My Thoughts on Continuity

I’ve talked about this before online, but I thought I’d capture the core of my position in one location.

Many continuing comic fans say, “Continuity is no barrier to readers to new readers. When I was a kid, I loved knowing that there was a bigger universe out there with more stories.” It’s a common thread among those who defend a tight continuity as an attractive element for a superhero comic universe.

I’m not sure people realize a key factor in that type of story: they were kids. They had plenty of free time to ponder and reread and and plenty of brainspace to keep all this stuff handy. Demonstrating mastery over obscure knowledge is very attractive to kids looking for feelings of accomplishment. (It’s speculated that that collecting and sorting instinct is also what made Pokemon so popular.)

The only time I’ve been heavily into continuity was when I became a Legion of Super-Heroes fan. I was in grad school. Once again, I had plenty of free time, I was in an environment with lots of encouragement to study and draw connections, and I was looking for a distraction from much heavier required reading.

I think most adults, unless they still have the knowledge from when they’re a kid, are looking for reads that are more stand-alone. Of course, balance and a diverse product line is great. Ideally, there would be a tightly connected comic group for those who want such things and equally good choices for those who want reads complete in themselves. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

But even more important, the key factor isn’t information — it’s enjoyment. Someone who’s really digging a story will overlook or patch in what they don’t know. Someone whose attention is wandering will start picking at all the things they don’t know and feeling left out because they aren’t involved in any way. When people complain a book is unfriendly to new readers, what they’re really saying is “this isn’t interesting enough to overcome the need for knowledge to buy in.”


  • Matt Thorn

    I very much agree. I was into Marvel (mostly the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four) as a kid, but moved on. When I came back to American superhero comics, I was already accustomed to self-contained shōjo manga, most of which no more than a thousand pages in length. I enjoyed Watchmen and even The Dark Knight Returns (with some misgivings), but when I actually tried to read some comic books, I found a confusing mess and basically concluded, “this isn’t interesting enough to overcome the need for knowledge to buy in.”

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