One thing I noticed with the Doctor Strange movie (which I review here) is the constant talk of the Multiverse. It is described as an infinite number of universes connected together, and Strange and the other mages depicted in the movie draw their power from these distant realms. Of course, the Multiverse is familiar to any Marvel or DC fan since it is used to justify all sorts of crossovers, reboots, and alternate timelines. It gives both companies’ characters and stories an epic scope, so even the smallest, simplest tales exist within the context of a much larger whole.
But what if I told you that the Multiverse concept goes farther than that? What if I told you that the Multiverse not only encompasses Marvel and DC, but all fictional material outside their control as well?
It’s not as unbelievable as you think; in fact, it makes perfect, logical sense.
Now I’m not the first to expand the Multiverse idea in this way. Comic book writer Mark Gruenwald (1953-1996) came up with an idea known as the “Omniverse,” in which all of fiction and reality was linked. He even made a magazine by that name, though it mainly focused on superhero comic continuity. However, we can take this idea far beyond superheroes.
Consider these facts: that it is difficult to go between universes, and that the universes have some sort of connection between each other; events in one universe can influence events in another.
Why is it difficult for characters to hop universes? Because of copyright law. Getting one company’s characters to appear in another company’s work takes lots of legal back-and-forth, and legal proceedings take quite a while to finalize. In fiction, this can be symbolized by making travel between universes require some sort of rare or dangerous artifact. Also, the higher the hero’s prominence in our minds, the harder it is to get them to appear (because the copyright holder will want lots of money.) Oftentimes, the deal is only temporary, so the other character’s presence there will be as well.
If that is the case, how do events in one universe influence events in another? Because creators talk to one another and to other people. The creator simply incorporates ideas gleaned from both real life and fiction and puts them into the work — simple as that.
Forbidden travel between certain universes is another one that is easily explained — you can’t use characters that you don’t own. If travel occurs that shouldn’t occur (that is, if you violate someone’s copyright), those events cease to exist and you must desist from recording them. Battles between the custodians of these universes (legal disputes) can end the universes altogether or alter them radically, just like any Lovecraftian monster.
Because of the above-mentioned facts, one can have Goku appear in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, or Pikachu appear in a DC television show — if all the time and money and effort is expended to make it happen. Some complicated explanation for the travel will be there, and the presence will not last long, with everyone involved forgetting about it by the end of the movie or episode as the custodians of those worlds set everything right again, both in-show and outside it.
The Multiverse concept is an elegant one, showing how artists’ imaginations and the copyright system interact to weave all art together. The works remain distinct, but they still influence and are influenced by one another in a storm of creative cross-pollination and hybrid vigor.
Not bad for a handy excuse to cross stuff over.