Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is Canon in Your Comic Book Universe?

Doug: Lately, our thoughts and discussions of this big event undoing that big event, this character dead... no wait -- he's coming back to life! is leaving me cold. In my mind, all of the recent trending toward disposable plotlines has left me asking myself just what is sacred to me? When did I basically shut the door on future changes to the characters I've been involved with for the past 40-some years?

Today, fill us in on what you feel should be events that should never have happened, characters who should have stayed dead/never have died (shoot, how about should never have existed?), and your general timeline for the end of "real" creativity. Yeah, this has a curmudgeonly bent to it -- but hey, it's OK to be crabby around here sometimes.

Below is the two-page spread for the Avengers roster, from 1985's Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. I tend to think of it as a stopping point of sorts for me (although the presence of Tigra and Starfox don't enrich my life).


david_b said...

Doug: Yes, certainly feeling like a curmudgeon in the ways of 'canon' discussion, I'd say the '85 Handbook would be it for me.. I never liked Starfox or Tigra. Once I saw the Swordsman reintroduced in the early 90s, I tried to like the storylines, but to no avail.

This comprehensive list would pretty much sum up the 'classic and true' Avengers for me.

As for lineups that came after, sorry..: Spiderman, Wolverine, or any FF members in the mix never worked for me.

Doug said...

Johnny marries Alicia.
Johnny marries Skrull Alicia.

Johnny doesn't marry Alicia at all because you quit caring before that.



Unknown said...

When Marvel time stopped following real time so for most books around 1974 in our world, after that- it all decayed. Secret Wars was a good revival, in that it involved godlike power which could be seen to have reset the ages / timeline but after that necrosis definitely set in. The 1990s were diabolical and unreadable, 2000-2011 is toilet stain territory, the bitter 40,000 who still read it all and uncritically at that are welcome to it.

Edo said...

O.k., here's me at my most curmudgeonly:
Jean Grey should have stayed dead. White Queen should have stayed a villain. Same with Rogue. And Magneto and Juggernaut (I mean consistently stayed villains, not that back-and-forth crap that was apparently going on for a while).
Johnny Storm and Alicia (Skrull or not) – no, just no (probably the only significant criticism I would have of Byrne's FF run. I could even forgive She-hulk replacing Thing as long that was understood as something temporary).
Once Captain Marvel died, his name should have been retired as well. Monica Rambeau should have been called something different from the start; I think this otherwise awesome character suffered from the hand-me-down name.
That's all I've got for now…

david_b said...

I couldn't get into Monica Rambeau as a character (or as a 'Captain Marvel'). Couldn't understand the Starfox or Dr Druid membership.

I suppose the Alicia 'skrull' idea was a clever twist, but I wasn't serious about collecting anything after '77 (nor anything new in '85, collecting more vintage stuff then..), but I did catch some of Jean returning. A bit too contrived for Marvel, with the launching of X-Factor (yes, TRIED to like that too..).

I followed She-Hulk in FF for a while (a preferred run to her Avengers stint with Shooter), but it was too-much 'bland Byrne' by then.

J.A. Morris said...

Since I don’t read to many Marvel titles set in current continuity, here’s what I’ve been saying for a few years.
(yes,some of the events referenced occured after the Bronze Age):
In “my” Marvel Universe:
Bucky is still dead.
Sharon Carter is still dead.
Norman Osbourn is still dead. Same goes for his son Harry.
Peter Parker & Mary Jane are still married.
The “spider-totem” business never happened.
Jackal died in ASM #149.
Aunt May is dead.
Gambit isn’t a member of the X-men.
Cyclops & White Queen aren’t dating and Emma is still a villain.
Henry Pym is NOT a wifebeating low-life.
Red Skull is dead(they can put the mask on his bastard son if they really need him),died in Cap #300, never resurrected.
Kraven & Chameleon aren’t brothers.
Vision and Scarlet Witch are still married and Vision isn’t a heartless technobot. Nor is he a “toaster”.
Wolverine isn’t a 100+ year old named James Howlett who fought in WW II, he’s a guy who answers only to “Logan” and we don’t know much about his past.
Spider-man & Wolverine aren’t Avengers.
Sandman did NOT go back to being a criminal. “I was joking” may be one of the stupidest reversals of continuity ever.
Firebrand #2 never existed, because the first Firebrand villain was a 60s student radical gone wrong. A Firebrand in the 80s/90s had no reason to exist. This one I don’t really care about because Firebrand was a stupid villain to begin with.

In DC Comics:
Batgirl isn’t paralyzed.
Jason “Robin” Todd is still dead (even if ‘Death In The Family’ sucked).
And Edo’s right about Monica Rambeau.
I know it sounds weak, but I’m sort of on the fence about Jean/Phoenix staying dead. But I don’t have much interest in re-reading X-men/X-factor stories from that era anytime soon.

david_b said...

Right On, J.A...!

"Tell it, brutha..."

starfoxxx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
starfoxxx said...

If the Marvel Universe stopped introducing new heroes and villains right after Contest of Champions, that would be fine with me.

