If there’s one thing we nerds enjoy, it’s canon. Is this canonical? Is that? Is my OTP canonical? How does X fit into the canon? One need not look any further than the reaction to the announcement that the Star Wars Expanded Universe being retired into the Legends label to see how much a concise and clearly stated canon can matter to people. So there gets to be this mindset among fans of just about anything that whatever is stated to be canon is something akin to a holy text that must be viewed as complete and immutable from whatever state a fan finds it in. And that last bit is important because what eventually sets the bar as ‘betraying’, ‘contradicting’ or ‘ignoring’ canon depends a great deal on exactly what state the canon was in when and how you first were exposed to it.
After all, while the Green Lantern Corps was introduced in 1959, the concept of the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lantern Corps like the Red Lanterns, or the Sinestro Corps, didn’t come into being until 2006, despite it beings established that these things were in existence all along but the Green Lanterns may not have been aware of them. If you were a fan before Geoff Johns’ new interpretation of the Green Lantern universe, you might find this idea a bit on the heretical side. After all, how could the Guardians not know/expose this info? How come it took decades of issues before it was revealed that Parralax was a big space bug that was sealed away and they knew about it but kinda didn’t want to bring it up? On the same hand, if you came after that or say first got interested in Green Lantern due to the Green Lantern Animated Series – then the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lanterns are just part of the universe to you. Easy peasy.
Already we can see that time and method can dictate the view of what is considered to be canon and what isn’t. Will new Star Wars fans a decade from now when the JJ Abrams Trilogy comes to a close even think that the Legends novels were anything more than interesting What-If stories? That the Yuuzhan Vong are nothing more than glorified fanfiction characters? Perhaps. But aside from fan-interpretation and viewpoints of canon, what about when canon is changed by the ones who created it?
If you want a good example of fans getting upset at a ‘violation’ of canon by the ones who write the story themselves, look no further than our good friends at Blizzard Entertainment. Almost every expansion is met with cries of ‘That’s not what this character would do’, ‘Blizzard doesn’t care about their own canon’ or ‘This violates their own lore’, etc. I’ve played World of Warcraft since 2006 off and on, and I’ve seen these complaints so many times I’ve lost count. But it always comes back to this idea that what WAS should be preserved in a little box, and left to the point where it is never changed or influenced. Heck, I remember people complaining about the difference in characterization between Warcraft III and Vanilla WoW, almost like there was some sort of inexplicable 5 year jump mentioned in first few seconds of the opening cut scene. These characters change, the situation changes, and the world moves forward. The Forsaken were pretty much born out of Sylvanas’ quest for revenge against the Lich King. You can’t very well expect them to stay the same after their sworn mortal enemy is dead.
There’s also the issue of the fact that since WE are aware of all the details of the story and lore, we often will forget that the characters don’t. A character may not know the truth of all the details, or even heard the news if its something that happened on the completely other side of the planet and thus will act according to what they know and not what WE know. The concept of ‘metagaming’ can extend to fiction too, ya know. So while things sometimes look like a violation of canon, it can honestly sometimes just be a matter of ‘the characters wouldn’t know that’. Back to World of Warcraft for example, it’s stated in some places that the Eredar corrupted the Titan Sargeras into turning evil, it’s later revealed upon meeting the Draenei – an exiled faction of the Eredar – that it was actually the reverse. Sargeras had corrupted the Eredar. Is this a retcon? Yes, but does it break canon? No. No one who originally told the tales of Sargeras & the Eredar would have been in the position to know the facts of the tale. They are legends and fables, passed down for generations. Now when they meet the Draenei? Well, heck, Velen was THERE. He knows. Now he’s explaining it. Now you have the myth, and the fact. That’s developing canon, not violating it.
Wanting a canon to stay rigid, to have nothing new enter or depart the scene and for characters to stay the same as when we first fell in love with them just is flat out bad for storytelling. Is BioWare futzing with their own lore with TOR? Yes. Yes they are. The story is moving forward, a new enemy is appearing from beyond the borders of the galaxy and using a vastly different technique of force wielding to pursue a mission of galactic conquest. Honestly, from a personal standpoint, it’s not nearly as conflicting as say KOTOR to KOTOR2 when in the space of 5 years the entire Jedi Order was completely wiped out leaving only a few stragglers like the Exile around. No wonder they decided to set SWTOR 295 years later. Yeesh.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t ways you can mess up canon. Even Blizzard has admitted to messing up with mixing up established facts and they have employees devoted to entire task of keeping this stuff straight. But there’s a difference between ‘This never before explained thing has appeared and is attacking’ or ‘This ancient prophecy we just uncovered is coming true!’ and things like ‘Superman was never from Krypton, he’s from Snorglack-VII and always has been. Ignore what we said earlier.’ (And heck there are even acceptable ways to do that with continuity reboots, and elaborate explanations, that might reek of B.S. aren’t technically violating canon.) There are times when you just screw up and forget that you’ve already established some detail, and there are times you introduce retcons that will devastatingly run in contrast to how a character is viewed (Did you Batman ALWAYS hated rock music because his Dad told him it was bad the night they died?) but there is also just the idea that you are expanding the story and the universe.
As fans we sometimes have the tendency to get a bit zealous with our devotion to what we know. We like the permanence of the whole thing. It feels good. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for the story. For a story to grow, canon must be altered and expanded. Maybe there were 9 planets, but due to later revelations there are now 8 (or like 25). Canon must always be somewhat flexible in order for things to move forward. And I think we as fans need to be flexible with it.
