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A shared universe or shared world is a set of creative works where more than one writer (or other artist) independently contributes a work that can stand alone but fits into the joint development of the storyline, characters, or world of the overall project. It is common in genres like science fiction.
The term shared universe is also used within comics to reflect the overall milieu created by the comic book publisher in which characters, events, and premises from one product line appear in other product lines in a media franchise.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Originating in novels
- 3 Universes in films
- 4 Universes in television
- 5 Originating in comics/based upon comics
- 6 Originating in video games and the Internet
- 7 Universes in animation
- 8 Other shared media franchises
- 9 Multimedia franchises
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Literature
Fiction in some media, such as most television programs and many comic book titles, is understood to require the contribution of multiple authors and does not by itself create a shared universe and is considered a collaborative art form. Incidental appearances, such as that of d'Artagnan in Cyrano de Bergerac, are considered literary cameo appearances. More substantial interaction between characters from different sources is often marketed as a crossover. While crossovers occur in a shared universe, not all crossovers are intended to merge their settings' back-stories and are instead used for marketing, parody, or to explore "what-if" scenarios.
It can become difficult for writers contributing to a shared universe to maintain consistency and avoid contradicting details in earlier works, especially when a shared universe grows to be very large. The version deemed "official" by the author or company controlling the setting is known as canon. Not all shared universes have a controlling entity capable of or interested in determining canonicity, and not all fans agree with these determinations when they occur. A fanon may instead find some degree of consensus within the setting's fandom.
Some writers, in an effort to ensure that a canon can be established and to keep details of the setting believable, employ tools to correct contradictions and errors that result from multiple contributors working over a long period of time. One such tool is retconning, short for "retroactive continuity", which resolves errors in continuity that came about through previously-written conflicting material.
Readers may also object when a story or series is integrated into a shared universe, feeling it "requir[es] one hero's fans to buy other heroes' titles".
Originating in novels
The expansion of existing material into a shared universe is not restricted to settings licensed from movies and television. For example, Larry Niven opened his Known Space setting to other writers initially because he considered his lack of military experience prevented him from adequately describing the wars between mankind and the Kzinti. The degree to which he has made the setting available for other writers became a topic of controversy, when Elf Sternberg created an erotic short story set in Known Space following an author's note from Niven indicating that "[i]f you want more Known Space stories, you'll have to write them yourself". Niven has since clarified that his setting is still to be used only "under restricted circumstances and with permission", which Niven granted to the several authors of the Man-Kzin Wars series. By contrast, author Eric Flint has edited and published collaborations with fan fiction writers directly, expanding his 1632 series.
A setting may also be expanded in a similar manner after the death of its creator, although this posthumous expansion does not meet some strict definitions of a shared universe. One such example is August Derleth's development of the Cthulhu Mythos from the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, an approach whose result is considered by some to be "completely dissimilar" to Lovecraft's own works. Less controversial posthumous expansions include Ruth Plumly Thompson's and later authors' sequels to L. Frank Baum's Oz stories and the further development of Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe by Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, and David Brin.
Many other published works of this nature take the form of a series of short-story anthologies with occasional standalone novels. Examples include Robert Lynn Asprin's Thieves' World, C. J. Cherryh's Merovingen Nights and Janet Morris' Heroes in Hell.
Universes in literature
- Busytown, created by Richard Scarry
- CoDominium, created by Jerry Pournelle
- Cosmere, created by Brandon Sanderson
- Cthulhu Mythos, created by H. P. Lovecraft
- Deathstalker by Simon R. Green
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Seussville, created by Dr. Seuss
- The Eight Worlds, created by John Varley
- Emberverse, created by S. M. Stirling
- Friardale Universe, created by Frank Richards
- Golden Books universe (with exceptions with licensed characters)
- Goosebumps, created by R. L. Stine
- Heroes in Hell, edited by Janet Morris
- Honorverse, created by David Weber
- Known Space, created by Larry Niven
- Liaden universe, created by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
- The Malazan Universe by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont
- Middle-earth, created by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Noon Universe, created by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
- The Shadowhunter Chronicles, originally created and edited by Cassandra Clare
- Thieves' World, originally created and edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
- The Trillium series, created by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton and Julian May
