In the film, Office Space, there is a scene where two characters are talking about their names, and how much they dislike them. One character tells the other one, who is frustrated to be named Michael Bolton (the same name as a noted soft rock balladeer), “Well, why don’t you just go by Mike instead of Michael?” to which the Bolton character replies, “No way. Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks!”
That attitude describes the same attitude that I think comic writers ought to have with regards to continuity.
Too often, you will have comic book writers go out of their way to acknowledge other stories that do not add anything beneficial to their story, because the other stories are in continuity.”
The example I gave two years ago when I first discussed this issue was Gail Simone explaining how Black Canary’s actions in an issue of Birds of Prey, which might look odd if going off her actions in the comic book mini-series, Identity Crisis (She gives Batman a lot of grief, which would seem to be an odd knowing that Dinah was among the group of Justice League members who erased Batman’s memory because Batman walked in on them giving Dr. Light a lobotomy), was in keeping with the characterization of Black Canary.
It was a fine explanation and I had no problem with it (although, to be honest, it did not even occur to me that the scene would play out as hypocritical), but really, all I could think of while reading it was that the whole scene really had no reason for existence other than to deal with a story from ANOTHER COMIC BOOK.
While, really, Simone should not have to worry about the effect of Identity Crisis upon her characters. She should not have to worry if the characterization of one of her book’s stars is retroactively messed with in some other comic, she should be free to ignore it.
SHE shouldn’t change because some other book sucked.
Dwayne McDuffie should not have to feel the need to explain in Reginald Hudlin’s changes to Black Panther continuity in the pages of Fantastic Four, and I hope we will NOT see that in next month’s Fantastic Four (which features Klaw, who was pretty dramatically changed during Hudlin’s revamp of Black Panther’s origin), although I fear that we will.
Grant Morrison summed up the approach best when he described where his JLA Classified arc (the one that led into Seven Soldiers) existed with DC continuity:
Aquaman has no beard and John Stewart is Green Lantern so it’s pretty much set in some kind of current continuity but I’m afraid it’s not the gloomy ‘adult’ world of Sue Dibny’s shredded lycra pants; so keep well away if it’s attempted rape you crave. Cannibalism, yes, rape, no. My DCU is a day-glo, non-stop funhouse, where the world is threatened every five minutes and godlike beings clash in the skies like fireworks.
And that’s the way it should be done.
Use what you want, don’t use what you don’t want.
Don’t feel the need to change your story because someone else wrote a stupid story that involves your characters.
Don’t change because someone else sucks.