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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 .

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Posted by simsey

wow did not know dat it only finished up in oct/nov over here on english/irish tv dat sucks dont think it was 2 years tho oh well il get over it i taught it was a good show but these things happen
Posted by Le Chiffre

I'm a fan of a couple Alternate Reality/Alternate Future storylines. Red Sun Superman, The Dark Knight Returns, House of M, AoA, etc etc. Never been a fan of Exiles or the What If series though.

Posted by ninjadude853
@leokearon said:
" 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 "
please do
Posted by The Sharp Dressed Lady
@goldenkey said:

" The ultimate line is my favorite because the characters were modernized "

  I love the Ultimates, but they were more variations of the original characters than contemporaries. The present mainstream characters are more the modern versions of the originals.    
Posted by darkxman123

I love Alt realitys they give new spin on asome show what life would be like if something happend in main stream that dident  
 
i love some of the alt verses like 

           i know some people dont  like them but i do 
Posted by Haustyl12

I love alternate universes because you can finally take a break from the original story and see comics in a different direction.  
 
I love marvel zombies and the issue of deadpool merc with a mouth where deadpool and headpool go threw different universes.  
 
I don't really like what ifs? though
Posted by 00 Raiser
@Primmaster64:  Oh yeah the Marvel, DC crossover. LOL Magneto and the Magnetic Men. Yeah that was pretty freaking awesome. Cobalt was my favorite.
Posted by John_Martone

The thing about alternate realities, for me, is that they offer an opportunity one of two things
1) The ability deal (once again) with the core components of characters, relieved from the web of interactions with pre-existing obligations and connections to currently running works.
2) The ability to make decisions that, in all honesty, would be wayyyyy to hard to make in an normal work. Like, in alternate realities you can actually kill someone. very refreshing. Heck, in early Exiles they made it a point to kill a main character like, every other issue or so.
 
Also, yes, I agree. Despite the years between in, Age of Apocalypse is still incredibly fresh feeling. I usually make a run through the entire collection every other year or so.

Posted by SigersonLTD

I've always believed that The Crisis on Infinite Earths was a mistake....