Storylines Lost

Conor often likes to advocate his position of making one’s own continuity. This is a position I agree with and encourage adoption of. But this philosophy of continuity comes with a price. Making your own continuity means a couple of things. First, it means you have to decide the breadth of this policy; there are some characters who have such a minimal continuity, especially if you haven’t read all of it, that it’s not worth thinking too hard about what “counts” and what doesn’t. Iron Fist is a perfect example. I like the character of Danny Rand, but I’ve read relatively little compared to a character I really like such as Nightwing. So for Iron Fist I kind of just accept what’s given, it’s not worth the temporal or emotional investment necessary to decide my continuity for the character.

The other less glamorous aspect of creating your own continuity is deciding what to cut. Not every story is gold and sometimes it’s better to cut the fat than try to polish a turd, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. For characters you love, especially popular ones, there are going to be stories that don’t click on whatever level. Although I do think that it’s almost always a story problem as I can’t imagine tossing a story aside because I really didn’t jive with the art.

And it’s this aspect of personalized continuity building that I’d really like to focus on. Tossing aside stories you don’t like takes more effort than keeping the ones you do. It’s ironic, but it’s a necessary part of this whole gimmick that Kilpatrick has convinced us is worth doing. So here are a few stories from some of my favorite characters that I’ve decided I could do better without.

A red costume? Seriously?

Nightwing Joins the Mob

When I first started trying to think about stories I had purposefully forgotten, I very quickly noticed a flaw in my plan. In the act of forgetting I had indeed forgotten. I was like Robin Williams in Hook, events had transpired but I had blocked them out. But I eventually realized one Nightwing story that I lost all the briefest fragments of. For some reason Dick Grayson joins the mob. He’s also using crutches, which I think becomes his mob nickname, because he still manages to kick butt with his crutches; I’m sure it was part of his training as Robin. Anyways, the problem is that Nightwing isn’t a criminal (vigilantism aside) and he won’t ever kill so his status as a “made man” will never be realized, so just what is he doing undercover with the mafia? I honestly don’t remember how the story ends. He had just left the Blüdhaven police force a few arcs earlier and now he’s in the mob? And still acting as Nightwing but with a red costume? (I mean really, a red costume? Lame.) I may remember the premise but I have no idea how he got out that particular situation, nor do I care. It’s not part of my story even if he nearly dies shortly thereafter in Infinite Crisis (don’t ask me to explain that one, it’s just as forgotten).

Gwen Stacy Sleeps with Norman Osborn

Also: the birth of Tommy Lee Jones as the Green Goblin. Also: forgotten.

When you think about Gwen Stacy you probably think about a promiscuous young woman who seduces Peter Parker before getting herself killed by the Green Goblin, right? Well not me. I remember hearing once that Gwen’s death was necessary because she mattered so much to Peter but was ultimately a blank slate to the audience. This sentiment is reiterated with supporting quotes in Sean Howe’s recently released book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, if you really don’t believe me. And Gwen’s death was just so well executed (for lack of a better word), the buildup with the Green Goblin, the shove off the bridge, the fateful snap of the neck as Spidey catches her in his webs. A neck can snap even if you’re already dead, but telling Parker that would be cold comfort at best. And even though Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes were considered untouchable deaths, I always held Gwen in even higher regard. Bringing sidekicks back makes some sense because they already ran with a superheroic crowd and that sort of thing happens, Gwen was just a young woman so there’s no need to bring her back in terms of Spider-Man as a superhero. And to be fair, this storyline didn’t bring her back, but it did retcon the albeit very bland memory of her. Now, instead of being the sweet girl nerdy Parker fell for, she was the tormented soul who had copulated and procreated with Norman Osborn. Not even Harry which would have been somewhat more believe even if he was hopped up on the “drugs.” So I was not a fan of the story where Peter had to fight her goblin twins, nor the fact that they completely vanished afterwards. Every aspect of that story felt wrong, and it was when I knew I would be done with Amazing Spider-Man for a awhile, which in and of itself was a disappointment but one a long time in the making.

