Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome
For various reasons, Status Quo Is God
is a common trope. Even if it doesn't apply to the characters and overall plot structure, the world and setting itself is unlikely to deviate significantly from its origin. This is especially true when Reed Richards Is Useless
, making any and all Added Alliterative Appeal
marvels made by these mad men meaningless to the masses. Before long, people inside and outside the story will start noting
that they can only really count on the resident Reed Richards to rectify problems when doing so restores the status quo.
However, all of that changes in stories set in an Alternate Universe
, "What If?
", or limited series. Since it has no effect on ongoing canon continuity, these stories can showcase the full extent of changes (good and bad) that releasing the Phlebotinum
of the week would have on the planet. Potentially, this can either restore the coolness of their "canon counterpart" or diminish it, depending on the viewer.
Common consequences of commercializing their creations consists of the following: Create a near Utopia
, or at least drastically improve the world. Causing a "Science Cold War
" between rival inventors. Leaving the world much as it is now, albeit with jetpacks
and other marvels.
Despite the trope title, massive bad
change is still playing the trope straight: the point is that it's massive change.
Compare Villain World
, where the bad guy gets his way instead.
- As the Trope Namer, Reed Richards has had created at least three such universes through AU's.
- Reed Richards from Earth-70105, setting of the Bullet Points miniseries where, because of a single bullet, Peter Parker is the Incredible Hulk, Steve Rogers is Iron Man, Bruce Banner is Spider Man and Reed Richards, well - at the cost of losing his three companions (and his eye in the process), becomes the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he's damn competent at doing that, too.
- In Ultimate Fantastic Four, when Ben goes back in time to avoid being turned into the Thing, he changes time such that Reed and the Skrulls modernize the world even more and give everyone superpowers. It does not end well, but only because of the Batman Gambit of the Token Evil Diplomat.
- Later subverted; in this continuity he works for a government think-tank, but eventually gets so frustrated at not being able to change the world for the better in this position that he decides to MAKE things change. By force. He's since conquered most of Europe, destroyed Washington, D.C., killed nearly all the Asgardians, and now rules a nation notably more powerful than the United States. Until he was stopped by a sentient tumor.
- The "Little Big Town" story.
- In Earth X, his attempt at free power through Vibranium reactors mutates the whole world. Except it was actually a Terrigen Mist bomb set off by Black Bolt.
- In the possible future of Fantastic Four: The End, Reed has turned the world into a technological utopia.
- The "Solve Everything" story arc features an alliance of alternate-universe Reeds who have ended famine by turning entire planets into super-productive farms, and eliminated dozens of worlds' Dr. Dooms, among other things.
- This story arc makes it clear that the reason the main Reed is "useless", is because he cares about his family more than all those other "awesome" Reeds.
- In fact, it's not uncommon for Reed to ask for help from alternate reality versions of himself.
- Subverted again in Marvel Zombies, and even in the main Marvel continuity Civil War; in the first, he thinks the zombie interdimensional virus is a good thing and a keypoint in human evolution and thus infects his teammates without being infected, and then infects himself, and in the second, he's pro-super registration act and betrays most of his former friends that don't agree with it.
- Yet played straight for the Pro-Registration arc in that one alternate universe where he was practically the only one in control of the program. Under only Reed's control, the Registration program was pretty successful.
- Also subverted in another Alternate Universe where Reed Richards acquired the abilities of the Thing as opposed to Ben Grimm. Because of this, he became reclusive due to his freakish appearance. In fact, the Ben of that universe ended up marrying Sue Storm, instead of him. When Reed Richards of the normal 616 universe met him and asked for his help (see the above points), this version of Reed agreed but quickly told him to leave soon after. This was because, not only did the 616 version look human but he also married Sue. The Thing-Reed warned that he could go into a rage at any moment due to jealousy.
- Exiles has featured numerous Reeds, most of them pretty badass. Two particularly good ones include a rebel resistance fighter against the evil ruler of his earth (an evil Invisible Woman), and a former gladiator who builds a device that forces a fully powered Galactus to flee.
- In the FF series, there are several alternate-universe Reeds who never established the loving family life with Sue Storm that keeps "our" Reed grounded and sane. The evil alternate Reeds are so powerful that Richards has to call in all his main enemies for help in taking them down.
- Speaking of Civil War, Reed once looked at other universes in order to see if he could've done something differently. Many of the realities he saw showed that the Civil War was averted. Mainly, the reason why the 616 universe one ended as badly as it did is that Reed Richards did it all himself in the other realities. In the 616 universe, he worked alongside Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Though one of those universes had the Civil War being averted because Captain America and Natasha Stark (female Iron Man) were shacking up.
- In Spider-Man: Noir Peter Parker of the 1930s becomes like the Batman of Marvel. Who's not afraid to use a gun.
