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aka: Elseworlds

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Truth, justice, and the Warsaw Pact.

"This is an imaginary story. Aren't they all?"

A Sister Trope to What If?. While What If? explores another fork in the road taken by a character, an Elseworld takes a well-known character and plonks them into a potentially wildly different location and situation. This can add some freshness to a character which allows them to act a different way than normal canon might allow but may also become an excuse to write professional Transplanted Character Fic of the Recycled In SPACE variety.

Daring writers trusted by loyal fans may do this kind of episode without any warning or explanation. Well regarded elseworld stories generally involve 1) either keeping the characters and their motivations recognizable despite the new setting and situations or 2) working within the confines of the new setting in order to get back to the original premise in a reasonable way.

Comes from the term used by DC Comics for these kinds of stories; they publish one-shots and Mini Series like this. Compare to Alternate Continuity. If a show is all Elseworlds all the time, you've got a Commedia dell'Arte Troupe.

DC's Elseworlds are sometimes grouped into six categories. These categories can be applied outside of DC Comics, of course.

  • Historical: The characters are transplanted into a historical context. Example: Transformers: Hearts of Steel (19th-century robots).
  • Alternate History: Some element of real-world history is different. Example: Superman: Red Son (where Superman's rocket landed in the Soviet Union instead of America).
  • Alternate Timeline: Some elements of the work's fictional history are different. Example: Friends, "The One That Could Have Been" (where Monica is still fat, Ross is still married to Carol, Phoebe works on Wall Street, etc.).
  • Genre Graft: The work changes genre. Example: The Prisoner (1967), "Living in Harmony" (a Western).
  • Fiction Graft: The work is melded with a famous work of fiction. Example: Superman: War of the Worlds.
  • Potential Future: The story is set in a potential future of the setting. This tends not to be this trope as we use it here (since it's not an alternate universe, just the future of the one we have). Often a Bad Future. Example: Heroes, "Five Years Gone".

In fanfiction, this is a type of Alternate Universe (or AU), where the characters generally remain the same but the setting changes. High school AUs are very popular, probably because many of the writers are themselves in high school. (On This Very Wiki, we use a broader definition of Alternate Universe, of which Elseworld is a subset.) See also Alternate Reality Episode, which can overlap.

Not to be confused with the video game Elsword, or the 2018 Arrowverse crossover Elseworlds, which deliberately invokes this trope.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Audio Play 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who Doctor Who Unbound stories explore what would happen in alternate realities. The series
    • Auld Morality explores what would happen if the Doctor had not left Gallifrey. It's follow-up story Storm of Angels went in the opposite direction; what if the Doctor left Gallifrey and began changing the course of history.
    • Sympathy For The Devil explores what would happen if the Doctor never joined UNIT in the 1970's. We don't see the results directly, but it resulted in The Brigadier being disgraced and removed from his position due to multiple failures and pyrrhic victories. A follow-up story, Masters Of War, examined how The Doctor and Davros' relationship would change if the Doctor met Davros after his subsequent death and ressurrection rather than at the creation of the Daleks.
      • This version of the Doctor continues to appear in the Bernice Summerfield audio series, but is treated more as an Alternate Self to the "prime" Doctor and their adventures together don't really serve as Elseworld stories.
    • Full Fathom Five is about what if the Doctor was more pragmatic and believed that The End Justifies the Means.
    • He Jests At Scars might as well be called "What if the Valeyard had won?".
    • Deadline at first appears to be an alternate universe where Doctor Who was a fictional TV show that was cancelled after one season...
    • Exile is about the Doctor choosing to take their own life at the end of The War Games and regenerating into a female incarnation. Notably, her previous incarnation appears to be played by Nicholas Briggs and not Patrick Troughton. Furthermore, the female Doctor is being pursued by an actor played by David Tenant, who himself would follow a female doctor in a different way ...
    • The Doctor Of War subseries follows what would happen if ''Genesis Of The Daleks'' went differently and the Doctor did kill the Kaled mutants. From a more meta point of view, it can be considered a "What if Colin Baker got to play the Darker and Edgier Doctor he originally wanted?"

