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"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).

Common hallmarks of an ultimate universe include:

  1. Important characters may be Killed Off for Real, because Status Quo Is God only at the original universe, whereas there's more room for creativity here.
  2. Characters may get new redesigns that would be considered "too drastic" for the main universe.
  3. Similarly, backstories may be altered compared to what they have in the main universe, to make them feel like a fresh take rather than a simple copy.
  4. Some characters may have different personalities compared to the main universe, going with theme of being a different take.
  5. Some characters may be of a different race, sex, age, or even a different species altogether.
  6. New stories may be told using elements of past stories.
  7. A tonal shift, often of a Darker and Edgier variety and a bigger focus on realism.
  8. Characters may be of a different alignment than the main universe, invoking Adaptational Heroism or Adaptational Villainy.
  9. Some characters may be more powerful or weaker than the original version.
  10. Alternate History of the main universe — Basically boiling down to "What if X never happened, or happened differently?".

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.

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 

     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.
    • Both Heroes Reborn and Spider-Man: Chapter One were failed attempts to do this by Marvel before they tried the Trope Namer and some ideas were even reused (like the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. forming the universe's version of the Avengers rather than the team forming independently and Falcon having served in the military from Heroes Reborn, and the origins of Spidey and his foes having connections to each other from Chapter One).
  • 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 franchise Planet of the Apes was rebooted two times. The first 1968 film was loosely based on the novel Planet of the Apes, and then the sequels built a film franchise, unrelated to it. There was a remake of the film franchise in 2001, but it was poorly received and then aborted, without any sequels. There was a new reboot in 2011, that provided three films so far.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy is this for the Batman mythos, distilling many aspects of the original comics, while taking a more realistic approach and, in some cases drastically changing some characters to fit the medium and story. All three films borrow elements from iconic Batman stories, making the trilogy something of a Pragmatic Adaptation. Like a lot of ultimate universes, the films essentially ask the question "what would this character be like in the real world?".

     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.

     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: Lords of Shadow features a number of familiar elements and character names, but significantly reworked to find a way to fit them into the same era, with the plot of the first entry being something of a retake on Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, namely as an origin story for Dracula and the second on the Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow duology, namely on the idea of events that take place in a more contemporary era, albeit under a more clear Alternate History. It also trades the Metroidvania exploration for a more "God of War" style 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.
  • DOOM 2016 has a number of elements borrowed from each previous incarnation, such as the designs of the Hell Knights being modified from Doom 3 (along with a brand new set of attacks to make him different from the Barons of Hell), a new backstory for the Spider Mastermind, and the game's lore (albeit vaguely) alluding to the three previous games in some way. This makes the game come off as something of a "best bits" portrayal of the franchise up to that point.

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation  

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