iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #50 – The Comic Book Continuity Debate

Show Notes

If there’s one thing that comic book fans know how to do it’s argue about continuity. But just what is continuity? This week, iFanboy debates the pertinent questions: Is the obsession over continuity slowly strangling comic books to death? Or is continuity what makes comics fun in the first place?

Some comic book readers are avid continuity enthusiasts, some couldn’t care less about it, and many are right in the middle of the issue. iFanboy falls pretty much along that spectrum as well so they felt it was a great time for a good ol’ fashioned debate.

Come along and learn, together in horror with Ron, that Batman: Year One is no longer considered canon in the DC Universe. Can the world of comic books survive being torn asunder by this issue? Hurry up and start the episode — you never know when it’s going to get ret-conned out of iFanboy continuity!


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  1. Great discussion as always, gents. I would add that great arcs demand the respect of Continuity because a great sense of anticipation is built, and yet paradoxically the same great arcs exsist in dpite of continuity.

    To wit: Brubaker’s Captain America. I can’t wait for the next issue because of Ed and Steve’s Brillant work, but at the same time, I can give a floppy to anyone and be assured that it will make coherent sense. Hell, I’d even be comfortable giving dome random dude a random part of the “Death of Captain America saga, because damnit ir’s that good.

    I also feel that the current arch of Action with the Legion of Superheroes is new reade friendly, though continuity will become an important aspect of it.

    I think Stan’s old adage about considering any comic you write the first comic that your reader is exposed to is a particularily salient lesson for the industry. If Continuity develops, great it will be in the tangential, organic way like in Captain America, etc.

    Again, awesome show everyone. Since Con booking season id upon us, can you possibly post those shows you anticipate attending soon?

    I’d really like to see a show on the Direct Market.

    Happy New Year to all.

  2. Enjoyed the show. I always get the feeling during these discussions that this is all one big joke to Josh and that always brings a smile to my face.

    Also, the link on the front page goes to last week’s episode.

  3. I enjoy continuity as long as I understand it. Superman Byrne continuity I understand but Brubaker X-book continuity I gave up on that series. I can follow Brubakers Cap & Daredevil with ease but X books are over my head. I would just get X-Men First Class instead to flll that void. Morrison’s Batman is off the wall & Waid’s return to Flash is beyond me. The only one who understands this mixed up world is Geoff Johns after that everyone is playing catch up.

  4. So, no one else noticed that they all switched shirts after the intro? Continuity…Woo Hoo!

  5. I personally think “continuity”, like a lot of the words surrounding, have been redefined for the worse by confusion, highlighted/reflected by the intro here.

    Continuity as a negative tends to be attached to “understanding” and “making sense”, using the terms in far too broad a manner to lend credence to the claims.

    “I enjoy continuity as long as I understand it.”

    If you can read the language, typically a single issue (from ANY decade) will make sense.
    The reality of a comic book and the continuity of it’s history is no different to what we encounter in day-to-day life. Just as you can piece together or enter events anywhere in life, so too can you buy part 7 of a 13 issues series, and figure out what’s going on.
    It makes sense, it just isn’t elaborated upon.

    Of course, just in life, if you’re interested, the answers are there, and can easily be mined.
    I’ve enjoyed on recent episodes the opinion, particularly from Ron, regarding the existence of back issues. It saddens me that contemporary fans have a fear or complete ignorance of the accessibility of the history.
    It’s almost strange to regard the increasing obsession and negativity around “continuity” in the modern era, when that conceptually should’ve come about from the increased resources to hone in on specific points through online purchase, or information wells (Wikipedia, Blogs, Podcasts).

    I think the fact I was disappointed to see omitted is that so-called “continuity” is one of the few inherent glories of the comics medium.
    Given the time available to the printed form, they can achieve so much more than even their nearest equivalent – television. That fact is self-evident in the swirling forty-year history of some of it’s characters.

