Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Comic Book Confidential: Continuity Shmooity...

Comic books, specifically long running super-hero titles, as a narrative art-form seem to have a problem.

As years, and decades pass, it's become very hard to maintain a sense of narrative continuity that allows major story and character arcs to happen while still pleasing fans who like to keep their superheroes the way they were when they first encountered them.

It leaves the characters in a state of arrested development, and gives the writer's and artists the screaming mimis to take their stories in the wild and radical directions they want to, and still bring everything back to where it was at the beginning.

So it got me thinking.

In the old days of the business, it was commonly held that any given comic book got a completely new audience roughly around every three years. That gave them a little leeway in occasionally tweaking with origin stories, and some of the basics of their characters without too much controversy. Nowadays with the comics audience skewing older than ever before, that period can now be considered around ten years, making continuity problems more obvious than ever before.

And yet in that, lies what I think may be a solution to the continuity problem.

Every ten years, do a complete reboot. Start again from issue #1 with the fundamentals, and then take the character where you think he/she/it should go for the next decade, have a big cross-over Battle Royale at the end of the decade, wrap up story-lines, and then start all over again.

Of course it would take a lot of long-term planning in an industry that's not exactly famous for it's long term thinking, and it would probably spark a lot of internet related flak, but it might work.

And this is where I'd like to hear from you folks, my gentle and fragrant readers with your opinions on this question: Do you think a "10 Year Plan" for superhero comics could work?


  1. I write this as an ancient collector of the American comic that started in the '80s and ended abruptly at it's end.

    Disillusionment was the true point that stopped my purchases. It came from grand ideas about characters never played out and stories wrapped up too quickly to swallow.
    Indeed, I still bought some near the end of the decade. Most of it though were independent serials outside the big two publishers (or three.. or four.. I lost count) that captured my love of this form. They where few.

    Near the end, I found series that slowly filtered into the market that completely captured my love again. Most of which to my sadness and satisfaction had beginnings, middles -many for some- and an end. It was a damn shame those stories had to come out of the orient.

    Recently, I was buying the Original Spider man monthly since it was being written by a favorite writer by the acronym of J.M.S. and I loved it because he pushed the grown adult Parker into a more mature setting every turn of the page. Sadly, the president decided to finally push the Big Red Reset button; turned him back into a whiny metro-sexual 'tweener and had him fight the villain of the bi-weekly again. Reset buttons done by any American producers leaves a foul aftertaste if I'm not quick enough to stop buying the latest turd. So forgive me to state that your idea kinda sucks across the board and perhaps young children unfamiliar with the works might find worth to this. I am too damn old to watch reruns.

    As a side-note ramble (..and ramble) in regards to the writer JMS. His salute to TV Science fiction was from the very beginning a love letter to all fans of the medium. From the very first pitch heard by the fans, he declared he had an idea. An idea that spanned FIVE seasons and no more. His producers didn't buy it, the actors shrugged it off and the financiers went back to bean counting to judge it's worth. He brought Every single episode under budget and made damn sure every script was plotted out weeks before filming, to editing, and release. Every One Episode during the Entire FIVE year story was done this way. The money men loved him for it and the wives of the actors hated him for his declaration they shrugged off on to find themselves out of a job. He warned and they just didn't believe him since it could've gone on a few more years without breaking a sweat.
    Looking at it now since it's beginnings back in '93. The SFx doesn't hold up very well, but hell, the stories that where tied in together still work. It stumbled several times due to idiotic actors having delusions of grandeur and walking off the set and had a mostly shoddy last season because of the real fear that it wasn't going to make it to the fifth so the creator had to rush and cram so much into the fourth. But taken in full, it was magnificent. Babylon 5 was that.

    The latest gush over serial would be battle star galactica. It's embraced for it's Intense emoing, crying, weeping, gnashing of teeth, betrayals, ludicrous actions of "evil" things and men and reset bad guys just doesn't cry out for a second watch of any episode. The show has no Big Plot outside of finding some planet and being constantly chased by robots to do something about the last of them humans.. I think it intells killing them all or something like that. They had them all gathered around on a dirt ball and failed that one somehow.. why did they need a puppet government in the first place again? Orbital bombardment on a small plot of acreage would've of solved that "kill them all" order I think, but yet... The SFx is great of course.. but still. Every story in every episode screams silly so I end up fast forwarding the talking heads for the big CG of the week. JMS pointed the way and everybody blindly walked the other way... ack! I rant. I rant.. Sorry.

    Also, why is every single dumb ass season finale episode this year (Bones, CSI(misc), House, etc..) start off with an obvious projection at the beginning that leads the audiences to say goodbye to yet another character in the show in some form or other?!

  2. ArchiCrash21/5/08 9:47 pm

    Big problem with that idea: you start over with the same character, you're going to get the same stories! When you start over again, you'll get those same stories again. Sure, there might be some new character and new stories thrown into the mix, but it'll mostly be a retelling (updated and with a twist) of the stories that made the character famous in the first place.

    Oh, they rebooted Spiderman? Cool! When is he gunna get the Black Costume? I wanna see the Night Gwen Stacy Died! I hope Black Cat shows up soon! Think they'll try to adapt the Clone Saga? ...Seriously, I saw Spiderman I with some non-comic-geek friends, and walking out of the theater, one of them asked me "So, who becomes Venom?" Fans know the classic stories, and fans will want those classic stories. And the creators will oblige them, because they also know those stories, and will want to leave their own personal mark on them.

    Let other mediums--movies, tv shows--retell the classic stories. Force the comics (source material) to keep moving forward. If not, it'll devolve into retelling after retelling after retelling. And nobody wants that...