Digging For Continuity

By | Monday, September 12, 2011 Leave a Comment
Early on in my days of comic fandom, I became very interested in continuity. In my pre-fandom comics reading days (when I was a wee lad in the single digits) none of the comics I read really had any meaning beyond that title, often not even outside that issue. What happened in Flash had no impact on Justice League. Which had no impact on Superman. Which had no impact on World's Finest. And so on. There wasn't even any sense than the Detective Comics people even bothered to look at what was being done on Batman. That was DC in the 1970s.

When I started reading Marvel, sure, the characters were interesting and all, but they also interacted with one another that gave the reader the sense that all of those stories were happening in the same world. One of my earliest Fantastic Fours not only had cameos by the Avengers, but it also had a footnote alerting me that an offshoot of that same story I was reading was going on over in their own title. There was continuity not only within a title, but among all the titles! I wound up spending much of the next quarter century trying to figure out how all of those pieces fit together.

I started looking into comics history with much the same interest. It's something of a puzzle to figure out who was working on what and when. Trying to parse out what was going on behind the scenes was proving to be as fascinating as what was going on in the comics themselves. This was during Jack Kirby's big artwork fight with Marvel in the mid-1980s, so there was plenty of news coverage -- well, plenty in those pre-internet days -- going into what Neal Adams said or what Jim Shooter said and who signed what agreement, and Steve Ditko's on the sidelines saying, "You're fighting about the wrong things, you idiots!" While there was certainly an element of spectacle to what was going on at the time, I was more interested in taking the nuggets of half-remembered history that were being thrown around, and trying to reconstruct what really happened. So much as I was able, given my extremely limited resources at the time.

I'm working on a new project right now that's proving, once again, that the more interesting stories are the ones NOT created for the comics, but the ones about it. I had planned on just reprinting some old public domain comics that have yet to be reprinted. I've got good scans of everything, and I figured I'd just write a short introduction about them. Piece of cake. But then I started doing some reading to make sure I got my facts straight. Well, it turns out that there was A LOT more going on around the comics than I figured! And the more I'm digging through materials, the more fascinating stuff I'm coming up with. Beyond the contents of the comic itself, I'll be easily trying it back to Li'l Abner, The Shadow, Mr. Peanut and Harry Houdini. Maybe Penzoil and Gordon's Gin, depending on how much I want to get into advertising. The "short introduction" I had planned now looks to take up at least a few chapters.

But that's continuity. Actual, real-world continuity. All of those pieces, because the DO actually occur in the same world tie together. Some more tenuously than others, of course, but the common thread is there. And it doesn't have to be ret-conned or anything. It's just a series of puzzle pieces waiting to be put together to form a complete picture. And, in this case, I think, one that no one's bothered to put together before. At least, not in its entirety.
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