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Author Topic: This obsessing over what's canonical undermines the project.  (Read 3670 times)
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Admiral Chew
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« on: March 10, 2005, 01:57:10 PM »

I'm worried that this obsessing over what is and is not canonical will undermine the entire project.

For instance, I just added an entry for Dracula. At the end of the story he appears in, the Phantom Stranger mysteriously shows up and sends him to another place.

The story doesn't give any explination of who the Phantom Stranger is, but he's crucuial to the story since he's the one who actually defeats the villain.

But some people reading the entry may not know who the Phantom Stranger is so I made his name a link with the intention of creating a page for him.

But how do I do that without referencing material from non-canonical sources. Even the most basic facts about him are absent from the Superman story.

And even if after hours of tirelessly searching I find another canonical source which gives some basic facts about the Phantom Stranger, what do I do the next time this happens?

For instance Star Sapphire appears in a canonical story IIRC. She'll eventually need and entry. After all many one-shot villains already have entries in TGSB. Are we going to be unable to tell people who she is if it involves referencing a single issue of Green Lantern?

A lot of times the story in question will give the pertinant details on the guest star, but often there in the editor's notes.

Are editors notes canonical?

And sometimes they aren't in the story at all as in the Phantom Stranger example.
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TELLE
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2005, 08:26:34 AM »

A vexing issue.  I think the Shakespeare entry in Fleisher is a good guide.  I'm pretty sure Shakespeare's birth and death dates aren't listed in Superman #44, but there they are in the Encyclopedia!  Cheesy  To a certain extent, I wonder if we can assume (up to a point) that figures such as JLA members or their arch-nemesis are relatively well-known in Superman's world?  Good question.

I guess this is another can of worms, but another guide would the entry in Fleisher for Batwoman, which gives a general overview, beginning with the date of her first adventure, and then notes a non-canonical source (Detective Comics 233) before going on to recount her "canonical" appearances in World's Finest, etc.  I hesitate to mention it because a little bit of this goes a long way.  These entries usually mention that the person is "famous" or "universally known" or something like that.

I don't think this is as important an issue as Earth-2 or the inclusion of post-Crisis issues.
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2005, 01:50:48 PM »

I don't see adherence to canon as such an oppressive thing, and I think maybe you're misinterpreting Rao's guidelines.

For instance, I know in another thread, Rao said we shouldn't have an entry for "Multiverse" unless the word shows up in a canonical source.  That doesn't mean it can't be dealt with in other ways...Rao is not ordering us to ignore the concept, just to be wary of the terminology.  For instance, if there is a canonical source where Superman says the words "Earth-2", then it's safe to build an entry on that.  Or if he says "Multiple Earths," that's cool as well.  But if the precise term "Multiverse"  never appears in the canonical mythos, then we shouldn't list it.  Makes sense to me.

The Phantom Stranger is a special case, anyway, since almost nothing is known about him in the first place.  An entry for him could read simply, "a mysterious superbeing possessing mystical powers, who comes to the aid of Superman in issue number whatever."  If you like, then note what he does: can he teleport? Walk through walls?  Hypnotize people? If he does it in a Superman story, then it can be mentioned.  We don't need his whole backstory, because it's not relevant.

In the same sense, I don't need to know that Batman lost his utility belt in Detective #46 if Superman wasn't somehow involved.  Just say the Stranger helped Superman fight Dracula, and it doesn't matter that in some issue of House of Mystery he once fought Wotan (or whatever).
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Admiral Chew
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2005, 03:33:53 PM »

Thanks to both of you for clarifying the rules.

I had hoped that we would have some latitude when it was absolutely neccessary and it appears we do.

My concern was the result of how sometimes even the slighest deviation from canon leads to controversy.

I was worried that if I included a Phantom Stranger entry that said anything at all that was not in a canonical source that someone would delete it or complain that their was no source that describe him that way.
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2005, 04:29:58 PM »

Again, it depends on what you say.

From the comic itself (canon) you can say he's a mysterious figure with supernatural powers, that he wears a blue cloak and a fedora with a brim that shadows the upper half of his face, and that he shows up to help Superman against at least one supernatural foe.

I wouldn't get into his origin -- which in his case is undetermined, anyway -- or any adventures he may have had elsewhere...say with Batman in B&B or with the JLA.  

But say, for example, you had a story that guest-starred Hawkman.  You could say he was a "winged lawman from the planet Thanagar" even though that exposition didn't appear in a canonical source...I mean, come on.  But I wouldn't bring up Shayera unless she was in the story, too, and I certainly wouldn't get into detail about Katar originally coming to Earth because he was trailing the outlaw Byth.  

A more interesting sideline to all this: what about cases where entire adventures that took place in other titles are related to Superman in a canonical source?  For example, suppose Flash told Superman, "Once there was this time when I was turned into a puppet..."  Since the explanation of events from a non-canon adventure appears in a canonical source, does the former then become "canon"? That is, could we now have an entry for Flash that reads, "red-uniformed speedster who aids Superman and was once turned into a puppet"?

At some point common sense has to kick in; this project is big enough without trying to cover everything that ever happened in a DC comic anywhere.
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Admiral Chew
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2005, 04:36:02 PM »

Thanks again for the further clarification.

I think as long as we all use a little common sense and respect other people's work on the project most of these issues will work themselve out.
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2005, 02:40:00 PM »

You guys are doing such great work on this project that I felt I had to send some praise your way.

As for the problem at hand, I think the best way would be to stick close to Fleisher's approach.

For example, his Superman encyclopedia provides short entries for characters like the Joker, Clayface, and Aquaman, since they played significant roles in stories that he was including. But a Joker entry doesn't need to include everything there is to know about the Joker. Start with a paragraph or so describing the character, including a few quotes from non-Superman sources if it's absolutely necessary to flesh out the description. Then just summarize the few stories that you are covering.

Of course, Fleisher also seemed to make a judgment call on many of these. For example, the Superman entry mentions that Superman is a member of the Justice League of America, but when JLA members figure in a story that Fleisher is summarizing, such as ACTION COMICS #314,("The Day Superman Became the Flash"), he omits all mention of them by choosing which details of the story to include and which to skim over. I assume this was because he only had so much space to work with and could not fill up too much explaining who the Flash, the Atom,etc. were. But with an online encyclopedia, space isn't as much of a problem, so you will have more choice.
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