I wrote this blog a head of time because I’m at Gen-Con 50 this weekend. Come visit me at my table in Authors Avenue!
Reboots are all the rage now, especially at the cinema. I’ve heard it said that the biggest reason for this is because it allows creators the “freedom” do something new without the constraints of continuity; they don’t have to be limited by what has come before. In other words, they can do whatever they want.
But is that such a bad thing?
Case in point: the infamous Spider-Man storyline One More Day. The creators at Marvel Comics (the supposed “House of Ideas”) had complained for years that they wished Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) hadn’t married Mary Jane Watson back in the mid-1980s. Why? Because they claimed they couldn’t think of enough good stories for a married Spider-Man. Seriously. Did they think all of life’s excitement was gone after getting married? Must stories always include sexual tension and unrequited love? Anyway, to “remedy” this, they didn’t just have them get a divorce. No, that meant they didn’t love each other. Instead, Peter and MJ made a literal deal with the Devil to erase their marriage from continuity. To save Aunt May’s life because she was dying from a gunshot meant for Peter.
Dumbest. Idea. Ever!
I quit reading Spider-Man comics after that. From what I’ve heard, Peter Parker, now a 30-year-old single, spends a lot of his time whining about being alone. (Cue eye roll).
Most fans hated this story, and rightfully so. It was a character assassination done by the creators to serve themselves and not the readers. All because they didn’t want the constraints of writing a married Spider-Man.
Recently at a Children of the Wells creative meeting, my friend/collaborator Nick Hayden mentioned that writing for our serial, with all its continuity and parameters, forced him to be a better writer. It required that he keep consistent with what was written before and follow the rules we’d set down for the world. In many ways, since not all of the characters he created and since the ones he did create had changed since he last wrote them, he was a caretaker for these story and characters. They weren’t entirely his, so he had to be more careful with them. Beyond that, though, it required that he dream up ideas that worked with what had been written before as opposed to going with whatever came into his head.
There are constraints in most creative endeavors. Even improv comedy has to have parameters. It gives the performers a framework from which to work, a way to focus their creativity. If they were sent on stage with no direction, they’d either come up with nothing or not say anything funny, most likely.
Are there times when creators should start fresh? Yes. But that should be done in such a way that respects what came before, respects the characters, and respects the readers.
Do you think creativity thrives within restrictions? Why or why not?