Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Why should I change? He's the one who sucks."

Gail Simone recently explained how Black Canary's actions in a recent issue of Birds of Prey, which looked odd in light of her actions in Identity Crisis (SPOILERS: She gives Batman a lot of grief, which would seem to be an odd knowing that Dinah was among the group of Justice League members who erased Batman's memory because Batman walked in on them giving Dr. Light a lobotomy), was in keeping with the characterization of Black Canary.

It was a fine explanation and I had no problem with it (although, to be honest, it did not even occur to me that the scene would play out as hypocritical, for reasons I will explain later), but really, all I could think of while reading it was the scene in Office Space that I reference in the entry title.

In the scene, two characters are talking about their names, and how much they dislike them. One character tells the other one, who is frustrated to be named Michael Bolton, "Well, why don't you just go by Mike instead of Michael?" to which the Bolton character replies, "No way. Why should I change? He's the one who sucks!"

That is one of the most annoying aspects of continuity to me, the whole "I must acknowledge other stories that do not add anything beneficial to my story, because they are in continuity."

This is why we need a return to Hypertime.

Hypertime, co-developed by Mark Waid and Grant Morrison (I have no idea who did what, Waid seems to talk about it more, so I presume he did more in coming up with the idea) over SIX years ago, was an idea that was supposed to take the DC Universe by storm, but sadly, both Waid and Morrison left the DC Universe a year or so later, and the idea was eventually (seemingly) dropped in favor of the current DC continuity approach of (and this is said with love...hehe) "Geoff Johns details what happened on every calandar day in the DC Universe since 1938."

I say let us have Hypertime again!

You may first ask, "What IS Hypertime?"

The basic concept of Hypertime, via the mouth (or keyboard) of Mark Waid is as follows:

Hypertime is our name for the vast collective of parallel universes out there, in which you can somewhere find every DC story ever published - but it's also more than that. The standard model of parallel timelines is the branches of a river, right? The main timeline is the main stream while tributaries symbolize the alternate timelines? Well, imagine that sometimes those tributaries feed back IN to the main stream, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. Other times, they cross OVER for only a MOMENT before going in an altogether NEW direction - and for the most part, no one notices these discrepancies but the fans. In short, the reality of the main DC Universe is a lot more malleable than we've ever given it credit for and allows for more wonder and more possibilities than we'd ever imagined.
The way this would apply today is that Simone would not have to worry about the effect of Identity Crisis upon her characters. She would not have to worry if the characterization of one of her stars is retroactively messed with in some other comic, she is free to ignore it.

That is the approach I take when I read comics nowadays. Therefore, that Black Canary scene did not strike me as odd, because I am not actually considering Black Canary's actions in Identity Crisis as "canon" or anything like that.

Bringing it all back home, Grant Morrison, in his return to the DC Universe a few months ago, described his approach to continuity in JLA: Classified as:
Aquaman has no beard and John Stewart is Green Lantern so it's pretty much set in some kind of current continuity but I'm afraid it's not the gloomy 'adult' world of Sue Dibny's shredded lycra pants; so keep well away if it's attempted rape you crave. Cannibalism, yes, rape, no. My DCU is a day-glo, non-stop funhouse, where the world is threatened every five minutes and godlike beings clash in the skies like fireworks.
That's Hypertime, folks.

And it is good.

32 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

There are two types of superhero comic book fans: those slavishly devoted to every detail of continuity, and those that aren't. I think that the former tend to write more letters, emails and message board posts, which is why their concerns tend to be addressed more often than the rest of us, and why insular storytelling techniques keep prevailing (at least in the cape & tights genre).

Too bad, too, because it really was a brilliant idea. Every story happened. Or, if you prefer, it didn't. Not only could it have been the springboard for a thousand great stories (instead of the mere handful we actually got), but it was also a great peace offering to all those people still pissed about Crisis wiping out "their comics."

3/08/2005 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

I believe Hypertime was originally a Morrison thing. It's a part of a sort of unified theory of all reality and all fiction. He's talked about how there are ties to newXmen and Invisibles and Flex Mentallo and everything else he's written.

