THE WORD FOR WORLD IS CONTINUITY
The further I go into this article, the more deranged I am going to sound. I understand that, and you should, too. You should also understand that I'm not particularly concerned with that perception. Enjoying superhero comics is an emotional experience, and one applies terms like 'reasonable', or even 'sanity', to such an obsessive involvement at one's own peril.
Walk with me, then, into madness:
It wasn't until very recently, via the agency of email with good buddy Mike Norton, that it finally all cohered for me: not only why I like the element of 'continuity' so much in superhero comics, but why I have such a well developed sense of distrust and dislike for those so called comics fans who don't, and who call me names for daring to, also.
(This is one of the reasons I enjoy correspondence with the few intelligent people I've ever had the privilege to maintain such with for very long, especially those who, like Mike, are actually smarter than I am... not that that takes much, but Mike is, in fact, quite a bit smarter than I am ... it makes me think about things, and analyze, and synthesize, and realize certain truths that I most likely would have missed if I were only talking to myself, here. It's also a reason... other than, you know, childish egotism, which is certainly another reason... why getting email from idiots who simply want to whine that John Byrne really isn't that bad a writer and they honestly liked The New Teen Titans is so irritating. Crap like that doesn't make me think, and doesn't tell me anything I don't already know, other than the fact that a lot of morons really like Byrne's writing, and the New Teen Titans, which, in fact, I did already know, I just try not to think about too often because otherwise, like the 2000 Presidential Campaign, it will just fill me with despair.)
One of the things that has always, always, ALWAYS gotten my hackles up, for reasons I have previous to this never been able to adequately or articulately define, is the sort of so called 'fan' who snivels, or screeches, or ringingly declares in tones that brook no argument, something along the lines of:
"It's ONLY A STORY! GROW UP, FANBOY!"
We've all heard the seemingly endless yet still semantically limited variations on this, which range from "It's just comic books, fella, don't take it so seriously" to "For God's sake, LIGHTEN UP, this is just a frickin' funnybook". In general, this sort of 'fan'... and I'll keep putting that word in quotes, because I myself personally doubt the actual devotion of such... hobbyists... roars out this kind of resounding, manly, oh-we're-all-mature-adults-here-and-don't-you-dare-make-superhero-fandom-look-bad-with-your-whimpering type of declaration whenever an actual fan like me points out that, uh, hey there, fella, your favorite writer/artist/whatever just, you know, got this here thing in this here comic book WRONG. You know. He drew pointy ears on Kirk instead of Spock, or he forgot to pencil in the Vision's dork, or he made the JLA stay out of a ruined, devastated major metropolis where the tormented populace really needs them, so we can do a year long MAD MAX style adventure in all the Batman books. A fan like me, who actually believes that there is a 'right' way to do certain characters, and a 'correct' way to treat the concept of sensible, internal, consistent, coherent continuity, says something like "Well, you know, to be perfectly fair, Spider-Man's intrinsic character concept pretty much requires the tragic death of Uncle Ben due to circumstances he could have easily prevented", and in response we get, from, again, this sort of 'fan', an invariably haughty sneer of the sort I have already depicted: "Oh, for GOD'S SAKE, IT'S JUST A STORY. GET OVER IT."
Assuming we are just downright silly enough to try to continue the argument, pointing out something like, oh, I don't know, that Hawkman actually appears in POWER OF THE ATOM and JUSTICE LEAGUE and several other post Crisis DC comics before, supposedly, the 'new' Hawkman and Hawkwoman show up from Thanagar in the first issue of HAWKWORLD... Then the "it's just a story" guy will progress to his next unassailable point, by telling us, in world weary, oh so faintly contemptuous tones, something like the following:
"As long as the story is good, it doesn't matter if it's consistent or not with all the previously established history of the character".
And these arguments carry a great deal of weight, because, no matter how old you are - 9 or 19 or 29 or 39 or whatever - if you're a comic book fan, you are always sneakily aware of how childish the vast majority of the population, and many totally hot babes, regards your peculiar obsession as being (often while being sadly aware of how little similar negative judgements attach to other forms of adult obsession like, oh, sports, or cars, or making lots of money by cheating other people) and therefore, how childish they regard you as being. So regardless of your age, you don't want to seem like a stupid kid, throwing a tantrum over the fact that some hotshot fan favorite wonder boy scripter didn't get the story right, by golly. You want people to think you're a grown up, an adult, all mature and spiffy, just like Mr. Fan Man over there, who is telling you in those condescending tones that it's all Just A Story And Grow Up Already.
