Ultimate Universe

"Established, popular characters? Check. Reinterpretation of a beloved, classic storyline? Check. Stretched-out presentation of the same? Check. Helmed by a popular creator of original works in his own right? Check. Updated characterizations that sometimes toy with the original creator's personas? Check. A bigger, more contemplative/brooding/generally 'big' tone? Check. Yeah, it's an Ultimate book, at least as we know them now."

A kind of "reboot" designed to create an Adaptation Distillation effect in the same medium as the original. Said adaptation will usually incorporate bits of plot and design from each previous incarnation, but is overall a standalone world/story that can be understood by newcomers. A more specific and very deliberate form of Alternate Continuity.

Extremely common in Retooled Cross Overs, as this allows a more precise meshing of plots than a Retcon may allow. It also allows for Canon Welding and greater cohesiveness owing to the advantage of foreknowledge that it possesses over the regular serial continuity (which generally more or less introduced new elements and characters as it went along). They usually contain several Mythology Gags, referencing things from the original work (either as a remake of popular plots or circumstances, or as a mere detail that the fans may notice and the new readers may not even notice as such). If both universes are being used, the original and the ultimate, the ultimate universe may take more liberties than the original: for example, an important character may be Killed Off for Real, because Status Quo Is God only at the original universe.

Named for the Marvel Comics "Ultimate Marvel" line, which sought to update and streamline decades of continuity with a reboot but without canceling out the original storyline. Most superheroes under the "Ultimate" umbrella brand are given reboots of their own, but on a smaller scale — Spider-Man's 'radioactive spider' origin story was replaced with an updated 'genetically engineered spider' version. The "Ultimate" line, it should be noted, was intended to present Marvel's flagship characters to a new, modern audience; the rationale behind the quasi-reboot was that new readers to those series would be lost when confronted with nearly 30 years of backstory. On account of its success and popularity however, the Ultimate continuity went on for fifteen years, and by the time it was retired, it had fifteen years of backstory which became just as convoluted and as the original flavor and on account of its Setting Update, ended up becoming an Unintentional Period Piece.

Fan Fiction writers frequently do this in Alternate Universe Fics, essentially rebooting the mythos to incorporate their own ideas, Fanon, and other material.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • R.O.D the TV: Mainly retooled the Read Or Dream manga's basic story to fit into the storyline done in the Read or Die OAV.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 is a deep reboot of the classic anime OAV series Bubblegum Crisis. However, so many changes were made, from character designs to backstory to the overall plot, complete with a pseudo-Gainax Ending, that most fans of the original series were rather unimpressed with the end product.
  • This was essentially the hook of the Alternate Universe series of Mobile Suit Gundam. As a result, Mobile Suit Gundam has seven of these! (G Gundam, Gundam Wing, Gundam X, Turn A Gundam, Gundam SEED, Gundam 00, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE).
    • SEED is a more explicit example, as it bears a lot of similarities to the original series and is sometimes called "21st Century First Gundam" by Sunrise.
    • You can generally tell which series are examples by how big the focus is on their respective GUNPLA line. Seed and 00 have entire separate lines dedicated to them, making them stand out even more as reboot series.
    • There was also For The Barrel, an obscure Light Novel-styled story featured in Newtype magazine with radically redesigned characters and mecha.
  • Naoki Urasawa, creator of Monster, did this for Astro Boy with Pluto. One reviewer explicitly compares it to Ultimate Marvel (see page quote). The 2003 animated series also arguably qualifies, as it took many of the unrelated storylines from the largely continuity-free classic manga and wove them together into a cohesive story-arc.
  • The Tenchi Muyo! OVAs have two: Tenchi Universe, which has all the main characters and more or less a basic outlining of their backgrounds, plus another character and the same Big Bad, and Tenchi in Tokyo, with pretty much the main characters in the latter.
  • Go Nagai's Devilman series possibly qualifies - there's a comic series, 1970s anime TV series, and three linked OVAs released between 1987 and 2000; each one of them retells the same events but in an updated, refined, condensed way. And, of course, there's Devilman Lady, which is something of a combined ultimate edition, Stealth Sequel and full-on reboot...
  • Negima! Neo, which is based on the anime based on the manga.
  • This is Hideaki Anno's stated intention with Rebuild of Evangelion. However, there is evidence to suggest it may also be a Stealth Sequel to the original series as well.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Almost every adaptation is this, usually taking a darker and more realistic approach to the manga and its themes.

