"Established, popular characters? Check. Reinterpretation of a beloved, classic storyline? Check. Stretched-out presentation of the same? Check. Helmed by a popular creator of original works in his own right? Check. Updated characterizations that sometimes toy with the original creator's personas? Check. A bigger, more contemplative/brooding/generally 'big' tone? Check. Yeah, it's an Ultimate book, at least as we known them now."
A kind of "reboot" designed to create an Adaptation Distillation effect in the same medium as the original. Said adaptation will usually incorporate bits of plot and design from each previous incarnation, but is overall a standalone world/story that can be understood by newcomers. A more specific and very deliberate form of Alternate Continuity.
Named for the Marvel Comics "Ultimate Marvel" line, which sought to update and streamline decades of continuity with a reboot but without canceling out the original storyline. Most superheroes under the "Ultimate" umbrella brand are given reboots of their own, but on a smaller scale -- Spider-Man's 'radioactive spider' origin story was replaced with an updated 'genetically engineered spider' version.
The "Ultimate" line, it should be noted, was intended to present Marvel's flagship characters to a new, modern audience; the rationale behind the quasi-reboot was that new readers to those series would be lost when confronted with nearly 30 years of backstory (though after ten years and running, Ultimate Marvel is developing quite a backstory of its own).
Anime and Manga
- R.O.D the TV: Mainly retooled the Read Or Dream manga's basic story to fit into the storyline done in the Read or Die OAV.
- Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 is a deep reboot of the classic anime OAV series Bubblegum Crisis. However, so many changes were made, from character designs to backstory to the overall plot, complete with a pseudo-Gainax Ending, that most fans of the original series were rather unimpressed with the end product.
- This was essentially the hook of the Alternate Universe series of Mobile Suit Gundam. As a result, Mobile Suit Gundam has seven of these! (G Gundam, Gundam Wing, Gundam X, Turn a Gundam, Gundam SEED, Gundam 00, Gundam AGE).
- SEED is a more explicit example, as it bears a lot of similarities to the original series and is sometimes called "21st Century First Gundam" by Sunrise.
- You can generally tell which series are examples by how big the focus is on their respective GUNPLA line. Seed and 00 have entire separate lines dedicated to them, making them stand out even more as reboot series.
- There was also For The Barrel, an obscure Light Novel-styled story featured in Newtype magazine with radically redesigned characters and mecha.
- Naoki Urasawa, creator of Monster, did this for Astro Boy with Pluto. One reviewer explicitly compares it to Ultimate Marvel (see page quote). The 2003 animated series also arguably qualifies, as it took many of the unrelated storylines from the largely continuity-free classic manga and wove them together into a cohesive story-arc.
- The Tenchi Muyo! OVAs have two: Tenchi Universe, which has all the main characters and more or less a basic outlining of their backgrounds, plus an another character and the same Big Bad and Tenchi in Tokyo, with pretty much the main characters in the latter.
- Go Nagai's Devilman series possibly qualifies - there's a comic series, 1970s anime TV series, and three linked OVAs released between 1987 and 2000; each one of them retells the same events but in an updated, refined, condensed way. And, of course, there's Devilman Lady, which is something of a combined ultimate edition and full-on reboot...
- Negima neo, which is based on the anime based on the manga.
- This is Hideaki Anno's stated intention with Rebuild of Evangelion.
- As mentioned above, Marvel Comics' Ultimate Marvel is the Trope Namer, as it's the Ultimate Universe version of the normal Marvel Universe.
- Heroes Reborn was an earlier attempt to do this using then-superstar artists from The Dark Age of Comic Books. It did well (despite common fandom belief), but was ended after 13 issues per title.
- The DC Comics "All-Star" line, which had the All-Star Superman and All Star Batman and Robin miniseries (with future projects based on Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and possibly The Flash), is a form of this. The series aren't supposed to take place in any particular continuity (although All-Star Batman and Robin does supposedly take place in same continuity as Frank Miller's other Batman stories), and are supposed to be a concentration of what makes those characters special. As well, Justice is basically All-Star Superfriends, even if it couldn't legally be called that.
