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  • Shooting the Canon

    Yes I spelled it that way on purpose. I just thought I’d reprint the guts of a post I made on Alvaro’s ComicBoards.com, in the X-Forum. Because I accidentally got out some coherent thoughts on a matter I see a lot, specifically when people talk about X-Men First Class. Someone mentioned that I consider the stories “canon” and I popped in to say that it’s not the case. Here it is, and I’ll add a bit more to it…

    I’d like to chime in here on the matter of canon. Because this gets brought up in other places, like the Marvel Chronology Project. There the participants have undertaken the Herculean task of trying to place all developments in Marvel’s fictional history in order of each other.

    While I consider our XFC stories in continuity, I don’t think I can decide what’s CANON. I think these are all modern heroic legends that will be added to and subtracted from, and what actually determines canon if anything, is the staying power of the parts generations of readers keep liking. Miller and Mazzucelli in Batman: Year One add in a bit with young Bruce falling into the cave and later the bat smashing through his window. Everyone liked that, so it got incorporated into later books and cartoons, and now it’s canon. Oh, and those pearls.

    Earlier example going back to the Arthurian tales (they’re always my prime example relating to iconic characters)- Gawain was for years Arthur’s number 2 knight, but as the stories pass through France, Sir Lancelot gets added into the mix and eventually supplants that role because people like the story arc with the Guinivere triangle. Modern superhero comics correspond easily to the Arthurian tales- we even try to write the eventual deaths of our fictional heroes because we have a need for them to have that linear arc.

    The publisher or a specific group of fans can try to nail something down, but it’s time and the collective of readers who will determine what part of the legend stays. So there’s no need for us to get too bent out of shape when a development we don’t like happens, we just have to count what we like. Future creators will simply diminish the importance of that event or forget it altogether unless it has real staying power.

    So that’s what I said. This is probably only of interest to people who watch these debates at the Chronology Project or John Byrne Forum. You can find some interesting points from very smart readers, but also some heated zealotry where people list the capabilities of the Danger Room the same as your local religious fanatic will quote the Bible- hence the word “canon.” I tend to not post where I’m insulted frequently, but were I going to, I would just advise everyone to just say our X-stories aren’t canon and save themselves a lot of work.

    But the Agents of Atlas stuff? All that TOTALLY HAPPENED!


    Comment from Eric
    Time: May 31, 2007, 12:18 pm

    This is a different kind of canon than I’m used to (“Should ‘popular’ authors like Raymond Chandler be considered ‘literature’? Discuss.”). One of the benefits of comic books over similar methods of storytelling like television shows is the potential for new story direction when new creative teams take over. Whereas soap operas have to deal with not only 40-some-odd years of back history of Luke and Laura, but keep roughly the same tone and techniques as well, things get a little limited. But, as you pointed out, Miller and Mazz can insert new pieces of the mythos that get arbitrarily accepted due to the reaction of fans and other writers and artists. Thus the character of Batman can evolve.

    Me? I’m just glad there’s no tentacle rape going on in XFC.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: May 31, 2007, 12:42 pm

    Yeah, I remember those what’s-literature debates from college, good times. Your mention of TV hits a crucial distinction I wish the publishers would decide more clearly- is this soap opera, or not? Because one’s cyclical and one’s linear, and I tend to think work-for-hire characters should be more cyclical.

    Except for the upcoming “Planet Hentai” issue of XFC.

    Comment from odessa steps
    Time: May 31, 2007, 2:07 pm

    I used to worry about continuity and all that stuff a lot.

    Nowadays, I’d settle for a really good story that bend continuity or whatever.

    Comment from henri yim
    Time: June 1, 2007, 1:56 am

    The whole discussion of what’s canon and what’s not in aspects of pop culture is an effect endemic to a popular license. Star trek, star wars, the marvel and DC universes… they are all licenses with an array of creative inputs nourishing it (they seem to never satiate of the creative juices… even the “definitive takes” of the Moores and Millers get reworked as time goes by) hence to the audience at least the creative paternity of the license is lost.
    The fans then start acting as a surrogate parent, choosing what is considered seminal or canon based on their own perceived quality of every new creative pieces.
    But the audience is a consumer entity with little to poor creative input (choice by sales, fan fic and fan art, fan feedback) or creative acumen (you can be an expert in haute cuisine, doesn’t mean you can cook it.) So there is no value scale to judge what is canon or not. The audience then choose “gospels,” some work of some author, generally the creator but it can be anyoone whose work is considered seminal, and take his decisions or mistakes to the letter (Lucas.)
    We are seeing this starting to happen in the newest massive pop industry that is video games. As licenses get built and creative teams come and go, the fans start to exert immense pressure on the developpers (any MMO game, GTA, HALO.)

    In a way, the old expression goes, everybody’s a critic, but also an editor.

    Pingback from Blog@Newsarama » Parker: Continuity or canon?
    Time: June 1, 2007, 8:46 am

    [...] Continuity or canon? Friday June 1, 2007, 12:46 pm X-Men: First ClassOver on his blog, Jeff Parker has some interesting thoughts on the difference between stories that are in continuity [...]

    Comment from Eric
    Time: June 1, 2007, 10:18 am

    I dig that idea of gospels. I always forget that aspect of the word “canon.”

    Comment from Matt M.
    Time: June 1, 2007, 5:15 pm

    We’re all talking about canon like it’s a permanent thing. It isn’t. It’s a riverbed that stuff gets dumped into over time. Over time some of that stuff sticks around and sometimes there’s huge shifts that makes the river change course and end up somewhere else entirely.

    Worry about the good stories and the good characters. That’s what’s important. That’s what’s gonna last. Not that I need to tell Parker that. He’s got a pretty firm handle on it, by all evidence.

    Oh, and Chandler is totally “literature” worthy. The real question is whether literature is worthy of Chandler…

    Comment from Matt M.
    Time: June 1, 2007, 5:56 pm

    Wow, the formatting really got munged on that. Makes me look more boneheaded than usual.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: June 1, 2007, 7:47 pm

    Well, well, well. Look who’s back from the dead!

    Comment from Matt M.
    Time: June 2, 2007, 7:11 am

    Shush, you. I been page-layoutin’ between bouts of keeping the 3 year old and the 6 year old off each other’s necks. STRANGEWAYS should be pressing this summer, at least.

    Hey look, I snuck a plug in there. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this…

    Comment from Jeff Vice
    Time: June 2, 2007, 10:48 am

    And the Agents of Atlas stuff? Totally rules! As does everything you write these days (the “Ego, the Loving Planet” issue of Marvel Adventures Avengers still kills me!) …

    Comment from Parker
    Time: June 2, 2007, 11:02 am

    Thanks Jeff!
    Why couldn’t I have had a cool last name like Vice?

    Comment from Jeff Vice
    Time: June 3, 2007, 10:51 am

    I’m not sure all the childhood taunts and name-calling make the “cool” last name worthwhile. Ah well, the price of loving comics …

    Comment from henri yim
    Time: June 3, 2007, 6:29 pm

    someone should totally make a tv series based on your name.

    Comment from Beast
    Time: June 4, 2007, 7:44 pm

    Maybe set in Miami.