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Off My Mind: Comic Book Continuity (Or The Lack Of)

Should we stop hoping for it?


Is there any hope for comic book continuity? With all the books coming out these days, if you see a character appear in a couple books the same week, shouldn't it be easy to figure out where the events happen in regards to one another? This is something that has bothered me and just came up in conversation yesterday. 
 
Power Girl appears in both War Of The Supermen #3 and Justice League Of America #45. Which story happened first? Wolverine appears in both X-Men Legacy #236 and Avengers #1. Yeah I know when it comes to Wolverine there's really no hope for continuity. With the X-Men we have Second Coming happening. Does this take place immediately after Siege and before The Heroic Age? We did see Rogue and Cyclops at Sentry's "tribute" in Fallen Sun (funny that Rogue was more upset over Sentry's death than she was over Nightcrawler's). Cry For Justice #1 and Blackest Night #1 both had a September 2009 cover date. Where do these two stories fit in? Cry For Justice pretty much goes straight into The Rise And Fall stories without any Black Lantern reference. Should we have a scorecard to keep all these stories straight?
  == TEASER ==
In the actual Marvel Comics, we used to see the Time Variance Authority. They were time traveling agents that monitored the timeline to make sure everything was okay. Sometimes I feel like we could use them to watch over all comics.
 
I know having comic events flow together is asking a lot. The reality of it is I just try not to think about it. I'm not going to get worked up over this. I've sadly accepted that this is just the way it's going to be. I believe the reason is there are simply a lot of comics that come out each week. Editors do the best they can to make sure character appearances make sense. With all the big events happening at the same time, it just seems like it's asking too much for everyone involved in making the comics to make sure we can understand how the stories relate to one another. Spider-Man may be going through tough times in his three-time-a-month comic but can be his normal cheerful self in Avengers? I'll just have to be happy with seeing him in both books and try not to think of the tiny details. 
 
This might be something that bothers me but I've learned to ignore it. Does it have any affect on you? Do you simply enjoy the multiple appearances of characters or do you try to figure out when each issue takes place?
49 Comments
Posted by 123422

I don't think about it too much, i just enjoy the books

Posted by Precise

I don't really care when characters appear in multiple books at the same time. I do care when something important happens to a character and in a different comic it doesn't effect them in the slightest or is just completely forgotten about.

Posted by Tamed

I've had to hang out with people who truly obsess over this kind of thing, to the point of refusing to read a new comic because they'd need to be "up on the continuity" first. I really don't see it as a necessary thing. Let's face it, most of us can't read the thousands of comics that came before us and neither can the current crop of creators in this industry. It doesn't matter at all, beyond knowing some background knowedge (we have Comic Vine and Wikipedia for that). Enjoy the books for what they are now rather than what preceded them.
 
If I can be biased for a moment, the continuity thing does seem to crop up with DC fans more. Maybe they've just went so insane with their perceived "continuity" that fans have lost their minds.

Posted by speedlgt

when i got back into comics as an adult the one thing i figured out quickly is that just forget about it making sense. I take each story as it is. I remember asking the comic shop guy about civil war and looking at the racks and seeing every title with the civil war logo. He said just read the civil war story and spiderman one. now when he said that it made NO sense to me at all how was i to know whats going on if only read to trades??? i mean every comic had the logo i was gonna miss out right? later it just made more sense to read what was essential and dump the rest. I think thats where we are at now. I know people get tired of events however the events make the most sense in getting a grasp of the whole Universe. if you read all the major avengers events from dis-seige you pretty much know everthing in marvel. If you read blackest knight you know every thats up in dc. ITs not perfect and event only lead to more events but its the easiest way to handle it. 
At least the event seem to honor eachothers stories.
Posted by Chane

I really miss the [*] bits that used to direct you to past stories or events in other series.

Posted by GundamHeavyarms

Sometimes its just too much to try to make sense of continuity, as an X-Men with continuity all over the place, sometimes its just best to throw it out the window entirely.
Posted by iLLituracy

You can piece together continuity and make sense of stuff most of the time. I think it all falls on the editorial staff and management of the writers and who controls what. There's some goofs and continuity errors that writers themselves can avoid, but if your editorial staff is good enough--you can avoid having serious predicaments.
 
When all else fails, you could juts blame it on Skrulls...or clones...or...Bendis.

Posted by doordoor123

I dont really care what happend first. The way i see it is that they both happend. Wolverine was in doomwar, Siege, Second Coming and this Romulous thing at the same time. It happens.

Posted by jloneblackheart

I always have problems with these continuity issues. Would you like reading a biography written in such a way? I think it's laziness and usually the overuse of a character and a lack of communication (or lack of caring) between the creative teams. 
 
