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  1. #1
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Default How important is continuity to Superman comics?

    During Didio's reign as head of DC, the Superman books, moreso than any other franchise in the DCU, saw a seemingly endless series of reboots and continuity reshuffles and retro-boots, and revamps. This was meant to culminate in 5G, which would have seen Superman and company aged up, but the broad strokes of all his previous history made canon in an exhaustive year by year timeline that would have stretched from baby Kal-El's rocket landing on Earth in 1938 to the present day, which would have the 18 year old son of Kal-El take over as Superman.

    Then, Didio got fired and Marie Javins' was brought into replace him and try to course correct while still using as much of the material generated for 5G as possible.

    Understandably, the current Superman writers have been loath to dive back into Superman's origin again given how often its been redone or revised since Loeb tried to retro-boot the 1948 Krypton back into continuity in the early 2000s.

    However, we now have a situation wherein the specifics of Superman's history is more vague than some may like. The main points are all there, of course, but the exact details are hazy. Granted, that is generally the case with any long-running superhero continuity with a sliding timeline, but this does seem to be a sticking point for some fans.

    The question is, how much does this matter? Do we need a year by year recounting of exactly what Superman's history is now, and how it all fits together? Do we need to know what stories are canon and which aren't? Or should the Superman books simply focus on telling the best stories they can? Is the foundation laid out by Johns, Jurgens, Bendis, (along with the elements of Morrison's reboot that have stuck), enough to move forward?

  2. #2
    Extraordinary Member DragonPiece's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    During Didio's reign as head of DC, the Superman books, moreso than any other franchise in the DCU, saw a seemingly endless series of reboots and continuity reshuffles and retro-boots, and revamps. This was meant to culminate in 5G, which would have seen Superman and company aged up, but the broad strokes of all his previous history made canon in an exhaustive year by year timeline that would have stretched from baby Kal-El's rocket landing on Earth in 1938 to the present day, which would have the 18 year old son of Kal-El take over as Superman.

    Then, Didio got fired and Marie Javins' was brought into replace him and try to course correct while still using as much of the material generated for 5G as possible.

    Understandably, the current Superman writers have been loath to dive back into Superman's origin again given how often its been redone or revised since Loeb tried to retro-boot the 1948 Krypton back into continuity in the early 2000s.

    However, we now have a situation wherein the specifics of Superman's history is more vague than some may like. The main points are all there, of course, but the exact details are hazy. Granted, that is generally the case with any long-running superhero continuity with a sliding timeline, but this does seem to be a sticking point for some fans.

    The question is, how much does this matter? Do we need a year by year recounting of exactly what Superman's history is now, and how it all fits together? Do we need to know what stories are canon and which aren't? Or should the Superman books simply focus on telling the best stories they can? Is the foundation laid out by Johns, Jurgens, Bendis, (along with the elements of Morrison's reboot that have stuck), enough to move forward?
    I think what the writers are doing now works for the most part, given what the current plans for the lines are. If Clark himself is moving on from Earth to fight on Warwrold and they are priming Jon Kent as the main superman to follow, it's not necessary to further complicate/simplify Clark's origin anymore. I think the way Tom Taylor streamlined Jon's new origin in the first issue of his book is the only thing that was needed since Jon has been the biggest blunder of continuity the past decade.

  3. #3
    Extraordinary Member superduperman's Avatar
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    "Everything counts" doesn't work in the grand scheme of things. It just doesn't. There's too many contradictions. And this "he was around in 1938" crap? Yeah, no. He needs a carved in stone stable history. Putting Didio in charge of DC was a huge mistake. A real leader would have put his foot down and put a stop to this constant origin reboot crap by 2006 or whatever. Instead he just saw it as an opportunity to manipulate it into turning mainstream DC continuity into his own personal fan fiction. I keep saying this but they need to hire Jeannette Kahn back. She understood this is a business. You do what's best for the business even if it isn't what you personally prefer. You would think they would hire someone who understood that basic concept but instead we get these fanboys who see everything through the prism of "Now I get to write Superman!" No, you don't. Your job is to make sure the guy in charge of editing Superman doesn't put his high school bully in the issue.

    As for Jon taking over, Superman is at risk of becoming public domain before his 100th birthday. DC needs a Superman they actually own. So I can understand why they are moving away from Clark a little bit. I don't know all the legal ins and outs. If someone else does, please feel free to correct me. But I imagine they are sort of waiting out the system a little bit. Why give him another origin when 1) people are sick of them at this point and 2) his legal status 20 years from now is up in the air? The smart thing to do is a hard reboot for the entire DCU that wipes away the ghosts of the last 20 years under Didio. Or go back to the continuity of 1999 and just kind of pretend the last 20 years didn't happen. Not that that didn't have it's own set of problems. I would argue the Super-books went off the rails about the time of Y2K where Metropolis was turned into some rip off of the cartoon. Return to Krypton was the beginning of the origin problems. And they only got worse from there. This is why I supported New 52. It was the hard reboot he needed. But, Didio being Didio couldn't help but shoot himself in the foot with his editorial mandates. He's the Thanos of DC. He sabotages himself.
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  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member HsssH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    The question is, how much does this matter? Do we need a year by year recounting of exactly what Superman's history is now, and how it all fits together? Do we need to know what stories are canon and which aren't? Or should the Superman books simply focus on telling the best stories they can? Is the foundation laid out by Johns, Jurgens, Bendis, (along with the elements of Morrison's reboot that have stuck), enough to move forward?
    So whats the latest on Supreboy and the legion? If Clark wasn't Superboy then doesn't it clash rather heavily with Johns foundation?

