X-Factor annual #4 (Inferno)
Issue(s): X-Factor annual #4 (Inferno)
After interviewing a few people (see References), we start to see the collusion of a cover story from Marvel's super-heroes, starting with Dr. Strange (or Saunders) telling reporter Jake Conover that it was a mass hallucination.
Conover then suggests that the Blues Brothers talk to the X-Men or the Avengers. After interviewing Gilgamesh and getting the sort of response you'd expect from him...
...and realizing that Captain "America" is still on the outs with Washington and that Thor's response would likely be similar to Gilgamesh's, the Blues Brothers try X-Factor. X-Factor are currently getting ready for Madelyne's funeral. X-Factor decide to tell everyone that it was a hoax.
After conferring with Mr. Fantastic (who is an Avenger at this time), the story that the Blues Brothers get is that it was a mass hallucination caused by a hypno-ray used by AIM or another high tech terrorist group.
As you can see, the idea that mutants were really behind it remains in the thoughts of a lot of people.
The purpose of this story is to preserve the "world outside your window" aspect of the Marvel universe in the aftermath of an invasion from the forces of Hell. It's not important that everyone believe the story, just that enough people do so that the average person on the street can still be surprised when a demon or something shows up in the future. I guess since the story has such a utilitarian function, spicing things up with the Blues Brothers makes a kind of sense, but i still dislike them being here.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Inferno and before Madelyne Pryor's funeral in X-Factor #40.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAngel, Beast, Cyclops, Dr. Martin, Dr. Milan, Dr. Snodgrass, Dr. Strange, Elwood McNulty, Forgotten One, George Shiner, Iceman, J. Jonah Jameson, Jake Conover, Jake Farber, Jarvis, Jean Grey, Lance Bannon, Mr. Fantastic, Ship (Prosh), Thor
Aw, you didn't scan the appearance of M-Squad? Sadness. :(
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 20, 2014 5:44 PM
There was some question at the MCP about whether or not to include Mr. Fantastic as a character appearing behind-the-scenes- Beast suggests they ask Reed for advice and later Scott gives the FBI guys a story that he obviously didn't come up with himself- technically, that's not confirmation they spoke to Reed (although we're obviously meant to believe they did).
Posted by: Michael | October 20, 2014 8:31 PM
I think your parenthetical is right and i've added him.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 20, 2014 8:43 PM
Is Jim Fern a pseudonimun? These pencils have more than a fair touch of Ernie Colon, with a bit of Carmine Infantino for flavor.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 21, 2014 4:50 PM
Jim Fern is a real person. At Marvel he had been doing mostly inks on scattered Spider-Man titles prior to this.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 21, 2014 5:20 PM
I hate stories like this. There is so much weird stuff in the Marvel universe, it's pretty silly to think ordinary people aren't going to recognize this eventually. And it's especially stupid to do a "Demonic invasions can't possibly happen" story as a back-up to a story about an invasion from Atlantis.
Posted by: Berend | October 21, 2014 6:57 PM
But that's the whole problem, ordinary people would figure it out and then the entire status quo that the shared universe depends upon is gone. Perhaps the greatest thing about "Secret Wars II" was the effect that the Beyonder's existence on the devout Christian Nightcrawler. The Catholic Karma and Sunspot, Baptist Cannonball and Scots-Presbyterian Wolfsbane would have had similar issues if they didn't have bigger problems at the time, and all of them had dealt with Asgardian gods. But at least they're superheroes.
My go-to example for this stuff does not stem from the Marvel Universe, but instead, the Ghostbusters, who had scientifically proven the existence of the soul, the supernatural and the afterlife, and it's purely about establishing a status quo that the entire world completely ignores all of this.
[I do love the internet meme following The Avengers' movie: "Captain America - met two gods, still a Christian. Iron Man - met two gods, still an atheist. Hulk - met two gods, kicked the crap out of both of them."]
In a shared fictional universe driven by serialized stories, it undermines everything to ruin that. The way it's done here is stupid - though I personally like the Blues Brothers' appearance, and I didn't even know who they were when this story was published [and remembered it as being written by Peter David anyhow] - but it represented a very real problem for Marvel editorial and continuity experts.
It's intrinsic to the nature of the superhero genre. If these characters and their adventures are to have any real weight, they have to impinge upon real people and their lives. Unless a writer treats those people as anything other than the most generic stereotypes - damsels in distress, pining girlfriends, slack-jawed spectators - the effects a story would have on them is going to influence their writing. That's why this story is so important, and the creators aren't telling some other story instead, right?
