An entry from my Marvel blog from out of the mists of time, this one talking about our obsession with what stories “count” as part of canon.
I answered an e-mail over the weekend from a fan wondering if a particular project was considered canonical to the mainstream Marvel Universe—and then got a couple of agitated responses when they didn’t like my analysis. It was clearly very important to this person that the story in question be considered “legitimate.”
But that got me thinking a little bit: what is it that makes a story legitimate? I can understand the need and desire to make everything fit together seamlessly—I was certainly an advocate of that position for a long time. But if a story doesn’t fit into the larger cosmology, does that make it worthless? Does that diminish its impact? Does that make it less effective?
Some of this, I think, is a need for our entertainment choices to feel justified. It’s not enough for a piece of work to entertain us momentarily—we need for them to matter beyond the moment to feel our time and money well-spent. This is definitely a point of view that Marvel has fostered at different points during its publishing history, and the idea that all of the assorted Marvel stories form a larger tapestry is an appealing one.
But the fact of the matter is that this was never quite as seamless as it was supposed to be. There were always stories that needed to be jammed in sideways, or whose events had to be revised somewhat, in order to make them fit. And after 45 years of continuous publishing, it’s simply not possible for every single element to join seamlessly.
Also, having been in print for so long, the Marvel characters and situations have transcended themselves, and become iconic. And, as such, there’s something interesting about exploring elements and avenues within those larger legends that the orthodoxy of the mainstream Marvel U doesn’t allow, for one reason or another.
I can remember the need and the desire to have everything “make sense.” But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more open to approaching each piece of work on its own, and evaluating its worth based more on what it is, and less on how it dovetails together with a million other things. Could just be the result of having read too many comics, but there you go. And even with that, there are still elements in such a tale that will bother me if they’re not “right.”