- The two upcoming series of trade-paperbacks "Batman: Earth One" and "Superman: Earth One" are following the Ultimate Marvel formula more closely than the All-Star line, intending to be a modern reboot in a new continuity rather than mini-series written outside of continuity.
- The New 52 relaunch also has some of this, but confusingly not always. Some series are just continuations of old series with renumbered issues while others are complete reboots or retellings. Can be quite confusing to tell which is which at times. Ironic, as the whole point of the New 52 was to make things less confusing for new readers.
- Devil's Due productions attempted this with G.I. Joe Reloaded.
- IDW Publishing's Transformers Generation 1 material, but this can be said of damn near all modern Transformers material.
- IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book has taken it upon itself to become this, introducing characters and concepts from different incarnations of the property and blending them together.
- PKNA, which ran from 1996 to 2001, got this treatment in the form of the less-acclaimed PK, that ended in 2005.
- It could be said that the 2009 Star Trek movie ("Star Trek XI") is something of a Ultimate Universe.
- This is lampshaded within the canon of the film itself.
- The proposed reboot of the Mortal Kombat looks to do this. This is a proof of concept short, hoping to double as a teaser trailer if greenlit. View it here.
- Given that X Men First Class is filled with Continuity Snarl and will possibly have sequels, and Fox still wants to continue the regular X-Men movies with events after The Last Stand, it'll probably come to this.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- The sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey are all set in the universe established in the film version (the mission terminates at Saturn in the novel, at Jupiter in the film), but each one is set in a somewhat divergent universe that does not necessarily take all events of the previous novel(s) into account. Thus 2061 diverges from and ignores the epilogue of 2010, and 3001 glosses over several major implications described in the three previous novels. Clarke stated in the introductions to all three sequels that this was deliberate.
- Several campaigns by RPGA managed to receive the Ultimate treatment following their original publisher's demise. To wit, "Living City" became "Living Planar," "Living Greyhawk" evolved into "Blackmoor," and "Living Death" turned into "Fellowship of the White Star."
- White Wolf's New World of Darkness is an Ultimate Spiritual Successor of the Old World of Darkness, created to tighten focus, tweak rules mechanics, standardize rules between different gamelines, and replace a Metaplot continuity that in just a little over a decade had become as convoluted and incomprehensible as any comic book universe with a more ambiguous, optional, and largely more interally consistent one.
- Super Robot Wars Original Generation does this with EVERY universe and storyline from previous titles, making one streamlined plot out of all original characters. This is especially interesting, as the games are already a Massive Multiplayer Crossover Adaptation Distillation of many diverse Humongous Mecha anime.
- Played straight twice: not only is Original Generation an attempt to blend all originals into one cohesive storyline, but it got a Continuity Reboot. Originally started on the Game Boy Advance, a Video Game Remake on the PlayStation 2 entitled Original Generations tweaked the storylines and certain character personalities to make more sense, while adding new scenarios, units and characters from other Super Robot Wars (even some from obscure titles, such as Great Battle IV). It's not as major a reboot as many other examples here, but it IS the Ultimate Universe for developer Banpresto.
- Dumbing of Age is basically a reboot of Roomies, minus the Mundane Fantastic that eventually took over the strip and plus the hundreds of characters created since then.
- The Japanese Beetle went through this in 2003, retelling stories from its 1998 origin in more modern style. Word of God later admitted that this was exactly what he was going for.
- Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi is basically a Ultimate Universe version of old cartoon shows, with the Powerpuff Girls as the protagonists, but also starring Dexter and others.
- G.I. Joe: Renegades may be this in regards to the G.I. Joe franchise.
- Transformers Prime as well for the Transformers franchise. It is part of the Transformers Aligned Universe, which exists entirely outside the Transformers Multiverse.
- The 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV Series has plot details that imply this is the case (Hamato Yoshi being Splinter, and "The Kraang", a race of beings that mix together many rogues.).
- First Gundam is a semi-official nickname for the original show