I don't care what angle or lighting you use, walking is boring.

Superman Walks the USA

So we’ve had a story that is just forgettable, and a storyline that makes you mad, but what about a story that just makes you shake your head? That’s how I felt when Superman was slapped in the face and therefore decided to walk around for a while. This didn’t piss me off, nor was it forgettable, it just wasn’t right. It’s not how Superman would respond to an upset woman who’d just lost her husband. “Your sorrow and anger has shown me that I need to reconnect with the people of Detroit.”  Superman dealt with the fact that he’s only one being when he first became a hero, and then a few more times after that, doing it once more Forest Gump style did nothing for me. Chris Roberson ended the whole affair about as deftly as any writer could, but it won’t wash away the overall distaste for the inception of a boring and pointless tale of one of my favorite heroes.

Ultimately I don’t think there’s any one set of criteria that works to help separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s a personal process and certainly prone to errors and revisions. Its equal parts gut reaction and consideration in the larger context, and how each are weighted depends on your preferences and need to have it all “fit.” I think the big questions are 1) did this story fit with the character as I know them? 2) does this story fit with overarching story of this character (ignoring the official canon, reboots, and so on)? And 3) did I like this story? Go with those and I don’t think you can go wrong, but what about you? What stories have you read and tossed out? Do you have a criteria yourself or do you just go with your gut? Tell us all about it in the comments, but if you’re comment sucks I won’t keep it as part of my continuity.


Ryan Haupt has been Ryan Haupt continuously for over two and a half decades, but he’s erased a few stories he didn’t like all that much. Hear him tell stories his co-hosts don’t like on the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. Superdickery: the comic book

  2. Are both the Superman walking story and the Goblin/Gwen thing written by JMS? Someone google that for me while I sit here being lazy.

  3. Recent stuff – I just kind of ignore Brand New Day and One Moment in Time from the current Amazing Spidey run. I really like the ASM series since BND and it doesn’t bother me at all that they hit the big reset button. I just don’t think about it.

    I also ignore anything Loeb writes in Wolverine.

    • Oh yeah! Loeb has some Wolverine ideas that just do not work for me AT ALL.

    • That whole “ACTUALLY, Wolverine is a human-mutant subspecies that shares traits with the Lupine family” thing? Yeah…barf.

    • He makes it real easy to drop a book you’ve been reading for years – “Oh sh)t – Loeb’s coming in next month? Pass.”

    • @Grandturk, I laughed a lot at that comment. I love his work on the Batman stories over a decade ago. But I must agree that your statement is pretty solid in describing most attitudes towards his work. The same can even be said about some of JMS’ material. But let’s not open that can of worms.

  4. I was just sayin’ in the Young Avengers thread how we all need to forget that Bendis ever wrote Marvel Boy as the Protector. He basically didn’t. Dude was just sort of there, a bump on a log, till Beast yells at him for no reason and leaves him in space. Best not to remember and just let Gillen handle it from here.

  5. While the awfulness of the “Gwen and Norm make the beast with two backs” storyline has been written about many many many times before, I still applaud its inclusion here. Something that horrible must be brought up constantly so that it is never ever ever forgotten or repeated.

  6. I just can’t read that way. It seems like I’m letting substandard work by the writers and editors go and they’ll just go out and do it again and again and again. I know that it is about the only way a modern reader is supposed to read comics because the editors are so sloppy and the writers often don’t seem to care, but I simply don’t agree with it. If it happened then it happened. DC at least when they reboot every so often they can wipe out a lot of the bad stuff (Zatanna and Identity Crisis) but marvel will publish something like OMD/BND and then switch writers. This gives the writers almost unlimited freedom to shred the characters how ever they wish. It leads to sloppy characterization and in my opinion it is lazy.