My personal favorite use of Thor anywhere comes from Neil Gaiman's "1602" series, where Don Blake's walking stick turns out to be the true secret of the Knights Templar. In a story where most-if-not-all of the main Marvel characters are devout Catholics [the Church of England not having separated yet; Gaiman knows his history] the hammer of Thor itself could destroy the church simply by proving there are other gods, and thus must be kept secret.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 21, 2014 8:51 PM
One more thing- this issue went with the "the effects of Inferno vanished rapidly" explanation from New Mutants 74 and not the "dozens of people needed to be hospitalized" status quo from Power Pack 44 in order to make the hallucination explanation work.
Posted by: Michael | October 21, 2014 9:36 PM
That part is very stupid and the sort of thing that drives kids who are getting older (or even adults) out of comic book superheroes. "Inferno" alone would have physically or mentally traumatized thousands of people, minimum. People having heat stroke from the intense heat prior to the demon attacks. People having their hands bit off by mailboxes. J. Jonah Jameson would be the first one to admit that Spider-Man and people like him saved the day, and the Daily Bugle staff would walk out if he tried to do one more of his headlines that have always proven false in the past.
These people saw X-Factor's giant ship nearly smash the city less than a year ago. Stan Lee chuckling "Superheroes? In New York? Give me a break" is very funny and works perfectly, but come on.
A suburb of Denver vanished for a week to become part of Battleworld, and no one even mentions this? The Rocky mountains were nearly destroyed and no one mentions this? Dr. Strange even gets killed by the Beyonder - the video's still on Youtube! - and no one asks who this Beyonder is, and these are just the first major events that come to mind that citizens of the overall Marvel Universe have to glide past. Remember when that Galactus guy showed up and said he'd eat the planet? That video's on Youtube too.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 22, 2014 9:50 PM
To be fair, in Inferno's case, New Mutants 74 suggests that a side effect of the spell being broken was people's wounds were healed and their memories were blurred. The problem is Power Pack 44 contradicts that.
Posted by: Michael | October 22, 2014 10:13 PM
There are lot more examples of points of no return when the cumulative effect of these super-hero stories would massively change the world so it is very different than our own. However, a shared universe which a new reader expects to be similar to the real world when he picks up his first comic can't reflect that.
So we have lots of stories that accumulate over the years which should have caused massive changes, but don't. The only real solution is to keep such stories very tightly under lid and make it very clear to the editors and writers that such things can't be done. But that doesn't happen. So instead, we readers just have to learn to ignore it.
Posted by: Chris | October 22, 2014 10:55 PM
And that diminishes the reading experience. Even worse, the writers, artists and editors have to ignore it, or work around it, which diminishes their work, and in turn affects the readership. The Death of Phoenix couldn't happen under these circumstances (or Elektra) much less the next decade of X-titles that became the industry standard. Marvel wasn't built by telling the audience to ignore what had happened before.
The alternative is "Archie," or Mort Weisinger's "Superman" which reset the characters to their default position every single story, even if it takes place within the same issue. The genius of the Marvel Universe is that the characters are different by the end of their 20+ page adventure than they were when they started, and began the next adventure from that state. So there's a build-up that neither the writers, readers or characters can avoid, and only the editor can say "never mind," which would sink the sales right away.
Not saying there's a good solution, only that there was a brewing problem, and God help us, McFarlane, Liefeld and Lee pointed a way out.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 23, 2014 12:07 AM
They could just do the events and let the natural repercussions happen, but they're too skittish of real change to do that.
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 23, 2014 8:02 PM
Just a quick clarification: Weisinger never reset Superman in the contemporary sense of it. He did slowly build a mythology around Superman during his editorship; he simply didn't make a lot of references to past stories. His "resets" tended to be specifically labelled Dreams or Imaginary Stories.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 26, 2014 2:28 AM
But the mythology Weisinger built around Superman never really depended on anybody learning anything from a given story, or even referring to previous stories. Superman spent his first decade never even knowing about Krypton's existence, and then it became an inescapable part of the Man of Steel's mythos. Spider-Man, the FF and the X-Men eventually learned about events, they remembered what had happened to them in previous issue ("When Uncle Ben was killed") and it built them up, as characters and storylines. Batman's had a dinosaur and a giant penny in the Batcave almost as long as he's had a sidekick, and very few readers know where they came from. Like the different colors of kryptonite, they simply are.
