This is a series of posts I put up on Twitter this morning, talking about how time passes in comics, how it makes sense, how it doesn’t, and how it should.  One of the most convoluted aspects of comic book continuity, but one I think isn’t tackled quite often enough for people interested in actually crafting a good story.

I’ve cleaned it up a bit post-Twitter to make the reading more seemless.

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About a week ago I was talking about how old Franklin Richards, is and someone showed me this awesome chart http://tinyurl.com/4uunfr7

So I’ve been thinking– even if you completely ignore how old the artist before you drew him and how old the script actually says he is, and even if you ignore the idea that time passes for the FF at all, and that other characters have aged more than him over time– even if you ignore ALL THAT, Franklin’s got to be AT LEAST 7 years old.

Why 7? Because if he’s spent so much time being depicted as a five year old, and Val’s walking around and talking, she must be at least 2. 
And that’s 7 at a bare minimum. That’s if no time’s passed since Byrne, and no time’s passed since Val was born.  (And there’s no way Mar-Vel has a 15 year old son conceived during the Kree/Skrull thing. Asgardian, you are a perv!)

Most people, when talking about time passing in comics, seem to get on either the “they should age in real time” side, or the “they shouldn’t ever age at all” side.  I think both those solutions are extreme, and would only work in a minority of books. Certainly not books in a shared universe like Marvel or DC.

Personally, I think of comic book time passing like this: Let’s just say you’re a superhero who only fights on weekends and you only have one adventure per comic issue. No cliffhanger endings, no to be continued. Every 52 issues for you would be a year.

Obviously it’s not that cut and dry, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb.

That way, by issue 600 (which a lot of comics are at right now) you’d have been a superhero for about 11 and a half years.

The only REAL way to tell how much times passes in a comic is to read it without a month between issues and actually pay attention (for instance if you read New Avengers all in one go, you’ll realize that Dark Reign happened about three weeks after Civil War) but if you stick to my general rule for a guesstimation, I think it’ll get you pretty close to making sense.

Passage of time is especially important for comics with school-age characters, where the age difference of a year or two is significant.

Of course, the only REAL way to figure out how much time has passed would be to read all the issues and record how much time actually passes in and in between each one.

Then we’d know!

Sounds like an assistant editor’s job to me.  someone should get on that ;)

Seriously, though, if I were Editor in Chief, I’d probably say that every 12 issues have to take place within 12 weeks. Build that down time in there SOMEPLACE, even if it’s before or after your 12-issue story starts.  Writers would hate me for it, but I think it would be for the best. It would make it possible for a more cohesive narrative.

–Reilly

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