You know how music can get “old”? A good song can get old in a week or two, basically because we’re always searching for what is new and fresh. Uptown Funk? I’m not a Bruno Mars fan, but I absolutely love that song. I’ve loved it ever since I heard it on The Voice last season. Prince’s latest albums? I love those, too. They’re the best things he’s put out in years. I guess I’m just a fan of a certain sound.
Comics can get old, too. However, I’m willing to bet you’re doing it to yourself.
Comics generally come in three flavors: retro, modern, or evergreen.
Retro means you have bell bottoms, afros, large mustaches, and all kinds of trappings that immediately date the material. Men in suits and hats. Vehicles and designs from a past era. Retro can be fun.
Modern means you’re referencing people and places and things that are happening now, or in the recent past. Modern is all around us.
Evergreen is a story that can happen at any time. It’s a story that can be put in a drawer, pulled out years later, and it will still fit just about anywhere. Evergreen stories are rarer think.
Here’s the thing most don’t understand, because they don’t think about it deeply: modern stories eventually become retro. They become a product of their time, and that can age the story.
Sometimes, you want to tell a story in a certain time period. And that can be very fun. Those stories, retro as they are, can also be evergreen, because the understood caveat is that the reader knows this story is taking place in a certain timeframe. Generally, retro stories aren’t ongoing stories. Generally. They’re generally a limited series.
I recall reading an issue of Darkhawk, and the main character was listening to his walkman and mentioned Counting Crows. (Remember them?) Instantly made the book no longer evergreen. One of my clients wanted to mention Lebron James in a script, and I advised against it, because it would instantly make the book no longer evergreen.
Always be aware of aging your stories. They’re going to age anyway, but it can definitely be controlled. And you have that power.