Thursday, November 7, 2013

True or False: Today's Retcons Are Done in the Same Spirit as Silver Age Revivals

Doug:  Sales, sales, sales.  I get that -- comic books are part of a publishing enterprise.  But, are today's retcons done in a spirit of revival and freshness?  Or, does change take place merely for the sake of change (oh, and the almighty dollar)?


MattComix said...

I would have to say false.

It really seems as though retcons now come from editors who have no real faith in the characters that are in their care who also have the mentality of bad fanfic writers. Who then hire bad fanfic writers from an unending stream of fans writing bad fanfiction who then become rock stars to the rest of those fans.

This is why so much of what goes on now relies on some gimmick that gratuitously monkey's with an aspect of the established premise and characters instead of just telling a damn story with them.

Unknown said...

"Red Hood and the Outlaws"
"Joker's Daughter"


The "Spirit of the Silver Age" lives again....

Doug said...

KKovats --

So those are good stories? I am totally out of the new comics loop. You think those are solid, and not just created sensationally to make a buck?

Thanks for any further info!


Edo Bosnar said...

Hm, Doug, I know it's hard to tell in comments like these, but I'm detecting a pretty healthy dose of sarcasm in kkovats' comment.

And although I don't really read any of today's ongoing superhero comics, from what I know of them, I'd answer false to the question as well.
(By the way, are you counting DC's New 52 and Marvel Now as retcons? Maybe this is just splitting hairs, but aren't those considered full-on reboots rather than just retcons?)

Doug said...

Terminology can be tough in a discussion like this, Edo. Yeah, reboots are fair game today as well.

Some reboots, to me at least, are necessary. I know folks get tired of (for example) the Legion getting constantly rebooted. However, after the spell where Giffen took them into a much more dark scifi motif where the characters had aged somewhat naturally, it was time to rekindle that Silver Age spirit. I felt that "Legionnaires" did that for the most part until it, too, started to wander a bit. The Legion now? I have no idea.

Wolverine's many retcons would be an example of shock value, sensationalism, etc. rather than of organic storytelling that rolls along nicely. I felt that the revivals of those characters I chose to picture were nostalgic, and appropriate homages to "your daddy's" comics. Today it seems like "all cash, all the time".

Grumpily yours,


Anonymous said...

I am sure that I don't know enough about retcons or revivals to speak intelligently to this, but I find it an interesting premise for a True or False (so I'll just speak unintelligently to try to keep something going). ;-)

I think I want to agree with Matt and Edo and say false. But I think this might be an apples and oranges type of thing. A "Revival" like, say, finding Captain America in an iceberg, is not the same as saying something never really happened, which is my understanding of what a "Retcon" is. Edo, I don't think you are splitting hairs when you raise the question about the difference between reboots and retcons. The meanings of words are important to any discussion.

I'll bring in another oft-used word around here - "canon". I think as time marches on, these characters and stories suffer from the weight of their own canon - should Peter Parker be a perpetual teen-ager?, if Lois is so smart can't she figure out Clark is Supes?, how old is Cap anyway? etc.

So I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with trying to shake things up to increase sales or readership or whatever. But the question speaks to "Spirit", which is a feeling. It seems the sentiment is that these retcons don't "feel" right. But maybe Stan Lee was every bit the money grubber that modern writers are and we are all looking at the past through rose colored glasses.

I'm re-reading what I just wrote...I said it would probably be unintelligent. Maybe more like inconsistent babbling. But since this won't be going into a time capsule or anything, the post stands.


Doug said...

Well you see, Tom, that's where you're wrong. The BAB will live perpetually in cyberspace, a digital footprint left by all purveyors of this wonderful community.

So you're now unintelligible for eternity! ;)

Precision of language is important, yes.

Does anyone know how the last Captain America story in 1949 (?) ended? I know Baron Zemo is himself a retcon. The '50s Cap and Bucky were later retconned to not be Steve and James, as far as I know. Does anyone know if in that short revival (pencilled by Romita, I believe) Cap and Bucky were Steve and James?

Martin Goodman was no doubt a money-grubber, -grabber, what have you. Stan would have been working off of his orders, based on DC's successful relaunches of Flash, GL, Atom, etc. So I'm not going to deny that there were financial concerns at that time.


david_b said...

I'd say TRUE. A retcon is a retcon is a retcon. Whether it be Carmine retconing the Flash in October '56 to launch the Silver Age, or some Avengers retcon or Spidey being a teenager again.