    • Oddly enough, I actually prefer Marvel’s “Ignore it and it’ll go away” attitude over DC’s tendency to completely rewrite their universe to edit out bad stories. It really just draws attention to the bad stuff.

      In Infinite Crisis, after the universe is re-made, Alex Luthor describes the changes to the universe by saying something like “Joe Chill killed the Waynes, Superman was Superboy and Wonder Woman helped found the Justice League.” That line always stuck out to me as the laziest and pettiest method of changing continuity for seemingly minute reasons.

    • The difference is that Alex was describing a retcon- which in my opinion is what the IC storyline was -where with marvel they don’t even bother. In fact Alex was describing a retcon of a retcon. At least DC tries.

  7. I usually edit out character ruining stuff, like Peter Parker and Reed Richards slapping the crap out of their wives.

    Pretty much anything Chuck Austen’s ever written, including but not limited to Nightcrawler’s demonic heritage and the indescribably ridiculous Captain Britain II.

    JLA: Year One will always be my Justice League origin. Everything before or since gets internally retconned out.

  8. that whole Nightwing run really went off the rails, but I fondly think back about the times when he joined the Bludhaven (?) police department!

  9. The Rise of Arsenal by J.T. Krul.

    ‘Nuff said.

  10. the mob story wasn’t bad it was leading to interesting things and blam infinite crisis happened and the stoy got lost in crossover mess

    • Yeah, I think Dick was a mole in an effort to take control and eventually eliminate organized crime in Bludhaven. Unfortunately for him, this was rendered obsolete when Bludhaven was destroyed during Infinite Crisis. I recently read these issues, and don’t remember strongly disliking them. I always enjoy Phil Hester pencils though. I certainly liked this more than the Bruce Jones arc that followed.

  11. The Sentry is not a part of any continuity that I follow.

    • I really like the first Marvel Knights book that introduced him. Definitely downhill from there.

    • Yeah, the first Sentry story, the mini and one-shots they collected into a single trade, was actually kind of awesome. It was everything that came after that was horrible, and it was oh so horrible.

  12. This actually is a good place to mention a storyline that has been bugging the hell out of me since I read it. I’ve been reading the excellent second volume of Daredevil. I started with the Kevin Smith #1 and actually just read Bendis’ last issue this week. But between the Bendis/Mack arc and the proper start of the Bendis/Maleev run Bob Gale wrote a six issue arc, drawn by a couple of different artists.

    The story is that a someone has hired Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson in an effort to sue Daredevil for damaging his green house during a recent encounter with a bad guy. The problem is (spoiler alert) Matt IS Daredevil and he knows that he was nowhere near his client’s property on the night of the incident. Okay, so that’s a bit of an undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of Nelson & Murdock. I’m a law-school graduate, and I try to keep in mind that most people don’t have the same training that I do, but Gale proves again and again to be startlingly ignorant. He seemingly doesn’t know what a deposition is. He doesn’t know that there’s a different standard of guilt in criminal trials than in civil trials. But the biggest problem is that he doesn’t come close to comprehending the gravity, of what he has Matt and Foggy do. Matt and Foggy throughout the arc work covertly against the interest of their own client in furtherance of their own interest. This is just about the worse thing an attorney can do. If they were caught, Matt and Foggy would be instantly disbarred and probably thrown in jail. They would never have a prayer of getting enrolled in any state’s bar for the rest of their lives. This isn’t just bending the rules to catch the bad guy, this is flagrantly violation of an ethical principal that has existed in the legal profession since its beginning. The closest analogy I can give you is if somebody wrote a story about Nixon’s coverup of the Watergate break-in’s, depicting Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Gordon Liddy as noble heroes.