- Uplift Universe, created by David Brin
- The Way, created by Greg Bear
- Wessex, created by Thomas Hardy
- Wild Cards, created by George R.R. Martin
- The Wizarding World, created by J.K. Rowling
- Yoknapatawpha County, created by William Faulkner
- Norman Bridwell's universe (such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Witch Next Door, and Tiny Family)
- Eric Carle's universe
- Agatha Christie's universe
- S. E. Hinton's universe
- Robert Ludlum's Bourne series
- Rick Riordan's works based on mythology
- Stephen King's universe
Universes in films
- Universal Monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man (1931–1951)
- Universal Monsters (2017–present)
- Toho's Showa universe with Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra (1954–1977)
- Alien vs. Predator – Alien and Predator (1979–present)
- Freddy vs. Jason – Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1980–2003)
- View Askewniverse (1994–present)
- Lake Placid vs. Anaconda – Anaconda and Lake Placid (1997–2015)
- Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008–present)
- DC Extended Universe (2013–present)
Universes in television
- Series created by Mark VII Limited (1951-1979)[note 1]
- Guiding Light and other series (1952–present)[note 2]
- The Muppets and Sesame Street (1955–present)
- 77 Sunset Strip, Bourbon Street Beat, Hawaiian Eye and Surfside 6 (1958–1964)
- General Hospital and other series (1962–present)[note 3]
- Whoniverse (Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and related media) (1963–present)
- Ultra Series (1966–present)
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant (1970–1982)
- Toei tokusatsu universe (1971–present)[note 4]
- Cannon and Barnaby Jones (1971–1980)
- Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and Hello, Larry (1978–1988)
- The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Nurses and The Golden Palace (1985–1995)
- Magnum, P.I., Simon & Simon, Whiz Kids, Murder, She Wrote and The Law & Harry McGraw (1980–1996)
- The Cosby Show and A Different World (1984–1993)
- Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Grange Hill, Brookside, EastEnders and Hollyoaks (1960–present)
- Supermarionation (1960-1969)
- The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres (1962–1971)
- Batman and The Green Hornet (1966–1968)
- Dragnet, Adam-12, Emergency! and Sierra (1967–1974)
- Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, It Ain't Half Hot, Mum, Hi-de-Hi!, You Rang M'Lord? and 'Allo 'Allo! (1968–1992).
- Cheers, Wings, Frasier and The Tortellis (1982–2004)
- Full House and other series (1987–present)[note 5]
- Law & Order franchise (1990–present)[note 6]
- The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen (1993–present)
- NYPD Blue and other series (1993–2008)[note 7]
- Walker, Texas Ranger and Sons of Thunder and Martial Law (1993–2001)
- ER, Third Watch and Medical Investigation (1994–2009)
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Princess Warrior and Young Hercules (1995–2001)
- JAG, First Monday, NCIS, Hawaii Five-0 and Scorpion (1995–present)
- Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens and The Nanny (1996–2007)
- The Pretender and Profiler (1996–2000)
- Buffyverse (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and related media) (1997–present)
- Dawson's Creek and Young Americans (1998–2003)
- CSI, Without a Trace and Cold Case (2000–present)
- Crossing Jordan and Las Vegas (2000–2008)
- Disney Channel sitcoms[note 8][note 9]
- One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected (2003–2012)
- Nickelodeon sitcoms (2004–present)[note 10]
- Prison Break and Breakout Kings (2005–present)
- Bones, The Finder and Sleepy Hollow (2005–present)
- My Name is Earl, and Raising Hope (2005–2014)
- Eureka, Warehouse 13 and Alphas (2006–2014)
- Flashpoint and The Listener (2008–2014)
- The Vampire Diaries and The Originals (2009–present)
- Pretty Little Liars and Ravenswood (2010–present)
- American Horror Story (2011–present)
- Lab Rats, Mighty Med and Lab Rats: Elite Force (2012–present)
- Arrowverse (2012–present)[note 11]
- American Crime Story (2016–present)
The spin-off media extending of the universe originating in Doctor Who has relatively little consistency given its division into audio plays produced by Big Finish and the BBC, the New Adventures universe novel, or a universe based on comics published in Doctor Who Magazine and other publications.
Originating in comics/based upon comics
Within comics, the term shared universe has been used to reflect the overall milieu created by the comic book publisher in which characters, events, and premises from one product line appear in other product lines in a media franchise.
By 1961, Marvel Comics writer and editor Stan Lee, working with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, merged the bulk of the publisher's comics characters into the Marvel Universe. Marvel sets its stories in an increasing number of alternate realities, each with an assigned number in a greater "multiverse". DC and Marvel have also periodically co-published series in which their respective characters meet and interact. These intercompany crossovers have typically been written as self-limiting events that avoid implying that the DC Universe and Marvel Universe co-exist. Exceptions include the twenty-four comics released under the metafictional imprint Amalgam Comics in 1996, depicting a shared universe populated by hybridizations of the two companies' characters. Marvel has since referred to this as part of its setting's greater multiverse by labeling it Earth-692.
Although DC and Marvel's shared universe approaches to comics have set them apart from competitors in the industry, other companies have attempted similar models. Valiant Comics and Crossgen both produced titles primarily set from their inception in a single, publisher-wide shared universe, known respectively as Unity and the Sigilverse.
