Editing for Dummies: Every Day is X-Mas in the New 52!

Right now the timeline of the New 52 is currently still in 2013. Read my site and you’ll see clearly that Six Years Ago (aka ZERO YEAR) is 2007. Batman Eternal has hammered in the fact that Carmine Falcone’s fall from grace, Gordon’s promotion to Commissioner, and other seminal events happened in the year following ZERO YEAR, which was “five years ago.” This, along with a many other facts, tells us Eternal and other arcs (like Superman: Doomed and Robin Rising) all are currently happening in 2013, which we have been routinely told is the same year in which Damian died and Joker struck during “Death of the Family.”

Now, I certainly don’t mind the compression and the type of editing that packs in every little detail and which takes advantage of literally every day on the calendar, narratively speaking. But, even reading every single issue in which Batman has appeared over the last couple years (which I have done)—and then compiling the minimum number of days it would take Batman to complete the stories written about in the comics in which he appears—the Dark Knight, according to my calculations and vast notes, should have been finally nearing if not treading into 2014 by now. (And that’s if you literally count the minimum number of days Batman is active by scouring each appearance he makes and seeing how long each issue and arc lasts based solely upon information given in the books—I have a VERY detailed calendar that I’ve compiled, which I may or may not share in the future.)

But a few references in very recent releases have stymied me. And they don’t seem like coincidences.

GRAYSON #3 features the beginning of the school year, giving us an assumed early September date.
GOTHAM ACADEMY #1 also gives us a post-summer start-of-the-school-year setting, meaning it should likely take place in early September.
BATMAN ETERNAL #24, with its direct reference to an upcoming Labor Day, seems to imply that it is very late August, nearing September.
DETECTIVE COMICS #35 definitively takes place in autumn, as Batman himself states outright in the narrative.

And here I was ready to finally push things into 2014. Believe me, I really wanted to, especially since we are practically in 2015 IRL! But if we take these recent occurrences as gospel, then we actually are still three to three-and-a-half months away from an in-story New Year’s Day 2014.

“But, Collin!” I’m sure you are all saying, “You tell us to ignore topical references, holidays, weather, and in-story dates all the time to better serve your chronology building! Why not just do it now and stick a big fat asterisk on these issues? What’s the BIG DEAL this time?” The big difference here is that a lot of those asterisk items that I do have on my timeline are stand-alone happenings. A date on a cell phone in a single issue of Batwing. A time-stamp attached to a cell phone text message in Nightwing. A date on a newspaper in Superman: Doomed. These are really linked to nothing outside of their own single issues. These more recent references to September seem to be hinting at something deeper—a line-wide streamlining, possibly. I mean, after all, everything is eventually going to link-up in 2015 when the three big weeklies end and converge.

Batwing #22. What is the point of having this story occur on the weekend of October 5th? There isn't one. CONTINUITY ERROR.

Batwing #22. What is the point of having this story occur on the weekend of October 5th? There isn’t one. CONTINUITY ERROR.


Nightwing #29. Same deal.

Nightwing #29. Same deal.

But beyond what I’ve already said, and probably most importantly, the September references of late are a super big deal because they will mess with holidays that have been referenced/used by various writers and editors so far in the New 52. It’s a huge and painful undertaking to accommodate, essentially sliding everything three-and-a-half months from on-the-verge-of-January back to September. If done, this literally means that every Christmas holiday shown in the New 52 Bat books will have to be disregarded. Batman: The Dark Knight #10-15, for example, is an X-mas/New Year’s tale that, if moved from its current spot, won’t actually take place during X-mas/New Year’s. Batgirl #4-6‘s Christmas setting already doesn’t fit anywhere without huge continuity errors no matter how you spin it. More still, Superman/Wonder Woman #3-5 is set in a Christmastime that shouldn’t yet be Christmastime. Go further and you’ll see that yet ANOTHER Dark Knight (#26-27) arc takes place on yet ANOTHER Christmas! Not to mention, “Gothtopia” crammed in a bit of the old holly jollies as well (although you can easily argue that the whole thing is a product of Scarecrow’s weird hallucination). So having four or five Christmas-related arcs that have no place for a couple of in-story Decembers in a row is essentially what we have to deal with.

Batgirl #4. Not actually Christmas.

Batgirl #4. Not actually Christmas.


The Dark Knight #27. Not actually Christmas.

The Dark Knight #27. Not actually Christmas.


The Dark Knight #16. Not actually Christmas.

The Dark Knight #16. Not actually Christmas.


Superman/Wonder Woman #3. Not actually Christmas.

Superman/Wonder Woman #3. Not actually Christmas.

Let me also be very frank when stating that NOT A SINGLE ONE of these arcs that take place during Christmastime USE CHRISTMASTIME AS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE NARRATIVE. They all just happen in or around Christmas. And really for no good damn reason. Why firmly stamp your story to a very specific time, knowing full-well that doing so will only serve to make your story impossible to mesh with the rest of the world’s overarching narrative that you are writing your story to be a part of? Was it more heartwarming and touching that Batman saved Hispanic sweat shop workers from a CHRISTMAS sweatshop instead of a REGULAR sweatshop? Was Bruce’s connection that he made with girlfriend Natalya that much deeper because it was on NEW YEAR’S EVE? Oh, and did it make us mourn harder when she was unceremoniously dumped into the fridge a mere six issues later? Is it more intense when a deadbeat mom finally shows up after years of neglect ON CHRISTMAS EVE? Does Wonder Woman’s struggle to come up with the perfect holiday gift for her man (for only a few panels of a multi-issue arc) make us relate to her yearning desire to be the best partner she can be in the most important season of the year?

It may seem like I’m being nitpicky about dates and times, but when DC is compressing things so tightly, these things DO MATTER. X-mas implies the passage of time into a new year, which directly effects narrative in the biggest way imaginable. This effects how we see and read developing arcs in other comic books. When mere days or weeks pass in-between major crossover arcs that are clearly occurring in summertime, some schlub writing fourth-tier litter box liner shouldn’t be including the A list character for a single panel cameo walking by a Salvation Army Santa Claus. Unless Saint Nick is the villain and he has evil magickal powers that only come but once a December day each year, having the X-mas setting as a background is totally unnecessary. To boot, it fucks up the ongoing stories of everyone else! So, having an X-mas setting to your arc for no apparent reason is not something we should just gloss over. Nor is including a specific date on a cell phone for no apparent reason either. Applying an X-mas setting to your arc or sneaking in a date reference are both a great ways to commit continuity suicide as a writer or editor.

BAH HUMBUG.

The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special #1. Santa gets fragged by the Main Man.

The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special #1. Santa gets fragged by the Main Man.

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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