Comics

Yeah, Well, Whenever You Notice Something Like That, A Wizard Did It

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Former Reason columnist Todd Seavey has written a very funny piece for Metaphilm about continuity-obsessed fans of comics and science fiction. My only complaint: He never once tackles the problem of reconciling Archie with Little Archie.

[Via Liberty & Power.]

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  1. [donning fan boy attire]

    The droid questions are the easiest.

    A) Droids look alike. How many 3PO & R2 clones have we seen through out the saga?

    B)Of course their memories are erased.

  2. “the latest Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, is in the middle of a two-part episode, even as I write these words, that is designed to explain once and for all why the Klingons in the 1960s Star Trek series are swarthier and have less-lumpy foreheads than the Klingons in the movies and the newer Trek TV shows.”

    I loved the episode in Deep Space 9 where Worf and his friends go back to the time and place of “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and deal with the obvious difference between Klingons of TOS and those of later series (for which Roddenberry and Berman were given a real makeup and SFX budget) by shaking his head ruefully and saying, “We do not speak about it.”

  3. I like the Keebler commercial explanation.

    “Dude! What part of ‘magic oven’ do you not understand?”

  4. I’m not sure this falls under the “continuity” rubric in the strictest sense, but I find it amusing in an “Only In Hollywood” kind of way:

    Brandon Routh, star of the currently-in-production Superman Returns is 26. Smallville star Tom Welling just turned 28.

    So the actor playing the “teenage” Superman is actually older than the actor playing the “adult” one…

    Yeah, yeah, I know: too much free time…

  5. Ryan wrote: “The droid questions are the easiest.”

    Very true and I’m mind-boggled that so many people have problems with it. I ask them: Can you instantly remember the license plate number of the car you owned 20 years ago?

  6. I always laugh at how fantasy universes get more complex when a show/movie become a hit and thus get bigger budgets. Then when you see the earlier show, you wonder why you never see the plethora of space ships/vehicles you see in later shows, despite the fact that they logically should be there. Both Star Wars and Star Trek have this in spades. And I’m sure the toymakers just love it.

  7. hahahahahaha….that was one of the funniest essays ive ever read…

  8. Good column, but the most puzzling contradiction of all doesn’t seem to have been mentioned: If Anakin met Owen and Beru in Episode II, how is it that he never subsequently considered the possibility that one or both of his kids might be hiding out with them? The only possible answer is that he didn’t care to because he believed that his children were dead. Which would also explain why he didn’t recognize Luke’s “presence” in Episode IV.

  9. That was very funny, very entertaining. I had never before thought about the relationship between continuity errors in fiction (and why they are important to fans of that fiction) and things like coherence theories in epistemology, or the crisis stages of scientific theories in the face of recalcitrant facts. But I’m thinking about it now (interested as i am in applying these ideas in the context of changing social and political attitudes). Very enjoyable read!

  10. On the other hand, you know it is C-3P0 and R2-d2. There’s no point in bringing in two IDENTICAL robots, with the EXACT same PERSONALITIES AND NAMES otherwise. And I may be wrong, but the trailers indicate that Chewie is in the 3rd one. How Chewie forgot to mention that in passing during the first series, I’ll never know.

    P.S. You think somebody would have mentioned that Bobba Fett is the genetic son of every Storm Trooper in the galaxy. Somebody might have mentioned they were all clones— just, you know, interesting tidbit. No biggie, except I seem to remeber some of the storm troopers having quite different voices… unlike… clones. Yeah.

    P.S. How did R2 get jets? Riddle me that. They get disabled during the memory sweep? That might have been useful a time or two in the first movies.

    Here’s my theory: Lucas is a fat, stupid turd that is pathologically unable to avoid any opporunity to manufacture spin-offs. C-3po and R2 will sell more units than a new robotic duo without recognition value. Ergo, they are in the movie, even though they are pointless comic relief and would only give headaches to fans. Slip them into a couple of sequences that you’ll be able to lift scene for scene for the video game, and you’ve got a homerun.

    That’s the solution to the continuity error. If you view the movies as 2 hour long infomercials for a whole product line, the continuity errors no longer look like errors; they mostly look like smart marketing.

