So, with the apparent end of the Ben 10 reboot show and fans of Ben 10 demanding to take the franchise back to the original continuity via stuff like #BringBackActionBen and #RestoreTheOmniverse and whatnot, I figure that I would like to revisit what I think is the best direction for Ben 10 to go towards. What I think the franchise really needs and how it can be improved. To me at least, I think Ben 10 has been in quite a tight spot since Alien Force and still is after the reboot show. I think a lot needs to be taken into consideration for what’s to come next for Ben 10. So, let’s get started here.
I think there are three major factors to take into consideration for handling the next iteration of Ben 10. Consistency, balance, and Ben 10,000.
Let’s start with consistency first. The franchise overall is so inconsistent and therefore just a mess. There are so many things that are inconsistent from one show to the other. Tone, art style, characters, lore, continuity (christ, those retcons, man), etc. To be a little more specific here and to provide some examples:
- Alien Force and Ultimate Alien were primarily dark, mature, and serious. Omniverse and the reboot show were often too comedic and lighthearted. The Original Series is a mix of both (more on that later).
- In the later shows, Ben was more mature and serious and then became more cocky and impulsive to an annoying and frustrating degree. Kevin went from an absolute psychopath to an unfitting hero character. Kevin also went from being a mutant to being an alien hybrid back to being a mutant. Gwen went from being a fully human sorceress to a half human/half alien hybrid. Hex became a more caring uncle to Charmcaster despite the implication that he was abusive towards her in the Original Series. Zombozo became a zombie. Etc.
- The Plumbers were retconned from an Earth-only organization to an intergalactic police force. Alien Force and Ultimate Alien tried to apply a more scientific explanation to magic. The Omnitrix went from storing DNA samples in the watch itself to a wireless receiver and back to storing samples back in the watch. Azmuth’s reason for creating the Omnitrix changed a couple of times. The origin of the Plumbers’ kids were changed. Etc.
- The franchise so far has a total of four different art styles. The Original Series art style is reminiscent of anime and/or comic books. Alien Force and Ultimate Alien's art style is more reminiscent of DC shows that came out during that era in Cartoon Network's history. Omniverse went for a more cartoonish art style. The reboot show's art style is reminiscent of that post-Adventure Time art style that Cartoon Network has been using for so many of their shows in recent years.
I think a large part of this is due to how the franchise is interpreted and approached by creators after the Original Series. Take Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, for example. Those shows were created by folks such as Dwayne McDuffie and Glen Murakami, who both share a background in making DC shows...and it shows here. At least to me, Alien Force and Ultimate Alien don’t feel like Ben 10 shows. They feel like DC shows, such as Justice League, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, etc. They put their own style and interpretation into Alien Force and Ultimate Alien instead of incorporating the style and direction that the Original Series had and put the franchise on the map in the first place. There’s also a matter of understanding the source material, which is something that I think Dwayne McDuffie and Glen Murakami missed the mark on given the numerous retcons that were introduced in those two shows. And yeah, even the folks that worked on Omniverse didn’t completely nail it either despite their attempt to bring the franchise back to the Original Series. Even the creators of Ben 10 themselves missed the mark with the reboot show despite it reusing the premise of the Original Series and many other elements throughout the entire franchise.
With each show after the next, all sorts of drastic changes were made to Ben 10 with many of those changes not ending up being for the betterment of the franchise. Again, this franchise is just a mess. It’s all over the place and has divided the fanbase significantly because of how inconsistent it has become. In order for the franchise overall to be fixed and improved, it needs to have consistency again.
I mentioned before how the tone of the Original Series was a mix of both Alien Force and Ultimate Alien’s tone and Omniverse and the reboot show’s tone. Many fans want for the series to go back to being dark, mature, and serious while many other fans want for the series to be more fun, comedic, and lighthearted. The Original Series provides a good and proper balance of both sides here. That’s something that the team behind Omniverse seemed to miss when making Omniverse and trying to return back to the tone of the Original Series. Whereas the Original Series was a fun, action-packed, comedic, lighthearted, and entertaining show, it was also dark, mature, and serious. Where you have lighthearted moments like Ben playing pranks on Gwen, Max’s cooking, Ben and Gwen having fun on the hoverboard, Gwen’s magic mishaps, etc., there are also some really messed up moments such as Kevin acting like an absolutely psychotic maniac, Vilgax being the terrifying warlord that he is, Zs’Skayr possessing Gwen and threatening to make her jump off a building to her death, Zombozo stealing people’s positive energy, a giant alien tick trying to suck Earth dry of all its resources, Gwen’s apparent “death” in Secret of the Omnitrix, etc. The Original Series was just as dark as it is lighthearted. It was just as goofy and comedic as it is mature and serious. It does so many things yet it manages to blend together all those elements very well. Like say the porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Alien Force and Ultimate Alien were too dark, mature, and serious and therefore it felt boring and uninteresting, at least to me. Omniverse and the reboot show was often too comedic, ruining many moments where things should’ve been taken more seriously. The Original Series’ tone is just right. A good and proper blend of both sides.