Universes in comics
- Action Lab Comics
- Amalgam Comics
- Amalgam Universe
- DC Comics
- Image Comics
- IPC Magazines / Rebellion Developments
- Malibu Comics
- Marvel Comics
- Top Cow Productions
- Top Cow Universe
- Valiant Comics
- Valiant Universe
- Vertigo Universe
- Peanuts animated universe (1964–present)
- Jim Davis universe
- Tribune Media universe
- All Time Comics by Fantagraphics Books
Originating in video games and the Internet
The influence of the Internet on collaborative and interactive fiction has also resulted in a large number of amateur shared universe settings. Amateur authors have created shared universes by contributing to mailing lists, story archives and Usenet. One of the earliest of these settings, SFStory, saw its spin-off setting Superguy cited as illustrative of the potential of the Internet. Another example is the furry-themed Tales from the Blind Pig created at the Transformation Story Archive which some limited publication. Other early examples include the Dargon Project, Devilbunnies, and the popular SCP Foundation wiki.
Universes in video games
- Mario franchise
Universes in animation
- Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck universes
- Tangled and Frozen (2010–present)
- The Pixar Universe (1995–present)
- Gargoyles and W.I.T.C.H. (1994–2006)
- Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy's Law (2007–present)
- Sofia the First and Elena of Avalor (2012–present)
- Earth-12041 – Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Guardians of the Galaxy (2012–present)[note 12]
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius/Planet Sheen
- Avatar: The Last Airbender and spin-off/sequel The Legend of Korra
- Nickelodeon-owned Klasky-Csupo universe (Rugrats/All Grown Up, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, The Wild Thornberrys, Rocket Power, and As Told by Ginger) (also part of Klasky-Csupo universe)
- Nick Jr.
- WB animation
- Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Animaniacs
- The Lego Movie universe
- DC animated universe
- post-1974 Rankin-Bass Productions universe
- The Flintstones and The Jetsons
- Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe
- pre-1986 MGM classic cartoon universe such as Tom and Jerry, Droopy, Barney Bear, Tex Avery cartoons, etc. (except the Pink Panther cartoon universe, which is still owned by MGM)
- Cartoon Network
- Adult Swim
- Fox animated sitcoms
- FX animated universe
- Animation Domination High-Def universe
- DreamWorks Animation
- The works of Ryohgo Narita
- Marvel Anime (2010–2014)
- Toei Animation Universe
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise
- TMS universe
- Vocaloid mascot universe (e.g. Hatsune Miku)
- Studio Ghibli universe
- Gonzo universe
- Production I.G. universe
- Madhouse universe
- Studio Gallop universe
- Spümcø universe
- Happy Days animated universe (1980-1982)[note 13]
- Klasky-Csupo universe (with the exceptions The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald and Duckman)
- Aardman Animations/Wallace and Gromit universe (e.i., Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and Timmy Time)
- Hasbro Universe
- Marvel Comics (1979-2004)
- Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions (1983-1987)
- IDW Publishing (2005-present)
- Paramount Pictures (2009-present)
- Star Trek (1966-present)
- Star Wars (1977-present)
- Stargate (1994–2011)
- The Librarian (2004–present)
- Disney Channel crossovers
- Henson/Muppets universe (except with licensed characters)
- Expanded universe
- Fictional crossover
- Fictional universe
- Media franchise
- Setting (narrative)
- Spin-off and sister show
- Dragnet, Noah's Ark, The D.A.'s Man, Pete Kelly's Blues, Adam-12, The D.A., O'Hara, U.S. Treasury, Emergency!, Hec Ramsey, Escape, Chase, Sierra, Mobile One, Little Mo, Project U.F.O. and Sam
- Guiding Light and spin-off Our Private World, As the World Turns, Another World, Somerset, Texas, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.
- General Hospital, Port Charles, General Hospital: Night Shift, The Young Marrieds, One Life to Live, All My Children, Ryan's Hope, Loving, The City and What If....
- Kamen Rider, Kikaider, Inazuman, Super Sentai, Kaiketsu Zubat and Metal Hero
- Full House and sequel Fuller House, Perfect Strangers and spin-off Family Matters, Step by Step, Boy Meets World and spin-off/sequel Girl Meets World, and Meego.
- Law & Order, Exiled: A Law & Order Movie, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Homicide: Life on the Street, New York Undercover, Deadline, Conviction, In Plain Sight, Jo, and the Chicago franchise (Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med).
- NYPD Blue, Public Morals, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Brooklyn South, Gideon's Crossing, Boston Public and Boston Legal.
- That's So Raven and spin-off Cory in the House, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and spin-offs The Suite Life on Deck, Jessie and BUNK'D; Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, I'm in the Band, Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up, Austin & Ally and Liv and Maddie.
- Same universe as Earth-12041.
- Drake & Josh, Zoey 101, iCarly, Victorious, Sam & Cat, Game Shakers and Henry Danger
- Arrow, The Flash, Vixen and Legends of Tomorrow
- Same universe as the Disney Channel Sitcoms.
- The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, and The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour
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