Major comic book publications DC and Marvel have been around for the better part of the century. In that time, the most popular superheroes in the world have been through a lot — far too much for just one life. Comic books use a sliding or floating timeline to allow characters to remain relatively ageless and storylines to stay relevant. For example, Peter Parker (Spider-man) debuted in 1962 and aged in real time for 3 years until his high school graduation in The Amazing Spider-man issue #28. Yet, nearly 60 real-time years and 900 issues later (not to mention countless other limited and extended runs), Peter is still a young adult. While engaging storylines can still be written in the ongoing Spider-man comics, some readers may find there is a limit to how far their suspension of disbelief can be stretched. Discuss the prevalence of the sliding timeline in major comic book publications and how it creates problems with continuity, character development, and reader engagement. Consider solutions to these problems, such as with DC’s ever-rebooting universe, the increasing popularity of standalone series, ‘Elseworlds’ and ‘Black Label’ stories, and limited runs.
The MCU has taken a lot of it’s inspiration specifically from the Ultimate line of comics. Thor’s Stormbreaker, Spider-Man being in high school again, and Tony Stark’s personality. Tony Stark has always been snarky, witty, and a pretty swollen ego, but a lot of the mainline comics’ Tony Stark’s rough edges have been sanded down. Stark was one of the founding members of the Illuminati, working for Kang the Conqueror, shooting Hulk into space, lots of his actions in both Civil War storylines, and not to mention his stint as Superior Iron Man, exploiting people and lots of other dubious actions.
My question is, have we lost something? Are the rough edges what make Iron Man so compelling in the comics? Has the MCU’s more palatable Iron Man worse or just different? What about other comic characters who’ve lost nuance like Wolverine in every movie besides Logan?
Further, how do we go about adapting these characters from these thousands of issues to hours of film? Is it even possible? Is the loss of some nuance a necessary evil?
Might be useful to include some examples of what Ultimate Iron Man did and how he was different from mainline Tony. – noahspud2 months ago
I think that the rough edges in 616's Iron Man positioned him as more of an antagonist in many popular storylines. I think that the MCU definitely made conscious attempts to water down his actions, even in the Civil War storyline. Whereas in the Ultimate line of comics, he was definitely still snarky and narcissistic, but didn't make as many huge mistakes as 616 Tony, who's contributions to making the 'Thor' android lead to the death of Goliath in 'Civil War', who literally took Peter Parker in to Avengers tower and then sent a squad of villains after him who very nearly killed him. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter looks up to Tony, and I feel that the MCU very much ran with this idea, especially after Robert Downey Junior had endeared this character to so many people through the Iron Man and Avengers Films. I think that for this topic, it's worth considering the loss of the original characters' personality, and the replacement of something new — but not necessarily less palatable or less nuanced. I think that nuance depends greatly on the writer, director, and actor concerned with whatever iteration of Stark is present, whether in comics or film — such as with Logan, which you referenced. Adapting characters with nuance is definitely possible. It's all about going into the character with confidence, in my opinion. – Patrick2 months ago
From 2011 to 2017, Tyler James and Cesar Feliciano created a ten-issue comic book series in which a parody of the Justice League were mysteriously murdered in a plot eerily similar to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. As in Christie’s novel, it was slowly revealed that the superheroes were being killed because they were guilty of dark secrets. This series bears a resemblance to The Boys, the comic series by Garth Ennis currently being adapted into a TV show. This series has its own parody of the Justice League, hiding their own dark secrets. The titular characters, the Boys, set out to test the heroes’ limits and, if necessary, deal out bloody justice. Compare and contrast these series, their characters, their themes, etc.
Why is Ant-Man, despite being integral to the MCU, still considered a lesser-known superhero, with jokes being made about it as recently as Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania? Why did Drax come out of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the most popular Guardian, going up against the likable charm of Starlord and the reserved bad-boy archetype in Rocket Raccoon? Why is Iron Man, who was once considered a B-list superhero in Marvel comics, now the pillar for the MCU and Marvel heroes as a whole? Why are Batman and Spiderman *so* timeless, that they will likely continue to see adaptations long after we’re gone?
There’s an unmistakable draw to some superheroes. Captain America, a symbol of America in a time of strife, is now a symbol of the entire world. It’s interesting to look back on superheroes, someone six years ago might not be able to tell you who "Doctor Strange" was, but is now a household name. Writing, staying power, casting, exposure, and adaptation all likely carry some weight in explaining why some superheroes refuse to die, while some fade into obscurity. With the unimaginable popularity of superheroes in modern culture, it should be analyzed just what, and how many factors make certain characters so integral to our culture.
Superheroes, are presented as by their nature disruptions to the "natural order" of the world. That is to say many are presented in worlds more or less analogous to that of the reader, either in the urban setting or something that perceivably realistic. But, this presents a disruption to the world they exist within.
Many heroes are, in some interpretations, read as virtual gods amongst men, invulnerable, nigh unstoppable, with only "benevolence" as the check against them dominating the world. How does a world function similarly to our own while also inhabited by a living god or gods?
Many exist only in reactive states, that is to say, many heroes and their stories are written to respond to "crime" or "disasters" but rarely are we presented with them proactively pushing for some sort of shift. How does this materially affect their world? How does a world of heroes and supervillains, one of constant impending doom have any sense of normality? How can that world even function?
Part of this can be blamed on the medium, crime being punished is an easier comic to sell than crime never happens, but that reinforces the idea of crime without interrogating the why of crime. The material conditions, not to mention the motivations of criminals within worlds of sentient nuclear weapons is rarely examined.
