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Ultimate Universe

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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. 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, sometimes as a Jumping-On Point. A more specific and very deliberate form of Alternate Continuity.

Extremely common in Retooled Crossovers, 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, nationality, 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 — Often a reimaigining in the vein of "How this story/characters would be if we put them in our current era/political climate".
  11. Relating to the one above, some characters being Spared by the Adaptation, especially if said character was well-liked or killed off too soon in the original universe. Though Death by Origin Story are the exception.
  12. Adding new characters (heroes, villains, supporters, etc.) to spice things up. If a character from an official adaptation proves to be popular, they'll end up becoming a Canon Immigrant.
  13. A general drive for coherency. Whereas the original work may have stumbled into any number of bad or contradictory ideas over the course of many years, the Ultimate Universe has the benefit of hindsight. Writers are generally free to cherry-pick the best ideas from the preceding work and mash them together in a way that minimizes contradictions and ensures that all the narrative arcs are properly set up and resolved (for the most part).

Named for the Marvel Comics "Ultimate Marvel" line, which sought to update and streamline decades of continuity with an Alternate Continuity sub-brand 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.


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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 2000s. 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). A possible factor in their failure is their attempt to replace the then-current continuity.
    • Ed Piskor's X-Men: Grand Design is a personal attempt to do a same-medium Adaptation Distillation and turn over fifty years of tangled X-Men canon into a coherent narrative.
    • Tom Scioli's Fantastic Four: Grand Design is a similar distillation of the Fantastic Four.
    • Supreme Power is a mature Ultimate Universe version of Marvel's Justice League Captain Ersatzes, the Squadron Supreme. They even had a crossover with the actual Ultimate Universe once.
    • Warren Ellis' short-lived series 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 Publishing attempted a more realistic take on the G.I. Joe franchise 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:
  • 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 

  • 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 (except for the comics). 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?"
  • When Disney took over Star Wars, Lucasfilm declared the mostly canon Expanded Universe was now part of the Legends continuity and would be ignored by future movies. The new continuity still uses and/or references old material such as planets, organizations, events and sometimes characters such as Grand Admiral Thrawn from the original Legends books but in a different way or context.

  • 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 
  • The Boys is this to the comic book it's based on, which is ironic since it is already a Deconstruction of the Superhero genre. Regardless, the show distills many parts of the original story, and takes a much more different route than the comic to be a new take instead of a literal adaptation. It also goes for a more grounded and brooding tone, instead of being cartoonishly edgy like the comic, though there's still a good amount of Black Comedy. Some characters have also had their race, sex and personality changed. The show also features political satire of The New '10s, so instead of mocking and calling out the comic book industry, the show is more of a Parody and critique of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, showing just how elitist, corporate and cynical Disney's Avengers and Zack Snyder's Justice League would be if they operated in the real world.

    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 Chronicles 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 is effectively the video game equivalent of Ultimate Marvel: streamline the original plots from their licensed Super Robot Wars installments into one cohesive setting, featuring only their in-house created characters - a particularly interesting example, as Super Robot Wars is already a Massive Multiplayer Crossover Adaptation Distillation of many diverse Humongous Mecha properties. Things really hit a stride post-Continuity Reboot, as subsequent Original Generation Sequels began adding in obscure Banpresto-developed titles like The Great Battle series and Hero Senki: Project Olympus as tie-ins to overall Continuity. These days, it's expected an Original Generation installment will incorporate something from Banpresto's library into its narrative, especially when current developer B.B. Studio is treating Original Generation as this trope.
  • 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.
  • Zig-Zagged with DOOM (2016) and DOOM Eternal; the games take place in a unique universe with elements from several prior works in the franchise (the general premise, certain monster designs), but tweaked to make the world more developed, and features quite a bit of new lore introduced to the franchise, but the protagonist is established to be the original Doomguy, who made his way to this new universe after the events of Doom 64.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry streamlines many elements from the classic Devil May Cry series' convoluted story while adding original wrinkles, such as making Dante's mother a literal Angel, having Sparda tortured after betraying demonkind, and turning Dante's Rebellion into a shape-shifting weapon. It also has its own version of the fan favorite Vergil, who was killed in the original series' Anachronic Order via the first game. Overall, this continuity reuses some characters such as Sparda, Eva, Dante, Vergil, and Mundus, but redesigns their appearances and rewrites their personalities differently than their original counterparts. The story and dialogue are Darker and Edgier, while the setting also leans a lot on modern city Urban Fantasy than the previous games which leaned more on old Gothic-style architecture.
  • Kingdom Hearts is a Retooled Crossover of Disney and Final Fantasy, that sets both in the same continuity alongside characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Movies by Pixar, and The World Ends with You. When the worlds the player travels to are not a Compressed Adaptation of the movies they're based on, they and the Square Enix Characters usually have some thematic relevance with the story of the Original Generation Characters and the overall series. Tetsuya Nomura has also given drastic redesigns to some of the Disney and Final Fantasy Characters, putting them in clothes that are his preffered aesthetic.
  • In a way, The King of Fighters is this by being a Retooled Crossover that puts many SNK Games into a single shared continuity, while also featuring many Original Generation characters. From Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting (with later games featuring characters from their Distant Sequels), to Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. More recent titles have also added Kizuna Encounter, Samurai Shodown and Metal Slug into the mix. Some of the characters like Robert, Athena and Terry have also gotten redesigns as the series went on. And then there's King of Dinosaurs, who is actually Tizoc going under a new heel persona, kind of like The Maker but much more comedic.
  • 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.
  • Mega Man Battle Network is a Spin-Off/reimagining of the Mega Man franchise, set in an Alternate Universe that focuses on a grand development of the internet instead of robotics. It mostly features characters from the Classic series, who are all redesigned to fit with the Battle Network aesthetic. (although Glyde from the Legends series, as well as Zero, the Colonel and Iris from the X series also show up) The series would later recieve a Distant Sequel called Mega Man Star Force, which deals with aliens and Wi-Fi radio.
  • The Mortal Kombat games by NetherRealm Studios are an odd example of this, much like the New 52 they start off a New Timeline by hitting the Reset Button in their First Game. After that, they condense the plot of The Arcade Trilogy in a cinematic Story Mode that involves characters introduced later into the series, With big changes to the events of the timeline being a result of Time Travel shenanigans. Mortal Kombat X adapts the plot of Mortal Kombat 4 and re-introduces some elements and characters from The 3D Era, while also killing of many others in the Prequel Comic or off-screen. It also introduces New Characters and Legacy Characters into the lore. Then Mortal Kombat 11 features another big cinematic Story Mode with Time Travel that has, controversially, changed the personality/backstory of certain characters more so than previous installments. Such as, for example, Sindel. And used some of them to make very on the nose political statements, like Shao Kahn.
  • The Sonic Boom video games, as well as its follow-up cartoon, tried to 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.
  • Blaster Master Zero manages to incorporate nearly every part of the Blaster Master series into its canon. It is canonically a continuation of the Japanese Metafight universe, with the English canon added onto it. The series even sets up the events of Blasting Again for Jason and Eve's children.
  • Ratchet & Clank (2016) (and the movie it's based on) retells the original story with a great amount of this trope in effect. Elements such as the Galactic Rangers, hints to Ratchet's origins, Qwark's rivalry with Nefarious and Ratchet's desire to be a hero are all injected into the story. In addition to that are a great amount of world-building such as a diverse array of races, the Megacorp and GrummelNet companies, President Phyronix, Unicop, the presence of other galaxies, and even an easter egg for what kick-starts the adventure after this one. By comparison the PS2 and PS3 titles took the course of a decade to introduce all of these.
    • Zig-Zagged with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction: the game discarded several modern gameplay elements and re-emphasized old ones and introduced brand news aspects, such as a higher focus on the story and lore, making it a giant gumbo of the series' best elements.note  What makes this trope a Zig-Zagged one is that at the time, with all the discarded elements and characters picked up over the years, there was fan confusion as to whether the game was a Continuity Reboot or a Retool. As such, the games that came after included many throwbacks and references to the pre-Tools titles, ranging from name-dropping beloved characters like Courtney Gears and Ace Hardlight all the way to including a museum that is loaded with Continuity Porn as if it were a Milestone Celebration.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) has this in spades:
    • This time around, while the plot takes cues from the original Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 (via a combination of Russian and Middle Eastern terrorists conducting terrorist attacks in their own countries, and against innocent civilians abroad), the action takes place in the current day rather than Next Sunday A.D., and Captain John Price is expressly Younger and Hipper (34-35 in this game, via the 50 year-old incarnation in the original trilogy).
    • Price still undertook an operation to assassinate Imran Zakhaev in Pripyat; in this timeline, it's all but confirmed that it was an outright success, whereas the first incarnation of that mission ended with Zakhaev losing his arm but otherwise surviving. Furthermore, Victor Zakhaev is said to be leading the Russian Ultranationalists that were referenced earlier in the game.
    • In this universe, Price is more open with his emotions, swearing more, letting his frustrations show on the surface more often when a situation is going south (like during the defense of the Embassy in Urzikstan) and openly discusses Kyle's emotional concerns with him.
    • Whereas Task Force 141 was set up in the interim between the first and second game (by Soap, largely in response to what happened with Zakhaev), this time around, Price is the one who sets it up, expressly to deal with Victor Zakhaev. Furthermore, Price recruits John MacTavish (aka "Soap"), Player Character Kyle Garrick (aka "Gaz") and Simon Riley (aka "Ghost"), along with a number of unspecified operatives.
    • At the end of the game it's revealed that Khaled Al-Asad is now the commander of Al-Qatala and is leading an offensive against the Russia city of Verdansk.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation