Movies & TV / Columns

Is Comic Book Continuity Overrated?

November 28, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Marvel vs. DC

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Green Lantern #1, Black Order #1, and more!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we discussed Comic Books We’re Thankful For!. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Gil: “I’m thankful that comics were only $1.00 when I started collecting (I didn’t touch the expensive $1.50 ones, haha). Prices eventually increased, but they already hooked me.

As far as comics in 2018, I’m thankful for Astonishing X-Men and bringing back Havok.”

paco_smith: “I still love the original Secret Wars. It’s a little cheesy reading it as an adult but when it first came out I was blown away.”

Dorath: “I had read comics here and there, but Infinity Gauntlet is what made me a full time reader.”

Gold Any Ranger: “I’m thankful for the informational comics, like DC’s Who’s Who and the Marvel Handbook. (and really wishing DC would do a new version. to cover all the changes since New 52 and Rebirth.)
I’m thankful for the two biggest crossover event comics of the 80s: Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret wars. (Id be more thankful if I was anywhere close to having all the Crisis tie-in issues.)
And I’m thankful for Amazing Spider-Man #42, the first appearance of Mary jane. We all hit the jackpot with that one.”

@IAmMitchScott: “I will always say the comic story arc that was my favorite and that I’m most thankful for was the Korvac Saga in Avengers #167-177. I wasn’t born yet when it came out, but when I found #166 in a comic book store I was hooked and kept coming back for more. Still one of the best comic book stories out there.”

Aejhaa: “Green Lantern/Green Arrow hard travelling heroes series in the pages of Green lantern back in 1977.

It established Green Arrow as more than backup feature, it took a while until Grell took over but it gave character to a mostly one dimensional Green Arrow along with the character defining moment for Speedy and eventually becoming such a prominent character.

For current stuff, Tom King’s Mister Miracle, not a fan of Tom King (does an okay batman but dislike Heroes in Crisis). Mister Miracle is a storytelling masterpiece in my opinion.”

PaulOrndorff: “I’m thankful for Marvel Morten and Jakob Stegelmann without whom this little Danish eighties-kid would never have become a fan of comic-books. Before the internet, they did a huge job of mediating American comic book-culture to a Danish audience.”

Reginald Fisterbottom: “I am thankful that I grew up reading Marvel comics during Jim Shooter’s stint as editor-in-chief. Byrne’s Fantastic Four, Simonson’s Thor, Miller’s Daredevil, Stern & JRJ’s Spider-Man, Claremont’s X-Men & New Mutants, Michelinie & Layton’s Iron Man, Starlin’s Dreadstar, Golden, Zeck, Smith, Gruenwald, Kraft, Goodwin, Milgrom, the Buscemas… what an AMAZING time to be an explorer of the Marvel Universe!

I am thankful for Wolfman & Perez’s New Teen Titans at DC.

I am thankful for Jeff Smith, Terry Moore and Evan Dorkin for re-igniting my love for comic books as an adult.”

To read all the comments or to read last week’s column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

Is Comic Book Continuity Overrated?

While at my local comic book shop I got into a spirited discussion about comic book continuity and how it relates to the average reader.

It started when talking about Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Superman and Action Comics and his take on Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jon Kent.

In the upcoming Action Comics, Lois has a secret and we’ll see some noticeable changes in Jon, namely he appears to be much older than the last time we saw him.

Someone had questions about the current state of Superman and we gave him the rundown on all the recent changes, retcons, relaunches, alternate earths, and so forth.

It was enough to give anyone a continuity headache.

The comic book industry has had a love/hate relationship with continuity since it’s inception. It’s an industry big on legacy but is also hampered by a weird sense of time. While weeks, months, years pass for us, a comic may only progress days, weeks, months. When you have popular characters who were first introduced back in the 1930s and 40s, it’s inevitable that you get tripped up on decades worth of storytelling.

The problem is compounded because when you’re dealing with a whole comic book universe, everyone’s backstory will never match up perfectly. Timelines are always shifting, events are always tweaking, and reboots are always confusing.

Comics intricate continuities were a point of pride for a while. Then slowly little questions started popping up about which stories actually happened and how to explain mixing old characters with new ones? Was this character around during WWII? It got confusing.

Then in 1985, DC wanted to simplify things and gave us Crisis on Infinite Earths. Written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Pérez, the series removed the multiverse concept from the fictional DC Universe, depicting the death of long-standing characters Supergirl and the Barry Allen incarnation of the Flash. Continuity in the DC Universe was divided into pre-Crisis and post-Crisis periods.

For a while it fixed things, mostly, but soon enough, continuity started to get confusing again. It seemed DC kept having to tweak things and launched Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! in 1994, Infinite Crisis in 2005, Final Crisis in 2008, and Convergence in 2015. The New 52 in 2011 was a revamp and relaunch that gave us mixed results and the recent DC Rebirth seems to be working. For now.

Marvel has had their own tweaks to deal with as well. In 2010 they started to rebrand their line with the ‘Heroic Age’ and ‘Marvel Now!’ initiatives. 5 years later they really turned it up with their ‘All-New, All-Different’ shakeup. This was soon followed up with Marvel Now 2.0! and Legacy.

I still forget how some timelines have settled so I can’t even imagine being a new reader.

If comics books didn’t have it tough enough, it faces a new enemy to its continuity with the arrival to the cinematic universes. Marvel and DC have put a lot of time and money to their big screen offerings and we are getting a trickle down effect from it.

For a new fan, comic books can be intimidating. Keith Giffen once said, “Continuity: How important is it? Not at all. Continuity hamstrings story and keeps comics inaccessible to casual readers.”

Is he right?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!