Over in the thread What is the Earliest Multiverse Story, I wrote the following:

It's difficult for me to accept any Wonder Woman story written by Robert Kanigher as being even remotely canonical since he basically made stuff up to fit his plots. He was, after all, the king of the "impossible" story.

I'm not so familiar with DC in the 1950s as to be able to pinpoint any specific stories that might have included characters from eventual multiverses unless they were retcons.

ClarkKent_DC responded:

You say that as if that's something a fiction writer is not supposed to do ...

To which I responded:

I believe that if a fiction writer is creating the plot and characters that they can do pretty much anything and it's fine. I may not want to read it, but I have no problems with it. However, if a fiction writer is contracted to write a story using characters owned and created by someone else, that writer should do their best to maintain consistency at least with characterization and lore.

I'm not talking about What Ifs and Elseworlds or a new take on a character either. I'm aware that a fresh perspective on a character can work wonders (for example Frank Miller's Daredevil). However, I also see a lot of fiction writers (especially superhero comic writers) who decide their plot is more important than the established histories and characterizations of the existing characters and have these characters make decisions that have no connection to who they've been in the past.

You can have a Batman that's a literal vampire, but to me that's no longer Batman. You can have a Superman who turns evil and kills the Justice League as well as most civilians on Earth, but to me that's not Superman. If as a writer you want to tell those stories, there are ways to do so without using those characters.

Kanigher was generally very professional in his writing even if he tended to overuse plots again and again and again. And to be honest, the Impossible stories were generally pretty good. However, I wouldn't call any of them canonical. Nor do I think he was trying to write anything canonical. He was just doing his best to churn out an entertaining story by his deadline. So in my opinion, if we're trying to identify the first canonical multiverse story in DC's history, I wouldn't look to something written by Kanigher.

A number of these problems could and probably should be laid at the feet of Kanigher's editors for not reining him in, but once again, he delivered stories and met his deadlines. Not to mention that he was tremendously prolific during his career--it seemed at times as if he was writing most of DC's comics. Also, I can't say it was his fault that Bob Haney didn't know that Wonder Girl was a younger version of Diana and not her own character. However, that did lead to a lot of problems down the line which still haven't been resolved with Donna Troy.

So, it sounds like there were some who wanted to continue this particular discussion but not walk all over the discussion in the other thread. If anyone has any thoughts, I'd be happy to hear them.

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JD DeLuzio said:

A similar thing happened with TV. Story arc-driven shows allow the deeper exploration of character, settings, plot, and so forth. The episodic approach often ignores continuity, but it allows one to sit down and enjoy a whole story on its own terms.

One of my all-time favorite shows was Babylon 5. It had a very long story arc. Today, with streaming and binging it probably works better for a new viewer, but when people had to "jump on" back then (and not on a major network) they may have been lost. Star Trek made it easier to jump on because it had light continuity. A new viewer would not feel lost if starting in the middle of a season.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

That's a great point about Rock continuity. It's naturally built on the war's historical timeline, but Kanigher's willingness to jump around in time allowed him both variety to his stories and settings and at the same time make issue-by-issue continuity superfluous. 

I wonder if there's a rough timeline of Rock's appearances on a fan site somewhere online?

It would be nice, but I don't know if there is one. One of the "Hero Histories" in Amazing Heroes did cover that, but I don't remember which one.

Richard Willis said:

Yesterday I spent some time looking at GCD and the DCfandom site for synopses of Kanigher's Brave & Bold stories teaming Batman with Rock and with Earth 2 heroes Wildcat and Dr Fate. I wanted to make an argument, but gave up, not having the actually stories in front of me.

He had Rock alive and well into the 70s and Batman active during WWII, which would make him as old at the time as Frank Miller eventually had him in The Dark Knight Returns. He worked for DC for a long time. The books must have been selling*. Using a theater phrase, he was putting butts in the seats.

Were those stories written by Bob Kanigher or Bob Haney? Haney was the principal writer on The Brave and the Bold for a long time, and Bob Haney was never someone to let continuity get in the way of a story he wanted to write, God bless him.

