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Oneminutemonkey said on October 9th, 2010 at 6:38 pm

There’s actually another aspect of the shifting timelines that fascinates me even more, and that’s when you have characters specifically tied to one time period, and you have the modern-day characters, and then you have everything in between.

Example A) DC’s Justice Society and All-Star Squadron are irevocably tied to World War 2. The modern generation is, for the sake of sanity, tied to a rolling 10-15 year period (depending on who you ask), so even the forerunners like Batman and Superman have only been active for so long.

Example B) Over at Marvel, you again have the Invaders, Captain America,, Sub-Mariner, etc, tied to their participation in WW2. The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, the trainblazers for Marvel’s modern era, have also been operating for about 10-15 years.

Originally, you only had to account for a 15-20 period without heroes, but now we’re asking “what happened between the ’50s and the ’90s” and that’s a lot of unexplored territory. And that’s why I loved the concept of Marvel’s Lost Generation, and DC’s Justice Experience, forgotten heroes and lesser-knowns who populated the increasingly empty space between heroic periods.

While the idea of legacy characters is fascinating, and even desirable just to provide either the reality or the illusion of change, I’d like to see more of these legacy inserts, the generations that popped up in the intervening years. There’s room for good stories.

Of course, comic book time is just a horrible mess, and thinking about it leads to madness, confusion, and nerd rage. More than anything, it requires selection suspension of disbelief, to allow for uneven character aging, sliding timeframes, packing too many events into a short time span, and so forth. I guess it’s just a consequence of enjoying the medium.

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Several Image titles (Savage Dragon and Invincible for example) have settings that age. And I have to say it makes for better stories then ones where the kid is always the kid. Unless they get aged by weird science or magic or some other premise…

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OK, but why does it make for better stories? What does it bring to the table?

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The way I see it, asking for real-time aging is a sort of intellectual shorthand for “I want stuff to matter!” Ask a dozen hard-core comics fans their primary gripe with comics, and I’d give better than even odds that constant returns to the status quo will feature highly in your list of answers. Make no mistake, all of us are hardcore fans—we talk about comics with strangers on the internet. The writing’s on the wall. I point this out not to self-denigrate, but to point out the fact that what we care about probably diverges pretty heavily from what other folks who just happen to like comics care about.

Back to the original point: hard-core comics fans read A LOT of comics. And like all good humans, we’ve got 10,000 years of evolution teaching our brains to pick up patterns. Deaths and resurrections, universe shaking crises, all of them end with everything back to more or less “normal.” And that’s problematic—we spend so much time on a hobby and, in exchange for all those hours, we don’t get to GO anywhere.

So have the characters age. It seems like an easy answer: after all, if your 20’s are only a decade long, you can only pack so many adventures in there. It FORCES characters to change. Problem is, aging is a BORING way to change. Everyone does it. Which means that (almost) every hero is going to have to deal with that same old story of “oh, my aching back, I can’t do what I used to 10 years ago.” And after a while, the same fans who wanted change will say “I’m tired of old Spider-man with his bum knee. Let’s get back to what’s really fun—Spidey punching bad guys.”

There’s another thing about having characters age that bugs me: it presupposes some external timeline that all the books hang off of. It forces books to obey an external editorial mandate. And we all know how editorial mandates are the fertilizer that makes good stories into great ones…(pause for sarcasm).

So I guess this is an excessively long-winded way of saying that “real-time aging” is a false solution. All your points are right, John, but the reason it pops up so often is that it’s a subset of a desire for “real change” and “stories that matter.” It’s why Blackest Night sold a million times better than, say, Blue Beetle, when, at least to me, the latter is the INFINITELY better story. Blue Beetle doesn’t “matter,” so why spend the time or money on his books?

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Addendum to previous: what’s to stop someone from writing a possible future book in which Headmaster Scott and his X-men team up with Franklin Richards, leader of the Fantastic Fourteen? Answer? It’s not “in-continuity” so it “doesn’t matter.” But hey, I’d read the hell out of that if it were written well.

And I’m done.

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malakim2099 said on October 9th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Woo! I got an original mention in a post! 😉

Ahem, anyway. The reason that I feel that characters should age, is that frequently the comics will throw in RL events/characters (Marvel is notorious for this, DC a bit less so). Marvel’s fascination with the Presidents is a prime example. When Kitty was 14, Jimmy Carter was president. So now she’s… 22-25(?), and Obama is president.

God, I wish I aged that well. 😉

A 4 RL years : 1 comic year is a bit much. And that’s a character that HAS matured at a fairly rapid (for comics) pace. Franklin hasn’t aged much at all either. Most characters don’t age at all, once they hit their mid-twenties. Some of them make sense, of course, but a lot of these characters should age and mature, jokes about Booster’s receding hairline aside.

And as the characters age and mature and develop, I think that would engage the readers more*, just because you would see this characters growing up and taking a place in the greater universe. It doesn’t have to be a pure 1:1 ratio, because of tie-ins, multi-issue stories, etc.

* Assuming, of course, the Big Two could get their act together and make a commitment to that kind of story. Considering drek like One More Day and Brightest Day, I kinda doubt that they have any desire to mature their characters or introduce new ideas. I believe people would get more of an attachment if they saw characters change and evolve, as opposed to just being static throughout the decades.

Maybe it’s just me. But I think it’d be a fun experiment. And the fact that Spider-Girl keeps clawing back from cancellation means there must be some merit to the thought.

Oh, and Brian, re: your Addendum? This is why I really enjoyed the Marvel comics with Spider-Girl, Avengers Next, American Dream, etc.

Anyway, rambling rant off. But that’s my general mindset about it.

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Hey, timelines in general make better stories, because they hold up to viewer scrutiny and don’t distract with contradictions.

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Tom Galloway said on October 9th, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Actually, Marvel’s got a problem right now from the combo of locked (WWII) and rolling time periods. Namely, the resurrection of Toro, who casually mentions in the recent Invaders #1 that he’s not visited his wife from when he was last alive, as she’s moved on and has a couple of kids.

Well, let’s see. Toro is locked into being a teenager in 1940. Let’s be generous, since he was powered, and say he was 14 then. So, if he’d never died, he’d be 84 now.

The catch is, he died during the rolling timeline, with too many characters involved to easily retcon; you have to have a non-amnesiac Sub-Mariner, a Mad Thinker who’s fought the FF, etc. The story occurred in Sub-Mariner #14, with a cover date of July 1969. So, say about 1/6th of the way into the current, 12 year, rolling timeline, or about ten years ago.

So Toro would now have died at age 74, in the year 2000. He shouldn’t be feeling that much out of time. One can perhaps retcon his mutant status into including, for some reason, an extended lifespan/prime adulthood, so perhaps he appeared to still be in his 40s or 50s and had married someone in her 30s rather than, well, anyone within 30 years of him who’d be unlikely to have both remarried and had two kids in the last 10 years.

Same thing at DC with some JSA legacies. Even if you assume the JSA got increased vitality at various points, their, for the most part, wives usually didn’t, and it’s increasingly unlikely a child would be born to a woman who was an adult in WWII and not be over 40.

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shadeedge said on October 9th, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I wouldn’t want real-time aging, though i’m less bothered by the sort of “as-necessary” aging that goes on. Only because, by now, we’re used to the Big Two (among others) not following a lot of general conventions. Aging goes along with more permanent death and other “realistics” issues that are generally ignored. If you bring back one, people (well, me) are going to start asking about the other ones.

And it’s a weird situation to have something in between – in essence the current situation is a mixture of realism and fantasy, but there’s a set of comic-book genre conventions that are generally accepted. If you change a standard, it starts drawing attention to all the other weird things about such fictional universes.

Probably most importantly you have history. It doesn’t matter if that history has mistakes in it, if you throw a lot of it out through compression or expansion retcons, people will be annoyed. I think with comics that do have a long history you shouldn’t ever really make major back-history changes, even if there has been some glaring error, because the good is too tied up with the bad.

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bluetara2020 said on October 9th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

One of the reasons I read legacy comics is that the characters that I’m familiar with, that I love and enjoy and occasionally hope are doing alright, the iconic everybody knows who they are and can state facts about their lives even if they don’t follow comics at all (and I will admit that I am more of a casual reader…because I could never afford to be otherwise), aren’t there.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the hell out of the originals, it just means that, to me, these characters have moved on.

It means that somewhere down the line they had a life outside of being a superhero. That they were Diana instead of Wonder Woman. Scott instead of Cyclopes.

And, in the life they forged for themselves they left something behind. A (I know, I know, sorry!) legacy.

The legacy characters are different but they represent something that is very important: these characters are, often, proteges of the original. Something in them said to the person who taught them ‘I am what you hoped for. I am the next generation, ready not to replace you but to build on what you have built. I am your hope, come to life, to continue your work.’ When looked at in that light, it is interesting to see what the iconic characters thought was necessary to carry on the tradition.

It also adds to the fact that these iconic characters are mortal and finite (except for the ones that aren’t of course). It makes them more approachable. I may not be a (fill in Superhero here) but we have that much in common. Which is morbid, certainly, but has an element of truth.

A third reason is that it allows a writer/artist to play in the sandbox without upsetting the castle. In the future you can do anything. You can say that 15 years before there was an unprecedented time of peace and that the superheros more or less retired because there wasn’t work to do but a small holdout kept training proteges in secret for the time in which heroes would be needed again. The heroes that were no longer have quite the place. But they passed down the moves and the uniforms and the identity…and whoever picked it up isn’t the same. So you can play with idea after idea, from physical to personality. And some of those ideas will work and some won’t. But because you’re not working with your best seller/iconic character you’re not creating a brouhaha about it either.