    Comic Books 
  • The DC Universe version is the Trope Namer, and has a lot of them. Some of their Elseworlds would actually fall under What If?.
    • The first Elseworlds story is Gotham by Gaslight, in which Bruce Wayne is a young American plutocrat on a world tour in 1889, and ends up fighting (and is suspected of being) Jack the Ripper. Initially it wasn’t published as an Elseworlds story, but after the reception it received, DC made Elseworlds a thing.
    • Kingdom Come, a beautifully painted and surprisingly cerebral graphic novel set a few decades into the future after Superman retired and a new generation of superheroes has since arisen.
    • Superman: Red Son, pictured above, is a miniseries about what Superman would have been like if he had landed in the Soviet Union (specifically Ukraine, which seems to be the closest the writers could find to a Soviet version of Kansas) instead of the United States; he ends up a Knight Templar Big-Brother figure. President Lex Luthor defends the United States from the Red Menace with Superman's Rogues Gallery and Green Lanterns. Batman has a very sexy hat.
    • Superman: At Earth's End is a particularly infamous one-shot, that involves an aged Superman with a Santa Claus beard who fights cyborgs before going to Gotham After the End and battling twin clones of Adolf Hitler. The cover shows him wielding a gigantic gun. Which he uses against the aforementioned Hitler clones. Naturally, it's been subject to Memetic Mutation thanks to the likes of Linkara.
    • I, Joker is a one-shot about a dystopian future version of Gotham where people worship the current Batman (who is also called "The Bruce", but is NOT Bruce Wayne) as a god. It's told from the point of view of The Joker. Or rather, a person who believes himself to be the Joker. This world's Batman likes to take enemies of the state, mind-wipe them, and turn them into carbon-copies of past Batman villains with implanted memories; he then uses them in a yearly bloodsport where the entire city dresses up as Batmen/girls/women and attempts to kill one of the villains so as to get a chance to fight him for the right to become the new Batman. However, after an act of rebellion from his personal doctor/surgeon who converts the rebels into faux villains, this year's Joker gradually regains his memories and, after discovering the original Batcave, defeats the wannabe Bat-god and takes up the mantle of the Bat. He also rescues his girlfriend, who had had her vocal cords removed as punishment for being a rebel; she becomes his Robin.
    • Batman: Year 100 imagines a world where Batman operated first in 1939 (the year he debuted in comics) and yet is still active 100 years later somehow, fighting corrupt government agencies.
    • Speeding Bullets has Kal-El fall to Earth near Gotham City, to be discovered and raised as their own by the Wayne family. Or, "What if Superman was Batman?"
    • A similar one is Batman: In Darkest Knight. In this one, Bruce Wayne, not Hal Jordan, receives the ring from Abin Sur; in effect, this one is, "What if Batman was Green Lantern?"
    • In the three-issue miniseries Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, Bruce Wayne and his proteges Dick, Jason, and Tim face off against eldritch abominations straight out of H. P. Lovecraft in a time between the World Wars.
    • JLA: Act of God was a notorious one that involved all the people with inherent superpowers losing them.
    • Another one is Ame-Comi Girls, an Animesque world that features the company's female superheroes and villains (and sometimes Distaff Counterparts in place of male ones).
    • JLA: Created Equal sees all men on Earth apart from Superman and Lex Luthor being killed by a strange spatial phenomenon that infects all other men with a lethal virus (Superman being naturally immune and Luthor sealing himself away before he could be infected), and the subsequent efforts to rebuild the world.
    • JLA: The Nail takes place in a world where Kal-El is found by an Amish couple instead of the Kents because of a flat tire, and as a result, doesn't become Superman. While there's still a Justice League, they face xenophobia and Jimmy Olsen is a super villain.
    • The Batman Vampire trilogy is one of them, as the premise is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Batman becoming a vampire.
    • Superman: True Brit is a semi-parodic take on the idea of Kal-El's rocket landing in Britain rather than America.
    • In Batman: Holy Terror, Oliver Cromwell's rebellion lasted much longer and spread out all over the world, creating the Commonwealth, a theocratic dictatorship where non-Christians are persecuted. Batman is a Badass Preacher who rebels after learning that the Commonwealth had his parents assassinated for serving in La Résistance.
    • Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham is set in an alternate universe where Selina Kyle, not Bruce Wayne, became a masked vigilante superhero after her wealthy parents were murdered in front of her.
    • Flashpoint (1999), not to be confused with the event comic Flashpoint (DC Comics), is a tale about the Flash becoming quadriplegic after saving President Kennedy and using his super-fast mind to solve a mystery and confront Vandal Savage.
    • Injustice: Gods Among Us (the prequel to the video game) takes place in an alternate universe where the Joker tricked Superman into killing Lois and their unborn child, along with nuking Metropolis, causing Superman to throw his Thou Shalt Not Kill code out the window and eventually declare a dictatorship over the entire Earth to (ideally) eliminate all further crime and bloodshed.
