Today I was listening to Dave’s Daredevil Podcast, one of the many fine podcast produced by J David Weter, when he brought up something that really caught my attention. In the episode he was analyzing Daredevil #168, one of the seminal issues of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run. While going over the issue he kept making connections to Miller’s The Man Without Fear run he would do roughly 10 years after #168 in which he would expand upon Matt’s college experience’s with Elektra that we barely saw in 168. The idea that both accounts work with continuity despite being different is that Matt is embellishing the memory of when he met Elektra.
This really got me thinking about how many Superhero stories are told through flashback, and how many of them are probably filled with false memories of how the events happened. Matt is a perfect example in Daredevil #168. Here we have someone remember a meeting that happened 10 years ago. He comes off as a dashing lad, doing a back flip to impress this new girl. As Dave pointed out, he is building up this memory to more than what it might have been. This make it that much easier to fit The man Without Fear into continuity. The account we got was a memory which most likely was wrong.
This idea can be spread to other characters and how their retcons might fit smoother. Take Captain America. In issue #6 of the 2004 Brubaker run of Captain America, the Cap is revisited the castle where he had his last stand off before being frozen for so many years. During this run he is having his memories altered (we’ll just ignore that it might have been the Cosmic Cube interfering with Caps memories) but he also says that he’s having trouble remembering what actually happened and what he read in the many conflicting reports of the mission. After a while, it gets to be confusing as to what happened and what was read.
Something real world villains do is a thing called a cold reading. They prey on people who have recently lost loved ones by pretending to be able to communicate with the dead. They essentially trick the victims to reveal information about their lost loved ones, and then repeat it back to them as if it is information that they heard from the other side. The cold reader will fumble initially, making random guesses. Sometimes the victim will start blurting out information to help them out. Mere minutes between when the victim said their poor husband use to love cigars and when the cold read would say they husband just said how he loved to smoke cigars the victim has forgotten all about giving out that fact.
There have been cases where these sessions have been taped. The victim is asked what new information was brought forth by the cold reader, claiming that the reader was indeed able to make full contact with their lost ones. Then they are played the tape and shown that they did in fact tell the reader what had happened. Sadly, the victim is so fully invested in the narrative they have created in their heads they won’t even believe the tape show contrary evidence.
Thanks to J David Weter I am now more clearly able to mentally navigate the web of comics continuity. Whenever a character tells the story of what happened on an adventure we have to remember that their memories of that evens are probably entirely wrong. They have adrenaline flowing, making each step that much more filled with emotion than what it actually was.
It’s much like the Joker’s line in “The Killing Joke”, “If I’m going to have a past, i prefer is to be multiple choice!” It is up to us which facts we do and don’t accept. Entire comics runs may just have been a fever dream, like Morrison’s “Arkham Asylum.” Maybe it all did happen as seen on page, which just makes it that much more fun to piece together!