  5. #5
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    I agree completely that continuity matters. When you just decide "it all happened" what you are really doing
    is throwing up your hands, letting superhero history go in whatever direction it wants, without caring about the
    contradictions. On one level it is opening up pandora's box to all kinds of problems that are not always
    discernible, or what we historians call "unintended consequences." People start to see the problems only down
    the road when problems crop up.

    But the problem with having a fixed Superman continuity, is that so much changes with writers, editors. That has
    been the problem for the last 30 years, with dramatic changes happening frequently. Even if we Superman fandom
    were able to get the writers and editors to accept a fixed continuity, there is no guarantee the next batch
    won't go off on wild tangents.

    The only consolation we truly have is that who Clark is, what Superman represents can't change that wildly. We have
    in that sense a de facto continuity, that can be changed only with a major effort.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Yoda's Avatar
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    Important, but no where near as important as some people think. It can't be a complete mess, but the idea that we need some kind of set in stone timeline for all the stories in order for the character to be viable is incorrect.

    Superman's origin is generally one of the most well known in pop culture. Batman and Spider-Man are probably the only other contenders. Beyond that, his general set up - Metropolis, Daily Planet, Clark Kent, Lois, etc. is equally as well known to the point where he's the template for the entire genre. In that sense, most people come in with those basics and can pick up most stories without needing a line by line recitation of the last 15 years of the characters history. That's why Jon works so much better than people want to give him credit for, because the fact that he's Superman & Lois' kid is inherent in the basics of the mythos. The fact that convergence, etc. factors in doesn't matter because with those basics you get enough to start on.

  7. #7
    Ultimate Member Sacred Knight's Avatar
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    Its supposed to be very important, nothing at all has changed there. Unfortunately what also hasn't changed from the Didio era is that they're just as bad at maintaining it. Thus it having been for a long time and still is now a major sticking point. If they were straight up about it not mattering at all and approaching things accordingly, the incoherency would be a complete non-factor. And really, that's the only way "it all happened" works. If what you're really saying is it just doesn't matter from story to story. And that's not said sarcastically, hell I'd be pretty excited if they ever did just that. But they never will.
    Last edited by Sacred Knight; 08-30-2021 at 01:46 PM.
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  8. #8
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    Yeah, I think the most important items are the “basics” that are common knowledge anyway. And yes, continuity cannot be a total shitshow otherwise it ain’t gonna work at all, but having the basics down is theoretically enough for someone to craft a good story. I guess the question is though, does the whole “everything counts” mantra qualify as a shitshow? Depends on what they mean by that phrase. If they count it to mean that all characters remember everything that ever happened to them throughout an infinite amount of stories and the insane amount of different origins, then that's a problem. However, if they just take it to mean that a given writer is free to write a story not beholden to all the minutiae, then that can certainly work.

    Mark Twain is thought to have said something like, “don’t let truth get in the way of a good story.” I feel like some well known comic writer (Alan Moore maybe?) paraphrased and said, “don’t let continuity get in the way of a good story.”

    Not that it’s not important (it is); but I doesn’t necessarily have to be the be-all end-all at all times.

    Plus, when continuity is a bit messy, it provides a virtually endless cache of discussion topics.
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  9. #9
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    Now for a dip into time theory!

    We think of time as unfolding always in straight lineral lines. But it is often more
    complicated than that. But don't worry we won't talk about continuity's sibling:
    discontinuity.

    But one consequence of "it all happened" is branching. When you allow for the
    multiverse, all these different possibilities that sound so fresh, so exciting. But
    when you create the new timeline, it is no simple process. Think of it as creating
    a new reality. Getting back to that moment where everything branches is no easy
    task.

    If we imagine a universe where say Lana Lang is editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet
    it is not just that she has that position, but she is doing things. That universe that
    Superman lives in where things are just a little different, has not just one change, but
    multiple ones. It lives with its own rules, own conceptions. Of course, that depends
    how well a writer can understand what has happened in that new reality. That is the trick
    that time plays on us, once it begins to move, it is not an easy thing to piece together.

    But all of that depends how well a writer, an editorial team understands the Superman
    mythology to begin with. If it is just let's have Superman do this, then it just comes across
    as contrived. We shouldn't think that this is just something that is a recent development.
    They didn't call it the multiverse. But Superman since at least the 1950s, maybe even longer,
    has been in these alternative realities where time looks quite different from the canon.
    Last edited by RobinGA; 08-30-2021 at 02:42 PM.