    • DC Comics Bombshells takes place in the 1940s and features some of DC's biggest superheroines (and a few of its female supervillains) during World War II. It spun off of a series of 40's-style pinup statues and comic cover variants.
    • Gotham City Garage followed DC Comics Bombshells in being spun off a series of pin-up statues that depicted female DC heroes and villains as sexy bikers. It's set in an Apunkalyptic alternate universe in which the sole surviving city on Earth is ruled as a techno-dystopia by Lex Luthor, with an irredeemably evil version of Bruce Wayne/Batman as his chief enforcer, while various mostly-female DC characters ride motorbikes around the Desert Punk-styled "Freescape" as the sole opposition to him.
    • Superman & Batman: Generations, an Elseworlds story, that shows what might happen if Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne weren't subjected to Comic-Book Time, thus showing the casts of both series aging in real time, including the two having adventures in World War II. The Batman & Captain America crossover that's the source of the image in Even Evil Has Standards (where the Joker terminates a partnership with the Red Skull upon realizing that the Skull is legitimately a Nazi and not faking it) is also part of the same universe, with The Manhattan Project being called "The Gotham Project".
    • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl takes place in a universe in which Bruce Wayne was never Batman, and the infant Kal-El did not survive long enough to become Superman. The orphaned Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl, Gotham's near-dictatorial protector, and Kara Zor-El alias Supergirl teams with a Justice Society backed by Luthor.
    • Nightwing: The New Order takes place in a Bad Future where Dick Grayson leads a government task force to depower metahumans and put the ones their tech can't depower in stasis until they can after Bruce is accidentally killed by a meta with poor control. He starts questioning his betrayal of his former friends and allies when his son develops powers that would require him to be put in stasis.
    • Batman: Thrillkiller places the Batman mythos in the early 1960's.
    • DCeased is a take on the Zombie Apocalypse genre using a technological virus.
    • The Golden Age imagines an alternate universe where the Justice Society of America became persecuted by a group of second-stringers like Mister America, Johnny Thunder, and the original Robotman, who all joined the HUAC to gain power and influence. It's essentially an attempt to give the JSA the Watchmen treatment.
    • Batman: The Blue, the Grey, and the Bat places Batman in a Civil War/old west setting as a government agent on a mission from President Lincoln. It references The Lone Ranger, especially with a Robin counterpart, Redbird, who is an expy for Tonto.
  • Early on, Marvel Comics's distinctive "What If?" series were stand-alone What If? stories based on key events in the Marvel universe. They later ran more Elseworld-style stories; these are not usually specifically labeled as either (Marvel Mangaverse, Marvel Zombies, Marvel 1602, X-Men Fairy Tales, Marvel Apes, etc.).
    • In fact, it's implied (sometimes plain told) that every Marvel "What If" is one universe from the full Marvel multiverse. So, Marvel Zombies started as an alternate universe of Ultimate Marvel, then crossed with official 616-Earth. Ultimate X-Men have been spotted in Exiles, on a single panel showing scenes of the multiverse.
    • In its late 80's/early 90's incarnation, the series started relying on Cruel Twist Endings. While What If? by definition tended to end unhappily, the second series relied on Idiot Ball and ultimately stopped explaining the divergences' origin. One issue had Mephisto corrupting young Danny Ketch into a brutal Serial Killer without explaining why he didn't do this in the main universe.
    • Marvel also had The 5 Ronin, which transplanted Wolverine, The Punisher, The Hulk, Psylocke and Deadpool into Tokugawa-era Japan.
    • One generation of What If...? stories didn't really answer (or, for that matter, pose) a "what if" question, and were just, well, Elseworlds — like "The Devil who Dared", which features Daredevil as a ninja in feudal Japan.
    • The 2018 run of What If runs the gauntlet from stories that are What If?, Elseworlds or something in-between. "What If? Spider-Man" is very much a For Want Of A Nail story (to the point where it's the only one narrated by The Watcher- or rather, The Unseen), "What If? X-Men" transplants the X-Men into a Shadowrun-like setting, and "What If? Thor" poses a What If? question but is written as an original story rather than a divergence from the traditional timeline.
    • Chuck Dixon's A Man Called Frank was noteworthy for being an Punisher elseworld when that was considered more of a DC trope.
    • Demon Days is an Elseworld where the Marvel universe is much, much closer to Japanese mythology, starring a version of Psylocke (called Sai) as a wandering swordswoman and her dog named Logan.
