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Everybody knows that comic book universes and timelines are very very confusing and likely deter people that want to read comics from actually reading them. Because of that, people complain a lot about the timelines. In response to that, comic companies launch reboots (events that are done to provide a dedicated jumping off point for new fans), but they tend to mess them up horribly, and comic fans get even more angry because of that. A fine example is DC's New 52 relaunch, where the timelines got confusing in the original DC Landscape, which unsurprisingly led to fans and people interested in comics complaining to DC. DC wiped the entire slate clean and started from scratch with New 52. They created new backstories for characters and even changed some key traits about them. But more importantly, at its introduction, the New 52 timeline was just as confusing as the pre-New 52 timeline even though it had just been introduced, and it only got worse. As a result, sales started to fall. DC Comics tends to do harder reboots, they'll wipe their entire slate clean and create new backstories for their characters, maybe even change the character completely. Marvel doesn't like doing that.
Marvel likes doing reboots where instead of the existing Marvel Universe getting erased and started anew, all of the previous history remains intact, but now new readers would be able to read comics from that point on, and there would be no change to the history that older fans already know. An example of this was Marvel's Secret Wars, or even more recent, Marvel's Secret Empire. Both of these events were meant to lead into new jumping off points for newer comic readers. This sounds like the best option when rebooting comics, but this method of rebooting creates quite a big problem.
With a reboot, even the "soft" reboots that Marvel likes doing, there may be conflict with already established history with respect to the new revamped world. One thing that Marvel has done to fix discrepancies between pre-reboot history and post-reboot history is to bring characters from the past and put them in the new 'rebooted' world. Which makes things more confusing for readers, but I'll explain why Marvel might choose to bring back pre-reboot characters and put them in the post-reboot landscape.
Now I'm no expert in the comic industry, but I'm going to talk about why I think Marvel Comics may decide to introduce characters from pre-reboot landscapes into the main (post-reboot) Marvel Universe, and how introducing time-displaced characters serves as a tool to help comic readers understand the newer landscape with respect to the old.
Some of you may be wondering why Marvel wouldn't just make a new character? Well... There are a bunch of reasons. We're going to be using the X-Men blue team that I talked about in a previous post as an example.
If you don't know who they are feel free to check out my previous post on them.
Don't know what the X-Men Blue Team is? Here's what you need.
Let's tackle the first question. Why doesn't Marvel just make a new character? Well, it would be harder to help the reader learn about the pre-reboot landscape. Creating a character would mean having to introduce the character and their story within the new continuity, and establish that they had a presence in the older continuity. Doing that takes a lot of time to plan out, and comic readers are impatient. If something takes long for someone to understand, it'll be harder for them to get into the comic, and they'll likely put the comic down and never read it again. The writers could just pretend that the character existed before the reboot, but that would take some intense and convoluted story telling, and would confuse old and new readers alike when it comes to the new character and the older and already established history. Essentially what I'm saying is making a new character for new comic characters would not work for Marvel because it would add more to the new continuity (this is fine) but would change the established history (this is not fine because discrepancies are usually never a good thing).
Before we delve into why introducing time-displaced characters from an old continuity is the best solution to helping new comic readers learn about the old history and the new post-reboot universe, I want to explain why Marvel wouldn't use current characters, instead of introducing versions of those characters from the past (i.e. Time-Displaced Characters). Well, the whole point is to teach the newer comic reader about the rebooted universe's history. Using a current version of a character means that that character already knows the current history, and likely this character wouldn't really go back to visit the history in length. And if a writer needed to the reader to know something, they would have them look at a back-issue or they would provide a quick synopsis. Neither option poses as a great one for new comic-readers. They don't want to have to look at older comics to understand. So what a writer might do with a comic with a current-day version of the character is provide a brief synopsis of what happened in the character's past that may teach the reader about the character's comic history and their current standing in the rebooted world, but here arises a couple problems.
1. There would be a lot of exposition. Dumping a ton of exposition on a reader may not always be a good thing; actually, it's usually never a good thing. Dumping a ton of exposition on the reader means that the comic is moving its focus away from the current story that the reader is following in order to catch them up. This is fine, but it takes up space and time that the writer has to finish his story. This leads to you having given a very underdeveloped synopsis on details from the past, and an underdeveloped story that takes place in the character's present-day.
Not only that, but the reader will get bombarded with information and will likely get confused. Second, the writer is using up precious time and space by writing a script for events that happen in the past. This will take away from the current story focus, and will lead the writer to clean up the story with a smaller amount of space in the allotted comic pages, which leads to further details being left out. To put it simply, imagine you have to write a 20 page maximum comic for Marvel for their new rebooted universe. You have 20 pages to tell your story; well, all of a sudden, you need to talk about something that happened before the reboot, and it takes you 5 pages to tell that. Well, now you have 15 pages to tell your story and a bunch of stuff you already had planned in your story to take out. Do you get it? I sure do hope so, but now let's get into that whole thing I wanted to get into at the beginning of this post.
Finally, why introduce time-displaced characters? A time-displaced character is someone who is in the present-day but comes from a different time, like the X-Men Blue team, who is the past version of the Original X-Men team that got displaced into the present-day. Why would these characters help newer comic readers learn about the new universe and the old history? 1. These characters already existed in the old history, and have a set-in-stone place in the comic mythos. 2. They experience this new world as the reader does.
Here's a great example of what I mean. During Grant Morrison's run on the X-Men, he introduced the concept of secondary mutations. An example of a mutation is Emma Frost's telepathy. That is her main power. But she has another mutation that lets her turn her body into diamond. that would be her secondary mutation. These mutations have had a place in X-Men mythology for a while, but was never really discussed in depth in the comics. So how does this relate to X-Men Blue?
The Blue team was originally created in the 60s, which means that they were from before Grant Morrison introduced Secondary Mutations, and they don't know what they are. Having these characters brought from the past, and having to face off with enemies that they discover have secondary mutations, means that they are forced to learn about secondary mutations, which gives the writer a feasible excuse to give the reader exposition instead of just creating a flashback scene. Not only this, but the writer creates a relationship between the character and the reader so that they learn together. Using older characters that people like also engages the older fans and satisfies their desire to have familiar faces in their comics.
Man, this was a long one, and it kinda took energy out of me. I may make another post or two today, but I doubt they'll be up by the end of they day. But as always, feel free to check out the other posts. See you in the next one.