Just a few thoughts that have been rattling in my head.

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My problem with “rolling timelines” is they add to the problem of death not mattering. Superman dies, Batman dies, Supergirl dies, Gwen Stacy dies, Mocking Bird (marvel) dies, Hawkeye dies, etc. etc. and you KNOW they eventually will come back.

Aside from “not really back” adventures, the only ones that STAY dead are Uncle Ben, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Jor-El and Laura. Of course, those aren’t actual CHARACTERS, just mpetus.

I think that if you’re going to have a single-line of stories (only Spiderman exists in this world) you can do the rolling time-frame. Otherwise you have to have strict editorial mandates on everything to avoid stepping on yourself enough that you’ve got some characters getting older and younger those around them.

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Makeshift_Robot said on October 9th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

The status quo is there so writers can keep writing the stories they want to write, with the characters they want to use. If there are a thousand great young-Spider-man stories, why have an editorial mandate that changes the character before we can tell all of them?

The shared-universe and continuity-obsession stuff is easily the most frustrating, tired part of comics fandom. Enjoy stories for what they are, not because they carry weight. Most of my favorite superhero stories didn’t do anything to the state of the world — they were just really good stories, well told and well drawn. Why handicap a potential story with an editorial mandate?

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You don’t actually NEED Spider-Man to tell a great “young Spider-Man” story. You just need a teen-ager with a similar back-story…

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Makeshift_Robot said on October 9th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

So why would you make up another one, when there was a perfectly good character with plenty of fan attachment and a well-defined personality sitting there?

Also dogg an important lesson: there is a hyphen in Spider-man, but there isn’t one in teenager.

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Why should they age? Simple, really – because there’s too much going on around them. There have been so many major changes to, for example, the Marvel Universe in the past five years (Registration Act, Cap’s Death, Hulk’s attack, Skrull Invasion, Osborn in charge of world security, war with Asgard, Cap’s return, etc). And yet, in all that time, Valeria Richards has remained two years old. That’s IMPOSSIBLE. There’s no way all that stuff could have happened in less than a year, and so it breaks the suspension of disbelief – and in a world with physical gods wandering around hitting aliens with magic hammers, suspension of disbelief is pretty damned important.

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Candlejack said on October 9th, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I don’t think, at this point, that real-time, or even rational time progression, could be imposed on the big companies. But I’d still like to see it, if a new company started telling new stories. Because, look: you find it ridiculous that so much happened in a single year of the Marvel universe. But if nobody ages at all, then everything that happens (including several annual holiday celebrations) by necessity must happen within a single year.

That’s if you want a continuity, anyway, and I do. The books don’t have to be convoluted or soap-operaish, and not every book should even contain something that matters in the grand scheme of things. But, yeah, I like the illusion of progression that continuity gives.

(After that busy year you note, there was something like seven years that went by in real time, or even slightly faster, if we’re going to use Kitty Pryde as the clock. She was fucking Pete Wisdom by the time I knocked off reading Excalibur shortly after #100, and the response to fan shock was that Warren Ellis believed her to be in her early twenties. And that’s another reason why I favor rational [not real-time] age progression. It prevents pedophilia.)

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Candlejack said on October 9th, 2010 at 11:06 pm

(Or, er, what BringTheNoise said. Damn slow typing.)

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If you think character aging in comics is complicated, don’t even try to wrap your brain around character aging in daytime TV soap operas. The logistics are arcane in the extreme, and lead to situations that would be decidedly creepy if you looked at them too closely.

Structurally speaking, the issue of character age in comics universes arises because there’s a fundamental conflict of scope involved. As long as a given comic title or strip exists in isolation from outside influence (say, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts), it’s easy to maintain the premise that Charlie Brown is and will always be in grade school. The strips and the stories are self-contained, and while they may refer to real-world events (as when Snoopy went to the moon, for instance), they nonetheless remain essentially timeless.

But today’s comics are trying to tell at least two kinds of stories at once: stories about individual characters (in each character’s own title) and stories about real and imagined world-changing events (the Secret Wars; Crisis on Infinite Earths and its successors). And the time conventions that work for self-contained serials simply aren’t compatible with the time conventions one needs in order to do event/crossover epics.

(Nor does it help that where classic-era pulp serial readers were content with purely self-contained action yarns — one could mostly read serialized novels about the Shadow or Doc Savage or Zorro in any order one liked — modern readers want to see enough character dimension and growth so that this year’s Batman is noticeably affected by last year’s adventures.)

Which is to say, there is no satisfactory answer, because there’s ultimately no way to fully reconcile the story-forms while maintaining overall continuity. Which is why one of the integral functions of event/crossover epics is, inevitably, to impose a degree of artificial order on the evolving chaos….

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another aspect of the legacy appeal that makes sense to me is an extension of why sidekicks exist at all.

The idea of the kid sidekick was added to give readers a projection character. someone like them in the story they could relate to. now, as the average age of comics readers creeps over 35, fans want those characters to still be relate-able.

Speedy/Arsenal is actually a great example. He got older, had problems with drugs, as do many kids who grow up rich, but eventually got clean and managed to create an identity that was him, yet acknowledged where he came from. Then he had a kid and was becoming a family man. Then they fucked it up, but that’s DC for you.

That’s a character that modern comics fans can relate to.

Before “One more day”, Spiderman was moving that way, too. He was coming into his own as a man, career-wise, and taking his place among his peers in the Avengers. Street level powers or not, Spidey is one of the more experienced and intelligent of the marvel heroes. He was a good fit on the new avengers roster.

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The ageing thing is one of the reasons I really don’t read Marvel/DC super-hero comics any more. The discrepancy between some characters ageing (the kids and teens, even slowly) and others not ) particularly with Batman who has watched two Robins grow up, and the JSA and their kids who make no chronological sense at all), the fiction just starts to shift and groan.

Add to that the constant death, resurrection and retcons, and the stories as a greater whole just seem to fall apart. Comics rely on us buying into the world, accepting it as “real” while we are reading, but more and more, these comics just became lines on a page to me.

In general, for Marvel and DC, I would either like to see realistic ageing and staying dead dying, or no ageing and “We can’t find the Evil Baddie’s body” death. But not both together at the same time.

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I think the real problem here is the shared universe.

See you can’t really take a side on the “should they age or shouldn’t they” thing because that’s missing the point. The real question is “which characters should age and which shouldn’t?”

Spider-Man is a series about growing up no matter how much the leadership at Marvel wants to claim otherwise. He should age…but he shouldn’t age in real time for obvious reasons.

The hook with the Power Pack series is that it is about a bunch of superpowered KIDS. They can’t be allowed to age because then they’ll eventually lose what makes them special compared to all the other superhero families out there.

That’s where the shared universe problem comes into play. Spider-Man and Power Pack can’t co-exist in the same universe without eventually ruining at least one of the franchises. Naturally Marvel opted to ruin both by undoing decades of Spidey’s character growth and turning the Pack kids into troubled teens.

Then there are the series that try to have it both ways. I just read some complaints in another forum about Marvel de-aging Jubilee (again). It seems every generation gets their own team of X-Teens but the previous group isn’t allowed to age unless it allows a writer to dodge statutory rape claims about an inappropriate couple they set up. Then when that blows over they de-age the characters. I currently have no idea how old Kitty Pryde is because Marvel can’t seem to make up its mind.

And lets not even get into the old joke about how Dick Grayson will be older than Bruce Wayne one of these days.

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Aging is one of the dumbest and most self-defeating elements ever introduced into Big Two comics.

Comics have a tiny handful of advantages when competing with other media for the time and money of the consumer. One of them is that nothing ever really has to change. On TV and in the movies, actors get older. The 25 year old that was cast to play a High Schooler suddenly looks 30, because he is. That forces progression.

That is not true with comics. Kitty Pryde can be a High Schooler for seventy years. Nothing is forcing that progression.

It is hard to ascribe causation, but it is worth noting that characters began aging at roughly the moment that comics changed from a mass medium into a hobby. Fans that came of age with Dick Grayson as a peer demanded that he grow up with them. It changed the dynamics between the characters in ways that the casual reader would find confusing and alienating.

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@malakim2099: So what you’re saying is that the fact that Spider-Girl is constantly on the verge of cancellation is actually a sign of the popularity of legacy titles? :)

@BringtheNoise: Why do you think it’s impossible that everything from Civil War to Siege happened in less than a year? WWH took probably less than 72 hours from beginning to end, ditto with Siege; not sure how long the Skrull war took, but it couldn’t have been more than a week. Even if Civil War took two months, and allowing for a month or two between each event, that’s still easily a six-month time frame. And realistically speaking, that might explain the shell-shocked populace handing over power to a nut like Osborn–after a few months like that, you’d panic too. :)

That’s actually part of my point: “Eventful” should not be confused with “long”. Especially with decompression these days, a month of comics time can be as little as an hour of real time, and while yes, that does create problems in trying to tie it to a real-world timeline, which is honestly sillier? Having a character live through several Presidential administrations, or reading about the adventures of the grandson of your favorite character? :)

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One of the arguments against a progressing timeline that I’m feeling here is the inability to tell stories about, for example, Young Spider-man while the current era has moved forward to Spider-man Is Married To MJ.

