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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

STRONG CONTINUITY, WEAK CONTINUITY

It's been a month since I wrote TRANSITIVE MONSTERS, and on further reconsideration I'm going to reverse myself on some of the opinions expressed there, reason being that I don't think "the transitive effect" applies across the board to all forms of serial entertainment. The two main forms I'll adopt here are those with "strong continuity" and those with "weak continuity." I'll further stipulate that these distinctions are *in posse* rather than *in esse,* (see definition here) and that the distinctions grow from the ways in which different media use, or do not use, continuity to appeal to audiences.

In MONSTERS I said:

...by the "transitive effect" that I first described in this essay, even the subcombative films in Freddy's oeuvre become, though said effect, part of a combative mythos, just as any subcombative Superman stories-- a major example being "Superman's Return to Krypton"-- are still subsumed by the combative mythos of the Man of Steel. And the reverse applies: a sort of "negative transitive effect" means that even the two Jason films in the combative mode are subsumed by the overall subcombative mode of the mythos.

But, sticking with these two examples, I have to ask myself: does a series about a movie-character display the same level of continuity possible for a series about a comics-character?

It's always feasible for a movie-series to stress a strong continuity between each feature-- the Lucas STAR WARS films are significant in this respect-- but most of the time, the cinema doesn't approach the idea of a series in the same manner as any medium rooted in the activity of reading. In the days prior to Lucas' innovations-- from which the current "Marvelverse" marketing-strategy is one effect-- producers strove to keep entries in a given series distinct from one another. Their motive in so doing was practical: they could never be certain whether or not a significant portion of their audiences would have seen earlier episodes. Thus I would say that "weak continuity" is the *in posse* storytelling strategy of the cinematic medium, not because all films lack strong continuity, but because most of them do. The Freddy Kreuger series is emblematic of this tendency, given that Freddy is generally destroyed at the end of one film, only to pop up in the next one with no explanation of how he survived.

Comic books used to be "weak continuity" in practice, and for the same reason: no publisher could be sure that his juvenile audience would buy even two Superman comics in a row (though there were some early experiments that used continued stories, often in the "cliffhanger" format from movie-serials). But I'd maintain that "strong continuity" was their *in posse* storytelling strategy, simply because they were in a mode that combined pictures with words that had to be read and absorbed. The particular 1960 Superman story mentioned above appeared at a time when editor Mort Weisinger apparently felt he had the "affective freedom" to expand upon the mythology of Superman and his various interrelated features, as chronicled here. We will never know whether or not his sales-success with this strategy had any influence upon Stan Lee, but it seems likely, given that some of the early Marvel titles show strong similarity to the story-tropes from the Superman comics. (The panel below shows Thor's villain Loki in his early Mr. Mxyzptlk mode.)



I will expand further on other examples of strong and weak continuities in future essays, but for now I'll wrap up this essay by stating that:

(1) even subcombative stories in the Superman comics become part of his combative mythos because the strong continuity engenders a strong transitive effect,

BUT

(2) subcomnative stories in the Freddy Krueger movies may not really integrate with the dream-monster's combative mythos, since a weak continuity engenders a weak transitive effect.

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