Everything should happen without there being issues of when something happened and all the inevitable contradictions.

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Posted by danhimself

one of my favorite things about the Onslaught crossover was that they told you on the cover how important each issue was to the main story with the little boxes on the cover that said "Phase 1" or "Phase 2" or "Impact 1" or "Impact 2"......like most of the main X books, and the Avengers had "Phase 1" so you  knew that issue was something that was important but books like Punisher or Spider-man had "Impact 1" so you knew that the story was just fallout from the events in the main books

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Posted by Theodore

I think Cry for Justice takes place before Blackest Night, and the JLA after that/Rise and Fall takes place after. As for Second Coming I guess its after Seige and after Avenger #1 maybe, or maybe its before hahaha. Not sure about the new JLA/War of the Supermen #3 times though....

Posted by Jake Fury
@G-Man:

First of all I'm not trying to defend any of the writers for their shortcomings in this department. But many times a story arc like War of The Supermen which takes place over 4 issues (a month in our time) is actually only a few hours in comic time. Whe you have beings like Supergirl and Power Girl (with off the charts speed) they can almost be in two places at once. 
  
The Wolverine thing is just greed.  
 
I wholeheartedly agree with you on Rogue's emotions concerning Kurt and Sentry.  
 
I do belive there was a Blackest Night reference at the beginning of Cry For Justice.
Posted by FoxxFireArt

I think continuity is next to impossible to keep in series that go on for decades at a time, have so many spin offs and soooo many writers, and artists within a years time. 

The current run of X-Factor keeps some continuity, but that's because it stays pretty much to itself. 

With Japanese manga. You have one writing and art team throughout the series entire run. No matter how long it lasts. My favorite manga Detective Conan. That has had the same artist and writer for the past 16 years. One Piece has been going on for 13 years and by all looks is only at the half way point in the story.
Could you possibly imagine what it would be like if a US comic from Marvel or DC had the same artist or writer for that long?
 
Lack of continuity does irritate me greatly. It would be funny to have continuity police in comics. lol

Posted by FatBoiFreshh

the usage of characters such as wolverine and deadpool are overkill batman and superman  
i think they only survive off the characters popularity you dont see Blade everywhere you dont see iceman everywhere if you are popular in any genre dc marvel you will get PIMPED HARDDD!!! LOOK THE NEXT ONE WILL BE WAR MACHINE

Posted by DarkSyde79

 In the end, they treat it like it really is. You buy certain books… not all. Unfortunately when they try to crossover characters, it makes a mess. Especially since there are sooo many characters they’re dealing with. Ultimate Marvel handled this better because they had a smaller scale to deal with. In the end, if you read X-Men and wanna see Wolverine… you get him. If you read Avengers and wanna see Wolverine… you get him. But not all read both. So what happens there doesn’t matter since It’s a unknown to you. Not a good solution but reality. 

Posted by Kid_Zombie

i think its easyer when you are looking at graphic novels. Some six issue story arcs happen in a course of a day and some in a course of a month. Its way way way easyer to look at the time frames in terms of the graphic novels(or collections) You know, "hey wolverine was here during one day but the next day he went to new york to be with the avengers." 
just because one issue comes out the same month as another you cant really think that they are happening at the same time.

Posted by Theodore

Oh yeah Supergirl is also in both War of the Supermen and the new issue of JLA...

Posted by goldenkey
@DarkSyde79 said:
"

 In the end, they treat it like it really is. You buy certain books… not all. Unfortunately when they try to crossover characters, it makes a mess. Especially since there are sooo many characters they’re dealing with. Ultimate Marvel handled this better because they had a smaller scale to deal with. In the end, if you read X-Men and wanna see Wolverine… you get him. If you read Avengers and wanna see Wolverine… you get him. But not all read both. So what happens there doesn’t matter since It’s a unknown to you. Not a good solution but reality. 

"


i concur
Edited by mattydeNero

 
We're all just basically going to have to deal with the "no continuity" issue with your major players in both DC and Marvel.  Like G-Man said, Wolverine is everywhere, and so is Spider-Man at times.  Would I like to see more " * " and then a footnote explaining things a bit better, sure.  But for some characters, we're just used to it. 
 
As far as BLACKEST NIGHT and CRY FOR JUSTICE, I do believe in CFJ #2 or 3 that James Robinson explains that the events that were going on happened directly after the Blackest Night.