Returning to the core question, superheroes exist in worlds similar to our own, but how in fact is that possible? How is it that a world where Superman and Batman exist is virtually the same as a world where they don’t. How is the world of Marvel, with aliens and spirits, and devils, and sentient robots not dissimilar entirely to the world that exists today?
How do writers square the circle that is the "status quo" ? Status quo being read as a world that has enough parallels to the real world to be read as similar to our own. A sense of normalcy that can allow for the reader to feel connection with the world of the heroes. How can you reckon with the fact that the existence of these walking myths has little impact on their worlds?
The writer could interrogate the idea of the superhero as it compares to the prior age of myth, but the more challenging question would require some understanding of the main universes of some of the major comic book publishes and their distinctions and similarities from the real world along with speculation/analysis of why or even how those similarities exist.
One idea from the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD: organizations like SHIELD exist to keep the majority of the weird stuff away from the public, so the world will not change dramatically.
Another idea: if the existence of super-people did change the world, the most likely result would be something like Injustice: Gods Among Us - the super-people ruling the world, whether the regular people wanted that or not. Many of the superheroes know this and willingly avoid impacting the world in such a way because free will matters to them.
Also consider Watchmen, a fairly popular story about super-people very much changing the world. – noahspud9 months ago
Scholars look back on the myths and mythological figures of ancient societies to understand the cultural, sociological, psychological, and anthropological aspects of those societies. Those myths and legends indicate the issues, concerns, and priorities of the day, as well as perhaps the character and values of the people who perpetuated them. Will the comic books and superhero films of our day serve the same purpose for scholars of the future? If so, what conclusions might they draw about us? To what extent will those conclusions accurately reflect who we really are?
Hey. Thank you for the topic suggestion. I want to make one thing clear.
Before discussing anything else, it's crucial to address the question of whether or not we can properly grasp ancient societies without imposing our own values, viewpoints, and way of life on them. The same principle applies when we consider how others could view us in the future: Are we truly capable of thinking via their lenses? How specifically? Or is it simply pure speculation?
When this question has been addressed and it appears feasible or at least practical to carry out such an exercise, it is recommended to make a more general statement about heroes and their relationship to the situation of people in cultures throughout history: do these heroes, putting aside all other factors, reflect the condition of individuals in such societies as we examine them? If not, should scholars reevaluate how much they rely on these characters to establish sociological, psychological, etc.-level claims? – Samer Darwich10 months ago
Comics and films are cultural products and expressions that will and should be read as such in a possible future, not as "myths." Myths are something different and they don't exactly work like it is suggested here. – T. Palomino10 months ago
Comics will definitely, even if inadvertently, be useful for future scholars to depict the times of our day. – Montayj7910 months ago
You might already be aware of the link, but some of these ideas remind me of Henry Jenkins's work about fandom. I just mention it in case you think it's worth looking into :) – Caylee10 months ago
Reflecting on DC Comics’ Most Influential Event: Crisis on Infinite Earths! Let’s consider the impact it had on DCs’ multiverse of characters & how the comics industry changed going forward. Did it affect you profoundly?
It seems that you are trying to suspiciously rush the process of publishing in The Artifice by submitting comments, notes, a sloppy topic and even an article on the same day. – T. Palomino11 months ago
I actually had a few things ready to go from a project that was DOA. That's why there was so much that day. I don't ever write without contemplating first. – BVIS9711 months ago
superhero comics can be very hard to break into because they have years of (often convoluted) continuity that people feel they need to understand in order to fully engage with the comics. Why do comics insist on linking connecting everything into a confusing mass of continuity, and how can we make it easier for new and potential readers?
This is a great topic to discuss. From a storytelling perspective, I find this to be one of the biggest frustrations with the industry. Even the MCU films are reaching a point where I feel that the continuity is beginning to weigh it down and restrict it. – Sean Gadus1 year ago
Cool topic, though would suggest tweaking the wording of the title.
Title - Why do comics have such complicated continuity? OR Why are comic series continuity so dense and what can be done about it?
I suspect this continuity issue you're talking about applies to super hero series mostly.
The continuity issue could be compared to long running manga or independent comic series. I think there are super hero comics that are not the main Marvel/DC series that do not have the same issues as those ones. – Jordan1 year ago
I love the mcu
And it is an issue.
I will like to say that you should make the distinction between the marvel comics and the MCU as they do it differently In the comics continuity only works if it sells. If not the character gets a new back story etc. plus in comics there are multiple writers, where they have the license to do something different with the characters. They are more flexible. Just look at any of the characters, like spider man he went through so many reruns that he has a lot of what makes his character rewritten. It’s comical . Where as in the MCU
Every director/writer is under the control of the glorious Kevin Figie (forgive me for misspelling)
He is the one who calls the big shots
I love what he does but sometimes as of late it feels like every movie must be connected some way and that leads to a restriction on what writers/directors can do with their own movies.
I feel the weight of continuity started with endgame and it’s convoluted time travel which constantly gets rewritten with every new installation I hope that with the multi verse we get more diverse stories but at the same time not every thing needs to be connected – Amelia Arrows1 year ago
At the end of the day, this tactic is used to drive sales. Comics have done this for decades and will continue to for the foreseeable future. I think a better topic might be "How to break into dense comic continuity" or "How new readers can make comic continuity less daunting/intimidating." Trying to change the industry especially now that movies and tv shows have adopted the same kind of continuity will only leave you disappointed, but guiding those who want to enter the scene is a great way to introduce fans to the world of comics! – Taylor1 year ago