Sunday, August 27, 2023

Enough With the Multiverse Shit Already

Have you been watching that new Superman cartoon? It's called My Adventures with Superman, and six episodes into the ten episode first season, I was quite enjoying it. You got some villains showing up, something to do with Kryptonian technology, and put the relationship between Clark and Lois at the forefront. Then they went and made episode seven. I'll get into it later, but the gist is they introduce a multiverse. Complete with universe numbers and a group made up of alternates of one person. Looking at the shit I watch, you might assume this is right up my alley. I certainly love the Spider-Verse movies, so why not? I'll tell you why. Enough is enough.

Comic properties are no strangers to multiverse shenanigans. Since DC had The Flash interacting with his previous iteration, each line has had a smattering of storylines that take place across different universes, such as DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths or Marvel's Captain Britain comics. That's all well and good, but the thing with comics is that there are a lot of them. There are a ton going on at any given time, and there was always a series going on that had nothing to do with the multiverse crossovers if you had no interest in them. Hell, the original Crisis was meant to dissolve the multiverse entirely, assumedly because writers didn't want to deal with it anymore. However, there's something that happens with adaptations that you don't have to deal with in the source material. Comics can have small stories that don't tie into anything big, what might be seen as filler to our current day, but necessary to build characters and a world for any comic. When adaptations come along, these sort of things are left by the wayside more often than not in favor of the big memorable stories, your Knightfalls and Kraven's Last Hunts. This has the effect of multiverse stories being more suited for adaptation, because they tend to have a bigger impact.

The long and short of that is: When The Council of Reeds showed up I could ignore they existed and read my Spider-Man. Now I can't escape it. Because the first one did so well, there's always a Spider-Verse or a Spider-Geddon occurring, and they keep having crossovers with comics I was enjoying just fine before. And because they keep making more comics, they keep making more adaptations.

I don't know if most of you can imagine a world before Rick and Morty. It was a naive age, where the concept of a deranged universe-traveling old man and his traumatized grandson having sci-fi parody adventures was a novel concept. It came out and it was funny and nobody was yet losing their shit about a McDonalds dipping sauce. Then the writers decided to do a parody of the Council of Reeds. The Citadel of Ricks had an episode, and for some reason things were never the same again. Later that year the Spider-Verse event in comics began, leading to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and now it's everywhere.

Before we move on I should clarify some terms, namely Alternate Universe story, Multiverse story, and Multiverse Team stories. Alternate Universe stories involve one or more characters crossing over to a single different universe. These have existed forever, like the Justice Lords saga in Justice League, or that first story where Barry Allen met Jay Garrick. Certain time travel stories are a subset of these, like Back to the Future 2, or even It's A Wonderful Life. A Multiverse story is like an Alternate Universe story, but add more universes. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an example, where a bunch of universes crossed into Miles' universe, or Crisis on Infinite Earths, where a bunch of heroes from different universes team up to fight the Anti-Monitor. Then we have the newest craze, the Multiverse Team story, which is similar to the Multiverse story, but specifically involves a team of people that are all alternates of the same individual. This is, of course, like the Citadel of Ricks, the Council of Reeds, and Beyond the Spider-Verse as well as its comic counterpart.

I have no problem with Alternate Universe plots. I still like them, they've been a standard trait of fiction before people called them Alternate Universes. There's a lot of room there, for something as simple as the Mr. Bevis episode of the Twilight Zone or complex as Star Trek's Yesterday's Enterprise. Sure, the format isn't fool proof, but it's versatile enough that it can make well-thought, interesting stories. However, one just isn't enough anymore.

Without the focus on just one universe, Multiverse stories are more apt to be scattershot, requiring a lot more restraint. A writer can just kind of put anything in there, the sky's the limit. If you haven't established multiple universes before the story it's almost too simple to chuck in a bunch of fanservice or solve conflicts by plucking an answer from another reality. Not to say it can't be done well, as Futurama's The Farnsworth Parabox starts with one alternate universe and turns into a chase through a bunch of them, made mainly as jokes. Into the Spider-Verse is probably the shining example of this kind of story, but as the exception, not the rule. Otherwise you get something like The Flash (2023), a hodge-podge of past characters in uncanny CGI and references to abandoned projects that never saw the light of day, all in the name of spectacle.

Finally we come to the most contentious one of all, the Multiverse Team. These are far more prone to the deleterious aspects of the Multiverse plot, as the choice to have a bunch of different versions of the same character lends itself to excess. Once again, Beyond the Spider-Verse is our paragon. Even it has flaws, which can hopefully be mitigated by its sequel, but nails the premise a lot of others couldn't. It may surprise you, but the comic Spider-Verse, the one that lends its name to these movies? It's bad. The villains are pretty stupid, turning Force of Nature Morlun into just one of a family of Spider-Man eating vampires. The story is a string of attempts to enrage you by showing a Spider-Man you loved, like the title character of 1981 cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, getting murdered by a tired cliche. Spider-Girl's dad? Dead. Spider-Man Unlimited? Dead. Repeat ad nauseam. It's danging candy in front of a baby's face before stomping it into the ground. Rick and Morty got about two good episodes out of the premise before becoming the current "I'm smarter than you" sludge, and I ain't watching more to make sure. Then there's Spider-Man No Way Home, which had its own set of problems that I don't need to reiterate here.

You may have noticed an abundance of Spider-Man in these examples. Sure, it could be due to my obsession with Spider-Man, but I offer a different explanation. Once you let it out, you can't get the Multiverse cat back in the bag. Ever since Spider-Verse, the whole property is inundated with Multiverse stories, from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, to the new movies, and periodical new Spider-Verse comics. There's one going on right now! You can't do anything with Spider-Man anymore unless you at least acknowledge the Multiverse.

So we come back to My Adventures With Superman. In the episode we're introduced to a team of Multiverse Lois Lanes (and one alternate Olsen) and a new Mr. Mxyzptlk. Through this we're shown a ton of cameos from past Superman cartoons, like Superman the Animated Series, or the Lois from Fleisher's rotoscoped cartoons. These characters don't interact with anyone or do anything, they're only on screen so you can point and say "I remember that!" I don't need to be reminded of another Superman cartoon! Now, to be fair, I would probably just be annoyed if all this amounted to was a couple of cameos, but that's not it. They introduce both kryptonite and the concept of an Evil Superman in this episode, the latter ostensibly being the reason the League of Lois Lanes even exists. It feels like they skipped some stuff! They didn't have to go the Smallville route of kryptonite being under every corner, but I thought it would at least get a proper introduction. Evil Superman, as a concept, has a lot of pitfalls, this more so due to this Superman being easily the softest cinnamon roll tumblr ever conceived, but they get to sidestep any establishment by just throwing in a scene of some Injustice knockoff or whatever. That's probably going to underpin the rest of the show! So out of nowhere this conflict arises, and there's no way the League of Lois Lanes won't be involved in the resolution. That scares me.

I don't want Superman to be all about the Multiverse. The brushes with Alternate Supermans hadn't thus far transformed the franchise into that, but each time something like this happens I become wary. My Adventures With Superman was a nice simple show. For the first time in a long time we have a Superman I actually like, and I want to see where it goes. That simplicity is tarnished if a bunch of Alternate Universes get crammed into the first season of this show. Just let me have my cute Superman show, and stop chasing the Multiverse dragon. It's the least you could do after Man of Steel.


  1. Since it's ending, what are your thoughts on the show now?

    1. I liked it fine, looks like they're saving the Evil Superman thing for a second season. I hope this stuff doesn't crop back up but it probably will.