Posted by Krakoa

Great article G-man, so many excellent points touched on here (I too wondered why Sentry got more coverage than Nightcrawler). I personally don't get too bent out of shape about continuity unless a blatantly gimmicky retcon takes place. I have nothing against new characters, but please don't try to tell me they've been around since the days of Kirby and Lee!  
 
A question I've been curious about for a while is that if there's so many alternate realities anddifferent parallel dimensions/worlds/whatever you want to call them, where does something like this Spider-man/ Dallas Cowboys giveaway take place. lol  
 
or even the slew of Hostess fruit pie ads every Marvel character seemed to do way back when:    
  
 
Obviously this isn't a serious complaint or question, but I just wondered if anyone else wondered how these numerous vintage advertising appearances would fit in. 

Posted by mrrpm01

I agree G-Man it's really sad that when I go the comic book store every 2 weeks and before I read certain books I have to make sure that I put them in order and even then I am confused example (Siege) and I think it sucks that Marvel played Rouge to be some shallow person that she wept more for her lover then for the man who was the spiritual center and depending on the storyline her brother.

Posted by NodNolan

just because a story is released in the same month, does not mean that two stories are happening at the same time...

Posted by JD907

I was really ticked off when it happened to Ultimate Nick Fury. He appeared in three different storylines at the same time: 
 
*In Ultimates 2, he lost his arm. 
 
*In Ultimate Power, he still had his arm, but got banished to a parallel universe. Also, Spider-Man was still dating Kitty Pryde. 
 
*In The Ultimate Spider-Man Clone Saga, Fury still had is arm, and was still on the same Earth, but Kitty and Spider-Man broke up. 
 
I dare you to put those in an order that makes any sense.
Posted by Decept-O

With all the time travel plots, alternate realities, mini-series, and such, continuity has definitely taken a back seat.   It would be nice if some type of continuity were implemented at either one of the Big 2, but like you said, G-Man, it probably just won't happen.  *bummer*
Posted by logan48227
@mrrpm01 said:
"I agree G-Man it's really sad that when I go the comic book store every 2 weeks and before I read certain books I have to make sure that I put them in order and even then I am confused example (Siege) and I think it sucks that Marvel played Rouge to be some shallow person that she wept more for her lover then for the man who was the spiritual center and depending on the storyline her brother."

I agree, especially on the whole Rogue thing. Hopefully this moment from Fallen Sun will be ignored by future writers. I wish continuity still mattered to the editors of DC & Marvel. 
Posted by Illuminarch

Yes, continuity matters, otherwise you don't really have a shared universe. One shots and Elseworlds are fine as long as they're labeled that way, but continuous retconning, especially when it's the result of a lazy writer, is an insult. There's an implicit promise in monthly comic books that what you're buying is one part of a vast, continuous story, that what came before has an effect on what comes after. If you take that away, you're just paying $4 for a 22 page novella with pictures, and I'll pass on that. Comic books are expensive enough as it is without the publishers treating all the back issues like so much garbage. 
 
If what they put out yesterday doesn't matter, why does it matter what they put out today? It certainly doesn't encourage people to take out a subscription or religiously follow a title, which, unfortunately for the publishers, is exactly the kind of behavior they want.

Posted by spaceace13

Continuity is the worst thing about Marvel/DC comics. A good story is a billion times better than a story that is designed not to contradict a hundred other stories written by just as many other people over the last several decades. Internal continuity within a story is important, sure. But this overall continuity just gets in the way of telling good stories. It isn't an accident that so many of the great comic book stories take place within their own continuity or don't pay attention to it.

Posted by GraveSp

Cry for Justice takes place before Blackest Night, except for Ollie killing Prometheus that takes place after.  When Prometheus is monologuing at the end of the last issue he makes mention of the Blackest Night Crisis just happening.

Posted by AirDave817

Good question, G-Man.  
 
Me personally, I hate the concept of "continuity". I like Batman, but I'm not going to follow him through nine or ten different books on top of Batman or Detective. I followed Blackest Night and Green Lantern and - that was painful on my wallet enough - I noticed a little redundancy in some scenes there, between Hal, Barry and the Justice League of Zombies.  
 
I would not follow one character through multiple book appearances. I'd rather stick with done-in-ones. DC and Marvel seem to be trying to recreate lightning from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars, rather than just telling compelling stories. 
 
I might be a little cynical and snarky...but to get to the end of a six or seven issue series like Cry For Justice or Blackest Night, Trinity, 52, or Infinite Crisis doesn't inspire me to pick up Brightest Day, or whatever the next event may be...    

