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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 8:05am | IP Logged | 1  

In another thread a poster referred to ULATIMATE SPIDER-MAN as a "reboot". This touched off something that gets me grumpy -- the tendency of many fans to toss around some of the terms we have adopted in this industry without really considering what those terms mean. Some examples of words or phrases I have seen used incorrectly:

Reboot   To restart the continuity of a book or character. To reintroduce the character as if s/he is a new character. Typical examples: MAN OF STEEL, the George Perez WONDER WOMAN, DOOM PATROL, BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Sometimes these reboots are done retroactively, as with MoS and B:YO, sometimes they are "in continuity", as with WW and DP

Retcon   Short for "retroactive continuity". This happens when something which works a profound change on the character(s) is introduced retroactively, but without completely rebooting the character(s). Much of Frank Miller's work on DAREDEVIL hinged on retcons. SPIDER-MAN: CHAPTER ONE was retroactive continuity. Superboy was perhaps the earliest retcon.

Continuity   Refers to the continuing backstory of a character, built up over many issues, years and even decades. Often composed in large part of retcons, this is different from...

History ...which refers to the "real world" story of the character(s), dealing with the creators, the way in which the stories were concocted, the publishing history, etc.

Crossover   When a storyline continues from one title to another, either between two or between multiple titles. This can be between two (or more) unconnected titles (unconnected except for sharing the same "universe"), as with the DAREDEVIL/GHOST RIDER crossover that I drew early in my career, or can be between several titles belonging to the same character(s), as with the upcoming SUPERMAN/ACTION/ADVENTURES crossover of which I drew the middle part. (One of the reasons I left AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was that, despite best intentions at the outset, the stories began crossing between the two Spider-Man titles, and I found myself drawing too many first parts without knowing what was in the second.)

Guest Appearance or Team Up   Often erroneously referred to as a "crossover", this is the appearance of character(s) in a title belonging to someone else. Here the character(s) appear, but the storyline is self-contained. The upcoming appearance of the JLA in BLOOD OF THE DEMON is a guest appearance, not a "crossover".

Panels   The individual pictures that make up a comicbook page. Not "frames".

Splash Page or Full Page Splash   The first is usually indicating the opening page of a story, which contains the title and cradits. Since the title and credits can sometimes float around a bit, this is not an absolute. The second, however, refers to any full page illustration which does not contain the title.

Double-Page Spread   Any image or images that cross the fold. This can be one huge panel, or multiple panels.

Speech Balloon or Thought Balloon   Not "bubble".

Trunks   The article of clothing worn by many superheroes around their midsection, usually (tho not always) a different color or shade from the rest of the costume. Not "shorts".

Boots   A collective term for the footwear sported by most superheroes. Sometimes with soles and heels, sometimes not. Batman wears boots -- so do Superman and Spider-Man.

Uniform or Costume   Often used interchangably, they have different meanings. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and even Iron Man wear "costumes". The Green Lantern Corps (at least as originally portrayed) wear uniforms. The Fantastic Four wear uniforms, as did the original X-Men, who later switched to individualized costumes. (The ringer in this is Captain America, who is the only one who sports his particular outfit, but who should nevertheless be referred to as wearing a uniform.)

Chest Emblem   The design worn by many superheroes on their chests. Not "logo".

Spider-Man   not "Spiderman" or "Spider-man".

I may update this from time to time, as I think of or encounter more.

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Jon Godson
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 8:10am | IP Logged | 2  

Thanks, JB. I get confused myself and just used the phrase "starting over"
when describing what I want you to do with Batman in a post just minutes
ago.

I have copied these to a page on my desktop for easy reference.

Maybe a permanent glossary like the FAQs to help us along?
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Gregg Allinson
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 8:55am | IP Logged | 3  

Oh yeah...this needs to go in the FAQ or another permanent section.
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Todd Hembrough
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 10:09am | IP Logged | 4  

Very nice JB.

Thanks for the info.
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Ed Love
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 10:17am | IP Logged | 5  

i'm not sure i see that big of a difference between the re-boots of man of steel, batman: year one and that of wonder woman & doom patrol. unless you mean by in-continuity that the reboot is happening in the present?

i guess i just see them as happening retroactively as well as they pretty much claim the continuity of those characters to be null & void, thus wiping out chunks of continuity such as rebooting wonder woman affected the continuity of both the justice league and titans retroactively. as the results of both were largely the same, i guess i don't see a real point in making such a fine distinction as to when the reboot is supposed to be taking place.

a reboot that was "in continuity" i would think would be one that explains away the reboot and maintains the linear continuity of the character while still starting off with a clean slate. it doesn't disavow the previous continuity but brings it to a close somehow. i think of the pocket universe superboy or your donna troy storyline could be considered reboots "in continuity" of the characters if they had chosen to make use of them. i guess a story like neil gaiman's black orchid could be considered a reboot "in continuity" since it starts off by killing the original and then introducing an all new character.

