If you’re like me, you enjoy Silver Age Daredevil. Not “enjoy” in the sense that you consider it to be a great example of the literary merits of the comic book medium, or even in the sense that you’re reading something that makes sense. Comparing modern Daredevil to its Silver Age equivalent is like comparing filet mignon to macaroni and cheese. They both pass for food, they are both enjoyable in their own way, but they’re not really comparable in any other sense.
Naturally, I have a preference for filet mignon and, more importantly, I don’t want anyone trying to rub mac and cheese in my face while I’m eating my steak (or vegetarian substitute, if that’s your choice). There’s no point in dragging old leftovers out from the darkest corners of the freezer when there’s perfectly good food in the house. If you’re wondering what I’m trying to say with this odd analogy (and no, I haven’t eaten in the last few hours so I would go for either right now) is this: Not everything that’s in continuity needs to be acknowledged. In fact, a lot of the time it’s much better not to.
In the panel above, which is taken from the fourth issue of the Spider-Man/Black Cat mini written by Kevin Smith, with art by Terry and Rachel Dodson, it’s not only Matt who is uncomfortable. It has me cringing too. Yes, any hardcore Daredevil fan will know that Matt was involved in an extended storyline during which he pretended to be his own twin. It was written more than forty years ago, and, aside from the entertaining nuttiness of it all, it was quite possibly one of the most ridiculous plot developments in comic book history. It’s perfectly okay to pretend it never happened.
In this case, I suspect that Kevin Smith is trying to flaunt his knowledge of continuity and score some points with the über-geeks, but the fact remains that it adds absolutely nothing to the story. If anything, it only serves to alienate new readers who are deliberately left out of the loop.
I’m not going to suggest that awkward moments like the one above are particularly common, but I will take this opportunity to throw in my two cents on the commonly discussed topic of comic book continuity generally. My opinion is that the concept of continuity is worth protecting. As primarily a Marvel reader (not counting the odd Vertigo TPB), I like the organic feel of a natural progression that comes from the shared Marvel Universe where slates are rarely wiped completely clean and characters have a past. However, past events generally range from central to the development of the character, to altogether forgettable. Being truly respectful of continuity means knowing which events have contributed to what makes a character special while allowing the less than stellar ideas gently slip into oblivion.
It’s okay to pretend certain things never happened. Mike Murdock doesn’t need to be mentioned, and the same thing goes for all the times Matt has faked his own death. Personally, I prefer to think of Daredevil’s trip to space in Daredevil #2, his piloting the Avengers jet in Daredevil #100 and the entire Jack Batlin era under Chichester’s pen as strange anomalies that are difficult to reconcile with the Matt Murdock we see today.
So, what are your thoughts on continuity and past events? Do you have a hard time – as I do – thinking of Silver Age Daredevil and modern Daredevil as the same character? And, how do we find the best balance between tapping into the richness of continuity and drowning in its complexity?