Thursday, May 19, 2005

Comic Dictionary - "Paternalistic Continuity"

Paternalistic continuity is what you call it when a writer/editor gets protective (or paternalistic) of the continuity of a particular character, and goes out of his/her way to control the history of said character.

The first notable example of this that I can think of is when John Byrne decided that Dr. Doom ("his" character, as Byrne was writing Fantastic Four at the time) was written poorly by Chris Claremont during an Uncanny X-Men appearance. So Byrne decided to show us all that that appearance was NOT "in continuity" by having the Doom from that X-Men story revealed to be a Doom-bot.

Walt Simonson picked up on this idea in his Fantastic Four run, and went even FURTHER. He established that MOST of Dr. Doom's appearances since Lee/Kirby were Doom-Bots. Simonson even had a detailed list of his own that listed what appearances were Doom and which were Doom-Bots.

Big-time paternalistic continuity there.

Another recent example was Jim Starlin in his Infinity Abyss mini-series, where he used an almost exact idea (instead of Doom-Bots, he used clones of Thanos) to explain away recent appearances of Thanos that he, Starlin, felt were out of character for Thanos (including the infamous Thanos/Ka-Zar fight). At least Starlin CREATED Thanos, so I guess paternalism is not that weird for him.

A final recent example is the X-Editors/Chris Claremont (one or the other) deciding that the Magneto in Grant Morrison's run was NOT the actual Magneto driven mad by Sublime, but a changeling.

Can anyone think of any other examples of paternalistic continuity?

17 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

I know Tony Isabella was pretty vocal a while back about recent appearances by Black Lightning, whom he created. I don't know how much he's done to fix what has been done, but I know he wasn't too happy with Judd Winick's portrayal of the hero in issues of Green Arrow. Here's a link that provides some background:

http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/features/107042750449064.htm

5/19/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

sorry about the craptastic posting of the url!

5/19/2005 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I don't think there's another option for posting urls in the comments section!

Which does stink.

And as for Isabella, that would totally be it if he wrote a Black Lightning story in the future that explains away the Winick stuff.

5/19/2005 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Well, in the case of Infinity Abyss, the joke is that Thanos' ego in creating his doubles has led to them making havoc all over the universe, so Starlin gets to cover his creation's ass and be ironic about it.

5/19/2005 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Loren said...

I think Simonson's trick falls just short of paternalistic continuity, since he left it so open as to just *which* old Doom adventures he was retconning. Each reader could take his own position (one could even claim that Doom was simply lying), and the authors of the original stories could believe whatever they wanted to about their own tales.

Now if Simonson had let that list slip into an issue, then you have a prime example. But his Doom-bot explanation strikes me as a good way to give everybody the Doom they want, not just the Doom he wants.

(Oh, and as for URLs, just use the html tags.)

5/19/2005 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Excellent point, Loren.

However, I believe Simonson DID have Doom specifically explain away certain stories with his reapparance, so it would fit in with the paternalistic continuity motif.

5/20/2005 03:16:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

I remember a moment in ROger Stern's Spider-Man run where he had SPider-Man beat up the Tarantula in a storyline that seemed to be primarily a vindication of all SPider-Man's previous fights against him. He beats down Tarantula in a few panels, while wondering aloud how a second-rate shlub like Tarantula could have ever given him a run for his money. Then he shoves him face first into a giant pile of rotting trash (no exaggeration!). Later on we see Tarantula nursing his wounds and whining about how much better Spider-Man is than him and how he's nowhere near his level.

This is quite different than the Tarantula written by his creator Gerry Conway, who used to embarass SPider-Man regularly in his appearances.

5/20/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Spencer Carnage said...

Yes! Nice post. I think that someone that comes in and goes out of his or her way to dispel previous continuity is a bad writer. Good writers know how to take said continuity and incorporate it or simply not mention it.

Chris Claremont's Excalibur I think was a good idea and would have been even more interesting if he had played up the fact that Magneto actually was involved with the Planet X story and now he was trying to atone for what he did. That and have someone else write it.

And that is why I'm looking forward to PAD's new spiderman series because of his approach to writing Peter. Doesn't matter that he's on the Avengers, Spiderman is still Spiderman. He's just hanging with some new people now.

5/20/2005 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Hisham Zubi said...

I recall that when Catwoman first got her own ongoing series, the writers (I assume Jo Duffy) explained away Selena's time as a prostitute in Batman: Year One.

Also, some years ago there was a dispute between Peter David and Erik Larsen over their portrayals of Doc Ock and Hulk. Larsen had written a story where Ock was powerful enough to take on the Hulk. David wrote a story where Hulk easily beat Ock and said he had been holding back.

5/20/2005 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger chasdom said...