Posted by sora_thekey

(funny that Rogue was more upset over Sentry's death than she was over Nightcrawler's) 


Hahaha that is so dumb!
Well I do get pissed with continuity problems at times (ok I admit it a lot!) but if the continuity, or rather the lack of, I always try to find it a place where it can fit!
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Posted by Caligula
@123422 said:
" I don't think about it too much, i just enjoy the books "
Posted by spiderguylll

1) oh snap...Rogue DID care more about losing Sentry than Kurt
2) Wolverine is everywhere at once. I just learned to just go with it. (X-23 and Daken rock harder then Wolverine) 
3) Spider-Man being cheerful is just how he deals with stress except in the back in black storyline cause the was AWESOME 

Posted by damswedon

I've always though that a company wide canon was a stupid idea. It is another way to make your comics harder for a person to get into, i guess that is why I like the comics by image and the like so much. those stories are always separate from one and another unless of course it is a cross over but that doesn't matter so much because you can just skip it if you wish.

Posted by Riezner

This issue is probably the main reason I've never been able to fully invest myself in comics. With this lack of continuity comes a huge barrier to entry for newcomers like me.

Posted by Gylan Thomas

Can any one explain how continuity and Grant Morrison fit together?
I'm confused :S

Posted by the_fallen11
@Gylan Thomas said:
"Can any one explain how continuity and Grant Morrison fit together? I'm confused :S "

I can, Morrison has no concept of continuity
Posted by TheMess1428

I do know that Cry for Justice comes before Blackest Night and then Rise and Fall and the new team of JLA comes before Brightest Day. That's all I know of when it comes to that.

Posted by dvorak
@Krakoa said:
 
This is absolutely awesome.
Posted by Meteorite

I can handle the continuity problems. I used to try and "work them out", per se, but now I just accept it as it is.

Posted by llagrok

There has to be a connection between the lack/presence of continuity and why single-book series are the best. As in, comics who are contained to their main series and no other titles. Really, I can understand how the X-Men writer might have a hard time keeping up with everything that the lads in Avengers do, but there is no excuse for completely bombing on something that happened earlier in the title you're working for. 
 
I don't mind retcons, as this shows the writers acknowledging an event and doing something about them. Sure, it's often rude to the people who wrote the story initially but a formal retcon is preferable to simply being ignored. 

Posted by spaceace13

Grant Morrison is one of the only writers who really tries to stay within actual continuity, which is why his stories are so weird, because continuity doesn't make any sense and you have to pull in all sorts of cosmic craziness to explain it.

Posted by Krakoa
@dvorak: it seems to be remarkably common in comics from the late 70's and early 80s. I'm probably reading too much into it. 
Posted by G thang
@Chane: 
I agree! The editors in the past did more references to old issues or happenings. Steven Wacker is the only one that comes to mind that still uses it regularly.
Posted by JHags

@Chane:
Good call - totally miss those [*]!!

 


 

Edited by jagged glass

I liken current American superhero comics to ancient Greek mythology. There, you have many heroes like Heracles, Perseus and many others appearing in several different stories, sometimes in periods of time where they are busy with other tasks, or haven't even been born yet! It appears the Greeks accepted this and loved these stories for what they were: interesting, fun and satisfying little yarns to keep them entertained, and raise an important issue or two along the way that would keep them thinking long after the story was over.  
 
My point: sure comics are a mess of ambiguous continuity, but at the end of the day, fussing too much over all these little details just sucks the fun out of reading them. I'm pretty sure the point of these stories isn't to start a flame war over who was supposed to be where, how and why.
Posted by Dro

Incredible Hercules did a good job keeping up with continuity. I mean, I know I saw at least one part where what Herc and Cho did in Mighty Avengers was directly referenced in the comic. Mighty Avengers itself also did pretty well, although I'm not sure they exactly...dealt with the whole Herc/Cho split.

Posted by MadripoorEconomy

Continuity today definitely does not seem to matter - I too miss the [*]. But even more than that, I miss the ATTEMPT at continuity.  I recently re-read part of Ann Nocenti's run (the Typhoid Mary bit) on Daredevil.  Without missing a beat, she incorporated the events of Inferno from the X-line into her storyline (since DD does hang out in NY - the same city where inanimate objects were coming to life in Inferno) without losing an ounce of quality or focus to her own storyline.  I'm not certain if I should blame prima donna writers or overworked editors?  Regardless - I miss it and have learned to not let the lack thereof ruin my present comics experiences.  But every time I reach into the longbox I remember how it used to be...

Posted by ninjadude853

this is just one of those things you need to accept and eventually ignore
 i don't usually read comics  that conflict with each other, 

Posted by Red_Lightning_Alpha

it does bother me sometimes but most the time i just fix the continuity in my head tbh