There's no awareness of what happened last month. Betty Brant occasionally suspected something about Peter, and she even saw Spidey unmasked by Dr. Octopus, but it all made sense from her perspective and she didn't dwell on it. Try dating Betty and Veronica for a few months and see how far that gets you. [Beyond a few high fives; dude, you made it with Betty *and* Veronica??? Way cool!]
Posted by: ChrisW | October 26, 2014 9:49 PM
Richie Rich never has to consider his endless wealth. Neither does Uncle Scrooge. Archie never has more than temporary difficulties with Reggie, Moose, Principal Weatherbee, Miss Grundee, Betty or Veronica. Sad Sack is always Sad Sack. Hell, Beetle Bailey's been in the Army for 70 years and he's still a Private.
Mort Weisinger did add to the Superman mythologies, but he just turned the dial up to 10 and made ten louder. Stan, Jack and Steve turned the dial up to 11.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 26, 2014 9:55 PM
I'm not denying that the pre-Bronze age stories for Superman, Batman, et al. were far simpler and less complex than the Marvel Universe; your statement was that those characters were regularly "reset" and that wasn't the case. Weisinger's Superman certainly did have referrals to past events; they simply tended to show up as flashback panels rather than footnotes with issue numbers, as well as showing up less frequently than Marvel would use them.
The Archie and Harvey titles were directed toward much younger child readers; continuity and universe-building are irrelevant concerns toward the aims of those books. It's exceedingly rare that even their covers would have any relation to what went on inside them.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 27, 2014 11:15 AM
So yeah, the characters were reset for each story. The Superman in the second story wouldn't have any reference to the first story, or the third. "Spider-Man" #2 is about as close as Marvel ever got to that kind of approach, where the first story was actively building the character Stan and Steve had created, and the second story was this weird anomaly that had much more in common with the short mystery/adventure/monster stories Marvel was already producing and moving away from.
Even without fifty years of hindsight, the second story is a generic tale that could probably be done with any other superhero protagonist. The first story changes Peter (he gets a camera, he gets a job selling photos, he demonstrates previously-unmentioned scientific capabilities) and Spidey (mostly the same way, but he's also defeated by the Vulture in a foreshadowing of the way Doc Ock would beat him down the following issue) and Aunt May (remembering her dead husband, providing Petey with the means to help pay the bills) and introducing important characters(JJJ, the Vulture.)
At the end of "Spider-Man" #2, he's already grown and changed from the character he was at the start of the issue, which is different than he was in "Spider-Man" #1, "Amazing Fantasy" #15 or "Spider-Man #3. Any random issue of "Superman" or "Action Comics" would have given the reader none of that, without even the acknowledgement that something important had happened until the nascent fandom recognized it.
Archie and Harvey were aimed at kids. So were Superman and Spider-Man, and comic books in general. References to something important in Superman's life were handled in flashbacks because that's how these things were done at the time. "We're showing you this flashback to Superman's past because we say this has meaning to Superman's life, and Superman wipes a tear away from his eye so you know it's genuine." There is no sense of drama to compare to Spidey fighting the Master Planner to save Aunt May's life. Superman stays in the same place every issue and his life changes like glaciers, 90% below the surface.
I always liked Jim Shooter's comment about returning to Marvel in the mid-70s and he didn't have a clue who any of these characters were or why they did what they did, so he went over to DC and found the Legion of Superheroes exactly where he'd left them.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 27, 2014 11:22 PM
I'm not sure why you insist on declaring any non-Marvel story a "reset" simply because of lack of complexity or absence of references to past events. "Crisis on Infinite Earths" or this "New 52" stuff--now those were resets.
Archie and Harvey were directed at small children; DC was aimed at older, late-grade school kids, and Marvel in the 1960s was increasingly aimed at older adolescents up to college students. Calling Archie's and Harvey's outputs constant "resets" because their content didn't match Marvel's complexity is like criticizing grapes for not being oranges.
Shooter's statement about the Legion doesn't really prove your point--the Legion wasn't seen on a regular basis from 1971-73, and the perception that they hadn't changed would indicate that they HADN'T been reset.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 28, 2014 10:32 AM
Mark, while Chris might be overstating his case, I think he is referring to the general narrative principle of "Status Quo Is God" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StatusQuoIsGod) whereby successive stories featuring the same fictional characters depict little growth or building on previous ones. Lex Luthor "reforms" and it's all a trick... then it happens 10 issues later and everyone falls for it again. The mythology might introduce new elements which are carried over, but ultimately the characters don't change or grow.