Speaking of Roger Stern, there was the mini-series during the clone saga that allowed him to re-cast the identity of the Hobgoblin as he originally intended. Regardless of "original intent" or the quality of the "Ned Leeds as Hobgoblin" reveal, this retcon smacked of serious "I'm servicing me and my fans" pointlessness.

5/20/2005 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

While I think Magneto should be dead and buried, his status as big-time super-villain ensures that can never be the case. I hate the idea that he was not the "real" Magneto in New X-Men, but, really, how his head was chopped off. No super-powers malarky's gonna solve that. I just look at the current Magneto as a clone or something.

A creator looking after "his" character, I understand, but paternalistic stories are so insular and unnecessary. Really, is it so hard to disregard crappy stories? Just ignore them? I can't understand the continuity obsessed mentality ("..but that clearly contradicts issue #345! It's an error!"). None of this crap is "real" or "true;" it's just stories.

I understand how annoying it is when favorite characters are mishandled. It would be nice if a writer or artist retcons away the damage Chuck Austen did to Nightcrawler in Uncanny X-Men (hopefully, not Claremont). If that never happens, though, no big deal. There's always next issue, next writer...

5/20/2005 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"I recall that when Catwoman first got her own ongoing series, the writers (I assume Jo Duffy) explained away Selena's time as a prostitute in Batman: Year One."

But for that to fit, the writer (I believe it was Dixon, to be honest) would have to have some sort of previous connection to Catwoman, so as to feel a "paternal" bond to the character.

"Also, some years ago there was a dispute between Peter David and Erik Larsen over their portrayals of Doc Ock and Hulk. Larsen had written a story where Ock was powerful enough to take on the Hulk. David wrote a story where Hulk easily beat Ock and said he had been holding back."

For instance, THIS is a PERFECT example of paternalistic continuity.

This is basically the same exact thing as the Byrne Doom-Bot thing.

5/20/2005 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"
This is quite different than the Tarantula written by his creator Gerry Conway, who used to embarass SPider-Man regularly in his appearances."

Sound about right, T.

Stern also turned Tarantula into an actual tarantula and then killed him off, right?

No love for the Tarantula...hehe.

In fact...HAHAHHA...I just remembered, do you remember Tarantula II at all?

Tarantula II was basically Tarantula I, only with a different name.

And guess who introduced him into Marvel continuity?

You guessed it - Gerry Conway!!

Hahahahahah.

5/20/2005 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Speaking of Roger Stern, there was the mini-series during the clone saga that allowed him to re-cast the identity of the Hobgoblin as he originally intended. Regardless of "original intent" or the quality of the "Ned Leeds as Hobgoblin" reveal, this retcon smacked of serious "I'm servicing me and my fans" pointlessness."

Now that you mention it, chasdom, when you think about it - Byrne, Simonson, Stern, Claremont...what they were all pretty close back in the old days.

So I guess they all have pretty similar views about stuff.

Heck, you can add Simonson's wife to the list (as she was Claremont's editor), as she had her own "Maternal" continuity moment in the Power Pack Holiday Special where she came in and dismissed the last couple of years of the Power Pack series.

5/20/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"I understand how annoying it is when favorite characters are mishandled. It would be nice if a writer or artist retcons away the damage Chuck Austen did to Nightcrawler in Uncanny X-Men (hopefully, not Claremont). If that never happens, though, no big deal."

Well, Mike, in the writers' defense, I think they probably feel the same way about the characters as you do.

They get annoyed when they see a character that they like being written poorly.

And they have the power to fix it, ya know?

5/20/2005 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"Tarantula II was basically Tarantula I, only with a different name.

And guess who introduced him into Marvel continuity?

You guessed it - Gerry Conway!!"

Totally remember Tarantula II! Conway even gave him two henchmen with the EXACT SAME NAMES as Tarantula I's two henchmen. Equally sucky as the original.

I just love how non-PC a character he was. Spoke in broken english and spanish, had boots with pointy metal tips, wore a doo-rag and was a criminal. It was enough to make Judd Winick cry!

I always thought it'd be funny if ROger Stern, either in his 90s Hobgoblin or Green Goblin minis, put a totally irrelevant, unrelated subplot dedicated to embarassing Tarantula II too, turning him into a giant Tarantula and killing him. A scene where he got shoved headfirst into garbage with only his legs sticking out would've been nice too.

5/20/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hfuhruhurr said...

The one that leaps to mind for me was Stan Lee's "dibs" on the Silver Surfer for so many years. I think it actually hurt the Surfer in the long run because he was a very popular character back in the day, but outside of an occasional appearance in FF and after the demise of his solo series, he was never around.

As I recall, this was the reason that he was such a tangential member of the Defenders. The original premise for the Defenders was, I think, in an Incredible Hulk story where he, Surf and Namor were the "Titanic Three (a bad name if there ever was one)." But Doc Strange was called upon to replace Surfer because of Stan's preference that he handle the Surf.

5/25/2005 12:41:00 PM  

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