  10. #10
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    One last point. Yes, changes in how a series works may not seem like the wish fulfillment kind of series.
    But it really isn't that different. It of course, depends on how serious you are about changing the rules
    that govern how Superman is going to work. Those of us who write fan fiction know what that is like.

    On a typical series you aren't making major changes, it just looks different from the multiverse. But you
    are still creating a new reality, it just isn't as radical a change as say a universe with ultraman. Which is
    why understanding the mythology can be so important.

  11. #11
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  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member superduperman's Avatar
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    Look at something like the opening to S&L. It's a clear roadmap of Superman's history. He comes to Earth, he discovers his powers, Pa dies, he moves to Metropolis and becomes Superman, he meets Lois, they get married, they have kids, and the story starts off from there. All in less than ten minutes. It leaves enough broad strokes to fill in whatever you want in the middle while still giving you the major highlights of his life. This is the kind of thing I think the books need to be doing. Instead we've got "Well, maybe he was in the Legion and maybe he wasn't. We don't really know for sure". I would rather know for sure, honestly.
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  13. #13
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HsssH View Post
    So whats the latest on Supreboy and the legion? If Clark wasn't Superboy then doesn't it clash rather heavily with Johns foundation?
    I think everyone at DC, including Bendis, are going to sidestep that issue for the time being. Rebooting the LSH again was Didio's call, not Bendis's. Now that he's gone, I wouldn't be surprised if Bendis or someone else will bring up Clark's time as Superboy, which has been mentioned at least twice in the comics already, and his role within the original LSH.

  14. #14
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superduperman View Post
    Look at something like the opening to S&L. It's a clear roadmap of Superman's history. He comes to Earth, he discovers his powers, Pa dies, he moves to Metropolis and becomes Superman, he meets Lois, they get married, they have kids, and the story starts off from there. All in less than ten minutes. It leaves enough broad strokes to fill in whatever you want in the middle while still giving you the major highlights of his life. This is the kind of thing I think the books need to be doing. Instead we've got "Well, maybe he was in the Legion and maybe he wasn't. We don't really know for sure". I would rather know for sure, honestly.
    Aside from the LSH, what are people still unsure about at this point?

    Don't we already know all the major points? The broad strokes history was already laid out by Jurgens post-Superman Reborn (the only thing that's changed from that is the Kents being alive again). It's the specifics of how it all fits together that's unclear.

  15. #15
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Here's the broad strokes of what we know about Superman's history thus far.

    Krypton is an updated version of Johns merged Krypton that combines elements of the Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, and Donner versions, but now with some of Morrison's additions. Kara Zor-El's origin has been sorted out thanks to the influence of the CW show.

    Clark's rocket arrived on Earth and raised to believe in Truth & Justice in America's heartland by Ma & Pa Kent. He was best friends with Pete Ross and the girl next door, Lana Lang, who was also aware of his secret abilities. Young Lex Luthor once lived in Smallville for a time with his drunken father Lionel, but he eventually disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

    Clark moved to Metropolis and eventually joined the Daily Planet as a reporter, where he met Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen & Perry White. He debuted as Superman, fell in love with Lois Lane, and became the arch-enemy of billionaire tycoon and inventor Lex Luthor. Superman met Batman & Robin, formed the Justice League and earned his reputation as the World's Greatest Hero. Over the next few years, Superman fought a variety of villains from Metallo to Parasite, Toyman, Prankster, Titano, various incarnations of the alien collector Brainiac, and Mongul. At some point, Morgan Edge bought the Daily Planet and enlisted Lois & Clark as TV news reporters on Galaxy Broadcast News. Following the Crisis, the Daily Planet was sold off again and they returned to print journalism.

    Lois & Clark's courtship culminated in him revealing his dual identity to her. However, soon after they got engaged, Superman was killed battling the Kryptonian monster Doomsday. In the aftermath, four different Supermen appeared to fill the void until the true Superman returned with his glorious 90s mullet. Lois & Clark were married, Superman Red/Blue happened, yada, yada, yada. Pretty much all the major events that took place over the last couple decades still took place in the broad strokes.

    The New 52 reboot is where it gets complicated, but I think it's best for them to be as straight-forward about it as possible. Just stick to what actually occurred. Time was altered by outside forces and everyone momentarily forgot a decade of their lives and relived key moments of their pasts, but in new and different ways. However, gradually this wore off and everyone's memories of their old lives returned when time was slowly reset during Rebirth, Superman Reborn, and Death Metal. During this tumultuous period, Lois & Clark had a son named Jonathan Samuel Kent, but time shenanigans led to him growing up much faster than normal, so he's now 18 years old.

    The key points for me are the following:

    When did Supergirl first appear? Before Crisis, in which she died and was later resurrected post-Crisis? Or are we still going to pretend she didn't exist until recently?

    When did Superman first fight Zod and the Phantom Zone criminals?

    If Clark was operating in secret as Superboy, was he in costume or not? Was he a member of the original LSH?

    Were young Clark and Lex ever friends?
    Last edited by Bored at 3:00AM; 08-30-2021 at 07:01 PM.

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