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Continuity Hash

2

Posts

  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    When it comes to the Marvel Movie-verse, I think it will be less comic and more James Bond. Same uniform, different face.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Call it the Clarence Howard/Ed Norton effect.

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  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    Yeah, but their issues were money related; James Bond is more time-related.

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  • ShadowhopeShadowhope Baa. Registered User regular

    What I want is a complete relaunch every decade or so. Every ten years, you say "we've told the major stories of the universe that we wanted to tell; we're going to stop writing stories in this universe and start fresh." The old universe isn't destroyed - occasionally, you get crossovers that catch up with how people are doing and what they're doing, and maybe even the occasional long term visitor from the old universe (Booster Gold would be good for this, so would the Question). The Joker probably makes the occasional random reference to the old universe. But otherwise? It gives a fresh set of creators a blank slate to re-imagine the characters and the universe without being tied down by old canon at all, it means that new readers have a definitive place to start (or to go back and read the whole previous version of the story as a cohesive whole), and it means that you get to retell first meetings and origin stories (every issue features the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne).

    You map some things out well in advance - for example, Brainiac doesn't appear until the second or third year, Supergirl shows up around year four, Doomsday doesn't appear until year five, Darkseid doesn't appear until year six at the earliest, and you encourage creators to come up with new villains to fill the spaces between while building up the hype for the old favorites. You stagger your big events so that they're not annual "this changes everything events!" and when they do happen, you make sure that the effects stick. You play around a bit with adding and changing heroes, and when you do kill someone off, for the most part they stay dead.

    And then, after some suitably epic "everything has been building to this" crossover, you wind down the universe and start fresh again.

  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    I can see some merits to your idea. It would be nice to have some rhetoric along the lines you're describing, just in terms of letting some things officially go in order to make room for other stuff.

    My main concern would be in figuring out how to allow the organic development that is the vitality of comics. There's a lot of unconventional factors that would be hard to plan for. This will take some time to chew on.

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  • ShadowhopeShadowhope Baa. Registered User regular
    I can see some merits to your idea. It would be nice to have some rhetoric along the lines you're describing, just in terms of letting some things officially go in order to make room for other stuff.

    My main concern would be in figuring out how to allow the organic development that is the vitality of comics. There's a lot of unconventional factors that would be hard to plan for. This will take some time to chew on.

    I think that in a lot of ways it allows more organic development. You give a character to a creative team for a year or two, tell them "at some point this year, we want you to turn in a Ra's al Ghul story. Make it a one off, make it the driving event, we don't care. Also, no touching these villains. Any villains not on the list, go wild, or create your own." And then let them go and do what they want on the book, without only having to worry about a few years of canon and continuity. Things would tighten up towards the end, but no more so than now - you'd be writing in full knowledge of "the big event is coming, better not start any ambitious plots that'd be scrapped halfway through."

  • GvzbgulGvzbgul Hillary had it in his veins Registered User regular
    edited May 2016
    I would like more actual reboots in comics. The big problem is that a lot of reboots aren't really reboots. Now you might disagree with me depending on your definition, so just to be clear, I'm talking about starting a story from scratch because the writers wanted to start over vs starting a story over because of an in story reason like time travel or multiversal collapse.

    Cos the DCU might have rebooted several times, but technically, all the pre-Crisis stories are still canon. Because it was rebooted from inside the story. Which meant that there was still some connection with the old stuff which tended to still pop up in the new stuff. It's like the difference between the new Star Trek films, which are an in-story reboot of Star Trek and the Nolan Bat films, which are an external reboot of the Tim Burton Batman.

    I would like to see an external reboot, one where the editors/writers just say, we're done with this story, onto the next. The Nolan films aren't really reboots of the Burton films. They're a reboot of the film-Batman, but they're entirely new stories. Just imagine if Batman Begins had George Clooney travelling back in time and creating the Bale Batman universe. It'd be crazy, why would you do that? It's not a real reboot and it ties down the fresh new universe to the old Batman and Robin universe.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    There's so many ways to peel this onion or make more onions from the first onion.

    Mainstream comics do a wonderful job of extrapolating more from a source, but tend to do a fucking terrible job at reaching a finished piece. You can end up with...disparate story lines, plots sort of floating around, lingering just off panel, and then, long view taken, it's less an arc than a truncated seizure line that's really bizarre. Maybe with the tablet comics, having a cloud organization of books makes sense for the semi-linear accumulation of stuff. But I like my comics on a bending page, bound, with covers.

    If nothing else, a comic is...a book. It ought to succeed at being a book. I don't know of any other book where I can walk up to it and go, 'oh fuck, that looks cool but it's volume three. No way that can be enjoyed without volume 1 and 2, and probably four through seven.' A publisher might not see the problem in that, but I have never looked at, say, a science fiction series or longform fantasy or what have you, and been put off by only being able to find part 3 of something, or worrying that starting at part 3 might give me a cruddy time.

    And yet trade comics do this, I get the feeling all the time. Maybe because there isn't a sense of it being sold as a particular story. The closest I can get is thinking of looking in the television aisle of a store and they have lots of great shows but no first seasons of anything, just season four, or sticker shock special editions that come in an oversized toy for no good reason.

    So much of comics is dependent on presentation. Maybe it would make sense to have all the Batman stuff in one place, and the weeklies just above last year's collected trade, and the presentation consolidated as such, so, maybe it's all right there, so you can have a little confidence that the pieces are all accessible from the same place. Maybe that's a horrible way to try to keep shelves stocked. It probably is.

    My point, I think I'm trying to make, is that reboots complicate the presentation of comics and complicate the field, as it were, of a line. Which doesn't mean that reboots are bad. But reboots aren't handled like the controlled burn of old-growth forests like they should be.

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    SorceBobby Derie
  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    "Forest fire" is a great metaphor for what reboot should be.