But there’s nothing preventing the existence of a parallel line of comics, a “Tales of… Spider-man!” kind of line not unlike [what I imagine to be] All-Star Superman. Though they’d be ‘non-canonical’ in terms of the timeline, perhaps it’s defeating the point.

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I’m 40. I’ve got nothing in common with a 25 year old with superpowers who fights crime.

A late 30’s guy with superpowers who fights crime… now were talking!

I want Superman to have a kid, I want Hal Jordan to have gray hair, and most of all I want Batman to get killed because he’s old and all that jumping around is hard on the knees and he’s bound to screw up at the wrong moment eventually.

Launch new titles with younger versions of the characters, so they can tell stories with the younger characters, but move the characters along so that different stories can be told.

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Aging only matters if you think too hard about this stuff. sure, it can be fun untying continuity kinks, but unless you’re Mark Gruenwald reincarnated you won’t succeed in having it all make sense. But why should you; as long as the stories themselves make sense and are enjoyable, what else matters?

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I’ll join the “because stories/universes that hit the big red reset button” don’t tend to interest me over the medium term. I can happily watch an episode or two (or read an issue or six), but after a while I want character progression and change.

This is a grown-up thing. Kids don’t need this so much, because kids are interested in the “here’s a cool story about when the x-men met a mutant shark” without caring about the soap-opera elements so much. Adults care more about the changes that happen over time, and character growth. Again, not exclusively, but it matters more than it used to.

Babylon 5 broke TNG for me. Because suddenly I had a series that didn’t just tell me a cool story of the week, but told me a story where people changed, and grew, and dealt with ongoing situations, and people referred to last week’s episode, rather than ignoring the fact that this week’s problem could be easily solved by the tech that they used to solve the week before last’s.

Comics in stasis very much feel that way to me. It’s great for writers that want to tell a story about version X of that character. And I think it’s awesome that (for instance) Grant Morrison can write All-Star Superman. But if I was to be reading something regularly nowadays it would have continuity that mattered. And, indeed, the main thing I pick up issues of works like that – which is Powers. The last comic I bought in issue format, before I switched to trades was Lucifer, which was basically a single 75-issue story.

I prefer the way that DC handles this to the way that Marvel does. DC has a meta-storyline, which includes reboots, so that they can say “Yes, there was a version of Superman who did these things, but that was before Zero Hour/Crisis On Infinite Earths/Infinite Crisis. Now there is a new Superman with a different backstory, that allows us to tell different stories.” Marvel just puts its fingers in its ears and pretends the issue isn’t happening.

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There may be a million teenage Spider-Man stories to be told, but why should those be the only ones that get to be told? As the comic reading population ages, it’s getting like all the characters they identify with are getting left behind.

And sure, I’d love for there to be more younger people coming in and picking up comics, but when the whole industry is geared to the obsessive fanboy market I find it strange that there’s this one little holdout that’s somehow a step too far.

And also, I really wanted to like Spider-Girl and all the legacy stuff in the M2 universe. Sadly, I couldn’t stand Tom De Falco’s writing, and I feel this unfairly marred a good concept. Marvel: The (Get) Lost Generation was also terrible, but I still like the idea of doing period stories about what happened in the gap between the forties and whenever the hell the current period started.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like the big two are voluntarily limiting themselves in the kinds of stories they can tell. I realise that there’s not enough interest in pretty much anything outside the core titles to float ongoing series of this nature at this time, but what’s to stop them doing the odd mini-series or Elseworlds title, or even running the odd story within the main title, like the recent ‘Old Man Logan’ thing in Wolverine, or like they did with the “Super-Sons” in the 1970’s?

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Tales to Enrage said on October 10th, 2010 at 8:49 am

I don’t see much point to it, myself.

The things we enjoy as kids change as we grow up, yes. But let’s think about the idea of saying that Spider-man is now 40. He’s still going to be able to do things no real 40 year old man can do, even those that are in excellent shape. Even if there are a lot of references to “I’m not a young man anymore” or “oh, my aching back,” it’s just going to come off as clumsy.

But even if the idea is taken seriously, few people will enjoy Spider-man being turned from an action-adventure title into plumbing the depths of aging in America. Some will, yes, but most of the people reading Spider-man, including those who want aging in comics in general, will find it depressing or boring, and wander away. Looked at in that light, why would a comics company do it? Even if you wanted to believe they make comics because they love to craft stories (and I doubt anyone here thinks that’s the primary corporate motivation), why make a story that most people won’t want to read?

I don’t think people are wrong when they point out the problems with keeping characters from World War II in comics continuity to the modern day, especially for characters like Wildcat, who has absolutely no super powers that might be twisted into an explanation. But I also don’t think that making the characters age will solve the problem, because the only way to make it stick would be….well, there is no way. Even an editorial mandate wouldn’t last long. Someone who grew up reading about the Justice Society now would start work at DC in a decade or so, and convince the people in charge to revive all the characters. So trying to make them age would just be a losing game, and end up with more of the same tiresome game of “They’re dead! Wait, they’re back! Okay, they’re dead forever now. But wait, we just had a cross over event where time travel stuff happened, so they’re back, and now they’re all young again!”

The only character’s deaths that have stuck are those where the story itself made a huge impact. Uncle Ben isn’t coming back because it unravels Spider-man’s whole motivation. No matter how much you could say “Well, Spider-man would still want to help people,” it would ring hollow without the tragedy that pushed him into being a hero. Gwen Stacy isn’t coming back because it made the stakes very real for Spider-man in his continuity. And Skurge isn’t coming back because his final act is basically the definition of a heroic sacrifice, and it would undermine the whole character if he just walked back into Asgard one day and said “Hey, I got better!”

Let’s also think about what we’d be giving up if we insisted on the characters aging realistically. The fact that everyone looks young and fit? No, that’s not a big deal. But part of the appeal of a comic book, even the mainstream ones, is the crazy shit that can get thrown together into a story. Not only would it be hard to focus on that if Green Lantern kept saying “Gotta watch my blood pressure-doctor said that I’m at a higher risk of heart problems thanks to my age and occupational stress,” but you’d be looking at having a shrinking cast of characters to do it with. After all, if you introduce aging in general, then a lot of heroes and villains should start dying off real quick of various ailments, or from injuries they could have survived as a younger character. Once that happens, realistically other characters would start retiring as well, shrinking the pool further. Soon you’d be left with Superman and Wonder Woman versus a monster of the week as the only comic, because every other title would be a soap opera revolving around an old man/woman debating if they should do some super hero stuff again, or stay retired. I don’t know about you, but 50 issues of an old Batman with titles like “Will He Wear The Cowl Again?!?” doesn’t seem like a step up for comic book story telling.

So yeah, I’m okay with comics continuity as it exists now. It’s not perfect, but the alternatives don’t seem like an improvement.

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“Which is honestly sillier? Having a character live through several Presidential administrations, or reading about the adventures of the grandson of your favorite character?”

Neither is particularly silly, to be honest. I’m only 25 and Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama have all been in office in my lifetime. Of course, I was 4 when Reagan left office and 24 when Obama took over, so there were obviously some life changes for me inbetween.

On the other hand, I wasn’t put off TNG when hundred year old Dr McCoy turned up either.

And real time ageing has been done successfully in comics – it’s still going on now actually – in Judge Dredd. Never hurt ol’ Stoneyface’s popularity.

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So, a lot of people are mentioning problems with the shifting timelines that don’t necessarily match up with the timelines in other titles. I, too, have thought about this problem before, and I do not understand why universes that take time-travel as a given have never explored this phenomena before. I mean, there’s a built-in explanation. If 65 years have passed between WWII and the present day, but only 10-14 years have passed for the comic book characters, can’t you just say that Kang’s frequent trips through time have tangled up chronology, and write a story around that? The best part is, that’s a story that doesn’t even have to change anything, but it does provide a hand-wavy explanation for the way things are – just like a good comic book story should.

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I think part of what bothers me about time in comics is how often the writing and art alludes to the current season; an issue printed in the summer might have the cast relaxing by the pool. Then, they’ll go on a mission that takes six issues to describe and fills about a week of in-universe time, and when they come home it’s time for the heartwarming winter holiday scenes. What?

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William O'Brien said on October 10th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Both ways work.

You see a lot of stories that go back to the “early days” of Batman, because a lot of people think that’s the most interesting Batman to tell stories with. You can get a lot of mileage out of that version of the character without never needing to age him. Year One, the Loeb/Sale works, Wagner’s stuff from a few years ago – these are all well-received stories that don’t need much more than “this is early Batman”.

But if you don’t age him, you don’t get the current stories where Bruce Wayne has a 10 year old son and his original sidekick has grown up to be Batman. A top-selling series often cited as the best currently ongoing superhero book.

To use another example – the defining Spider-man run is the Lee/Ditko run where Peter Parker is in high school almost the entire time. But if Peter never grows up to go to college and meet Gwen Stacy, you never get one of the defining *Marvel* stories.

Choosing one way or the other just limits your options in different ways. The real problem is the serialized nature of the business, which ties itself to an ongoing narrative. This means writers can’t really jump around to tell the stories they want, they need to stay within a current timeline. By necessity this creates the situation where the characters don’t really age while time is obviously passing.

You can’t really blame the companies – the ongoing narrative is one of the only reasons they have a dependable repeat customer base for the monthlies.