Posted by: cullen | October 28, 2014 3:19 PM
"One more thing- this issue went with the "the effects of Inferno vanished rapidly" explanation from New Mutants 74 and not the "dozens of people needed to be hospitalized" status quo from Power Pack 44 in order to make the hallucination explanation work."
But Michael, that happened in THIS story as well. That's pretty much the explanation that M-Squad gives to why they're not elevator chow.
For the most part I really don't get why they needed to do a "cover story" for this. Given that the inhabitants of Marvel comics live in a society where NYC is destroyed every other week by something ot other, I can't see how Inferno would be considered beyond the realm of plausibility.
On the other hand though, Jean's explanation does give me pause. Note that she's says it's more about preserving preexisting belief systems more than anything else. I know that some of the books WERE getting some accusatory letters about Inferno around this time.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | October 28, 2014 5:44 PM
Although the extent to which the Marvel U "bounces back" to "normalcy" strains suspension of belief pretty hardcore, I'll also offer this: the "real world" we all live in amply demonstrates the extent to which people will buy bogus or incredible explanations for phenomenon that they refuse to believe because it is incompatible with their world view. In fact I'd say people's willingness to disbelieve the existence of aliens, gods, and incredibly powerful secret organizations - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - functions as a metacommentary on how our 'comfortable' worldview blinds so many to things like: structural racism and institutionalized privilege, the daily degradations of patriarchal culture, an imperialistic military that is considered a global aggressor by large swaths of the world's population... and on and on. We'd rather have our worldview undisturbed than confront the unsettling reality - as would denizens of Earth-616.
Maybe Zizek will let me ghostwrite an essay about it.
Posted by: cullen | October 28, 2014 7:05 PM
(*because I might've been a bit unclear: I wasn't saying there is overwhelming evidence of aliens and gods in our world. But our world *does* have MK-Ultra and Project Paperclip, the Gulf of Tonkin, the Tuskegee Experiment, etc..!)
Posted by: cullen | October 28, 2014 7:25 PM
Cullen, the problem with ChrisW's rather strict terms for "resets" is that they would necessarily have to include big hunks of the MU during the 1970s and 1980s, and especially licensed characters used in the MU. Marvel legally can't refer in any way to Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, or the Human Fly these days, so have their stories been "reset" into non-existence? And how many times did Len Wein or Bill Mantlo reverse events or character developments in Hulk, Spider-Man, et al, effectively making them as if they never happened? Under ChrisW's criteria, those would be "resets" also.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 29, 2014 10:14 AM
I'm not sure what you mean by "reset" (other than your references to "Crisis" and "New 52," which are very heavily influenced by the concept of a cohesive fictional universe, or at least "Crisis" was, I haven't read "New 52.")
What I mean by "reset" is that the characters at the end of the story were no different from the way they ended a previous story, or began it for that matter. The Legion of Superheroes was created in 1958, Jim Shooter started writing them in 1966, and when he returned in the mid-70s, they were still the characters he knew them as. This is closer to Ronald McDonald and Cap'n Crunch, who are not believable characters that undergo changes with each adventure or serialized installment. [Does the Cap'n even fight the Soggies anymore, much less get kidnapped by them, leaving the world to search for him?]
Meanwhile, let's compare a random X-Men storyline, and not the one you'd expect either. In the first issue, Magneto forms an alliance with the Stranger, who winds up taking him and the other evil muties back to his home planet [and freeing Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch to find new employment.] Xavier congratulates the X-Men for ridding the world of villains that they will never ever under any circumstances have to face again, but then Cerebro starts beeping about the brand-new threat headed directly towards them. "To be continued."
This alone is character development from issue-to-issue. Then what happens the following issue? Xavier gives us part of his origin, while the Juggernaut closes in, relentless and unstoppable, until the two finally come face-to-face. Again, "To be continued."
Jugs trashes the X-Men, and Xavier is forced to call in the Human Torch for help. Johnny is worried that this will affect Reed and Sue's upcoming wedding. This isn't the same Johnny Storm that made cameos in various issues of "Spider-Man." Or rather, it is the same Johnny, but he's grown and matured [as Reed pointed out a time or two in earlier issues of FF; Johnny may still be a girl-chasing hot-rodder, but he is not the kid from early issues of "FF."]
At the end of the issue, the X-Men are all injured (except Charley and Jean) and at the beginning of the next issue, they're still recovering from those injuries. Good thing too, because they run into the Sentinels, another multi-issue story that leads to the X-Men being injured, and just when they return home, they wind up being captured by Magneto for yet another two-part story.
