In terms of Marvel Comics, an alternate reality is formed when a momentous event, in which two outcomes are possible, occurs, and both events happen, causing the time stream to split into two realities. Imagine JFK not killed that fateful day in Dallas, what would our history be like? Marvel did a long running series on this concept, called What If…? Marvel concentrates on such subjects as “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” or “What if Phoenix hadn’t died?”
In the context of what I call literary archeology, we run into alternate realities all the time. For instance, if I watch a movie, such as Time After Time in which Jack the Ripper steals H.G. Wells’ time machine and escapes into the future, how do I reconcile that with the comic From Hell, by Alan Moore, in which Jack the Ripper is a very different person who succumbs to a stroke? I could get very fancy, and come up with all sorts of justifications that torture the stories into a form amenable to reconciliation, or I could just assume that the two stories occur in alternate realities or timelines.
What I’m going to try to do here is pinpoint an exact moment in time when a momentous occurrence spawned two equally valid timelines, both of which we are capable of experiencing in literature. The universe in question is Neverland, the realm of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, of Captain Hook and Wendy.
Since the story Peter Pan has charmed millions world wide, and is well known, I will give the briefest of synopsis here. Suffice it to say that Wendy and her brothers are taken by the mysterious Peter Pan, a flying boy who will never grow up, to Neverland, a fairy realm of Pirates and American Indians, Fairies and Mermaids. Peter’s arch nemesis is Captain Hook, a pirate who lost his hand to a ferocious crocodile years before.
Since J.M. Barrie’s story was printed there have been many attempts at sequels and prequels, all attempting to be part of the larger Peter Pan continuity. One branch of prequeling and sequeling takes as it’s major starting point not so much the book and play by Barrie, but the movie by Disney. This branch of sequels has introduced some weird and unusual crossovers.
This Captain Hook, when defeated by Peter Pan, apparently survives the crocodile, and becomes a semi regular character in the Scrooge McDuck universe, a nemesis of Moby Duck who appeared in dozens of comics. That Hook’s ship is capable of sailing from Earth to Neverland and to otherworlds such as Duck World is strongly hinted at in this series. This same universe crossing power allows Captain Hook to pilot his ship into the Kingdom Hearts video game universe. This is not to say that the Disney Hook doesn’t still menace Peter, in Return to Neverland (2002) he does just that. But along the way he becomes a caricature of himself, appearing as a stock villain in shows such as House of Mouse.
The Disney Peter Pan universe also incorporates the Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson prequels, Peter and the Starcatchers and Peter and the Shadow Thieves, because these books are part of the Disney Books imprints. But these books contain little that can be contradicted in the non-Disney Peter Pan universe, so they can be thought of as occuring before the split in the timeline.
More recently Disney has released a series of books about the fairies of Neverland, centering on Tinker Bell and her friends called Disney Fairies. All this is part of the Disney universe. again though the split in the timeline would have little impact on the fairy culture of Neverland, so these books, with small ommissions, can easily be incorporated into any Peter Pan continuity.
The other major timeline was continued from the original play and book by the recent “authorized” sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. I don’t want to give too much away, but Captain Hook has an entirely different fate in this book. Because this sequel relies on the book and not the Disney film, it frees the characters from the onus of being related in some way to the Disney Universe, and allows the inclusion of other works that might be considered prequels and sequels to Peter Pan that Disney might considered too violent , too adult, or not marketable enough. Let's face it, Disney has chosen to explore the world of Tinker Bell for it's commercial value, not for whatever insight may be gained from understanding fairy cultures.
J.V. Hart (who wrote the terrible film Hook, a sequel to Peter Pan) wrote one such prequel, Capt. Hook, which details Hooks days at Eton College, sort of an origin story for the captain. The interesting thing about prequels is that we can assume that at least some of the events are common to both universes, Captain Hook becomes Captain Hook the same way in both the Disney and the non-Disney Peter Pan universes.
The non-Disney universe can utilize events from Peter Pan and the Pirates, a well-regarded Fox Kids television series for which Tim Curry won an Emmy as Captain Hook. The non-Disney Peter Pan continuity can use any number of sequels, authorized or not, up to and including Alan Moore’s pornographic graphic novel Lost Girls.
So I promised to find a moment in time where the two universes diverge, and I think I’ve found it. The key difference between the Disney Captain Hook and the non-Disney Captain Hook is that the Disney Hook has a hook for his left hand, the non-Disney Hook has a hook for his right hand.
I maintain that Hook is originally left-handed. Imagine the battle against the crocodile, in which Hook is defending himself, and loses his right hand to the croc. He is now a left-handed swordsman, and strides forth to fight Peter Pan in the book. In another universe Captain Hook loses his left hand, and this right-handed Captain Hook is featured in the Disney movie. If a person loses his favored hand, it can take months or even years to learn to effectively use the non-favored hand. The Disney Hook would therefore be less confident of his sword fighting abilities, more cowardly in disposition, and more keen on trickery than the non-Disney Hook, who lost his non-favored hand, retained his swordsman virtuosity and added to his fearsome armament a razor sharp hook for a right hand. This Hook would be the brave, scary and formidable opponent of the original book and other non-Disney spin-offs.
The Disney Hook maintains an important ability, the ability to pilot his ship to other universes (such as the Scrooge McDuck Universe or the Kingdom Hearts universe.) This Hook might some day crash through the barrier that separates the timelines and somehow meet his left handed self. He will face a harsher, more confident version of himself. If they were to somehow come to blows, I have no doubt the non-Disney Hook would utterly destroy his weaker, mirror twin, the Disney Hook. If they teamed up though, they might well be unstoppable.