Best alternate realities would have to be Ultimate Universe, although I also like the Squadron Supreme's universe.

Posted by No_name_here
@CATMANEXE: The thing is... I'm the EVIL version of Pinchuk Prime.
Posted by No_name_here
@cmaprice: It's SUPPOSED to be out in time for C2E2.  So second week of April?
Posted by Dracade102
 
Fly My Fellow Fanboys, Fly!!!
Posted by CATMANEXE
@Tom Pinchuk: 
I'm the slightly peevish counterpart of CATMANEXE from Earth-256732.
that, as you already know is the one just like ours but instead of internet we
use a much more advanced means of social networking and communication.



Posted by Edamame
@Dracade102: LOL. It is like a swarm of bees. 
Posted by The Devil Tiger

To me, my favorites alternates realitys are Age of Apocalypse and Ultimate Universe. 
 
I think I like them because in them, the writer are not trapped by "script immmunity" and "status quo are god" phenomena crap like that. So, things move on, evolve, people, hero and villain die and there are real sensation to see something happening.
Posted by Edamame
@The Devil Tiger: Yeah. Isn't the Ultimate Mr. SInister completely different from 616? He was rocking then.
Posted by brc2000

I'm not a fan of alternate universes, especially when incorporated into the "regular universe" comic books.

Posted by spiderguylll

Alternate Realities are awesome mainly cause bad guys ALWAYS win...but the best one is the X-Men First Class ( don't ask)
Posted by leokearon

I actually did a funny feature about the different types of Alternate Realities. I might put it unto my Deviantart Account and then link it if anyone wants me to
Posted by Yamivash 0

I personally HATE! alternate universes

Posted by Argentino_18

I love elseworlds and What ifs? But the one that I like the Most is Earth X

Posted by Harlekin

I love alternate realities that way they only wreck Julie Power in that stupid Loners book, but there is always the Power Pack book were she is more accurate.

Posted by Emerald Dragonfly

Alternative realities... Hate them

Posted by Green ankh

Alternative realities... Hate them   ..... yep.  it is a way for the companies not to commit to a big change.  Punisher aside.
Posted by AngelFrost

I'm a fan of Alternate Realities,  they give us a different side to our favourite characters, it stops them from being boring. 
 

Posted by Red Rum

I bet my bottom dollar that there's an alternate reality where real people have super-powers... and I effin' killed you all!

Edited by The Sharp Dressed Lady

Because they answer fanmail asking you to do it their way. 
 
Because it involves an actual mention of existing science to add explanation to comic physical reality, while getting away with anything which would generate more fanmail. 
 
Because it puts your fave heroes into your fave hero settings you otherwise wouldn't get to read, including this one.
 
Because it's cool. 
 
Because it can answer the question what it would be like if YOU became ... Spider-Man...
 

@CATMANEXE

said:

" @Tom Pinchuk: 
I'm the slightly peevish counterpart of CATMANEXE from Earth-256732.
that, as you already know is the one just like ours but instead of internet we
use a much more advanced means of social networking and communication.

"

 
Someone should tell your funny little asian friend that that doesn't work so well in our universe, but it won't be us. 
 
@Dracade102 said:

"

Fly My Fellow Fanboys, Fly!!! "
They're coming for you,  @Dracade102. That's what happens when they all answer the same 911. We trust they'll each have signals as different as they are. 
Posted by simsey

love aoa i remeber greading it years ago and also the x men cartoon had one ep where u see scene from aoa am looking forward to see what they do with wolverine and the xmen 2nd season says it gon be a beast
Posted by MisterMollusk

I've been trying to get into comics as of late, and I'm finding the whole multiple reality thing to be extremely confusing. I've got no clue where to start reading! I think the sheer quantity of back story, realities, and characters in super hero comic books makes the medium very intimidating to potential consumers.

Posted by rasx

My favorites are 2099, HULK: IMPERFECT FUTURE, AGE OF APOCALYPSE and DEATHMATE.
Posted by Grim
@MisterMollusk said:
" I've been trying to get into comics as of late, and I'm finding the whole multiple reality thing to be extremely confusing. I've got no clue where to start reading! I think the sheer quantity of back story, realities, and characters in super hero comic books makes the medium very intimidating to potential consumers. "
thats why i hate these constant re-vamp movies, and how most of them completly change the stories in comics. I get them, but i've been reading comics since i was 5. 
 My advice is to stick to main continuity stories for now. trade paperbacks are the easiest way to read a story, so try those for whatever your interested in. 
 If you go to an actual comic shop with decent workers,you should be able to ask their advice on learning about certain characters and stories.
Posted by goldenkey

The ultimate line is my favorite because the characters were modernized
Posted by ninjadude853

i LOVE the Ultimate universe
 
its awesome

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Primmaster64

Almagam too

Posted by 00 Raiser

Best alternate reality story has to be Age of Apocalypse. I mean it actually tied in with the main X-Men timeline. Plus everyone's powers were at their max.

Posted by Edamame
@simsey: Season 2 is like never going to come out. 
Posted by simsey

 @edamame
 
Season Two

Season 2 is currently in production. 26 new episodes will be aired and it will focus on the Age of Apocalypse storyline of the comics. At the end of Season 1, we see Apocalypse entering a platform with Sinister and Scott Summers (Cyclops) beside him. During Comic Con 2009, Images of Season 2 were shown, consisting of Colossus, Magik, Deadpool, Jubilee,and Havok. It was announced that these characters will appear in Season 2. Colossus will get a reintroductory storyline and will be a regular character in season 2     
 
oh its coming just wait dude

Posted by Edamame
@simsey: LOL. Two years have lapsed since the end of Season 1 and production for Season 2 has not even officially begun.  LMAO.
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