Other than that nitpicking, yeah, it's the best.

3/08/2005 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

Really, the Hypertime concept doesn't free comic readers so much as it frees comic creators. For example, when I read Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier (no, I haven't read it quite yet -- someday soon), it doesn't really matter to me if it takes place pre-Crisis, post-Crisis or Elseworlds. I just want to read a good story. I don't really need the extra baggage that is the Hypertime concept to do it. However, (and I'm really just paraphrasing Brian's point, I think) for creators who are under some editorial pressure to make sure that their stories can be appropriately slotted into continuity per the dictates of a shared universe, Hypertime can be a liberating storytelling tool that enables them to tell a story the way they'd like to tell it while satisfying the mandates of their corporate overlords.

Having said that, a certain amount of continuity is necessary when reading superhero comics. For example, would Batman be Batman if young Bruce Wayne's parents hadn't been shot dead in front of his eyes? Would Superman be Superman if he wasn't a "strange visitor from another planet?" This continuity is part and parcel to who these characters are. The problem is that they're rather static because they have to stay the people they are because of those initial events.

3/08/2005 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Hisham Zubi said...

I can't recall if Morrison ever got to use the Hypertime in a storyline. I know Waid used it for Kingdom and Kesel put it into a Superboy storyline, but I don't remember anything else.

3/08/2005 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Chris, I Denny O'Neill spoke a bit about what you bring up tonight. Basically, the right way to handle it is to remain true to the essence of the character, and let other stuff evolve with the times. The bits you mention fall square within the "essence" portion, and of course those will always be important parts of the mythos.

And, while it's less common than it should be, there is some informal "Hypertiming" of stuff at work from time to time. I think specifically of how pretty much the entirety of John Byrne's "Spider-Man: Chapter One" revisions have been ignored since he left the book.

3/08/2005 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to contradict anyone, because these things do get muddled, but Mark came up with the name and general concept in a cab ride to Dan Raspler's house, with Mark Millar and Grant Morrison. They all loved it, threw stuff around, next morning at breakfast, Grant's been thinking about it all night and has this amazing napkin with the whole theory mapped out.

The idea IS brilliant and elegant, and unfortunately, was immediately ripped to shreds on the internet, so badly few people utter the term to this day.


My belief in continuity is about fairness, not taking shortcuts, and trying to win with the hand you're dealt. Some people leave Vegas rich with a handful of nothing (those would be people like Morrison, for this analogy) and some couldn't win if they had a royal flush (insert least favorite writer's name).

I wrote that scene without IC really being a factor, but now, it's a story, a familiar story, and it shades Dinah like a bit of a hypocrite over in my book.

The thing is, I'm fine with that. I never think of even Superman as perfect, never think of their subjective truth as objective fact. And my miasma on the Yabs board is simply doing what I try to do with all matters of continuity, which is try to make the bigger edges fit for those who really do care about them. We're all fans of something, and continuity is part of the truth of a shared universe. With projects like New Frontiers (my favorite DC project last year), Darwyn is quite clearly grabbing the history of the DCU that he likes and discarding the rest.

Interesting column as always, Brian.

Best wishes,

Gail

3/09/2005 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

I'm going to try not to "rant" or whine here, so I hope this comes out right.

In a sci-fi or superhero story, the concept of hypertime would be a fun thing for the writer to play with. No problem with it from me. And the readers who like to pick that stuff apart, and argue minutiae because they love the characters and stories, could do that to their hearts' content.

But this stuff isn't *needed.* Waid and Morrison and Millar didn't have to come up with hypertime. All they needed was a couple of editors who could give them a sensible amount of lee-way to tell their stories.

Maybe they think the "fans" need hypertime? I call bullshit. Does anyone here know any otherwise intelligent person who dislikes NEW FRONTIER because it wasn't "in continuity"? Can this person cut his own meat? If you took the "Elsewords" label off of RED SON, would the people who loved it suddenly find it unreadable?

I'm not in the business, I don't know what conversations are being had. But from here, it looks and smells like Marvel and DC (and possibly some others) have gotten hung up on anticipating what they think the audience wants, and is capable of handling.

