Keith Giffen's latest column at CBR has a very interesting topic. In it, Giffen takes on continuity.
Great idea for a column, right? Everyone loves talking about continuity.
Unfortunately, I think Giffen ends up spending way too much time fighting against a strawmen, the fans who freak out over the idea of Spider-Man being in Japan with the Avengers while being in New York in his comics. Are there fans like that? Sure, but they are few and far between, so it was a bit disappointing to see Giffen spend so much time knocking their position.
Continuity demands that a character's previous appearances fit into an overall, rigid timeline. How long was Mirror Master glass? What events passed during that period? How can he appear in the Flash after being glass for a month when Green Lantern's had only a week's worth of adventures during the same period? Continuity demands I read every DC book that arrives in my comp package (even the Rucka stuff! ) because God forbid I set a story in Cleveland and not acknowledge the fact that Geoff's got the JSA tearing up a section of the city that month.
That's easy to make fun of, but that's not really the main position of those folks who love them their continuity.
Their position (and I'm not saying I agree with them, because I don't) is that continuity is good because it makes the comics work as one big serialized story, and having it work as one big interconnecting story adds depth to the story, as you get all this intermingling backstory for all the characters, and gives a lushness and realism to the stories, and once you begin changing things, and ignoring past stories, the whole grand epic falls apart a bit.
That is, it doesn't matter that the Avengers didn't show up to fight Galactus, but if Galactus shows up again, the Fantastic Four best remember that they fought him before, and they should reflect their past interactions with Galactus in their new interactions with Galactus. Their past stories help to inform their new ones.
I don't think that's worth the restrictions continuity places on writers, but it's a legitimate point, and one I think Giffen should have spent more time addressing.