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17 October 2007 @ 01:47 am
9 Categories of Continuity  
9 Categories of Continuity

Spend much time on the comic book forums of the Internet and you’ll hear an awful lot of talk about “continuity.”

“That story twenty years ago established the 'new continuity' on this point, and it's remained the Official Version ever since.”

“That other story recently was tossed out of continuity.”

“This story is still in continuity as far as I know, except for the tiny detail that the controversial events in it have never gotten any further acknowledgement or follow-up in any way, shape, or form in the six years since that writer left the title. It’s as if all the characters who survived that painful experience have completely blotted out the painful memories! But don't worry - any time another writer wants to refer to that old stuff, he can still do so!”

“The new movie generally respects the 'basic' continuity of who these characters are supposed to be and where they're coming from, despite changing lots of superficial details here and there!”

And so on, and so forth. A relative newcomer may be forgiven for scratching his head as he tries to figure out just what all these people are talking about when they argue about good continuity, bad continuity, old continuity, new continuity, "basic" continuity that doesn't seem to refer to every single nitpicking detail of stories published 10 or 20 years ago, retcons, new retcons of the previous retcons, and all that other fun stuff.

One of the problems is that different fans mean different things in different contexts when they talk about “continuity” and whether or not a new writer is properly “respecting” what they see as the “basic" or "important" continuity of a particular character or team. Here is my best effort to break down the mysterious subject of "continuity" into smaller pieces.

9 Categories of Continuity

01. Continuity of Plot
02. Continuity of Personality
03. Continuity of Environment
04. Continuity of Relationships
05. Continuity of Appearance
06. Continuity of Abilities
07. Continuity of Background
08. Continuity of Theme or Tone
09. Continuity of Isolation

01. Continuity of Plot

This is probably the biggest piece of what most fans mean when they talk about “respecting continuity” on the one hand, or “continuity problems” on the other. However, it is certainly not the whole story.

The general idea behind Continuity of Plot, subject to all sorts of exceptions and modifiers in this day and age, is that the most recently published stories about a superhero character (or an entire team) are supposed to happen in a world where the previous stories featuring those characters also happened. In some cases, that includes stories published over forty, sometimes over sixty, years ago! (Depending upon whether the character debuted in the Silver Age or in the Golden Age, although for Silver Age characters it's usually been a lot less than 40 years from their point of view. If Peter Parker was around 18 in a story published in 1965, he is not 58 today. Some argue he isn't (or shouldn't be) as much as 30 years old yet!)

Related to this, we have the common expectation on the part of veteran fans that when the events of a particular story from the "good old days" are highly relevant to what is happening in a modern comic, then at least the bare essentials of the past story in question should be recapped and acknowledged, thus bringing new readers up to speed on how an old case led directly to this new case in a hero's career, while placating veteran readers with this sign that the current writer is "respecting the essential continuity" of the hero's past adventures.

That's the general theory. I don't say it always happens that way. When a story blatantly rewrites certain details of a previous story (or tosses the entire story right out the window as having obviously never occurred because those old events would be terribly inconsistent with the way a new writer wants to tell stories about the regular cast of the title), this is called a Retcon. (Short for "retroactive continuity," as in "rewriting history.") Obviously, it happens pretty often or else fans wouldn't have felt the need to invent a special name for the phenomenon.

The more extreme case is when all, or very nearly all, of the previous Continuity of Plot, which has accumulated over a lengthy period of time, perhaps from hundreds of issues of one or more titles, is tossed out the window in a heartbeat so a writer can start over fresh. This is called a Reboot (although I have sometimes seen that word used for things that were not nearly so sweeping as a total destruction of all previous stories).

