Coffee Talk #659: Nerd Canon and You

Marvel Secret Wars

Canon is a touchy subject for nerds. Fundamentalists loathe when their beloved sci-fi and fantasy properties are taken in different directions by creators of non-canonical works. Others appreciate when established properties are taken in all-new, all-different directions. Today I want to talk about a few nerd-specific cases of canon and hear your feelings on the matter.

Star Wars Heir to the EmpireStar Wars: Let’s kick things of with one of the hugest nerd properties in existence. Many Star Wars fans were delighted by tales of the Expanded Universe (EU). The EU had several excellent Star Wars books written by several great authors. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, it wiped out the existing EU and rebranded it as Star Wars Legends. Shortly after that decision was made, Disney created its own EU.

Many Star Wars fans were outraged by the move. They loved the books and felt robbed that they were no longer part of the proper Star Wars universe. While I empathize with that point of view, killing the previous EU didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the many Star Wars books I read and nothing can take that away. It doesn’t matter that these stories are no longer “official.” They entertained me and that hasn’t changed.

Gotham: Yesterday in the RPadTV Google Hangout, the Gotham television show was briefly discussed. This reimagining of a pre-Batman Gotham is controversial among nerds. Some people hate that Batman’s rogues gallery was up and operating well before the Dark Knight arrived to Gotham. I believe it was RPadholic Smartguy that said that having Joker without Batman doesn’t make any sense.

I definitely agree with the sentiment that having most of Batman’s villains in pre-Batman Gotham is silly. Like many comic-book fanboys, I am of the opinion that superheroes and villains fit into a nerdy chicken-and-egg scenario. Gotham is full of weird villains because some rich guy in a bat costume started being a vigilante there. Having these colorful criminals established in Gotham before his arrival doesn’t make sense to me.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t bother me that Gotham isn’t canon. What bothers me is that it’s a crappy show. The writing is trite and the acting is mediocre to poor. Bruce Wayne once said that criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot. Apparently they’re middling television actors too.

Marvel Secret Wars: Closing things out is Marvel’s Secret Wars crossover series. Due to a confluence of ridiculous events, the Marvel multiverse has become a singular mashup. The past few months of Marvel stories featured reimagined worlds and reimagined characters. All of this will lead up to the all-new, all-different Marvel Universe.

I have a few problems with the Secret Wars. The obvious one is that most of the stories aren’t very good. The secondary problem is that the crossover event interrupted several books that I was enjoying. Lastly, none of these stories matter in a canonical sense. The Marvel Universe is going to reboot and my time has been wasted with months of filler stories. While part of my problem with Secret Wars has to do with canon, most of it is that the damn thing is taking too long and most of the writing has been forgettable.

Your Take: Looking back at what I just wrote, I suppose canon doesn’t matter much to me. A good story is a good story, whether it’s official or not. Naturally, I want to hear your thoughts on nerd canon. Feel free to use the examples above or bring up any of your own. Do you place a high value on canon? Or is something entertaining simply entertaining?

5 thoughts on “Coffee Talk #659: Nerd Canon and You”

  1. I’m of the sort that prefers canon remain canon. There is a time and to a lesser degree financial investment in something like Star Wars EU. The people who read the EU were mega fans that really helped make Star Wars into the IP it is. Tossing it in order to make movies on a yearly basis seems pretty greedy, not AIDS hedge fund manager greedy, but a greedy disservice to the most loyal fans. Almost like saying “we don’t want or need you honestly”.

    1. I appreciate that, but also understand the perspective of new owners. They have their own visions and stories to tell. Having hundreds of preexisting stories to be beholden to is encumbering. Of course I’m mostly ignoring the financial aspect of it, but from a creative standpoint, Disney has liberated a new generation of book writers, comics writers, and movie makers.

  2. I’m in the “a good story is a good story” camp. I’ll go in what seems to be chronological order from what I know.

    DC was never really huge on canon until relatively recently. Even now, it seems like it’s really not that big of a deal to them. Superman’s upbringing changed numerous times as did Batman. They basically got a new spin with each new writer. Marvel was a little different. They created a mostly cohesive universe in which all their stories took place in and related to each other.

    Then, came Star Trek (even though not listed). Those nerds got obsessive fast. They may be the ones that got the least slighted on their canon. However, a lot were still pissed when JJ rebooted the whole damn thing.

    With Star Wars, I personally never needed the EU in order to further suspend my disbelief. In fact, I always felt that the nerds who quoted the EU like scripture were exhibiting in some kind of compensatory pissing contest. I totally understand wanting more stories from a franchise you love, but those dudes took it to new levels of “I’m a fan and you can’t really call yourself a fan the way I can call myself a fan” shenanigans. My comment was always “who really cares” to which gasps would be heard.

    Now, when it comes to certain characters being revamped, it really matters how it’s done to me. It can work when it’s done well, but more easily fail since there’s more options to succeed at failing.

    So at the end of the day, if I like it, I like it. If I don’t, I don’t.

    1. Star Trek is a great example. I like the new movies quite a bit and don’t care that the movie universe has been rebooted. I also enjoy the purists crying about it. :p

      DC has been finicky with canon for decades. The various “Crisis” crossovers have changed things up several times. More recently The New 52 and Convergence have rebooted the proper DCU. Funnily, Hawkman/Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman has been forgotten during several reboots and the characters’ history has required patchwork.

  3. Yeah, I’m with you. I never really cared.

    The “until recently” segment of my comment was in reference to the New 52. It feels like they are just now starting to care about continuity.

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