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Author Topic: Silver Age Continuity  (Read 28763 times)
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2007, 07:03:27 PM »

Quote from: Ruby Spears Superman
Marvel (who always had much more stricter rules when it came to continuity) ran into a problem a few years back when they stripped Wolverine of his adamantium. In the original Weapon X miniseries it was explained that the claws were surgical implants. Needless to say, this created problems when Magneto stripped him of his metal skeleton and the claws were still there. Many fans tried to rational this away by making claims that since Weapon X wasn't in the Wolverine books proper, it doesn't count as cannon.

Yikes, I remember that boner. What made that one especially stupid was it was WOLVERINE, who is a famous character. It's the comics equivalent of Whitney Houston breaking wind in front of 30,000 people at the Superdome.

Quote from: Ruby Spears Superman
To me, I always want everything to match up perfectly. Perhaps this is too much to ask from comics originally written for 8 year olds but I guess I'm kinda anal that way.

No, you're not anal. In fact, this kind of thing should be demanded and expected.

To quote Peter David: "A shared universe, like any fictional construct, is dependent on suspension of disbelief. To ignore continuity is to damage that construct and undermine it."

Unfortunately, this generally wasn't taken to heart. As much as I love the character of Superman...compare his SHOWCASE volumes to the sophisticated, exciting volumes of GREEN LANTERN, CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, or THE FLASH and he suffers. In fact, only at the end of Volume 3 do the SHOWCASE books get any good, and that's because of Ed Hamilton.

The things we call "continuity" (heroes remembering their past, events having actual weight) are absent from a lot of early (fifties and early sixties) Silver Age Superman comics, though this is symptomatic of their bigger problem: a general lack of sophistication. A sort of gleeful brainlessness.

Quote from: Ruby Spears Superman
Ditto Earth 2 and the original Golden Age Superman since he never developed the ability to fly and his Earth 2 counterpart did.

Golden Age Superman flew as early as 1941, I believe.

Quote from: Uncle Mxy
Did kids really want all that continuity?

Well, I can only speak for myself when I was a kid, sneaking into my brother's empty room to read his comic books...but yeah, what I loved, and what made me a comics fan in the first place, is the fact there's so much THERE there.

I didn't know the word "continuity," but I liked that there was this enormous world in comics, a huge backstory, and that it made me curious and want to read more.

Anyway, who cares what kids think? SPOILER WARNING: Kids are generally stupid. They're oversized ferrets that have learned to walk on their hind legs. The worst of all are my generation. I can't believe that a show as uncommonly smart as GARGOYLES was canceled after two seasons whereas something as unworthy as POWER RANGERS continues with zombie-like life to this day.
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Gangbuster
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2007, 07:22:24 PM »

There definitely was continuity. It was always subject to the retroactive adding of new information though (like how the Kents exactly died, or what point in college Superboy ceased to be.)

That said, it was tremendously different from the way Superman continuity worked post-Crisis. Pre-Crisis canon developed gradually as new parts of the story were revealed. Some parts became more popular than others with fans, or were referenced more than others, so continuity was formed largely through a democratic creative process: fan letters, reprint sales, and that which Jerry Siegel approved of when he came back to work in the 60s largely dictated what Silver Age continuity would be.

Post-Crisis continuity was more autocratic, and these dicatorshippy qualities led to its collapse. It was decided in the very beginning what continuity would be, and editors enforced it. Think of it as fundamentalism: Certain things couldn't have happened in the story because 'Man of Steel' said so, fans were routinely ignored, and so were creators. Strict editorial control was enforced. Comics companies had to resort to gimmicks to sell books, (beginning with the Death of Superman but spreading through the industry) and when the well ran dry the industry crashed. Sales hit rock-bottom and post-Crisis comics collected by speculators became worthless.