    In that respect, there’s a retort to be made for the examples used in legendary series devoid of continuity. Dark Knight Returns, a prime example, absorbing a great deal of character and environment from the history established prior.
    If “continuity” is recognised beyond the simple arrangement of contemporary events, we see how invaluable it is to building the very nature of these characters, and the dramatic value exhibited in DKR.

    If this is a crossroads, I hope the internet’s penchant for premeating misconceptions and ill-conceived theories will be replaced by a new readership ready and willing to enjoy the medium for it’s inherent positives.

    And to acknowledge flippant retort; I’m doing my own, yes. :-p

    Good show, guys!
    Love the discussion episodes!

  6. Hey! Chuck Austen was good on Action Comics.

  7. Continuity is a bitch Goddess. She gives with one hand, and takes with the other.

  8. Yeah! Fuck Chuck Austen!

  9. In response to my post above, I’m one of the few people I know that actually liked his War Machine Vol 1, just because it was a weekly or bi-weekly comic that (I think) had a good story and take on pre-existing ideas in an Else-world style tale (I did not like War Machine Vol II, maybe because it was a monthly and only 3 issues).

    But his X-Men and Avengers work was just atrocious. He messed up Nightcrawler’s history big time, and he just seemed to be writing what he thought people wanted, not what they needed, which is the mark of a horrible writer.

    I also hated his Action Comics run except for one issue, which dealt with Superman’s/Clark Kent’s relationship with Lois and Lana, intercut with a fight with a villain I can’t remember, but I really liked that issue.

    Further, his Metropolis series, I thought, started off great, greatly modernizing Jimmy Olsen along with Brainic’s (sort of) daughter, which I found intriguing, but overall, the maxi-series as a whole just didn’t hold up.

    I wanted to like Chuck Austen, but 99% of his work was just insulting.

    Lastly, it was just insulting that he was featured on the special features of the X2 dvd as opposed to all of the great X-Men writers that actually contributed something to their continuity, instead of just shitting on it.

  10. Ron, I think the Black Bolt Skrull reveal and the question of when the replacement happened is part of the story. My guess is that Bendis worked out his timeline with the intention of playing with the fans desire to know where things fit in. The others in the Illuminati could be saying, “Crap! When did that happen? But we trusted him to carry out X.”

    You don’t want that sort of thing to be explained by an asterisk. The complications and mysteries are part of the classic body snatchers type story.

    I think Roy Thomas started what we consider modern continuity. Any company that had a hero group like the JSA or JLA or Avengers had a shared universe but evidently it was Thomas who, as fan turned pro, started the major interweaving.

  11. Damn you, Roy Thomas!


  12. I bought the uncanny x-men complete series dvd that’s been on sale and i’ve been loving it, then all of a sudden the story got so unreadable because of “secret war II” that I had to quit. I didn’t know what was getting referenced or where half the characters were. then rachel summers is fighting the beyonder. it’s completely retarded.

    one other thing, if black bolts a skrull, when the hell does silent war take place? when hulk landed on the moon, the inhuman city was in the background so WTF?

  13. Been way too busy these days to post my thoughts, but I just had to comment on this episode.
    Maybe it was the mood I was in. Maybe the stars were all in place. I don’t know. This was one of the best shows that you guys ever did. Seriously. Loved it all. Really felt that you three were great in this discussion. Would love to see you guys tackle more discussions like this. Maybe the variant cover craze. Tie-ins and crossovers (why they work or not, and how they can drive collectors’ nuts). Keep up the great work!


  14. Great show guys. Liked liked the debate and agree you should do more shows like this one. I agree that film and comic continuity are quite different but a certain level of constant an self referencing is what makes the world believable and engrossing.

    I haven’t touched a superhero book in a long time but the asterisk was a source of great joy for me. If reference was made to a past issue that I possessed, then I was proud to say “I knew that” and it made following the story worthwhile.