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Interesting. In Uncanny X-Men #379, Kitty complains that she’s barely sixteen. Now, Kitty first appeared in UXM #129 as a thirteen-year-old (in 1980), so the last two-hundred and fifty-one issues worth of Uncanny took place in a three year period? That would also include a hundred and twenty five or so issues of Excalibur, and her relationship with Peter Wisdom, which would be just wrong then…

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Well, Spider-Girl has lasted a hundred issues and more, so that indicates someone was reading it … including me.
But it’s interesting that even that series ran into problems: Originally presented as the MU if everyone aged in real time, it’s now the MU 20-25 years down the road. Otherwise May would now be in her 20s.
Marvel has done a good job filling the gap between the All-Star Squadron and the FF–the First Line (loved that series), the Blue Marvel, the Monster Hunters, etc. Though the idea of Namor as a drunken amnesiac bum for 50 years does strain my mind somehow.
Roger Stern’s Marvel Universe did use a time-travel angle to explain Dr. Doom turning up in a seventies Invaders story.
And while I think we can rule out Uncle Ben returning, I can easily see Gwen resurrected.

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Seavey keeps taking shots at Bucky as Cap in these. At the very least, I wish he would not call him a cyborg. He’s got one replacement arm, and it’s covered up most of the time, not highly visible or anything.

“Grim’n’gritty” I guess might be accurate if you’re saying that a guy who was brainwashed into killing political targets is pretty grim, but it’s not accurate in the sense that it’s like some crappy 90s Liefeld kind of thing, which is usually how that term is used in comics.

There’s this whole attitude like Bucky is Cable in here, which is worlds away from the truth if you actually read the excellent Brubaker run on Cap.

Anyway, I’m sure Rogers will be Cap again someday, because this is comics and someone always hits the reset button. I think that’s the real issue here.

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Cyborg: 1) a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device. 2) (in science fiction) a living being whose powers are enhanced by computer implants or mechanical body parts. 3) a bionic human. I do believe I am using the word entirely accurately for someone who has a robot arm.

As for “Grim ‘N Gritty”, I am using it in a pejorative sense, yes, but not necessarily the one you’re thinking of. I’m using it not as an adjective for any Liefeldian character, but as an adjective for any character who was considered to be “outdated” due to their being too light-hearted, innocent, or “silly”, and revamped to fit the darker sensibilities of the modern comics era…while not realizing that it made all the characters feel like cookie-cutter imitations of each other, every one equally dark and grim and ruthless.

And I’ve given Brubaker’s Cap a try. While it’s got things to recommend it, he has never managed to convince me that bringing back Bucky as a tormented cyborg ex-assassin was a good idea, and frankly, I think that history will side with me on this one. This isn’t to say that the people who like Brubaker’s Cap are “wrong”, just to say that I am not uninformed in my critique of the Winter Soldier concept.

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I think I vaguely detected a false dichotomy at work and I’m going to try and verbalize it. Let me know if I’m just hallucinating.

It’s not a matter of “characters aging in real time versus unaging characters” to me. I don’t demand that characters in comics age at the same rate I do, because they don’t exist in the same time flow I do. But I do want characters to age within their own time flow.

Forget the reoccurring example of Valeria Richards’ incredibly busy and vaguely unending 3rd year of life. I just want a coherent sense of passing time over the course of issues. Kitty Pride is a better example that’s been brought up. If 70 years of comics only covers her 7 or so years of adolescence, then sure, she can be a teen for 70 years of comics. But she should still have aged over those in-universe seven years.

And in this version of aging I’m supporting, it means that comics engaging in decompression will, in time, lag behind real-world time. Whether that will just make writing the stories easier or encourage writers to keep up with real life time progression is a win/win question to me.

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Tales to Enrage said on October 10th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Much as I enjoyed “Winter Soldier,” I’d prefer not to get too deep into whether or not it was a good idea in general. But I will note that I thought changing Bucky made sense, because I didn’t see it as “Oh, we can’t have him be light and happy! He needs to be TORTURED.” I saw it as “Well, he can’t just come back from the dead without any changes. So what would it take for it to make some sense, and how would that mark him?” After all, that’s exactly what happened to Captain America himself. His very first appearance in the Avengers had him trying to adjust to the new world.

But to get back to the main point, there’s also the question of how practical it would be to make characters age in real time. You’d basically be forcing people to only write stories that begin and end in one issue, and as much as compressed storytelling might seem like a virtue, I doubt anyone is going to be happy with needing to use the beginning of a story to sum up if anything happened in the month since the last book, then have a relatively small amount of space to tell their story. It might have the effect of making the storytelling less sophisticated and mature, not more.

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ralphdibny said on October 10th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Well, if copyright laws didn’t keep extending their timelines, then all the Golden Age characters would be in the public domain by now. Legacy characters are a hedged bet; sure, they mess with continuity (which is why Teen Titans seem to have shorter lifespans than fruit flies these days), but they will allow DC to keep telling Batman stories once the original character is no longer the cash cow he is now.

But that’s the meta argument, which I don’t think you are interested in. Would aging allow for better stories? Well, soap operas have shown us that aging leads to telling fewer types of stories, not more. And soaps also have the advantage of unaccessible archives; nobody is going back and watching old soaps that contradict the current soap continuity.

I’d also like to point out that these problems aren’t flaws of the comic book genre–they ARE the comic book genre. What made Superman so exciting in 1938 was the blending of fantasy/sci-fi tropes with a more realistic setting. But those two worlds don’t play well together. Focusing on telling more “realistic” stories than Buck Rodgers leads to questions like “In a world with all of this amazing technology, why don’t inventors patent their products and make millions instead of becoming supervillains?” and “Why hasn’t Superman spent a few months improving America’s infrastructure?” Aging is part of this same problem, the problem of genre confusion. Comics are monthly publications with a beginning, middle and end, yet they attempt to tell stories that are never-ending. Robin can’t keep falling for the same villain traps; eventually we start mocking his stupidity, because from our point of view he isn’t a real character if he can’t learn from his previous mistakes. But if he learns from his mistakes, if he grows as a character, he must be growing up.

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I think everyone’s getting hung up on the issue of the characters aging, and missing a more vital thematic element that a non-sliding timeline would help with: thematic and cultural resonance.

I sometimes fantasize about the massive dream project I’d like to write for Marvel, going back over its history and tagging it to time periods. We open in the 1950s, with Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr in their early 20s, bumming around the rebuilding of postwar Europe, sneaking across borders, drinking and getting into trouble, sitting up all night talking about the dreams they have for people like them, and the world they want to build.

The Richards Expedition fails in 1961, and the Fantastic Four appear. All those weird Cold War adventures, scientific combat against the evil Red brains with their battlesuits and mutated apes, those can live in their proper milieu. Today Reed is very old, but still sharp, retired to a life of research.

Tony Stark becomes Iron Man in 1965, when his role in Vietnam was still technically advisory. Rhodey was, in fact, an Air Force helicopter pilot he met on his way out of the jungle. Iron Man founds the Avengers shortly thereafter. Today, Tony is finishing his Howard Hughes analogy, a bearded recluse who still sometimes controls the Iron Man armor remotely.

Captain America returns in 1966, and the Avengers go from a novelty act to a powerhouse. His weird Vietnam excursions, his sense of betrayal at Nixon being the head of the Secret Empire (Oh, yeah, Nixon was the head of the Secret Empire again.), his defrocking by the Reagan administration under the manipulation of the Red Skull… those all happened as what they were: reflections of America’s changing roles and ideas. Today, Cap’s aging has long since coasted to a halt, and the Skull keeps returning from the grave in a new body, so the two of them continue fighting WWII into a new century, the last warriors standing.

Peter Parker became Spider-Man toward the end of the 1960s, and was a reflection of the youth culture of the time, having crazy adventures all through the 70s, though things took a bit of a darker turn during the 80s, leading to an increased sense of maturity that led him to finally marry Mary Jane Watson. Today he’s comfortably middle-aged, proud father of Spider-Girl, and still phenomenally strong and fast for his age.

The Kingpin is today regarded with nostalgia, the ultimate example of how New York organized crime used to be this giant, outsized, flamboyant thing with a purple ascot and a diamond-headed cane. When Daredevil finally took him down for good in 1985, it was regarded as the end of an era.

The New Warriors were a short-lived, idealistic explosion of early-1990s youthful exuberance. They got a lot done before falling apart, and are fondly remembered today, kinda like In Living Color and Nirvana.

Bottom line: stories are stronger in their proper historical context. Am I the only one that makes sense to?

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That sounds pretty awesome Brad. Would definitely read it.

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Umm. Having brought up TV soap opera myself, earlier: I’d argue that those, like comics universes, are essentially their own genre — or, perhaps, that they are to the romance genre what comics are to the action-adventure genre.

Nor are soaps entirely genre-blind; while they’ve done relatively little with SF over the years (unless you count the fact that plastic surgery in soap universes is way too good at creating exact doubles of people), spy and paranormal arcs have been fairly commonplace, and SF has not been ignored entirely.

Meanwhile, I note that many commenters are qualifying the question in ways that complicate the discussion. For example, the phrase “aging in real time” is susceptible to two distinct readings: does it mean “real time” in the context of the characters’ universes, or “real time” in the context of the readers’ universe? There’s an assumption there that the comics universes are themselves “aging in real time” — and I’d argue that one way to simplify the problem on the character level would be to explicitly and permanently disconnect comics universes from real-world time. This happens to extended series all the time anyway; the Star Trek franchise has lasted long enough that its reality, Eugenics Wars and all, has long since branched from the world we know.

