Imagination Connoisseur, Luke Becket, is a big fan of Superman. But, he feels Superboy doesn’t fit into the Superman timeline and, therefore, isn’t canon.

So what is “canon”, anyway?

Hi Rob!

I was re-watching your answer to my letter about what is “Canon” from a few weeks ago, and while I agree with most of your answers, something keeps bothering me. When I ask who decides what is canon and you say it is the viewer, then to me that means there really is no canon because the viewer can pick and choose what they like.

For example: I love Superman! I’ve been a fan since I was 3 years old and my dad would read Superman comic books to me as bedtime stories. I’ve seen every version of Superman from the Kirk Allen serials, the TV series with George Reeves, the Christopher Reeve movies, Lois and Clark, Smallville, the cartoons, you name it I’ve seen it. Except anything that has to do with “Superboy”. The version of Superman where he is a fully realised costumed superhero while still a teenager in Smallville. That I’ve never seen and don’t care to see because that is not what I was introduced to. I grew up believing that Superman’s powers were developing as a teenager, as you see in Superman The Movie or Smallville, but he did not become the superhero Superman until he got to Metropolis later on. That to me is canon. “Superboy” to me is NOT canon.

But if I am allowed to pick and choose what I believe to be canon, and others are allowed to pick and choose what they believe to be canon, then there really is no canon. There are just a number of different realities and you can go with what you want. A canon needs to be governed and for a mythology to work some rules just can’t change.

If you are telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood, she has to go into the forest and meet a wolf; she can’t go for a swim and meet a duck. Because if you do that you are not telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood, you are telling something else. With Superman, he has to be born on Krypton, Krypton needs to have exploded, and Superman needs to have been sent to Earth as a baby, grew up in Smallville and later became Superman. These rules were established by the writers not the viewer. The viewers are just bystanders looking at everything happen.

Now you can play around with the mythology, and create “What if” stories, as in “What if Superman was a superhero as a teenager in Smallville”, but those usually fall into the “Elsewhere” category and are not canon. Unless it catches on, in which case it might become part of the mythology, or it could become its own thing and create a second canon. But then which one is the true story? And does it matter?

It suffices to say that if you leave it to the viewer things get very complicated because they will chose what they want to like. If you want a real mythology somebody has to decide what is real and what is not, and that is a function of the creators not the viewer. What do you think?

– Luke B.