Screenwriting teachers always tell you that you can't anticipate your audience, and if you try you'll fail and wind up writing something nobody wants to see. Looks like they're right.

Morrison's complaints about Marvel in his Suicide Girls interview sound suspiciously like Devon Grayson's complaints about DC. If writers could get some more freedom to just write, fans might be able to unclench a little and just enjoy their stories. They obviously *want* to, but at this point I don't know if anybody actually can anymore.

Okay. That was rather civil, wasn't it? I have to go kick a cat now or something...

3/09/2005 01:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

If I ever tried to sit down and really understand the DC Universe under the concept of Hypertime, I'd probably split into red and blue versions of myself. But, as far as being able to create stories and enjoy them, it seems like a really useful "excuse." When I read comics, I'm interested in reading a good story. I'm not going to enjoy it more because it keeps in continuity with something that happened six years ago in a popular maxi-series. Unless it was something big. Like a dead character suddenly alive and no one acts any different. Then I'd want an explanation. And maybe that explanation would be hypertime.

3/09/2005 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger Chad said...

I dunno- Hypertime seems, to me, to be the equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons.

When I was an early teen it seemed natural that I would be a Dungeons and Dragons nerd. I liked that kind of stuff. SO when some friends organized a Dungeons and Dragons Club after school I joined.

And went to exactly one meeting. it was the dice. About twenty minutes in I realized that the dice were only there so that a bunch of teenagers could play at being warriors and sorcerers without feeling like they were childish. it was self-delusion taken to insane extremes.

Hypertime seems like that to me. It's a way for creators to explain ignoring stories they don't like in such a way that it appeases a societal norm.

Waid's Legion run is a perfect example. He used Hypertime so that he could claim that his version of the Legion isn't a retcon. It's Hypertime. And when the new legion starts interacting with the modern day DC Universe it will be more Hypertime. he does this to appease fans of the previous Legion.

It's a gimmick.

It's kinda silly.

3/09/2005 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Those of you thinking that fans blindly accept any sort of continuity should even just look at this thread here. People are already criticizing hypertime and continuity "gaffes." Try looking on any message board (better yet, save yourself the mindache and don't). It's about 60% continuity whining sometimes. Waid wrote one of the better Superman stories, finally cancelling out some of the crap from Man of Steel, and fans pitched a bitch. Morrison writes the funnest JLA ever and people whine about Batman's closet.

These writers are smart guys. They see what's going on. A lot of fans are so trained in continuity worship that it's hard for them to break out. Witness every time someone said, "I'm not interested in New Frontier. It's out of continuity."

Amazing.

3/09/2005 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger Tim O'Neil said...

Hypertime is a great idea but I don't think there's any profit in pretending its not basically just a riff on the same alternate timeline stuff that they have been doing in sci-fi/comics for almost a century. Pretending it's somehow different from Marvel's Multiverse or even Heinlein's conception of the multiverse in "Number of the Beast" and his later novels is silly.

If Mark Gruenwald were alive he could explain it all, dammit. It's just comics, how freakin' complicated do you need it to be?

3/09/2005 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of you guys are talking about the myth of hypertime, not the reality. If you go by the definitions fan sites and comics press came up with completely on their own, then yes, it's a crutch for writers, a sop for readers, and a mess for editors. It was never intended to be some magic doorway through with alternate versions of Batman could suddenly appear.

It was just a very simple concept--sort of an updating and re-imagining of the Earth Two idea on a much bigger scale. I think many would agree that the Earth Two idea led to a lot of much-beloved stories for a lot of people, and this would allow for a much, much wider canvas.

We haven't gotten to see hypertime blossom as a notion because of the poison reaction, not just from readers, but also columnists and even some creators. It's a shame. It was a pretty brave idea in an industry that sometimes has a paucity of those.

I don't think people have to have hypertime or an understanding of continuity to enjoy New Frontiers, certainly. But hypertime did away with the sweeping reductionism in thinking that Crisis was a part of. It said, "No, no, no, forget what we said before...those stories you loved did happen, and in continuity," which I think would have been wildly appealing to many a hard-core, long-time reader.

