Friday, December 19, 2008

How indeed?

Panel from Spider-Man #57, "Aftershocks, part one" Written by Howard Mackie, guest pencils by John Romita Jr, guest inks by Joe Rubinstein. I think during this period of clone-era Spidey, the inks were a lot heavier than usual--didn't Sienkiewicz do some inking here then? I know he did on the Batman books around the same time...

This panel, though, made me think about continuity at Marvel, versus DC. Now, with DC's barrage of retcons and Crisis's and Superboy-punches, it's pretty obvious DC does things differently: usually, they will tear the whole thing down, and start from scratch, like the Superman and Wonder Woman books in the 80's. And occasionally, things are surgically removed, like Superman's killing the Phantom Zone criminals, the old Creeper's origin, or Donna Troy's multiple origins.

But Marvel, well, Marvel tends to just build over the top of old continuity. Maybe it doesn't always line up exactly, but if you keep building, eventually you cover up all the old stuff. Now, Marvel (and it's readers) probably aren't chomping at the bit for a return to this issue's history, with the Scarlet Spider, Kaine, and another amnesiac Peter Parker wandering around. But, they could. It's still there, even if it's ignored. Grant Morrison was trying something similar in Batman, but the old stories he invoked were beyond me, further back than I had ever read.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about, done pretty well: From Iron Man #39, (third series), "Remote Control, part 3" Written by Frank Tieri, pencils by Alitha Martinez and Paul Ryan, inks by Mark Pennington and Rodney Ramos. We mentioned before that whenever an old friend is introduced in a comic, he turns out to be the villain, but this time Tieri teases it out. Whenever evidence points to Tony's childhood friend Tiberius Stone being the bad guy, Tiberius has a perfectly reasonable explanation: "Gee, Tony, I'm sorry my news channel put out an embarrassing story about you, but I don't produce or watch that nonsense. Oh, I'm sorry my bodyguard attacked you, Tony, but he was just trying to protect me. Gosh, Tony, I'm sorry I slept with your girlfriend, but she didn't mention dating you at all, she must really be mad..." (Long-suffering, and eventually murdered, girlfriend Rumiko, is passed like the mike here, just for a plot point.)

See, everyone goes for the alcoholism first, but Tony's got way more embarrassing secrets then that. An earlier issue's news expose postulated that the "Teenage Tony" that was Iron Man after the original was corrupted by Kang during "The Crossing," was really Tony's love child, and I think Tony just let that one go. Easier that way.

The point is, all this continuity doesn't have to be in every issue of every comic ever, but it can be fun when it does show up. Everything here is footnoted, which is seemingly passe now, but might point readers to old stories they may also enjoy, and is that such a bad thing? If a reader is sufficiently interested to look into a back issue or a reprint, after all, isn't it pretty likely he's going to keep reading?

Anyway, this stretch of Iron Man did some things right, like a high-society party featuring noted Marvel universe upper crust like the Kingpin, Sebastian Shaw, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (Jan was the rich one!), Warren Worthington III (the X-Men's Angel), and everyone's favorite back-from-the-dead nutjob Norman Osborn. Still, some things were pretty far wrong: a virtual-reality bit that would've been dated before the Matrix, Iron Man still using the dated 70's armor, Iron Man putting a teleporter (!) in said armor. Hit and miss, then, but not without it's moments.


glmmrtwn said...

Totally with you regarding the footnotes. I never understood how they became passe. It was a nice way of referring to past issues and often lead me to want to go find them at my LCS. Books today like Final Crisis would be more understandable if got back to using footnotes.

Ace said...

I can't understand Final Crisis, and I'm pretty up on my continuity...

I miss footnotes though... And characters mentioning continuity past the last "big event"... In fact, isn't Hercules the only one who's acknowledged the World War Hulk thing, since it happened?

I agree about clone-era inks being thicker. Even on that Ben Reilly-focused mini-series that JRJR did was inked thickly.