One of the common practices of creators in any medium, particularly one that is often perceived as disposable by the public, is to recycle their own work into the same or other media. Writers of comic books often do this. Artistically, a reader could look at it as being done as a variation of a theme, a fleshing out of a character or idea the writer is particularly enamored of. Done well, this results in the concept of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion or the classic Alternate-Earth tales for the 1970s Marvel titles. Done with less skill or repeated ad nauseum you get the square-jawed hero of what one comic book forum pundit called "The Adventures of Chaykin-Man", the cookie-cutter heroes and villains of Jim Starlin and the retread plots from Michael Fleisher in stories between the publishers of Marvel, DC and Warren.
Psycho #4 (September 1971), "Out of chaos...A new beginning!" .
Skywald Publishing. Story by Marv Wolfman.
Marvel Comics Group. Story by Marv Wolfman.
It could be a truism about sequential art, that if nothing new is given to the reader that grabs them every time they pick up a title they will be less likely to pick up the following issues or the tie-ins. The fickleness of many fans is one of the perils the monthly pamphlet faces today. It is not enough to have a good story told over time, each issue must blow the mind of the buyer a little more than the previous one.
Uncanny X-Men #141 (January 1981). "Days of Future Past"
Marvel Comics Group. Story by Chris Claremont.
In Uncanny X-Men #141 Mystique pauses to make an expository speech prior to a very public assassination attempt of a public figure who is campaigning for President of the United States. The speech is very similar to a caption Roy Thomas scripted for X-Men #60 several years prior.
Marvel Comics Group. Story by Roy Thomas.
For some reason I don't find the recycling of comic book stories and plots by an author as particularly heinous as much as lazy and dangerous to the success of a project and by extension, the company that publishes it. I really liked Fleisher's Jonah Hex work for DC (the El Papagayo character being the exception) but I was dismayed by his habit of re-writing stories to use in another book. Recycling a story, when done without wit and talent is just cannibalism, a charge I have witnessed being directed at the output of Marvel more than the other companies in the last few years. To cite some more recent examples of recycling old story concepts, Joss Whedon did a story in Astonishing X-Men featuring a sentient Danger Room-entity a few years after a similar story was told using the Cerebro device as the emergent being seeking freedom. The mega-event of Civil War also appeared to me as being very like a Marvel cross-over story from the 1970s, though enough was changed that one could charitably consider it a new idea or at least one that evolved naturally from previous concepts.
Tags: Writing Comic Books