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I’m surprised no one’s brought up the Legion as an example of how letting the characters grow up a bit can be a good thing (at least until the company reboots the timeline again.)

And I still say Bucky makes for a great Cap.

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I guess it depends on whether you see your favorite iconic comic characters as timeless archetypes, or as narcissistic reflections of yourself.

Captain America can be frozen and thawed, shot through time, or plopped down in an alternate dimension, and as long as there’s an America (or a colony, see 1602), he can be the same embodiment of American ideals.

But if you’re a narcissist and you, say, joined the State Troopers because there’s no Batman College, then, rather than face the fact that your favorite comics are all just totally fake and an escapist fantasy, it’s easier for you to keep convincing yourself you could quit your boring job and become an awesome (super/anti)hero whenever you want – but not if your source material never gets older and you do.

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“I guess it depends on whether you see your favorite iconic comic characters as timeless archetypes, or as narcissistic reflections of yourself.”

Yes, I only expect characters in fiction to act like real people (to a certain extent) because I’m a narcissist. Nothing to do with telling deeper stories or expanding the narrative potential.

Seems odd that I’ve never joined the police though, despite having a detective who ages in real-time to copy. (Rebus, for those wondering – he’s even set in the same country I live in, why am I not in the police???)

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GrayArcadian said on October 10th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

“Better” is not the term I’d use, because “better” is subjective. What I will say is I personally prefer stories where I can see the passage of time, the rise and fall of familiar faces, and the growth that only comes with a sense of experience. If you do not age a character, yet keep telling stories with them, then you have to start weeding what has an has not happened to a character at some point anyway – and often the results can be wince-worthy if the gestalt of the universe is not taken into account.

Here is my favorite recent example…

Lian Harper dies at age 7. This is a reasonable age all things considered, even when comic writers and artists can’t seem to decide if she was 10 in one issue and 3 in the next. My career choice involves working with growing children and that constant WTF with Lian’s age was enough to take me out of the story I was reading frequently, but I digress…

In the “Return of Donna Troy” story, Troia mentions being 24. With One Year Later, that’s 25. If every source except Chuck Dixon’s “Nightwing: Year One” says the founding Titans are of the same age and started at 13. (Even Dixon’s “Year One” starts Grayson as Robin at 15, which doesn’t prevent the others from being 13.) With Raven having to re-found the team as 18 year olds…mostly…Just assume everyone is 25 for my own sanity because that’s how DC seems to want to play it right now. Quick math there says a 25 year old Roy would have become a parent at 18. Seems reasonable for a conservative publication like DC. That’s where we start having a problem.

If Roy Harper meets Jade when he’s 18 as an experienced government agent, it means someone really is not doing background checks for high level operatives, or they are complacent in using child labor. It also means damn near everything in the DCU from WW2 to Crisis happened in roughly a 7 year period to make the stories fit with the stated ages.

No WAIT. It gets even better.

So, if we are to assume the Founding Titans are about the same age, Roy wasn’t that only one having very creepy slightly under-age sex. Move the spotlight back to Donna for a moment. Donna Troy and her mid-30’s professor boyfriend when she’s about 18 – and they were dating before Raven rounded the team all back together. In my jurisdiction, I believe the age of consent is 16, provided the other party is a maximum of 5 years older, and once you’re 18 you can shag anyone of any age. Jade qualifies for that 5 year window by all accounts I’ve found. Terry Long does not. Now, we also have her age at getting married at 19, and Amazon law would have had her emancipated, but…well…you can see where not aging someone can make things a hell of a lot more complicated.

Personally, I’ve been able to make Marvel’s timeline from the FF’s crash to modern day about 17 years long, thus making the likes of Peter Parker and Johnny Storm a reasonable early 30’s. DCs wasn’t that hard until they rebooted it, twice, in very short period, so the whole argument about how “hard” it is to monitor this stuff doesn’t wash. I can see the argument for not aging them, but then you have to watch your canon more closely, not less.

I’m sure there’s terrific industry arguments for limiting the amount of diversity in titles, and that includes aging characters. So long as they do that I will be less interested in those characters and stories because I like crafting a sense of biography for my ongoing characters. It’s just a preference; one keeping me from buying comics anymore when there’s perfectly good fan fiction to be had.

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Jonathan Roth said on October 10th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I have hard time even wanting to pick up Spider-Man after, “One More Day.” To me, that’s the problem with a “reset/de-age” button (one of them.)

If I want books I can care about, I’ve got: Jeff Smith’s Bone (fantasy, but character age, change, and deal with the consequences.) The recent Omega the Unknown had a beginning, middle, and end. I’ve got Alison Bechdel’s Fun house and Joe Sacco’s work (mostly non-fiction.) I’m glad to have had Neil Gaiman’s Sandman where people changed, lived happily ever after (sort of), and in some cases, died. James Robinson’s Starman dealt with aging, major life changes (fatherhood, etc.) and wouldn’t have mattered as much without aging, changes, and consequences. I didn’t pick up the “Steve Rogers is dead, Bucky is taking over” because I knew that there was no point in investing interest in a “Dead Steve Rogers” storyline because his death meant nothing, being just a pause. Hell, I remember when it seems as though the only lasting deaths in super-hero comics were Bucky and Jason Todd.

I liked some earlier work when Alan Scott reflected on no being the “main” Green Lantern, and he and Jay Garrick reflected on a changing world. I liked final crisis, but bringing back Barry Allen (without much of an explanation in the trade) and Hal Jordan earlier makes it hard to care about the characters (for me, anyways.)

I think that there are potentially good stories out there with immortal characters and the shock/unfairness/disorientation of some people being resurrected and not others. But when it’s so commonplace in certain comics that it’s “Ho-hum, Spidey is dead till the next issue, Steve Rogers is deal for a little while” again, I just can’t bring myself to care. My two cents. (I’d also point to Kurt Busiek’s Astro City and Mark Waid’s Irredeemable series as showing the benefits of aging, permanent changes (such as death) and pasts that matter to the characters on a day to day basis rather than being jettisoned every few years.)

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@Tales to Enrage:
You say “Gwen Stacy isn’t coming back because it made the stakes very real for Spider-man in his continuity.” JMS said that Quesada had to be talked out of bringing Gwen Stacy back with Brand New Day.

You also say that retiring and dying heroes and villains should shrink the pool over time. That is part of the point of legacy heroes. You don’t try to sell a 65 year old Batman trying to stay in the game. You sell a 30 year old Dick Grayson Batman, or a 20 year old Tim Drake Batman, or a teenage Terry McGuiness who has taken up an abandoned identity (with old Bruce in a mentor/advisor role). With Kryptonians and clones and the like popping up every few years, even Superman could have been aged into retirement with a new younger Superman (Conner, Chris, or someone else) taking his place, and the same goes with Wonder Woman.

How many Green Lanterns of Earth have we already had? How many Starman/woman? How many Flash? Similar goes for villains. The current Scorpion at Marvel isn’t the original, nor I think is Rhino. There have been multiple Vultures. You can look at comic character guides and see names with (III) and (IV) next to them. Both companies already change up identities to bring something new to the table, or to revive something old, or whatever. The thing is that the more major a character it is, the less likely the changes are to stick, and the most major characters (like Batman and Spider-Man) will never have more than a temporary storyline change.

Team books are even easier to handle a growing and changing roster. The X-Men could easily be a completely new team compared to 20 years ago. How many “training the next generation of X-Men” groups have we had, anyway? It is just that Marvel keeps going back to the mainstays, forcing all these new characters into limbo instead of slowly bringing them into the fold as new major characters. DC does similar with Teen Titans, which every other reboot seems to have Garth, Starfire, Raven, and/or Cyborg return. The Fantastic Four is a family. If Marvel had been willing, maybe it could have carried a permanently changing roster over time. Maybe if it had, the book would still be selling today.

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Somewhere in an ancient archive of ’60s Marvel titles I borrowed from one of my mother’s friends as a teen in the ’80s, I stumbled across a text piece that revealed the secrets of Marvel Time. I thought it was in one of Stan’s Soapboxes, but I’ve never managed to find it in the recent reprintings of the sum total of those columns. It must have been in one of the letters columns.

In any event, at some point in the mid ’60s, Stan or one of the other editors said flat-out that their rule of thumb was that one year would pass in the Marvel universe for every three that passed in ours.

The interesting thing?

Right up until the early ’90s, Marvel time followed that pretty closely. It started breaking down in the Chromium Age, and Heroes Reborn pretty much shattered any semblance of coherent temporal narrative in the MU.

It worked fairly well, too. It was a good balance between keeping characters familiar, but allowing for change in their lives.

Speaking as someone who’s working in a comics store:

Sometimes, you’ll get a customer who asks, “so, what’s Spider-Man up to lately?”

When I could tell someone that Peter Parker grew up, married Mary Jane, and taught high school science, they’d say “oh, cool, that makes sense.”

Now, when I tell them that he never married Mary Jane or held down a steady job in all these years, they’ll just snort — if I’m lucky.

If I’m not, they’ll ask a series of leading questions that end up with me trying to explain the hoops Marvel had to jump through to get him back to that “familiar, iconic” status.

