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hypertime

from Wikipedia’s entry on Hypertime:

The concept
The Kingdom
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:
{…snipped list of Superman versions…}
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 main, or “official” timeline 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). If characters from a very different Hypertimeline move into our own, this accelerates the process, causing more noticeable (but shorter) changes to the timeline …

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