(Or now 'black'..)

It seemed back in the hoopla of the Silver Age, the perception wasn't as cynical or profit-centric, but we fool ourselves with this view.

It's a business, it's always been a business, geared to sell as many as possible based on who's willing to shell out cash.

Did kids today want to run out and buy Thor ish 809 (with references back to 'classic ish 154' or something), or a sparkling new Thor ish 1..?

Granted it's the story-telling and artistry that's most important, regardless of whether it's a new title, coming in a gold-foil cover or in a baggie or any of that '90s marketing shtick.

Same spirit..? The current trends obviously have history to fall back on, that the retconning of the early '60s didn't. I don't believe the current generation holds value in character integrity as our generation did, but that again is all-subjective. Do I care what they're doing to Iron Man or Daredevil these days, as I did when they were running around under Gene Colan's now-classic artistry..? Not really ~ My money's still going towards filling my new collection holes of vintage comics. For instance, I used to have only a dozen DD/BW issues circa 1973-74; now I've got about fifty in my DD collection starting 'round 1966..

(And of course, thanks to yesterday's topic, I'm now buyin' a copy of Thor's Treasury Edition ish 10... Does anyone here ever keep track of their monthly BAB-related purchasing habits, besides Doug and Karen..?)

Anonymous said...

It's always been about sales, but today's retcons and reboots seem to have an attitude of, "They were doing it all wrong before, now step aside and watch us geniuses get it right." One just didn't get that impression in the Silver Age, especially since the revivals and revisions did not nullify the originals. DC didn't kill off Jay Garrick, or claim that he never existed; they acknowledged him as the original Flash, while introducing Barry Allen as the newer version. Re: Captain America, I don't think his revival was really intended as a retcon at the time. Maybe Stan had forgotten about the postwar Cap stories, or maybe he assumed that the readers were too young to remember. It got confusing sometime around 1966-68 when Fantasy Masterpieces/Marvel Super Heroes began reprinting post-WWII stories, with Steve Rogers as a school teacher and Bucky as one of the students. MSH #12 reprinted a 1950's story set in Korea. The heroes were back in the Army, and, IIRC, they addressed each other as "Steve" and "Bucky." AFAIR, the retcon explaining that the 1950's Cap and Bucky were impostors was first attempted in the early 1970's (Captain America #153-156) (?), and, later, What If #4 had a similar explanation for the 1945-49 run.

Anonymous said...

"The BAB will live perpetually in cyberspace, a digital footprint left by all purveyors of this wonderful community."

Doh! I told you it would be unintelligent, Doug.

And yes, long live the BAB! Excelsior!


Doug said...

Personally, I love the thoughtful discourse on topics like this. I always am "seated at the feet of the master" when you all start expounding with your knowledge and well-stated opinions.

Great stuff!


Greg said...

This is a tough one, but I say false. It's always been about sales, and we'll always have reboots and retcons. The problem for me nowadays is the constant rebooting Marvel does. I know there aren't as many people buying comics, and they need sales, but it just seems ridiculous to reboot a title, have it barely last two years, then reboot it again. It seems like now a creative team change is cause for a reboot. Or "relaunch" is maybe a better term.

The other problem for me is the attitude towards continuity at Marvel, and the comments from certain editors there about how continuity is not that important anymore. That makes it hard for me to enjoy their new stuff these days. Some of these characters I no longer recognize...

Murray said...

The Good Old Days were of course a money-making business venture. Back then, though, there seemed a more sincere merchant-customer relationship. "We will try to create a product that we hope you will enjoy, and therefore buy."

In the last decade or two, the comic conglomerates have descended more into sideshow hucksterism. Buyer very much beware. Doing any sleight of hand to make it all seem shiny and new over and over again.

Since the New 52 and Marvel Now, I think they're either clinically insane or have a entirely new mandate from their corporate masters. Comics are financially irrelevant now. This week's release of "Thor" will have more individual human's buy a ticket to see him in action than have bought the comic in decade.

That new mandate is for comics: to be the copyright holders for the properties and to be the R&D department for future movies. That's why the continuity is sketchy at best, and nonexistent in general. Just throw poo at the wall and see if it's the summer blockbuster for 2017.

Sorry. What was the topic again?

Edo Bosnar said...

