Choosing the Star Wars universe was a no-brainer considering it is the primary basis for The Usual Podcast, but I should list why. It changed the landscape of film and popular culture. It changed the way films and products are marketed, resulting in cross-promotional ties. Not to mention it is available in practically every medium: film, television, book, music, video game, comic book, comic strip, variety show, and yes even religion.
Marvel doesn’t just have its own universe; it has multiple universes that each have their own variants. If that sounds confusing just start listening to Rachel and Miles X-plain the X-men and you will see how confusing it can get. But it didn’t explode to the stratosphere of Star Wars until the release of Iron Man and the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Admittedly, this is the universe on this list I know the least about, but not due to exposure. DC has been around longer than any other concept in this list, but is beginning to fight toe-to-toe with Marvel as it has expanded and solidified its release schedule to compete with the MCU.
Law & Order
Okay, Okay, I was just as surprised that I included the brand, until I considered the facts: two of the longest running dramas in television history (L&O, SVU); three more direct spin-offs (CI, LA, Trial by Jury); connection to other shows (Homicide, In Plain Sight, New York Undercover, Deadline, Conviction, Chicago Fire & P.D., and The Wire); five video games; and many foreign adaptations. Enough said.
The mere fact that this universe has been able to outlive both its creator (Ludlum) and its primary star (Damon) proves it has expanded beyond what was originally intended. Not to mention it involves film, television, books, and video games.
Movies, books, video games are enough, but this universe has expanded into the zeitgeist and has changed movie lines into accepted idioms. Also, think of the star power: Brando, DeNiro, Pacino, Duvall, Keaton, Caan, Coppola, Garcia, Fonda, and Hamilton. This is a universe I can’t refuse.
Alright, I will admit I am not a huge fan of the Star Trek, as I favor the Wars. Yet, it is hard to deny the impact Star Trek has had on every facet of popular culture. Multiple franchises, films, books, conventions, reboots, and, possibly the most important aspect, its pushing of the social envelope with race, sex, and feminism. I am sure Captain Janeway would agree.
I could go on and on about the Potter-verse, but all that needs to be said is that it has its own theme park. Star Wars can’t even claim that… yet.
Talking about Lord of the Rings is kind of like beating a dead horse at this point. Just check out the decades worth of bonus material I am sure will be available when The Hobbit trilogy is released in its ultimate director’s expanded Blu-ray cut.
The Kevin Smith created View Askewniverse is not a typical choice for this list, but many—if not most—of his early works are connected through multiple characters, not just the titular Jay and Silent Bob. Smaller characters and timelines cross through Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back, and now extend into Comic Book Men and a plethora of live performances and podcasts. Kevin Smith has gone ultra-multimedia with his domination of the interwebs through the empire that is SModcast.