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Last week, the Major Spoilers crew received a really great e-mail from faithful Spoiler-ite, Gaumer.  We decided instead of reviewing a trade paperback this week, we’d spend some time talking about continuity in comics.

With the discussion regarding the Batman R.I.P. series it came to my
attention that although this story was good it was changed to fit into
continuity.

Is continuity really that important? Isnt it OK to tell stories that
are just good stories and not tell them with everything else in the
universe hinging on that story?

Wouldn’t RIP have been just as good of a story if it was just told?

I think that if publishers want to continue to have great stories they
are going to have to let continuity go and just start telling good
stories with great characters.

We want to include your thoughts in the discussion. Use the comment section below to post your thoughts, or even better, record your audio comments in an MP3 format (3 minutes max), send it to podcast@majorspoilers.com before 7:00 PM CST, and it may appear in the show!

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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11 Comments

  1. mosdef
    December 9, 2008 at 4:18 am — Reply

    Whats up guys long time fan, love the site. Continuity to me as a comic book reader is very important, its helps keep the illusion that the comic is real(as odd as that sounds). As these characters in the comics grow, learn, love and hate it helps the reader to connect with them immensly. I think all comic book writers and authors have the responsibility to keep up with continuity because thats what readers invest in, we dont invest in a new Spider-Man, or Bat Man every few months with a new story line. We want the person we have been reading, and growing up with in some cases. Im ok with the more than occasional reboot or, change in back story to compensate for the current writers vision and story just as long as the story is good, not just in my opinion but in comic book readers as a whole opinions. Take brand new day, bad move imo, you erased alot of growing up and learning in Peter Parker just so he can run out of web fluid more often. Batman RIP, even though it may be fake you tarnished the view on Bruces parents which in turn tarnished Batmans origins. So continuity is very important, college forgot to tell me how to give a good closing sentence, I hope this one works…MOSDEF OUT!!!!!!!!!

  2. Lifeisaglitch
    December 9, 2008 at 5:41 am — Reply

    The Good———————

    Continuity is important because it helps build and solidify a world…Characters become deeper when you know that they have had to go through some stuff,(Which you have been there to witness) they become more real and tangible. Besides its not like the publishers sacrifice any artistic vision by forcing guys to make it in continuity.
    A bigtime writer can always do a a “What if” or an “Elseworld”. While all us other smucks can pastiche it or do a fanfic.
    But having multiple universes also works well because then if an “Elseworld” becomes popular you can build on it and give it its own continuity. And! if some people like the character but not this “new” iteration they do not have to buy the book to stay in continuity. (All Star Batman and Robin…sprung out of The Dark Knight Returns…i think)

    The Bad———————–

    JUST AS LONG AS -THE MULTIVERSES- DO NOT CROSS OVER! This is were i think some people take continuity to serious when all “these” world have to fit together as well.
    Heck if the idea for a crossover actually has root in brilliance you can make it a oneshot elseworld where the elseworlds meet….But a Powergirl origin should be illegal, as crossovers have no business in ANY continuity.

    The Ugly———————-
    Mila Kunis…seriously am i the only one that thinks she looks bleekrch?!?

  3. Sanlear
    December 9, 2008 at 6:51 am — Reply

    The “why can’t we just tell a good story without worrying about continuity” argument annoys me. Why can’t a writer do both? Is it really that hard?

  4. Gaumer
    December 9, 2008 at 8:29 am — Reply

    I dont think its hard to do both, but what if the story requires the death of a main character?

    What if I want to kill Robin or Jubilee but that doesnt fit into the rest of the main characters story (Batman or Wolvie)

    Within the confines of continuity you can always find a story that CANT be told because of the restraints of a characters past or future.

    If you kill Bruce Wayne in continuity, he cant come back without putting another story into continuity and still have it make sense.