    I think part of the problem is, comic book writers get so accustomed to status quo ante resets that it becomes a large part of their plotting toolbox. You think about how in the Silver Age, for example, you'd have some wacky experience where Superman gets exposed to red kryptonite and turns into a gorilla, and by the end of the issue he's reverted back again - it's a zero sum gain; Superman is pretty much the same at the end of the issue as he was at the beginning. But there's still continuity, because even if nobody's paying strict attention to the timeline, Don Rosa style, you've got these cumulative adventures which the writers begin to reference - all the trophies in the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude, for example. But you don't get a lot of character development; that's where, I think, Marvel really made its mark in the 60s with stuff like Spider-Man. There were villains-of-the-week and standalone issues where something wacky happened to Spider-Man and things went back to normal, but you also had the beginning of dramatic arcs and character histories that played out and built up over several issues - and sometimes those involved a character reset and sometimes those stuck. Most Spider-Man fans of the past 10 years, for example, probably couldn't tell you who Betty Bryant was or that Peter Parker used to date her, but they know Spider-Man failed to save Gwen Stacey. Gwen stuck in the popular consciousness, Bryant faded. For the writers, you still have the control within books where individual issues and arcs and subject to their own soft retcons - Spider-Man grows four extra arms, but after a couple issues they go away, and nothing much has changed; Spider-Man gets a new costume, and then a year or two later he's back in his old costume. The writer consciousness might retain the ideas that "oh, Spider-Man had six arms" or "Spider-Man had/has this extra costume," but it's just a trophy in the Batcave for the most part - significant, unrevertable changes to characters are rare, while in-character reboots to status quo ante are relatively common.

    But try applying that to an entire shared universe, and it gets real muddy real fast. And the problem is, as Alan Moore once observed about The Dark Knight Returns, normally comics characters aren't allowed a mythic ending. Their adventures continue, so they're not allowed to grow old and die (something Moore himself has subverted in Tom Strong, among other things). And occasional changes of creative team, costume, power-set, death-and-resurrection sagas...they can help keep a character fresh, but they don't often work on a larger scale. What you need is an occasional brush-clearing to allow writers to tell new stories, a clean break. I think that's part of the reason I like Prophet so much: you take what was essentially Rob Liefeld's Dark Age Captain America and you thrust him into a far future that's almost unrecognizable - it's really one part Kamandi - and the narrative distance allows you to tell some really great and original stories. Marvel has...toyed with the concept on occasion. I remember they did some great things with The Immortal Iron Fist by making it a legacy, and you could tell stories about that legacy. It really reminds me of the great things Moore did with the Green Lantern Corps, that one time.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    The muddiness, yes.

    I can't help but notice that the greatest hindrance to both continuity and reboots comes up mainly in any comic that is supposed to take place in the contemporary world. I might be wrong on that, but overall, stuff in, say, a fantasy setting or science futures tend to do well enough on their own. Conan's a special case, but you can look to something like Judge Dredd, which, as I understand it, has done a pretty damn good job of just keeping on keeping on, even if Dredd persists in an almost Dr Who/James Bond-like state of everbeing. BPRD does a pretty fantastic job of being in the now, but it's a relatively young series, largely kept in control by its creator, and I'll be curious what becomes of it in even just five or six years.

    DC and Marvel overwhelmingly rely on setups that happen in what I guess I'll call Earth Now. Earth Now lets Joker wear a Tommy Hilfiger shirt in 1994 on his Luther-approved vacation in Metropolis, Earth Now lets Ant-Man and Taskmaster watch an episode of Chuck on an iPod in 2009, or Doctor Octopus playing Wii with Spider-Man. Earth Now also gives some strikingly weird and unfortunate choices that exist from Earlier Earth Nows, like when Tony Stark had to be replaced by an non-corrupted 16 year old version of himself from another universe.

    Just...convoluted renewal, accumulation of odd/obselete trappings, things of that sort. What to do?

    Well, one answer might be trying to make comics into three broad levels of execution, strata to align better with what people want.

    The first could be a little more cartoonish, ala Batman Brave and the Bold, where it's less about being grounded in a superficially realistic setting. That might be great anyway for shared universe. It's depressing, but I could easily imagine some kind of DC Miniverse where the whole thing has a Brave and The Bold tone, with each representation from their main lineup having a less serious version of itself that's meant to be light, fun, and accessible, where writers and artists can run wild in a kind of Hanna-Barbara tone. Say, the idea being a DC Miniverse, comics for kids under 12, that kind of thing.

    Then have a DC Official, which would be kind most of what DC has today, only a less of it. The teenager stuff, where things are full of self-seriousness but a lack of long-term planning, at its worst, the superficially dark or edgy stuff, generic gore, characters who forget to shave, at its best, things like Grant Morrison's Batman as it was realized by DC. I won't linger here, but there is clearly a market for this stuff, it sells, and it's pretty good at pulling through even it falls to story line quagmires, impacted plots, lost endings, and continuity trouble. It can fall short of what people want, but it's hard to ignore that there's an audience for it, and it's an audience that has sustained publishers for good or ill for quite some time. Reboots go here.

    Finally, something like a DC Legacy. This would be a third line of books for the decidedly post-Official crowd who are looking for something that isn't the Miniverse, but something with set endings for characters, long term continuity, deep storytelling, and exists a little more outside the demands of the monthly release schedule because you're probably busy and you'll buy it when it's there because it's worth it, or you'll probably wait for the collection/get it on your tablet anyway, because life is complicated. I'm not asking for MiracleMan or whatever, just something well made that creators have done with a recognizable character or property and they've been given the room and the time to do it right. The best of the DC Official stuff that didn't get its due ten years ago gets is swan song here, projects that proved more popular after the fact get to be returned to here, things like that. I suppose you could fit old concepts like the Elseworlds in here too.

    To repeat: Miniverse is continuity light stuff specifically made for broad audiences. Official is has some continuity, and allows characters to remain 36 forever and reboot with the times, and Legacy is for mythic endings and continuity deep projects aligned for specific, self-contained storytelling purposes.

