Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Continuity of Action

If there is one lesson I should have learned over the years of being online, it is do not read the comment section. It never ends well.  You come to realize  that the reason no one in any position of power listens to the things to people say on message boards is that, if it was of any value, people wouldn't say it on a message boards.

But anyway, I was reading the message boards comment section and I was struck by one poster.  This poster was complaining about how Marvel comics doesn't seem to respect continuity anymore. And it occurred to me that seven years ago I would have been this guy.

And I realized that my stance on comic book continuity had softened over the years and I hadn't even really noticed it. In large part, I blame the X-Men. I came late to the X-Men so I got most of my information from back issues. But for me the best X-men stories were either the original Lee-Kirby stories and Chris Claremont and John Byrne's later run.

I brought my first modern X-Men comic around 1994.  It really couldn't have been more new reader unfriendly if the ink used on the page was made of cyanide and hydrochloric acid. I still have it. The sole purpose of this comic was to clear up a plot point about Psylocke and Revanche and which of them was the real Betsy Braddock. If the previous sentence meant absolutely nothing to you, consider it from the point of view of a 7-year old kid in the 90s.

I had no idea who these people were and why anything in the story was important or what any of it had to do with the X-Men. Admittedly, I stuck it out but I was alway a persistent kid. How many kids my age read the comic, got confused, and gave up on the hobby?

And over the years, as I learned the material and I learned the minutiae of continuity, I came to forget how confusing it all was back in the day. I don't think I really remembered it until I had a chance to re-read some old 90s X-Men at my local library and I realized it was all terrible. Every line in the comic seemed to reference something that happened in another comic that you hadn't read. All the character's spoke in information dumps that were necessary to have even the slightest chance of following the story.

What I'm saying is that I understand the purpose of continuity: It creates a sense that the stories matter, that they impact the live of the characters we know and love. But it's not really worth it when that comes at the cost of good storytelling, is it?

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