Wednesday, April 21, 2004


By an odd coincidence, shortly after posting the comments on the History of the Clone Saga in the entry underneath, I learned (via Fanboy Rampage!) that Tim O'Neil had just put up a post on the 1980s DC crossover "event" Millenium (under Apr. 20, if permalinks don't work). It's nowhere near as long as his epic dissection of Secret Wars II, but still funny. He leaves out the kicker, though (maybe he hadn't finished reading the series): when the "next stage in human evolution" was finally revealed at the end of the Millenium mini-series, it turned out to be...wait for it ... super-heroes! Pretty dopey super-heroes, too, iirc. They actually gave these pathetic heroes their own regular series, which ran for about a dozen issues, I think. His discussion of Millenium develops into a rant on superhero comics and the current state of the comic book market in general; as I've said before, he knows a lot more about contemporary mainstream comics than I do.

Reading Tim's piece got me thinking a bit more about continuity, which I'd spoken slightingly of in my post on the Clone Saga. In theory, continuity is a great idea; it can give characters far greater depth than a single issue or stand-alone graphic novel can. In practice, continuity at Marvel or DC doesn't do this. It can't, when characters regularly undergo cataclysmic events and six months later seem completely unaffected by them; and, conversely, when their personalities can change radically, not following any inner logic, but because of a change in writers, or editorial dictate.

Instead, continuity is used as an in-joke; taken to an extreme, this leads to stories cluttered with unnecessary characters and subplots which are only there to allude to comics published years ago. Or it's used for shock value: making revelations which are on their face totally inconsistent with established continuity, and then providing far-fetched explanations for them. When done once or twice, this can be fun. But when you've been doing it regularly for twenty or more years, as DC and Marvel have, the result is that the characters' "biographies" collapse under the weight of the accumulated absurdities. Marvel and DC's continuities only "work," to the extent that they do, because writers and readers tacitly agree to forget ninety percent of what's theoretically contained in them.

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