The sequel to X-Men: First Class is apparently well underway, and recent announcements seem to indicate that the creators are intending to keep it in continuity with the first three X-Men movies from earlier in the century.  The internet has many theories on why this is good or bad, most of which focus on changing the ages of characters like Havok and the White Queen to be a few decades older than Cyclops (who is their brother/comic-book-ex-lover, respectively.)  Of course, this argument seems to be a bit disingenuous, given that the original X-Men franchise trilogy has already changed the ages of the characters whenever they wish (e.g. making Iceman a new member while Cyclops is a respected faculty member around thirty, and the Beast a fifty-ish elder statesman character while each of these characters was a roughly high-school-aged founding X-Person in the comic book continuity.)  I have long been vocal in my dislike of the Ultimate Universe because if forces me to deal with a new timeline and all-new interactions for parallel versions of the same characters, but for some reason the adaptation of the X-Men to an entirely new medium lessens the pain for me, leaving me unruffled while I try to figure out who was where at what time in the movie-verse.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is the best there is at what it does, but what it does ain’t pretty, asking:  Is it a deal-breaker when different versions of the same property change the chronology of characters’ lives to tell the story they want to tell?


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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Stephen Schleicher on

    Nope. Isn’t the shifting timeline in the various comics universes already proof that no one cares? Batman should be 100, yet he remains a youthful 30-ish even though he supposedly fought Nazis.

    • I think if they shift, however, they should all shift together in relationship to each other. Batman’s timeline changes because unconsciously, we want him to be in his late twenties to early thirties, where he could physically be doing the things he does. Batman played by Clint Eastwood would be fun, but not that exciting in the physical action sense of the word.

      I think this was a problem in the introduction of Chris O’Donnell as Robin in the 90’s Batman movies. (Among many problems, of course.) O’Donnell just looked too old for Bruce Wayne to be a father figure to him.

  2. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt on

    Not necessarily. I never expect movie or TV adaptations to stay true to the source material. I do get irked when comics retroactively alter themselves to align better to the movie or TV versions however.

    Within comics themselves, it depends. Clearly alternate realities (Elseworlds, What If?,Ultimates) can do what they want and a well-told, internally consistent story is all I need. Muddy internal timelines drive me nuts, however. The complicated and confusing timelines are what drove me away from the X-books decades ago.

  3. It depends on things like how it relates to connected properties, how far the shift is moving events in relation to the established timeline and other factors.

    For instance, I can totally buy Iron Man’s origin changing from the original every so often to a more modern equivalent. I think I’ve read or seen at least 8 completely different origin stories that tell roughly the same story with only a few key differences (location, the bad guys and year mostly), and they work because the comic Tony Stark hasn’t really aged yet they still want us to see this 30/40-something man (or even 20-something in some cases). In comics, it works because they aren’t so much changing the timeline as trying to keep the stories set within a shorter time frame than has passed in the real world. 5-10 years of Spiderman or X-Men comics might only be a week or so from within the Marvel Universe.

    On the other hand, the jumble of X-Men movies leaves me scratching my head with the utter inconsistencies of characters ages and places within the timeline (and that even includes forgetting about the “Wolverine” movie and “First Class”).

  4. Not at all, a good story is a good story regardless of the tweaks they may have to make. Ideas like the Age of Apocalypse, Kingdom Come and Ultimate Universe contain some awesome stories in different time lines.

  5. Varying timelines to me are part of the comic book history.But pulling out bits a pieces irks me.As an example,what if in the Batman Forever movie they gave us Tim Drake’s Robin instead of Dick Grayson’s?Yes they are both Robin but I wanted the 1st Robin,which is what we got.
    The “X” movies though seem to want to pick apart the team to suit their own needs.Which is too bad as the stories as they appeared in the comics were just fine.I saw the Xmen in the theatre but each of the sequels on DVD.And in the case of Wolverine and First class,I waited until they were in the value bin.
    I’m not saying to follow the books exactly.But close enough that I know the characters and how the interact(So no Frost/Summers or Gambit/Rogue but I did get Batman/Catwoman!).

