"PIS" (or "Plot Induced Silliness" as I like to call it) is rapidly becoming a cliche term used in all manner of comic book forums. I strongly dislike the concepts of PIS, WIS, or CIS, and would prefer that they didn't exist... because most comic books are by very nature grandiose, and are meant to stretch the boundaries of imagination. However, I also understand the need and desire for consistency in one's favorite book or character. I get that. And so, my reason for creating this blog is simple: to define what PIS is and, more importantly, what it isn't. I challenge you to keep your mind and eyes open. This won't take long.
PIS = An anomaly created in continuity that occurs solely because of a particular plot need, but should generally never be able to occur. This can happen with a character, a place, a feat, or whatever.
In other words, a writer writes something about a character that has never happened before, and probably shouldn't ever happen, but, because of the particular plot he is writing, he makes it happen. For example - "Writer A" has Superman eating a black hole, and then pooping out a star system, because within the plot "Writer A" has created it is the only way for Superman to save the day. I am being facetious here, but you get the picture.
That being said...
If something has followed a pattern of consistency over the years (or has an established precedent), then it cannot, and should not, be called PIS. For example... and this is a hot button issue... Batman fights a superior life form, such as Superman or Martian Manhunter, and manages to A) hold his own and survive, B) survive and not be crippled for life, or C) survive and actually win somehow. Now, on all three accounts, this has happened within a regular pattern of consistency throughout Batman's history on the comic book pages. A "pattern of consistency" for a character does not mean that it is the norm for that character throughout his or her history.
"The norm" for a character is what a character does 51-percent of the time, or more, on the comic pages. We have to be careful to distinguish between what happens with consistency and what is the norm, before labeling something as PIS.
Hear me: Just because something isn't the norm, doesn't mean it is PIS. I believe a lot of people make this mistake in understanding the concept.
So, using the above example of Batman, one could not say that Bats has fought against beings like Superman and held his own for 51-percent of the time that his character has been on the comic pages, or more. That is definitely not the norm. However, one could say that Batman has fought against super beings (like Superman), throughout his time on the comic pages, with a pattern of consistency. Again, a "pattern of consistency" means that a character has done something more than once or twice, and that he has been doing it for some length of time (our time). Now, please re-read the definition of PIS.
Superman eating a black hole and pooping a star system? Probably PlS. Just so we're clear, such a thing has never happened in the comics (to my knowledge). But even if it did happen, it probably should not have happened and will most likely never happen a second time. It is not something Superman would be considered capable of doing... based on the overarching continuity of the character. Could that ever change? Certainly. Nothing is impossible within comic books.
Batman fighting a super-powered being, and holding his own and/or winning? Not PIS. There has been an established pattern in the comic books of Batman clashing with high-powered beings... (e.g. Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Mongul, KGBeast, NKVDemon, Deathstroke, Clayface, Killer Croc, Morgaine Le Fey, Supergirl, Atomic Skull, Etrigan, etc, etc)... and when he has clashed with said beings he has consistently shown himself to be able to survive and/or somehow gain the upper hand in the encounter and win. This is not to say the character always holds his own, or wins, in these scenarios. No. We know that if Batman is caught unaware and attacked by a mind-controlled Superman (yes, I like using him), he is most likely going to end up severely injured and possibly in bed for a while (comic time). That fact has been pretty well established in the comics.
Here's how other people on ComicVine have defined PIS:
"I think what makes something PIS is went it goes against anything one character or another had done. Where a writer completely disregards one or more individuals powers, skills, qualities, and the likes to obtain a goal(usually a win for a certain character)... That, IMO, is what makes PIS, PIS. When characters and events disregard an establish part of the universe, be it the character and his abilities and personalities. Or the world and history that surrounds them." - anonymous
"Hulk lifting Thor's hammer on physical strength alone = PIS (I don't care how strong Hulk is, the hammer cannot be lifted with strength alone)
Those are just a few examples. Basically, when a character does something that they should not be able to do, for the sake of the plot." - anonymous
"PIS is someone acting out of character for purposes of the plot." - anonymous
"A feat is PIS when the writing personally offends me, and how sacred I hold a character. So, my favorite character being beaten by a character I don't like, and in a way that doesn't gel with my personal vision of how my favorite character should be represented = PIS. If its my favorite beating a character I don't care about or doing something silly, its not PIS." - anonymous (This was more meant as a joke, I believe, but it is how many people actually use the term, unfortunately.)
For sake of reference, here is an instance of what I might call PIS in one of the more recent issues of Batman (#11):
Batman, who is still fatigued from the whole "Court of the Owls" event, holds on for dear life thousands of feet in the air inside a roaring jet engine after taking another beating, all the while having a brief dialogue with his nemesis, Lincoln March. Not that this would be impossible for the character... if he was at full strength... perhaps... perhaps he could hang on like he does, for the amount of time that he does, when at 100-percent health. But, he is not at 100-percent here. Even for Batman, this is without precedent. Not only that, do you realize how hard it would be to hear anything sitting right next to a fully powered jet engine? From a distance of 100 feet from the ear, a jet engine produces about 140 decibels. That is loud enough to cause permanent damage to your ear, even with protection. By comparison, a loud rock concert typically only produces around 115dB (http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html). Yet, these two characters seem to be able to hear and converse with each other just fine. I am missing a couple of scans to complete this scene, but the picture it paints remains truthful and consistent. Suffice it to say, this entire scenario in Batman #11 comes off as a bit of a stretch. Could something so silly happen in Batman? Well yes. And, in fact, things like this happen all the time... in just about every comic book. They are comic books, after all. Anything is possible.
Check out the scans:
That's it for now. Hope this helped some. Thanks for reading. :)