    Something of this nature might prove useful for focusing publishers' and creators' intentions and communicating them well to readers, without running afoul so much of impacted storytelling detritus.

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    Bobby Derie
  • ZavianZavian Senātus Populusque Rōmānus Registered User regular
    edited May 2016
    a lot of it also has to do with the whole business of comic books and collecting. I.e., if you reboot a character completely, that invalidates all their back issues (first appearances, etc.) which then lowers the value of all those back issues because they 'don't matter' anymore. I still remember back in the 90s looking through Wizard magazines to find out first appearances of Spider-Man villains and such. The problem with keeping continuity is that it becomes incredibly labyrinthine for new readers and off putting since there's so much backstory. Instead, Marvel goes more with status quo changes and 'soft reboots'. Some of these exist in a bubble for the most part and led to some great comics (Age of Apocalypse, Dark Reign). I was intrigued by the DC New 52, and I think a lot of people bought #1 issues thinking they'd be valuable in the future as the first issues of a brand new continuity, but nopes, almost all of those series were cancelled or reverting back to the old numbering and continuity.

    Zavian on
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  • CorporateLogoCorporateLogo The toilet knows how I feelRegistered User regular
    I have a hard time imagining any comic book made after the 70s ever being worth more than the sticker price after the speculator market bust

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    I have a hard time imagining any comic book made after the 70s ever being worth more than the sticker price after the speculator market bust

    This. Collections are cool and all, but as a business practice it's unhealthy. Hell, lool at how Record Store Day went from boosting sales in local shops to becoming this bloated thing that's become a goddamn liability instead.

    Collection value and so on is at best accidental. I'd be glad to see it all gone.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    It's not gone, but it has...shifted focus. In the old days, you had to buy back issues because aside from the occasional reprint of a classic story, there were very few collections. Now that trade paperback collections are ubiquitous - and the larger and even several of the smaller companies base their business plan around issuing regular trades, deliberately planning out trade-sized "arcs" for their books - the shift for collectors has gone towards high-end limited editions, like DC's Absolute line, and these days kickstarter editions. It's a little healthier than it was back when everybody was buying a half-dozen copies of every new #1 or the polybagged Death of Superman, but that's only because it's going for the kids that grew up into middle-class adults with expendable incomes collectors market rather than the knows-nothing-about-comics collectors market (although I guess you still have organized crime laundering money through comic books, potentially. Man, 80s and 90s were a weird time.)

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    I don't know how much it's gonna come out in the wash, but...really, the concept of mainstream comics is still dealing with the advent of Wikipedia and social media.

    I wonder a lot about that. Like, what if in ten year's time, Marvel can sell some kind of tablet that is specifically designed for comics? Not some kindle thing, but an honest to goodness, designed from the ground-up device that is sleeker and light than an iPad air, folds shut, and when open gives you two full pages at a time? No browser, Wi-Fi only, with some kind of jailbreak clause like Apple that invalidates tearing it open to make it do things it's not designed to do. There could be a lot in this can of worms, but I'm trying to think small while thinking big.

    This whole chess game that the publishers are playing now where they're trying to dominate rack space needs to go. It's stupid and wasteful, and reduces the medium to a zerg rush mentality that may keep the competition afloat but is just so unnecessary. So fuck all that. People can read comics on their phones/tablets whatever, but largely I think it doesn't do the work justice, the presentation is serviceable but it's not how these things are meant to be read.

    Imagine a specialized device built just for comics, with no speaker, or camera, or extra garbage that isn't trying to be anything more than a specialized device for comics, that looks cool, and stores your stuff. Let's forget about how exactly it works/stores the comics. Just think about this nice, well made, digital book that still opens up like a book, displays monthly series, and that you still read it just like a comic book is meant to be read. Not zooming and scrolling, but page to page, with a slight crease in the center, with the first spread being page 2 and 3, as Kirby intended (maybe it can have zooming and scrolling, but the emphasis is making it work like a traditional comic)

    still with me? Okay.

    Now.

    Take this Marvel Book, or whatever. It has Stan Lee Boxes in different corners, maybe a glossary table inside the 'front cover' of whatever comics issue you have, maybe it's in the back, but, whatever. The glossary/Stan Lee boxes are hyper-links that can take you a curated Marvel Database, so if you want to know what Black Panther has been up to, it gives you a summary. And maybe gives a breadcrumb trail of what also you can so choose to read or purchase involving Black Panther that is relevant to the story you're reading now. Glossary gives you the skinny so if you want, you can read up on Vibranium, or, any other Marvel-specific term that may pop up in the story you happen to be reading.

    There's drawbacks to this, like the unanswerable question of how much writers will choose to gloss over stuff that Only Makes Sense if you read the Marvel Wiki Page, when it really should just be in the damn story if it's that important to the story, but...if every issue was a jumping off point, courtesy of being a digital book piggybacked off a database that links all characters/locations/terms with the breadcrumbs of their histories, letting readers pursue what fascinates them in whatever direction they want to go...you could do some really, really interesting stuff with that, giving every potential reader thousands of entry points into the given universe du-jour, free for readers to explore as they may want to.

    This breaks down a little-I have zero explanations for how pricing would work, what you go to a store for, who fixes these wondrous digital book-tablets, etc, BUT, if it was packaged with, say, the first three issues of each new Marvel comic for 2018, all hyperlinked with callbacks to the stuff that matters that happened in 2017, 2016, whatever, with acceptable price points for downloading these things to your tablet, and them having their own hyperlinks back to earlier stuff...

