I love what Dark Horse Comics did with the Star Wars Universe. For years, they produced tons of Star Wars content that I could enjoy on a monthly basis. I was recently proclaiming my love of Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko’s Star Wars: Legacy when a friend on social media replied, “Too bad it doesn’t count anymore.” It’s true; when Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise they publicly announced that the Expanded Universe – all the work outside the films and television series – was no longer a part of official canon. The thing is, that in no way lessens my enjoyment of them. It doesn’t change how much I loved reading them.
Certainly, continuity can be a fun aspect of stories. It’s understandable that fans of Marvel and DC Comics would enjoy the sprawling history of their respective universes. I’ll admit I have a deeper knowledge of the Punisher’s history than I do of my wife’s extended family, so I can easily see how one can fall prey to this sort of obsession. Piecing together the events of the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a blast, like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle. Same goes for my love of Dragonlance, Godzilla, and Aliens; they have sprawling stories that span decades, creators, and timelines.
I spent a large part of my life collecting runs of comics, piecing together the history of DC and Marvel, one long box at a time. When I was a kid, I never assumed certain stories mattered more than others. It was all canon to me. Everything Superman went through was a part of Superman’s history and a piece of his story. It was only as I got older that I learned that DC worked on different timelines and even different Earths. The Superman of the early comics was not the Superman of the modern comics. This blew my fragile, young mind.
The problem comes when an obsession with canon and continuity comes between the reader and a story. By dismissing stories that don’t “count,” a fan can miss out on some great stuff or, worse yet, they could write off something they previously loved merely because it no longer fits in a neat little continuity-approved package. If you want to pick and choose what you read so that it fits the prescribed canon, that’s fine, but to presume that something you read – something you loved – was a waste of time because it is no longer is considered a part of that canon is ridiculous.
This obsession is perhaps more apparent in the world of comic books than any other medium. Take, for example, when DC Comics rebooted their Universe into The New 52. Many fans took to decrying online that DC had “ruined their childhood” by making the stories they read in their youth null and void. The absurdity of this statement should be obvious; no one can make something you read null and void but you. If you love Infinite Crisis, then it counts. Canon should not negate the pleasure you took in reading a story. I love Final Crisis, so to me, it’ll always be a part of the DC Universe. Whether they acknowledge it or it, it’s the story of the heroes I love and that’s all that matters.
If there’s one particular segment of fandom that gets this notion right, it’s the James Bond fans. It’s a given that James Bond will do a reboot of sorts every time a new actor steps into the role. Hell, the continuity between movies with the same actor doesn’t always lineup, but that doesn’t make any particular movie less enjoyable. I love GoldenEye; I’d go as far as to say that it is my favorite James Bond film. For all the arguments people have thrown against me when I make that statement, no one has ever said I shouldn’t watch it because it doesn’t count anymore.
The reverse notion can also work. If you don’t like a particular arc of a stories canon, you can choose to ignore it. The existence of stories should never ruin your love of what came before (or after). Obsessing with how a movie or comic you didn’t like fits in with one you do like is a toxic task. If you only like one Robocop movie, it’s okay to still say you like Robocop. You are allowed to ignore the others and not have your joy of the first film tainted by your dissatisfaction with the others.
My love the Alien Universe – both the cinematic one and the extended one in the form of comic books – meant I was very, very excited for Prometheus. The film was, let’s say divisive, amongst filmgoers. Personally, I enjoyed it, but I can understand why others did not. What I can’t understand is those who expressed hatred towards the film and claimed it ruined the franchise that Ridley Scott had sullied the work he did before. If you don’t like they way that Prometheus affects the Alien continuity, then ignore it. It doesn’t have to fit into your personal canon. It certainly should not change the way you feel about Alien or Aliens. Hell, I’ve been pretending Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection don’t exist ever since I first saw them.
The point is you should love what you love. No reboot, continuity realignment, or canon should dictate your feelings for a story. What matters is the ride, and how a story affected you at the time you read it. Batman: Year One may not be official canon anymore, but it will always be the story of Batman’s origin to me. I remember the first time I read it and I remember how it shaped my view of the character. DC Comics can never take that away from me.