I was going to make the point about comics ALWAYS being a commercial enterprise as well, but pretty much everybody else above beat me to it. I'll just agree with Anonymous and Murray above, in that it also seems to me that there seems to be a different attitude now (I mean the last few years) in particular.
From what little I've sampled of modern Marvel & DC superhero output, I think to Anon in particular hit the nail on the head with the point about many modern writers apparently thinking they're some kind of Wunderkinder who are finally doing everything "right."

Anonymous said...

To me any reference to the "spirit" of something is fishy, because it is the kind of imprecise language loaded with preconceptions, prejudices and nostalgia that can make it mean anything the speaker wants it to mean.

I feel like I can't answer this question because I cannot answer for certain what the "spirit" of the Silver Age Revivals was. . . It is also a lot easier to be cynical about contemporary comics when everything comes with a press release and company leaks months in advance and the internet is all over any rumor or announcement like flies on. . . well, you know.

But I am prone to agree with david_b - a retcon is a retcon is a retcon. It is the nature of the serialized comics medium for things to change over the course of decades, esp. when you have different writers, artists and editorial staffs. I honestly don't think that WHY those changes happen, whether organic or intentional matters much to how they play out. The current Mark Waid Daredevil, for example, has purposefully taken a departure from the Frank Miller era DD, which some people see as the defining version, but other see the era before Miller's as more "authentic" (another buzzword I hate). But it doesn't matter to me. The current stories are fun and don't need to tie into any sense of continuity (I am so tired of continuity). In fact, they are better off by setting their own tone and picking and choosing what of 40+ years of Daredevil they plan to use or not depending on what works for the current incarnation.

Of course, this all not to say that there can't be too much editorial interference and ham-handed corporate-dictated changes (like most of the New 52), but that is a management problem - that is a problem of how it is being handled, not a problem in doing it.

I don't think it is about not respecting tradition, but traditions change - in a way, the force of change is what leads us to declare something a tradition in an attempt to resist change - but the tradition of a particular era of a comic doesn't go away - just like comments on the this blog they exist forever - they are never really unwritten, they just cease to be from a particular position, which can be changed again.

Anonymous said...

Many of the retcons and reboots today are done in the name of political correctness.

david_b said...

Agreeing with Edo, who's agreeing with Anonymous and Murray (whew.., can't keep up sometimes....).

[I know I get agitated when I mention a topic first, but the guy who agrees with me or simply re-writes it gets the nod from everyone.., so terribly sorry if I don't shout-out to anyone else..]


Agreeing that comics today are nearly a non-entity, by scope of major picture deals, movie franchises, Disney property, merchandising, etc.. Like Murray said, if you compare the boxoffice intake to a decade of collecting some hero title..?

Seriously, this isn't '1974' anymore.

Like the movie writers ignoring generations of storylines to suit the masses who'll see the movies, eat the concessions, etc.., the same is generally true for comics today.

Comic companies are still in the business of providing entertainment, but the actual purchase of floppies and TBP's are economically, SO FAR down the totem pole.

Sooooo, 'Which market would you cater to..?', which 'course we saw when Fox took off the Avengers:EMH and replaced it with the gawd-awful movie-like cartoon.

Perhaps industry motives to produce monthly are (as seen in the past..), to keep the name alive for legal purposes ala 'Captain Marvel'.., but I don't see monthly comic stories/character direction being as important as it was for our generation. Oh, it's great if you're a new DC or Marvel writer to 'finally' get your hands on a character you grew up with and do something with him.., but as I mentioned in my first post, it wasn't the mind set the Steranko's, Kirby's and Romita's had 50some yrs ago.

William said...

I'd definitely say False.

There is no need for me to expound further because my thoughts would exactly echo those of MattComix in the very first post. So, if you want to know how I feel on this topic, just re-read that first post.

Garett said...

One thing that I don't think has been mentioned--the 3 comics posted were drawn by artists who also drew those characters years before in the Golden Age. Infantino on Flash, Kirby on Cap, and Kubert on Hawkman (at least I remember he drew the character in the 1940s JSA.) That may have given these Silver Age creators a stronger connection to the original source material than today's creators.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm reminded of that effect that I sometimes see when a xerox copy gets used and reused and reused again and again. The material gets lighter and lighter until it becomes almost a ghostly afterimage of the original.

That's what the incessant retconning does. The Golden Age fountain from which the superhero flowed was vibrant and colorful and more about passion and movement than thought and reflection. The Silver Age reboots added the intellect to the mix.

Since then, the versions get tagged with whatever rules the moment of their re-emergence into the world, each time losing some of that original juice.

Rip Off

William said...

Well said Rip.

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