Quoted from the introduction to volume one of Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series: “One of the things I tried to do [with Dark Shadows] and with most of my comics was to bring as much of the real world as I could — to try to write out of the headlines and out of what was happening. My goal was to write a good story. The fans are interested beyond the normal interest in a story. Their interest becomes almost like a religion or something bordering on it. So they are interested ritualistically: they want everything to be observed in a particular kind of way. The writer is not interested in the ritual of Dark Shadows. He is interested in the people, yes; in the characters, of course; and in the best darn stories he can get out of them, but not in whether he observes precisely what Jonathan [Frid as Barnabas Collins] should do under these precise conditions so that it will be in agreement with 20 other stories that came before [or be in agreement with the television series]. If the writer involves himself that much in the ritual of Dark Shadows, he isn’t going to get a decent story. He’s going to be restricted — bound — too much by what’s been done.”

Interesting.

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Eric L. Sofer said:
Commander Benson is correct. Plain and simply, what happened before actually happened. Otherwise, anything can be changed - and as Captain Comics has noted before, if anything can happen, why should we care?

People who don't care about continuity because they want to write their own stories don't care about their product. (Try using that "Oh, it had been this way, but now it's going to be another way" at your job sometime - and unless you're the boss, see how well THAT flies!)

Some people use insulting and derogatory terms to describe use of continuity - "slavish" comes to mind - which simply means that they don't want what has happened, they want their ideas to take precedence. For fans, that's probably the way it is, as they're the ones buying the damned books. For writers and artists - it's pure ego, and I don't want to buy some creators' autoerotic endeavors on the page, changing historical elements at will as it suits them - I want a story based on what happened previously. You know, the way the real world works.

Again, unless you want a black Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor being a Kryptonian, and Superman's father... 'cause as always, YMMV.

xoxoxo
x<]:o){


Thanks, Fogey. This discussion reminded me a pertinent post I made seven years ago on the subject of the importance of continuity. Actually, it could also pertain on the Batgirl 14 thread on retread characters posted by Mark Ogilvie. But your post above swayed me into re-publishing it here . . . .
____________________________________________________________________________________________


A character is so much more than just his costume, his powers, and his sobriquet. He has been invested with a personality and a certain moral code, even if it is something as basic as "stalwart, upright good guy"; and the fans of that character have invested interest, emotion, in that character as he is. If the character suddenly displays a changed personality and behaviour without a plausible evolution within the fictional conceit of the series, then he ceases to be the same character. The writer who inserts such drastic changes in a character may pick up new fans, but he will almost certainly lose the old ones.

A significant aspect of a character's "personality" is his history. It builds on the core persona of the character, even if it is something as minor as having the hero recall "I better remember to don my special refracting contact lenses. The last time I faced Dr. Worldsmasher, he used his astigmatic ray to blind me." Even inserting a simple recollexion like this goes to the hero's character, since it demonstrates the acquisition of experience. (And the lesson takes even stronger when the editor marks such a statement with an asterisk and includes a footnote such as " * That happened in The Wondrous Wombat-Man # 62.")

It is natural, I guess, for a new writer assuming a series to want to leave his mark on that series, but all too often, they lose sight of the fact that whatever popularity the hero enjoys stems not so much from his costume and powers, but from the kind of human being that hero is, including his social environment and his history.

This was a lesson learnt the hard way in television, back in its adolescence. With at least two cases in point. After a long run in the hugely successful Sea Hunt, actor Lloyd Bridges tried his hand at an anthology series titled The Lloyd Bridges Show, in which he played a different character every week. It fizzled and died, lasting only the 1962-3 season. Then Richard Boone---who had been phenomenonally popular as "Paladin" on Have Gun--Will Travel---tried the same thing with The Richard Boone Show in 1963. This, too, was a show in which, each week, he played a different character. Despite Boone's critically acclaimed talent and outstanding performances by his stable of regulars, this show also collapsed after one season.

In both cases, the audience never formed an attachment with the star because they could not count on his character remaining the same from week to week. With every episode, the viewer had to jettison his old affections and seek to acquire new ones.

Add to that, the confusion presented because the viewer was looking at the same familiar face from last week; the viewer was already inclined to expect the same actor to play the same character. Then, abruptly, the rug was pulled out from under him.

No following developed for the shows in example. The lesson: the star is not the draw; it is the character---his personality, his ethics, his motivation, his talents, and his history---that draws a fan following. The star is important only in his ability to portray such a character believably.

The same thing happens when a new writer takes over a comics character and re-writes his personality (without a logical, plausible build-up to the change). The reader sees the familiar character and has certain expectations of that character, and then he is brought up short when the character acts against those expectations.


As for the details of continuity, like everyone else has stated, I make no slavish insistence to it. If this month's issue states that Clark Kent's sixth-grade teacher was Mrs. Perkins, but 'way back in issue umpty-ump from ten years ago, his sixth-grade teacher was Mrs. Jenkins, that's no big deal. Even the most devoted fan will accept that as being much too minor to fault. (But mind you, that devoted fan will also be tickled to death if the current writer went to the trouble of being consistent and used the same teacher as was used ten years ago.)