    I'm just really in love with the idea of something like this, where the research and the continuity and the storytelling can all be part of the same tributary on the same device, without breaking from the comic to the history of the comic and back again. With enough planning on the publisher's part, you could build enough interconnections but have it mapped out in specific ways. Reboots or just completely new characters/worlds (shocking!) could begin fresh with their own databases that would populate over time. Notifications might be able to update when Something New Has Happened to Ironman if you follow Iron Man on the database. A reader who follows only Hawkeye one day finds her breadcrumb trail over the last six issues has lead the character to meet the breadcrumb trail associated with, I don't know, the Blazing Skull, and suddenly there's this bridge and an introduction to a character that Hawkeye readers wouldn't have found on their own necessarily, with an open gateway replete with new breadcrumb trails and beckoning story lines.
    I want to just add as a footnote, I'm not talking about the death of print. We need to keep print around, nothing's better than comics on paper. But I would very much like a day when instead of endless fodder comics that get pulped again and again as stores over-order relaunch stuff in order to gnab variants, the hundreds of whatever that nobody gave a crap about to begin with are sent back or go wherever they go to be reduced into raw materials or sent to wrap fish in Bali or whatever, let's be done with it. Comics in stores are still a disorganized mess, and a device that can absorb the ever-fluctuating presentation of publisher's lineup so that actual shelf space can go to professionally made collected works that stand alone as books unto themselves is a thing that feels damningly inevitable to me.

    Anyone? Have I gone around the bend on this one?

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    Bobby Derie
  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    No - the idea of an "enhanced book" format has been around since before the dawn of e-readers. I think there's probably a real market for something like rifftracks for comic books, where you can buy a digital comic and then download/install a set of page-by-page, panel-by-panel annotations - which might contain anything from literary notes to jokes and commentary. But I also think that the technology to do that, while certain possible, hasn't been made yet - comic book companies are still working to standardize their digital comics, since the advent of Comixology et al. have shown there's a real market for them. In it's own way, digital comics are going to be as revolutionary - and relevant - to the sales and development of comics as the trade paperback revolution.

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  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    It would require a lot more effort on the part of the comic companies though, in order to maintain the reference database for whatever annotations and backstory would be "needed" per issue. Not saying Marvel, DC, or anyone else wouldn't be up to it, but it seems like a lot more work for not nearly as much payoff.

    As far as continuity hashings... are we including non-comic things in here? I ask because continuity seems to be rearing it's head now in the TV/Movie space as of the last couple of years of comic characters crossing over in a big way. Marvel is basically on Issue 13 of their MCU series, with a handful of "miniseries" shows that are all connected to various degrees. DC's Movie and TV properties aren't connected, but with the MoS/SuperBat movies kicking their stuff off, as well as the 5-part DCTV stuff hitting it's stride, continuity is becoming more and more important to them as well.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Sorce wrote: »
    It would require a lot more effort on the part of the comic companies though, in order to maintain the reference database for whatever annotations and backstory would be "needed" per issue. Not saying Marvel, DC, or anyone else wouldn't be up to it, but it seems like a lot more work for not nearly as much payoff.
    That's the thing though - Marvel and DC wouldn't need to keep up the annotations at all. It's not like Warner Bros and Disney make rifftraks, or update director's commentary on DVDs.
    As far as continuity hashings... are we including non-comic things in here? I ask because continuity seems to be rearing it's head now in the TV/Movie space as of the last couple of years of comic characters crossing over in a big way. Marvel is basically on Issue 13 of their MCU series, with a handful of "miniseries" shows that are all connected to various degrees. DC's Movie and TV properties aren't connected, but with the MoS/SuperBat movies kicking their stuff off, as well as the 5-part DCTV stuff hitting it's stride, continuity is becoming more and more important to them as well.
    Marvel movies in the current cinematic universe started out setting up connections and future movies, and even if they ran into a few hurdles (*cough*Ed Norton*cough*hack*wheeze*), they still made a go of it with Nick Fury or Agent Coulson popping out of the shadows; DC started out with no continuity - which is why Batman v Superman is so weird, really. Because it doesn't have anything to do with the past Batman movies, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the past Superman movies except a brief nod toward Man of Steel for the setup, if you squint and try not to think too hard about it. So they're really very different approaches. You can watch The Avengers as a sequel to Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger or Thor; you cannot really watch Batman v Superman as a sequel to...much of anything. I mean, technically it's a sequel to Man of Steel, but then you're wondering why they never mentioned Batman, Gotham, or anything else in MoS.

    Granted, DC does better in its television shows - I don't want to blame the DC films all on Snyder or Nolan, but I will say Joss Whedon is just much better at ensemble casts.

    In a real way, the success of The Avengers (and, for anyone who has watched it, Captain America: Civil War) is that it accomplishes the goal of being a big superhero team movie while still being a good movie. Which DC honestly hasn't managed to wrap it's head around yet. I think they're still trying to come to grips with "write a good standalone movie," to be honest.

    And Marvel, for what it's worth, at least tried to tie it's cinematic and television universes together with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, which DC hasn't made a go of yet. They might yet, but I kinda doubt it - at least not in the next slate of movies.

    But all this might be outside the general continuity heap. It's not correct to say that DC cinematic suffers the same reboot-itis that DC comics suffers from - movies are much more difficult, time-consuming projects for a single "installment," and whereas a comic series can survive one bad issue, it's a lot harder when it comes to films. Marvel certainly has had its share of mediocre hits and outright flops before the current cinematic universe started (Punisher, anyone? Daredevil? Elektra? Every Fantastic Four movie ever?) - but that's what makes the cinematic universe so interesting as a concept: having characters from one film cross over with another. And that's something you haven't seen much of in the 80s and 90s - Freddy vs. Jason and Van Helsing are the last examples I can think of - largely because steady characters are a lot rarer than they used to be. You don't see Jason Bourne cross over with John Wick, for instance. But that's what Marvel is doing now.

    DC is, by contrast I think, trying to use an existing film franchise (Superman-ish) to bootstrap a universe. So they're doing the opposite of Marvel in a lot of ways. Where The Avengers is a kind of sequel to 3+ films, Batman v Superman is going to have like five separate sequels, if they can manage it.

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  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    Oh sure, they're absolutely taking opposite approaches, no argument here.