There are other names and labels that the It's Just A Story Contingent likes to affix on real, actual superhero comic book fans like me: anal, obsessive, compulsive, humorless, inflexible, lacking in a sense of wonder... and none of these are labels I, or you, if you are like me, particularly want to have applied to us, either. But the most stinging indictment, the most persuasive and telling, the one that makes those of us who truly care about continuity become very meek and quiet about it whenever a covey of Grant Morrison fans are slapping each other on the back and hooting like spavined whelk over the utter brilliance of the latest issue of whatever it is Morrison is ignoring continuity on this month... is that statement that we are childish, and immature, and bratty, and acting like a little kid, when we insist that Superman or Green Lantern or Green Arrow should continue to behave in a manner that they have heretofore been established consistently as behaving in.
It's a beautifully calculated attack. It takes the high ground, entropically. It positions its wielders neatly at the top of the maturity well, peeking over the lip, ready to roll great sneering boulders of snide derisive invective down at us if we so much as breathe a word about the fact that Metamorpho and Batman actually DID meet once before BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #1, in an issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD that Mike W. Barr happens to not like a whole great big bunch.
Well, I am about to say something that, assuming you are a comics fan above the age of, say, 10, is going to gravely offend and annoy you. I am going to whisper this blasphemous, sacrilegious truth, which we all know, deep down inside, but never, ever, under any circumstances, admit to:
Superhero comic books aren't for grownups.
Oh! Did you just start back from the monitor or page or print-out, shocked horror writ large on your features, hissing like a vampire with a sudden face full of holy water? Are you now rapidly opening a blank file so you can dash off a scathing rebuttal of that dreadful, frightening, offensive statement, a vehement, vitriolic denouncement of my dubious intelligence and questionable ancestry, replete with proper nouns like SANDMAN and WATCHMEN and BATMAN: YEAR ONE and ZOT! and NEXT MEN and PLANETARY and ASTRO CITY and AMERICAN FLAGG! and THE ROCKETEER, a-bristle with such gravid and puissant names as Scott McCloud, Howard Chaykin, Dave Stevens, John Byrne, and of course and I must never, EVER forget him, Alan "King Of Superheroes For Adults" Moore?
Let it go. Relax that deathgrip your hand has on the mouse as you scroll down, down, down, looking for that buried email link. Here's another little bit of sacrilege, and this one, I want you to say with me. Oh, you'll recoil at first, when you read these five or six little words, but honestly. Say them with me. You'll be startled by just how liberated you feel, afterwards.
I'm not a grown up, either.
Oh, let's not be tedious. I pay bills, just like the rest of you; I have a job I get up far too early every morning and put on things I'd never voluntarily choose to wear and trudge out half awake, wishing I were nearly anywhere else but especially still in bed, to spend eight or nine or ten hours a day, five days a week, in what I think virtually all of us would agree is a spectacular waste of my finite lifetime and energies. I tell the truth when I can, try to be a good friend, cheat my bosses, attempt to minimize the harm my actions do, take responsibility for that harm when I can't avoid doing it... or lie, if I can get away with it, and I feel I have to. I shop for food, count my money, feel guilty when I treat myself to a new CD or videotape, kid myself that I'll start saving for a new computer or a DVD player next week, yes I will. I lust after all the halfway decent looking women I see, daydream about running into my ideal mate in a Walgreen's and having her initiate a conversation that will somehow lead to a lifelong deeply fulfilling relationship of mutual love and amazing sex. I eat TV dinners, look at X-rated web sites, and wish that someone, anyone, would just develop a computer that would not only run ALL the goddam software available now, but that would always be able to run all the goddam new software that will come out next week, as well. I curse when I see this month's utility bill, and vow I won't use the AC quite so much, and I'm lying, yes I am. In all those tiresome, mundane, monotonous real world ways, I'm a grown up. I am. Just like you, and the rest of us who like superhero comics, but would rather hold up a copy of MAXIM or POPULAR MECHANIX on the bus to read them behind.
But to the extent that I still enjoy good superhero comics, when I can rarely find them... no. I am not a grown up. To the extent that my favorite evening of television these days is the two hours on Tuesday nights when I sit down to watch BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL, no, I am not a grown up. To the extent that rereading the Millenium Edition of "Flash of Two Worlds" can still astound and move and delight the very large part of me that is still very much a child... no, I am not a grown up.
