Marvel Time

Thanks to Amritas, I found out about this website that explains “Marvel Time” how the years have passed in Marvel Continuity. In American comics like DC and Marvel, the books have lasted 50-70 years, but the characters remain young. They do this by employing tricks to keep continuity of stories while trying to make it seem like time has passed by slowly.

By all rights, Peter Parker should be an old man like The problem with American Comics continuity is it doesn’t work and it leads to the books becoming dull because no real change happens, except an occasional shift in creative direction. In my opinion, if you want to make a licensed world that can run a long time, you need to employ the continuity technique the Simpsons use. Make each story stand on its own, and refer to past events when you need to, but don’t try to make the whole thing fit together perfectly, because iut can’t.

Many times they tried to get too serious about continuity and it blew up in their faces.

DC has favored the retcon method of revamping the whole universe every 15 years or so. This also has problems, as it depends on the creative teams, and usually they don’t keep it together. It would be better if both lines had a core mythology and they stuck to that as the basis. Unfortunately, with so many diverse hands writing the books, the histories of each character has become a confused jumble.

An editor’s job is to keep a book on track and the writers from doing too much “scope creep”, but the editors in comics have done a generally poor job of that over the years. Mainly because many of them don’t even understand what they need to do.

Mainstream comics needs to get it’s sense of purpose back and a clear vision of their books, if they every want to restore strength to the market place.

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5 Comments

  1. What about a superhero universe with REAL time? A world where you see your superhero characters actually age and younger heroes take their place. Do you think that could work?

  2. It could, but the companies do what they do to perpetuate licensed characters. In Japan they have Kinnukoman, a super wrestling comic. The 80s version was restarted in this decade and the original characters are all middle aged and the story focused on a new generation. And they did some rather cool things with the older characters mentoring the younger characters, including the villains.

  3. Time passage only works for Marvel & DC in alternate reality comics.

    John Byrne of all people did an EXCELLENT job addressing this in the two mini-series Generations I & Generations II in the 1990s. (The third Generations mini-series was a 12-issue monthly and was a miserable comic. The less said about it, the better!)

    Anyhow, the mini-series mishmashed DC history but started with the premise of Superman and Batman debuting in 1938 and 1939 respectively. None of this Earth-1/-2 mess. EVERYBODY started on the SAME Earth and characters debuted in the same year their first comics were published. So, Jay Garrick (Flash I) debuted in 1940 but his successor Barry Allen (Flash II) debuted in 1956.

    One major exception worked into the story was Hal Jordan. Although tapped by Alan Scott to be Earth’s new GL, Hal declined (in 1959), eventually retired as a test pilot in the mid-1970s and worked his way up in politics until he became President of the US in the 1980s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that he became Green Lantern of Earth and replaced Kyle Rayner who had been chosen by Alan Scott when his ring failed to find another man as worthy as Hal Jordan. It was revealed by Hal’s first use of the ring that the limitations Scott (wood) and Rayner (yellow) believed existed with the emerald power were just in their heads! It was a mental block put in by unlucky experiences and reinforced by the Guardians to keep ringbearers from abusing the emerald power.

    There were some other neat twists but the thing is the characters aged and proteges and offspring took over for them. And not everybody necessarily died gruesomely, either, although there were some deaths along the way. The subject of Superman’s and Batman’s aging was addressed fairly well in the books but I won’t give it away…

  4. John Byrne’s Next Men did the same thing, if I recall. If a story arc took 6 issues, then 6 months passed between issue 6-7. Unfortunately the book got cancelled after about 3 years, but its a concept I kind of like.

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