    But is it something that either of them should be doing? Admittedly Civil War really is just supposed to be Cap3, but it's the 13th movie in a series. Should the previous 12 have to be required viewing for the current one, or the attached TV series? Over in DC's case, should having one cohesive universe spread out over 5 different shows (Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Vixen, and Supergirl) mean that continuity and crossovers should trump their individual stories/arcs?

    Obviously, Marvel and DC want everyone to watch everything, but is there room for people that just want to pick and choose or is it "In for a penny, in for a pound. No exceptions."?

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Continuity has never meant "You must read/watch/buy absolutely everything to know what is going on," in any medium - but it does provide an incentive to readers, if they like installment X, to go back and look at installments A-W, and look forward to installments Y and Z.

    In a way, you have to look at it more like television series than anything else - you don't need to have watched every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to understand what's going on in one episode, generally. Nor do you need to have watched every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series or Next Generation to grok what's going on in DS9 - but if you have watched those, then you see how DS9 has built off of some of the worldbuilding done in those previous shows, which allows it to tell different stories.

    Sometimes, this works. Sometimes, it doesn't - Lost is a series where if you miss an episode, you're going to be lost; Looney Tunes is a series where pretty much every episode can be standalone.

    So I think people absolutely can - and do - choose which films/shows to watch. And it's part of the marketing appeal of big team-ups, is that it (ideally) gets viewers interested in some character that had previously neglected. For example, if you watched The Avengers and liked Agent Coulson, you might be interested in watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - but you don't need to have watched AoS to understand The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    chiasaur11 wrote: »
    I don't understand the new Iron Man whining. We've had an African American Iron Man (Rhodey), we've had a female Iron Man (Pepper Potts), we've had a teen Iron Man (Teen Tony). So having a female teenage African-American isn't a stretch.

    It's too much, the traditionalists say. They won't have any white men left headlining books at this rate!

    They still have Hydra Cap. That should be right up their alley. Or is it just too on the nose?

    ...You can see why that's a problem, can't you?

    Replacing heroes people already liked with new ones is already a bit of a thing. It can be a thing worth doing, to be clear, but it does lead to some resentment even aside from racial issues. (I mean, remember how pissed people got about Kyle Rayner?)

    Then Marvel keeps doing it. Which again, can be worth doing, but it's easy to feel targeted with that kind of thing. It can be irrational, usually is, but "I like characters who are like me. There used to be many characters who are like me. Now there are fewer characters who are like me. Soon, there will be no characters like me?" is a chain of thought you want to head off at the pass, not encourage.

    And the Cap thing definitely encouraged it. You have a character who, thanks to your movies being excellent and DC being idiots, had taken the role of The Iconic Hero. The guy whose moral compass points true north. And now you had a bunch of eyes on his new series, which people had been looking forward to since, well, we've only had about two years of Rogers as Cap in the last decade, and most of that was in dimension X. You pitch it as a rip-roaring adventure, a counterpart to the more political Sam-Cap stories, and people are interested.

    Then it turns out he's Hydra, and some of the same people feel like the fact they like Cap Classic is being attacked, basically using it as an excuse to call them Trump supporters. It's not the kind of thing to make them charitably inclined towards your future decisions.

    As for Iron Man, I have... okay, I have many issues with this, but only three hit the highlight reel.

    1) I'm not a big Bendis guy. Just the opposite, in fact. It's personal taste, but it is what it is. His writing doesn't do it for me.
    2) It's spinning out of Civil War II. Civil War II licks goats.
    3) This one's a big one, and it's part of why Rhodey and Pepper and Sam and Jane (and Bucky and Wally) work for me, and Teen Tony and Riri don't. She hasn't paid her dues. Rhodey and Pepper and Sam were all long time supporting characters. They were built up to be suitable for the position and to give the reader an idea why they'd be interesting in the role. It wasn't "We're getting rid of a beloved character!", it was "We're moving another beloved character into the spotlight." Here, it's "Look! New character is EVEN BETTER than the one you actually like! Like New Character instead!" Which, again, doesn't do it for me.

    So, yeah. My thoughts on the matter.

    This was a nice bit from @chiasaur11, but I didn't want to clutter up the Marvel thread replying to it, because what I really want to talk about is a bit tangential: continuity in team books, especially with regards to team rosters.

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    That's a dynamic we haven't talked about, when it comes to continuity. Normally when we talk about, say, Green Lantern in continuity, we usually divide into who is wearing the ring and using the name at the time - Alan Scott? Hal Jordan? John Stewart? Guy Gardner? G'nort? Kyle Rayner? &c. - and the thing is, any or all of those might be whom you think of when you read the words "Green Lantern." And depending on who you grew up with and got used to, you might prefer one - or one interpretation - of the character over the other. Keep in mind, John Stewart has changed a lot.

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    ...and that reflects the syntax of the times. Black characters used to be based on Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor; now they're based on Idris Elba and Avery Brooks.


    Comics are generational, and I mean that in a couple different ways. The thing is, you can't tell all the same stories over and over. Characters always change. When people think about the Avengers, they think about the Avengers they grew up with. That doesn't necessarily mean these guys:

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    It might mean these guys:

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    ...and any of a million variations. West Coast Avengers. Great Lakes Avengers. Force Works. New Avengers. Secret Avengers. Young Avengers. Whatever. The Justice League did the same thing. The Fantastic Four has done roster changes. It's a thing with team books, and team books are just individual books ramped up to the next level, because if suddenly Eric Masterson is Thunderstrike instead of Thor, then you have Thunderstrike on the Avengers instead of Thor. Team books are where character changes tend to accumulate and be more visible outside individual books.

    And I think that when it is done well, it works. Because you have different dynamics with a team book; it's an ensemble cast as much as anything else. Things that affect a character in their individual book spill over into the team book. And if a character swaps out, you don't normally just invite the new Captain America or Green Lantern in - they have to find their own place. They have to deal with the legacy of the character they're replacing. That was one of the great things when Eric Masterson replaced Thor back in the day - and it was part of the reason why team books had a tendency to split up, since it let you focus on different characters, their interactions and challenges. Justice League Europe worked as a funnier book than the regular Justice League because the characters were less perfect - you didn't have Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash, you had Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Power Girl, and Guy Gardner (or possibly G'Nort). These are much more seriously flawed characters, and their interactions are a lot less professional - especially with the right writer.