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The lack of chronological progression is one of the primary reasons that I stay out of superhero comics, actually. Brian has a point in saying that a lot of these characters are extensions of the time in which they were created, and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong at all with letting them be just that. Given the way that the Big Two are pushing more and more every year to have a cohesive over-universe, there very well should be some natural sense of progression. It doesn’t have to happen in real-time, certainly, but when you start to establish multiple characters acting independently of one-another in the same universe, crossing each other in encounters both personal and story-based, there has to be some sense of greater timeline in place for the sake of the reader’s understanding. Yes, it means that characters will age and die and their super-persona will fade away or be filled by another character, but these are not events that have to be immediate either.

There’s also not any need to completely dismiss the older characters and their pasts. There’s no reason whatsoever that a Captain America story set in the ’60s couldn’t be told today. No. Reason. Whatsoever. Indeed, a good portion of the readership may enjoy such a thing. I’m sure that there are people who would be willing to write it, and I can guarantee that there are artists who would be willing to draw it, so why hasn’t it been done? It’s a question for the publishers, I have to assume, though I suspect that they’re precisely the reason why such a thing doesn’t exist.

NOTE: It’s entirely possible that I’m talking out my ass on that retro-storytelling thing. I’m not familiar with any book ever doing that other than as a couple of gag pages, but then again I don’t think I read anything anymore that DOESN’T feature a constantly advancing timeline.

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Overarching continuity doesn’t prevent “retro-storytelling” — or perhaps more helpfully, alternate continuities. The animated “Timmverse” DC continuity and its associated “Adventures” line of comics did — to my mind, at least — an excellent job of developing a relatively accessible, intelligently conceived alternative to “mainstream” DCU continuity.

Just as importantly, though, DC’s been pretty clear that most of its more recent direct-to-video animated features are not part of that particular continuity — which gives those features the freedom to put their own stamps on the characters involved. That’s been a good example of how to build stories featuring iconic characters without doing undue violence to shared-universe timelines.

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Walter Kovacs said on October 11th, 2010 at 1:34 am

While aging in real time would be problematic … having the characters age at some rate (i.e. having say a 5 years “real time” for every year of “comic time”, or some other equivalent) would be appreciated.

While yes, people read the comics for the characters, if nothing ever really happens to the characters, then really, what is the point? What makes a character interesting if they aren’t allowed to grow older, make mistakes and learn from them, make decisions with consequences, etc.

Eventually, Superman and Lois got married. Peter Parker wasn’t in high school forever. Robin stopped being a teenager. Etc, etc, etc …

The problem is that it’s a balancing act between the consumer and the “potential” consumer. Comics have to keep to the status quo so that the stories are accessible to new readers, especially those with knowledge based on stuff other than just the comics. Like, for example, cartoons and movies.

So, in order to make it easier for new people to buy the comic, they have to make it so that people that are already reading it don’t get to see full character arcs (for many of the core characters). At best, they get circular arcs that provide some interesting stuff for a while, but ultimately lead back to the status quo. [See the most recent Superman comics with New Krypton … end result? Superman and Supergirl (and Superboy and Power Girl and Krypto …) only Kryptonians left, Zod and his followers in the Phantom Zone, Mon-El in the Phantom Zone waiting to be rescued by the Legion, Lex in charge of Lex Corp, Sam Lane dead … net result, putting everything back the way people expect based on Superman in other media].

Comic book buyers want to justify continuing to purchase comic books they have been buying for a long time. They want their comics to grow with them, and not be sold what ammounts to the same comics they bought before.

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On one hand, letting the characters age *somewhat* seems necessaryl. I certainly wouldn’t want to read forever about Kitty Pryde, teenage mutant and she has become quite interesting as an adult.

OTOH, I’m all with John on this issue, I want to continue reading about the characters I’ve grown to love over the last three decades, so having the current line-ups age into their fifties and be completely replaced with new characters doesn’t really work for me, outside of “What if” books, like the MC2 books which spawned Spider-Girl.

Of course Brian Bendis is not letting Peter Parker age in Ultimate Spiderman and that is the consistently best book Marvel has been putting out for the last decade, so I guess the exception proves the adage in that case.

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I agree with Brian. Mainstream MU/DC superhero comics are not simply intended as an ongoing finite narrative. Never will be either due to needs (licensing) outside of the stories themselves.

You can read them a few years, maybe even as many as ten, but when you start thinking it’s too repetitive it’s time for moving on to other stories for the monthly fix.

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Norman Rafferty said on October 11th, 2010 at 9:46 am

It’s funny that you ask if comic-book characters should age, in the era where continuity is slavishly worshipped. It’s a bizarre circumstance where we readers are supposed to believe that his character has years, perhaps even decades of back-story that’s all relevant to this thing we’re reading right now … and yet the character was 22 years old the whole time.

Characters do age, even if they just change over time. Every now and then, real world events get mentioned in the comic, which are indisputable calendar days. Stan Lee said he wanted his Marvel characters to progress, at about 3 years of real time for 1 year of comic-book time. (This was back when Marvel was hip and trying to shake up the status quo.)

What’s strange is that US superhero comics live in some strange limbo where there’s both aging and statis. Big meta crossovers happen that promise to change everything in infinite crisis of hypertime during the blackest night … only to be undone a year or two later. Or mostly undone. If you’re going to re-boot a franchise every 10 years or so, do characters actually age?

One continuing reason for manga’s popularity is that you know where to start. If a kid comes up to me and says he thinks Naruto is cool, how can he learn more, I can point him to Naruto #1 on the shelf and he can start from there. But if a kid just saw Iron Man’s movie and thinks it’s awesome, where do I tell him to start reading?

The real key to manga’s popularity is that they retire characters and series when they’re done. If there’s call for a sequel, then the writers often use that as an excuse to age the characters and talk about how they’ve changed. Dragonball is an excellent example of this — modern readers and viewers are far more attached to Goku’s family than they are to Marvel or DC’s latest woman in a refrigerator.

Heck, if your manga is really popular, you can just keep making it. Tenchi Muyo had teenagers well into it 10 years later, which is the subject of much nerd rage about quality. The notion that popular characters should continue where unpopular characters should be cancelled still eludes much of the comic book publishing industry.

The elephant in the room is that US comic books are burning out their relevance faster and faster, every day. For decades, the makers have seen the characters as an IP to be exploited for merchandising. All this pulp they print is just grist for the mill when they want to make a movie or a TV show, so they can sort through the dross to find the 10% that’s salvageable. As long as the characters are IP, they will remain static, crowding out any new titles that might star hip, young kids with issues that modern readers could relate to, and surrounded by walls of impenetrable continuity. Decades of history, and nothing to show for it.

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Stressfactor said on October 11th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Actually, counter to the idea, anyone who ever read either Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys in their younger years know that those characters never age. Even when I was a kid reading these books I recognized that no matter how many summers passed or winter breaks from schools Nancy and Frank and Joe never got older than 16 and 17.

Rex stout acknowledged the passage of time but most of his regular characters never aged. Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe, Inpector Cramer, etc., all of them stayed forever the same age but everything around them moved on. Stout, said about it “These stories have ignored time for 39 years. Anyone who can’t or won’t do the same should skip them.” He also said “I didn’t age the characters because I didn’t want to. That would have made it cumbersome and would seem to have centered the attention on the characters rather than the stories.”

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I’ve been a big proponent of allowing comic book characters to age for a long time now, and I still think it would produce better stories. I also understand that it would be very difficult to pull off, and would likely make it more difficult to get new fans into an ongoing book.

Take, for example, the Archie comics. The characters have been teenagers since they were introduced in, what, the 1940s? In Riverdale, it’s always a sort of timeless “now,” which works because of the sorts of stories the Archie comics tell, which are more interested in telling a funny story than in developing “realistic” characters in a “realistic” environment.

There’s no reason that you can’t do the same thing with superhero comics, of course. Those are essentially the same sort of stories that most comic-book characters were in up until the 1960s.

At some point, though, the idea developed that these characters lived in a universe that grew and evolved and changed much like the real world. Unfortunately, the actual stories themselves were caught in a strange tension — the creators tried to create stories with real change over time, while at the same time maintaining the status quo.

That tension has created a situation that presents the very worst of both worlds. We have a setting that, on one hand, attempts to be “realistic,” whatever that means, while on the other hand we have characters who never age, or age on marginally. This isn’t all that much of a problem for casual fans who read a book for a few months or a few years and them move on to something else; it is a significant problem for fans of a book who read for years or even decades.

It all goes back to that old canard, the suspension of disbelief. In order to enjoy any story, one has to be willing to buy into it. If you read an Archie comic book, or watch an episode of the Simpsons, you’re willing to buy into the story — and suspend disbelief — because you understand what the creators are doing and you’re willing to go along with it as far as it goes.

The same would be true for superhero comics if they consistently did the same thing — you have a story, things happen and at the end, everything goes back to the status quo. You make no attempt to create stories that exist in anything other than an eternal “now.”

Unfortunately, that’s not what contemporary superhero books do. They attempt to create a continuity that mirrors, more or less, the continuity of the real world. And I would argue that you simply can’t do both and expect to have anything like a coherent, enjoyable ongoing story.

One of my favorite ongoing fiction series is Wild Cards, edited by George R.R. Martin. The books are very much tied into the passing of time, the first book starting out just after World War II and taking the reader through various events up until the present of the time the book came out. Some characters continued through that continuity, but they aged, and sometimes eventually retired. New characters were introduced. Things changed. Do I miss the old characters? Absolutely. I miss being 21, too, but that’s never going to happen again.

I think that a comic book universe should allow time to flow forward. It may be that, in one book, a year’s worth of issues all take place over a three-day period, while in another book, that year’s worth of issues may cover events of several decades. There’s no reason that can’t happen. The timelines for the various books don’t have to be a 1-to-1 match with each other or with the timeline of the real world.

