How Do Elseworlds Form?

Theoretical discussions regarding the Continuity Bottle continued...Elseworlds. What ifs. Ultimate universes. Flashpoints. These have a separate continuity, but make use of well-known dynastic molecules, albeit in a transformed way. Are they in their own Bottle somewhere?

The short answer is no. The long answer asks us to look at them as upended retcons. In the normal order of things, whenever a Bottle is shaken up, the former continuity sinks to the bottom and is trapped behind a Continuity Wall. The new Fluid configuration on top keeps many of the elements of the old universe, such as the characters and places (i.e. dynastic molecules), but shaken to fit in new combinations. As time goes on, "funnels" linking old continuity and new feed older elements into the new recipe, which is what we perceive as "stories retold for a new generation" and that steady stream of re-inventions that follows any given reboot. Older readers (or those visiting behind the Continuity Wall with trade collections) will recognize these funneled elements when they see them, though they will look brand new to other readers.

With an Elseworld, the Bottle is not shaken. Instead, imagine a bubble of Fluid that has a very different consistency, so different in fact that the normalized Fluid can't mix with it. Oil and water. Or rather, boiling water and raw egg. Like a poached egg, the bubble will seize up and be isolated, growing an outward skin (a Partition) that prevents the bubble's fluid from touching normal continuity.
That bubble likely formed near a dynastic molecule, as part of the process of that molecule's development. As molecules are stimulated by reader interest, some ideas concerning them simply won't fit the shared universe, like say, Pirate Batman or What if the Fantastic Four all had the same power. These stories are still told, but behind a Partition. Like the material behind Continuity Walls, funnels are formed, but instead of feeding the Bottle, they allow the Bottle to feed the bubble. Because the Bottle's Fluid precedes the formation of the Elseworld, we can state that generally, funnels are one-way conduits that "prefer" going from older continuity to newer (but come back tomorrow for how this may be subverted).

Most Elseworlds are one-shot entities, telling a single story. The material initially funneled is pretty much all that is reconfigured. Some have sequels, and others, like Marvel's Ultimate Universe, are continually being fed by the original continuity. That last one is a useful example and pretty much unique in comics. Marvel technically rebooted their entire continuity with a proper shake-up, but kept the older continuity running uninterrupted. What we have is a massive continuing Elseworld evolving side by side with standard continuity. Thanks to this evolution, we can see how copied dynastic molecules on both sides of the Partition develop.
There are differences, of course, due to Fluid consistency. The Ultimate Universe starts from a different point in history, is more cynical and "realistic", and cares less about its characters' survival. But such variations would be expected of all Elseworlds. What's more interesting is that while the Ultimate Universe started as a "complete reboot", it has nonetheless continually been bombarded by funneled material (the example we always use as a joke is Ultimate Stryfe). The Ultimate Universe was never actually allowed to develop on its own, divorced from the parent universe. Instead of creating its own characters to supplement the (copied) dynastic molecules, it has gone again and again to continuity outside its walls for inspiration, characters, etc. Those funnels aren't going anywhere, they're there to stay.

Note that Partitions are semi-permeable (as previously discussed with Vertigo as an example) with material often entering, but not often leaving. With Elseworlds, it has happened. At DC, the concept of multiple Earths has been used to show Red Son Superman or Gaslight Batman are indeed part of the multiverse, if not the main universe, and that they may meet their other selves. Kingdom Come Superman appeared in JSA, in sort of the same way as Days of Futures Past (alternate future as Elseworld) has interacted with the X-books. Monarch, a concept from Armageddon 2001 has done much the same, just as Flashpoint is set to do. This is what happens if Elseworlds are allowed to develop through reader and creator interest. They may grow beyond the bounds of their Partitioned universe and suddenly "fit" the Bottle's proper Fluid.

While Kingdom Come proved popular, and its return (in The Kingdom, JSA and Magog) organically derived, Flashpoint and its effects on the next reboot are artificial constructs. Time will tell if this Fluid manipulation strategy will be a successful one.



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