DC has done several Reboots at various times; the most famous examples followed in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. In the mid-80s, following the Crisis, DC completely threw away all previous Superman and Wonder Woman Continuity of Plot. (Although it held onto Continuity of Appearance and other aspects in the Rebooted versions.) The rest of the DCU’s continuity was not hit so hard, but details relating to other characters could be modified by the writers and editors working on other titles on a case-by-case basis, using the recent Crisis as an excuse if they felt it necessary to make any significant changes. Mindful of that example, some people are optimistically hoping that several of the things they view as particularly overcomplicated and/or embarrassing in Marvel’s accumulated continuity will end up being swept away by a huge broom after “House of M” is all wrapped up, but I don’t claim to have any inside information on that score.

In general terms, all the other types of Continuity I list below could be said to fall under the broad umbrella of “Continuity of Plot.” After all, anything we think we know about a superhero’s personality, environment, relationships, standard appearance, etc., is largely based on what we have seen in previous stories in his comic book appearances. But I found it helpful to take different aspects of what we think we know about him and give them their own labels.

02. Continuity of Personality

The general idea is that the superhero’s personality, as it was typically presented to us ten or twenty years ago, should bear a strong resemblance to the superhero’s personality as it is presented today. Any changes should be largely "consistent" with his previous psychological profile and reflect things that could plausibly have changed in his attitudes, behavior patterns, etc., given that he's gotten older and (hopefully) wiser, and perhaps more battle-scarred and more educated as well.

In defense of the fans who expect to see this, “time” moves so slowly in superhero continuity that what Spider-Man (for instance) was doing “ten years ago” from our point of view was probably closer to about “two, or maybe two and a half, years ago” from his own point of view.

I don’t say that Continuity of Personality is sure to be adequately maintained as different writers and editors come and go – but those faithful fans who actually remember the stories of ten years ago tend to expect it and can get downright nasty when they are disappointed in that expectation. (Newer fans, of course, have far fewer preconceptions of what sort of guy the hero is supposed to be, and may naturally assume that the personality the hero is showing in this year's issues is more or less the personality he always had.)

Even so, my impression is that fans of a regular title will usually bend over backwards to make all reasonable allowances for natural variations in style from one writer to the next, as long as they feel the “essence” of each important character is preserved.

This one is tricky because different writers will have their own personalities and styles, which they will impose upon the characters they “inherit” from previous writers, for better or for worse, even if they don’t mean to do that. I believe Peter David once said that when he wrote some scripts for the "Wolverine" title way back when, he deliberately tried to imitate Chris Claremont’s style, or “voice” for the character. Later, however, Claremont mentioned to David that when he had read David’s work on the Wolverine title, the hero’s “voice” sounded completely different to him from the way he would have written such stories.

(Granted: It is possible that Claremont spotted differences of style which seemed glaringly obvious to him after his many years of experience as the principal writer working on Wolverine in the late 70s and 80s, but which may have appeared quite minor or even imperceptible by the standards of many of his readers. I don't know if anyone ever took a poll of faithful Wolverine fans to find out if they thought they detected really significant differences of style between the Voice of Claremont's Wolverine and the Voice of David's Wolverine.)

There are also exceptions for characters whose personalities, in the "older" or "classic" versions of those characters, were generally considered to be so flat and boring by more modern standards, or otherwise unsuited for a particular character concept during one era, that very few people object when the character is dusted off by a new writer who has a completely new spin on what makes this guy tick and how he interacts with others. Batman as written by Denny O'Neil in the 1970s was very different from Batman as he had been written by various other people in the 50s and 60s, but it is my understanding that very few Batman fans regard that sharp change in tone and style as proof of bad behavior on the part of Denny O'Neil

03. Continuity of Environment.

Batman keeps his equipment in the Batcave, which is beneath stately Wayne Manor, and he usually operates in and around Gotham City. Gotham is somewhere along the east coast of the United States (to the best of my knowledge, no comic book story has ever explicitly named the state of which Gotham is a part). Everyone who has even the slightest interest in buying Batman's comic books knows that much about his usual Continuity of Environment and they expect to see it respected.

Certainly, there is no sacred rule that prevents Batman from leaving the city and chasing crooks to other corners of the globe on special occasions – Paris, Moscow, Tibet, Haiti, or wherever the writer wants to send him for a change of pace, creating a chance for an artist to draw some new scenery instead of the same old Gotham architecture every month (just how many sets of stone gargoyles does one city need, anyway?). But those are just temporary excursions; Gotham is the town he always calls home.

Suppose the editors and writers on the current Bat-titles all agreed to relocate him to San Francisco, not just for one or two story arcs as a temporary condition, but for at least the next five years realtime – the next 60 issues of “Batman,” the next 60 issues of “Detective Comics,” the next 60 issues of any other regular title that currently focuses on Batman’s activities. This would shamelessly abandon his well-established Continuity of Environment from decades of previous stories, and in Batman’s case it would also violate his Continuity of Personality. Some superheroes could plausibly be persuaded to change cities if a prospective employer offered them a better job than the one they currently have in New York (or wherever). But Bruce Wayne doesn't need the extra money, and Gotham is not a town in which he currently just happens to reside until someone gives him a good reason to relocate. He's obsessed with the place.

In contrast, at different times, Pre- and Post-Crisis, Wonder Woman has been variously based in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Boston, in Gateway City, and quite possibly other towns that I've forgotten. Moving her to San Francisco for the next five years realtime would not outrageously violate her character’s Continuity of Environment, because she doesn’t really have any well-established, permanent Continuity of Environment to begin with!

04. Continuity of Relationships.

I am using the word “relationship” in the broadest sense – not just "romantic relationships," but all the different types of social relationships you may have with the people around you – close friends, casual acquaintances, co-workers, romantic interests, people who are entitled to call themselves part of your “family” by blood or by marriage or by adoption or just because you grew up calling them “Uncle Ted” and “Aunt Abby” despite the lack of any “formal” family ties.

And, of course, the less pleasant relationships with people you have met but have decided you don’t like, for one reason or another. Perhaps they are awful bores because they seem to have no interests in common with yours when it comes to making conversation, or they are jealous of your professional success, or they constantly want to borrow money, or they have a nasty tendency to murder people at the drop of a hat – plenty of possibilities!

Relationships are important because an interesting character doesn't just exist in a vacuum - his own personality is revealed by how he interacts with other personalities. Members of his supporting cast, and the nature of his social relationships with them, can become very important parts of his continuity in the views of many of his fans (although it is accepted that, just as in real life, sometimes old friends will move away and sometimes new people will enter his social circle unexpectedly.).

Some relationships can change. Two characters who started off on the wrong foot with one another can come to realize they were overreacting to something fairly trivial, and can actually become friends. A co-worker can be promoted to be the new boss of people who previously interacted with him as equals. Someone who was trusted as a friend can turn out to be insane or just plain evil - or none of the above, but for some other reason finds that his agenda and yours have become directly opposed to one another, even if he still feels quite fond of you personally. And of course, if a particular writer doesn’t want to be bothered with some of the old, established members of a hero’s supporting cast, he can simply stop writing about them. Presumably they are still alive and bump into the hero at social gatherings or business meetings from time to time – but only in stuff that happens off-panel, because it has no relevance to the stories this writer is actually interested in telling.

On the other hand, some fans scream bloody murder when what they see as the crucial “relationships” in a hero’s continuity start undergoing drastic change. For example, they might say: “It’s all very well and good for Spider-Man to date one girl for awhile, and then break up with her and date another girl, and then years later go back to the previous girlfriend, and so forth . . . but he ought to stay in what amounts to a Perpetual Romantic Holding Pattern. Perish the thought that he should ever get entangled in anything so supposedly ‘serious’ and ‘permanent’ as . . . . pardon my strong language here . . . marriage!