     Comic Books 
  • As mentioned above, Marvel Comics' Ultimate Marvel is the Trope Namer, as it's the Ultimate Universe version of the normal Marvel Universe.
    • The primary changes made to the series is the Setting Update, with the superhero-mutant era being identified as The '90s and The Oughties. The mutant phenomenon is originally the linchpin for the series, with Magneto being the Greater-Scope Villain for the series (as opposed to Doctor Doom), the X-Men being the first super-team and The Ultimates (the Avengers' new name) being formed as a response to both Magneto and avoiding dependency on the X-Men. SHIELD is the primary Government Agency of Fiction and the overall arc for the entire franchise is Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke with many plots and schemes tied back to the idea of recreating the Super Serum that worked perfectly in Captain America but in the hands of Norman Osborn leads to accidents (Peter Parker being bitten by one of his experimental spiders, which leads to Osborn making himself the Green Goblin and so on) and in the case of the Fantastic Four, leads to experiments in the Negative Zone.
    • The streamlining of Ultimate Marvel becomes clearer if one compares it to the original Marvel continuity in its Early Installment Weirdness phase. The original Marvel run in The '60s did not have Comic-Book Time, it had character progression in almost real time, and showed growth and change, whereas the Ultimate continuity, owing to its streamlining, had Comic-Book Time from the start. As such the Fantastic Four remain teenage to young adults and never quite become the Experienced Protagonist of the original First Family of the Marvel Universe (and eventually crack apart), Peter Parker passes a whopping 200 issues while never progressing past high school and graduating (while the original Steve Ditko-Stan Lee run shipped him off to college in Issue #31), and the series has the characters being Younger and Hipper, Hotter and Sexier, Darker and Edgier and staying that way for the entire continuity with very little Character Development.
  • Supreme Power is a mature Ultimate Universe version of Marvel's Justice League Captain Ersatzes, the Squadron Supreme. They even crossovered with the actual Ultimate Universe once. Warren Ellis' short-lived newuniversal is The New Universe's Ultimate version.
  • The DC Comics All-Star line, which had the All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder miniseries (with future projects based on Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and possibly the Flash), was a form of this. The series aren't supposed to take place in any particular continuity (although All-Star Batman and Robin does supposedly take place in the same continuity as Frank Miller's other Batman stories), and are supposed to be a concentration of what makes those characters special. As well, Justice is basically All-Star Superfriends, even if it couldn't legally be called that.
  • The Earth One series of trade-paperbacks, consisting of Batman: Earth One, Superman: Earth One, Teen Titans: Earth One and Wonder Woman: Earth One with Aquaman: Earth One and The Flash: Earth One announced, follow the Ultimate Marvel formula more closely than the All-Star line, intending to be a modern reboot in a new continuity rather than another mini-series written outside of continuity. The characters are all younger, more violent and asocial than the regular continuity.
  • The New 52 relaunch also has some of this, but confusingly not always. Some series are just continuations of old series with renumbered issues while others are complete reboots or retellings. Can be quite confusing to tell which is which at times. Ironic, as the whole point of the New 52 was to make things less confusing for new readers.
  • The Wild Storm is this for the WildStorm Universe. It's worth nothing that the WSU was semi-rebooted once before, but never in a scale such as this.
  • Devil's Due productions attempted this with G.I. Joe Reloaded.
  • IDW Publishing's Transformers Generation 1 material, but this can be said of damn near all modern Transformers material.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) has taken it upon itself to become this, introducing characters and concepts from different incarnations of the property and blending them together.
  • Paperinik New Adventures, which ran from 1996 to 2001, got this treatment in the form of the less-acclaimed PK, that ended in 2005.
  • The Multiversity:
    • The aim of Thunderworld is to be this in regards to Shazam.
    • Earth-7 was this to the Major Comics characters of Earth-8.
  • Switch (2015) is this for Witchblade and several other Top Cow properties. The series is set in an alternate universe where the Witchblade is wielded by a teenage girl named Mary, and has a Lighter and Softer (and decidedly less Stripperific) style.
  • After the release of Dredd, Rebellion started publishing comics in that same continuity in Judge Dredd Megazine, making it an Ultimate Universe to Judge Dredd.
  • Rogue Trooper's 1989 reboot was intended to be this, with a reimagining of the main GI and his connection to his comrades and equipment... until Friday met Rogue, retconning the new stories into the original continuity.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • The Star Trek films headed by J. J. Abrams and his team are established as taking place in an entirely new timeline from the rest of the franchise, created inadvertently by Nero and old-Spock. As such, viewers can sit back and watch some familiar dynamics (the Kirk-Spock-McCoy friendship); some new ones (such as the Spock/Uhura relationship); and entirely new fates for Captain Pike, Carol Marcus, and Khan, etc.—without taking offense at any violations of canon. Fans have taken to calling this "The JJ-verse" or "AOS" (Alternate Original Series). Paramount has since confirmed that the name of the alternate continuity is "Kelvin Universe", a reference to the titular spaceship in the opening scene of the 2009 film.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy is this for the entire Batman mythos. It streamlines many aspects from the comics and adapts it in a more realistic setting while still keeping the spirit of the Batman character intact. Specific traits includes elevating Ra's Al Ghul's Secret Society as the central pillar, responsible for training Batman, Doing In the Wizard with Ra's Al Ghul no longer being immortal but a title passed down in a secret society in a Master-Apprentice Chain, Joker no longer having the show-biz motif and chemistry based gas gadgets but being a Knife Nut with byzantine manipulation skills and an Anarchy Is Chaos sensibility.
  • The DC Extended Universe also took this approach both in relation to earlier films and the comics continuity:
    • Man of Steel took this approach with Superman with the government military-industrial complex having an active presence and involvement in a plot, Superman's arrival being treated as a First Contact story, and streamlining many elements (such as Lois Lane knowing Superman's identity from the start) and Lex Luthor becoming a Mark Zuckerberg Hipster billionaire (being played by Jesse Eisenberg) rather than the older villain approach in the comics and previous films. Likewise, Superman ends up being the youngest and most recent of the superheroes.
    • On the other hand Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an Experienced Protagonist, albeit one with a more loose attitude to the Thou Shalt Not Kill rule than his more well known adaptations, but he's more or less the character who is the most timeless and notable for being the first cinematic Batman since Adam West to wear gray tights and have a costume that resembles his comics' counterpart. Suicide Squad likewise has a very young Joker but who is otherwise closer to the comics character in being a showbiz driven chemistry obsessed gang leader than Heath Ledger's evil philosopher.
    • Wonder Woman (2017) is interesting since in her case the Setting Update is pushed back to World War I and she's made into an immortal ageless hero. Her powers and costume and personality is common from the comics but on the other hand her lore is heavily streamlined in a manner not dissimilar to Ultimate Thor.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe is considered to be a more modern approach to the regular Marvel Universe at least in some respects but not in others.
    • In general the characters are closer to the 616 originals, being Experienced Protagonist in the main rather than Younger and Hipper. The series originally started with a more grounded science-fiction approach mirroring the aesthetics of Ultimate Marvel, from which it drew the concept of SHIELD as the linchpin of the entire events but eventually it led to a Reconstruction of the original continuity rather than the Ultimate continuity. SHIELD ended up being Demoted to Extra and the overall Myth Arc focuses on the Infinity Stones, which is shown to be both magical and scientific in nature.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy on the other hand plays this straight. It took highly obscure characters and used it to provide World Building for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe, while updating the space opera concept of The '60s and The '70s to a more Used Future aesthetic (similar to Star Wars and Futurama), while making the obscure Peter Quill/Star-Lord the son of cosmic entity, Ego the Living Planet.
    • Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming streamlines both stories by featuring an Old Superhero mentoring a newcomer (Hank Pym and Tony Stark respectively). The latter film likewise provides a major Setting Update to Spider-Man's Kid Hero origins and changes his cast, background and social circumstance far more than the Ultimate continuity did.
  • Power Rangers (2017) is this to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

     Literature  
  • The book sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey are all set in the universe established in the film version (the mission terminates at Saturn in the novel, at Jupiter in the film), but each one is set in a somewhat divergent universe that does not necessarily take all events of the previous novel(s) into account. Thus 2061 diverges from and ignores the epilogue of 2010, and 3001 glosses over several major implications described in the three previous novels. Clarke stated in the introductions to all three sequels that this was deliberate.

     Live-Action TV  

     Tabletop Games  
  • Several campaigns by RPGA managed to receive the Ultimate treatment following their original publisher's demise. To wit, "Living City" became "Living Planar," "Living Greyhawk" evolved into "Blackmoor," and "Living Death" turned into "Fellowship of the White Star."
  • White Wolf's New World of Darkness is an Ultimate Spiritual Successor of the Old World of Darkness, created to tighten focus, tweak rules mechanics, standardize rules between different gamelines, and replace a metaplot continuity that in just a little over a decade had become as convoluted and incomprehensible as any comic book universe with a more ambiguous, optional, and largely more internally consistent one.
    • Another White Wolf product, Exalted, is given this treatment in the third edition, with the map redrawn and multiple new types of Exalt appearing.
  • The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons can be considered this to 3.5 edition due to its streamlined, MMO-inspired gameplay, drastic overhaul of many established D&D conventions, and incorporating races, deities, and ideas from different editions and campaign settings.
    • Fifth Edition even moreso. After the poor reception of 4E, Fifth Edition is an attempt to Win Back the Crowd by effectively making a stripped-down Third Edition, which makes it feel very familiar to anyone who played 1st or 2nd Edition AD&D; it ends up serving as something of the new-generation Basic D&D, to Pathfinder's status as this generation's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The "Paragons of Freedom" setting in the Mutants & Masterminds book Worlds of Freedom places the Freedom City characters in the Paragons setting. Between the more "realistic supers" tone of Paragons compared to Freedom's four-colour approach, and the fact superheroes are a fairly recent phenomenon, it feels a lot like an "Ultimised" version of the Freedom City setting.

     Video Games  
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation does this with EVERY universe and storyline from previous titles, making one streamlined plot out of all original characters. This is especially interesting, as the games are already a Massive Multiplayer Crossover Adaptation Distillation of many diverse Humongous Mecha anime.
    • Played straight twice: not only is Original Generation an attempt to blend all originals into one cohesive storyline, but it got a Continuity Reboot. Originally started on the Gameboy Advance, a Video Game Remake on the PlayStation 2 entitled Original Generations tweaked the storylines and certain character personalities to make more sense, while adding new scenarios, units and characters from other Super Robot Wars (even some from obscure titles, such as Great Battle IV). It's not as major a reboot as many other examples here, but it IS the Ultimate Universe for developer Banpresto.
  • Castlevania Lordsof Shadow takes characters and elements from the entire series, but trades the Metroidvania exploration for a Godof War beat'em up and the "vampire hunter/horror" theme for "Judeo-Christian and Paganism" to make it more relevant.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry streamlines many elements from the Devil May Cry series' convoluted story while adding original wrinkles, such as making Dante's mother a literal Angel. It also brings back a fan favorite Vergil, who was Killed Off for Real in the original series in the first game through a Retcon in the third.
  • The cancelled "Maverick Hunter" game by Armature Studio would have been this to the Mega Man X franchise, featuring a new realistic design for X, a supposedly darker storyline, and a Bruce-Willisesq human partner.
  • The Sonic Boom video game, as well as its follow-up cartoon, serve as this for the Sonic franchise to give Sega room to experiment in a new continuity while still being close to the original.
  • The world of Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM combines characters, story, and settings from the first three Yu-Gi-Oh anime.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction features both manga-exclusive and anime-exclusive characters, referencing events from both continuities as well as its prequel game.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins. While other games in the Batman: Arkham Series try to focus on incorporating the best elements from across every Bat-adaptation, or showing how dangerous even the cheesiest Batman villain can be, Origins seems determined to modernize Gotham: Riddler becomes a hacker and cyberterrorist, Anarky resembles a modern "Guy Fawkes" street protestor, and a lot of focus is given to the corrupt prison and police system, both major talking points among the public when the game came out.

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation  

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UltimateUniverse