Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Continuity, Retcons, and BS-Explanations

Sometimes I think I'm much too easy...

As a fangirl I mean (minds out of the gutter, please. :-))

Beware: yet another incoherent rant.

It's just that a lot of things that other people complain about as continuity errors tend not to bother me. I seem to be able to instinctively smooth it all over in my mind.

For example, in JLA Year One, there's a very notable cameo of Ted Kord. (He thwarts Hal Jordan unintentionally with a giant yellow thingy! I'll post scans of that someday). But some Ted fans were upset by this. Ted looked wrong, he's all scruffy and his hair isn't red, and...

Whereas me, I'm like "Well, Ted's supposed to be in his early thirties now right? So odds are in that he's a college student or just out of college, and well, students are scruffy. As for the hair, well, maybe he didn't wash it in a while (eww), or he dyes it occasionally. I know a few folks like that, redheads who don't like it. Heck if I know why, but hey, no problem for me.

I'm similar with Green Lantern costumes, with any costumes really. In the case of the GLs, we know the costume comes out of their thoughts, (and Sins of Youth has young!Kyle changing it every panel), so why couldn't one day, he decide to ditch the collar, or have the lantern bigger or something like that. As for other heroes with more...substantial costumes, that's a little harder to explain. But then I think, considering how often clothes get wrecked in battle, surely they must have spares. And why not experiment or play around with logos, cape lengths and things like that. It's not like it'll last that long, whether the change is a success or not. (heh).

Even bigger continuity "errors" don't bother me. I knew quite a few Tim Drake fans upset that in TT29, Jason says something about Tim stalking Batman for a few weeks. When every Tim fan knows it was for four years. There were complaints about the "retcon". Honestly, it never occurred to me that it could be a retcon. Jason's crazy. He's delusional. And he really doesn't want to admit that his replacement is any good, if he even *knows* how long the kid's been watching. It's not like Bruce would have been likely to tell him. I figure, if Jason does know, there's no way he could face/accept the notion of this kid having spied on them for his entire run as Robin. And notice, Tim merely says that he is indeed that good. He's not going to bother to correct Jason. But I never thought it was a retcon.

I've also heard lots of complaints at how Dick Grayson kept showing up in Outsiders, and JLA in his blue uniform, while Nightwing had him undercover with Deathstroke, in red. How can Ollie try to get Dick to turn on Bruce, if Dick is incommunicado?

But see, me, I figured it all worked out fine. See, the DCU timeline sets a specific time since War Games/Identity Crisis to now, I'd imagine. Whereupon, Batman, JLA, Outsiders, et al, have been continuously occuring. Whereas Nightwing had a huge break around 100 for Nightwing Year One. So I figured, honestly, that the Deathstroke/mob arc was supposed to take place timeline-wise then. Ergo, it's not really a continuity issue. As far as JLA/Outsiders go, the Deathstroke stuff had already happened: over and done with. He's back and in blue again. (there might be some timeline reference in Nightwing that contradicts this, that I can't remember, but I've decided this is *my* explanation.)

I've just, apparently, got a gift for making on the spot, bs-infused explanations.

Seriously, the fact that timeline-wise Kyle Rayner's much too young for a ten year reunion, (Donna's supposed to be older than him, is the same age as Dick, and Dick isn't much past 25), (and he's certainly not the sort to have graduated high school early,) doesn't bother me. I just figure the reunion people bought the wrong balloons. It's the 5th year reunion.

Sometimes it can create interesting story potential too. I've probably mentioned this example before but in Sandman's Mystery Theatre, Dian Belmont is very emphatically stated as an only child. This was before JSA of course, but that leaves a quandary. Where did Sanderson Hawkins *come* from? Whatever explanation one can think of: adopted orphan, long lost relative, genetic experiment, allows for an interesting bit of story to develop. My pet theory is actually that she's his mother. It would have been the 1920s, and back then, there were quite a few instances of an unwed teenage mother's child being passed off, for example, as the grandparent's "late in life baby". (Jack Nicholson is apparently one). So say, the Belmonts were too old themselves to pretend her son is theirs, maybe she herself was an *actual* late-in-life baby. Then they decided to pretend the baby belonged to a black sheep sister they "never talked about". Now *that* could be a fun subplot with lots of potential to play with.

It's weird because normally I am really obsessive about continuity, though that's probably why I bother to think of ways to make everything fit without negating what came before. (Unless it's Hal-on-Oprah, negate away, that). I don't like negating things, it makes me twitch. Everything I read contributes to my opinion/take on the character, and it's hard for me to go back and take out something that I've already incorporated into my understanding of the character. Even if I don't necessarily like what happened, in general, I'd prefer it just get dealt with.

The Parallax bug from outer space retcon didn't bother me, because it didn't negate (as far as I know), anything that happened before. It just put a new spin on it. Hal's still crazy, just the craziness is outwardly imposed. As far as anyone knew at the time, he was just plain crazy, thus the retcon can be accomodated easily. I hate continuity-negating retcons though. (or trying to smoosh Gothamite-timelines together so that Bruce never hits forty. Damnit, let the man hit forty. People can kick ass at forty. But that's a rant for another day.)