- In Supreme Power the resident super genius' inventions ultimately backfire and worsen the world.
- In the original version, the Squadron Supreme who were Expies of the Justice League, their resident genius Tom Thumb invented cryogenic stasis, behavior modification devices to turn criminals into good people, pacifier guns that overwhelmed a target with pleasure, personal force fields which could shrug off gun fire. These were all mass produced for either civilian use or local law enforcement.
- Thanks to Joker Immunity, The Punisher can't ever kill scum like The Kingpin, or even really curb crime significantly. However, in one "What If?" he manages to take out every super villain... and every superhero... in Marvel. The circumstances were that his family was killed in the crossfire of a fight between supers and an alien race.
- The Marvel MAX series possibly counts as well. Recent arcs have introduced both Kingpin and Bullseye, both who end up dead. Along with Frank, apparently.
- In "What If The Punisher received the Venom symbiote", the Punisher kills the Kingpin too. However, upon realising that the symbiote was controlling him (blackouts, attacking allies, trying to kill Spider-Man etc), he tells it that if he won't be in control, he'd rather die and take the symbiote with him. The symbiote backs down, and the Watcher of that universe states that the Punisher actually got control over it. Also turning the suit into physical firearm weapons like The Mask counts.
- There was an alternate universe version of Ben Grimm who traveled back in time, became a pirate (named Thingbeard), singlehandedly defeated the British Empire, and founded the United States of America.
- What If v2 #64, written by Simon Furman, featured Tony Stark, upon first inventing the Iron Man suit, make his technology available to governments around the world. This has many positive effects, especially in health care; unfortunately, it has many negative effects as well, as despite his best efforts, governments used it in arms races; and despite their best efforts, the tech filtered out to supervillains, who used it in arms races of their own. Years down the line, most non-armor based heroes and villains were made obsolete, an enhanced Doctor Doom killed the Fantastic Four, and Magneto declared that if the world's governments didn't back off from their use of Stark-tech—as it was being used to persecute mutants—he was going to start wreaking havoc on an unprecedented scale. Stark attempted to capture Magneto and use him to generate a worldwide electromagnetic pulse to shut down all technology, both his own and otherwise, in a last-ditch attempt to undo the harm he'd unwillingly caused; however, his best friend Jim Rhodes talked him out of it by reminding him of all the good Stark-tech had done and could still do. Stark chooses to Take a Third Option, using the threat of the Magneto pulse to blackmail the world's governments to stop using his technology for offensive purposes.
- Watchmen deconstructs this severely, as the arguable theme of the story is somewhere between "Superheroes are neurotic screw-ups who do nothing but escalate the conflict" and "Beware the Superman".
- Alternately, Watchmen is a Deconstruction of it for the DC Universe, demonstrating that even a single person with Game Breaker powers like those of the Silver Age Superman would have dramatically changed the course of history.
- This is brought up in a conversation between Hollis Mason (Nite Owl I) and Dr. Manhattan. Mason tells Manhattan that he will open a car repair garage when he retires, stating that not even Manhattan could change General Motors. Manhattan then tells him that because he can synthesize lithium in mass quantities, pretty soon ever car on Earth will run on electric motors. Mason is is somewhat disturbed by this statement and sure enough, in the present, Mason's garage (whose sign reads "Obsolete models a specialty!") looks like it doesn't have many customers.
- Alternate versions of Superman can display this, such as Superman: Red Son where he takes over the world.
- Tangent Superman did this too for seemingly benign reasons.
- The original Silver Age Superman Red / Superman Blue story had the twin Supermen turn the world into a utopia. It's a pretty weird story, even by Silver Age standards.
- In Pre Crisis stories, Lex Luthor once had a Pet the Dog moment where he saved the civilization of an alien planet. The locals idolized him for it (renaming their planet "Lexor"), and Lex decided he liked being seen as a hero somewhere, so he kept on doing nice things for the locals for years, even marrying a Lexorian woman. Then he accidentally destroyed the place in a fight with Superman. Naturally Lex blamed him for it.
- The Superman of Earth-23. "Now, disguised as United States President Calvin Ellis, Kalel of Krypton fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way as... SUPERMAN!" No Forty-Fourth Presidents Were Harmed is in full effect.
- Although Batman is already pretty awesome to begin with, Countdown to Final Crisis features a universe where nobody stopped him from killing the Joker after the Joker beat Jason Todd to death. Batman decides, since he's already crossed the line, there's no going back, so he decides to kill every villain on the planet. And then, being Batman, he does. The world ends up a utopia with no crime, something every Batman dreams of. Unfortunately for him, Batman doesn't end up with any peace of mind out of the deal, not that he ever expects to.