But, as far as content goes, I would like to see the MU stop after Acts of Vengeance (1990, c'mon everybody swaps villains, it wasn't great but a pretty cool idea)------
then pick back up with Busiek/Perez' Avengers run until present/ but NO BENDIS ON AVENGERS!
That would be perfect.

Cable, Bishop, Deadpool; they don't exist in MY personal MU.

Fred W. Hill said...

As far as I'm concerned, Ben & Alicia should have married and Aunt Petunia is Ben's elderly aunt whom we've never seen and Reed did not defend Galactus in any sort of trial and Susan never strutted around in a bathing suit costume. Outside of the Ultimate Universe, Peter and Mary Jane are still married, he never joined the Avengers and Aunt May is dead (although I never read that first story where she died)and so is Norman Osborne, and Bucky Barnes while we're at it.
Ah, well, essentially the old Marvel Universe ended for me by 1990. It keeps chugging along, though, and I know there have been some excellent writers and artists who have done interesting things with these characters. Heck, I might even like the Bucky really lives again storyline despite my reservations about bringing him back. On the other hand, I also know there have been many lousy writers, and lousier editors and publishers demanding their writers write particular lousy stories.
I've long since decided it's more fun for me to leave it behind and stick with writers & artists I enjoy conjuring up tales in their own little pocket universes where they have control over their characters and put some obvious thought into their stories.

Terence Stewart said...

Two events in 1980, for me, hastened the decline of Marvel.

The Death of The Phoenix and The Rape of Ms.Marvel. Both within a month of each other and both said something quite sinister about Marvel's attitude towards women.

Those two characters, and their fates, will always be linked in my mind (not least because when the Ms. Marvel series was announced in a UK fanzine, it was said the character was a revamped Marvel Girl!).

I didn't stop reading Marvel then, but my Marvel reading certainly declined, replaced by a resurgence in DC. My Marvel reading actually came to a close two decades later with the Bendification of The Avengers.

Those two events, however,are the two I wish had never happened. And both involved Shooter. Hmmmm...

Ram said...

Great list J.A. agree with everything! (except aunt May being dead)

david_b said...


Interesting insight, and totally agree. I suspect these incidences would be nominees for the 'end of Bronze Age'.

Yes, perhaps the 'Rise of Shooter' did spell the end of Bronze after all.

Doug said...

david_b said:

I suspect these incidences would be nominees for the 'end of Bronze Age'.

Yes, perhaps the 'Rise of Shooter' did spell the end of Bronze after all.

You all should be taking notes, because it's our hope that when we publish our 1985 Side-by-Side, the last in our series, that the comments just blow up with some really great discussion! Be thinking about it!


david_b said...

Sorry, didn't get to finish my thoughts due to work interruptions.

I know Mr. Shooter's been maligned for many unpopular decisions during this era, but I suspect that's too easy an answer. I felt like many of the Bullpen staff were either (1) on auto-pilot without good creative direction during this time.., or (2) just didn't care enough to offer good input.

I understand that there was a lot of turmoil with creative/artistic changes (ie, Kirby's return, etc..) that some of the early 70s writers left due to creative conflicts, so an overall loss of focus really permeated at Marvel during this time, which was inevitable, yet sad to see especially with the success Marvel was riding the crest of (TV's Hulk ratings, opting for the Star Wars comic etc.).

The Groovy Agent said...

In the Marvel Universe, anything from the wedding of Peter and Mary Jane on is an alternate universe to me.

My DCU died with Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Yeah, so good stuff has come out since then (not nearly enough), but does any of it matter? Do I care? The answer to these and other burning questions is "no".

Inkstained Wretch said...

I tried to add a comment yesterday but for some reason Blogger wouldn't accept it.

Anyway ... let me echo the gist of the sentiments expressed here: The universes ended with the end of the Bronze Age itself.

The DCU for me died with Earth-2 in 1986.

Dammit, there was a Superman who first appeared in the 1930s, no matter what the suits at DC say. His cousin is Powergirl and she hangs out with Batman's daughter. Period.

The Marvel lingered on until about 1990 when Roger Stern left the Avengers. Since then the "Marvel Universe" has actually been some alternate universe watched over by the Watcher, muttering, "What if everything went completely wring?"

Edo Bosnar said...

Off topic, but I see someone else, i.e., Inkstained, has been having trouble posting comments here the past few days...

William said...

I had trouble posting comments here as well. I tried to comment on this topic the day it was posted, as it is a subject that is near and dear to me.

So here is what I was going to say...

For me the perfect Marvel Universe would be something like this...

Spider-Man - pretty much any time before he got married. (One of the worst mistakes in comics history, IMO). I especially loved the Stern/Romita Jr. years. That was when I felt Spider-Man really reached the pinnacle of perfection.

The X-Men - starting at Giant Size #1 through the Byrne/Claremont years ending with issue #143. The book never attained that level of greatness again.

The Fantastic Four - during the early Byrne years (before She-Hulk came aboard and before Johnny married Alicia Skrull). Byrne really understood the FF like nobody since Lee and Kirby and the book has never been close to as good since he left.

