Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘Continuity is the devil’

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“The nice thing about coming in to write the New 52 is I don’t have to worry about what came before the New 52. That stuff is great and it can serve as inspiration, but continuity is the devil. [laughs] As a writer, having to slavishly make sense of too much continuity can kill a story. Yes, you want to stay true to the spirit of things, and continuity can absolutely be your friend in creating resonance and a sense of history and paying off certain emotional things – BUT: It was a beautiful, beautiful thing for me walking into the New 52 and being able to look at a small range of stories that had been told, and those are the things that are set in stone, and the rest of it we can make up as we go. We can build the stories that make sense for our characters in order to tell the emotional story that we’re telling.”

Action Comics and Batman/Superman writer Greg Pak, on juggling different timelines, and different worlds, in the two DC Comics series

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“As a writer, having to slavishly make sense of too much continuity can kill a story. ”

I will never be convinced of this.
I am grateful that I am not a fan of the writing by Greg Pak, Brian Bendis, KSD and Jeph Loeb.

Let’s hear it for liking continuity as NOT cool.

The New 52 (and Crisis, and Zero Hour, and every other goddamn reboot) threw the baby out with the bathwater. I totally agree with Pak’s sentiment that getting hung up on continuity can completely kill a story, but you don’t need a reboot to get around that. Continuity is a tool, same as any other in the writer or artist’s arsenal — use it if it’s appropriate, don’t use it if it’s not.

If you’re trying to please the fans who get bent out of shape because your story contradicts something that happened thirty years ago, rebooting continuity is pretty much the LEAST likely thing to please them.

I’ve read some pretty good out-of-continuity or “revised” continuity stories. And even stories that have been “retconned” as never having occurred, are still available for me to read and enjoy.

Continuity is the devil, true, but it’s also part of why we read comics by the Big 2. You want continuity free shit, then make up your own characters and stories instead of using other people’s characters. Continuity is part of the fun when you’re using other people’s toys!

Continuity, at best, is an illusion. There is no possible way to draw a through line from the beginning of DC or Marvel that would make any linear sense.

I’m not sure if it’s an issue of historical continuity but something more inline with episodic continunity that bothers me with the modern comic. Look at Green Lantern as an entity. Green Lantern, GL Corps, New Guardians and in some cases the Red Lanterns…if you are a writer that thinks, “Wow…I got an original story to tell”, keep it to yourself because the odds are, if it doesn’t fit with what’s going on elsewhere in the GL books…you won’t tell it. Those books are too connected anymore to be able to tell any sweeping original story arcs.
Even the Batman books suffer from this but thankfully not to the Green Lantern extent. It’s almost like DC at least has carved up it’s own continunity blocs. You got GL and all their books, Batman and all his books, Superman and all those books. Heck, even Supergirl is suffering by linking Red Lanterns to her own book. Because right now, if you’re in charge of Supergirl and have a story where she is Earth bound and dealing with villians…that won’t cut it because it will clash with the Red Lantern story arc.
Anywho..hope this made sense :P

It just reads as “I like the New 52 because it makes my job easier” which I guess is true but that is not really a strong argument in favour of reboots.

I don’t understand this attitude. I get it if you’re writing a prequel, or a character that is shared across a lot of books, but I don’t understand how the fact that a character has a past constrains choices about what to write next, in a way that rebooting would help. You don’t want to do something that’s been done before, but that’s just as true after a reboot.

I have to say i lost a little bit of respect for Greg Pak right there, each writer is different and I always believe that you should just write the story you want but continuity is (in my opinion) nothing but a benefit. I look at what someone like Grant Morrison was able to do with Batman and I think to my self “That is how a writer uses comics continuity the right way” don’t run from it use it to make your story that much better.

There’s not enough quality coming from these guys who slag off continuity. I say that if you can’t make your story work within the framework of what came before, then you shouldn’t be writing comics. It’s your job, and the job of the editor, to keep the ball rolling. These guys who claim to be reinventing the wheel usually end up retelling the same old stories anyway.

I don’t know if I feel strongly either way.

I’ve seen some writers pissing on continuity just because they’re too lazy or too proud to do proper research (Bendis).

But I’ve also seen excellent stories being bashed just because they conflict with continuity (Hawkworld).

I’ve seen good writers descending into continuity porn that feels emotionally alienating (Avengers Forever).

I’ve seen writers crafting a grand tapestry from discarded pieces of continuity (Starman).

So I’d say continuity is a neutral force. Continuity doesn’t kill comics, bad writers kill comics. Alternately, continuity by itself doesn’t make a comic great.

Pfff…utter nonse…Pak is basically telling us how lazy he is as a writer.

How the hell would you want to write superhero comics without having an understanding and an acceptance of continuity? Pak is in the wrong business, I’m afraid.