A simple example might be if a show you liked, one which was very continuity-laden (say, Star Trek, Twin Peaks, anything of that nature) came on one night and said, none of the stuff you've been watching for two years happened. Here's a new guy playing Picard, and Klingons are now CGI robots.

Some are going to love the new version, some won't, but it's just plain irritating to say the stories you followed and enjoyed never happened.

Particularly when hypertime allows for a DCU where somewhere, Captain Marvel fought the Monster Society of Evil, Superman fought nazis in WWII, Captain Carrot met the JLA, Superboy had adventures in Smallville, etc.

I LIKE that kind of shit. That's part of the joy of a shared universe for me, the insane stuff.

Hypertime was, actually, at its conception, designed by those two guys with specific cavaets so that it wouldn't end up being a mystery door into the unknown every week.

But I think they blew it by trying to 'tease' the news sites and reader press with the idea, so that people made up their own definitions.

Gail

3/09/2005 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pretending it's somehow different from Marvel's Multiverse is silly"

I don't think it IS silly, Tim.

The Marvel universe, for one thing, is effectively a good deal younger and many, many times more cohesive than the DCU. While Marvel had a retroactive Golden Age continuity fitted upon it, it was done in a relatively painless manner.

DC has always published in more genres, and paid much less attention in the earlier days to creating a single Earth from which the vast majority of the stories fit together.

Marvel didn't have the same kind of editorial fiefdoms DC had...one guy was involved directly in almost all their books during their formative years. Stan Lee at first, then the continuity-loving Roy Thomas.

Marvel had New York, DC had a dozen Earths, all with different versions of Batman. Plus, the elastic chronology of the characters is stretched twenty years thinner with DC.

DC also had long-running non-superhero series to fit in, which is much less of a factor at Marvel.

And finally, DC has purchased the rights to several other companies' characters, something Marvel really hasn't done. So in DC, they're inserting Plastic Man, the Charleton characters, and most hugely, the Marvel Family.

Finally, at DC, for many many years, continuity was simply only a concern (when it was a concern at all) within each particular editor's books. Marvel always had a sense that the shared reality was something of value.

Finally, the multi-verse? What real concepts of consequence in the MU really need to be explained or retro-fitted, other than chronological anomolies?

It's closer to say that it's like the meta-realities in some science fiction authors' works, I agree, but it's still a relatively new idea in comics.

Best,

Gail

3/09/2005 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

I agree with Gail on this totally. Hypertime COULD be one of the greatest things to hit the DCU if people would just LET it happen. All that destruction of ideas taking place in Crisis not only reversed, but taken to an even wider scope. DC has seemed neutered since the Crisis, and that's not something that should be.

In addition, Hypertime is so much wider. I remember reading an interview about how Hypertime included the DCU, the Marvel U, our own reality, the Invisibles world, etc. etc. etc. EVERYTHING is in Hypertime. Unlimited potential.

3/09/2005 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

I agree with Gail on this totally. Hypertime COULD be one of the greatest things to hit the DCU if people would just LET it happen. All that destruction of ideas taking place in Crisis not only reversed, but taken to an even wider scope. DC has seemed neutered since the Crisis, and that's not something that should be.

In addition, Hypertime is so much wider. I remember reading an interview about how Hypertime included the DCU, the Marvel U, our own reality, the Invisibles world, etc. etc. etc. EVERYTHING is in Hypertime. Unlimited potential.

3/09/2005 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hypertime… A concept without a vehicle.

That’s basically what it turned out to be, an excuse to explain minutiae to an audience who happens to think that Godliness is in the details. So yeah, trying to sell the concept (through news sites and message boards) without a product was probably not a good idea. And if the product was The Kingdom Mini-Series; well, there you have it. After all, any concept is only as good as its execution. If the execution was flawed or not embraced, chances are that the concept (or ideas associated with it) won’t be.

So that’s one strike against it.

The second strike was the Superboy Hypertime story line. Which I enjoyed, but also managed to murk the waters even more. For instance, there was a rock or an element (ala kryptonite) introduced, which could wipe out all alternate versions of any character killed by it… Oh! And you needed something like a Nuclear explosion to cross earths/timelines/whatever.

