Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday Comics: Timelines, Sliding and Otherwise

These panels are no longer in continuity. Best forget reading them!
The advance of years has led Marvel and DC to pull make changes to keep their characters young. In 1968, Marvel took the first steps toward what would come to be known as a "sliding time scale" where the amount of time from the beginning of the heroic age stays the same, even as more and more adventures get forced in, and the beginning of that age never gets any farther away from the present. This has been coupled with an increasing avoidance of specific references to current time or events--"topical references--though there are exceptions (like right after 9/11). DC does something similar now, too, but that wasn't always their approach. Earth-Two was invented as the home of their Golden Age heroes, so it was natural for it to also become the home of Golden Age versions of their never-launched characters like Batman and Superman. For a while, this allowed DC's characters to stay "topical" and tied to the real world, though they seldom took advantage of it.

Before "Marvel Time" completely took hold--throughout much of the 70s--Marvel characters stayed somewhat topical. This is best exemplified by Claremont's run on the X-Men. Magneto's past is tied to Auschwitz and the Holocaust. We are told Ororo "Storm" Munroe was born in 1951 and that was orphaned by the Suez Crisis. Jean Grey's tombstone gives the extent of her life as "1956-1980."

Did Professor X let a 13 year-old fight Sentinels?
This can't be the Jean Grey that first appeared (likely as a high school sophomore) in 1963, though. (In fact, it doesn't seem likely that it's the same Jean Grey in that talked about meeting the Sentinels in '1969' in X-Men #98--don't know what Claremont was doing there.) Like the Golden Age Superman slowing melding into the a Silver Age one, the Silver Age Jean Grey slowly became the Bronze Age one while nobody was really paying attention.

A lot of people might not agree, but I kind of wish the DC approach had been stuck with by both companies. Instead of squishing and distorting things to fit a sliding time with very little to link it to real history, why not just switch the particular version of the characters you're chronicling every decade or so? The Silver Age Reed and Ben that fought in World War II would eventually become the Bronze Age Ben and Reed that fought in Korea or Vietnam, and the Modern Age ones that weren't in any war, You can keep the things they wanted and reboot others for each era.


Dr. Theda said...

Few comic writers are concerned with "Continuity"...

bliss_infinte said...

Aaaaand this is why I don't read hero comics anymore. I think this all really began after Marvel was sold in 68 and the characters became more important as IP than as, well, characters. I also like to blame it on the birth of Franklin Richards and the slowing of time a powerful mutant and kinda bratty and selfish to try to keep things they way they are. Kill him off in some massive crossover event and problem solved. I'd like to see Reed explain that one away!