Blah Blah Blog – Orthodoxy

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.

Orthodoxy

September 22, 2008 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

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.”

More later.

Tom B

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5 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Orthodoxy

  1. I was particularly annoyed by the ending of the Captain Marvel mini-series that was supposed to clarify her origins since it ignored everything we knew about the Kree. Fortunately, Empyre ignored this in turn.

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  2. Not to dredge this up after so long, but perhaps if you let us know what story and/ or elements the original Emailer had questions about, that the assembled intent nerdsphere might be able to find a palatable head-canon / story wedge for it to work out…?

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  3. I think it’s just the natural tendency of humans to seek patterns and tell stories. Holmes fans have expended huge amounts of effort trying to work out dates and inconsistencies in Watson’s narratives for instance.
    I’m comfortable with the idea some stories just can’t fit, and with out-of-continuity stories, but I’m annoyed when (as DC did in the run up to COIE) they assert “well continuity doesn’t matter! None of it is real!” The illusion the stories are real in some fashion is an important one, even though we know it’s not true. Part of that requires at least some fidelity to continuity.

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