But it is the routine details which need to be consistent in order to maintain that fan's investment of interest. If in this story, Green Lantern thinks, "This is the first time that I have ever had to recharge my power ring without saying the oath, but this is an emergency!", then it better had well be the first time it has happened. And if the writer is too lazy to go back and check, or if the character's history is too extensive to be able to check every reference, then the writer should leave such a statement out.

Not only does consistency in details have a negative impact if neglected, there is also a positive result if the writer takes the time to get it right. Suppose Joe Comicsfan writes in and says "I found a major flaw in Jimmy Olsen # 111! When Jimmy posed as Robin, how could he meet Batman in the Batcave without learning the Dynamic Duo's secret identities?" And the writer is able to respond by saying, "But Jimmy already knew Batman and Robin's identities. The Masked Manhunter revealed their secret ID's to Jimmy back in World's Finest Comics # 144."

Now Joe Comicsfan is going to (1) be impressed as all get out and more confident in the writer's handling of Jimmy Olsen; and (2) will want to seek out that issue of World's Finest and may be encouraged to start reading that series, too.

Actually, the most important consideration for the fan, as far as attention to details are concerned, is not that a story is necessarily mistake-free, but that the writer and the editor are making the effort. How many times did Mort Weisinger bail out of an apparent mistake in a tale from one of his Superman family of magazines by coming up with an explanation right there in the letter column---and some of these became parts of the Superman canon.

Even an admission to a mistake, such as "You're right, Joe. We blew that one. We forgot all about GL's not saying the oath when he recharged his ring back in issue # 13.", will retain a fan's favour, because the editor is acknowledging and respecting the fan's emotional investment in the character.

But when significant discrepancies in details are just steamrolled over, with no mention or consideration, then the fan feels adrift. The illusion of a consistent character is undermined.


Lastly---and I've stated this before, so I will keep it short---a new writer on a series has an obligation to go back and familiarise himself with the details of the character he is taking over. This is part of the professionalism of writing. When John Gardner and then Raymond Benson were assigned to write further novels in the James Bond series, you better believe they were expected to go back through the original books and learn the characteristics and details of 007's life.
Some people use insulting and derogatory terms to describe use of continuity…

Such as “ritualistic”?

As for the super-heroes, I always accepted that the Superman now is not the Superman of my youth.

I’m also working my way through the DC Classics Library Series’ second collection of Batman Annuals and the one overriding thought as I read is that the Batman depicted in those stories simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like what Grant Morrison said about adults who cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality (which someone posted here recently). It’s adults that need the various “crises” and whatnot; kids just roll with it. The more I think of it, the more hard pressed I am to accept that even the (pre-Crisis) “New Look” Batman is the same as the one in those annuals.

I’m almost finished reading the seven issues in the new Dark Shadows collection (and if I don’t stop posting here I won’t have anything left to say about it in a discussion of its own!), but I’ve read enough to know that the Gold Key comic book series work best if one thinks of them as a separate continuity, such as Dan “Marilyn” Ross’ series of Dark Shadows paperbacks. Gold Key’s Dark Shadows comics are about as similar to the TV show upon which they’re based as Gold Key’s Star Trek comics are.
I'm still not convinced that Drake is talking about adhering to continuity on a factual level -- on the level of Barnabus's origins, etc. It looks to me like he's talking about adhering (or rather ignoring) continuity on the level of plot beats, rather than plot details.

Say, for instance, the typical Dark Shadows story would involve a character being kidnapped, and then Barnabus attacks and saves the victim. Say he's done this sort of thing 20 times already. Drake seems interested in ignoring that history (and that pattern) to see what would happen if Barnabus negotiated with the kidnapper instead.

I think that's the type of continuity he's talking about -- ritualistic, formulaic story & character beats -- rather than remembering the exact details who killed who with what way back when. (He might have similar disregard for those details; I wouldn't be surprised if he did. But I don't think that's what he's talking about in this particular quote.)
If Drake is speaking specifically about his Gold Key work of adapting TV shows to comic book form, I can see where a creative writer would want to avoid simply aping the shows plot lines and instead produce stories that the on-going TV show could not. After all, comic books have an unlimited special effects budget and unlimited access to which characters to feature, why not take advantage.
Detective 445 said:
Is there a larger context that this quote came from?

Good question. In his introduction, Jeff Thompson provided an excellent (if statistic-heavy) overview of the entire series and gave the differences from the TV show a distinctly positive spin. Unfortunately, many of the stories he described (including all of the stories written by Arnold Drake) will not be reprinted until later in the series. He quoted Drake quite freely, and I found the paragraph I pulled to be the most provocative. In the context of the rest of what Drake said, I inferred he was using the terms “ritual” and “continuity” synonymously. An example of the kind of discrepancies noted by Thompson is that Roger and Elizabeth Collins, siblings on TV, are depicted as husband and wife in one of the comics.