  11. Comic books suck.

    The root of their suckiness, I think, lies in basic aesthetics. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it has something to do with the labor that’s required to simply make out the artwork. All those cluttered panels, the numbing darkness that bogs down every page, the chicken-scratch lines that serve as shadowing.

    Then there’s the presentation of the words: that handwritten, all-caps thing that appears exactly the same in every single comic book ever released, pocked with the incongruous bolding of arbitrary words and the overabundance of exclamation! points! Not to mention the inane use of present tense for expository passages, a technique so pervasive that I doubt writers and readers of comics even notice it … let alone realize that present tense is a lame storytelling device in the first place.

    And then there’s the dialogue, replete with such incisive lines as “My father, I shall not fail you” and “Go forth on your steed, swiftly and tirelessly like the wind.”

    I don’t know — I guess the idea of toiling so much for something so… goofy… just isn’t real appealing.

    So, yeah. Comic books suck.

  12. i’m not a comics fan, but go peep some invisibles, thun.

  13. RE: “Doctor Who,” there is a book called the “Discontinuity Guide” that actually does try to explain the series’ various contratitions, including the two sinkings of Atlantis. Virgin Books published in back in the 1990s, and I think it may even still be in print.

    Of course, I’m not sure that much in “Doctor Who” needs to be explained, since the Doctor’s own meddling has altered the timeline on numerous occasions, most importantly in the Tom Baker-era story “Genesis of the Daleks,” the ending of which wipes out at least two Dalek invasions of Earth.

    DC Comics used to have a wonderful way to explain away continuity flubs. When the company still used the multiverse concept, you could simply assign a story that didn’t fit (including most 1970s issues of “The Brave and the Bold”) to an alternate Earth. Then, DC tried to clean up its continuity by merging the multiverse into one universe. This, however, had the opposite effect, resulting the the Hypertime nonsense Todd mentions. (And, before than, a “Zero Hour” time-travel story. And, now, the impending “Infinite Crisis.”)

    Marvel Comics didn’t used to have problems like this. Minor continuity errors were ignored. (Of course, Marvel also offered its infamous No Prizes to fans would could dream up fixes.) But editing at Marvel has been so sloppy for the past decade that now even Marvel is having an “event” miniseries, “House of M,” which is supposedly going to explain away all continuity gaffes as the doings of an insane Scarlett Witch, whose reality-altering “chaos” powers have run amuck.

    I’d go into “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” but I think I’ve geeked out quite enough.

  14. You can’t discuss continuity in comic books with any credibility if you never mention the Marvel “No Prize.” Stan “The Man” Lee had this whole continuity thing handled before most of the people who presume to discuss the subject today were born, much less reading comics. He embraced dis-continuity and turned it to his advantage, daring people to find flaws, but challenging them to find plausible explanations in order to earn the coveted “No Prize.” I don’t recall if No Prize winners ever received anything tangible (hence “No Prize”), but they got mentioned in Stan’s column or the letters pages, which I suppose they could frame for bragging rights. In this, as in so many things, Stan Lee was an innovative pioneer.

  15. Yeah, James, but it took fanboys-turned-pro like Roy “The Boy” Thomas to clean up the elephant dung left in the wake of the Lee/Kirby/Ditko parade. Stan’s 60s stories didn’t care much about keeping continuity with the stories of the 40s and 50s, else Captain America wouldn’t have been found in that iceberg shard, and, circa Avengers #4, Bucky Barnes would have been a car dealer in his thirties.

    Kevin

  16. The late, great Mark Gruenwald explains the coveted No Prize!

    `Nuff Said!

    Kevin

  17. JCoke,
    Actually, the Stormtroopers of the later trilogy are distinct from the Clonetroopers of the first one. Keep in mind that the Galactic Empire prbobably had a couple of decades to build up an army the traditional way.

    As for C-3P0 and R2-D2, maybe Lucas felt pity on the two midgets who played them and wrote them in, thinking “Ahhh, who gives a fuck about continuity, the nerds will buy it anyway”

  18. I’m a different flavor of sci-fi geek; I don’t harp about continuity, but I *DO* get upset about scientific implausibility. Here are my two complaints about the Episode 1 and 2 Star Wars movies:

    1. On the planet where Amidala was Queen and Jar-Jar Binks lived in that underwater city, the world ocean went all the way through to the planet’s core. This means the planet had no molten interior, which means no plate tectonics; no earthquakes, no volcanoes and–more importantly–no way for the planet to make new land after the old is eroded down by water. So how can a geographically dead planet have such high waterfalls and sharp mountain ranges and such?