Here’s the thing though; they all were ignored when Waid did the Hypertime Flash storyline (you all remember the Flash with the Silver lightning bolt who didn’t need to be strapped to a nuclear bomb in order to get back home).

So basically, even the rules for using Hypertime, were "Hypertimed" away. Funny how that works.

Strike three is simple.

The creator of Hypertime, has never written a hypertime story. Nobody can execute a Grant Morrison idea like Grant Morrison. It wouldn’t surprise me if people (DC, other writers, editors) just got what they wanted to get from his notes (which in my mind was an “always get out of jail free card”).

This brings me to my issues with Hypertime. Which seems to me, like an excuse to NOT EXERCISE DUE CARE. That’s right. Apparently, comic book writing is the only profession in history, where a professional can ignore what has been done before them, or is currently being done by their peers; and still think they are in the right! Imagine a Lawyer that ignores case law. A doctor that doesn’t stay current… a reporter that forgot Bill Clinton is no longer President or that Ronald Reagan died last year. Still think the Hypertime excuse would fly anywhere else?

Well, what if I told you that the problem is not continuity, but consistency.

That’s what fans really care about. They are just not able to articulate it that well.

That and the fact that apparently, editors don’t know how to do their jobs. Editors should know at least as much as the fans, not less. Editors should be aware of what their shared characters are doing in other books, and not rely on Lying in the Gutters to let them know.

If Black Canary is being used in JSA and Green Arrow and JLA and JLA Classified and Identity Crisis, it is the Birds Of Prey Editor’s job to keep Simone appraised of what the others are doing with Black Canary!!!

So what happened? Was the editor too lazy? Did the other Editor’s feel that letting Simone know WOULD SPOIL the surprise?

Whatever.

Like I said, it seems to me that Editors are not doing their jobs. Take Identity Crisis for instance. Apparently the editor was incapable of seeing all the inconsistencies within that story. And DC still has its head stuck in the sand when it comes to IC. But apparently, the fans are the bad guys for noticing these things. Funny, how Editors don’t have to do their jobs, writer’s don’t have to research characters or write them with a “consistent voice”; and it is the comic book paying fans who are the bad guys.

You know, maybe we should revisit this topic after "Revenge of the Sith" comes out and everybody is pissed because Obi Wan Kenobi was revealed to be Luke’s real father and how it is inconsistent with the rest of the trilogy. Maybe the 3 guys who liked the film can have a ball explaining how “having Old Ben” betray Anakin, was a great way of pushing Darth Vader to the dark side and justifying his slaughter of all the Jedi. And how chapters 1-3 are one storyline, and were never meant to fit with chapters 4-6, or detract from your enjoyment of each set of trilogies. Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

The point I’m trying to make is… and let’s clear something up first, I don’t know what the Star Wars picture is about, or if what I said will in fact happen; but it’s a fear I have because…

We have made it acceptable for writers to ignore what they don’t like and cajole what they want, with the excuse that it’s all for the greater good of the story. When in fact, it’s all for the convenience of the writer.Somebody, wants Batman to act like a psycho… Fuck consistency, fuck character, Batman is a psycho, lets have him act like a psycho. Let’s ignore he is a detective and have him beat up (for information no less), the NEW and improved Killer “Pimp Daddy” Croc for five issues straight. How Croc is able to talk, let alone remember his name, is beyond any suspension of disbelief.

See my point?

It’s not that fans don’t like Hypertime; it’s that they don’t like what it represents.

They don't see it as the reintroduction of the Multiverse; they see it as Carte Blanche for less capable writers to continue screwing up the DC Universe.

The DC Universe was fine for 50 years. Then in the last 15 years, has flip-flopped more than a Washington Politician. And it’s not the fans who are to blame, it’s the powers that be for not knowing what they want.

They want a multiverse, they don’t want a multiverse.

They want a singleverse, they don’t want a singleverse.

They want a hyperverse, they don’t want a hyperverse.

For the love of Mike, pick one!

And it’s not like they haven’t had plenty of opportunities.