When I say that the DC characters (or Harvey, or Archie) were reset for each new story, I mean that they rarely-if-ever acknowledged that they had had legs broken or parents kidnapped or villains taken away forever, while expositing an origin as the Juggernaut pounds ever nearer. The X-Men were different at the end of each issue than they were when they started, and the following issue began by taking that into account.
I'm not talking about resetting decades of continuity, I'm saying that this story was so important to the characters that they remembered in the following issue, and the story built from there.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 29, 2014 9:26 PM
Belatedly added a scan of M-Squad for Jay. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | October 30, 2014 5:14 PM
Aw! You're the best!
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 30, 2014 7:19 PM
ChrisW, my usage of "reset" is the same as broader comic fandom in general--specifically, wiping out past continuity and starting fresh, as in "Crisis" and "New 52"(also interchangeably known as "reboot" or "restart").
And as I've said to Cullen, the problem is that your terms for resets certainly do apply to big hunks of the MU. For example, during Gerry Conway's last several issues of Amazing Spider-Man during the mid-1970s, Mary Jane's character did grow to becoming more committed to Peter and more mature in her handling of intimate relationships--but a few issues into Len Wein's run, she goes right back to "You ran out on me during a date! I hate you now! Waaaahhhh!!" as if that growth never happened. Under your terms, that's a reset.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 2, 2014 2:16 PM
I didn't say Marvel was immune from keeping the characters the same from story-to-story. And of the examples you list, "Marvel Team-Up" and "Marvel Two-in-One" would really the be the only ones that qualified as resets.
And even there, Claremont/Byrne's run kept Spidey on such a rollercoaster that, when I read the collection, I had to go back and actively look for the scenes or captions that indicated Spidey took a break and went home to get some sleep. Did he grow and change as a character, no, not really, but each issue smoothly transitioned into the next, usually with a cliff-hanger. For a series that existed to give Spidey-fans more Spidey, and showcase other characters too, that's pretty good, whether or not other issues of "MTU" or "MTIO" do that.
Marvel was built on character development. Marvel at its best has interesting characters who grow and change over time. The many many Marvel comics and series that fail to do this (even when they're entertaining - "Groo" was designed to be this way, although it was published through Epic) don't change that. So the Hulk never learned anything or kept anything from his previous adventures? Wile E. Coyote still hasn't found the part of the Acme catalogue where they sell "Canned Roadrunner," but we can enjoy those cartoons anyway.
So what if a new writer had a different take on a character than the previous writer? So what if a later writer reversed (or retconned, whatever you want to call it) a storyline about a main character's death? Undoing Xavier's death isn't fundamentally different from undoing Jean Grey's death. The loss of the licensed titles was a contractual reason. Superman and Batman never referred to meeting Pat Boone and Jerry Lewis. [Admittedly those stories didn't impact them in any meaningful way.]
If you'll scroll up, you'll see that my original point was that everybody had to be "reset," to treat Inferno as just another forgettable day in the life. Claremont's X-Men themselves stopped mentioning Inferno or its effects within an issue or two, making them a better example of "resetting" after a storyline he'd spent 80 issues building up (not to mention "New Mutants," etc.) Folks in Denver were hardly traumatized by that week or two they spent on the other side of the universe with no idea what was going on. The only people who remember or care that Galactus landed on Earth are the invading aliens who Google how many times he's visited, and yet the planet's still here...
I don't know where you're getting the idea that I think Marvel's immune to doing stories that don't mean anything to their characters, or that I think they're superior to DC for that reason. I'm not even sure where you get the idea that I think a comic book story *needs* to refer to previous issues. I think comics need more series like this. "Groo" is my go-to example when I'm talking to adults, but "Archie" and "Richie Rich" make the same point.
Other than running jokes and bringing back characters from earlier issues, Groo is the same at the end of a story as he is in the beginning, and rarely references previous stories. Even the multi-parters work very well if you only read one issue and never look back. Especially "The Amulet," Sergio and Mark's favorite story from their epic run and reprinted in (wait for it) "The Groo Inferno." Read one issue, it's great. Read two or more issues, out of order, it's still great. Read it as a complete storyline and "Awesome" becomes too small of a word to describe the magnificence. ["It sounds like warthogs being tortured, but never mind that."]
I am a Marvel Fan. I do prefer them to DC, but only when they have Stan/Jack/Steve at their best, or later surrogates like Miller, Claremont, Byrne, etc. Marvel gave the creators credit, which gives the audience a way to judge the results that we don't have when it's all anonymous lines on paper. The Daredevil Frank Miller took over was very different from the DD Miller left. Did Denny O'Neill do a good job of continuing it? Your mileage may vary [I liked it, but it was my first exposure to DD.] The Daredevil O'Neill left was different, and the Daredevil Miller started "Born Again" with was vastly different than the DD he ended it with.
