Most major superhero comics have been around for decades. If you’ve got a story that is being told in monthly issues for decades, you’re going to have quite a bit of continuity to keep up with. I frequently talk about how much I hate this from the POV of a new reader trying to pick up a book for the first time. Amazing Spider-man is on issue #559. Batman is on issue #676. That’s a lot to catch up on.
The industry does it’s best to make stories accessible, but at the same time, the core audience thrives on this continuity. Because there is something fun about picking up a book, wondering where a character or story came from, talking about it on online forums, exploring old issues, looking it up on wikipedia… it creates this gigantic interactive world that is more than just a story in 22-pages. And with all my complaining, I actually really dig the idea of this. It’s fun and it’s on such a grand scale… something that you don’t really experience with any other medium.
However, comics history is riddled with many ideas that are (to put it kindly) a little embarrassing.
Writer Grant Morrison is kind of a master of embracing past ideas and making them new. He’s done this with the great All-Star Superman book (where he even makes elements such as Krypto the Superdog, Bizarro, & a super-powered Lois Lane seem cool) as well as New X-Men. When he was first beginning his run on New X-Men he said:
“I think everyone agrees that we can no longer afford to be bogged down by 40 years of the most convoluted continuity in comics… we have to find a way be faithful to the sprawling X-MEN mythos without being shackled by events in stories written thirty years ago, for a different world and a very different audience. My intention is to use the rich history of the X-MEN more as background window dressing and as a treasure trove of material we can recut for a new eager audience.”
I think this is the very best way to please long time fans as well as new readers and I think it should be the goal of every writer working on a decades-old property:
Don’t be ashamed or where you came from. Embrace it. Then move on.
I think this is a great philosophy in life as well. There are some definite continuity issues in my own life. I’d love to erase parts of my past that I’m embarrassed or ashamed of… from getting into a bad relationship, ultimately ending in divorce – to letting one of the true loves of my life, music, slip through my hands – to throwing up at assembly in 7th grade or farting in algebra class in 8th.
I’d love to just get rid of my 30 years of continuity and start over. But just like in comic books… I can’t. What’s done is done. It’s out there, written in stone. There’s no changing it.
So, what choice do you have?
Put yourself out there. You can embrace your faults without being proud of them. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Let people explore the “wikipedia” & back-issues of your life. They’ll either embrace it or they won’t. And if they don’t, you’re better off without them. Life is too short to spend life with people who don’t accept you for who you are… mistakes and all.