or if you put man of steel with wonder woman and doom patrol and batman: year one as a retroactive reboot, i could see an argument for that. the ongoing titles of batman didn't undergo large visible changes during or after batman: year one was published. it re-wrote his origin story and relationships were subtly re-defined, but it wasn't really a hard reboot, it was almost more along the lines of just a really large retcon origin story ala spiderman: chapter one. whereas with the other three, there is a definite break between what went before and what came after. it was up front and immediate. even though man of steel was set somewhat in the past, it immediately invalidated the stories that came out months before. it's a clear demarcation between the past and present.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 11:02am | IP Logged | 6  

i'm not sure i see that big of a difference between the re-boots of man of steel, batman: year one and that of wonder woman & doom patrol. unless you mean by in-continuity that the reboot is happening in the present?

******

Sounds to me like you see the difference. YEAR ONE and MoS were both set in the past, so that the current issues of the respective titles were affected only as much as the writers and editors wanted them to be. WONDER WOMAN and DOOM PATROL reintroduced the characters, as new characters, wiping out (not "taking over") all previous coninuity.

In this respect, WW and DP closely resemble the pre-Earth2 Silver Age at DC (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Marvel).

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Todd Hembrough
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 11:47am | IP Logged | 7  

JB,

Do you find that the Editors and Pros know the differences between these terms?  Is it only the vast hoards of fanboys (and Byrne victims) who get it wrong?

t
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Jacob P Secrest
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 11:55am | IP Logged | 8  

 John Byrne wrote:
Uniform or Costume   Often used
interchangably, they have different meanings. Superman, Batman,
Spider-Man and even Iron Man wear "costumes". The Green Lantern
Corps (at least as originally portrayed) wear uniforms. The Fantastic Four
wear uniforms, as did the original X-Men, who later switched to
individualized costumes. (The ringer in this is Captain America, who is
the only one who sports his particular outfit, but who should nevertheless
be referred to as wearing a uniform.)

Me and my folks actually had a discussion of this after seeing The
Incredibles
, I made the point that a uniform by definition is
uniform, meaning that multiple people will be wearing the same
thing, in a uniform nature.

Though, I do wonder why Captain America would be described as wearing
a uniform.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 12:01pm | IP Logged | 9  

Do you find that the Editors and Pros know the
differences between these terms? Is it only the vast
hoards of fanboys (and Byrne victims) who get it
wrong?

******

The precentage of Pros who get it wrong runs about
the same as the percentage of fans.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 12:02pm | IP Logged | 10  

Though, I do wonder why Captain America would be
described as wearing a uniform.

******

Because he's not Mr. America.
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Jacob P Secrest
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 12:04pm | IP Logged | 11  

 John Byrne wrote:
Though, I do wonder why Captain America would be
described as wearing a uniform.

******

Because he's not Mr. America.

Thanks for clearing that up for me JB.
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 1:42pm | IP Logged | 12  

Ultimate Spider-Man is clearly not a "reboot" if the original "continuity" is still carrying on.  What is the proper term for a second, contradictory, simultaneous continuity? 

How about an "Earth-2oot"

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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 1:59pm | IP Logged | 13  

Ultimate Spider-Man is clearly not a "reboot" if the
original "continuity" is still carrying on. What is the
proper term for a second, contradictory,
simultaneous continuity?

*****

Incest?
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 2:03pm | IP Logged | 14  

Ewww.
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Eric Kleefeld
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 2:32pm | IP Logged | 15  

 John Byrne wrote:
Do you find that the Editors and Pros know the
differences between these terms?  Is it only the vast
hoards of fanboys (and Byrne victims) who get it
wrong?

******

The precentage of Pros who get it wrong runs about
the same as the percentage of fans.



Then this all brings up the question of language.  Do words have inherent meanings or just those we ascribe to them?  If enough pros, in addition to the fans, say "speech bubble" then why wouldn't "bubble" be just as valid as "balloon"?  JB says "balloon", someone else says "bubble", and they could both be right.


Edited by Eric Kleefeld on 23 April 2005 at 2:37pm
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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 2:45pm | IP Logged | 16  

 John Byrne wrote:
Ultimate Spider-Man is clearly not a "reboot" if the
original "continuity" is still carrying on. What is the
proper term for a second, contradictory,
simultaneous continuity?

*****

Incest?


Genius.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 2:56pm | IP Logged | 17  

Then this all brings up the question of language. Do words have inherent meanings or just those we ascribe to them? If enough pros, in addition to the fans, say "speech bubble" then why wouldn't "bubble" be just as valid as "balloon"? JB says "balloon", someone else says "bubble", and they could both be right.

