Monday, July 24, 2006

Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies Week begins!

Welcome to Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies Week here at Dave’s Long Box, where we will explore parallel earths and gaze into the possible futures of our favorite comic book characters – and then watch them all die!

Alternate universe stories are time-honored conventions in genre fiction across different media, not just comic books. Just think of all the Star Trek episodes that take place in parallel realities. It’s such a popular convention that it has become a tired, overworked cliché. Sure, it was a cool idea in “Mirror, Mirror” or “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” but when you start talking about Sliders or The One, you’ve lost me.

Let’s face it – alternate universe stories are an easy crutch for lazy-ass writers. They no longer require any imagination or wit to execute. Just stick character A and B into a totalitarian/apocalyptic future or parallel earth, throw in character C who is normally a hero but is now a villain, and kill off characters D and E in a shocking way and mister, you have got yourself an alt.universe story!

This week is dedicated to those parallel reality stories in comic books where everybody (or nearly everybody) dies. This micro-genre is best exemplified in the now classic Claremont/Byrne X-Men saga, “Days of Future Past” in which the reader glimpses a nightmarish world patrolled by mutant-hunting robots who kill, spindle, and mutilate all your favorite characters. This classic story spawned a seemingly endless cavalcade of similar comics wherein everybody dies.

And why not? Mass killings are a cheap-ass way to inject some drama in your story, and since the reality where the deaths take place isn’t “real,” there are no restraints on how or why characters get killed. Alternate reality stories aren’t just handy ways to examine the road less traveled or answer those burning “what if?” questions; they’re also a great way to slaughter beloved characters, in a non-permanent way of course. But hey! It doesn’t count because it’s all a dream/ alternate reality/ possible future/ psionic hallucination/ virtual reality program/ fever dream, et cetera.

So come with me, my friends! Let’s take a magical mystery tour through the twin lands of What Might Have Been and What Could Be, where all your favorite characters go out like suckers! And remember, if Robin gets flayed alive or Storm gets impaled with a Jumbo Javelin, it’s all pretend and they’ll be better next issue. Trust me.

42 comments:

goody said...

Hooray! I love Elseworlds and What If's and such. Do some early 90's What If? if you can stand to.

Rasselas said...

[Fingers crossed.] Come on, Gotham by Gaslight!

Anonymous said...

Hell yes! I'm going to cry if you don't include The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe - or Fred Hembeck Kills the Marvel Universe, whichever one you have handy.

Rob Schamberger said...

What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War - Everyone dies! Wolverine cries! Daredevil has a huge effing head!

And I second 'Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe'. "Because someone had to be first." @%&$ Yeah!

Michael Rawdon said...

I thought this genre was best exemplified by the "What If The Avengers Had Become the Pawns of Korvac?"

Dweeze said...

I'd impale Storm with a Jumbo Javelin, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

jraphael said...

Please do what you can to make this "Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies MONTH" !

Anonymous said...

One of the best is, of course, Marvel Zombies.
What else? ... DKR perhaps? The Morrison JLA story where Darkseid ruled a dystopian future. What else? Morrison's final New X-men story arc. Punisher Kills the Marvel U. But still, the very definition of what you described *is* Marvel Zombies. A very, very fun read with great art and fantastic covers.


-todd

Haole said...

Age of Apocalypse is the gold standard for alt.universe madness where everybody dies. That series alone could take up an entire week. The pain!

Jeff said...

"What if...Cable killes the X-Men?" which was followed up by "What if Magneto Ruled the U.S.?" which led to a dystopian Sentinel dominated future.

By the way, this is now one of my absolute favorite blogs. Well played.

Juggernaut said...

The worst I've seen lately is the one currently taking place in the "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man" series:

Marvel writer:"Hey, I've got an idea! Let's bring back Uncle Ben from an alternative timeline where he never died, as well as a Green Goblin from the year 2600!"

That series was removed from my pull-list.

Long_Shot_Man said...

Wasn't that the last episode of the 90s cartoon?

And yes, hooray for comic book blogs.

Beta Ray Steve said...

This is Evil-Dave-with-the-Goatee posting, isn't it?

Fantomas said...

"What If The Avengers Had Become the Pawns of Korvac?" and "The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe" are such classics in that genre. I remember being kinda depressed after I read that What If, maybe the first one that I saw with such casualties.

The Punisher Kills... has such classic lines. Like the one when XXXXX asks what did he do to deserve killing:

"cause someone had to be first!"

Cracks me up every time.

ColtCCO said...

I'll admit, the Alt. realities are some of my favorite guilty pleasures in comics. No continuity to keep up with, limited to a few issues at most, nearly all just OSEs, and ridiculous shit happening to our favorite characters.

They're no replacement for actual, honest to God comics in continuity that will be retconned by someone else in 10-15 years, but they're fun.

DarkJawa said...

...although to some extent a lot of the modern comics are still "alternate realities"... or "ultimate" realities if you prefer. I can't keep it straight anymore, but I am a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic story.

Ununnilium said...

See, I loved the whole "Hobgoblin 2211" storyline (except for the ending, which seemed forced).

But yay! And I second the vote for "What If The Avengers Had Become the Pawns of Korvac?" Literally, everybody dies.

sterg said...

If I remember correctly, doesn't everybody die at the end of every issue of the 90's What If series? Except for maybe the High Evolutionary issue where everybody turns into giant-headed babies with mental powers who float off into space.
Humanity becomes a race of MODOKs.
Now that was good comics...

Tim O'Neil said...

One of the last issues of the original "What If?" had a story where the Hulk went berserk, killed Iron Man and then Thor twisted his neck and killed him. The twisting of the neck and the snapping of the spine was rendered pretty gruesomely.

The one where Sue Richards died in childbirth was not only extremely depressing (Reeds sets off to murder Annihilus) but also a damn good FF story on its own merits.

In the early issues of the second series, the Inferno one was awesome, not just for seeing Wolverine eat a live baby, but for seeing just about everyone else in the Marvel Universe who isn't Doctor Strnage or the Rachel Summer Phoenix die horrible deaths.

Those are just the best off the top of my head.

Chris Sims said...

"Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies Week," eh, Campbell? So essentially, you can talk about Every What If... ever except the one where Wolverine Joins SHIELD.

I mean, really: Who would've thought the addition of Conan would fuck things up in the Dark Phoenix saga so badly?

jayunderscorezero said...

Wow, I'd forgotten about a lot of these.

If you do Age of Apocalypse, please remember to mention JLA's 'Rock of Ages' where Darkseid ruled Earth and EVERYBODY DIES! X-Men AoA Omega and JLA RoA pt. VI had EXACTLY the same plot (and were both by Morisson).

jayunderscorezero said...

Ooh, one other thing.

I knew this guy who had clearly never ever in his entire life encountered the Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies(!) cliche. As a result he failed to realise that in ARWED storylines EVERYTHING'S BACK TO NORMAL NEXT WEEK! Here's how my discovery went:

Me: Hey, did you watch Buffy last night?
Him: Nah, I don't really watch Buffy any more.
M: Really, how come?
H: I just stopped watching when they changed everything overnight and made it all really dark and made loads of the characters vampires. It's just not the same show anymore.
M: (bangs head on table) You DO surely realise that that was only for that one week, right? Everything was better and back to normal next time.
H: (incredulous) Oh, really? Wow, I didn't know.
M: (more banging head)

Rob Schamberger said...

I forgot about Wolverine eating the baby. That was awesome. My first encounter with an adult family member reading one of my comics and freaking the fuck out.

Oldsmoblogger said...

Assassin Bug shoulda killed the Marvel Universe.

Oh well, there's always Marshal Law Takes Manhattan (I think you already did that one). And the Squadron Supreme miniseries had a pretty impressive body count at the time (if I remember right the writer killed a bunch and crippled a few).

JP said...

Yes. I am looking forward to this. Two words. 2099.

Jeff R. said...

What, Marvel only? DC can play this game, too.

I want to see "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow", "Kingdom Come", and at least three or four "Armageddon 2001" Annuals. As well as at least one of the Dark Teen Titans futures (the recent one, or the one around A2001/Total Chaos.) And also Legion of Super-Heroes #5 (The Mordruverse one.)

Ununnilium said...

Speaking of DC, don't forget the funny parody in Elseworlds 80-Page Giant ("Worlds Apart").

Also, for Marvel, the entire "The End" concept.

Gayest Neil said...

I'd flay Robin alive, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Anonymous said...

One of the last issues of the original "What If?" had a story where the Hulk went berserk, killed Iron Man and then Thor twisted his neck and killed him. The twisting of the neck and the snapping of the spine was rendered pretty gruesomely.

The one where Sue Richards died in childbirth was not only extremely depressing (Reeds sets off to murder Annihilus) but also a damn good FF story on its own merits.

In the early issues of the second series, the Inferno one was awesome, not just for seeing Wolverine eat a live baby, but for seeing just about everyone else in the Marvel Universe who isn't Doctor Strnage or the Rachel Summer Phoenix die horrible deaths.


Tim, can you be more specific as to which issues these appear in? I gotta have them.

Siskoid said...

Classic series
What if the Hulk went berzerk? (#45)
What if the Invisible Girl had died? (#42)

90s series
What if the X-Men lost Inferno? (#6)

Hope that helps.

Jeff R. said...

Oh, and let's not forget The Last Avengers Story...

KnightHawk said...

I think we just figured out how to wrap up Civil War.

Bully said...

I'm all for this theme week. You go, Dave.

I'd point out that (maybe because they were few and far between) What Ifs in which the characters did not die at the end are frequently my favorite: the on where Doom listened to Reed and became a hero yet is haunted by a deal with Mephisto. The one where the FF never gets their powers but still becomes a quartet of adventurers putting smack down on the Mole Man. The one where Spidey reveals his identity to Gwen and they must go into hiding to remain together.

And that king of kings, "What if the Original Marvel Bullpen Had become the Fantastic Four?" Sheer brilliance, over-the-top goofy excitement, and nobody died.

Still. Bring on the corpses!

Bully said...

jayunderscorezero said...X-Men AoA Omega and JLA RoA pt. VI had EXACTLY the same plot (and were both by Morisson).

I'm willing to bet my left hoof that X-Men: Omega was not by Morrison but by those sons o' fun, Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid.

And I don't see the similarity in plot between the two (aside from the, uh, everybody dies aspect), but I've read neither recently, so I'll leave that up to someone else.

Charlie Anders said...

Hey, you know what comic you should really cover as part of this event week? Superman/Batman, World's Funnest by Evan Dorkin and friends.

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