  • Transformers: Hearts Of Steel was an Elseworld where some of the Transformers wake up on Earth during the Industrial Revolution rather than in 1984 as they did in Transformers: Generation 1, and took corresponding vehicle modes such as trains, propeller aircraft and warships. Human characters in the comic included John Henry, Mark Twain, and Jules Verne. According to writer Chuck Dixon this was meant to be a possible part of regular continuity, but numerous discrepancies (most notably the fact that the Transformers are seen waging war on Earth during the ice age, in the forms of fantastical creatures) contradict this. Nevertheless, Continuity Porn aficionado John Barber took the challenge to fit Hearts of Steel into regular continuity during the mini-series Revolutionaries by proposing that the steampunk Transformers were actually a crew of beast Transformers who were shot down to ice age Earth by Shockwave and brainwashed by him into thinking they were the genuine Optimus Prime, Bumblebee et al. and fighting each other For Science!... until they were forced to go into stasis when Shockwave was temporarily put out of commission in "Spotlight: Shockwave," waking up ages later during the Industrial Revolution with the brainwashing still intact.
    • Hearts of Steel was originally meant to be the first in a set of Elseworlds called The Transformers: Evolution. However, the series was never continued as Hasbro wanted to limit the number of alternate continuities (this was circa Transformers (2007)).
  • Back in the Silver Age, DC published "Impossible Tales" for Wonder Woman, in which she teams up with her Spinoff Baby selves (the Wonder Girl featured here is her teenage self, not Donna Troy who was introduced later) and Queen Hippolyta.
    • The Donna Troy Wonder Girl was an inadvertent result of these stories—a writer added the "Impossible Stories" Wonder Girl to the original Teen Titans without realizing that she was a young Wonder Woman and not a separate character, requiring that an origin for a new Wonder Girl be created. The ongoing Canon Discontinuity that has plagued Donna Troy ever since is a result of that initial error, as nearly every change to Wonder Woman's backstory creates a new conflict with Donna's.
  • Though not an official Elseworlds story, there's Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds.
  • Keith Giffen wrote one The Authority spin-off story with Midnighter and Apollo as samurai.
  • 2000 AD
    • They ran two "Alternity" specials in the 90s featuring reimagined characters such as "Dredd of Dock Green".
    • Durham Red: Scarlet Apocrypha took the eponymous character out of her far-future adventures and reimagined her as existing at various other places and times.
    • Judge Dredd Megazine #460 has a gimmick of featuring Elseworld versions of Battle characters, with the Elseworld being the Dreddverse. So we get the Boxed Crook Rat Pack reinvented as mutant terrorists called the Rad Pack, sent on a mission to the Cursed Earth under Judge Taggart; Strato Squad is a composite of Johnny Red and Lofty's One-Man Lufftwaffe, with an Ace Pilot undercover in the Sov Block during the Apocalypse War; and Darkie's Mob fighting their way through Deadworld rather than Burma. (The same week's 2000 AD also featured alternate versions of Battle strips, but mostly by just adding sci-fi or supernatural elements to what was already there.)
  • Doctor Who Magazine
    • The comic strip for Christmas 2010 was "The Professor, the Queen and the Bookshop", a version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (with elements of The Magician's Nephew) with Amelia and Rory as Lucy and Edmund/Polly and Digory, the Eleventh Doctor as Professor Kirke/Aslan, the Rani as the White Witch (although her Sealed Evil in a Can form is a Weeping Angel), Azal the Daemon as Mr Tumnus, and the Talking Animals represented by Judoon, Cheetah People, Nimons, Hath and Silurians. At the end, it turns out to be a tale C. S. Lewis is spinning to the Inklings, the Doctor and Amy. The Doctor suggests it would work better with a wardrobe.
    • During "The Glorious Dead", the Eighth Doctor goes jumping through the lives of some of his Elseworlds counterparts, so we get him as a Wild West cowboy, a cartoon cat, a Doctor Strange expy, a Charlie Brown expy, etc.
  • The Beano Book 2010 had a strip called William the Cat, starring a Victorian version of their superhero Billy the Cat. It turns out to be All Just a Dream of the modern day Billy.
  • The Suske en Wiske comic did this with a few stories:
    • "Het Geheim van de Gladiatoren" (The Secret of the Gladiators) is entirely set in Roman times, with Suske, Wiske and Lambik as Gauls.
    • “Het Gouden Paard“ (The Golden Horse) is set in fifteenth century Spain and South America, with the same three protagonists as citzens of Spain who travel to South America aboard a conquistador ship.
  • Dynamite Comics:
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: There are way too many examples to count where the Ducks are plucked out of Duckburg and put into wildly different settings. For example, a prominent Italian one by Marco Rota has Donald Duck as a down-on-his-luck Caledonian warlord trying to repel a Viking invasion.
  • Star Trek (IDW): Multiple alternate universes spawn off of Star Trek (2009). Several of these alternates, plus some more created for this very purpose, cross over in the 2017-18 six-part storyline "I.D.I.C."
  • Spirou & Fantasio has one as part of their one-shot series. Z Foundation takes place in the future with space travel, in a Raygun Gothic setting. Spirou is a dissatisfied Office Drone. Seccotine is Spirou's sister and has joined the Rebellion against the government known as "the Administration". Fantasio is an Administration field agent who wants to recover his lost memory. Spip is a small shapeshifting creature capable of computer hacking.
  • Léo Loden suddenly had one of these with "Massilia Aeterna", after the Series Fauxnale in the previous album. It takes place in Massalia during the rule of the Roman Empire, with Léo and Marlène being a spy and a centurion instead of a private detective and a police inspector.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 


  • The Locked Tomb: In-universe, surprisingly. When Harrow's False Memories start to break down in Harrow the Ninth, she tries to rebuild them in various new ways. These new scenarios all follow classic fanfic alternate universes—fittingly, considering the author got her start with Homestuck fanfiction.
    • The first is a Role Swap AU where Harrow was disowned by her parents for having no necromantic ability, some mysterious stranger (Gideon) was adopted instead, and Harrow took up the sword in order to be good at something.
    • The second is a Royalty AU where Harrow is attending a ball as a marriage prospect for a mysterious "Her Highness" (Gideon). Despite Harrow's earlier insistence that she had never read a romance novel, this one seems rather more detailed than she'd like to admit.
    • The third is a Military AU where Harrow joined the Cohort to earn money for her failing House. This is the one with the most detail, as well as the most plausible... until it suddenly turns into a Coffee Shop AU Fic with a hotshot new barista (Gideon) that all the officers are enamored with. Abigail Pent puts a stop to this silliness right before the Meet Cute.
  • Nightside: In A Hard Day's Knight, the protagonists have to retrieve Excalibur from Sinister Albion, an Alternate History created when Merlin — an Anti Anti Christ in Nightside proper — accepted his role and full power as Antichrist and corrupted the Knights of Camelot. It's a nightmarish realm where the Knights wear armour tempered by innocent souls and Merlin goes heavily on the Evil Is Visceral aesthetic.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: The premise of the collection is 'What if Sherlock Holmes had a different offsider than Doctor Watson?'.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Xena: Warrior Princess (and later, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) did episodes like this; Xenites refer to Elseworlds as "Uber" stories, especially ones featuring descendants or just spiritual equivalents of characters in the future.
  • An episode of The Prisoner (1967) ("Living In Harmony") has Number Six up as a retired US Marshal in The Wild West, where a crooked judge tried to force him to become sheriff (of course, it eventually turned out that it was brainwashing).
  • The "Benny Russell" episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which Ben Sisko was thrust into a world where he was a 1950s science fiction writer (and possibly going mad), with the other characters recast as his friends and associates (or, for the baddies, racist authority figures).
  • 3rd Rock From The Sun did a two-part episode in which the aliens entered an Alternate Universe where they lived hugely successful lives in New York City.
  • Played for laughs in Stargate SG-1 episode "200", in which SG-1 are giving movie pitches, and each suggestion is accompanied by an Imagine Spot of the cast playing the various roles of the pitch.
    • The "normal world" in Teal'c's hallucinations in "The Changeling" is also an example, and has even spawned a fanfiction community. So is the Stargate Atlantis episode "Vegas", but it's an actual Alternate Universe.
    • In the Stargate Universe episode "Cloverdale", Scott hallucinated a world where the entire cast lived together in a small town, with Scott and Chloe about to get married. It kept the casts' personalities the same, along with many of the interpersonal relationships - for instance, Eli was Chloe's brother, while James was Scott's ex-girlfriend.
  • In the fourth season finale of Bones, Brennan and Booth are married, and all their friends and squints are either staff or patrons at their nightclub. This episode was probably the most polarizing ever to be seen on Bones, which is known for its consistency in tone, rivaled only by the last five minutes or so of "The Pain in The Heart". It was stuffed with clever in-jokes and references which would completely incomprehensible to even a casual fan, had a frankly awesome cameo by Mötley Crüe, and showed Brennan and Booth the way the vast majority of fans have wanted to see them from the beginning. But it was all a dream, and some fans were pissed because the sex between Booth and Brennan wasn't real. Of course, later they not only had sex, but got married and had two children.
  • An All Just a Dream episode of Smallville in which Jimmy Olsen imagined himself as the lead in a Film Noir. Interesting in that his subconcious apparently had a better idea of what was going on in the real world than he did; he later commented to Chloe how weird it was that a lot of his friends and associates (and the storyline of the episode) were accurately translated to the new setting, but then there was stuff like Clark secretly being a crimefighter, or Lana playing Lex and the good guys against each other.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Back to Reality", the crew wake up to find that they've spent the last four years of their lives in a Red Dwarf Total Immersion Video Game. Of course, their life on Red Dwarf was real, and the experience of waking up was the shared hallucination.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The show did one where Buffy is simply a schizophrenic young girl stuck in a mental institution, and not a super-powered monster-fighter at all, with her parents desperate for some means to help her regain her sense of reality. Interestingly enough, the ending of that episode left some doubt as to which world was actually the real one, and Joss Whedon himself has acknowledged that it's possible either could be.
    • Probably the more famous Buffy Elseworld is "The Wish," where Cordelia makes a wish that "Buffy never came to Sunnydale." The result is an apocalyptic town where The Master rose with no one to stop him and has turned Xander and Willow into vampires.
  • The Legend of Dick and Dom throws its Fantasy Land heroes into a terrifying and mysterious dimension in the episode "The Mists of Time"; nobody seems to do magic, but the unwary may fall foul of security guards or soap opera addiction... yes, it's a "thrown into the real world" gag.
  • On Las Vegas, "Everything Old Is You Again" is an episode in which the same characters operate the same casino, but in 1962. Even the opening credits were time-shifted, with shots of the characters in period outfits and the actual credits in a funky 60s font.
  • Bassie & Adriaan: this series frequently uses dream sequences to put the main characters in situations they can't encounter in the shows regular setting. They often start with Bassie wondering what it would be like if he and Adriaan would do a certain thing, and decides to have a daydream about it.
  • Supernatural has used this trope several times, including the episodes "What Is And What Should Never Be" (the Winchesters never became monster hunters), "It's A Terrible Life" (Sam and Dean working in an office building), "The End" (as a potential Bad Future where Hell triumphed in the Apocalypse), "The French Mistake" (the Winchesters wind up in an alternate universe where they're a bunch of actors) "My Heart Will Go On" (mostly the same as the regular world, only the Titanic disaster being averted by time travel ultimately affects the lives of several main characters). In nearly all of these episodes the Winchester brothers must find a way to return to their reality and are or become aware they are not in their own world.
  • The Arrowverse has played with the concept of Elseworlds on a few occasions:

    Tabletop Games 

  • Many of the figures Hasbro made for the "Legends of Batman" toyline that wasn't based on Knightfall fell under this as they set the characters at various points in time and different ideas, like Batman as a cyborg, an actual knight, or a pirate.

    Video Games 
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us has the Justice League (from a universe inspired by the post-crisis/pre-New 52 era) ending up in an Elseworld where Superman has gone evil and taken over the world after The Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child.
  • This is the premise of Penny Arcade Adventures, with the first storyline, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, taking place in a Lovecraftian 1920's version of the Penny Arcade universe.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series is an Elseworld for both the Final Fantasy franchise and the Disney Animated Canon. The sole exception is Toy Story (and possibly Monsters, Inc.), as it's claimed that the events of the game are canon to the Toy Story series.
  • Borderlands 2 has the DLC Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep. Ostensibly, it centers around NPCs from the main story playing a knock-off of Dungeons & Dragons, but aside from the OOC-talk and goofy gamist mixups, it passes as a fantasy counterpart to the Borderlands world. With guns.
  • Infinite Crisis pitted characters from multiple variations of the DC Comics universe against each other: there's the standard world, a magic world, a steampunk world, a nuclear holocaust world, a horror world, and a robot world.
  • Deltarune is... related in some way to Undertale, but whether it's an alternate present, future (as a result of tampering with UT's timeline), or another universe altogether is still unclear. Toby Fox himself has admitted that he doesn't know how to classify the relation between the two and describes it only as "a game you can play after you complete UNDERTALE, if you want to".
  • League of Legends has such an enormously-developed universe that it's not very surprising that it also has its own multiverse, largely manifest in the form of alternate skin lines. Several of them have lore based on high-concept questions based on the canon universe, such as "What would happen if Viktor's Glorious Evolution was successful?" (resulting in the "Battlecast" universe), and "What if the armies of the Rune Wars continued into the present?" ("Wardens and Marauders"). Then there are plenty of more adventurous concepts, like "What if Lux led a team of Magical Girls?" ("Star Guardian") and "What if Runeterra became a cyberpunk dystopia?" ("PROJECT").

  • Akuma's Comics: The "Twist of Fate" subcomic series is a homage to this that deals with What If? and alternate universe stories, starting with "what if Bowser kept the arranged marriage instead of letting Sonic and Wendy Koopa date?"
  • In a way, all the arcs of Arthur, King of Time and Space are Elseworlds to the others. A bit different from most since there isn't one "main" universe (there's three).
  • MegaTokyo's various omake chapters are all this, sometimes combined with parody/homages as in "Full Megatokyo Panic." The whole comic, in fact, seems to be several Elseworlds mashed together, with different worlds visible to different characters.
  • A few have been visited during Sunday strips in Leif & Thorn, including Vampire Hunter Thorn and Leif & Thorn: IN SPACE!