When DC returned to the previous model, (listening to fans and bringing Kara back, having a recognizable Justice League, Superman and Batman team-ups) their sales went back up.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2007, 09:17:21 PM »

Quote from: Gangbuster
Comics companies had to resort to gimmicks to sell books,

As opposed to the early Silver Age, when comics were sold with dignified premises that aren't at all gimmicky in the slightest, like Superman joining the army, becoming king of giant ants, or Lois Lane becoming a centaur.  Grin

Actually, I see Superman's history as a U-shaped curve: gimmicky in the fifties and early sixties, then acquiring and telling straight science fiction stories, and then going back down to gimmickry even worse than Otto Binder and Weisenger ever dreamed, with electric Supermen, multiple Supermen, and Superman's marriage.

As bad as 1990s Superman was, he was just doing for real what 1950s Superman did for fake. If there's a difference at all (and there is surprisingly little), it would be that.

1990s = 1950s!



May the SCHWARTZ be with you!

Quote from: Gangbuster
Post-Crisis continuity was more autocratic, and these dicatorshippy qualities led to its collapse. It was decided in the very beginning what continuity would be, and editors enforced it.

...as opposed to Mort Weisenger, who was well-known for his openness to writer suggestions and his "hands-off" editing style.  Grin

Really now, I don't think the problem is that 1990s continuity is autocratic. Whatever contempt I may have for Helfer and Carlin and their inability to understand the character, I *like* the fact they created a consistent world with consistent elements: the Eradicator, Black Zero, and all that. It wasn't good, it wasn't Superman...but by God, it was consistent, it had a distinct feel and an internal logic. That's better than nothing.

Continuity NEEDS to have an immutability in order to be truly successful. That doesn't mean there can't be a little wiggle-room, certainly: if someone has a plausible idea for, say, how Count Nefaria has a daughter. Continuity can't and shouldn't be a Wikipedia-history which can be edited willy-nilly. You can't suddenly have a fifth guy on the Fantastic Four's rocket-flight that wasn't mentioned before.

If something isn't immutable, it doesn't have weight because it can (and will) be changed around. If it doesn't have weight, we can't seriously accept what we see as being "real." If we can't do that, we can't care about characters long-term. This is why the current Marvel business about Skrulls infiltrating earth irritates me: if anybody can turn out to be a Skrull at any moment...anything can be invalidated by saying "A-ha! Mary Jane was a Skrull from issues #487-515!" It's a really dirty trick.

A general rule is this: if it "feels" retroactive, it probably is a bad idea. The idea the Amazon Zamorans have a connection to the Guardians, for instance, doesn't feel retroactive. It makes sense, and is a connection that we just never saw before.

And really, this ability to edit indefinitely by writers led to some of the absolute worst excesses of the early Silver Age. Nonsense like Superman having a twin his whole life that was never mentioned and a monkey stowing away on his rocket.
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Ruby Spears Superman
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2007, 04:27:58 AM »

 One of the things I think both the pre- and post-crisis continuities had in common was the need to constantly refer to his origin. By the late ninties, DC had referred to Superman not gaining his powers till puberty so often, that you (or at least I) began to wonder if they were trying to disprove something instead of just trying to remind people of something they may have forgotten.

When the pre-crisis did it, it was because you knew a new batch of kids had started reading the titles recently and needed the information to understand the character correctly. Post-crisis universe didn't have that excuse since his past didn't play that much of a role in how the story lines functioned (I mean lets face it, they didn't exactly have villians jumping out of the phantom zone every other month) and trade paperbacks were fairly common by then for new readers that jumped in in the middle of the series.

If you start reading Spider-Man in the middle of a Venom storyline and want to learn more about the character, you don't need to go all the way back to Amazing Fantasy #15 to find out who this character is and where he came from.
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TELLE
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2007, 11:09:12 AM »


If you start reading Spider-Man in the middle of a Venom storyline and want to learn more about the character, you don't need to go all the way back to Amazing Fantasy #15 to find out who this character is and where he came from.

Where would you start?  Secret Wars?  Peter Parker/Spectacular Spider-Man #1?  I think both Spidey and Supes have very simple origins that you can sum up in one sentence.  Ditto the Spidey family and Superman Family.