  5. Brother129
    December 9, 2008 at 11:39 am — Reply

    Continuity is important if you’re going to pretend that all of your characters’ stories are supposed to be based on the weight of their history. Many of us “old folks” fell in love with the Big Two because of the rich tapestry their respective universes offered. Don’t try to play with continuity to serve your purposes of telling a story. Be faithful to the continuity or at least be creative (i.e. Geoff Johns & Ed Brubaker) in constructing a plausible retcon. If writers want the “freedom” to tell the stories they want, that’s why we have the Ulitimate line at Marvel or Elseworlds at D.C.

    Here’s an example that’s somewhat related. For a long time, I had trouble following the show “Smallville” because I kept trying to figure out how it fit into the Superman continuity I always understood. But as soon as I started imagining it as an “Ulitmate Tom Welling” or Elseworlds story, it cleared up any complications and actually enhanced my enjoyment of the contiuing story.

    But this is the job of EDITORS and PUBLISHERS. It shouldn’t be up to us to figure out when and how a story is supposed to fit. I can’t enjoy stories because I’m too busy figuring out the answers to questions that have no good answers. That’s my biggest problem with comics today….that, and paying $2.99….

  6. Maximus Rift
    December 9, 2008 at 1:34 pm — Reply

    First let me say that I love the site and I visit it daily. Al so your podcast is my favorite of all and it’s the only comic podcast I’m currently listen to.

    I feel that continuity contributes to the depht of characters and story since we see characters grow and actions having repercussions. I don’t see it as an impediment to new ideas since you can always tell them out of the current continuity.

    As for crossovers and mega-events, I feel the reason they fail is because they aren’t fully planned out. The current crossovers/mega-events I feel are a big example of this (especially Marvel). There’s a lot of planning for the setup, but near to no consideration for the consequences.

  7. mosdef
    December 9, 2008 at 3:43 pm — Reply

    @life mila kunis is hot!!!

  8. December 9, 2008 at 5:27 pm — Reply

    Continuity can be an peice of indifference as far as people are willing to follow the basic rules of the game. You know like Batman’s parents always die, Spider-man is always bitten by a radio-active spider etc. Where things go wrong is when writers think that they need to go way back and apply some obsure rule of a character that nobody remembers or cares about.

    If a series fails to be accessible to new comers while offering something to the old fans, then that is going to hurt it’s reception especially if it leans too far in either direction. If the writer feels that they want to reference some really old rule or even bend/break some rules of the character then I then I say it’s time to move on to the Ultimate, Elseworld, or One-Shot teritorry.

  9. Brandan
    December 9, 2008 at 8:22 pm — Reply

    Continuity is a must have for the main DCU and Marvel Universe. If I wanted to read standalone arcs and issues, then I’d be reading Spyboy and other independent titles. Batman R.I.P. was told wonderfully AND it fit into continuity, not to mention it brought back some things that were so wild that it couldn’t have been in continuity. A good writer can obviously make a good story read well on its own, but a truly great writer can take that story and mold it in with an entire universe. Besides, if I wanted to read about Superman and Batman fighting Vampires, then I’d also like to read the ELSEWORLDS headline that should plastered on my issues cover.

  10. ykw
    December 9, 2008 at 10:31 pm — Reply

    Sorry. If great writers and great artists want to tell great stories (why do I feel like I’m in the middle of a Caliendo bit?) that don’t buy into the shared universe conceit, there are plenty of outlets for that. Heck, using the e-mailers example (though this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone claim RIP was anything other than absolute dreck), Grant Morrison himself just finished telling a generally well-received 12-part OOC Superman story in such a venue. Mark Millar is currently doing the same in WOLVERINE.

    Otherwise, well, it’s called a =shared= universe for a reason. What others did before you built the foundation for whatever you’re doing; whatever you’re doing will build the foundation for what comes after you. Don’t break the toys that other people left you; leave toys for those who are to follow.

  11. Sanlear
    December 10, 2008 at 6:42 am — Reply

    Well said, YKW. I completely agree with you.

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