Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Over at Brill Building, Ian Brill discusses continuity:

A week or two ago at ye old comics hut I heard one fan point out to Mike how it’s annoying that Wolverine gets brainwashed in his book while he’s a-okay in Astonishing X-Men. I would say (although I didn’t) that if something like that is bothering you maybe the books you’re reading just aren’t that good. That, or simply relax and take each book on its own.

For the most part, I agree. Especially in an example like this where you’ve got a character who is not only the lead in his own ongoing monthly while appearing in a team title, but also regularly appears in a bunch of other team books, you really just need to put your suspension-of-disbelief into high gear and accept it.

However, I don’t universally agree that all continuity violations (for lack of a better word) are okay. Most are fine and fans’ complaints usually amount to little more than the kind of stereotypical geekery that comic readers are branded with. But there is a particular kind of continuity violation that I do care about, though unfortunately it isn’t the one that most fans get riled up for.

The most common continuity violations are technical ones. So-and-so was resurrected without explanation. So-and-so fought this hero the same month he fought this other hero. So-and-so didn’t do THIS even though he could obviously do it because he did it in Amazing Tales of Amazingness #4894308554397. That kind of thing. This, I don’t care about.

In fact, a lot of times I like it. In one example, a few years ago DC had a big, stupid crossover called “Our Worlds of War” that zig-zagged through just about every DC comic (and if that wasn’t bad enough, another crossover - “Joker’s Last Laugh” - fell hard on its heels). At about the same time, in The Avengers, Kurt Busiek wrote a story about Kang conquering the Earth. Normally, this would be a story that would have to be a crossover because we’re told other non-Avengers superheroes have formed small groups to rebel against Kang’s forces and characters like Wolverine and Spider-Man make very brief cameos as freedom fighters. Instead, Busiek was allowed to circumvent the normal rules and keep it self-contained in The Avengers. Considering that OWAW was so massive that it took two TPBs to collect it, whereas the “Kang Dynasty” took place in only one ongoing monthly, it seems clear which story offered the better deal.

So, no. I don’t care if Bendis has Daredevil and Spider-Man fighting Mister Hyde the same month Geoff Johns has him battling the Avengers. I don’t care if Peter David resurrects The Leader without giving any explanation how he survived falling into a volcano. And I care so little about fans’ complaints regarding Spider-Man beating up Firelord that I actually found the bastard and beat the shit out of him myself last week.

The kind of continuity violation I do care about is in regards to character: when the essentials of a particular character are radically altered for no good reason and with no explanation. When Bruce Jones (once again, I’ll use ANY EXCUSE to bring this up) writes a story with The Absorbing Man as the villain, and has him speaking and acting like a maniacal, evil genius whereas every single other appearance he’s made in comics have featured a surly, monosyllabic idiot, THAT I have a problem with. When he likewise takes characters like Bruce Banner, Doc Samson, and Betty Ross and has them all talking like Black Ops/Super Spies, THAT I have a problem with. Because now you’re not just making little technical or chronological boo-boo’s out of either pure error or editorial apathy.

I mean Daredevil is Daredevil no matter what he does or doesn’t fire out of his billyclub. But when you take Bruce Banner and make him a generic everyman who spouts dumb lines of dialogue from bad movies, that’s not Bruce Banner. Sure, characters change, but there should be some reason for the change. If there’s some logical course Bruce Banner could take to change him from the man he was into a dumber version of Fox Mulder, well then let’s see it. Let’s see how it happened.

While Wolfman is right in saying, “The worst ideas become part of continuity and the best writers have to deal with it,” I also think that the best ideas become part of continuity and, unfortunately, the worst writers get a chance to ruin them.

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