A World Of Elseworlds

We're in an age of remakes, sequels, and one-offs based on existing properties, mostly Superheroes.  I hear talk of an "originless" Fantastic Four film, and if you're a fan of DC comics I've seen a lot of direct-to-video films.  None of these involve the usual origins stories as their known to their target audience.  Many of them don't exactly involve a continuity of much kinds except well-known tropes and character backgrounds.

Years ago DC comics started doing things called "Elseworlds" – books of alternate ideas, histories, pasts, and futures of various characters.  These Elseworlds series mixed familiar and unfamiliar elements, and for my money, were often fascinating.  Batman as a priest fighting a corrupt theocracy?  A sword-and-sorcery Justice League?  Sign me up.

I think some of our beloved figures are entering an age of "mild" Elseworlds.

We have a lot of media properties out there that are well known – Batman, Superman, an so on.  These are popular characters, but aren't considered "classics" like King Arthur and Sherlock Holmes.  They're well-known enough that you can play with them without having the usual continuity-building, origin-story-startoff that have been done to death.  They're also not so "classic" people brush them off or ignore them or think they're unhip (a sad fact that does happen).

This is a license for people doing various media to play with the characters, to do shows and films and so on with them, without having to build things from scratch.  They can tell their story out of the box, with no connection to other works, and people will still get them and be interested in them.

Best of all they aren't worried about violating existing continuities.  They're playing, they're exploring.  The Fantastic Four of the movies, TV, and comics are all different characters.  Batman exists in many incarnations.  You don't have conflict of continuities  – you have synergies.  We accept this over time, leaving continuities to some properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

Their own takes (Elseworlds) without overdoing it (thus mild Elseworlds).  Not quite remakes, not quite original, but something in between.

I think we're going to see a lot of this in the years to come – and have seen a lot already.  There are plenty of properties and characters well known enough to do things with, without having to go and create a new continuity (and avoid the inevitable origin story).

For you the progeek?  Watch these trends and see what happens, it may affect what you do, who you work for – and may be your competition in introducing new properties.  Or it may be something you're part of.

But we're at an age where there's plenty of properties people can work with without having to re-introduce them and remake them.  People can just create one version of them – and have enough recognition and interest to sell it.

Be ready.

Steven Savage