The Avengers - anytime from the Perez years (starting at around issue #160) all the way through the Byrne/Micheline years and beyond to around issue #200. Those 40 issues or so contained most all of the Avengers stories that were my personal favorites.

Daredevil - The Frank Miller years. (Issues #158-191). Some of my all time favorite comics, ever.

Anything that happened outside of these eras I can pretty much disregard if I need to. Every long running comic series is going to eventually have stuff happen that is total garbage. So, you can't consider every stupid thing that some hack writer comes up with as canon.

Ed Brubaker, I'm talking to you - BUCKY IS DEAD, fool!!!

Doug said...

We're sorry about the commenting problems, but want to express our gratitude for your persistence! From time to time Blogger malfunctions while we're writing our posts, and it can be extremely frustrating. I've not experienced the troubles you've cited, but I guess Blogger's quirks are equal opportunity!


Anonymous said...

Just one reply to about ANYONE who dies STAYS #$&%ing well dead!

Terence, where you say : “ The Death of The Phoenix and The Rape of Ms.Marvel. Both within a month of each other and both said something quite sinister about Marvel's attitude towards women” I’ve really got to disagree.

Jean was vastly more powerful than any of the male characters and ultimately made the supreme sacrifice, taking her own life knowingly and willingly to protect others. I don’t see how this reflects a negative attitude to women on Marvel’s part. Ms. Marvel I completely agree was weird, nasty and inappropriate.


Terence Stewart said...

Hi Richard

The Phoenix story, though not at first, became IMHO, an exercise in misogyny. Shooter wasn't entirely to blame, Claremont has a part to play too (and Byrne, and Layton).

Phoenix, as first conceived by Claremont and Cockrum, was supposed to be just an amped up by cosmic rays Marvel Girl - and there was a lot to be said for that. Marvel finally had a powerful heroine, someone to match many of their male characters. Unfortunately, Claremont couldn't let it go at that and kept upping her power level until it became a real problem. I believe it was Bob Layton who suggested turning her into a villain,and that started what was to become a cliche - that women can't handle power and become corrupted. That whole Hellfire Club scene, cribbed from an episode of The Avengers (with Emma Peel), was disturbing in many ways in its depiction of women. Of course, Claremont and Byrne wanted Jean to remain a reoccurring villain, but Shooter insisted that she had to die for her crimes, this despite having male villains like Magneto around who had committed crimes, though perhaps not on the Phoenix scale, just as heinous.

I would have been less dissatisfied if Phoenix had been allowed to live, although a villain. After all, she could always reform. Like Magneto.

nude0007 said...

Man, I could go on for pages, but yes, generally speaking somewhere in the late 80's Marvel started screwing around too much. Many who died should have stayed dead. Aunt may should have died long ago. I really hate a lot of the costume changes. Perfectly great main character costumes have been changed for no reason whatsoever. Many changes seem to be just for shock value or to merely change what we are used to for changes sake. That's never a good thing.
I liked a huge Avengers roster, and the branches set up on each coast. I would have liked to see this enlarged upon with Avengers Europe (Excalibur redefined perhaps) and others.
X-men seems to have gotten away from the School for Mutants idea in too many ways. (I haven't read it since 2000, so I may be wrong.) but I liked the idea of a real school with normal teachers and mutants teaching also. I always thought the X-men should be a rotating team roster perhaps made up of whoever was available at the moment.
Anyway, comics have gotten way off from what they should be, so I bailed a long time ago. I doubt they will ever get a clue as to what made the 70's and 80's great and return to it. Today it's all flash and no substance.

Anonymous said...

Jean Loring did not murder Sue Dibny. The people of Rann are not all sterile and Adam Strange was not an imported stud. Heroes are not all drunks, wife-beaters, adulterers, or psychopaths. Billy Batson is Captain Marvel, Mary Batson is Mary Marvel, and Freddy Freeman is Captain Marvel Jr. Jonathan and Martha Kent died of natural causes in their old age before Clark moved to Metropolis. Batman and Superman are friends.

Anonymous said...

The mishaps that created the Doom Patrol were freak accidents; the Chief did not cause them. (The Secret Six were the ones being blackmailed and manipulated.) Kator Hol/Hawkman is a cop from Thanagar and the 1940's Hawkman is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince. Luthor is not president and never has been.

Anonymous said...

Everyone complains about Bucky's revival, but his death (shown in flashback in Avengers #4) was itself a retcon. Timely/Atlas/whatever had stories with Captain America and Bucky in the late '40's and again in 1953. I know, they later revealed (What If #4) that the postwar Cap and Bucky were imposters in yet another retcon to explain the first one. I'm too tired of the current cycle of death-and-revival to care.

Anonymous said...

First off I am a marvel maniac that being said the late 70's were probably the worst period in decline for marvel. The Conway / Andru spider-man. Mantlo / Buscema hulk. Jack Kirby Captain America. Any fantastic four after 125. The 80 was a resurgence of the characters. Though every era has it good and bad .

Greg said...
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