    2. That planet Coruscant was apparently all one enormous city, with no plants or oceans. And all of the life forms on that planet appear to be oxygen-breathers. How is this possible? Where are the plants to generate waste gases back into breathable ones?

    I also wonder about the economic viability of that cheap little diner on the planet–land is so expensive on Coruscant that buildings are routinely built hundereds or even thousands of stories high, yet here’s a single-story cheap restaurant in the middle of the city, surrounded by enormous skyscrapers on either side.

    My mom was right–I really DO think too much.

  19. Yeah the huge difference between the Star Wars books and movies always annoyed me, I remember I got into an argument with somebody on a SW message board about whether Boba Fett deserved the fearsome reputation he had, my opponent said no, that he was just an overpaid delivery boy, I was basing my arguments on things from the books (Tales of the Bounty Hunters, and some trilogy, I forget its name) Boba Fett’s origin in the books is much better than the one from the movie, and if you read tales of the bounty hunters you’ll find that IG-88 had taken over the computers of the death star, and at one point he is making a door close to piss off the emperor and then some strange force that IG-88 didn’t understand made the door close, so anyway I guess this thread gives more credence to that whole ‘libertarians are geeks’ idea

  20. “So how can a geographically dead planet have such high waterfalls and sharp mountain ranges and such?”

    Good point. There is no “in-universe” answer for that, although at a Star Wars’ level of technology producing such features through earth-moving techniques would be trivial.

    “How is this possible? Where are the plants to generate waste gases back into breathable ones?”

    The official Star Wars website has a explanation of Coruscant’s ecology: http://www.starwars.com/databank/location/coruscant/?id=eu

    “I also wonder about the economic viability of that cheap little diner on the planet”

    The official Star Wars website has a description of the neighborhood Dex’s Diner is located in: http://www.starwars.com/databank/location/dexsdiner/ (read both the “Movies” entry and the “Expanded Universe” entry)

    Not necessarily convincing, mind you, but somebody’s thinking about it.

  21. I came to terms with continuity issues early. I was a kid when Bewitched was on in the afternoons–mid to late 70’s. They kept switching Darrens, and no one on the show seemed to notice! Do you have any idea how disturbing that can be to a child of divorce? “You don’t have to do what he says Tabitha!, I would yell at the screen. “He’s not your real father!”

    …Boy, I’m glad those days are over. I still yell at the TV screen occasionally, but now it’s not about the same stuff…usually.

    “I also wonder about the economic viability of that cheap little diner on the planet–land is so expensive on Coruscant that buildings are routinely built hundereds or even thousands of stories high, yet here’s a single-story cheap restaurant in the middle of the city, surrounded by enormous skyscrapers on either side.

    I agree. In the real world, some nefarious city planner would have eminent domained that property eons before. Maybe the original property owner was represented by Jedi master legal counsel?

  22. “the latest Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, is in the middle of a two-part episode, even as I write these words, that is designed to explain once and for all why the Klingons in the 1960s Star Trek series are swarthier and have less-lumpy foreheads than the Klingons in the movies and the newer Trek TV shows.”

    I saw that episode. But how does that explain why when Kalis was genetically reengineered, he came back full featured with a new school forehead?

    And that’s not the only question of aesthetic continuity. At what point in the future does everyone go mod?

    …Oh, and I know this isn’t a question of continuity, but were regulations regarding crew uniforms Federation wide, or was Captain Kirk acting alone when he made mini-skirts mandatory?

  23. “the latest Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, is in the middle of a two-part episode, even as I write these words, that is designed to explain once and for all why the Klingons in the 1960s Star Trek series are swarthier and have less-lumpy foreheads than the Klingons in the movies and the newer Trek TV shows.”

    See the TV series Nip and Tuck. Klingons have pride, too.

  24. So would any Babylon-5 fans care to speculate how the Minbari got to be so technologically sophisticated when they never even got around to abandoning feudalism? You’ve got one-third of the population serving as priests in the religious caste, and one-third in the military as the warrior caste, which leaves the one-third in the worker caste (at the bottom of the social strata, naturally,) to somehow turn the Minbari into a super-advanced spacefaring civilization?

  25. “So, yeah. Comic books suck.”

    Neil Gaiman. “Sandman”. ’nuff said.

  26. The Minbari didn’t appear to have advanced much in the 1,000 years between the Shadow wars, so the assumption that their caste system isn’t retarding their technological development may be unwarranted.

  27. The simplest explanation for Coruscant’s world-city is that Lucas was ripping off..er…um.. creating an homage to Asimov’s Trantor. Y’know, like Tantooine is an homage to Herbert’s Arakis.

    Aw, for glaven out loud as Prof. Frink would say.

    Kevin

  28. I saw that episode. But how does that explain why when Kalis was genetically reengineered, he came back full featured with a new school forehead?

    Because Kahlass died centuries before the events in Enterprise, so he wouldn’t have been affected by the genetic mutation. Frankly a bigger unexplained continuity error in my mind is why the Federation seemed to have no recollection of the Borg when Q causes the Enterprise to travel to the Delta Quadrant in ST:TNG, even though they meet one in ST:Enterprise.

  29. “Because Kahlass died centuries before the events in Enterprise, so he wouldn’t have been affected by the genetic mutation.”

    That’s my point.

    The blood they used to clone Kahlass was put on that sword centuries before the events on Enterprise happened, so why did Kahlass’ clone come complete with a forehead that didn’t exist until centuries later? Kahlass’ clone should have had the old school forehead.

    …Maybe those Kahlass shows were like that season of Dallas episodes–only a dream.

  30. Here’s a link that details the problem.

    http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/inconsistencies1a.htm

    I’d say it was an “interesting” link, but I’m not so sure it’s all that interesting. I stopped caring about Star Trek after “The Great Reduction”, which happened, I think, between seasons 3 and 4.

    …Oh, and I’ll never forgive Trekkies for letting Farscape disappear–the most continuity conscious sci-fi show ever. Never!

  31. Bah! All this Star Wars/Babylon 5/Star Trek talk pales to the biggest discontinuity error in the fiction universe:

    South Park’s Kenny.

  32. The whole C3PO and R2D2 thing can be rationalized to death, but the fact remains: blatant “coincidence” is the sign of very, very poor writing. It was pushing it with the line “No Luke, I am your father”, but it went completely downhill from there. All of a sudden, every significant event and relationship in the Star Wars universe centered exclusively on half a dozen characters. And the easiest way to tie all this together is by coincidence.

    Lucas is a hack.

  33. On the planet where Amidala was Queen and Jar-Jar Binks lived in that underwater city, the world ocean went all the way through to the planet’s core. This means the planet had no molten interior, which means no plate tectonics; no earthquakes, no volcanoes and–more importantly–no way for the planet to make new land after the old is eroded down by water. So how can a geographically dead planet have such high waterfalls and sharp mountain ranges and such?

    That bothered me from the get-go. Even if there were no molten interior and the ocean of Naboo went all the way to the literal “core” of the planet, the water pressure down there would be immense. It would probably be plenty hot, too. Probably the only thing keeping it from boiling would be the pressure itself. The little sub would have been crushed and pressure-cooked. I can’t imagine any lifeforms living down there either, except maybe extremophile bacteria.

    My rationalization is that the reference to the mini-sub having to travel through “the Planetary Core” was not a literal reference to the planet’s core. Maybe the name was just metaphorical. Or maybe it was a leftover, traditional old name from a time when Naboo science was less-developed, and the “Core” region was named by explorers who thought a particularly deep region under the ocean went all the way down to the “planet’s core” even thought it really didn’t.

    In justifying this stuff, I try to look for real-world counterparts. For example, the Himalaya region is sometimes referred to as “the Roof of the World” even though we know the world really has no roof.

    Also, once while looking at a map of the United States, and it occured to me that almost every state has a town named “Centerville” or “Centralia,” but these towns are almost never actually located in the center of the state.

    (I think too much about this stuff too.)

  34. Oops, it’s the Tibetan Plateau that’s called “the Roof of the World,” not just the Himalayas. Not that I would obsess over such a nit.

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