That being said, there needs to be a master timeline that dates certain events. The invasion of the pan-dimensional aliens from Kloraxian Prime devastates Earth from August 15, 2011 through Sept. 7, 2012 — any books in the setting that take place during that period have to deal with that event. Books taking place before it don’t need to, while books taking place after it have to deal with whatever consequences of that event are still relevant to the story at hand. There’s no reason that every book in a company’s line needs to take place at the same point in the fictional history of that universe; at the same time, they do need to keep track of events and fit them into an ongoing timeline of events.

However, there’s no reason that the same company can’t have a completely separate line that features whatever characters it wants that exist in a timeless, never aging continuity. It’s just that these stories have to be separate from the evolving continuity stories.

All I’d like is some consistency.

L.

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The thing about having characters whose personal arcs ooze back in time like a nostalgic event horizon is that they end up having mutually contradictory developments in their history. You can’t convince me that present-day Batman has EVER has bat-shark-repellant in a handy can. Even if you sand away the obvious things like archaic speech and habits, references to dated world events and all… people do things in the old comics that make little to no sense in the context of who they are now.

I mean, we’re comic book fans. We’re USED to this. We think it’s situation normal. Even go so far as to say it’s part of the charm. We are like cats playing with the tangled ball of yarn that is “canon.”

But yeah, no, it doesn’t actually make sense.

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…now there’s a thought, somebody should write a comic-themed Austen pastiche called Canon & Continuity.

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“In any event, at some point in the mid ’60s, Stan or one of the other editors said flat-out that their rule of thumb was that one year would pass in the Marvel universe for every three that passed in ours.”

I NEVER KNEW THAT WAS AN ACTUAL RULE! Here I thought that was just some kind of loose guideline! Thanks for this illuminating tidbit, Obedient Serpent.

This has been something I’ve been in full support of for the longest time. It works beautifully, and if a rule like that is in place it actually FORCES writers to keep thinking in a forward fashion. This is what is missing from the Marvel Universe today; that feeling that the stories actually matter. But if writers & editors are constantly going back and undoing things from years prior just because they don’t like them, then you’re just eroding your own foundation. It’s like taking a lit cigarette to a 50 year old quilt, just because you don’t like this patch, or that one, or that one…

…in any case, I liked that characters aged in the Marvel universe because it showed growth and progression; it implied to me that in buying their comics, I was getting something that was more than just the disposable entertainment that comics had always been considered. And that feeling has been fading for me more and more, of late.

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Interestingly, Wild Cards is about to relaunch itself; within the next month or three the original anthology will be re-released — with a handful of additional stories by new writers featuring new characters, which have been interpolated into the existing material.

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I think we’ve had quiet a few comic books where heroes successfully passed the mantel.

The X-men aren’t just a single team of a dozen teenage bad asses, they’re practically a legion of Xavier-trained mutants and heroes who have seen their leadership passed around on numerous occasions.

The Flash and Green Lantern have gone through a number of iterations. Several of Batman’s proteges have gone into their own spin-offs with varying degrees of success. So Legacy characters have a history of working.

And fans enjoy new heroes just as much as they enjoy the oldies. So you can’t insist “Only Spider Man will ever do as a cartoon hero” when we’ve seen Air Benders and Pokemon and Kick Asses and Smurfs all enjoy varying degrees of success.

Legacy seems like a happy compromise between nostalgia and the desire for change. Characters can get phased in and phased out as their popularity rises and falls. And you can enjoy a variation of Captain America that is fresh and new without explaining all the baggage off the original. :-p

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Unfortunately, Greg, though I vividly remember reading it in that grainy sans-serif font that characterized Marvel text pages for the first couple of decades of the House of Ideas, I have never been able to find independent confirmation. It’s a classic Wikipedia [citation needed] scenario.

(Alas, the other person who mentioned it a couple of comments after mine isn’t an independent source. He’s someone I’ve known for years, and he got that tidbit from ME.)

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I’m not sure you can really call the X-Men a successful legacy book when they’ve still got eleven members from the “All-New, All-Different” incarnation of the book from the 1970s. The last successful major roster shake-up occurred somewhere around the time I was born. :)

Likewise, while there have been lots of Flashes and Green Lanterns, the current “official model” of both is the Silver Age iteration of the character. The legacy versions, while they’ve had their followings, have not been able to supplant the “classic” characters. (As for Batman…while there have been “replacement Batmen”, I don’t think there’s ever been a full year where we didn’t know that Bruce Wayne was going to be returning to the role.)

Ultimately, I think legacy characters were only really possible during the period where there was no organized comics fandom, no institutional memory to keep the older characters popular. Jaime Reyes is never going to get the kind of chance Ted Kord has because Ted Kord (and his contemporaries) created as much as benefited from an environment that rewarded loyalty to him.

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Why should characters age?

Because it’s more interesting than them not aging. Because change and growth are inherently more interesting than stagnation.

“You’re reading for the dynamic between Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny, and their various supporting cast members and villains.”

Sure. So it’s about characters as much as the stories the characters are in. It’s about bringing those characters to life, finding them so interesting and evocative that it’s like they’re real people.

Real people age.

You’ve already read stories with those characters the age they are. If you want to read them again, there they are in the Ultimate Collections. Why shouldn’t the characters be allowed to evolve? If the best stories are ones that are at least in part character driven, won’t they be more interesting and fresh if the characters and their dynamics can change with time, just like real people do? Story arcs are more interesting than one-offs that reset to the status quo every issue. Lost is more interesting than Gilligan’s Island. Things that change are interesting. People and characters that change are interesting. Characters that are exactly the same person year after year after year are not.

I don’t read a lot of comics. This is one of the reasons. I did read Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow. It was fascinating. The character was different than what he had been. Older. Grittier. More cynical. Less naive. And he continued to change over the course of the series. And then he died.

Then, because he’s comics, someone hit the reset button and he started all over again. Why would I read about that? I already read about that character.

Two of my favourite book series are Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga and Forester’s Hornblower series. No two books deal with the character at the same age, the same career stage. Each book brings new challenges, new situations, new problems and responsibilities, a character richer and more interesting than the book before, because they’re allowed to change and grow from book to book. Because they’re allowed to age.

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A fan asked Grant Morrison something just like this at SDCC this year and I really liked his answer.

The first fan asks “how old” Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake are. Morrison: “It doesn’t matter. You have to understand: these people aren’t real. They don’t live in the real world.”

“There’s no science, it’s the science of anything can happen in fiction,” Morrison continued. “We’ve already got the real world. Why would you want fiction to be like the real world? In fiction, you can do anything.”

“You can’t make it realistic, because it’s not,” Morrison said. “Batman is 75 years old, and Robin is 74 years old. But they’ll never grow old, because they’re different from us.”

How old the character are is goddamn boring.

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John Seavey: “…while there have been lots of Flashes and Green Lanterns, the current ‘official model’ of both is the Silver Age iteration of the character.”

What’s sad about that example is, they aren’t even the ORIGINAL versions of that character. The great potential of that example is, once it was decided that Jay Garrick and Alan Scott would not be remade into The Flash and Green Lantern at th advent of the Silver Age, then those respective mantles don’t have to be tied to one lead character. At the height of my enjoyment of comics from the 90s to the Aughts, I dug that there had been three central Flashes, and three central Green Lanterns. No matter how good the individual stories may be, I’m still very disappointed that DC took that step backwards for whatever reason, and went back to Barry Allen and Hal Jordan. Giving each generation of readers their very own Flash and Green Lantern could have been a very cool little tradition.

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Brad Hanon, I love your proposal!
so many comics are stuck in this nostalgic ‘no-time’
maybe Batman DID have Bat-shark repellent. it was the 60s. a bunch of tough Liverpool lads were dressing up in psychedelic rock band outfits. things were strange, so Batman was strange
i could keep going on… each comic series is tied to a real world timeline anyway

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@Oneminutemonkey and this is why we have Jeff Parker, pumping out missing time tales that thrive. Hell he made The Sentry work as a character, because he could exist in the pre-Marvel time era. Also Agents of Atlas play with this a bit.

It works because missing time capers allow for free-wheeling storytelling not constrained by contradictions.

Example – Superman has met and worked with Ronald Reagan. That was almost thirty years ago, but he has not been active that long according to DC rolling time scale.

Whenever a banner poster features the year in question, you can pretty much write that off. Beatnik Dick Grayson from the Teen Titans bears little resemblance to post-Crisis Dick Grayson, who in turn should have aged twenty years.

I read about the Justice Experience a few years back and it sounds like a fun idea.

Or how about this – use acquired comic company characters to fill the ‘missing time’ eras and then reintroduce legacies of these characters in the present day. Sticking to DC for now, that means half a century worth of publishing history to allocate Red Circle, Charlton, Milestone. Over at Marvel you have Malibu titles sitting in Limbo. It could work.

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Seavey:
“Likewise, while there have been lots of Flashes and Green Lanterns, the current “official model” of both is the Silver Age iteration of the character. The legacy versions, while they’ve had their followings, have not been able to supplant the “classic” characters.”

Except that in the case of the Flash, Wally DID fully supplant the classic version. It was only the failure of the new status quo in the wake of the totally unsuccessful attempt to hand the name down yet again (just because there’d been another series with “Crisis” in its name) that weakened things enough to provide an excuse for the totally unnecessary push to bring back Barry.
Green Lantern, fine, there were always vocal anti-Kyle fans, but there was no great 20-year pressure build-up of demand for a return of Barry for the most part, or even a general sense that that Wally-as-status-quo was “unnatural” or fated to revert.

