A post from my now-defunct Marvel blog replying to a question concerning how we updated the relationship between Peggy and Sharon Carter to account for the passage of time.
Received a letter on CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 that I wanted to share with everybody, along with my response to the letter writer. And no, this one isn’t about Cap’s death.
Lake Elmo MN 55042
Do you think I’m angry you’ve “killed” Captain America? NO! I’m more angry over the comment Sharon Carter makes that Peggy Carter, Cap’s beloved “Mademoiselle,” is her aunt! Peggy Carter is Sharon’s sister not her aunt!!!! This has been established in too many older issues and not justified in changing. I am annoyed by this “sliding timeline” mentality and nonsense you yahoos practice when you start messing with continuity because you think readers need to worry about how old characters are in order to accept a comic’s plausibility! Figure out the Marvel Universe is a fictional reality where our laws of time and history don’t and can’t apply and it’s the grandest excercise in imagination to suspend disbelief and not just enjoy a comic but to accept a comic’s established history regardless of “contradictions” to our own world or logic. It just demonstrates a contempt on various levels to change a product of imagination to resemble reality when resembling reality wasn’t an issue to begin with. Peggy is Sharon’s sister. Always has been, always will. And just consider, changing continuity erases a previous creator’s efforts (it does, don’t even think of denying that if you honestly care), people who were responsible for putting you self-same creators where you are today, working with their characters and the situations they conceived. Creators that come after you can erase your efforts too and make them seem not to matter, so practice some respect and reverance to continuity because it’s respect and reverance to previous creators and because it has an infinite amount of imagination to use. Excelsior.>
I hear what you’re saying, but honestly there’s not much else that can be done about this, other than updating the reference. Sharon is maybe in her early thirties—for her to have a sister who was in even her twenties in 1944 completely throws plausibility out the window. This only barely worked when Steve Englehart brought Peggy into the book in the 1970s, and it’s worked progressively less well as time has gone by—which is one of the reasons you’ve seen Peggy so rarely in the last decade-and-a-half.
And honestly, I don’t think this is disrespectful to the creators of the past or to their stories. Nobody at the time had any inkling that these characters would still be in continuous publication decades later—if they had, they would in all likelihood made different choices about how they progressed certain elements within the Marvel Universe. And in terms of respect, I think it’s far more respectful to continue to use a character that a previous creator put time and love and energy into making readers care about than to consign them to the dustbin of history simply because of an inconvenient fact. To me, this is no different than updating Reed and Ben fighting in World War Two.
And in point of fact, Peggy wasn’t “always” Sharon’s sister. When she was introduced in TALES OF SUSPENSE in the 60s, she was just “the girl Cap left behind in France in WWII” who happened to bear a striking resemblance to Agent 13. it was ten years before Englehart established that they were in fact sisters.
You say that readers don’t care about the plausibility of time and history in the Marvel Universe, and you’re right that some of them don’t. But many more of them do, as witnessed by the fact that when any discussion of the passage of time and the updating of historical references is mentioned in conversation, fans of all beliefs are quick to chime in, long and loud. The situation isn’t as simple as you make it out to be (and if I had to hazard a guess, you feel the way you do because you first encountered Peggy in those 70s stories as a young reader.)
In any event, thanks for the feedback.