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Johnny Nevada
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« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2007, 12:54:54 PM »

Quote
One of the things I think both the pre- and post-crisis continuities had in common was the need to constantly refer to his origin. By the late ninties, DC had referred to Superman not gaining his powers till puberty so often, that you (or at least I) began to wonder if they were trying to disprove something instead of just trying to remind people of something they may have forgotten.

Given the 90's was when DC seemed particularly trying to urge us to forget about anything pre-Crisis (and seemed to go out of its way to bad-mouth it), wonder if it was some attempt to dissuade any older readers from remembering when Superman was Superboy (esp. to make room for the Kon-El Superboy)... :-p
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Ruby Spears Superman
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« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2007, 05:35:32 PM »


Given the 90's was when DC seemed particularly trying to urge us to forget about anything pre-Crisis (and seemed to go out of its way to bad-mouth it), wonder if it was some attempt to dissuade any older readers from remembering when Superman was Superboy (esp. to make room for the Kon-El Superboy)... :-p
[/quote]


That was one of the things I suspected at the time but wasn't sure about. It just seemed odd to keep bringing it up when it didn't seem all that relevant to what was going on in the stories. Also, TV versions like Lois and Clark and the animated series may have brought in new readers that were still thinking things functioned the way they did 20 years earlier. 
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Gangbuster
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« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2007, 07:04:09 PM »

Quote from: Gangbuster
Comics companies had to resort to gimmicks to sell books,

As opposed to the early Silver Age, when comics were sold with dignified premises that aren't at all gimmicky in the slightest, like Superman joining the army, becoming king of giant ants, or Lois Lane becoming a centaur.  Grin


Ah, but while gimmickry is always used to sell things, the nature of the gimmickry was a bit different in regard to fans. In the 50s, there was a general respect for the fans, and the gimmicks were things that they WANTED to see (although usually they capitulated in imaginary ways.) In the 50s, a sensational cover or story would sell that month's comic.

By the 90s, comics were even more of a niche market than before, and it was no longer really helped to sell a single issue of a comic. You had to get people talking about a whole storyline, and buying as much of it as possible, by titling the storyline "F*** YOU, FANS!!!!"

There was the saga circa 1990 where Superman was finally allowed to travel in time after a 3-4 year ban. There was Armageddon 2001 in 1991 (which wasn't bad, I wish there had been a follow-up in 2001.) Then, finally, Jurgens said "It's time we do the death of Superman." Everyone was so angry, shocked, and confused that they bought 4 million copies of it (many of those speculators who bought multiple copies, though.) This started a trend where Batman broke his back, Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom atomized each other, and the worst excess, Hal Jordan destroying the universe. These were not particularly things that fans wanted to see, but they were events that speculators would collect. X-Men #1 sold 6 million copies around this time just because there were multiple collectible covers. When the speculators' market crashed and the fans had already been alienated, there was virtually no comics industry left. Marvel even had to declare bankruptcy, a mess that they only got out of by selling movie rights.

Bottom line: taking care of the fans takes care of the bottom line. This was present in the 50s but not the 90s.

Quote from: Gangbuster
Post-Crisis continuity was more autocratic, and these dicatorshippy qualities led to its collapse. It was decided in the very beginning what continuity would be, and editors enforced it.

...as opposed to Mort Weisenger, who was well-known for his openness to writer suggestions and his "hands-off" editing style.  Grin

Really now, I don't think the problem is that 1990s continuity is autocratic. Whatever contempt I may have for Helfer and Carlin and their inability to understand the character, I *like* the fact they created a consistent world with consistent elements: the Eradicator, Black Zero, and all that. It wasn't good, it wasn't Superman...but by God, it was consistent, it had a distinct feel and an internal logic. That's better than nothing.

By the "autocracy" I was mostly referring to the editorial control post-Crisis, in the late 80s. In the 90s this began to relax, but a lot of damage had already been done. I liked Reign of the Supermen though, and thought it was very creative.
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"Trying to capture my wife, eh? That makes me SUPER-MAD!"

-"Superman", 1960

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