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Shared universes .. good or bad for fiction?

Updated on January 3, 2016
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In Asia since early 1996, Wayne taught in local schools, universities and language schools in South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and China.

You couldn't swing a mutated amphibian without hitting a trope or cliché.

Heroes meet. They initially distrust each other. They slug it out. A danger threatens. The masked Marvel and the Dashing Crusader put aside they differences in order to face this problem. They become friends. It's a cliché, but it's also how many friendships develop in the real world, usually without webs, capes and jet-packs.

Acrimonious introductions have become the trope of movies, television shows and comic books. In the aforementioned Batman- Green Hornet team-up the Hornet(actually Britt Reid) visits Gotham City to meet with his old friend Bruce Wayne(Batman). The Hornet is viewed as a criminal, much as Batman was in his early days. The novel difference here is that The Green Hornet and Kato encourage the idea of the underworld allegiance as it allows them access to the plans and inner-workings of these nefarious ne'er-do-wells..

Batman and Robin meet the Green Hornet and Kato

The Batman/Green Hornet crossover episode, "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction:" Foreground (left to right): Burt Ward as Robin, Adam West as Batman, Van Williams as Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato with the Batmobile and "Black Beauty."
The Batman/Green Hornet crossover episode, "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction:" Foreground (left to right): Burt Ward as Robin, Adam West as Batman, Van Williams as Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato with the Batmobile and "Black Beauty." | Source

Teamups: for better or worse

Batman first teamed up with Superman, not in the comics, but on the radio. Years later Batman and Robin would team up, and fight against, the Green Hornet and Kato. The Justice Society is seen as the first Team book, but a more elemental meeting occurred when Jim Hammond first faced off against Namor McKenzie. This was the first of many battles between the original android Human Torch and Marvel's first mutant the Submariner.

These team-ups were amazing and justifiably regarded as important moments for these characters but they set the tone for more frequent meetings and a utility belt full of tropes and cliches.

Shared Universes ... this is nuts

Crossovers of various real and imagined universes
Crossovers of various real and imagined universes | Source

The House of Ideas Promises and Potential

Marvel Comics

Avengers

Defenders

Champions

Fantastic Four

Western Team-ups

Dream teams

Nova Corps

Mutants

X-men

Invaders

Ultimate Universe

What If?

Crossovers

Marvel's Shared Universe

Marvel Comics

While the Fantastic Four are justifiably the first family of Marvel Comics it is without a doubt the Avengers who truly ushered in the expanded universe at the House of ideas. The All-Winners Squad brought together Captain America and Bucky, the original Human Torch and Toro, and Prince Namor the Submariner. Later retcons would establish the Liberty Legion and the Invaders as predecessors, but it was Iron Man,The Hulk,Thor, Ant Man and the Wasp who were the founding 'family' of the expanded Marvel universe. When the Avengers were born to fight the foes no single hero could stand against, comics evolved. The Justice League had grown from the ashes of the Justice Society, and as great as they were they didn't have the same depth as the idea that was the Avengers. The idea so strong that even the loss of the original Avengers and the inauguration of Cap's Kookie Quartet could not dim the luster.

Marvel Team-up

For the most part this was Spiderman and a Marvel hero(perhaps a Marvel team) meeting, fighting, eating Chicken Shawarma and hanging out for 23 pages. Occasionally a licensed character like Rom would appear.

Marvel Two in one

Marvel Two-In-One was an American comic book series published by Marvel Comics that featured the Fantastic Four member, the Thing, in a different team-up each issue with a different character. For the most part this was Benjamin J. Grimm (The Thing) and a Marvel hero/heroine(perhaps a Marvel team) meeting, fighting, having brunch and hanging out for 23 pages. Occasionally a licensed character like Conan would appear.

DC's Shared Universe

Western Team-ups

Dream teams

Extraordinary Teams

Green Lanterns

DC Comics

Brave and the Bold

World's Finest

Justice Society

All-Star Squadron

Justice League

Legion of Super Heroes

Crisis of Infinite Connections

Watchmen

Charlton

Quality

Milestone

Crossovers

Imaginary stories

Elseworlds

The greater good

By combining characters, by cross-pollinating realities and seeding elements from one storyline into others writers(and audiences) have access to a richer source of stories.

Batman and Superman,Spiderman and Superman(Yes, it did happen) The Justice League, the Avengers, Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys. Even Night at the Museum combined realities to good effect.

Writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill brought forth the League of Extraordinary gentlemen, a meeting between some of literature's greatest heroes and most vile villains. This new reality set in a steampunk alternate universe is a feast for the eyes and a trail of crumbs for fertile minds. Mina Murray is tasked to recruit of group of disparate and desperate adventures; which includes Allan Quatermain, Hawley Griffin, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Captain Nemo and the immortal gender-fluid Orlando.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One | Source

Bad to the bone

Some unions shouldn't happen. Archie and the Punisher was fun in a stupid kind of way, but it wasn't informative of story or character in any sort of way.

The Amalgam universe meeting between DC and Marvel characters created nothing like a good character moment. The meeting between Star Trek and the Legion of Superheroes was actually fun, but presented the newest incarnation of Jim Kirk as a drooling horn-dog.

Watchmen ... a shared revision

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created a world that in so many ways discredited the idea of heroes and yet re-vitalized and redefined the post-silver age.
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created a world that in so many ways discredited the idea of heroes and yet re-vitalized and redefined the post-silver age. | Source

DC Comics: The expnding Universe

Comic-book tropes across two universes

How some of it fits together
How some of it fits together | Source

Some of them just want to be used by you.

Which shared universe makes best use its characters?

See results

The elephant in the room

In fact it's a herd of elephants. They're mutated, traumatised, orphaned, leaving or joining a clandestine organization, discovering their sexuality or having parental issues. These are all good story points, but not when they happen to the same fricking elephant fortnightly! The problem with the shared universes is that these tweaks reboots and revisions inevitably create ripples and outright tsunamis across the fragile landscape of said universe. SpiderVerse was fun, as was secret wars, Crisis et al, and whatever event happened in Image, Dynamite and Archie last week.

Rawhide and Dakota

Western Heroes
Western Heroes | Source

Superhero Teams

Superhero Teams from various universes

Other Universes


Quality

Charlton

Dynamite

IDW

Pacific

Atlas-Seaboard

Archie

Boom! Studios

Bongo Comics

Comico

Todd McFarlane Productions

TopCow

Comely Comix

Valiant Comics

Defiant

Continuity Comics

America's Best Comics

Boom! Studios

Dark Horse Comics

Dynamite Entertainment IDW Publishing Image Comics Marvel Comics Aardvark-Vanaheim AC Comics Action Lab Comics AiT/Planet Lar Alias Enterprises Alternative Comics Another Rainbow Publishing Antarctic Press Arcade Comics Archaia Entertainment Archie Comics Aspen MLT Avatar Press Azteca Productions Black Mask Studios Bluewater Productions Bongo Comics Group Conundrum Press Devil's Due Publishing Drawn and Quarterly Eureka Productions Fantagraphics Books First Second Books Hermes Press Kodansha Comics USA Last Gasp Legendary Comics Milestone Media Mirage Studios NBM Publishing Oni Press Papercutz Platinum Studios Radical Comics Radio Comix Rip Off Press Seven Seas Entertainment Shadowline Sirius Entertainment Slave Labor Graphics Top Cow Productions Top Shelf Productions Udon Entertainment Valiant Comics Vertical Viper Comics Viz Media WaRP Graphics Zenescope Entertainment Aircel Comics All-American Publications American Comics Group Atlas Comics Atlas/Seaboard Comics Awesome Comics Blackthorne Publishing Caliber Comics
Catalan Communications Centaur Publications Chaos! Comics Charlton Comics Harry "A" Chesler Comico ComicsOne Continuity Comics CrossGen Defiant Comics Dell Comics Del Rey Manga Disney Comics EC Comics Eclipse Comics Eternity Comics FantaCo Enterprises Fawcett Comics Fiction House First Comics Fox Feature Syndicate Gladstone Publishing Gemstone Publishing Gilberton Gold Key Comics Harvey Comics Highwater Books Holyoke Publishing Hyperwerks Innovation Publishing Kitchen Sink Press Mainline Publications Malibu Comics Millennium Publications Nedor Publishing NOW Comics Pacific Comics Print Mint Crestwood Publications Quality Comics Renegade Press Revolutionary Comics Skywald Publications Standard Comics Timely Comics Tokyopop Topps Comics Tundra Publishing
Vortex Comics Warren Publishing WildStorm

Vampires, and the other children of the night

Vampires have existed in Literature for a while. Going back to James Malcom Rymer’s Varney the Vampire (1845) and certainly best represented by Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. Dracula and Mary Shelly's Frankenstein represent the best of Gothic storytelling, and in may ways two early examples of modern novels, but Stoker's Dracula was not the first. Stoker managed to combine the best elements from previous stories and marry that to his own experiences and relationships in the theater.

Dravula became not only the best representation of the vampire mythos but he was also the character that other characters were linked to and other mythologies could be built upon.

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