There was Zero Hour. Where Hal Jordan could’ve rebooted the entire Multiverse.
There was the Kindom. Where Gog could’ve collapsed the timeline.
Any number of Morrison JLA stories. Some JSA stories as well, etc. But the problem is that DC doesn’t know what it wants, and it’s gotten to the point where they don’t even care.

Legion doesn’t sell… ctrl-alt-del
Superman is in a rut… ctrl-alt-del
New writer on Shazam… ctrl-alt-del

What ever. It used to be that “origin stories” were a rarity, that you had to go all the way back to issue #1 to see them. Now-a-days origins get changed every other week, and more often than not, it seems the writers or the editorial heads are imposing changes for the sake of changing (or maybe selling, more comics). Then they bitch and complain when fans don’t take to their organic web shooters. Well, here’s something; if adding organic web shooters or making Bruce Wayne’s father a Crime Doctor, doesn’t enhance the character then it’s safe to assume that it is change for change’s sake. A gimmick played for shock value. Something that will always be there, tarnishing a character’s future legacy for no other reason than to sell a couple of spidey-clone comics now.

It’s obvious they should’ve thought of that before they raped and murdered Sue Dibny, or threw Jean Loring in an Assylum, or turned Hal Jordan into a homicidal maniac. See the difference? The DC Universe and the Comic Book Business used to be a place where things where calculated; and change was thought through and through. Now it seems, the inmates are running the Asylum and it’s all reboot this, retcon that, let’s throw this to the wall and see if it sticks or if not, we’ll ignore it, etc.

Fans see this, and they see Hypertime as the personification of this. And they see some authors very trigger happy about it. And it's like they are lacy and would rather hit the reboot button than gradually work, develop, evolve or promote change in the characters.

I apologize for the pot shots, but there’s stuff in the first Legion reboot that nobody ever got around to solving. Now the Legion got rebooted so that a new status quo could be set up.

Giffen did this with his 5 yr gap and it was more fun trying to figure out what had happened, than realizing somebody had just given up on the property.
The same is happening with Superman.

His origin, wasn’t broken; the problem was that apparently, writers out there can’t tell “modern day tales of the character and keep them fresh” without some sort of crutch. For Birthright, the author could’ve gone back to the Head-Band Era (shown in Byrne’s World of Krypton) and taken his villains from there. He could’ve shown them as Krypton’s first “time travelers” as opposed to their last survivors. Have Superman consciously turn vegetarian NOW, as opposed to retroactively, etc.

But because it was done the way it was done, it all reeks of narcissism. My origin is better than yours, forget what you think you thought, etc., etc.

Fans see this and cry continuity. Maybe because they don’t know what else to do.

But if you look closely, the cries have changed. They no longer go DC did this or Marvel did that; they go Bendis did this, Austen did that, etc. What that basically means is that the integrity of the series has been compromised. Batman didn’t turn psycho, some hack writer did it on their own.

Think about it.

Any decent writer can rewrite history, kill a loved character or show the future/death of the main character and still sell a lot of comics. After all, you are using tried and true ideas. But only the excellent ones can write a “current” modern tale, from scrap, without pissing on the works of others.

So why should people get vested in new continuities?

Because of the good writing? Well, there are other authors/companies out there who write well, and won't leave you high and dry.

Seems to me, comic books have squandered the benefit of having a loyal fan base. If this were another medium, comic books would've been "canceled" a long time ago.

So DC, Marvel, whomever; deal with the bitching and get your act together.

As for the Birds of Prey/Black Canary/Identity Crisis issue; it’s not a continuity problem. It’s more of a consistency problem. And inconsistencies are great opportunities for exploration. Maybe Black Canary’s views have changed in light of her own rape. Maybe she was hypocritical because she thought that backing her friends was/is more important than her personal feelings. Maybe she doesn’t feel strong enough about the issue to alienate her friends. Whatever. The real tragedy is not that Birds of Prey doesn’t mesh with IC; the tragedy lies in the fact that the opportunity for character development is there, and may or may not be taken advantage of.

3/09/2005 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Jeez ... For a second there, I thought this was going to turn into some DC versus Marvel bash. Marvel, to me, has the least continuity between the two. The Ultimate books, obviously, don't fall in with the original books ... and then there are books within books ... etc ...

