Friday, October 04, 2019



Isn't THAT an interesting and surprising bit of news?

In case you don't recognize it, that's the new comprehensive timeline of the DCU continuity as presented by DC at the New York City Comic-Con this morning.

I didn't see that coming; but not because I wasn't told. I mean, sure, DC has talked plenty about how Major Crossover Events X, Y,  and Z, will "all make sense in the end" and are part of "a coordinated plan to reorganize the DCU". It simply never occurred to me ... to BELIEVE them.

And why should it? After all, DC always says that.  They said that when they initiated the Silver Age. 

And when they shifted into the Bronze Age.

And after had the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

And Zero Hour.

And post-Flashpoint.

I'm sure I missed a couple but you get my point.

This time the approach seems more methodical; there's a color-coded grid even!  The problem with reboots, as a rule, as that they are more focused on what they are getting rid of than what they will replace it with.  At least today's announcement (and accompanying graphic) suggests that DC's thinking more seriously this time about how the new road behind leads to the new road ahead.

I hope this doesn't turn into an orgy of unorganized creative outpouring; remember Voodoo, OMAC, Earth-2 (*shudder*), The Ravagers, Talon, Team 7, Threshold, Stormwatch, Demon Knights, and Grifter? If not, well, good for you; I don't blame you.  Under Dan Didio they managed to screw up the Phantom Stranger. How do you screw up the Phantom Stranger?! 

Getting a new reboot is like getting a new puppy.  Everyone is so excited about seeing it do things in a cute way and for the first time, and it's so small and harmless and innocent.  But because it's so cute and its editors don't want to break its spirit (because it seems just so HAPPY running around!), they don't train it when they need to, to inculcate workable longtime behaviors, patterns, and expectations. One day all the readers in the neighborhood suddenly realize that you have a DOG that, through no fault of its own, is a large utterly out of control mess and they stay away from visiting your house.

"Let's name him 'Damian', cuz he's such a little devil!"

I'm grateful for DC's commitment to editorially reorganizing their continuity's past stories.  I'll be more grateful for their commitment to do so with their future ones.


John C said...

Honestly, I'll believe it when I see it. And sorry about what's probably going to be an extended rant.
Partly, that's because there's always some high-volume series that predates the grand, unified continuity with history and momentum, but doesn't quite fit the new vision. For Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was The New Teen Titans. I believe Batman, Incorporated was a later one.
Partly, that's also because what makes sense as the "one, true timeline" today isn't going to cut it three months from now, when some writer on a high-profile title wants to use a modified version of a character's origin to spur a story. Either DC becomes the company where the timeline rules the writers or it sets the precedent that got us Hawkworld, Emerald Dawn, and so forth, with different characters needing to be "first." One might argue that there's a third option of an editor working with a writer to rebuild the story in a way that makes sense and doesn't lose what makes it special, but I'd counter-argue that DC hasn't been in that business in decades...
But mostly, my disbelief is because these unified continuities always seem to exist for petty reasons, whether it's Marv Wolfman unable to envision a DCU that includes Hal Jordan and Binky (and His Buddies), Dan Jurgens (or Mark Waid) trying to quiet everybody down about bone-headed continuity glitches, Dan Didio convincing Geoff Johns to cast DC's critics as immature fanboys who destroy everything they touch, or just having a bunch of first issues to sell to naive collectors.
I mean, all that, plus that "corporation who cried wolf" angle, obviously.
The second one (the short-term utility of a timeline) is the one that really bothers me, I think, because it's hard to believe that Didio won't use his spreadsheet-ed vision of continuity to steamroll writers who have more interesting ideas. Because at the end of the day, "continuity" isn't a thing hanging from the wall that people gesticulate at. Continuity is the understanding that writers aren't arbitrarily forgetting about abilities or supporting characters or deaths because they're inconvenient to the story. It's the thing that makes you believe that the issue you're reading is about the same characters in last month's issue. No spreadsheet is going to solve that.

John C said...

I should follow my mess (above) up by saying that I'm not against the initiative at all, and realize that the work in building timelines is fun in and of itself. But I am resistant to believing that it'll do DC any good for very long, given their current leadership and the desperate need to bring in new readers.

Anonymous said...

When I was young I was really into continuity; in my dotage I have decided that continuity is a harsh and unrewarding crone to be wedded to. Far better to think of stories like Arthurian legends: many stories emerge over time, some are better-received than others, ignore the ones you don't like.

This is probably simplistic, but I feel the number one mistake DC makes is not putting writers in place who understand or respect their characters, which suggests that DC should review its editors. The number one sign I see of not respecting characters is when a writer is allowed to kill someone off: as a pretty solid rule, that indicates a writer and an editor who felt that a given character had exhausted their usefulness, and there was no better use for them than to blow them up. Nobody does that to their own favorite characters, but they're doing it to SOMEONE'S favorite characters.

At some level, I feel that the editor on, say, the Batman titles should have a feel for all the characters, and try not to wreck even Jason Todd or Stephanie Brown or whomever they don't particularly like. If nobody can figure out what to do with, say, Calvin Rose, send him off to college until someone knows what to do with him. That way, at a bare minimum, writers won't be making things worse. Note that this doesn't mean you can't experiment with new directions for characters, only that you do so with an eye towards making them work, as opposed to breaking them to see what happens. Dick Grayson agent of Spyral worked far better than I would have imagined; they took a chance, but one that cast Dick Grayson in a good light, and it paid off.

(About Calvin Rose a.k.a. Talon, I liked the character, but the comic was far too much about him grappling with the Court of Owls to the exclusion of all else. Put him on a motorcycle like 90s TV's "Renegade" while having to keep a low profile.)

(And about Wally West, give him a role that distinguishes him from Barry: let Wally be the hero of the American Southwest, where there is plenty of running room. Let Barry continue as the Flash of Central City, while Jay is the Flash of Keystone City, which -- if I had my druthers -- would be in Canada as a Detroit / Windsor thing. Not only does Jay look like a Mountie and carry himself like a stereotypical polite Canadian, Canada's got its running room too.)

Scipio said...

"the number one mistake DC makes is not putting writers in place who understand or respect their characters, which suggests that DC should review its editors. "

I agree. Too many writers trying to change the character rather than making them work in a story written for them.

Steve Mitchell said...

And just a few years ago, Didio and Lee were braying that "Canon trumps Continuity."

Bryan L said...

Eh. Like John C, I long ago gave up on continuity. Maybe it was easier to let go because of my exposure to the Haney-Verse long ago. But I quit trying to reconcile continuity several Crises ago. I just approach everything as unconnected.

I'm not averse to DC trying to clean things up, but I'm dubious about their chances for success.