    Western Animation 
  • Several Animaniacs shorts transplant characters into different worlds or time periods, most notably, the Mindy & Buttons episodes. There are episodes where they are cave people, where they are space people, merpeople, and even an episode that places them in Paris, with all the dialogue in French.
  • The "Without Warning Or Explanation" type happened in Ben 10: The episode initially indicated somehow Ben went back in time to before he got the Omnitrix. He was then surprised to find that this time Gwen gets it, and he spends a good portion of the episode explaining to Gwen how the aliens work. The events of the first episode play out with these changes, and it wasn't an Elseworld episode until the very end when it didn't get resolved.
  • Futurama has the two "Anthology of Interest" episodes, each with one of the three main characters using the Professor's "What-if Machine" which basically, when asked a question, shows a video of an elseword based on that question.
    • Bender's questions where what if he were made 50-ft tall, and what if he was turned human. He ends up dead in both.
    • Fry's were what if he was never cryogenically frozen, and what if life was like a video game.
    • Leela's were what if she was more impulsive, and what if she found her real parents (the latter played with in that she ended up knocked out and dreamed the elseworld, which is a The Wizard of Oz parody).
    • The first episode starts with Farnsworth talking about his new invention "the fing-longer", which is essentially a cross between a glove and a pool cue. He demonstrates it by using it to activate the What-If machine, which everyone is (justifiably) more interested in. It ends with the revelation that the whole episode has been the Professor using the What-If machine to see what things would be like if he'd invented the fing-longer.
    • Another elseworld episode is "Naturama," which reinterprets the cast as animals under the framing device of an Omicromnian nature documentary. Just to remind that the episode is an elseworld, the Omicromnians blow up the Earth at the end.
  • Justice League would do this by introducing the Justice Lords, alternate versions of the League who became tyrannical dictators after Lex Luthor becomes President, murders the Flash, and nearly drives the world to nuclear war, leading to Superman killing Luthor and deciding to take over. In such a dystopia, everything looks clean and neat, but criminals have been lobotomized, there's no fair and free elections, civil liberties are virtually nonexistent, and you can get arrested for so much as complaining about a restaurant check being wrong. A bad case of Victory Is Boring leads them to learn of the main DC Animated Universe reality so they can "fix" this world, but the League takes them out by getting Lex Luthor pardoned in exchange for his aid. The Lords' actions later play a major impact for Justice League Unlimited, where Project Cadmus is founded in part due to their arrival, and is actually the long-term goal of Brainiac, who manipulates events to try and lead to the outcome of the Lords' reality, which would destroy the Earth in the process.
  • Various episodes of Pinky and the Brain would arbitrarily plunk the eponymous duo down in different historical eras, including the twenties, thirties, fifties, sixties, seventies, Napoleonic, medieval and biblical ages, among others. As the show tended towards Negative Continuity, no explanation was ever needed or given.
  • Darkwing Duck:
    • The "Darkwing Doubloon" episode makes all the characters into Pirates. Except the Muddlefoots, they're the royal family of England.
    • Darkwing and Negaduck as space alien cousins. Also a parody of sorts, with rockets bearing babies escaping the doomed planet in the nick of time. The creation of the cause was Negaduck's father's fault; the reason the cause went off was Darkwing father's fault. The whole thing is told by a suspiciously familiar-looking janitor to two kids who also look very familiar.
  • Phineas and Ferb has a few, sometimes collectively referred to as "Time Shift" episodes.
    • "The Monster of Phineas-N-Ferbenstein" is a send-up of Universal Horror movies and takes place in the Victorian Era.