I fall into the category of "who really cares?" Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but a story is a story. Sure, it would seem strange to have a Spider-Man arc where Uncle Ben helps him defeat the Nazis. But hey! Risks can be taken to make a good story, right?

3/09/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Fitzgerald said...

"This brings me to my issues with Hypertime. Which seems to me, like an excuse to NOT EXERCISE DUE CARE. That’s right. Apparently, comic book writing is the only profession in history, where a professional can ignore what has been done before them, or is currently being done by their peers; and still think they are in the right! Imagine a Lawyer that ignores case law. A doctor that doesn’t stay current… a reporter that forgot Bill Clinton is no longer President or that Ronald Reagan died last year. Still think the Hypertime excuse would fly anywhere else?"
I'm sorry, but this is an idiotic comparison. Law, medicine, and journalism are areas of indiputable FACT. Hypertime is a fictional construct for a fictional world.

3/09/2005 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

Didn't we talk about continuity before?

I think I said something along the lines of I don't care about whether everything holds true to something written thirty years ago, providing there is self-contained consistency in the story. Hypertime, I like as an idea, but I don't have that thing in me that Joe mentions, where "HOLY FUCK, NEW FRONTIER ISN'T DC CANON SO I WON'T READ IT EVEN THOUGH IT'S REALLY FUCKING PRETTY."

3/09/2005 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Gail--

Maybe the arguments I've made are similar to others re: hypertime. But I've never formed an opinion on it till now. I never read those interviews, and this post is the first time I've ever seen a definition of it (thanks, Bill!).

And I'm not saying it's a bad idea. I'm saying it's one that isn't *necessary* to "fix" the problems people have with the DC books. Which, in turn, means that blaming those continuing problems on the absence of hypertime is a mistake-- at worst it's a cop-out.

The fact that some people really have gotten so hung up on continuity that they won't even read NF is unfortunate, but that's a small minority, I'd wager. You can't make everybody happy.

But DC have (accidentally, I think) brought this problem on themselves. They (and Marvel) pushed inter-title continuity *over* story quality. For the last 20 or more years, superhero comics have been sold on the basis that they were all connected somehow, not that they were good. Yes, Marvel had that going for them from the start, but they weren't *chained* to it. Now they are. Now the fans are. This is a flatly ridiculous cycle that is going to eventually be broken. And you *don't* want the fans to break it.

New Unified Theories of the Fictional Universe may sound cool, but I swear I just can't see that they're particularly important.

Also, I really just can't fathom the mindset that gets insulted by Crisis. I'm sorry. I've been reading comics since before I could read, and I just can't relate.

3/09/2005 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tim O'Neil said...

Gail,

You misunderstood me completely. I wasn't saying that Marvel's multiverse and DC's multiverse were the same thing, merely that "hypertime" as an idea is basically just the same old multiverse idea that's been bandied aroudn since the dawn of sci-fi. Obviously the DC publishing entity has so many different textual inconsistencies that Marvel has never had to wrestle with... but essentially, the moment you say "more than one universe", it all boils down to the same thing, and pretending its some grand idea when it just seems like a new wrinkle on an old cloth. Hell, if Morrison's bits haven't been cribbed directly from Heilien's conception of a "pantheistic solipsism", I'll eat my hat ...

3/09/2005 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

"I'm sorry, but this is an idiotic comparison. Law, medicine, and journalism are areas of indiputable FACT. Hypertime is a fictional construct for a fictional world."

Check and mate.

3/09/2005 09:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody equated Hypertime to Law or Journalism. The illustration was made to show how comic book professionals "hack it", and disregard whatever they feel like disregarding, whenever they feel like disregarding it; while other professionals (from all walks of life) are held to at least some sort of standard. I don't think it's too much to ask that a professional comic book writer show some due care and actually do some fact checking.

If character X died a gruesome death on X-men #215, and the Author or Editor will not bother to check the status of the character before using it (in this day and age when a Fan Boy with information is just a key stroke away); well then, that's more than unprofessional, it's just... lazy.