- In the Wildstorm-verse Stormwatch, the arc "The Bleed" had the eponymous superteam get a video feed on a parallel universe in which Stormwatch had grown to Heroes Unlimited proportions by assimilating most of the other superteams in the Wildstorm universe, under the leadership of Jack Hawksmoor (with Roxy "Freefall" Spalding as his faithful Battle Butler).
- The JLA/Planetary crossover "Terra Occulta" is set in an alternate universe from both directions (that is, it's neither the usual DC Universe nor the usual Wildstorm-verse). Technological and social changes caused by the existence of superheroes are everywhere, although it's clear that Planetary are withholding most of the good stuff and have killed off most of that universe's metabeings to obtain it. They've essentially become that universe's version of The Four (the Big Bad of the mainstream Planetary universe).
- Smallville, has a number of alternate universes, all radically different from the main one.
- Fringe gives a classic example with Walternate, who is the alternate universe's Secretary of Defense, inventor of many of the alternate universe's incredibly advanced technologies and one of the most highly-respected scientists on the planet. Compare with the prime universe Walter, who is a literal Mad Scientist, spends most of his time cloistered in his lab or seeking out snack foods and doesn't do much beyond help Fringe Division solve cases.
- Also, prime universe Walter has experimented on children. Walternate, in his quest to understand Cortexiphan's effects on humans, declines that opportunity. Who's the real monster?
- It should, however, be noted that it was later revealed that the primary motivation for Walter using children to test Cortexiphan was to find a way to get Peter back home to the right universe. It's also implied that losing Peter is in fact what made Walternate wary about performing tests on children: he, due only to his circumstances and not any real difference of character, has seen the pain that can be caused by the loss and/or harm of a child, and therefore does not want to inflict that on anyone else.
- It's worth noting however that Walter grew a more moral conscience and became The Atoner for his actions in the past. Walternate however, never had that crisis of conscience. Best shown at the end of Series 2, when Walter attempted to return to the alternate universe, he gives the Cortexiphan volunteers numerous opportunities to back out and also goes along, since he couldn't ask them to do something he wouldn't risk himself. Walternate's plan to cross universes on the other hand? Dozens of innocent people end up being killed by shapeshifters, people get fused with alternate versions of themselves, all so he could be brought across safely.
- Doctor Who makes use of this trope in "Rise of the Cybermen"/"Age of Steel" with Pete Tyler, whose schemes and inventions have made him wealthy in the alternate universe, despite meeting with no success in Rose's universe. Ricky, as the counterpart to Mickey, is also an example of this, leading the revolution against John Lumic and refers to himself as London's most wanted, although he later admits it's actually for parking tickets.
- Subverted with the alternate counterpart of Rose Tyler, who much to the Doctor's endless amusement, is revealed to be a dog. It's later explained that because of Pete's incredible success in this universe, he and Jackie never had any time to raise children.
- City of Heroes has the alternate dimension of Praetoria, which is your standard superheroes-turn-world-into-shiny-police-state. Of especial note is the (on Primal Earth) not very science-minded Synapse's alternate counterpart Neutron being responsible for providing the world with cheap robotic labor. Except that it's implied he stole that invention from someone else working under him.
- In Bioshock Infinite, Zachary Hale Comstock spearheaded the campaign that lead to the creation of Columbia, a floating city that was meant to serve as a symbol of American ideals and values. Unfortunately under his leadership, he quickly turned it into a nightmarish, theocratic dictatorship. It's later revealed he's the alternate universe counterpart of Booker DeWitt.
- In Sluggy Freelance Riff's inventions never become widely spread in the story's main universe, but his Dimension of Lame counterpart has cured almost everyone in his dimension who couldn't walk (Stealth Pun?), and his 4U City counterpart inadvertently create the technology that let His Masterness Take Over the World.
- And there's at least one alternate universe where he wiped out humanity.
- According to a very likely non-canon guest strip, the universes where one of the main cast causes the end of the world are more numerous than ones where they don't (at least among those that contain their counterparts at all, or something).
- In late 2012/early 2013, we see Riff's inventions beginning to come to the attention of the wider world, and at least some of the alternate dimensions are stated to be futures of main universe continuity.
- Close to everyone in Phineas and Ferb: Across The Second Dimension. Alt!Doof has taken over the Tri-state Area. Alt!Candace is the leader of the resistance against him, and the Fireside Girls and Baljeet are members.
- On the other hand, Alt!Phineas and Alt!Ferb are closer to the brainwashed versions from Phineas and Ferb Get Busted due to Alt!Candace being overly protective of them. They eventually show the same seeds of coolness as their main universe counterparts.
- The Venture Brothers: Rusty Venture finds this version of himself after a villain with a portal in his stomach falls on top of him. He tries to kill his other self with a rock, alt!Rusty catches him and drags him back home. The whole thing is played as a gag.
does not approve of the name of this trope! He demands it changed to something more suited to Richards' level of competence!