    And when it's note done well, it...doesn't work. Kyle Rayner never quite had the dynamic with any of the Justice League characters that Hal Jordan did. I don't know if they resented the character or what, but this really sank home for me when I was reading Archer's Quest (where Oliver Queen comes back from the dead and is collecting the pieces of his life):

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    This is a great bit of use of continuity. Boxing gloves were a big thing in the past because boxing was a bigger thing in the past - there was a time when boxing was damn near the national sport. The fact that Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen both used boxing gloves was a coincidence of the older culture - the fact that a writer noticed that and put it to work as an interest those characters shared was fantastic. And using it to outline how little connection Queen shares with Jordan's successor is excellent. Which leaves you to wonder...why didn't anybody else do it? And the thing is, Rayner just didn't get the pagetime to develop relationships with the other characters. No surprise, really: Jordan had decades to get familiar with everybody.

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  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    Which leaves you to wonder...why didn't anybody else do it?
    I think it was H.E.A.T., mostly.

    Otherwise, I agree. Kyle was the main GL at DC Comics for just about 20 years; other than Wally, I'm not sure Kyle had much in the way of friends outside of his own books, and definitely not amongst the Big Seven. He absolutely was the Kid at the Adults' table.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Moving this over from the Marvel thread... a look at relationships and continuity in the comics.

    Over the long term, comic books can resemble soap operas, with different characters being paired up as love interests at different times. So for example Batman has been paired up with Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Talia, Zatanna, etc. over the course of however many decades of comics. Few relationships tend to be stable and consistent - for example, Lois Lane is usually Superman's love interest (and for long periods, his wife); Susan Storm is usually married to Reed Richards and has been for decades; Peter Parker and Mary Jane were married for most of the period I was reading comics, etc. These relationships are rarely the focus of a book, but they form a part of the characterization of the people involved, and so like it or not a good deal of emotion becomes invested in them... especially when they break.

    I think you can see this most effectively when a relationship is threatened - like when Chris Claremont brought in Wolverine to create a love triangle between Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Scott Summers; that subplot allowed for a lot of emotional tension in scenes that wouldn't exist without it, and you might compare it to Namor's interest in Sue Storm - a catalyst that allows writers to play out different situations and test the characters'...er, character. Which is dopey romantic stuff to a 12-year old, but can be really crucial when you're in your teens and suddenly you have a relationship that's been there for most of your life suddenly dissolve - and it's a bit like watching mommy cheat on daddy (or vice versa). That basically sums up my feelings with every single romantic encounter between Spider-Man and someone that isn't Mary Jane Watson - including Silk and Gwen Stacey.

    Gwen Stacey is actually a good example. For some writers, Gwen/Peter is their One True Pair (OTP), and Mary Jane is just...second prize? The one that didn't die? I dunno...but Gwen was supposed to be Peter's FIRST LOVE, even though she was dead long before I started reading comics. Gwen Stacey has a narrative stickiness entirely outsized for her actual relationship with Peter Parker, in part because her death became such a significant milestone in Spider-Man's history - moreso, I would argue, than Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane. Which is why we now have Spider-Gwen but not Mary Jane Watson-Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Mom.

    Part of the problem is that for Gwen Stacey, her death made her interesting. Mary-Jane Watson is normally a model/actress/housewife in most writers' incarnations; she as Peter Parker don't share a lot in common outside their marriage and shared history. Boring characters tend to be easier to cut out of the relationship pool...for example, Steve Trevor played a large part in the early Wonder Woman comics, but eventually the relationship was pretty much shelved - Wonder Woman was a more interesting character on her own, and not being "attached" allowed different stories to be told. So why is Steve Trevor appearing in the Wonder Woman movie? Because he's a milestone in her backstory, even if he hasn't been a critical one in decades.

    To try and tie this in to some of the stuff we've been talking about with continuity...all the previous things that apply to continuity also apply to relationships. People remember the relationships they knew as kids, and sometimes seek to recreate that. Others see those relationships and react to that. I don't think anybody that remembers John Byrne's run on the Fantastic Four is going to recognize the Invisible Girl from Kirby & Lee's run. New writers that don't "get" or are tired of old relationships tend to retire them, and you get to the point where it seems like everybody in the book has slept with someone else (if not in this 'verse, then in an alternate timeline!) Which is how you get crazy nutso stuff like the Summers Family Tree, where pursuing all the relationships that continuity has added up leads to a bizarre snarl of "Jeez, how did Magneto manage time to organize a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in between all the dating?"

    But how much of it is headcanon? How much of it is just me saying "I like this pair and now they changed it and now it sucks!", when someone else is seeing it for the first time and thinks it's their OTP?

    a88d7c0726f15b400a1d2d488ba54655.jpg
    Obligatory "Ship Happens."

    The thing is, this is nothing new. It is in fact very very old - the ancient Greek mythologies are full of random deities begetting gods and demigods in all sorts of pairings. Relationships are a big part of real life, and they're a big part of our literature. Playing around with different combinations is pretty natural. It only feels unnatural at times because of the nature of continuity - the longer a given character or series persists, the more complicated their history is going to get. Readers have a lot of emotion invested in characters, and making and breaking relationships is a real tool in the writers' toolbox to engage with readers.

    Like any tool though, it can be used badly. The Gold Star for fucking things up is probably the dissolution of Peter Parker's marriage with Mary Jane - caused not because of any internal relationship strife or love triangle but pretty much because of editorial fiat. It was a stupid, terrible decision that was carried forth in a ham-handed manner, for reasons unrelated to...anything. It has caused much strife, and is about where I dropped the fucking Spider-Man books for good.