  6. I find it pretty much a deal breaker when somebody changes the age of the hero just because he wants to. Making Robin a college aged kid was just wrong. Okay, I get it that the director wanted to have conflict between B and R over Poison Ivy (hubba hubba) but why put that in there in the first place – and have to make Robin nearly an adult – since it wasn’t part of continuity? Likewise, if WB had made the girl Robin in DKR the animated video, a voluptuous adult, that would have been wrong, too. One of the problems I had with the animated Superman/Batman Apocalypse was that, in the comic, Kara was clearly a young adolescent, but in the video they aged her to about 19 or 20. I don’t know if that was because they didn’t know how to draw a 14-15 year old kid, but she ended up looking so much harder and jaded than in the comic book.

    On the other hand, in LOTR, Frodo was actually 60 years old by the time he went on his adventure – Tolkien made a big deal about how he was exactly the same age Bilbo had been when he set off on his adventure in the Hobbit – but Peter Jackson made it work in spite of excising the forty-five year gap between when Bilbo went to stay with the elves and when Frodo set forth. The story actually worked better with youthful protagonists. So sometimes aging or de-aging the characters can work well, such as LOTR or Frank Miller’s DKRs where all the characters have aged, and which works well because everybody aged equally in context with the story.

    Then there’s the opposite problem, where an actor outgrows the role. In Terminator 3, Arnie is getting quite long in the tooth compared with how he looked in the first movie. LIkewise, there was an aging problem with the kid actors in the Harry Potter movies and the Narnia movies as well, and with Wesley Crusher in STNG. And, in the silent film era, you had Mary Pickford playing child roles into her 50s (and it didn’t work) and my one complaint with “The Wizard of Oz” is that they cast a 16 year old Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy, who was only six or seven in the books. Peter Jackson had the right idea in filming all the LOTR movies at the same time, it avoided serious aging problems with the actors, like what George Lucas faced when he went to film Jedi and the actors were nearly a decade older and Luke and Leia were no longer fresh-faced youngsters.

    It also depends on the context – X-men First Class worked for me because I wasn’t that familiar with the secondary characters they moved back in time, but had they put Kitty Pryde back in the 60s, It wouldn’t have worked for me at all.

    But when it’s all boiled down to gravy, if the director doesn’t want to stay true to the source material, then why is he making that particular movie? If you don’t want a kid Robin, then why make a Batman and Robin movie in the first place.

  7. Only pissed about Banshee!
    He was about Professor X and Magneto’s age… when he premiered in the comics.
    Now, he’s a kid.
    And, no mention of Juggernaut being X’s half brother.
    And, Rogue being a runaway teen.
    (I guest more of those movies messed me than I thought.)

  8. Honestly, it ruined First Class for me.

    Not only did they screw with relationships within the comic universe (Alex Summers being more than four decades older than his older brother, Scott, for example), but they didn’t have to use those characters in the first place.

    You want to make a story about a team of X-Men that was the team before we got to where Magneto and Charles are in the ‘present’ … ? Great. Hadn’t Marvel just given us a story (Deadly Genesis) where Brubaker had retconned in a team of X-Men that had been around in the ‘way back when’ of the ‘first’ X-Men team? Why not use that team? I mean, they decided to use Darwin. Why not go ahead and use the rest?

    As Oldcomicfan said: If you don’t want to stay true to the source material, why make the movie in the first place?

  9. No, for me its not. Making changes to a property to tell a story is never a problem, if the writer(s) keep the changes internally consistent and tell a good story. It’s the intellectual difference between a re-print and an Elseworlds story. If you want to do X-men: First Class, and interpret the concept of X-men as a group of mutants who are stepping up to the plate to keep the peace between others of their hind and normal humans, that’s fine. You don’t have to have the original 5 be the focus of your movie. I’m good with that.

    But, and for me this is critical, you had better have a new story to tell. If you’re going to retell the Batman origin as the first reel of your new movie, fine, I understand you want to make sure you’re entire audience knows where the character is coming from. But keep it short and move it along. (A few recent movies have done it in the opening credits or as a cold open, before jumping into the main plots. That’s perfect.)

    Don’t spend the entire movie doing it. I read/saw it the first time. According to some internet babble, the Abrams Star Trek sequel may be a retelling of Space Seed. Please don’t do that. I saw it the first time. Bring something new to the table. Making all the main characters twenty somethings does not count as artistic vision.

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