A post originally published on my Marvel blog ten-plus years ago, concerning the idea that every comic book will have mistakes in them.
There’s a lot to like about the current state of comic books–the excellent printing, the growth of hardcover and trade paperback collections of every sort, the fact that there’s a network of stores across the country dedicated to making it easy not to miss an issue.
By that same token, there are some things that are quite different. And one of them is the fact that there’s now a network of plugged-in fans who are following these titles, an audience that isn’t so casual any more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does change some of the conditions when working on a series–especially when it comes to mistakes.
It’s a plain fact of life: every comic book has a mistake in it of some kind. That’s just the luck of the draw. Some comics have multiple mistakes. (Some comics simply ARE mistakes, from one end to the other.) And these days, the audience takes these mistakes, regardless of what they are, much more seriously. Time was, Stan Lee could just joke about making “another boneheaded mistake” and that’d be the end of it. But in 2008, people are looking for more. Maybe it’s the whole post-Watergate, post-9/11 conspiracy mentality, but there are often times when readers make more out of a mistake than what is actually there.
(There are also times when a particular fan will find something that he perceives as a mistake, and become very indignant about it–even when what he’s talking about isn’t a mistake at all. This most often happens when it’s a matter of continuity, and that particular reader missed a story in the interim that changed the element of the character that the reader thinks is a mistake. I call this “selective continuity.”)
Some of this is our fault, in that we spent a lot of time encouraging people to think about the unified Marvel Universe–sometimes in greater importance than the individual stories within that universe. And every once in a while, there’s a whole storyline that exists only to fix some earlier mistake. The one which immediately comes to mind was a storyline in SILVER SURFER that revealed that there was a Surfer impostor running around the cosmos, and that he was the Surfer who attended the Death of Captain Marvel (since Jim Starlin had forgotten the fact that the Surfer, at that time, was trapped on Earth, and had drawn him in among a group of heroes in a splash page.) That seems a bit extreme on the other side.
But most often of all, a mistake is just a mistake. It happens. And it doesn’t mean that the creators involved don’t care, or that nobody’s minding the store, or that there’s some larger story reason in the offing that will explain it all and make it brilliant foreshadowing.