ITEM! What type of question do Merry Marvelites ask Yours Truly more than any other? The most-asked questions are usually just different flavors of this one: “If Reed Richards and Ben Grimm served during World War II (Fantastic Four #11, 1963), then how come they aren’t both in their 80s now?” Or, “If Peter Parker graduated high school in the Spring of 1965 (The Amazing Spider-Man #28), shouldn’t he be at least 60 years old today?”
There are two ways to answer these kind of questions about reconciling the passage of time with continuity in the Marvel Universe. One way is at least as old as that employed by one of my all-time favorite writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs’ writing career spanned a long enough period of time that he felt it necessary to create customized storytelling solutions to keep John Carter of Mars and Tarzan ever-young in stories that appeared over a period of decades. Hence, in the Marvel Universe, we have things like Captain America staying frozen in a state of suspended animation from WWII until (by my math) sometime during the Clinton administration. Or Nick Fury taking a slug of the “Infinity Formula” every few years to stave off the effects of aging and being interested in women 50 years his junior. As Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort suggests in his excellent Blah Blah Blog, you’ll mainly just give your readers, your editors, and yourself a giant Galactus-sized headache worrying too much about things like this.
Moi personally, I just don’t address the issue at all. I consider it part of the whole “suspension of disbelief” notion that goes hand-in-pen-holding-hand with writing popular fiction. Should you or any other Frantic Ones really lose any sleep over how the passage of time in a comic book affects a hero who can stick to walls and spin webs? You see my point here. Still, if you absolutely, positively, have-to-have an all-encompassing continuity-embracing answer to this burning issue, then I guess it’s your Uncle Stanley to the rescue! You see, way back in 1941 (Captain America #6, to be exact) I created a little superhero called Father Time. The self-same Father Time that went on in modern Marvel mainstream comics to become one of the Elders of the Universe (Captain America #383, 1991, natch). Just blame any and all inconsistencies on that guy. He’s probably been constantly manipulating and readjusting the timeline since the early 1940s just so you True Believers could enjoy the very best in action-packed storytelling. And let’s face it... Peter Parker swinging from rooftops in his Depends undergarments, or Reed and Ben escaping the nursing home by way of the Negative Zone, would be no one’s idea of an “action-packed” story. Not even over at the Distinguished Conglomerate! And now it’s time for the continuity cosmology lesson to endeth.