The Big Question ♯8

For this week's big question, I want to discuss ageing in comics books. As we all know certain superheroes have been around in the same continuity since the 50's and 60's (Hal Jordan's Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man etc.) and some since the 30's and 40's (Captain America, The JSA), yet they don't seem to have aged more than 10 years. So, my question this week is: What is the best way to deal with character ageing in comics?

To start off with, lets look at how it is currently done by the big two. Over at Marvel, they seem to have a delayed progression approach (yup, technical term), which means time in their comics progresses slower than it does in the real world. Now, Spider-Man is the best person to look at to figure out their time scale, because he's the only one to have a definitive dated timeline. He got his powers aged 15 in 1962 (according to Spider-Man: Civil War) so that gives us a starting point. When The Amazing Spider-Man reached its 200th issue, it is mentioned that 5 years have passed since Peter got his powers. So that would make him 20, but the 200th issue was released in 1980, 18 years later. So going by that he should now be around about 30. But he's one of the younger heroes, Captain America was in his twenties in the 40's and even with the super-soldier serum, he'd still be in his late 60's and slowing down a bit by now.

Meanwhile, over at DC, things are a lot more complicated in terms of working out ages, because some characters seem to age (Members of the Teen Titans and other sidekicks) whilst some don't (all the main heroes and their supporting casts). Yet DC do have a more realistic approach to what would happen when a hero is too old to continue, even if they never use it for that reason. By having sidekicks age to adulthood, they can replace the hero with someone the reader already knows and likes (see Wally West and Dick Greyson).  But of course, as soon as you're settled in to the new order, DC's screwy continuity comes in and reboots the whole thing, leaving you with the guy they just got rid of, only younger.

It is a really hard one this, because on one hand, you don't want to screw around with a tried and tested formula and end up putting of the fans, but ageing and replacing characters would save having to reintroduce them to a new generation and in some ways would be more interesting, because the hero could grow with the reader. What do you guys think?

(I was originally going to include TV and movie series into this and talk about replacing actors in the Doctor Who way or the James Bond way, but I didn't want to over complicate things too much. If you want you can discuss that as well.)

JR19759

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