I mean, an editor gets paid to read comics; how can they not realize that the issue right after Superman's Ending Battle or Morrison's X-men Run complitely contradicted what those issues had set up? Can't they even do that? Come on!

Anyway, a missed Journalistic or a legal Fact is not the same as a missed "fictional fact". That was not the point. The point is that even a comic book writer should still aspire to be the best comic book writer possible. That means showing at least some care, maybe even bothering to look some stuff up, or check up on previous works or character usage by other writers.

Then again, why care. After all, comic books are just stupid fictional stories made up by writers who can't write real books and don't really care past their 6 issue run.

They should be good... its a shame they aren't.

3/10/2005 01:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, this is a COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE mistake, but a mistake nonetheless...Black Canary was never raped. I'm assuming you mean in Longbow Hunters, where, I agree, it looked like she had been. But Mike Grell has repeatedly said that was not the case.

Best,

Gail

3/10/2005 03:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about you guys, but I think Anonymous is dreamy. He sounds like a cheerier, peppier Alex, except for the cheer and pep.

Okay, I don't believe I did misunderstand "Pretending it's somehow different from Marvel's Multiverse or even Heinlein's conception of the multiverse in "Number of the Beast" and his later novels is silly. " I think I addressed it to the best of my understanding. It seems a pretty clear statement, not hugely different from what you say in your second post. The effect may be similar, but the perceived need is quite a bit more extreme.

I'm not an expert on hypertime, myself, and so apparently stage a pretty poor defense of it, since most of the following comments are the same as the ones before. I'm not being facetious here, merely pointing out that no one seemed at all swayed, which leads me to believe that (like virtually any subject other than hairdressing) Grant would have explained it better. ;)

Over and over again, I see this same blind spot, a kind of tunnel vision, where Reader A states emphatically that what Reader B cares passionately about is completely unimportant. Fit virtually any reader in either slot, and somewhere, you'll find a blog where that statement is true.

To a large part of the audience, a shared universe, a common history, is a gargantuan part of the joy they get from reading comics. Bringing up projects outside of continuity isn't exactly an argument winner, because even a book like New Frontiers absolutely depends on already established relationships and hierarchies, even in altered form.

I don't think the answer is in either slavish devotion to continuity or complete disregard, but more in respect for past works, past creators, and for the audience, most of all.

Best wishes,

Gail

3/10/2005 03:05:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Whether there's some editor watching over him or not, a bad writer will write badly. Even if someone says, "Smelly Johnny died in issue 385," it's not going to be a good story. Bad writers write badly. That's kind of their thing.

Good writers, however, will probably write a good story regardless. So why not give them the freedom and the tools to write ANY sort of story they'd want, not limited to this staid post-Crisis status quo?

The assumption that a story that is consistent with everything else before it, even the crap, is somehow better or more worthy blows my mind. When a writer does something lame in a run, I prefer other writers just ignore it. Nobody pays attention to Spider-man Chapter One. And when everything IS taken as gospel that MUST BE EXPLAINED we get sad, awful comics like GL: Rebirth.

Or to put it another way. I go to a doctor. "You've got the black plague," he tells me. That sucks! I go to another doctor and he says, "Nope, it's allergies." That's not consistent with the first diagnosis, but in other fields when absolute crap is put before you, you are not expected to use it. You start over or ignore it and do your job well.

3/10/2005 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I've always thought that the "problem: with Hypertime is the way everyone assumed it would be used to handwave away costume errors and other minor foibles. Its real benefit, to me, was that it had the potential to broaden the scope of stories told in the DC universe -- so that a series like Robinson's STARMAN could be told in something resembling "real time" over the course of its run, be set firmly in the DC universe, and yet not have to worry about whether everyone else in DC's titles aged seven or eight years in the same period of publishing time...

3/10/2005 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad Curran said...

I'm not well versed in Hypertime, but anything that brings back that helps bring back Multiverse is fine with me. My main problem with the impact of the Crisis is that I think cramming the multitudes of the various DC alternate realities in to one timeline made the stories more complicated, not less.

3/10/2005 08:10:00 PM  
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