I'm not saying this is a superior way of telling comic book stories [although I probably am saying it's a way of telling superior comic book stories, because with few exceptions, an interesting character that goes through changes and you want to know what happens next to him/her will beat an interesting character that doesn't change. The original Star Wars trilogy vs. the prequels, for example.] If someone doesn't live up to Stan/Jack/Steve/Miller/Claremont/Byrne/etc's greatness, that's not a failure, just like running a mile in 4:02 isn't a failure.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 3, 2014 9:34 PM
And scratch that comment about the "Star Wars" prequels. The characters did change in each movie, and arguably more than the characters in the originals changed. The audience wasn't particularly invested in them the way we were in Luke, Han, Leia, Vader, etc. but they did change.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 3, 2014 9:40 PM
ChrisW - My problem is with this paragraph -
"So what if a new writer had a different take on a character than the previous writer? So what if a later writer reversed (or retconned, whatever you want to call it) a storyline about a main character's death? Undoing Xavier's death isn't fundamentally different from undoing Jean Grey's death."
I believe if you're going to use an established character, you should take the time to research the history of that character up to the point that you're using him or her. It just makes sense to look at all aspects of the character - previous history, mannerisms, the "look" of the character. etc. Why do a half-%$% job in the first place?
Posted by: clyde | November 4, 2014 9:39 AM
Because the editor is a week away from a deadline and needs a new issue now? Because the editor wants a fill-in issue in case he's ever a week away from a deadline and wants a new issue ready to go? Because the editor wants a fill-in story about how Peter Parker is totally in love with Gwen Stacey and this Mary Jane chick is just bad news? Because the current writer that you're filling in for is breaking up Peter and Gwen, and giving MJ more attention, even if it's just livening up the supporting cast, giving Harry or Flash a few interesting scenes?
These are just top-of-my-head examples, and limited to fill-in writers. This is a good example of how Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman and Archie become interchangeable. Writing a single Batman story will be a lot easier if all the editor wants is a decent fight against the Joker, without reading decades of comics to prepare. A decent teen romance comic will be a lot easier to write if you don't know everything about who Archie is and how he came to be, never mind Betty and Veronica. And don't get me started on Uncle Scrooge. The editor will provide all the guidance you need.
Even with a long-term writer taking over an established character, there are going to be differences. Did people complain that Frank Miller never mentioned Mike Murdock? [I only know who that character is because Miller specifically said in a TCJ interview that he wasn't interested in referring to Mike.] No, they were enjoying an interesting take on a character that didn't heavily rely on his previous 170-some issues. If you believe John Byrne, Claremont didn't know much about the early X-Men, but he managed to do well with the old characters as much as the new. Alan Moore started writing "Captain Britain" in the middle of a storyline he didn't understand, and made it work for him, which carried over into "Swamp Thing" and his other work.
And these are the greats. The less-then-greats will have their own views on how specific characters should be treated and write their comics accordingly. Great or not, there's a lot of truth to the saying that the Golden Age of Comics is whenever you were seven years old. That's who the characters are to you, and who they will be forever
As much as it hurts to say this, forcing someone to read decades of comic books just so they can qualify to write the characters is downright cruel. It has nothing to do with doing a bad job, it's making a good writer who isn't interested in continuity do extra work, or a good writer who cares about continuity to see things differently ["Jean Grey didn't actually die on the Moon, it was a clone!"] or the editor had his own point-of-view. Or other writers had a point-of-view.
You're only going to get good character continuity with a singular creative entity. The more Steve, Jack and Stan retreated from the basic Marvel Universe, the less cohesive it became. Roy Thomas had to look for ways to make it cohesive, which became its own problem, and left difficulties for later editors and writers. The more Claremont retreated from the mutant titles, the less cohesive they became, and he is personally the one who made the mutant titles what they were. And everybody's going to have a different approach, that's what makes us individuals. I don't need Elmer Fudd's history to know why he's hunting wabbits, I just need to make him funny when hunting wabbits. And this doesn't distinguish between kids and adults. It's the type of story you're telling, and much to the medium's misfortune, comics in general have focused for far too long on the character's history. When it works, it works (early Marvel, Claremont's X-titles) but it does detract from the overall experience in the long run.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 5, 2014 11:55 PM
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