******

There are lots of people who call Black people "niggers". Are both terms "right"?

You seem to have missed the rather important point that my response indicated roughly the same percentage of fans and pros use the improper terms for various elements of what we do -- but that percentage does not approach a balance. It is not that roughly half say "balloon" and half say "bubble". It is that some say "bubble" and they are wrong.

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Steve Lyons
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 3:15pm | IP Logged | 18  

Duly noted, JB. I'll try to keep these points in mind when using these terms. Of course, making us think about what we're posting will probably slow down the march to 1,000 or 1,500 posts.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 4:02pm | IP Logged | 19  

JB, the "splash page" can only be the first full page of a comic, is that correct? For example, if there's a full page panel in the middle of a story, it technically isn't the splash page, right?

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John Mietus
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 4:33pm | IP Logged | 20  

I've always understood the term "splash page" contains the title and
credits boxes for the story -- whether it's the first page or the second-
third.
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Glenn Brown
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 5:43pm | IP Logged | 21  

John, I understand the point you made and the fact that you're not making a racial statement...but for whatever it's worth, I thought that was an unnecessarily harsh and ugly way to make it.
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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 6:05pm | IP Logged | 22  

Regarding retcons:

A friend and I were discussing Star Wars and I referred to Darth Vader being Luke's father as a retcon. My friend disagreed, as while in the real world, it's safe to say that Lucas did not intend this to be the case when he wrote the original Star Wars, as far as the actual film goes, the information that Vader and Anakin are separate people comes from one source and is not presented objectively.

In other words, an "everything you know is wrong" is not a retcon if it's simply revealing that what someone said was not correct. Superboy is a retcon because Clark having a career as a superhero in Smallville contradicts the objective reality of the stories that showed Superman debuting as an adult in Metropolis.

JB is often accused of retconning things but I think this is an example of people using the term incorrectly. JB has revealed that -- shock! -- a VILLAIN might have lied about something, but that's not a retcon. Nor is revealing that the reason a character behaved a certain way was because of something about which we were unaware (why the Demon spoke in rhyme for a while).

I will argue that a revelation counts as a retcon if it contradicts simple dialogue (rather than objective reality) if there's no logical reason for the person to have lied (or if it's not in character for that person to have lied, which is why the Star Wars/Obi-Wan lie is a contentious one).

The fifth season ANGEL episode, "Why We Fight," is a retcon in that it reveals that Angel sired someone when he had a soul. In "The Trial," Angel is desperate enough to almost consider turning the dying Darla into a vampire to save her life. He says, "We don't know what would happen because I have a soul now." This simply doesn't make sense when he *did* know what would happen (he would still wind up creating a soulless monster, as the guy was in "Why We Fight").

 

 

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Eric Kleefeld
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 6:11pm | IP Logged | 23  

JB is often accused of retconning things but I think this is an example of people using the term incorrectly. JB has revealed that -- shock! -- a VILLAIN might have lied about something, but that's not a retcon.

************

Nope, that's still a retcon, as it's retroactively altering what was once established as past continuity of what happened.  Sure, it's a plausible retcon, and I'm not arguing that.  But it's still a retcon.
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John Mietus
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 7:17pm | IP Logged | 24  

As Eric K. pointed out, "retcon" is not necessarily a negative thing.
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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 23 April 2005 at 9:15pm | IP Logged | 25  

 Eric Kleefeld wrote:
JB is often accused of retconning things but I think this is an example of people using the term incorrectly. JB has revealed that -- shock! -- a VILLAIN might have lied about something, but that's not a retcon.

************

Nope, that's still a retcon, as it's retroactively altering what was once established as past continuity of what happened.  Sure, it's a plausible retcon, and I'm not arguing that.  But it's still a retcon.

I see this argued a lot and this is an example, I think, of how some fans view continuity. Visit any ANGEL or BATMAN site and you'll see every detail of the character's history mapped out, often based on offhand lines of dialogue in episodes or issues. Of course, that's not how things work in real life. If I tell you that my college girlfriend died and then you bump into her next month, that's not a retcon. I lied when I told she was deceased. I hadn't "established past continuity about what happened."

Yet, Dr. Doom or Ultron says "this is what happened" and despite having no reason to believe them, fans will view this as the gospel and if we're shown something different, they claim it's a retcon.

Another example: Frasier's dad still being alive, despite what was said on CHEERS, is not a retcon. We never saw a body on CHEERS. We just got what Frasier had said. His never mentioning a brother might seem odd but it doesn't discount that one might have existed.

A retcon erases or contradicts the objective reality of what was depicted in a story. Doctor Octopus as part of Spider-Man's origin clearly is a retcon. As much as I hate it, though, the revelation about Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin isn't -- it's just bad writing.

But something someone says is never objective.

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