But pretty much, I'm easy. This sort of stuff doesn't bother me. If I can think of a semi-plausible explanation (and on-the-fly BS is my best's what's getting me through 40,000 Anthropology classes), then I'm happy. And I can explain away damn near *anything*. :-)


  • At January 15, 2006 9:05 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    Sounds to me like you don't mind visual continuity errors as much as written ones, which echoes what I've heard in a lot of online comics fandom, where fans tend to spend more vitriol on the words than on the pictures. They're much more amenable to chalking up visual glitches to "differences in artistic style" than giving the writers the same kind of leeway.

    I've always thought it obvious that in a "shared universe" setting where the official copyright belongs to a corporation, the only "continuity" that matters is internal consistency within the same writer/artist team run. Everything else is external consistency, and if you get it it's a bonus (and often a miracle) but it's not to be expected as a rule, because it's almost never held true.

  • At January 15, 2006 11:25 AM, Blogger ShellyS said…

    I'm a lot like you, especially for visual errors. I don't think of them as continuity errors, but as coloring errors or drawing errors (and making sure the artists remember Roy Harper's tattoo was, for a while, the bane of my existence, tho when it's been drawn as part of his sleeve or a separate cloth band, I almost wish they'd forgotten it--I used to write a lot of letters about it).

    With other errors, since I didn't read comics for a number of years in the late-'80s/early-'90s, I'm never sure if its an error or retcon, so I let most of that slide, unless it's one of my fav characters and then I grit my teeth. And yes, I also allow for timelines for the books not meshing perfectly. How could they when stories in individual books take different numbers of issues to be told?

    The one that really bugs me tho is Tim Drake becoming Robin. I get the impression now that he figured out who Batman was by well, stalking him is the best way to put it. But I remember that he figured out who Batman is because he figured out who Robin used to be during the time Dick was with the Teen Titans but quitting and not wearing a costume. Tim was a circus fan and saw footage of Dick when he was Robin doing a move only the Flying Graysons did. So knowing who Robin was told him who Batman was and with Jason dead and Tim figuring Batman needed a Robin, he went to see Dick and Dick, impressed with Tim's detective skills, helps him and brings him to Bruce. If it's been retconned to something else, I simply don't know it.

    TV shows have a lot of inconsistency too, less so when one person is overseeing it all. The Buffyverse is very consistent because Joss Whedon stayed hands-on even when day-to-day was taken over by others, and he wrote most of the shows himself.

    I write a spy series with friends we publish zine-style and after 10 years, I can tell you we've made a lot of continuity errors we then end up writing explanations for, sometimes whole stories. It's not easy, which is part of why I forgive them in comics.

    Whoops. Didn't mean to take over. heh

  • At January 15, 2006 11:46 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thanks for commenting (and making it through my rant, this one was even less coherent than usual :-))

    elayne: I agree that it's very difficult in a shared setting to keep continuity, and really as long as there's some way to rationalize it, I'm okay.

    I think the reason that artists are cut more slack is that no two people draw exactly alike, so the appearance can be a little different. But writers, writing the story, I think, have a bit more responsibility to keep the details, relatively consistant. The other reason I don't mind as much is because I am truly and genuinely oblivious to a lot of visual detail. (I didn't notice until Recharge that Kyle's costume's lantern glowed for example) So I genuinely just don't notice. But I read everything, so I get pickier about that. :-)

    I do think though, a universe like the DCU, which while written by many different people, stil needs some sort of connection between them. Especially in team books like JLA. For the characters to be the characters, I think there does need to be some correlation between the books because otherwise, one might as well have the multiverse back again, wherein each Superman, Batman, et cetera are completely different characters.

    That said, I do think most online fans are a bit too...obsessive over things. Most internal discontinuities aren't that big of a deal. (The only real problematic one I can think of is the Nightwing one, and Year One, eskewed the timeline enough to make it work anyway). As long as the stories are fun, a little bit of contradiction isn't *that* bad.

    shelly: *nod* I agree completely. At least in Tim's case, I believe there was a retcon in Nightwing that had him at age 6 when he saw Dick at the circus instead of age 3. Which makes me twitch, because I prefer him as the freaky prodigy he is, and he's even freakier if he saw it at age 3.

    Oh I can imagine that scars and tattoos could be really frustrating though. I'm lucky that unless it's a really showy panel or someone points it out, I tend to not notice such things. :-) Much less frustrating that way.

  • At January 15, 2006 12:46 PM, Blogger Centurion said…

    WHen characters say things, as in talking about what happened to them or what they've heard, I see it as about as reliable as anyone else talking about what happened or what they've heard. It will always be a little slanted becuase that is how they interpretted it.

    As much as we would love our favorite comic characters to be a beacon of absolute sense of continuity, they are still prone to interpret and have opinions.

    At least that's how I think about it, and why the Jason/Tim incident doesn't bother me (also, like you mentioned it, a little wacko to boot).

    On the other hand, when an event is shown and it isn't someone retelling through a flashback, and it messes with that has already happened, that is kinda screwy - however, I don't think I read enough to really notice it (and besides, I read for fun and tend to take each arch for face value).

  • At January 15, 2006 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know that whole "Pregnant teen makes believe her daughter is her sister" thing?

    Yeah that actually happened in my family. We found out a couple of years ago my aunt Glenda is really my aunt Nancy's daughter. We found out at my Grandmothers funeral, where my aunt Nancy broke down and told my mom my Aunt Genie and Aunt Glenda.

    My first thought was "Wow this is kinda like a soap opera!"

    Dosn't really matter we still treat her like an aunt.


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