Another example (which could be taken either way, I suppose) is that Barnabas Collins is not a vampire in issues #3-7 (although he is of a supernatural bent, able to “will” himself to travel in time, etc.). Thompson suspects (and I agree) that this is because Barnabas had been “cured” of vampirism (at least in the present) on TV at the time these comics were first released. After five issues, though, I imagine it became clear that people wanted to read about Barnabas the vampire. If that’s what Drake means by the “ritual” of the show, I agree that depicting Barnabas as a vampire was a good move; but moving his origin from Collinsport in 1795 to the West Indies in 1740 or showing Roger and Elizabeth as married to each other, not so much.
"Roger and Elizabeth Collins, siblings on TV, are depicted as husband and wife in one of the comics."

Now, that's just sloppy.
John, it speaks well of you that you’re willing to give Arnold Drake the benefit of the doubt, but let me quote a little more of the introduction in context to see if I can’t sway you over to my side of the debate.

Wallace Green (Publisher): “We [at western Publishing Company] were very circumspect with any comic book we did which was based on licensed property to see that the material went to the licensor and we got a written approval on it before we went to press. However, I don’t remember that we ever did that with Dark Shadows. actually, Dan curtis Productions had zero input. Every story was original with its author.”

Jeff Thompson: “Although such unsupervised originality was a dream come true for the writers, the readers of Gold Key’s Dark Shadows comic book often suffered through drastic inconsistencies and deviationsfrom the established facts, history, and relationships depicted on the TV show. Even more disconcerting was the fact that many of the comic book stories themselves did not even agree with each other as to which of the seven regular characters knew Barnabas’ secret, whether or not Quentin could speak while in werewolf form, whose name was what, and even whether Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and Roger Collins were indeed brother and sister or husband and wife!”

Arnold Drake: I saw a few episodes of Dark Shadows. I did not see many of them. It wasn’t one of my favorite shows. I saw several of them because I knew Dan curtis was turning out a good, low-budget package, and I was interested in the techniques. As a man who had written and produced for the screen, I was interested in the techniques that were being used to knock those things out at the bottom dollar they were doing them for. So I did watch [a few episodes] for that reason, and I read a number of the stories that had been written [by Dan Ross], one or two of the theatrical scripts [of House of Dark Shadows and/or Night of Dark Shadows], and some of these comic books which had been written before I started to write them. And I gained a basic flavor of it; the language, the somewhat purple prose which makes something like that work, and I’m not knocking it at all. And then I took off on my own. I wold get outside the hose cast and search for other themes.”

Case in point: The plot of #5, “The Curse of Collins Isle,” deals with a werewolf which had been stranded on a small island off the coast of Collinsport since before Barnabas had been turned into a vampire. All well and good. That period was left undeveloped in the TV show, and although a “Collins Isle” was never mentioned on TV, there could have been such an island. OTOH, this story also deals with the life and death of Daphne Collins. There was a Daphne Harridge on TV, but this character couldn’t have been her. I sure the name, and the name only, was taken from the script of the House of Dark Shadows movie even though it contradicted what we know of the Collins family of the late 18th century.
What's next on your reading list? "Land of the Giants" maybe?

I vote for "The Time Tunnel." At least that one's available in paperback.
It seems to me what Drake was talking about was being free to do the Dark Shadows comic without having to worry about the content of the Dark Shadows TV series, and I can see the merits and the drawbacks of that position.

I've read plenty of nightmare stories about the various Star Wars comics series and the hassles about getting approval from LucasFilm over every character and story point. They've been famous for making the comics companies (Marvel, IDW, Dark Horse, whichever) wait months for story approvals and for making them scrap stories at the last minute because they either contradict what has gone on before or will contradict or duplicate what hasn't even appeared yet in some other medium.
I said all I had to say about Gold Key's Time Tunnel comic books back when Bob was discussing the television show in the TV forum. Land of the Giants is sitti9ng in my pull and hold right now, but have never seen even a single episode of the TV show and it's not available on DVD as far as I know... not yet, anyway. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a distinct possibility for the future, but I want to deal with the comics at the same time as the TV show, and I'm watching Lost now.

What's next on my reading list?: The Mighty Samson.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
I said all I had to say about Gold Key's Time Tunnel comic books back when Bob was discussing the television show in the TV forum. Land of the Giants is sitti9ng in my pull and hold right now, but have never seen even a single episode of the TV show and it's not available on DVD as far as I know... not yet, anyway. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a distinct possibility for the future, but I want to deal with the comics at the same time as the TV show, and I'm watching Lost now.

What's next on my reading list?: The Mighty Samson.

LOTG is only available on DVD in a "complete series" set that is way too expensive. Last time I checked, though, it was pretty much all available on HULU.
I think Drake was trying to say that a writer's top concern should be telling a good story about people, without getting bogged down in continuity ("the ritual of Dark Shadows"). That may have been a valid approach when Drake wrote those stories some 40 years ago. It may have been especially valid at Gold Key. Comics then were a newsstand medium with lots of casual readers and impulse buyers.

That's changed since the comic shops/direct market took over. Now readership is dominated by fans and collectors who have read the back issues. And they expect writers to know and honor the history of a given series. For better or worse, continuity is a bigger deal than it was in the '60s or '70s.

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