    • "Tri-Stone Area" features all of the characters in a prehistoric setting.
    • "Doof Dynasty" is in ancient China.
    • "Excaliferb!" places the characters in a medieval/fantasy setting.
    • "Phineas and Ferb and the Temple of Juatchadoon" is an Indiana Jones spoof set in the early 20th century
    • "Steampunx" is set in rural America in 1903.
    • Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars takes place, well, guess.
    • A handful of these are explained as in-universe stories bring told between characters, like Grandpa Reginald and Doofenshmirtz recalling stories about their ancestors in "The Monster of Phineas-N-Ferbenstein"; "Excaliferb!" is a High Fantasy book that Carl is reading to Major Monogram; and Lawrence tells the story of "Steampunx" to the kids after they find a coin from the 1904 World's Fair, though in the closing joke, it turns out this one was Real After All.
    • These are also often used to play with the characters in ways that the show's formula wouldn't normally allow: for example, Phineas and Ferb's counterparts can interact with the Agent P and Doofenshmirtz equivalents in "Doof Dynasty", "Excaliferb!", "Temple of Juatchadoon", and "Star Wars", or in "Doof Dynasty" and "Star Wars", Phineas is shown reciprocating Isabella's crush on him.
  • American Dad! did it twice. First with a James Bond spoof entitled "Tearjerker", where Stan is still a CIA agent but is fighting to defeat Roger, rewritten as a vengeful film producer named Tearjerker, who is planning to murder millions with a film so depressing it makes people cry to death. The second time, "Hot Water", was a musical episode where Stan buys a hot tub that turns out to be alive and psychotic. The episode ended with the hot tub murdering Francine and Stan. According to Word of God, "Hot Water" was written as a series finale because the producers hadn't received word about the show's renewal. When the renewal did indeed happen, they released the episode as a season premire (Albeit a non-canon one).
    • There was also a Christmas Special where almost everyone (including Stan, Francine, Roger, etc.) is left on Earth during the Rapture, except for a few people. The Anti-Christ takes over the planet, turns it into an apocalyptic wasteland, captures Francine, and Stan teams up with Jesus to save her. At the end, Stan goes to his own personal Heaven: home with his wife and kids implying the events actually happened and the rest of the series takes place here, until the camera pans to show Klaus mounted on the wall.
    • This episode got a prequel, where Hayley adopts a baby who turns out to be the Anti-Christ from the Christmas special, and Jeff dies while trying to help Stan and Roger kill it. (He actually doesn't, but it's never explained how he survived.)
    • They've done a sequel episode to "Tearjerker" now, "For Black Eyes Only", where Stan and Tearjerker have to team up against a new villain played by Steve's principal (his name is simply "Black Villain").
    • There's also the episode "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven" which is staged as a play where the usual cast are all playing themselves or something acting out a "lost script" by some genius writer who was obsessed with the show. It's framed by a live-action Patrick Stewart watching from a theater box (despite the character he does the voice for appearing in the play itself).
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) did a few in the last season. There's one set in the wild west where they're the Steamy Puff Girls and one framed as a dream the Professor has where they were created without Chemical X and therefore don't have powers.
  • The annual Simpsons Halloween specials, Treehouse of Horror, which usually involve movie parodies where the cast are sometimes put in the role of characters from the movie being spoofed, and lots of characters get maimed and killed.
  • Later episodes of the Care Bears (1980s) series were set in the Stone Age or in outer space, with appropriately-themed cast members in place of the usual.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Elseworlds


Nazi Superman

What if Superman grew up in Germany instead of America?

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / Elseworld

Media sources: