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Hypertime is a fictional concept presented in the 1999 DC comic book series The Kingdom, both a catch-all explanation for any continuity discrepancies in DC Universe stories and a variation or superset of the Multiverse that existed before Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The basic premise of the idea was summed up by writer Mark Waid as "It's all true." It presumes that all of the stories ever told about a character are equally valid stories. For example, despite overt contradictions between the versions of Superman (and his adventures, supporting characters, and setting) that appeared in:
- the late 1930s and 1940s comics by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel,
- portrayed by George Reeves in the 1950s TV series,
- depicted in 1960s and 1970s comics drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger or Curt Swan,
- portrayed by Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie and its sequels,
- portrayed by Dean Cain in the 1990s TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,
- portrayed by Tom Welling in the 2000s TV series Smallville,
- depicted in the DC animated universe by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini,
- portrayed by Brandon Routh in Superman Returns or
- portrayed by Henry Cavill in Man of Steel.
No one of these versions supersedes any other as canon. This was a repudiation of the prevailing approach to continuity in superhero comics, in which only the currently-used version is considered valid, rendering prior stories which are inconsistent with this continuity officially apocryphal.
As it appears within comic stories themselves, Hypertime is a superdimensional construct which—under very limited circumstances (prescribed by editors in the real world, and by various in-story rules within the DC Universe itself)—can allow versions of characters from one continuity to interact with versions from another. For example, in The Kingdom, a version of Superman extrapolated into the future briefly encounters the Siegel/Shuster version.
Hypertime works like this: the timeline and continuity background of any given story is like a river, with a nearly infinite number of distributaries—alternate timelines—branching off. Most of the time, these alternate timelines go off on their own and never intersect with the main timeline. On occasion, the branches return, feeding back into the main timeline - sometimes permanently, sometimes temporarily. Thus, history can sometimes change momentarily and then change back (or not). Because alternate timelines have been "splitting off" from the main flow for as long as it has existed, vast numbers of very different versions of any given character or situation can exist. If characters from a very different Hypertimeline move into another, this accelerates the process of change, causing more noticeable (but shorter) changes to the timeline (for example when the Titans were visited by their counterparts from The Kingdom, Jesse Quick was briefly replaced by a version who had taken her mother's Liberty Belle identity). Hypertime thus essentially amounts to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics in physics.
Hypertime has been infrequently used in DC titles subsequent to its introduction in The Kingdom, perhaps as a result of its chief architects and proponents, writers Mark Waid and Grant Morrison, working elsewhere in the comics industry, notably for Marvel Comics. While the concept was used in two multi-part stories involving the Modern Age Superboy and Walter West the Dark Flash, many writers (such as Titans writer Jay Faerber) found that their attempts to use Hypertime were either outright rejected or their stories severely altered to allow no attempt to further expand upon the concept.
In July 2005, in promotional talks at the San Diego Comic-Con DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio effectively disavowed the concept of Hypertime, stating it would no longer be used in future DCU titles.[dead link]
The Infinite Crisis series resolved the continuity problem in a different way, according to DiDio, who in a Newsarama interview said "The great part about Crisis is that all mistakes and retcons are time anomalies." DiDio's solution, as seen in the pages of Infinite Crisis, postulates reality-changing "continuity waves", generated by Superboy-Prime punching the walls of his extradimensional prison.
During the weekly series 52 (co-written by the concept's progenitors, Waid and Morrison, among others), Skeets/Mister Mind confronts Waverider, and refers to him as "the seer of Hypertime" and divergent timelines. Discussing the new 52-Earth Multiverse, Dan Didio stated that "each Earth has its own parallel dimensions, divergent timelines, microverses, etc". In fact, several divergent timelines have since branched off a single Earth, with, at least on New Earth, Booster Gold, Goldstar, Supernova and Rip Hunter acting as the new Time Masters, whose role is to reset the different timelines restoring the continuum to a single chain of events. The villainous Time Trapper has since returned to plague the Legion of Super-Heroes, once again creating microverses and pocket dimensions to plague his enemies by muddling their past.
In issue #30 of the eponymous series, a single reference to Hypertime is made by a future version of Booster Gold to his son, Rip Hunter, giving an in-universe explanation for the departure of the concept. Rather than a retcon, the older Booster Gold explains that, to ensure the stability of the main timeline, he personally tasked himself with the role of pruning out divergent timelines from every single universe in the current DC Multiverse, setting the timeline to a fixed, cohesive state.
- Pagan, Ryan; "DC INFINITE CRISIS PANEL". comiccon.com. July 19, 2005 Archived December 26, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- Brady, Matt; "CRISIS COUNSELING SESSION 4"; newsarama.com; January 18, 2006[dead link]
- 2006 Baltimore Comicon DC Universe Panel[dead link]
- Booster Gold #30 (2010)