Grr(aphic) Mondays: Status Quo And The World Of Comics

Status quo is more than just a band, it’s the term used to refer to a person’s state of normality, in literary terms it’s the day to day life of a character. Most novels or films are about a character either trying to create a new status quo or return to their old status quo. However, this changes when we consider long running comic book universes and series. The status quo of a character like Spider-Man is that he his going out and fighting super villains most nights. This means that what we are seeing in a lot of Spider-Man issues is the status quo of Spider-Man’s life.

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It also makes it harder to change the status quo as it still needs to include Spider-Man fighting super villains. A few years back this actually happened and instead of Peter Parker’s status quo being ‘a nerdy photographer fighting super villains’ he became ‘a cool teacher fighting super villains with the Avengers‘ but even then Marvel worked hard to undo this change as it changed what the character was at his core. I didn’t agree with the change that occurred over the One More Day arc but I do understand why it happened, because time and continuity works differently in the Marvel Universe.
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Marvel tend not to like characters changing their status quo as the universe works by assuming everyone is doing the same sort of thing they have always done due to the narrative structure of time they use. Essentially every event from every Marvel Comic happened in the past ten years or so and the current issue is the present meaning that the status quo of the universe and the characters within it has to be relatively consistent. Essentially, the characters never age and instead their past moves forward in time with them.  DC Comics like to do things a little differently.
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Picture Source: https://playlegit.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/dcuniverse.jpg [Accessed: 23/08/2015]
About every fifteen years DC Comics do a big retcon/reboot and delete a lot of character progression, this essentially means that characters are allowed to progress for a decade or so and then they get to reset the characters to their ‘normal’ status quo. This allows for big narrative changes like Bruce Wayne being replaced by Dick Greyson or Commissioner Gordon as Batman. My favourite change to status quo recently has been with Superman as he has changed from this:
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To this:
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There’s a lot of story around these changes but the basic idea is that DC Comics have depowered Superman, making him only as strong as Aquaman or Wonder Woman. This has created a lot more tension and a far more enjoyable narrative. The way each comic book universe deals with status quo and continuity is very interesting and can be a major factor between readers when they are choosing a universe to follow. Marvel are able to do more dynamic storylines but they rarely ‘stick’ where as DC seem to have a lot more character progression that that stays around until the next crisis event.
It’s also important to consider as a creator as you need to decide a time line for your own fictional pieces and how you want them to fit together, if your characters never age then you need to find a way to get them back to their status quo so there is no difference between one story to next. If your characters do age then type need to establish what will happen when they are old enough to die or too old to be heroes anymore. This is what it always comes down to, Marvel vs DC.

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