    That is, of course, the downside of OTP in continuity. People are emotionally invested; offend them, and they might leave. This is really no different than any other major change in a character that doesn't appeal to the core audience: the Punisher gaining supernatural powers, for example, or John Constantine getting a superhero costume. Characters can change - do change - under different creative teams. But characters that betray their core attributes invite a lot of fan ire.

    Captain-America-Reveal-06282016.jpg
    Case in point.

    Now, ire - and in general, controversy - can and does drive sales. But comics don't just need core audiences, the comic writers themselves are part of the core audience - which is why characters tend to regress back to "norm" after a period. Superman does not keep his electrical powers forever. Susan Storm is going to ditch the midlife crisis costume with the boob window. It takes a lot of concerted effort for some changes to "stick" - to become a (more or less) permanent or long-lasting part of the character. Which is a fascinating process to watch and be a part of, and the relationships that characters have with other characters is part of that. I've been focusing on romantic relationships, but it includes a lot more than that, of course. You need a lot of character development before you can get the emotional kick that a scene like this one makes:
    3441397-1383422577239.jpg

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  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    I don't know how to react to this.

    On the emotional investment angle, I remember people being downright livid at Morrison for Final Crisis because Batman used a gun. It made sense to me in the moment, but it did feel like Morrison was walking back one of Bats' core tenets in doing so, even if it was completely justified. Thankfully that sort of thing didn't stick.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Even "Batman doesn't use a gun" is just sticky continuity. Does anybody remember when Batman carried an automatic?

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    You have to remember, gun culture used to be a lot more pervasive. I think it wasn't until Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns that Batman's attitudes towards guns was really encapsulated and set in stone:

    6a00d8341c2df453ef0153928de8dc970b-800wi

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  • chiasaur11chiasaur11 Never doubt a raccoon. Registered User regular
    edited October 2016
    Even "Batman doesn't use a gun" is just sticky continuity. Does anybody remember when Batman carried an automatic?

    main-qimg-ce12294a052771519ab5819e63e2bf40?convert_to_webp=true

    Yep. It lasted about... a year? Year and a half?

    Before Batman was Batman instead of just Shadow fanfic, anyway.

    "Batman Doesn't Use Guns." was official editorial policy before the Comics Code started, but people love bringing up the short period when he did as if it was more significant than the fact Superman took a few issues before he could fly.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    Sorce wrote: »
    I don't know how to react to this.

    On the emotional investment angle, I remember people being downright livid at Morrison for Final Crisis because Batman used a gun. It made sense to me in the moment, but it did feel like Morrison was walking back one of Bats' core tenets in doing so, even if it was completely justified. Thankfully that sort of thing didn't stick.

    See, I took it a completely different way: Because Batman doesn't use firearms, it raised the stakes even further that he would choose to do so. It really, really sold the moment for me. In the sense that Batman was born on one end of a gun and, at the time, died on the other end of a gun. Big marks to me. As a means of bookending Batman's life and presenting a death of Batman, I was totally down.
    Then it gets coupled with Morrison's reliably weirdo hypercycle stuff of Darkseid being killed with the bullet he sent into the past to kill Orion and how this seemingly foretold Batman being sent into the past and shooting through time to kill a thing sent to kill him...
    I don't know if it's still part of the foreword or not, but, back in the day Alan Moore wrote glowingly of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns in one of the earlier collected editions, and he wrote specifically about Batman's seeming death at that time, again returned to the point of Batman's creation but this time via Crime Alley itself as a geomantic location of fate (fitting that Moore would take a shine to this), Moor referencing how some versions of Robin Hood have him firing the arrow that would mark his own final resting place.

    Personally I find the term head-canon to be, well, interminably oxymoronic. But shared mythmaking has an undeniable prismatic quality, wherein many hands can determine true north, more or less, but the subjects themselves remain kaleidoscopic venn diagrams of parallel lives that sometimes seem much less parallel, until they are not any more. But writers, artists and editors are able to anchor and assemble undeniable signifiers (a Gun, Crime Alley, Batman's ultimate mortality) that reinforce and emphasize storytelling resonances that become undeniable cornerstones of canon. There's an architecture to canon, and a ramshackle ugliness to weak, poorly made canon. Sometimes we pave the earth and start over, like Arkham Asylum winds up doing every six years, or Wayne Manor inevitably does. There will never be a definitive article in the telling, but there will always be versions that are indisputably better made, and better remembered.

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  • MorkathMorkath Registered User regular
    Batman doesn't use rifles/pistols. But will use lasers, missiles, grenade launchers, bombs, razor sharp throwing stars. Oh and machine guns.

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  • DouglasDangerDouglasDanger Registered User regular
    Batman doesn't use guns because it makes the fights look cooler.

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  • GvzbgulGvzbgul Hillary had it in his veins Registered User regular
    Batman doesn't use guns because it makes the fights look cooler.
    Maybe he should learn gun kata then.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    Batman doesn't use guns because guns are a tool of the middle class and the people that control them.

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  • SorceSorce Registered User regular
    Though if Tim Drake is to be believed, Batman trains all the Robins in how to use them properly even if they're never 'equipped'.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    It would be kind of funny if Batman's aversion to firearms extended to actually being completely ignorant of how they even work.

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  • Golden YakGolden Yak Burnished Bovine The PIT, level 26Registered User regular
    edited October 2016
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    I think the occasional depiction of Batman using guns is almost always a writer going 'holy shit look how serious Batman is now, he's using those things he never uses!' The Batman who despises guns seems the more natural 'fit' for him, maybe because that's the Batman I grew up reading/watching. My favorite depictions of Batman don't like guns. He's the Batman who loses his cool when Deadman possess him and uses him to shoot that guy.

    The most tortured excuse of Batman using a gun I can remember was Final Crisis, where he shoots Darkseid with the magic god-killing bullet. Some statement about it went something like 'Batman suffered because of a gun, but now he's got a gun and he'll use it on the embodiment of evil, thereby making the guns that he hates a good thing' or something like that.