There’s other elements where balance factors in as well, such as Ben and Gwen’s relationship. Many have complained about Ben and Gwen often bickering at and arguing with each other in the Original Series but the thing that they seem to miss is that they have a well-written, well-developed, dynamic relationship. Where there are plenty of moments where they do argue with each other, there are also many moments where they’re shown to have some really good chemistry with each other. In fact, Ben and Gwen balance each other out. They keep each other in check. Their characteristics and personalities don’t actually conflict with each other but instead compliment each other and fulfill what Ben and Gwen need in their lives. Gwen has the focus that Ben needs and Ben has the fun-loving nature that Gwen needs. It’s like Batman and Robin or Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Ben and Gwen work so well together and balance each other out well that they pretty much need each other to work as characters. That Ben doesn’t work as a character without Gwen and vice versa. That’s why I don’t think reducing Gwen’s importance and role as a character in Omniverse and replacing her with Rook Blonko was a good idea. It’s also why I don’t think a Gwen spin-off show is a good idea either.
Even Ben on his own has a good balance and good character development in the Original Series compared to his portrayals in the sequel and reboot shows. Many fans want for Ben to be more mature and serious, like in Alien Force and Ultimate Alien. Many other fans are ok with Ben being a fun-loving, cocky goofball, like in Omniverse and the reboot show. The Original Series provides both sides of that in a well-balanced way. Ben was a fun-loving, cocky, impulsive kid that often got himself into trouble but when the moment was right, he did show a lot of maturity and seriousness and had a good, strong grasp on being responsible. He even had some good, well-written character development. He does learn from his mistakes. He does become better and more responsible and capable as a hero and character. Ben started off in one spot at the beginning of the Original Series and ended up at a different but better spot when the Original Series ended.
Other things to take into consideration are stuff like balancing out science and magic. One of the major issues with Alien Force and Ultimate Alien was how it focused too much on science fiction and not enough on magic. So much so that those shows even tried to use science to explain the magical elements. How is Gwen able to cast magic? Oh because she’s actually half alien and magic actually originates from an alien species. And yet, they couldn’t even stick with that because applying science to magic doesn’t make sense. I mean, it’s magic. That’s not something that you can explain with science. To Omniverse’s credit, they did focus more on magic compared to Alien Force and Ultimate Alien.
Even the Original Series' art style has a good balance here (go figure since that it was made to fit the tone and style of the Original Series). Alien Force and Ultimate Alien had quite a detailed, serious-looking, action-oriented art style (again, reminiscent of DC shows) while Omniverse and the reboot show had a more cartoonish art style to match up with their more comedic tone. The Original Series' art style fits both sides of that coin. It's detailed yet capable of being cartoonish. It fits both action and comedy. It's capable of being quite expressive visually. It's a flexible and well-made art style that fits well with a flexible and well-made show and its tone and style.
Balance is another key factor that needs to be taken into consideration here. Unlike the sequel shows and the reboot show, the Original Series has a lot of variety and does a good job of balancing out all that variety as well. This helped to add a lot of depth to the show because it does so much yet does it so well.
In a more broad sense, there needs to be more of a focus on story and character development and less on monster-of-the-week type of filler episodes. There can still be the occasional filler episode here and there but story and character development should take priority. When it comes to Ben 10, the next story that needs to be told is Ben 10,000. There needs...to be...a focus...on Ben 10,000. Whether the return to the original continuity involves it being a sequel to Omniverse or a new sequel to the Original Series or whatever, it has to be about Ben 10,000. It has to be about Ben’s transition into Ben 10,000. It needs to focus on Ken 10. I say that they need to stop kiting around this. There’s this trope that I found out about a while back called Knight in Sour Armor (link below). This trope fits Ben like a glove and I think that this is the best direction to go for Ben as a character. The Ben 10,000 storyline felt like the next logical and natural step for the franchise after the Original Series, and we have yet to see this storyline get realized in an official Ben 10 show.
Taking all of this into consideration, what do I think would be the best route to take if we were to return back to the original continuity? Those that know me well enough should know what I’m about to say here. Make a new sequel to the Original Series. Ignore the continuity of Alien Force, Ultimate Alien, Omniverse, and the reboot show and make a new continuity. Granted, I don’t mind using elements from the other shows because there are some elements of the other shows that I do like, such as the Highbreed and DNAliens, the Plumbers’ kids, some of the aliens that Ben unlocks, Professor Paradox, etc. This is what I think the franchise really needs. But why?
As I said before, one of the biggest issues with this franchise is how inconsistent it is. It needs to be consistent again, which is pretty much the biggest reason why I don’t think making a sequel to Omniverse is a good idea. At that point, three sequel shows have caused all sorts of drastic changes to the franchise and made the franchise as a whole a mess in many ways. I think what’s needed here is a clean slate. Granted, not a complete clean slate. I don’t think this franchise needed to start from scratch, like what the reboot show tried to do. I think making a new sequel to the Original Series and taking what made the Original Series at its best and using it for this new sequel is a good way to make the franchise consistent again as well as to also give it a more proper clean slate. No need to be concerned about retcons, character inconsistencies, maybe different art styles, etc. And again, elements from the other shows can be used as well just as long as they fit well enough into the new sequel.