  15. Enjoyed the show. My personal view – authors should honor the major points of continuity (e.g. Gwen died; Peter and Harry became friends after high school), as to do otherwise jars the suspension of disbelief.

    Now, would you believe this controversy was addressed by Aristotle? From Aristotle’ Poetics:

    From Part IX:

    Of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst. I call a plot ‘episodic’ in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault, good poets, to please the players; for, as they write show pieces for competition, they stretch the plot beyond its capacity, and are often forced to break the natural continuity.


    Part VIII

    Unity of plot does not, as some persons think, consist in the unity of the hero. For infinitely various are the incidents in one man’s life which cannot be reduced to unity; and so, too, there are many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action. Hence the error, as it appears, of all poets who have composed a Heracleid, a Theseid, or other poems of the kind. They imagine that as Heracles was one man, the story of Heracles must also be a unity. But Homer, as in all else he is of surpassing merit, here too- whether from art or natural genius- seems to have happily discerned the truth. In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus- such as his wound on Parnassus, or his feigned madness at the mustering of the host- incidents between which there was no necessary or probable connection: but he made the Odyssey, and likewise the Iliad, to center round an action that in our sense of the word is one. As therefore, in the other imitative arts, the imitation is one when the object imitated is one, so the plot, being an imitation of an action, must imitate one action and that a whole, the structural union of the parts being such that, if any one of them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference, is not an organic part of the whole.

  16. It’s comic book continuity that has helped kee me reading comics for the past 20 years. I love that each of these stories means something to the characters, otherwise why bother? I’d hate for it to be like Archie comics where nothing matters from month to month.

    The best stories always spin out of some respect or nod to a character’s past. Its what gives them meaning. I hate when I hear people say that “If a writer had a story to tell, would you want continuity to get in the way of it?” Absolutely I would. I could write a story about Spider-Man being a magician all his life, but would it make sense or fit with who he is? No. When creators are forced to ignore continuity you get “One More Day”, and look what a disaster that has been.

  17. I could write a story about Spider-Man being a magician all his life, but would it make sense or fit with who he is? No.

    If it was a good story it could definitely fit with who Peter Parker is.

  18. This is not to beat down on anyone, and please don�t beat on me. I have about 3600 comics and I stopped collecting around 1997 I am not an expert, but I do remember history; meaning origins.

    I loved Alan Moore’s re-imagined Swap Thing and grimaced over John Byrne’s re-imagined Superman (but got the trade paperback anyway)

    I have the first edition and the four re-prints of the Killing Joke; the 1st edition and 1st re-print, before the release of Michael Keaton’s Batman

    I love good stories, but I love history best; it brings meaning to what I am reading. Superheroes re-written too much become Archie comics; great for the kids, good to past time, but have no real meaning to the past or for the future.

    Comics are not real, but they do provide a venue for people to hope and believe with power can choose to do good for mankind.

    In other words;

    “Without continuity comics suck”

    Characters which change too much are not worth the ink they are created with

    If people like a character, it’s because of his artwork and storyline, not just reality to reality, or story to story

    Alternate realities are cool, but only if it has a point of reference

    If you have a bad character, try to make him better, but if it does not work; retire him

    If you have a good character, elevate what makes him work, but if you don’t know what it is, let it be

    ’nuff said

  19. LMFAO!!! animalvader1 YOU ARE INSIGHTFUL! I didn’t notice that until AFTER the fact XDDD. Damn you guyz =|

    As for Continuity… well i don’t necessarily care unless all my comic books suddenly became free (in which case I would pay off my loan wooot!) but yeah continuity means buying more comics to find out what happened etc, comic issues that I probably wouldn’t like which = to a whole shitload of wrong. Continuity just gives me a bad feeling in the pit o’ me own wallet. Especially during these tough economic times. =

  20. I don’t mind when a special issue has things change or switched around. as long as it’s a good story, kind of like how movies play with history for a more intrusting story

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