Mar 10, 2014

The Elegant Simplicity of Continuity Corrections in a Single Panel

The Elegant Simplicity of Continuity Corrections in a Single Panel
Ben Smith

As I’ve said before, superhero comic book continuity can be a wonderful thing, or it can be a terrible burden. Fans like to believe or try to make every story count, no matter how impossible a task that may be. This was even turned into a fun game by Stan Lee back in the ‘60s courtesy of his “no-prize” reward system for readers suggesting fixes for his own continuity mistakes.

Since most comic book writers were fans themselves growing up, the continuity corrections only got more elaborate, and the explanations for every single aspect of superheroes more detailed. To the point where we have Geoff Johns making a career out of it, following the footsteps of the legendary John Byrne, who by his own admission became a “fix-it” man for continuity.

While I enjoy Green Lantern: Rebirth as much as the next guy (or more, depending) for every one of those there are a dozen continuity porn comics that exist solely to explain confusing past stories, instead of telling a satisfying story themselves.

In homage to a simpler time, a time when regrettable past stories could be explained away with one word balloon of dialogue, I’m going to share a couple of my favorite, and most succinct continuity corrections of all time.

Up first, is the ever mighty God of Thunder himself, Thor. I happen to believe Thor is one of the most consistent characters in the history of superhero comics. Except for the occasional Thunderstrike or Eric Masterson side step, he for the most part has remained the same simple (and I don’t mean that as a detriment) character from the beginning. His cast is relatively the same, and relatively unchanged in personality or depiction. He’s just a strong character. But again, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been missteps.

Having just recently read Thor #282–301, I can safely say this is probably the most ill-conceived Thor story I have read yet. It was primarily written by Roy Thomas, with Ralph Macchio and Mark Gruenwald taking over for the last chapters, which should give you an idea of the level of continuity explaining that was going on in this story with those gentlemen involved.

I’m not even going to try to explain all the madness that happened in this stretch of stories. Suffice it to say, that it involved revealing that the modern Marvel version of Odin was formed by combining the bodies of four Asgardians that survived Ragnarok from a previous version of Asgard.

Thor learns of this information from Odin’s severed eye, which had been traveling the cosmos causing all kinds of trouble.

It also told the tale of Thor’s other life as a mortal named Siegfried, which was a long, convoluted, and boring tale that ultimately revealed how the Odinsword and Destroyer armor were created, and for what purposes.

Not only do I find these stories to be frankly bad ideas overall, they were depicted in the most tedious and “info-dump” type of ways possible. Instead of reading a story, I felt like I was being told a story, if that makes any kind of sense.

Thankfully, the wonderous Walt Simonson came to our rescue, dismissing the whole affair courtesy of a conversation with Thor’s probable grandfather Bor.

The next continuity correction involves that most loveable of lugs, the Punisher. In Spectacular Spider-Man #81–83 by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom, Frank Castle is depicted as completely off his rocker. Mowing down jaywalkers and litterbugs like they were mob bosses and drug dealers. The story ends with the Punisher being convicted and sentenced to a mental institution.

Well, in the first issue of the Punisher’s inaugural mini-series, Steven Grant and Mike Zeck take care of that regrettable bit of storytelling with one single panel conversation between a prison warden and his employee.

Nowadays that would have been a six-issue mini about Frank Castle getting revenge on the people responsible for drugging him.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer the one panel.

That’s if for this time folks. Next time out, I’ll find something else to be nostalgic about.

1 comment:

Gary said...

For quick continuity patches, I'll always love Alan Davis' "Clan Destine / X-Men", which writes off the last 3 issues of the original Clan Destine series, the only ones not written and drawn by Davis and culminating in the book's cancellation, with a simple "I had a weird dream with the plot of those issues," followed by "Rory, that's just stupid."

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