Richard Willis said:

* Does anyone know how well Wonder Woman was selling? I understand that if DC stopped publishing her back then the rights would have reverted to Moulton's heirs.

DC eventually bought its way out of that little problem.

I think that everyone is confusing Robert Kanigher with Bob Haney as far as Brave & Bold is concerned. I've stated numerous times that Haney's Batman is a protean hero. He literally fills any role that Haney needs him to play. 

As for Kanigher, he wrote a fill-in issue of Justice League of America #84 (N'70) where he:

  • had the JLA win the Nobel Prize
  • do one page featuring a Superman/Flash race---as a teaser for another story
  • made Superman's x-ray vision go crazy---for no reason
  • gave Black Canary telepathic powers---for one issue
  • had a "witch doctor" defeat the JLA---then dropped it from the story
  • more importantly, had Batman and Black Canary kiss like they've been hiding deep feelings for each other---for that issue! In fact, another writer (Mike Friedrich?) had to clean that one up, probably on Denny O'Neil's instructions!

"Were those stories written by Bob Kanigher or Bob Haney?"

"I think that everyone is confusing Robert Kanigher with Bob Haney"

Whoops.  Yes, please take everything I said about "Bob Kanigher's Brave & Bold," apply it to "Bob Haney's Brave & Bold" (while ignoring the misidentified Earths) and my point stands. 

(I shoulda stood in bed.)

ClarkKent_DC said:

Were those stories written by Bob Kanigher or Bob Haney? Haney was the principal writer on The Brave and the Bold for a long time, and Bob Haney was never someone to let continuity get in the way of a story he wanted to write, God bless him.

The Brave and Bold Batman/Sgt Rock stories were in #84, #96, #108, #117, #124 and #162.

The Brave and Bold team-ups with Earth 2 heroes were in #88, #97, #110, #118, #127, #156.

You're right. All of them were written by Bob Haney except for two. #156 (Dr Fate) was written by Cary Burkett and #162 (Sgt Rock) was written by Bill Kelley. Murray Boltinoff edited all but these but the last two. There were a couple of Batman team-ups with the Unknown Soldier which I don't question because I never read the character and don't know if he's supposed to be immortal.

I always assumed the Batman/Sgt. Rock wartime team ups involved the Earth 2 Batman and Rock, which would allow for them interacting during the war. Of course, those stories were also part of the Haney-verse (another writer who never let anything get in the way of the story he wanted to tell), so that's an entirely different universe for all practical purposes. 

Richard Willis said:

There were a couple of Batman team-ups with the Unknown Soldier which I don't question because I never read the character and don't know if he's supposed to be immortal.

As always, the question is "Which version?"

The original Unknown Soldier, who was mostly featured in Star-Spangled War Stories back in the day, was not immortal. The second one, who appeared in a 12-issue maxi series (December 1988-December 1989), was immortal, thanks to being experimented on while in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. This one was less patriotic and more cynical than the original one. This second Unknown Soldier was sent to kill the original, and we are led to believe the original defended himself from the attack and then shot himself to death in despair. This series may or may not be in continuity.

A 1997 Vertigo series titled Unknown Soldier featured a CIA agent trying to track down the character's past, and a 2008 Vertigo series created a totally different one, a Ugandan soldier fighting in that country's wars. And then there was a New 52 version who fought in Afghanistan, not World War II.

Robert Kanigher, as others pointed out, sure seems to have perceived his own job as putting out "done in one" stories.  That was certainly typical of the time and should not count as criticism.

But he had a wider range than those stories show.  That is perhaps best evidenced by his Metal Men run.  I may be wrong, but I think that he wrote most or all of their first series, which went over 50 issues, and had a decent sense of continuity and seemed to enjoy using it.

Sure, those were still mostly done-in-ones, but they built up on previous stories nicely.  To a considerable extent that is also true of his lengthy Wonder Woman run.  The impossible stories themselves, troublesome as they are from a canon standpoint, go through a clear progression and build up from previous ones.

I would guess that Kanigher sincerely believed that spotlighting continuity was not good for sales.  Given how erratic distribution could be at those times, I don't think he was off the mark by much.

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