And neither are you, my friend, my spirit-sibling, my fellow fan. Say it with me. We Are Not Grown Ups... and we want the writers and artists, when they write and draw about our favorite four color super-friends... to GET IT RIGHT.
But this article is not about reclaiming the word 'childish' from those who, in their boring, sterile, unimaginative, aimless, and empty adulthoods, honestly think such a label is an insult. That's just serendipity. No, what this article is about is the fact that I've finally figured out exactly why it bothers, no, even offends, hmmm, actually, I think a better word or phrase would be, positively frigging enrages, me when writers and artists demonstrate a casual, dismissive contempt for that little element of serial storytelling we call 'continuity'. Yes. I've finally managed to put my finger on exactly why I hate and despise the whole idea of the Ultimates line of comics at Marvel, and, oddly enough, it's the same reason I hated all those truly lousy Marvel-DC crossover comics of the 70s and 80s. (Here, all along, I'd just thought it was because, y'know, they BLEW - I mean, Batman and the Hulk; what chemical spillage into the Marvel or DC air conditioning system led to someone devising THAT team up idea, huh? - but actually, it's because of this other thing.) I've at long last been able to fully articulate exactly why I am so filled with anger and virulent loathing when Grant Morrison idly mentions in some interview with some fawning punk from some fawning punk fanzine that he's never really liked the whole idea of continuity, and the fawning punk agrees with him, yup yup yup, true creative geniuses like you, Mr. Morrison, should never have to worry about silly little things like, you know, the actual history of the character you're writing. No SIR. (And here I thought it was just because Grant Morrison is an asshole. Go figure.)
It's because... (and remember, I Am Not A Grown Up)... when you treat the adventures of Spider-Man, or Green Lantern, or the X-Men, or Batman, as Just A Story... you are intrinsically saying, Those People Are Not Real. The World They Live In Is Not Real. It's just fiction, that people like you or me, or, actually, people dumber, and with much less talent than you or me, can manipulate as suits them to make money for themselves and other people higher up the food chain.
In other words: "It's just a freaking STORY, fanboy. LIGHTEN UP."
This is entirely unacceptable to me.
Okay, look, I know they're fictional constructs created, for the most part, to sell magazines and merchandise and make a bunch of people a lot of money. The... Grown Up... in me knows that.
But the grown up in me isn't the part of me that reads and loves superhero comics. And the grown up in me, in this regard, can go soak his head.
The reason I love continuity is that deep down inside, the little kid that loves superhero comics is absolutely certain that THOSE GUYS ARE REAL. That THEIR WORLDS ARE REAL. That, if you could build a machine to cross the dimensions (just like THEY do) you would, somewhere, find an actual, objective, existent DC Earth-whatever, and an actual, objective, really and truly, honest to Irving Forbush, Marvel Universe.
It is NOT "just a fricking STORY". I will NOT "lighten up". They are NOT "just stupid funnybook characters". They... and the world they live in... are REAL.
I told you this was going to sound nuts.
Still, this is key. This is correct. This is the foundation stone, the center of the arch. This is what makes the continuity so overwhelmingly important to me, and why I cannot respect any writer or artist who is simply too goddam lazy or apathetic about the characters they are writing to do enough basic research to write them, if not excellently, or even adequately... then correctly.
And it is why I hate... I mean, virulently loathe and despise, the way most grown ups do child molesters or Arab terrorists... the writer or artist who KNOWS how the characters really are... and who writes them incorrectly anyway. Not out of ignorance, laziness, or apathy, but because they want the fans who read the comics to remember their names forever, and it's easier to twist, distort, wreck, and destroy, than it is to go to the trouble of getting it right.
And it's also why I never really could enjoy those giant Treasury Size Marvel-DC crossovers. They were... well, they were WRONG. Spider-Man and Superman do not live in the same world. Period. We KNOW this. And the writers who wrote those awful crossover things were too fundamentally lazy to try to create some sort of coherent, believably merged Marvel-DC Earth, which I might have been able to respect; no, they just wanted to toss Supes, Spidey, Doc Ock, and Lex Luthor into the same plot, mix it all up, and sell a couple of zillion issues to fans of both franchises. Even if those stories had been well written (and, you know, they weren't; I mean, in one sequence, Luthor and Doc Ock manage to get the drop on Spidey and Supes by cutting the artificial gravity in a space station, and leaving the two clueless heroes to flounder around disoriented for a few crucial seconds. Now, this might work on Spider-Man, I grant you, if he's caught in the middle of a room - although he wouldn't be, and since he'd cling to any sheer surface he was near, it really wouldn't work on him - but my POINT is, SUPERMAN FLIES. IN SPACE. A LOT. So this would NOT work on him, no matter what Gerry Conway and Ross Andru erroneously think), I would not have liked them, because they were not real stories of real events in the lives of those real people, Spider Man and Superman.
