Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Flights of Fanon: Connected Universes

Out of the depths of the Internet, there has arisen a new Rule. Rule 50. This is the rule that, if it exists, it'll crossover something else at some point. Much like how Rule 34 is "if it exists, there's porn of it" (even Casstoons bizarrely), or Rule 63's "if there is a male character, there will be a female version of them existing in fanart or vice versa".

It's not too unusual for crossovers to occur in fiction, and they're normally the result of works having the same creative team or company. So Superman and Batman meet as they're both owned by DC Comics, for example. But there have been cases were little references were dropped that open up new and exciting, albeit confusing in some cases, story options for the fans, which technically can't be explored due to the clash of tones/licencing laws. Actual, proper crossovers will probably never happen... but it would be fun if they did. Here are four examples of unusual shared universes that I have discovered.

- Star Trek/Sherlock Holmes 
This one may be one of the more well known of the list, so I'm making a start here. So, on the one hand, you have Sherlock Holmes: archetypal Victorian era detective and vampire debunker (yes, that happened in one of the original stories), and on the other you have Star Trek: seminal science fiction show about discovering new life and civilisations in the universe, and then making out with it (if Kirk), giving an impassioned speech at it (if Picard), yelling racist comments at it about how much Earth is superior (if Archer). The two really couldn't be that much more different if they tried, but there is a thread that exists connecting the two pop culture mainstays.

But, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, aka "the One Where They Literally Go Looking For God", Leonard Nimoy's Captain Spock states,
"An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth."
This is in fact a paraphrasing of one of Holmes' famous quotes, first said in  Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of Four, published in 1890, but long since absorbed into the popular consciousness since. The film seems to be implying that Spock is related to Holmes, possibly through his human mother... but the idea of Holmes being a Vulcan stranded in Victorian Era London and passing the time with cocaine and crimefighting is something of a funny image.

- Alien/Predator/the Wildstorm Universe (Pre-Reboot)
The fact that the Alien and Predator franchises exist in the same universe has been canon for some time now, resulting in two films that can be described as being average at best. But the crossover was initially started with a background joke in Predator 2, the one with Gary Busey, where the hero, played by Danny Glover, goes into the Predator's spaceship to battle it, and in the background the skull of one of the Alien franchise's Xenomorphes can be seen. And more recently, in the film Predators one of the new type of Predators has a Xenomorph jaw-bone attached to his helmet.

This is all good and insular, and despite a couple of non-canon crossovers with the likes of Batman, the Terminator, Judge Dredd and the like, the two alien species didn't really have any lasting effect on any franchises but their own... BUT, there was one exception: namely, the Xenomorphs were used as the means to end Warren Ellis' Wildstorm series Stormwatch. This was done by the UN-mandated superhero team's space station getting infested with the aliens, numerous major characters getting infected/killed in the process, and eventually leading the organisation's dissolution after a member of the group sacrifices himself by piloting the station into the Sun.

The story would have made for a good, if some what depressing, one-shot crossover like the Batman etc. examples above... except that the Xenomorph invasion of Stormwatch was not only kept canon up until the dissolution of the imprint fairly recently, but it also lead to the creation Warren Ellis' next Wildstorm title and arguably it's most infamous team. This comic was the Authority. So the Authority owes its existence, at least partially, to a crossover with the Alien and Predator franchises. Which is... a little strange, frankly.

- Doctor Who/Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy 
 A bit more recent for this one, though only marginally. To those of you that might not know, Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchhikers, was once upon a time one of the writers for the Tom Baker Era of Doctor Who episodes, and he even adapted one of the scripts into novel form, where it eventually evolved into the first Dirk Gently story.

This connection to one of the UK's favourite science fiction writers was then referenced by David Tennant's Doctor in the first of the rebooted series' Christmas specials, the aptly named Christmas Invasion, where the newly regenerated, dressing gown-clad Doctor casually mentions meeting Arthur Dent, the protagonist of the Hitchhikers books.

Could the Doctor Who and Hitchhikers franchises exist within the same continuity? Ehhh, up to a point. Definately more in the Russel T. Davies Era than the current one, as it seemed to share a similar sense of humour where dealing with the science fiction aspects of the show. I wouldn't really know how the events of each series would line up with each other though, but internal really continuity is something that is handled somewhat fast and loose by the Doctor Who team anyway so that's not really any problem.
- GI Joe/Transformers
Despite what you might think, there have been a lot more crossovers between Hasbro's two non-Pony related franchises than you'd imagine. For one thing, it's been kind of established that the two series' share the same universe and have directly effected each other's continuity at least twice.

The first time occurred during the Transformers cartoon, where an ageing Cobra Commander showed up with all his trademark subtle delivery and behaviour,

This could, again, be seen as a one off crossover, except the two franchises keep on bumping into each other, even with Cobra being responsible for rebuilding Megatron in a new green and purple tank form at some point amongst other things.

More of the crossovers can be found in Linkara's Transformers review below,

- Lord of the Rings/the Chronicles of Narnia 
There's an interesting fact when it comes to famous people, namely they tend to gravitate towards each other as they're sometimes in the same line of work and often have to deal with each other socially. For example, Neil Gaiman is good friends with Jonathan Ross (chatshow host and comicbook writer/fan), his wife Jane Goldman (who has adapted Gaiman's work to the screen in the likes of the film Stardust), and the comedian Lenny Henry (who worked with Gaiman in the production of the original TV show version of Neverwhere) amongst others.

The same is true even back in the day, when JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis were apparently very good friends and often commented upon each other's work. But considering how different their forms of fantasy stories are, with Tolkien's built like a world created by a fan of myth and folklore and Lewis' built in a more casual, writing for children manner with religious references stuck on, is there any any chance of a connection between the two franchises?

Well actually yes, in a round about way. You see, Tolkien and Lewis were both members of a group of writers called the Inklings, and as such they had some access to each other's work before it was actually published. So although the Hobbit was published prior to World War Two, Lewis had access to some of the notes that would later be used to write Lord of the Rings, and as such decided to reference his friend's work in his own. So within CS Lewis' Space Trilogy they referenced several pieces of Middle Earth history was historical fact, for example, with Merlin being the inheritor of magic from Tolkien's Atlantis analogue: Númenor (though Lewis accidentally spelt it Numinor).

So Middle Earth sort exists in the distant past of some of Lewis work, but does that connect to Narnia? Well, in Middle Earth geography, there is apparently a void beyond the edge of with world, and Tolkien said that there was the possibility of other worlds existing connected to his one... but he never wanted to explore it further. So I guess that it's possible that the two might be connected further, like with the connecting space between worlds in the Narnia canon, the Wood Between the Worlds, but nothing more concrete than that sadly.

 - Good Omens/the Bromeliad/the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy
The connections here are a lot more simple, as they are three works that are, mainly, by just one person, that exist in the same universe despite the major differences in tone. First there is Good Omens, a collaborative novel made by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which is both a parody of End of the World fiction as well as the religious horror genre. Then there are Terry Pratchett's lesser known series': the Bromeliad, which is a trilogy about a group of tiny people who eventually discover that they're aliens, and the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, which is about a boy having encounters with aliens, ghosts and time travel, in that order.

Fairly straight forward this: The Johnny Maxwell books are based in the Midlands town of Blackbury, as are the Bromeliad books, with even the department store that makes up the location of the first of the latter trilogy getting a mention in the Maxwell books at some point. The second Maxwell book, Johnny and the Dead, involved a company called United Amalgamated Conglomerated Holdings attempting to buy and build on a local graveyard, and the ghosts inhabiting it being somewhat put out by this. United Amalgamated Conglomerated Holdings could possibly be related to United Holdings (Holdings) Ltd, the company that gets involved in a near lethal paintballing match near the beginning of Good Omens.

- Black Lagoon/Law and Order/Luther/the X-Files/Tons of Other Shows
 And finally we come to what has become something of a Grand Unified Theorem when it comes to crossovers, namely the character called John Munch. Okay, this needs a bit more explanation.

The anime show Black Lagoon, which deals with organised crime, piracy and the like in mid-Nineties Thailand, has a character called Revy. She's a Chinese American woman who operates as a pirate and has a number of warrants still out for her arrest back in her hometown of New York City, specifically for murdering a policeman belonging to the 27th Precinct (considering they show WHY she murdered him in the final episode of season three of the show, I can't honestly say I blame her).

In reality there is no 27th Precinct in the NYPD, but it nevertheless features as in the Law and Order franchise which contains/contained the character known as John Munch. John Munch, played by Richard Belzer, has appeared in a ridiculous amount of TV shows, not just L&O related ones, and is considered to be one of the longest running live action television characters still going today. BUT through his connection to the 27th Precinct and thus Black Lagoon, it opens up a vast range of possibilities, most of which not really contradicting the tone of each other for the most part.

Most of them are crime dramas, for example, and not just ones from the US. The BBC detective show Luther, which starred Idris Elba, referenced the detective, with the line: "Send the details to Detective Munch in Special Victims Unit, New York." He also appeared in the French version of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Back in the US, he appeared in the Wire, Arrested Development,the Beat, Homocide: Murder on the Streets, the X-Files... Really if any show runs long enough, Munch will probably show up or get mentioned at some point... and now an anime crime series can be added to the list of possibilities. Weird.

No comments:

Post a Comment