Strip Talk #11: Alternate universes expand story

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley, editor-in-chief

Alternate universes. As a comic book aficionado, you can’t live with them or live without them. Any ink fan knows his or her’s alternate history of events for their characters, places or eras. And if you don’t, there’s no way that you can’t find out by doing a little reading.

What is fascinating about alternate universes is really what I want to know. I suppose it’s that characters can exist in two places with differences but basically be the same person. The reality of alternate universes is that there is always a prime ? a main person, place or thing ? and the alternates are always some variation of the main.

Take, for example, Marvel’s Earth designations. The comic book main Earth, designated 616, is the prime. Different realities are given to the multiple X-Men arcs such as Age of Apocalypse, Days of Future Past and Marvel Zombies, or to the different movies and the Ultimate versions of characters. This retains the ability to tell a different story about the same characters and it not interfere with established canon.

The same concept applies to DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earth’s arc, which established that there were different Earths, cleaned up plotlines and eliminated some characters in the 1980s. Now, DC doesn’t go nearly as far Marvel does with the multiple Earth designations and what-ifs, but the saga did explain characters’ origins and cleared up quite a few questions about where and how some characters died or came back.

The best version of an alternate universe is the aforementioned Marvel Ultimates series. Ultimate versions of characters in the Marvel universe can be radically different or have only one thing change in their past that completely makes them a different character. For instance, one of the most well-known changes between Ultimate and regular versions of a character is Col. Nick Fury. The Ultimate version of Fury is black but the regular version is white. That’s how you can have a movie that has David Hasselhoff playing Fury and another with Samuel L. Jackson playing the character.

Another well-known example is the fact that Ultimate Colossus is gay, while the regular version is not. Both versions were once upon a time involved with Kitty Pryde, but Ultimate Colossus later announces his sexual orientation to the X-Men family.

Alternate universes can be a cheap trick to lengthen out a nonsensical story. However, they can also be a great way to tell the other side of a tale. Don’t write off the better-told attempts because they may just be hiding something new and bold.

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached at

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