    One last thing about how bad this writing is. The arc opens with Matt in court, defending a client who has been accused of wrongful termination. The plaintiff is saying that he was fired because Matt’s client was racist, but in cross-examination Matt gets the guy to admit that he was actually fired for gambling at work. After the jury finds for Matt’s client, he brags to Foggy that he was able to tell the guy was lying because he could hear his heartbeat, and took advantage of it during cross. Gale is reminding readers of this specific ability of Matt’s, and it comes up later in the issue. But…. wait a sec. Matt is representing the person who fired this guy for gambling. What kind of idiot gets sued for racial discrimination, and forgets to mention to his attorney that he actually justifiably fired the guy for gambling at work. “Well counsellor, I do hate black people, but all the same, I feel like there’s something I’m forgetting.” Sheez.

    Just a complete disaster of an arc marring an incredible volume of comics.

    • Termination for cause is usually documented to avoid just such a lawsuit.

    • Yeah, I remember that story. It was…unfortunate. I remember it just dragging on and on, too. 6 issues was way too long for that filler run.

    • I’ve found the same problem with She-Hulk stories that involve the law. When faced with a choice the writers simply write the laws as they want even when a casual viewer of the tv show Law and Order could tell that they are breaking the law.

  13. I try not to think about One More Day as I read through the BND and beyond Spidey comics I bought a few months ago digitally when they were on sale. It still stings all these years later!

    • See I never really liked Spidey before BND – so it all works for me – I just forget about how we got there.

    • But’s hard not to since OMD/BND was such a pivotal moment. I mean we learned that for all of Peter’s super smart and super powered friends he had go to the devil to cure his aunt. Reed, Tony, Dr. Strange… they were all pretty much useless and powerless until in OMIT they built a machine to re-write the entire universe for Peter’s benefit. If I were marvel I’d want people to ignore that bit of bad writing too. I just can’t. I don’t care how good or bad the stories are, that story was the Hack Job of all time.

  14. God, Devin Grayson’s Nightwing run put me off the character right up until Kyle Higgins relaunched him i the New 52. It was just a terrible, terrible run.

    Sweet Phil Hester art though.

  15. I wasn’t reading at the time and never saw that Osborn and Gwen Stacy page before. Yikes.

  16. The Stacy twins didn’t truly disappear though. Sarah is like an Interpol agent now or something, after Peter figured out a way to cure her and Gabriel of the rapid aging process that threatened to kill them both.

    Also, Gabriel showed up in the American Son mini post-Brand New Day in the American Son armor, kind of pulling a reverse-Goblin (when it was still a split personality thing for Norman).

    • The whole point is that they’ve disappeared to me. Any future storylines featuring them will also be ignored. It’s entirely possible I’ve read the issues you’re referring to, yet I have no memory of them whatsoever.

  17. Ugh. I was reading Amazing Spidey at the time and I distinctly remember reading that awful awful issue and feeling like someone had just stomped on my intestines. Repeatedly.

    I’ll toss the “Nightcrawler as Mystique’s son or whatever somehow” story. I just ignore it.

    • Nightcrawler being Mystique’s son is kind of an old bit of continuity. She basically landed a rich German noble to be her sugar daddy, but when the bouncing bundle of joy turned out to be blue and furry, she ran and I think did a Moses on the baby, i.e. basket in river or something.

      I am fine with all of that. What I am NOT fine with is the whole Azazel storyline. It said that not only was the German countess secretly Mystique but the German count was secretly a demon from limbo who was there primarily to have sex with Mystique and procreate. Now Nightcrawler is a half-demon with half-brothers and half-sisters. The entire storyline was terrible. I think it was part of Chuck Austen’s X-run which I try to forget ever happened at all.

  18. I remember immediately selling those Spider-man comics on Ebay because I did not want to be anywhere near that storyline or even acknowledge it existed. Just a writer going for a cheap shock value.

    • To be fair, JMS and Quesada admitted that the Norman Osborn bit was Quesada’s idea. JMS just wanted the kids to be Peter’s. The Norman o-face was Quesada at his…”finest.” Quesada has always had a hate-on for Spider-Man and consistently attempted to “revamp” Spidey’s continuity, be it Gwen goblin sex, One More Day, or Brand New Day. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushed the Spider-Man identity reveal in Civil War.