Look... if, as a Non Grown Up Comics Fan, I believe that there really is an objective Marvel Universe out there somewhere, then I have to regard the Marvel line of comic books as being my window into that world. A world I like, a world I often fantasize about living in (not as some mundane peon being crushed under falling spaceships during the Thanos War, to be sure, but as a superpowered adventurer in my own right, interacting with my favorite heroes and villains as a respected equal), a world I am avidly and endlessly interested in and even, yes, obsessed with.
And... when some writer, or series of writers, comes along and presents me with a narrative of the events in that world that I simply know, flat out, without doubt or question, is simply WRONG... well... it does more than offend me, more than even hurt me. On some level, it grievously, and maybe even mortally, wounds me. When a Byrne comes along and tries to tell me that Spider-Man speaks slang from the early 90s; when some pork sucking assistant editorial production wankmeister unctiously informs me that the Marvel Universe has only been around for about six years, so the Fantastic Four made their fateful failed space shot in 1994; when a succession of truly, staggeringly terrible writers takes the various X-Men characters and backgrounds and concepts and turns them so thoroughly into convoluted, incomprehensible chaos that there is no one, no fan, no pro, no devil nor God, who could present a sensible, coherent account of everything that has happened in those titles for the past 'six years' that the Marvel Universe has been in existence... when things like this happen, I grow... deeply upset.
When, as is apparently the wave of the future, the (by some bizarre standards) essential story elements of some of my favorite alternate timeline friends are abstracted so they can be updated and turned into a brand new, trendy version of that alternate timeline super-person to appeal to a more modern audience with shorter attention spans who have been so completely overstimulated that anything that doesn't send adrenaline pumping through their lymph nodes within thirty seconds of them laying eyes on it for the first time won't interest them for more than a minute longer.... Well... I get even more deeply upset.
Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, and subsequently became the costumed entertainer, and later, the super hero, known as Spider-Man, in 1961. The Fantastic Four's abortive space shot took place in that same year. Altered and abstracted ULTIMATE updatings of these events... are WRONG. I hate them. It's an emotional thing, not subject to reason, I will NOT give them a chance. Let the modern audience embrace its own heroes, I already have mine, dammit, and the modern audience can damn well keep their grubby little mitts off.
I told you I was going to sound deranged. This is an emotional thing. It's not subject to reason.
As a small, tiny note of sanity: do I... or does the grown up in me... realize that these characters are just characters, fictional, imaginary, and not, in any actual solid sense, Real? Well... yes.
But emotionally, they ARE real to me. Emotionally, I believe, the way some people believe in Sonny Jesus and the Right To Bear Arms, that they truly do live, breathe, spin webs, fly, stretch their limbs, throw batarangs, flame on, vibrate between dimensions, turn invisible, and exert their will through wondrous power rings, somewhere out there in the actual multiverse. And intellect has very little to do with the hobby of reading and enjoying superhero comics. As I have stated in other articles and in this one... this is an emotional issue. Which means, faith is an important... even an essential... element. And it is an article of my faith that my heroes are real people, living in a real world. Do I know it's not true? Sure. Do I care? Hell no. Do I want the people entrusted to write the adventures of my heroes to have the same intrinsic emotional belief in their reality as I do? Damn straight.
