“Order, unity, and continuity are human inventions, just as truly as catalogues and encyclopedias.” Bertrand Russell
You’ll pardon my disheveled appearance. I am covered in blankets and shivering. I have a space heater on as well. Having had cancer means my body seems to be constantly trying to adjust to the outside temperature. Indeed, inside too. My son tells me that the house is a sweat lodge.
Upon Canon/Continuity, and Comic Books and Television Shows:
Comic books, as well as television drama, rely upon the reader/viewer’s memory of the accepted canon of story, characters, and concept of the subject. You might well notice when something changes, but changes alone are not a change of canon, if the new actor is just playing the same role, it is similar to a new writer or penciler taking over. But, if the new actor is black and the character is white, this IS a change. If the original idea of the story was that the main character was a moral person, unjustly accused and is changed to being, a rogue who enjoys playing both sides of the line dividing us between moral and immoral, that is change in accepted canon.
Canon is the thing that allows people to “get” the quick look and take on a story. It is often referred to as continuity. And as such, violations of continuity are held with particular horror and anger in the comic book world. Batman using a gun to kill an opponent is thought to be, well unthinkable. Spider-Man is not a perpetual loser, but an under-dog, someone who seems to be bitten by life as much as he was bitten by the radioactive spider that gave him powers.
This doesn’t mean that continuity is a sacrosanct thing, nor does it mean that comics haven’t updated their canon as the years have passed. There is something to remember though, and it means something with regards to why I am not much of a fan of the comic book based movies from either Marvel or DC. Using iconic or iconoclast approaches to the canon of the characters is only as useful as how well understood the character is.
One can only satirize a subject if it is understood well enough by the one doing the satirizing. If they fail doing this is received as bad humor, and/or, if taken straight, unentertaining. Usually what I find is a shiny action CGI stuffed movie that I am not interested in, or a movie that reinterprets the characters I liked, into people I wouldn’t like. No matter the quality of film, the issue for me is, we need to be able to enjoy the work as a movie, not first as a comic book movie. And since I often know more about the character and canon than the film maker, I grow tired of the work in question.
However, in the 1960s there were a number of comics in the Superman family called IMAGINARY stories. Whether they were good or not, they told stories within the understood universe, and “violated” canon, because they had informed the reader that they were about to change those rules. DC did this later with Elseworlds too. The comics written in these worlds had value, interest and quality.
However, to the extent that these Elseworlds stories could be good, or not, it should be remembered: Every comic book story, with only rare exception, is an imaginary story. Continuity is fine, but it should never be a prison. If a publisher has a great concept and the talent for the concept it should take a shot. It can always return to the former continuity.
I think one of the aspects of Continuity in comics playing forward is how Television and Film ejected loads of the back story of many characters and themes, in order to tell a streamlined made for television comic book hero story. Arrow, Constantine, Daredevil, and shitloads more have all been strip mined of their ideas in order to tell a story that is direct, accessible, and fun. However, beyond watching a few trailers and reading reviews, I am not moved enough to watch. The reason? Well, I have some back effects from having Chemotherapy and it robbed me of the ability to pay attention to anything long enough to keep track of what I am watching.
Quote of the Week:
“There’s no greatest moment in the arts. It’s a life, it’s a continuity thing. You can’t have a great moment because it’s spiritual. It’s a belief, it’s a calling. If you’re an artist, doing your own thing on your own, it’s while you’re doing it that counts. It’s a process. If you get too elated, you can get too depressed.” LeRoy Neiman
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