New Doc Ock Hits Spider-Man
Have you seen the new Doctor Octopus, designed by fan-favorite artist Humberto Ramos? Click to dig the Doc.
Marvel Hires New Publisher
Following such rumors, Marvel today announced that Bill Jemas has been replaced as Publisher. Now read who took his job.
CrossGen's Solus #7
CrossGen thinks you'll love George Pérez's new issue of Solus. And to prove it, here's a five-page preview.
Marvel Searches For She-Hulk
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins reunite for Marvel's Avengers as they search for She-Hulk.
Virtex Returns For Digital Webbing
A comic about a cybernetic cowboy that hunts outlaws riding dinosaurs? Where do we sign up? Read on and find out.
Marvel's Mutants Gains New Penciler
Marvel's New Mutants has a new artist onboard, and we've got a five-page preview. See if he's got the chops.
Image Rocks Out With Shangri-La
Are you ready to rock and roll? Image is, with their upcoming graphic novel Shangri-La. Read the details here.
Marvel Teams Up For A Good Cause
Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk team up for charity in a special December one-shot. Read all about it.
Davis' Marquis Returns In December
Guy Davis' sin-slayer is back in The Marquis: Intermezzo, coming from Oni Press. Read all about it.
Marvel Unveils '04 FF Plans
Marvel plans three Fantastic Four series for 2004, and we've got the details and preview art. Check this out.
2F2F DVD Contest
The hit street racing film 2 Fast 2 Furious is driving to DVD players near you. Win a free copy from Slush and Universal.

Crazy For Continuity
By John Byrne


Every once in a while, a spectre rears its head in the realms of fandom - especially internet-linked fandom. This spectre goes by the name "Continuity". Now, this is not the advertising studio run by Neal Adams. This is internal continuity in the comics. And the thing about that is, if you threw a stick in your average comic shop and hit six guys, you'd get six different definitions of "continuity" (not to mention six different spellings, most likely!).

Continuity has been defined as everything from slavish devotion to every line every written or drawn in a particular title (or even imaginary "universe"), to the panel to panel attention to detail that lends a certain verisimilitude to the work.

Funny thing about the first version, those who adhere to it are usually most adept at adapting to wild variants in "continuity" that occured before they started reading the book(s), but foam at the mouth at the least variant that comes after.

Now, one can certainly understand why many a fan would want a fairly high degree of internal consistency in the titles s/he reads, especially in these days when it sometimes seems the most vital elements of a character's history will be tossed out by some flavor-of-the-month writer who want "to tell a good story". (Funny defense, that one. I thought that was always our job!) Fans who have followed a character for more than a few years, as well as fans who are just venturing into this particular "reality", have the right to expect that, say, if the first story says Captain FoneBone was rocketed way from the doomed planet BoneFone as a child, then issue 100 should also say this, as should issue 306. There's no reason to suddenly say Cap is a mutant from the lost island of Atlantis, unless it's for some particular story arc, and all is to be restored at the end. (Or, Heaven forfend, unless one is doing Man of Fone, and the whole applecart is being deliberated overturned. But that's another story.)

Oddly, there are some writers who seem genuinely to believe this "now it's different than what you knew" kind of story arc can actually fool the reader. I knew one guy who wrote an arc for an established character in which we "discovered" that everything we knew was a construct created by one of the lesser villains. The writer played it as if this was really what was going on, and actually seemed to think the readers would gasp in amazement when all was restored at the end! (Don't ask.)

But, that aside, there are always elements of a character's history that must, perforce, be addressed and (alas) eliminated, from time to time. Say, that story where Captain FoneBone battled Hitler in the Bunker under Berlin in the closing days of WW2. Well, seems that Captain ForeBone has had an uninterrupted publishing history since his first issue appeared in 1939, and the writers and editors have always played Cap as if he existed in the present day, with the same supporting cast trotting along beside him. Do we find ourselves, at some inevitable point, having to reveal the Fountain of Youth Cap has under his sink, or do we merely start dropping out references to Cap's WW2 adventures? (This is not Captain America we're talking about here. Captain FoneBone didn't spend an undefined number of years as a popsicle.) Astonishingly to me, anyway there are some fans who would actually vote for the former. When I was doing Spider-Man: Chapter One I received a polite, reasonable letter from a fan who thought the "solution" to the whole "problem" of characters not aging in comics (something inextricably linked to "continuity") was to "simply" say Spidey's "radioactive blood" generated some kind of field effect which retarded the aging of everyone with whom he came into contact. Yoiks!!

Back to the central issue, here: what is Continuity, and, perhaps more to the point, what should it be?

Jim Shooter once said to me that as far as he was concerned Continuity meant if a hole got punched in the hero's HQ in one issue, in the next we might see a panel of that hole getting patched. I like to think it's a little bit more than that! I'd rather say that Continuity means most of the stories we've seen happened, they just didn't quite happen the way we thought they did. And some of them, bending under the weight of Time, didn't happen at all.

But it doesn't mean a throwaway line in issue 36 forever binds Captain FoneBone to a particular thread, motif, matrix, whatever. The bigger picture is more important. And that relates to the "to tell a good story" brigade, too, of course. If it is absolutely vital to your story that Cap indeed be a mutant from Atlantis, then, by definition, it's not a "good" story, is it?

Bottom line: Continuity is fun. Heck, the late, great Marvel Comics built their whole empire on Continuity (elastic as it might have been). That sense that, to be a True Fan, you had to Know It All. Unfortunately, there are times when that which I have come to call "Expert Syndrome" kicks in, and those who Know It All become obsessed with protecting the area of their expertise, forgetting that, had this kind of obsessive, anal detail-checking been in place from Day One, most of their favorite stories (in whatever "universe") would vanish in a puff of logic. Consider, to evoke his name again, the "history" of Captain America. Make his "return" to the Marvel Universe work, as presented in 1964 (or whenever it was) if Every Word Written about the character before that point had to be True and Invoilate!!

In other words, Continuity = Good Thing, as long as we leave behind the chisels and the stone tablets.

Article continued below advertisement


E-Mail Author  |  Archive  |  Tell A Friend



Sword of Dracula
Slush launches our Halloween countdown with the first in a series of spooky reviews. First up? New series, Sword of Dracula.
John Byrne's IMO
This week John points out that fans cannot read the minds of creators, although you wouldn't know that by listening to some of them.
The Dead Zone
Flesh-eating zombies battle the last remaining police officer in Image's new series, The Walking Dead. We review the first issue.
Steve Niles Interview
Slush interviews Steve Niles, the acclaimed writer of 30 Days of Night, who tells us about the relaunch of Fused.
A Spidery Preview
Have you seen the new Doctor Octopus, designed by fan-favorite artist Humberto Ramos? Click to dig the Doc.
Kill Bill Review
Slush reviews the first installment of Quentin Tarantino's kung fu slasher masterpiece, Kill Bill.
Viper Interview
Slush takes a look at new publisher Viper Comics, and interviews the guys behind two of its hottest books.
Peanuts Collected
Cartoon fans rejoice. Fantagraphics is reprinting the entire collection of Charles Schulz' Peanuts. Read on for details.

CHANNELS:  Features | Columns | Reviews | News | Film & TV | Forums | Slushfactory.com

Copyright © 2003 Slush Factory Entertainment (E-mail)
All Rights Reserved : No portion of Slush may be reprinted in any form without prior consent