Story Matters. Continuity, Not as Much.
I love comics, I love their history, I love characters’ histories and stories and adventures. But, I don’t feel that Continuity matters as much as others. What I mean is, Continuity should be a secondary thing in comics, and that what comes first is the characters and their story.
What is Continuity?
The dictionary defines Continuity as “The unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time”. This can be applied to many things of course, but the most common use of it is when referring to a work of fiction, such as movies, tv shows, or comic books. Comics, particularly ones from the Big 2, Marvel, and DC, have a LOT of continuity. Like, a LOT. And it can be offputting to some because they see these comics that have run on for decades and get overwhelmed by all the history and Continuity that they think they have to know to be a “true fan”. Now, I’m not gonna get into the “true fan” thing too much, just know that I hate it, and think it’s dumb gatekeeping nonsense. If you are into something and like it, you are a fan of it and no one can take that away from you. Anyway, how does that relate to Continuity? Well…
Gatekeeping is when fans don’t let other people be fans of the thing they like because they don’t like them. They use every excuse in the book like “You need to know this” and “If you haven’t seen this you’re not a real fan” and so on. These fans exist in every fandom and they are always the ones you ignore because they exist to ruin everyone’s fun. They use their “knowledge” of continuity as a weapon to keep people from feeling like their fans of something they want to enjoy. Now I’m not saying continuity is THE cause of this, it’s not, it’s just people being jerks for the fun of it and that’s honestly the worst. But what I am saying is it can be used to keep people away from being interested in something they would have been into otherwise.
Comics are Confusing
Okay, so comic continuity. Marvel and DC both handle their continuity very differently from each other. Marvel has remained in mostly the same continuity ever since it’s existed. The Spider-Man and Fantastic Four from the 60s are the same exact people today. DC, on the other hand, they love pushing that reset button whenever they feel their continuity has gotten too messy since the last time they pushed it. Now both methods are valid and have their advantages, but both have their problems. Marvel has mostly kept the same history for the past 80 years, which means everything is considered canon by the company! But that means everything is considered canon, even the really, really bad things that can ruin characters for some. DC, on the other hand, have rebooted their universe twice now, with various other stories about tidying up the continuity after said reboots. The main problem with this method is it feels like stories and developments for characters matter less because it feels like they’ll just be reset again within the next couple of years. In fact, the current Event comic that DC is putting out, Dark Nights: Death Metal, is seeming to go the route of rebooting or at least is going to try to “fix” the continuity.
What Do I Think Continuity Should Be Used For?
I don’t think continuity should not be the main focus so much. Continuity should be a secondary thing. If you have to retcon some things from the past to tell the story you want, I say go for it. Or if you just don’t want any ties to any continuity besides what you want, do that too, there’s where some of the best comic stories come from like All-Star Superman. It gives writers more freedom to not worry so much about how something lines up to canon if they are allowed to just do whatever they like and tell the story they want with these characters. A lot of Elseworlds are so much fun because canon means nothing with those, the continuity is whatever the writer wants it to be, or whatever the reader infers based on their knowledge of the character in other works. Anyway, continuity shouldn’t be THE story, it should be used to enhance the story and the characters, not the other way around. That’s just me, I know there are just as many fans who love continuity and treasure it just as much as the characters themselves, and that is totally 100% valid. Me, personally? I can take it or leave it, I’m just here for the characters in the end.