And to throw some meta in his direction: he is, at the moment, adding to Superman’s continuity. So, basically, he’s part of all the “hell” he’s complaining about.

It’s amazing, the gulf between what people in this thread think Pak said and what he actually said.

The best writers obey continuity and use it as a tool to improve their stories:

Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek & Ed Brubaker all build on the rich history of Marvel & DC rather than ignore it.

As for Pak, I’ve sampled everything he’s written and so far I’ve only enjoyed TUROK from Valiant.

I AM A FAN OF GREG PAK! That said, no one is, has ever been, or will ever be (outside of an editorial edict) be enslaved and or tied to continuity in comics, ever. NEVER. So no. Continuity is not the great evil everyone makes it out to be.

Continuity is why Batman has so many fans. Because different people love different iterations of the character. Why everyone loves Christopher Reeves Superman and why it still resonates with people. Because all of those versions inspired, either by having writers and artists lavish their praise of them, or like Byrne and Miller by responding to them with a different take or an antithetical approach to them.

So no. Continuity is not an evil. DC’s PR department is the great evil. Unable to sell their characters, or perhaps unwilling they sacrificed years of storytelling and tales in favor of a blank slate and no plan.

Do I feel bitter about it? No. I’m so over it. Jeff Lemire did the same thing just now in the New 52 with Green Arrow and it actually has me interested in the character. Another writer lavishly following up the precedents set years before in other stories if well written would probably do the same for me. Continuity doesn’t matter and it does.

But it never mattered more than a good story. Which sadly, the New52 does not deliver enough or often. Editorial edicts like no thought balloons, and one creative direction ruling from the top down, and the darkening of characters those are the things ghettoizing comics . . .

I was willing to say that 3.99 is too high a price, and it is. Absurdly high, but My Little Pony keeps selling out. So there’s obviously an audience at this price point. I just think when they graduate from MLP they’re not going to like the New52 since it has nothing more than whitewashed and unoriginal if not tired storytelling written by editors and not writers.

Continuity is not the problem its bad writing and a lack of creativity . . . in more than just the storytelling department.

When comics stop trying to tell buyers what it is they want to read, and start listening to what they want to read, Comics might be popular again.

John DeSpirito

May 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Over a year later and I still feel like the New 52 is a giant Elseworlds tale. I feel like the DC Universe is gone. I can’t get into it. Except for Animal Man, I love the Jeff Lamire Animal Man run.

Now I know the real reason why he threw the Hulk into space and onto a previously-unheard-of-planet with a completely new supporting cast, irregardless of how successful it was.

Also, does he not realize that all of the stories he has wrote since he came into the New 52 contribute to building the current rebooted continuity? Every writer that comes after him will have to take all of the changes that he personally implements into the New 52 into consideration when crafting their future stories. How is he helping the situation?

Continuity is important not just in story but in characterization. If I choose to read Superman I want to read Superman, not a bad remake. One of the reasons why the new 52 is a critical failure–and becoming a commercial one as well—is that the editors and creative teams don’t respect or acknowledge what came before them. They’re not even consistent within the new 52. Readers weren’t confused by the old continuity but they certainly are by the new one. Creative laziness is the issue

Wow. This is further proof to me that the current crop of comics writers are just plain lazy. I agree that continuity is a tool to use and not some “devil.”

Good writers can use this tool and have for many, many years. But for some reason, a lot of the current writers out there don’t want to do the work of truly knowing their subject matter and using it to create entertaining stories.

So I guess the Gerry Conways, Chuck Dixons, Geoff Johns, Carey Bates, Martin Paskos, Kurt Busiaks and Marv Wolfmans of the past were just better writers.

As a person who only got into comics in the last five years, I don’t really care what happened in the Golden, Silver or even Bronze Age of comics. Sure the history can add another level to the story but who cares about strict continuity? As long as they do not lose the essence of the characters (which can be argued they might have a bit in some cases), there should not be a problem.
Now if one is talking about rapid fire reboots every few years just to make story telling easier, then yes…I would be upset with that. But if you don’t have a hard reboot but once every 15 years from DC or Marvel, then I think you should be happy.

Greg… you know what isn’t endearing? Going out and complaining abut how much you don’t like doing your job to a bunch of people who would kill to have it. Because, and somebody probably should have mentioned this when you started writing super hero comics, writing to continuity is your job.

So yeah, your work is easier to do now that you don’t have to do so much of it. No kidding? My work would be easier to do if I just stopped doing parts of it too. Especially the parts that gave it value.