And speaking of character inconsistencies, again, all of that would be of no concern in this sequel. Ben isn’t being tugged back and forth between being mature and serious and cocky and impulsive. Gwen isn’t a half alien hybrid anymore and is back to being a fully human sorceress. Kevin is a psychopathic mutant again. Hex is evil again. Dr. Animo is in the state where he was relatively a threat again. Etc.
I think bringing back the Original Series art style would be a good route to go here for consistency as well. Not just bring it back either but also make some improvements to it. Maybe some elements of Japanese anime or something of the likes. Regardless, for the direction that I think the franchise should go towards, at the very least, it needs an art style that fits well with that direction while also allowing for the next iteration of Ben 10 to stand out more compared to the other shows that Cartoon Network made in recent years. Cartoon Network really needs to branch into making more varied and unique art styles. People are getting really sick and tired of seeing that same-y art style (Cal-Arts style or bean-mouth style or whatever people call it as) that has plagued so many cartoon shows on the network.
As I also said before, many fans want for the franchise to be more dark, mature, and serious while many other fans want for the franchise to be more fun, comedic, and entertaining...and the tone and style of the Original Series provides a good and proper balance of both. Incorporating the style and tone of the Original Series is something that I think will work best in a new sequel to the Original Series. Again, consistency. It would help make things feel more natural and fitting and it provides what many fans want out of a Ben 10 show.
Then there’s the Ben 10,000 direction. Like I said before, the Ben 10,000 storyline and Ben’s transition into Ben 10,000 felt like the next clear, logical, and natural step for Ben 10 after the Original Series ended. Therefore, it’ll feel the most logical and natural in a new sequel to the Original Series. There’s so much potential with this route that it really shouldn’t be ignored anymore. Again, focus on Ben’s transition into Ben 10,000. Then, take the setting into the future and focus on Ben 10,000 and Ken 10. This is what I think the franchise needs.
I mentioned how going this sequel route would make Kevin back to how he was in the Original Series. I get that a lot of people like how Kevin was portrayed as in the sequel shows but I find that Kevin is just better off as a villain than a hero. Kevin to Ben in the Original Series was like the Joker to Batman or Venom to Spider Man. Kevin is just a much better and more fitting evil and opposite Ben than Albedo is. I also think that Kevin has better potential as a villain than a hero and would be a fitting factor to leave a significant impact on Ben as a character that would influence his transition into Ben 10,000. That’s not to say that Ben and Kevin can’t work together again though. They have worked together before in the Original Series because they had to in order to survive (the episode, Grudge Match). Ben and Kevin can work together again to combat a greater threat, such as the Highbreed. This could lead to an opportunity where Ben tries again to help Kevin become a better person, but once the Highbreed threat has been taken care of, Kevin goes back to his old ways and becomes Ben’s enemy again, doing something to Ben that proves to be quite traumatic to him and, again, influences his transition into Ben 10,000. I also think that Kevin has the potential to be one of the best and most terrifying villains in the franchise due to how he was set up in the Original Series. There’s also, once again, the matter of consistency considering that the episode, Ken 10, portrayed a future version of Kevin that is still his old, psychotic self. We already have official shows in this franchise portraying Kevin as a hero character. I think that it’s fine to try something different to that this time around. Go all out with Kevin as a villain this time.
Now I know that there’s going to be a portion of the fanbase that’s going to be against this. Here’s the thing about that. As I said before, with how inconsistent this franchise has become, it has created a divided fanbase. Whatever comes next for Ben 10 and whatever it’s going to be, one thing that I know will happen is that the next iteration is going to get a backlash from a portion of the fanbase. That is because this has always happened with the Ben 10 franchise. Many had complaints about Alien Force. Many had complaints about Ultimate Alien. Many had complaints about Omniverse. Many had complaints about the reboot show. Many that are fans of these shows had complaints about the Original Series. With the direction of a new sequel to the Original Series with a new continuity, I’m sure that many would complain that it would wipe away the sequel shows and reboot show. It won’t. Alien Force, Ultimate Alien, Omniverse, and the reboot show will still exist and will remain unchanged. If people prefer those shows over a new sequel to the Original Series, that’s completely fine. Regardless, there’s going to be a backlash no matter what the next show in the Ben 10 franchise is going to be. Therefore, I say screw it and let’s at least give this direction a chance. Let’s give making a new sequel to the Original Series with a new continuity a try and see how it plays out. Also, one thing that I’m hoping to say to try and make the franchise consistent again is that it would at least significantly reduce that divide within the fanbase. Regardless, I think making a new sequel to the Original Series with a new continuity is at least worth a try.
I think that’s everything that I wanted to cover here but I'll be making some edits here and there over time to help polish this page up more. Therefore, if anyone has any thoughts of their own in regards to this, feel free to comment down below. Either way, Ben 10 is quite a mess right now and I think this is the best way to clean it up. If this franchise does return back to the original continuity, I think this is the best direction to go with that very return.