Now, to be fair, I will state here that incorrect writing is not the same thing as bad writing. Bad writing... wretched plotting, truly terrible dialogue, stories that have nothing to do with the core concept of the book, or that do nothing to develop the characters involved in interesting ways... this is a good reason not to buy the comics so afflicted, but it does not necessarily have to be WRONG writing. Arnold Drake turned in a truly execrable run on the original X-Men, but it probably, more or less, accurately reflected the real events that took place concerning those people at that time in the objective Marvel Universe. Marv Wolfman did a long run on FANTASTIC FOUR that truly, and I mean in every conceivable way, SUCKED, but those stories most likely more or less were reasonable representations of what actually happened to the real FF over that time period. I assume for the sake of my sanity that the Thing never actually said the specific things Wolfman misquoted him as saying, but, in the wonderfully concise words of the previously cited and often brilliant Mike Norton, that's all just 'bad reporting'. In fact, all through the Silver Age, both at Marvel and DC, the various writers got it all more or less correct, or so it seems to me. Yeah, they may have screwed up some of the dialogue, changed some of the endings a little, mentally misheard a name, whatever... but still and all, they got it all pretty much, for the most part, right. Those stories, badly written or not, seemed to accurately reflect a consistent alternate reality that one could invest a fair amount of credibility in. The characters, and their world, seemed real. At worst, many of them should have been hung with a "This story is based on actual incidents, although certain events have been dramatized for the purpose of this presentation" label. But, however technically lousy a writing job went into those stories, they all, nonetheless, in some way, seemed... real.
Now, do I even have to tell you that one of the reasons we have so many adult comics fans in the world right now patiently explaining, as if speaking to congenital morons, that this is just a story and anyone who expects more than a fun read should really, seriously, just GROW UP, is that they NEED TO? Because, since the death of the Silver Age and the birth of the Modern Age of Comics, more and more and more, comic book publishing companies have become subsidiaries to larger and larger corporations, who tend to treat their characters and titles as nothing more than minor money making commodities, and who therefore allow, or even make, their various work for hire non-talents write, design, plot, and draw according to the most current market research surveys? Whose credo is Make It Sell No Matter What?
No. I didn't think I needed to explain that.
The simple fact is, although I still believe there is an objective Marvel Universe out there somewhere, I no longer believe that it bears much or any resemblance to the Marvel Universe being reported on in the vast majority of most Marvel Comics. The nonsense that has been going on in FANTASTIC FOUR, SPIDER-MAN, THOR, and most especially and execrably, in X-MEN, for decades and decades now, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the actual, objective reality of the real Marvel Universe that a large part of me unswervingly believes actually exists on some other dimensional timeline right this minute. In point of fact, I have no clear idea what is going on in the actual, objective Marvel Universe of the year 2000, for two reasons:
First, there are only two titles being published by Marvel Comics right now that I feel more or less accurately reflect actual events that have occurred in the actual Marvel Universe. One is AVENGERS, the other is BLACK PANTHER. (THUNDERBOLTS might be more or less accurate, too, but I don't read it, so I don't know.) But neither of those reflects what the Marvel Universe is like in the year 2000, for the simple reason that, if we assume the Avengers have been together as a team for around ten years, then that means it is currently 1971 in the Marvel Universe.
In the year 2000 in the Marvel Universe, on the other hand, Peter Parker is around 65 years old.
Neither of those things threaten or frighten me. In fact, I find the idea of living in a Marvel Universe in the year 1971 (as a superhero, of course) to be extraordinarily attractive. As for Peter Parker being ready for Social Security in the year 2000, that doesn't trouble me, either. He might not be that old, because he might be long since dead. He might have aged well. He might be in suspended animation. Or, he might have gotten married and had kids, and his kids might be currently carrying on his heroic tradition. Certainly, someone is. Many someones.
Which is another thought I find fascinating about the idea of an objective, actual Marvel or DC Universe out there somewhere... who's running around fighting evil in it right NOW? Wouldn't it be nice if we had good, solid writers, who cared enough about the characters and the world they lived in, to treat it the way it should be treated within the pages of the comics they're writing... as a reflection of actual events taking place in a real, actual world?
And, in the end, what's the purpose I write all this down for? Is there, as Tom Regan once so flippantly sneered while facing down Johnny Caspar's troll of a henchmen, Eddie Dane... a point?
Perhaps there is. It occurs to me that I started out today, desultorily clack clack clacking away at this keyboard, more or less working on an article I had begun with the purpose of setting down what I could recall of the number and names of characters and concepts killed by DC's Crisis On Infinite Earths... and then, pretty bored with that, and knowing how bored most of my hypothetical audience would be with yet another longish, venomous screed about a publishing event that took place, after all, 15 years ago (which, when said all at once like that... "Crisis took place FIFTEEN YEARS AGO".... Just makes me want to go stick my head in an oven) I turned to this... a relatively short, I thought, dissertation on just why, I had so recently realized, I felt consistent, intelligent, respectful, attentively detailed continuity was such a crucial part of good superhero comics.