Adhering to continuity adds value to your work. Continuity was the selling point that drove Marvel and D.C. for decades and it’s a shame that the current generation of writers increasingly thinks that they should be above respecting the work of the people whose shoulders they stand on. (I’m speaking specifically of Rick “I would rather kill myself than take two minutes to look up Psylocke on Wikipedia” Remender)

Although kudos to D.C. for having the guts to actually pull the trigger with the New 52 reboot (half-assed as it was). Meanwhile, Marvel still pretends their universe is the same one Stan and Jack built when it suits them, and then ignores it when it doesn’t.

Uh…i think Pak was talking more about him being happy he doesn’t have to adhere too much with the continuity of the old DCu when making Nu52 stories. In which case, yeah, continuity is the devil. Obviously he, in the course of writing for Nu52, will inevitably build upon established continuity (by that I mean what we have in Nu52 so far). But he’s happy he can tell new stories with these characters, without being bogged down by older stories (which technically aren’t connected to Nu52 anymore).

Personally, it’s good that he thinks that way, coz I honestly think if they really wanted Nu52 to succeed, they should forget everything and build something new. New origins, new enemies, or *gasp!* new characters!

People mentioning Pak’s own contributions to DC continuity should remember that it’s all just Morrison’s Hypercrisis. I know the average reader of Robot6 would take offense to these comments, but Mr. Pak seems to be self-unaware, because heis already slaving over continuity with the current crossover he’s writing, just a smaller pool.

That’s ok Paktion Comics is killing it.

Jerome Horwitz

May 15, 2014 at 5:06 am

The great writers (and editors), the ones who understand who the characters are, never had a problem with continuity.

Writers like Pak (and Bendis) don’t have the writing skills to work at that level. So they just make up their own shit with malicious disregard for what other writers have accomplished.

Once, writers spent decades building a mythos around a character, building a rich background, and succeeded in creating characters that lasted forty or fifty years. Now untalented writers like Pak and Bendis have twisted those characters into doppelgangers that will be lucky to last five years, before someone else comes in and reboots them again. Tragic.

Boooooooo!!!!

If you can’t deal with continuity, then maybe writers like Pak should look to other professions, or simply write fiction books and stay away from comics.

The writers who get bent with continuity are just lazy and poor writers.

The nice thing about the New52 is that it saved me so much money since it begun. And obviously it has done the same thing to many many people according to recent disaster sales numbers for DC. I wonder how people like Pak will feel when they will be out of job once DC closes shop.

mike – superhero books are fiction books, too

three words: marvel ultimate universe

Greg Pak is right.

remember that feeling after reading whedon’s astonishing x-men # 1? at last a writer who gets it!

whedon, in his first story arc on the x-men, first made sure that he showed all the fanboys that he gets these characters they’ve come to know and love, and he successfully earned their trust. in the later story arcs, he was able to take the x-men to new things and the fans accepted them.

pak would do well to learn from whedon (or mark waid, peter david, james robinson, claremont, gaiman, miller, etc). you don’t need to do a reboot everytime you want to tell an original story. that’s where the fun comes from — when a writer is able to tell a completely original story that makes sense within established continuity.

the other option that dc could have taken is the ultimate universe route.

What’s ironic is that avoiding major continuity errors isn’t all that time-consuming. The lazy writers could easily get help from editors or other aides if they’re in doubt about a character’s backstory. Or they could spend 10 minutes reading a wikipedia page.

It seems to be more about pride than laziness. “How dare you guys expect that I should acknowledge former writers?”

@Rene- I don’t think it’s all about trying to avoid them, the fact is…if you have to worry too much about continuity, then it’s not really your story. It’s just you adding on to another person’s story. That’s not exactly an appealing concept for many writers to face.

@Nicole –

That is what I said. Pride. Ego.

If you don’t want to add to another person’s story, then create your own characters. There’s Image, Vertigo, and other places with a lot of comics that allow creators to tell their own stories, from start to finish.

It seems to me like a case of wanting to have your cake and to eat it too. Pak and company want to use the big characters other people created, with the name recognition that comes with it, but they don’t want to be bothered with adding to other people’s stories.

Don’t you think that that is just a little vile?

I don’t think it’s vile really as long as it’s done with a bit of common sense. I’m a fan of Stephanie Brown so I’ll use her as an example. Prior to the New 52, she was Batgirl but the huge amount of luggage that she had when being Spoiler or Robin didn’t weigh her down. The writers didn’t wiped away her continuity but for a good amount of the time simply ignored it to the point it wouldn’t screw with their story telling.
They acknowledged that she had been Robin, a bit of a screwed up girlfriend and even brought in her issues with Black Mask. So I’m not against continunity if it doesn’t throw a writer into a fit. But if people would have made issues about how Steph should have handled an emotional situation because once upon a time she gave up her baby to adoption…that would be making continuity stupid.

This is why DC only gets money from me for Astro City these days.

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