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“In any event, at some point in the mid ’60s, Stan or one of the other editors said flat-out that their rule of thumb was that one year would pass in the Marvel universe for every three that passed in ours.”

This rule of thumb would absolutely fail in the Manga world where decompression is the rule of law. There was a major plotline in Blade of the Immortal where a series of events over the course of two weeks took… FIVE YEARS to serialize. On a monthly schedule. And the adventure wasn’t over yet.

One thing I always thought would be helpful in aging characters would be that it could help readers determine what timeline the most memorable storylines took place. It’s easy to find your favorite For Better or for Worse story by how old Elly’s children were. In contrast, every other ageless strip from Beetle Baily to Wizard of Id to Cathy are almost impossible to disinguish from one another since they’re virtually identical.

I suspect that my reasons for supporting aging characters aren’t part of the majority of what everybody’s talking about here, but those are my views. Who’s to say they’re not the same as the major reading public?

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Mister Alex said on October 12th, 2010 at 1:05 pm

DOONESBURY, bitches.

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*high-fives Mister Alex*

@ Ed (Jack Norris): I think part of that was Barry Allen got a very satisfying send-off in COIE. Went out big, and went out a hero. Hal fell to the Parallax after his home city got obliterated. If Hal Jordan went out in a fashion similar to Barry Allen, that probably would’ve given Kyle Rayner a much better foot to start on.

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Well, that too, Greg; I have no arguments there.
I just said that there were always vehement anti-Kyle GL fans, and that there was no equivalent in Wally’s case, and that Wally had been pretty much fully accepted as the “official” Flash much more fully*, not that I was on the side of the Kyle-haters.

*And that bringing Barry back was a stupid and needless move that has not in any way been an improvement or resulted in better (or even particularly good) Flash comics.

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True that – personally, I didn’t even care about Hal Jordan OR the Corps. the only Green Lantern comics I have feature Kyle Rayner, and the one where Batman gets his punch back from Hal. LOL

And the other thing about aging characters that I think people miss the point on, is given the rule-of-thumb that was in place at Marvel, it takes a GOOD LONG TIME for those characters to show any age. It took 30-40 years of real time for Peter Parker to go from teenager to young adult. Doesn’t anybody realize how many more stories and adventures there are to be told, before he sees his first gray hair?

And can you imagine the kind of storytelling potential there is to be FOUND in that single gray hair?

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Gray hairs are caused by yellow fear demons you silly, not age and experience!

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I’m not saying I’m in favor of Barry coming back, or that I think it was a good idea; only that anyone who thinks that the Flash successfully transitioned to a legacy character does kind of have to explain away the fact that the Silver Age Flash is still the guy in the costume. :)

Not to mention, it’s worth remembering that Barry’s death never sat particularly well among the creators working at DC, even as the fans embraced him; Marv Wolfman famously came up with a plan to bring Barry back even as he was writing his death scene, while Mark Waid is on record as spending his entire run on the Flash lobbying behind the scenes for Barry’s return. (Which shows in his plotting; it sometimes felt like Mark Waid only had one plot, which was “Wally vanishes! And now there’s a mysterious new Flash who just might be Barry Allen! …but he’s actually Wally.”) And of course, Geoff Johns was the one to actually bring Barry back.

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Candlejack said on October 13th, 2010 at 1:52 am

I’m curious why editorial fiat is being treated as the only way to age some characters and not others. Time could still be allowed to pass without physically aging the popular characters into retirement; comics universes are crazy, after all, and wild stuff can happen.

I mean, Batman routinely fights a dude who’s got a Lazarus Pit. If he seems to be getting too old and creaky to be Batman anymore, he doesn’t have to pass the mantle–he just has to fall in the Pit during a fight. Kingdom Come indicates that Superman ages slower than humans, and that Wonder Woman doesn’t age at all. Just about all mutants in the Marvel universe heal faster than regular humans; why couldn’t they live longer too? Hell, most superpowered people could be tweaked so their powers give them extended youth, if that’s what readers want. And if there’s nothing innate to work with, there’s always magic and weird science encounters.

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@Candlejack
Two words: Supporting cast.

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Candlejack said on October 14th, 2010 at 11:49 am

Which could be used as a hook to hang stories off. What wouldn’t Superman do to stop Lois Lane from dying of old age while he still looks 40? Or (borrowing a note from Tranquility) if a supervillain found a limited-quantity fountain of youth, would heroes who discovered it destroy it because everyone couldn’t have some, or would they give doses to friends, loved ones, and respected figures until the resource ran out?

I guess I’m seeing story possibility while writers and editors are seeing hassle. *shrug*

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malakim2099 said on October 15th, 2010 at 12:57 am

@malakim2099: So what you’re saying is that the fact that Spider-Girl is constantly on the verge of cancellation is actually a sign of the popularity of legacy titles? :)

The fact it’s being removed a lot, no.

The fact it keeps coming back? Yes.

If it was a horrible concept, it’d stay canceled wouldn’t it? :)

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@ Candlejack: I’d love to see Reed Richards become hopelessly distracted by little Valeria constantly going on and on about how dreamy Kristoff Vernard is…

@ malakim2099: It would make total sense to me that Spider-Girl would become just the natural extension of the overall Spider-Man story. Imagine if Peter Parker were allowed to age…once he gets to a point where his being Spider-Man doesn’t seem as plausible, you jump ahead some ten years and BOOM! Now it’s the adventures of Mayday Parker. I for one would keep buying…

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I don’t see why the fictive pace of time should keep pace with the real flow – I think that setting everything explicitly in the past might offer some valuable perspective – but the immortal always age X always now model has got to go. Stories must end, or else they are not stories.

To explain why, I refer to an essay Brian Clevinger wrote a long time ago (forum link because it almost got lost): http://www.nuklearforums.com/showpost.php?p=1080190&postcount=3

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Kommenczar said on October 17th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

…Earth 2…?

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dannywetts said on October 22nd, 2010 at 12:05 am

I think the problem comes with having a universe with CERTAIN characters that shouldn’t age and certain characters that should.

Some characters are iconic enough to earn that special, ageless quality that fans need. Others beg for change — I want to see the kids and teens grow-up and mature to adulthood. I don’t really want to see Frank Castle getting hip replacement surgery.

So who cares — it’s comics, and continuity amongst the big two has been f’d for years. Let’s just let the characters age as each needs to — most likely, the the characters that do age will eventually hit a point where everyone is comfortable and they will cease to age. Granted, I don’t want to ever see Kitty surpass Peter Parker in age, nor can I ever see that happening — she should hit her mid-to-late 20’s and stick.

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Somnopolis wrote:
“Example – Superman has met and worked with Ronald Reagan. That was almost thirty years ago, but he has not been active that long according to DC rolling time scale.”

I like the one where Superman asked JFK to pretend to be Clark Kent. (Action Comics 309.)

http://media.comicvine.com/uploads/0/3125/136007-18005-110539-1-action-comics_super.jpg

http://i43.tinypic.com/dgmnt0.jpg

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Kommenczar said on October 25th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

That particular one was even treated on this very blog if I’m not misremembering…

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I think too, that legacy characters when they are WELL DONE; as was the case of Hal Jordan and BArry Allen, and Wallace West too; is one good way to keep the comic book stories advancing.
It’s been proven we as fans won’t mind a big character passing down the mantle to a younger generation; but emphasis again; when it’s DONE WELL.

Much of the anti-Kyle sentiment stemmed from the fact he had no character at all previous to him being turned into a GL. Wally West was Kid Flash for years before becoming the next flash.
Kyle just got everything handed over to him; Hal was killed over twice just to try and force the GL mantle to be passed to Radner, with Gambit-esque levels of trying to make Kyle look like he was better than Hal.

Now it’s too soon to bad mouth the return of Barry Allen; but there is still some tragic, meaningful plot issue keeping his return from being completely cheap: he still has to return to the Speed Force and finish his run to catch the tachion, die, and become the lightning that gave him his powers. Allen, in a way, is already dead, and has been for 20 years in real time; he knows it, you know it, and everybody in universe know it; he died to save the Universe. Or will die at any rate.

conversely, Jordan’s return to the forefront of GL mythos feels cheap (even if it’s awesome, I feel he shouldn’t have had to go through emerald Twilight just to validate that young punk Radner; at the time it happened anyways) because for funks sake; he has died what, 3 times already? And has come back.
I’d have preferred after all that build up for him to stay as the new Specter. Dammit, his sacrifice to reignite the sun is now just something that happened one day; instead of having a now fully memorable storyline like Flash had with COIE, and being able to completely pass the mantle to Radner (wich was better written by this time) it’s back again to the beginning, completely downplaying his tenura as Parallax; wich his sacrifice was meant to atone so he could finally get sent off as a true hero and the greatest Lantern in the history of the corps.

And this is why the reset buttons sting so hard; they rob great story lines of meaning. I did enjoy the rainbow corps storyline; but thankfully it was because I had already dropped the title for years; yet I keep wondering if instead of being used to cement Jordan’s status as a godlike Lantern it had been used to validate once again Radner’s status as a new Green Lantern? what if Jordan’s spirit had materialized from thw White Lantern, and gave Kyle a last lesson, finally passsing the torch to him?

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