And now I'm realizing that I may have finally found the key, not just to why continuity is so important to me, but to the whole defining transition between the Silver Age... when, it seems, superhero comics in general, or at least, those published by Marvel and DC, were at their absolute finest... and the Modern Age... when superhero comics, for various reasons those of us who care endlessly argue and exhort about, seemed to stop, all of a sudden, being very good at all.
I've been wrong to focus on Crisis. Crisis, yes, absolutely, was the point at which DC's Silver Age went from a long, terminal creative coma into absolute flatline expiration, certainly. It's the time of death noted by the charge nurse on the patient's chart, no doubt. But where comics started going bad was at the end of Marvel's Silver Age, and that came with the publication of GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1, which (I'm blue-skying, here, but this seems like a pretty accurate guess) came along in 1974 or 1975.
See, the thing of it is, the timeline wasn't TERRIBLY distorted by then. We were only 15 years from the very beginning, that initial rocket flight back in 1961. Johnny Storm, allowed to age with the clock, would have been 30. Reed and Sue and Ben could all have still been adventuring, just a tiny bit slower and grayer. The senior generation in the Avengers would have been of a similar age, or around it; Hank Pym might have been in his 40s, Tony Stark in his mid to late 30s, Thor... who cares? Even allowing for condensed Marvel time to keep Peter Parker still a grad student, Marvel time was not yet distorted completely out of recognition. So it was, oh, 1967 in the Marvel Universe, and 1975 in ours. That's... not an insuperable difference. I could have dug it. A sensible and strong editor in chief could still have saved it all, could have declared, at that point, either to let the universe age more or less naturally, and start bringing in new generations of characters, or to start retarding the passage of time, and dating the stories as taking place in earlier years. Either one would have saved us so much grief, twenty five years further down the road. Would have let us keep looking at the Marvel Universe as real, and would have kept Joe Quesada from ever pushing an ULTIMATE X-MEN book as the shape of the future for Marvel Comics.
But, instead, Len Wein came up with a brilliantly commercial idea for reviving a cult favorite Silver Age concept that had never, really, been commercially successful. Old time fans were closing their LOCs with "Bring Back The X-Men!" and had been for years... and Marvel wanted to bring them back... why not? But the characters just didn't sell. So... why not... bring back the X-Men... but make them into... All New, All Different X-Men?
If there is a crucial moment when the entire creative emphasis on comics, at both Marvel and DC, abruptly swung away from writing seemingly real stories about seemingly real characters in a seemingly real universe, to writing made up crap about commercial properties in a landscape studded with potential marketing tools and merchandise tie ins, when 'willing suspension of disbelief' became 'urgent need to invest in a collector's item', when 'sense of wonder' transformed into 'Fine, Very Fine, Mint, New Mint'... that was it, or at least, that was the beginning of it.
The essential phase-shift from Silver to Modern Age is not, as I've been telling myself, simply one of quality, or even embodied by the decision to revive retired names and titles, while abandoning their original concepts in favor of something more calculated to appeal to a current audience.
No, it's a much simpler thing. The Silver Age died... when editors and writers stopped seeing the characters and places they were writing about as being, in some way, real.
There is, I think, a whole 'nother article to be written about why those particular out of continuity stories published at DC during the early Silver Age, in which Superman and Lois Lane got married and had twin boys, one with super powers, one without; or where Superman died and the whole universe mourned; or some such other thing that simply wouldn't fit into the established 'reality' of the DC timeline at that point, had to be prominently labeled "Imaginary Stories". And it's because, back then, superhero comics were all assumed to be REAL, unless we were specifically told otherwise. Editors edited the stuff, writers wrote it, artists drew it, and we bought and read it, all with the implicit understanding that that was the deal... it was all REAL... unless we were told otherwise, by that simple little yellow box saying "This is an Imaginary Story".
Since the death of the Silver Age, it's all been Imaginary Stories. Alan Moore might smile at this point, and say, "Aren't they all?"
To which I'd reply, "Yeah, Alan... but they're not supposed to SEEM that way."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
John Jones, the Manhunter from Marathon, IL, no longer dwells in Marathon, IL. In fact, he is not entirely sure that any such place as Marathon, IL actually exists, since to the best of his knowledge, he just made up the whole thing as a snappy sounding phrase to finish out this particular pseudonym with. However, if Marathon, IL has an actual existence, then he apologizes for any insult his fictional existence may have construed to it. If, on the other hand, Marathon, IL is just another Imaginary Tale, then he would like to know if the Silver Age Superman is still alive there, and if so, what forms he has to fill out to emigrate there.