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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.
 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 .