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The Problem With Sliding Timelines in Comic Books

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.