Similar arguments apply to Batman. Everyone seems to agree that he can be romantically interested in one lovely woman or another for various lengths of time, but arguably the underlying continuity of the nature of his social relationships "requires" that he never, ever, settle down to get married and raise kids, except in Elseworlds, or stories of possible future timelines, or on the Pre-Crisis Earth-2, or other stuff that should make no lasting impact upon the "regular continuity" of his main monthly titles.

05. Continuity of Appearance.

This is probably the most superficial of my categories. It includes different costumes, different street clothes, different hairstyles, different vehicles, and so forth.

For some characters, a change of costume (and/or hairstyle, etc.) can be a huge deal that comes as a real shock to the readers after many years of watching the same old, same old in the monthly books. Other characters, however, have gone in the opposite direction and reached a point where it seems very odd if they actually wear the exact same costume for several years at a stretch. (Yes, I’m thinking of the Wasp!)

And sometimes successors in a costumed role go to some trouble to make themselves look as much like their predecessors as possible – maintaining Continuity of Appearance even though there is (usually) no prolonged attempt to convince the reader that it is the same person under the mask all along. (Whether or not the new guy is attempting to deceive the other comic book characters he meets into thinking he's the same old guy under the mask is a different matter. Some try very hard to maintain the illusion; some are frank about being the new kid on the block.)

Jason Todd and Tim Drake both wore the same Robin suit that Dick Grayson had worn before them (although Tim later upgraded to a different costume that only had enough in common with the old one that anyone really familiar with the old outfit would be able to see that it was the "ancestor" of the new one in various ways, thus preserving some degree of Continuity of Appearance while simultaneously letting Robin wear long pants after fifty years or so in green shorts!). Likewise, all three of them have had black hair and fair skin (although the Pre-Crisis version of Jason Todd found it necessary to dye his hair black in order to get the proper effect). I think they all had blue eyes as well, but that was usually concealed by the "eyeless" domino masks they wore, if memory serves.

On the other hand, when John Byrne introduced us to the first Post-Crisis Supergirl (also known as Matrix), she was a brand new character. Continuity of Abilities, of Background, of Personality, etc., were quite different from those of Kara Zor-El, the Silver Age Supergirl, who had been deleted from history at this point. However, Continuity of Appearance was maintained because the new Supergirl - in her preferred form, anyway, since she was a shapechanger - looked almost exactly like the old one!

06. Continuity of Abilities.

By abilities, I include both superpowers and other acquired skills, special talents, etc., that make this character different from all the other costumed characters running around in any large superhero universe. The flip side of that is that the "bigger" the universe gets, the more cases of total duplication or near-duplication in superpowers you're going to encounter. One of the ways to add a little extra flavoring is to firmly establish at the start that this character also has a distinctive weakness. Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite; Cyclops needs to keep ruby quartz in front of his eyes so his optic blasts don’t hammer everything he looks at; the Incredible Hulk (often) has the problem of being very dumb when in his superstrong form, while his more intelligent Bruce Banner form has the problem of promptly becoming big, green and ugly if he loses his temper; the Martian Manhunter has a problem with fire.

Some characters eventually get their abilities upgraded on the grounds that their old set just wasn't exciting enough. The Scorpion did not originally have an energy blaster built into the tail of his costume. Jean Grey used to be just another telekinetic. In the Golden Age, Superman started out as a very strong man with bulletproof skin who could leap long distances. All the other powers were gradually added to the recipe over the next several years and meanwhile, his strength kept increasing to more and more unbelievable levels.

On the other hand, sometimes a character gets his abilities downgraded for some other reason - not just for a story arc or two, but as a more "permanent" thing - at least in the original intention, whether or not it lasts. The Post-Crisis Rebooted version of Superman could no longer push planets around at the drop of a hat, for instance, as his Silver Age incarnation had been known to do. Wonder Woman, around the late 60s and early 70s, lost her powers entirely and was presented to us for awhile as a more "normal" woman - albeit a superb athlete, skilled martial artist, etc. - who engaged in secret agent-style adventures and reminded many readers of Mrs. Emma Peel, the role played by Diana Rigg for a few seasons in the 1960s British TV series "The Avengers." (No relation to the Marvel superhero team.)

07. Continuity of Background.

Sure, you could argue that anything that ever happened to Spider-Man in an old comic book has become part of his "background." But in this context, I don't really mean such stuff as whether Spidey has defeated the Scorpion 50 times in his superhero career, or only 47 times. (I actually have no idea what the true number is.)

By Background, I mainly mean "the origin story" and related matters that have been established about the character’s biography, particularly before he became a superhero, as well as the story of how he first became a superhero and how he ended up settling down in whatever place has become his Continuity of Enviroment (if he did settle down in one spot for the long term).

Some backgrounds are very well-known . . . You probably recall that Baby Kal-El was found by Ma and Pa Kent after landing in a field in Kansas; they adopted him as their own child, and he grew up in the small, wholesome Midwestern community of Smallville, then later went to college, got a degree in journalism, and landed a job as a newspaper reporter for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Different writers at different times have modified some of the details – such as whether or not his superpowers became obvious at a very tender age or only gradually developed over the first couple of decades of his life, and whether or not Ma and Pa Kent let their friends know he was adopted or found a way to pass him off as their own biological child from the start, and - for that matter - how long they waited before letting Clark himself know that they were not his biological parents! – but the basic Background is very well known.

Comic book fans usually accept the idea that film and television versions will not be slavishly faithful to all the nitpicking details of the previously established Continuity of Plot from the comic books which have been published about the "same" characters. For instance, in the Continuity of Plot that the Batman books had developed and refined over a period of fifty years prior to the 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, the Joker never had any connection with the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. But fans took that in stride, as far as I know, when first seeing the film.

However, fans would have screamed bloody murder if the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve had presented "Superman" as the Last Son of the dead planet Neon, who landed in a rocket ship in Littleburg, Alaska, and was found and raised by Ma and Pa Kennedy as their own son, whom they named Lark, until he was ready to go to the big city called Megalopolis and get a job as a typesetter on that great newspaper, the Daily Sphere. Even people who didn't regard themselves as diehard fans might have been disturbed by the above items if they had happened, because all of those things would terribly violate the basic Continuity of Background that even a moviegoer who was only casually interested in the subject might be expected to remember from his past experiences with Superman TV shows, radio shows, newspaper comic strips, or the comic books that he had quit reading 15 years ago when he was still a teenager.

08. Continuity of Theme or Tone.

Peter David said over a decade ago, in a column reprinted on his website:

"New Warriors" and "Watchmen" are nominally both about super teams, but are just a tad different in tone and style.

Quite right. If Alan Moore wrote a sequel to "Watchmen" that was done in a way that would have fit perfectly with the tone of the New Warriors title of the early 1990s, or if Fabian Nicieza wrote some new story arcs about the "New Warriors" that were done in a way strongly resembling the style and themes of Moore's "Watchmen," then fans of the old works would in either case feel cheated by such a sudden departure from what they came to expect when they first read the previous work.

Of course, sometimes a sharp change in theme or tone is a good thing. I mentioned Denny O'Neil's revamping of Batman in the early 70s, for instance. Whether a particular sharp change in tone or theme was "for the best," or was "a lousy idea that should have been shot down by an editor before it saw the light of day" is the sort of thing that usually becomes clearer in hindsight (and, human nature being what it is, the same answer does not "become clear" to every single fan who's taking an interest in the subject).

For the moment, let's just say that sharp changes in what sort of stories you're telling in this title, and how the hero reacts to emotionally charged and controversial situations, and what sort of general mood and/or specific sociopolitical attitudes you want to instill in your readers each month, are always risky changes to make. You may alienate a large part of a title's previous "core" fanbase, and you may or may not manage to attract enough new fans with different tastes to make up the difference in a hurry. If your new take ends up being more successful than what your immediate predecessors did, you're a genius and people will say that they knew all along that someone had to take drastic measures along those general lines in order to turn things around. If your new take produces sales figures that are dropping lower and lower, then people will line up to tell you that they knew all along that you were shooting yourself in the foot trying to tamper with the "fundamental tone" of the character or team in such a reckless way.

(I believe there is an old adage to the effect that: "Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan.")

09. Continuity of Isolation.

Loosely speaking, my idea here is that writers apparently feel that the particular assumptions, circumstances, etc., associated with a particular title's Continuity of Abilities, of Background, of Theme or Tone, and so forth, are easier to use in "self-contained" and "satisfactory" stories if the local hero doesn't really have the option of calling in a lot of other heroes to handle easily the problems that he has to sweat and struggle to handle by himself. Therefore, a hero with his own book will often be assumed to spend most of his time in a Sealed Bubble of Continuity, a condition of Isolation that only on rare exceptions is relaxed to allow others to guest-star and do things for him that he can't do for himself. This particular assumption about Continuity doesn't seem to get talked about much, but I've been aware of it in a vague sort of way for a long, long time and now I'm trying to sort out my ideas about it.

At Marvel and at DC, most titles published by the same company are supposed to be set in the "same universe" as other titles from the same company, unless specifically stated otherwise. The big mainstream universes are called the Marvel Universe and DC Universe, or MU and DCU for short. In theory, not only does a modern Daredevil story take place in a world that maintains Continuity of Plot derived from hundreds of other Daredevil stories that have previously been published since he began in the 1960s, but the modern story also takes place in a world where practically everything else Marvel has published about any other character is supposedly included in the Continuity of Plot. Anything that ever happened to Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Alpha Flight, Dr. Strange, the Defenders, or just about anyone else you can think of. And therefore, in theory, any given character, supernatural artifact, alien technology, or other element from any previous story in the Marvel Universe could suddenly be dusted off to help Daredevil solve his current problem in his own book, whatever that problem might be.

In theory.

Despite which, it's been clear to me for a long, long time that Daredevil books or X-Men books or Batman books tend to happen, more often than not, in their own little isolated areas, or "Sealed Bubbles" of continuity, often with little or no impact on what happens in any other superhero's stories that are set in a different Sealed Bubble even if theoretically all these bubbles are subdivisions of the same larger universe.

The Marvel Universe’s version of New York City, for instance, usually serves as home base for:

The Fantastic Four
The Avengers
Dr. Strange
Probably others who are slipping my mind.

And not so far away, in upstate New York, we usually find the X-Men based in the X-Mansion. Affiliated mutant groups are sometimes based in the Mansion or in the Big Apple. (There was a period in the late 80s/early 90s when X-Factor was based in a colossal spaceship that stood on end in Manhattan, basically looking like the biggest skyscraper in the city.)

Yet there are plenty of times when something really big happens in New York City, something high-profile that ought to grab everybody’s attention at once, and yet only the hero (or group) whose title is carrying this storyline seems to notice anything peculiar happening, much less react to it. All the other NYC-based heroes must be sleeping in late that day after a hard night of fighting crime, or they all just happen to be out of town on other business, or they're locked in mortal combat with an archenemy and don't have time to turn on the news and hear about a different disaster in the making, downtown, or they’re too busy sitting at home brooding over the injustice of the world, or whatever excuse you want to come up with on your own time, because the writer generally doesn't want to interrupt the flow of his story here and now by taking a couple of pages to run down the list of other superheroes living in the same metropolitan area and explain exactly what has each of them otherwise occupied at the moment.

This is something I've come to take for granted, by and large, but then I've read thousands of superhero comic books. Occasional teamups between different heroes or groups of heroes are meant to be "proof" that they all inhabit the same universe.

What about all the other times when it would also have made perfect sense for well-acquainted heroes to offer help to each other in a time of dire emergency threatening an entire metropolitan area (or worse), but they don't get around to it?

Those are cases that we are supposed to tactfully overlook as proving nothing at all, while pointing to occasional Crossover Events and the like as signs that sometimes the Avengers join the X-Men to fight a common threat, or sometimes Spider-Man ends up lending a helping hand to Daredevil when he really needs it, or whatever.

On DC's side, you may remember that in 1999 the Batman titles spent a year showing us the "No Man's Land" event after an earthquake (the "Cataclysm" event in 1998) had done terrible damage to Gotham City. The NML storylines were supposed to be stretching out across what was also a solid year from the viewpoints of the characters experiencing the stories, and yet for all twelve of those months of anarchy and squalor, as near as we could tell, very few East Coast-based superpowered heroes from other titles took the slightest interest in what was happening in that particular disaster area just a short hop, skip, and a jump from whatever cities they lived in, and Batman was downright rude to any superpowered heroes who did try to drop in to see what could be done. (Superman in one story, for instance, which I felt DC would have done better to skip entirely and just leave him completely out of the NML scenario.)

Bob Ingersoll wrote a column pointing out various legal and other logical holes in the fundamental assumptions behind the year-long "No Man's Land" event that followed the events of "Cataclysm" and "Road to No Man's Land." While I generally agree with his points as far as pure logic is concerned - several of them had already occurred to me before I ever got around to reading that column online a few years ago - I feel that he's clearly more disappointed with the way it was handled than I was, because he was implicitly expecting much "tighter" continuity, and much less Isolation within the various Sealed Bubbles of the DCU, than I for one had ever expected to see after oddities I had observed whenever Gotham was in bad trouble in other Batman stories, long before "No Man's Land" started coming out.

After all, when Bruce Wayne found himself temporarily in a wheelchair in the "Blind Justice" story arc that celebrated his 50th Anniversary (1989, Detective Comics #'s 598-600), did he call in backup from the Justice League or any other high-powered superheroes who might be able to help clean up Gotham (and investigate the conspiracy that had recently framed Bruce Wayne for treasonous espionage and so forth) while he was recuperating? No.

Did he ask for favors in healing his damaged back - such as Amazonian technology (do they still have the Purple Healing Ray?), or special treatment from a Green Lantern's power ring, or magical therapy from Zatanna or any other supernatural hero? No.

Did he even mention in dialogue that calling in some of the favors that lots of other DCU heroes must owe him after all these years might be a possible way to deal with some of his current problems? No.

A few years later, when he was in a wheelchair all over again after Bane broke his back in "Knightfall," you could easily ask yourself all the same questions, all over again, and once again the answers would generally be "No."

Instead, the very best he could do that time around was to offer a job as the pinch-hitter "Batman" to a young man named Jean Paul Valley who had a history of having been brainwashed by a secret society to be their avenging angel (and assassin), Azrael, but allegedly had consciously resisted and finally shaken off the worst of that conditioning. In the context of the larger DCU, Bruce's decision to trust him on such short acquaintance with the role of Batman made absolutely no sense! But if you tacitly accepted the idea that the "context of the larger DCU" had absolutely nothing to do with the "context of the regular Batman titles" because of those books' usual Continuity of Isolation, then it started looking as if the possibilities for a qualified pinch-hitter were kind of slim, given that Bruce Wayne had some fairly plausible objections to the idea of trying to twist Dick Grayson's arm to make him take up the role.

Other examples from Batman continuity could be provided, but I think that's enough to make the point. Different titles or linked groups of titles maintain Continuity of Isolation to varying degrees, even if they don't admit they are doing so, and real crossovers between two or more isolated bubbles are more the exception than the rule, and this is probably as it should be. Most of the time a reader needs to cultivate "suspension of disbelief" when a writer implicitly or explicitly states that if Local Superhero can't stop that fiendish scheme in the next ten minutes, the entire city, state, nation, continent, or world may be doomed. (Ignoring all the other superheroes who could theoretically get involved and turn the tide in the long run, even if Local Superhero fails to nip the problem in the bud in the short run.)