    I thought it was pretty dumb.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 flossing afficionado. Registered User regular
    I mean, the Darkseid showdown and Final Crisis itself wasn't perfect by any means. Tortured describes a lot of it.

    Although I did see it as a raising of the stakes, there was a part of me that also felt that Batman choosing to use a gun was also the reason he fucked up and Darkseid got the drop on him in the first place.

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  • Golden YakGolden Yak Burnished Bovine The PIT, level 26Registered User regular
    Actually, there was one gun-wielding Batman moment I thought was done fairly well in Infinite Crisis, where Batman sees Superboy has been killed and pulls a laser gun on Alexdander Luthor, who was ultimately responsible. There's a panel where he's holding the gun on Alex's face and there's a 'tek' sound effect, but nothing happens. Wonder Woman then shows up and talks Batman into dropping the gun.

    Now, initially, I thought that Batman had, in fact, pulled the trigger, only for the gun to be unloaded, the 'tek' being the sound of the gun clicking on empty. A later reading though showed me that the 'tek' was actually Batman arming the laser-chamber, or whatever. I actually think it would have been more impactful for Batman to have pulled the trigger and then covered up the fact that he had from Wonder Woman, rather than almost pulling the trigger and then being talked down, which has probably happened a lot of times already.

    Given that Batman has a nervous breakdown after Infinite Crisis and has to go find himself for a year, I think it would have made more sense for him to have needed that if he had pulled the trigger, and only a complete fluke kept him from shooting a man in the face. Seems like that would have messed him up more.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Let's talk Suicide Squad.

    80b0fca0ae9f81aad00f9de16ea86bd6.jpg

    One of the things about continuity is that stuff builds up. Often almost imperceptibly. Villains of the week come and go, some become recurring; you have similar story elements that writers tie together, establishing continuity between different characters or objects or events or whatever. It's natural, it happens, and when you generate enough raw content you simply can't keep track of it all. Characters, agencies, plots, they all fall through the cracks and get forgotten

    And then they get resurrected, sometimes in what I like to call the C-class ensemble book.

    See, none of the individual characters in DC's original superhero Suicide Squad merited their own comic. They weren't first-stringers, hell they were all villains, and villains that had gotten their asses kicked repeatedly. That was, in fact, part of the appeal of the book: they were resurrecting an old concept with new disposable characters. And that gave the book a particular flavor; you the reader were getting a different kind of book because it was stacked with different characters...villains. And when it worked, it worked well.

    So why didn't the movie work?

    suicide-squad-extended-cut-13-mintues-of-new-footage-blu-ray-203700.jpg

    Terrible script aside, the big problem with Suicide Squad as a film is that none of the characters (with the quasi-exception of the Joker) had actually been established in the movies before. So we're getting the equivalent of a cold open rather than a swift sell; we need to be introduced to these characters. And that is in part an issue with how comic book superhero films have been like so far: they usually aren't looking at one super facing a number of different costumed villains, they usually have one costumed villain that they oppose and defeat, often terminally. DC isn't alone in this, Marvel also does it. And part of the reason that they do that is because when they've tried to stick more than one costumed villain into a film, it's usually bombed (Riddler & Two-Face; Poison Ivy, Bane, and Mr. Freeze). So you'd have basically as much of a problem with a Suicide Squad-style movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    9d98eb1a1bb0f819c7d61742f09dafa2.jpg
    Although I feel some writers would say: challenge accepted.

    Ironically, I think the X-Men films could put together a better C-class ensemble film: they have a lot more flashy bit characters that get a few minutes on screen and then you never hear about them again, you can just pick and choose the ones you like from the third-rate X-Men and Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and go nuts.

    But, there's an exception to this, and it says something about the nature of continuity, so I want to go into it.

    COMP-2.jpg

    Copra is sort of like an independently-made Suicide Squad comic. The characters are sort-of based on familiar characters from the 80s and 90s, only with the serial numbers filed off, so the audience comes in cold. It should fail for the same reason the Suicide Squad movie does, right? Because it's taking a bunch of characters we don't know and don't care about and start from there.

    But it's awesome. So what happened?

    I don't think it's just the writing or art, which are both great, and I don't think it's just that the characters hit some nostalgia buttons for comic geeks. Its continuity of concept. One of the main flaws of the Suicide Squad movie is that the concept doesn't really work as they present it: Waller presenting these guys as an answer to Superman is silly masquerading as cynical, the old comic book Suicide Squad was about having a team of disposable but useful assets doing jobs that the government couldn't publicly do. The Squad provided deniability and filled a capability gap.

    Copra manages to continue this concept while introducing new characters who have already known each other for some time. The thing is, we don't start out with the origins of each of the characters, we start in media res, and a lot of the continuity details are implied rather than experienced, but the group dynamic and setting are all familiar and in place. It's a bit like if you had seen Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, then skipped straight to Avengers 2. You wouldn't know exactly what was going on, but you'd pick up on the basics pretty quickly, and the concept carries through in the characters and their interactions well.

    The implication for all this is that continuity by itself matters less than having a good concept with good execution; continuity can be hinted at and built up over time, while bad storytelling and great special effects can't carry the day.

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  • motorfireboxmotorfirebox Registered User regular
    There's another approach to continuity—not offering it as a solution per se, I just think it's a neat approach: Astro City. In 20+ years of Astro City comics, there's never been a need to reboot the universe except when Kurt wanted to tell a story about rebooting the universe. Now, of course, the reason that works is that Astro City doesn't put any real focus on the major events and crossovers and whatnot. Those are generally the backdrop against which most of the Astro City stories are told. Another thing that helps is that there simply isn't that much Astro City comics to go around. It's much easier to tell a good story when you're only telling one story at a time. When you're up against fifty monthly titles that all have to share the same conceptual space, it's inevitable that they're going to range from mediocre to suck most of the time.

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  • Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    Well yeah, when you're a sole author it's a hell of a lot easier to keep a single continuity. You could say much the same thing about the Mignolaverse - where most of the bits that aren't canonical are the stories by authors who aren't Mignola.

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