Thanks for reading.
Since I am a self-proclaimed UberGeek (No, it’s not prestige thing. It’s just a term I came up with to explain that if it’s something geeky, chances are I have an interest in it. Compare to folks who are just Star Wars Geeks, Anime Geeks, Gamer Geeks, etc), I figured it would be worthwhile to talk about my love of comics now and then on the Land of Odd. So I’ve started a new ‘Comics’ category to talk about the latest issues, what I like and what I don’t like and whatever weird theories or rants I may want to talk about.
Recently, I’ve mostly been diving into the DC Comics’ New 52. Not that I won’t EVER talk about Marvel comics on here, but I don’t follow them nearly as close as I do DC. Maybe I’ll talk about why on here someday. (FYI, if you would like to contribute some Marvel comics write ups as a guest writer or something, feel free to contact me!)
Well this week brought new issues for two titles on my reading list. Let’s share, shall we?
So we finally got the second issue of Ravagers yesterday. I wish I could say that with more glee in my voice, but that would be unfair to you and downright lying for me. Based on a rumor that I heard that an old Teen Titans character, Raven, would possibly be appearing in the DC Comics’ New 52 around issue #5 of Ravagers, I decided I’d stick with it for a few months and see how it pans out. Two issues in and I’m already starting to doubt that decision.
The situation is admittedly interesting in that you have a bunch of teenagers that have been emotionally and physically abused in a giant death match to turn them into killers and are now on the run to save their lives. There is potential there. There’s some flashes of the Bourne series mixed with Battle Royale. Sadly, so far most of the comic plays out like this:
“We were trained to be killers so we do not trust anyone!”
“But we need to work together!”
“But we do not trust you. So we are going to seperate and go different directions and slowly get picked off by the bad guys before we can even establish our names.”
I mean the biggest potential in this comic is the characters and after two issues I only know half their names and that two of them are related. That’s it. Personality? Thrown aside for action sequences and shouting about not trusting each other. One character – Ridge – who is a former member of the actual Ravagers (who are bad guys hunting the main characters. Kind of a confusing title at the moment.) HAD a cockney accent but then seems to have lost it somewhere. Oh and Caitlin Fairchild is in it and she may or may not be a lesbian. The subtext with Rose is quite unclear on whether they were friends or lovers in the past.
Compare this with the New 52’s Teen Titans which I am LOVING. The characters were introduced pretty quickly over the first 5 or so issues, but they are written in a way that you pretty much get a grasp on their personalities in just a few pages. Here? Nothing. Zilch. Other than they don’t trust each other and they’re angry. That’s about it.
The villains are not much better. While Rose Wilson is relatively established along with Caitlin from their time in the Superboy series, the rest of the villains are names and flashy costumes. Their motivation? Their boss told them to. Their bosses motivation? No clue. Still a mystery after the Culling crossover.
The road to Ravagers #5 is going to a long and bumpy one. Pray for me.
Vry’s Rating: 2 exploding collars out of 5.
If Ravagers is a bunch of sound and noise signifying no character whatsoever, this month’s Superboy is pretty much its polar opposite.
Following the events of the Culling, the Teen Titans and Superboy ended up on Mystery Island. Yes, that is its actual name. It’s a giant island shaped like a question mark. It’s extremely ridiculous and I LOVE it. This issue however starts with Superboy and Cassie Sandsmark (Don’t call her Wondergirl) seperated from the rest of the team.
While there is a comedic little fight with a T-Rex (Yes, there are dinosaurs on Mystery Island), the majority of this issue is just Cassie and Kon-El talking and getting to know each other. It’s a nice quiet issue with a lot of character development that I’ve wanted since Superboy and Teen Titans started.
I want to say it’s mainly due to the big Culling crossover last month, but Teen Titans 1-8 felt really rushed, jumping from event to event to get the groundwork for the crossover laid out (And yes, STILL had better character development than Ravagers). Superboy on the other hand felt extremely padded and stretched out, possibly because it DIDN’T need 8 issues to set up for the crossover so it just had to kill time until issue 9.
This issue however was great. It had comedy, character, a bit of action, some nice art from Iban Coello which I prefer to RB Silva’s sometimes downright cartoonish faces or worse the blank faces with little lines or dots to indicate where the eyes and mouth are.
There’s even some romantic tension between the two since we have previously established that they do in fact find each other attractive, but well… I won’t spoil it for you but it gave me a chuckle. I’ll say this much: Wondergirl? Total tsundere.
Finally, there is a really nice touch in this issue. In the midst of the controversy about the over sexualized and downright spine breaking poses that characters like Catwoman have been put into in the New 52, it was REALLY nice to see a scene where Cassie is starting to undress to take a bath in a lake and it ISN’T ridiculously sexualized. She’s just standing there with her shirt slipped off and covering her torso. No chiropractor needed. No butt shots or perfectly positioned foliage to block naughty bits. I’d say it’s probably because she’s only seventeen, but I think DC and Marvel have both shown in the past that they have no problem ‘going there’ with not quite legal teens in the past. It was just a small note that I was expecting something ridiculous and got something quite tasteful. Kudos to DC for once.
Vry’s Rating: 4 unconscious dinos out of 5.