Most heroes get a facelift every decade or so, to keep them from showing their age. The longer an epic saga goes on, the greater the chances you'll see everything start over from scratch. But not everybody succumbs to the Etch-a-Sketch urge. Here are 10 epic storylines that have never had a reboot. Ever.
Oh, and these are in no particular order.
1) Star Wars
Star Wars hasn't had a reboot — yet. Disney has hinted at plans to do away with some parts of the incredibly complicated and massive Expanded Universe. But even if Disney decides that Mara Jade never existed, that doesn't really count as a reboot, since media tie-ins like novels and comics are usually considered to be somewhat disposable. As long as Disney never decides that the Original Trilogy, the Prequels and the Clone Wars TV show didn't happen, Star Wars remains a single unbroken saga, without any do-overs. Just wait until after Episode IX hits theaters...
2) Judge Dredd
Recently we went to a talk by Douglas Wolk about his excellent new miniseries Judge Dredd: City of Courts. And Wolk mentioned that the Dredd comics have had a single continuity, from 1977 until today — and in fact, the majority of Dredd comics have been written or co-written by John Wagner. Dredd has aged more or less in real time, and his home, Mega-City One, has gotten more and more destroyed by a series of apocalyptic events. The megalopolis has seen its population drop from bafflingly large to merely insanely large. Lately, some writers, like Wolk, have gone back in time and explored the early years of Dredd — but nobody contradicts the backstory laid down by Wagner and company. Tharg wouldn't allow it.
The Stargate SG-1 TV series follows in the footsteps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by acting as a sequel to the Stargate movie rather than a new beginning. Thus, there is one continuous Stargate continuity starting with the Emmerich film and carrying on through Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe. Of course, if Syfy ever decides to bring Stargate back, they may decide to wipe the slate clean. And Emmerich has made noises about doing a second and third Stargate film, which would follow his own storyline and thus contradict all the TV shows. But for now, there is only one Stargate.
Frank Herbert himself only wrote six Dune novels, but as of this writing there are 20 books total in the series, thanks to the ultra-prolific efforts of his son Brian and co-author Kevin J. Anderson. And the Dune saga remains a single storyline, despite a number of prequels and explorations of previously-glossed-over crannies. There have also been a Dune movie and two TV miniseries, both of which adapted the books and probably count as canon about as much as the two Judge Dredd movies do, in any case.
5) Dick Tracy
This newspaper comic strip about a square-jawed detective in a canary-yellow trenchcoat has never had a do-over. And it's gotten pretty science fictional, with Dick Tracy flying around in his magnetic-powered Space Coupe and meeting Moon Maid, the daughter of the Moon's supreme Governor. Chester Gould wrote Dick Tracy from 1931 until his death in 1977, after which the strip was written by Max Allan Collins (who also wrote some great Batman comics and the terrific Ms. Tree comic) for 15 years. Since then, it's had a variety of writers, who have brought back old villains and restored some of the science-fiction elements — but Dick Tracy remains the same guy as he was in the 1930s. Meanwhile, there have been film serials, TV shows, and a movie co-starring Madonna — but those barely count and hardly contradict the comics.
6) Doctor Who
This British TV series ran from 1963 to 1989 with a single, albeit loosely connected, storyline about a time traveler from another planet. When the show came back in 2005, many people assumed it would be a reboot of some sort — and indeed, at first, you could be excused for thinking the Christopher Eccleston incarnation was a brand new start. But producers Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat soon made it clear that they were building on the foundation of the original show, with tons of callbacks and explicit links to the past. We've even had hints that the Big Finish audioplays featuiring Paul McGann's Doctor are in continuity, too. Just ignore the two Peter Cushing films (everybody else does) and you've got a somewhat patchy but unified universe.
7) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Here's the other example of a TV show that picked up where the movie left off, and kept going without ever revamping its vamps. Buffy and its main spinoff Angel form a pretty consistent whole, and even the large number of Buffy and Angel comics manage to avoid any massive contradictions, for the most part. A few years ago, there was talk about a brand new Buffy movie, probably a remake of the original with a whole new cast and new spin on the premise. But that project appears to have crumbled to dust.
8) One Piece
Since One Piece has recently become such a massive hit, many people forget that the series has been on the air since 1999, and in print since 1997. And after hundreds of episodes and chapters, this story hasn't been rebooted for one simple reason: it's still not over and there's not much of an end in sight. Anime/Manga aren't often rebooted (with a few exceptions), but if any might have the potential for restarting, it's this one. There's still so much to explore that Eiichrio Oda might not get around to everything on the first run.
9) The Legend of Zelda
Think that only movies and TV shows get reboots? Well, you'd be wrong — video games see the same potential for new starts as any other form of entertainment media. And when it comes to long standing series that might warrant a reboot but have yet to get one, this is one of the few franchises with a consistent enough story to warrant it. Each story is a new entry in a long chain of events, but you can see why someone might think a fresh start would be needed after 17 games spanning three decades.
10) The X-Files
This quintessential science fiction mystery show lasted 202 episodes and has spawned two movies and a ton of comics. But there's no sign of a new Mulder, played by Michael Cera or someone, and we haven't seen a new X-Files movie that reveals that half the mythos from the TV show was actually wrong. We'll probably get a new and reinvented X-Files (Y-Files?) in another 20 years, but for now it's a single unified story.