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 Post Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2021 2:42 am 
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WARNING! High levels of TLDR factors!
There is a fairly high chance that the idea of reading through my take on Time and Sluggy Character Aging does not sound very appealing to you.

If so, then perhaps I can at least convince you to scroll down to the last four paragraphs for the conclusion and some extremely unlikely spec!


How old were Riff and Torg in 1973, when Wilcott, Tombsy and Qaboos found the books in the Vesuvian sinkhole? Infants? Not even born? Old enough to remember despite what may seem logical based on their apparent approximate ages when the strip started in 1997?

*************************

I wanted to subtitle this something like 'Sluggy Freelance & 'The Simpsons Age Paradox' ', but apparently there is a "Simpson's Paradox" that is a real phenomenon in statistics, so no...

It's is probably obvious to any long-time fan that Sluggy character aging is not strictly linked to our real-world calendar. And water is wet, right?

Sure, Pete provides frequent references to calendar and cultural events: - especially to Seasonal holiday references and happenings usually occur - or at least start - at the appropriate point in our 'real time' calendar.
Occasionally, real world historic events are give us more context as to when the storyline is occurring.
Here and there a 4th wall breaking reference may include a real world time reference, though it may only be for laughs, not canon information.

On the other hand, the typical Animated Anniversary strip breaks the wall by celebrating how many realtime years have passed since the strip started in 1997, even if it is obvious that very little actual 'Sluggy prime' time may have passed since the last strip anniversary a year ago.

Did you know that Sluggy Freelance is roughly 10 years younger than The Simpsons (which only SEEMS to have begun on the 8th day of creation.)

The Simpsons' characters are well known to be immune to aging, resulting in frequent character age retcons as needed to fit the current storyline. Without that approach, Bart would now be older than Homer was at the start of the show. Lisa would be old enough that she really could be the current President of the US, and Maggie may have actually said her first word...

Well, if Pete was forced to keep his storylines on pace with real time, the core characters would now be in their mid 40's, 50's or perhaps older, maybe even much, much older!

I think you will likely agree that aging of the Sluggy characters in real time would have had at least as much impact to the characters and storylines as it would have caused to The Simpsons characters if their writers had not chosen the 'no aging' route.

But unlike how characters in The Simpsons universe appear to be totally immune to age effects expected due to the passage of time (unless of course, in service of an ironic laugh, or when needed to tell a specific episode's story), characters and happenings in the various Sluggy universes and dimensions (Niftyverse, 4U Rain, etc..) are much more likely than the Simpson characters to continue dealing with the effects of past events as they move forward in time.
Of course, exception storylines that stand partly or fully outside of the overall canon stories do exist, like the Torg Potter spoofs, most guest artists storylines, Stick Figures in Space, and a few others. But past canon storylines usually do leave their marks on the gang, even if they don't cause much - if any - visible physical changes due to aging. Changes to Pete's art style throughout the years don't count, I think...

But most of the main Sluggy characters have also travelled forward and backwards in time, even multiple times. When they return to their 'present', perhaps it is the same day, even though they may have experienced quite a bit of time passage while they were away. Or the opposite may be true, or there may even be a 1 to 1 time correlation.. Whatever the case, the core characters have quite probably lived through even more time than whatever speed time passes in 'present' Sluggy Prime time.

Yeah, thinking about the effects that time travel has on the overall passage of time that a time-traveling individual has experienced can really hurt the brain. (At least it is not Groundhog Day... so far...)

Then there is dimensional travel... where we can't rely that time passes the same way in each dimension compared to Sluggy Prime, or each other, unless we are given a the specific information about time correlation regarding that specific circumstance. I could be wrong, but I don't think we are always given that.
And of course, the various characters don't all experience the exact same amount of time & dimension-induced time passage. Riff could be much older or much younger than Zoe, who may be anything from ancient to just a babe compared to a potentially cradle-robbing Torg. And Gwynn... well there are some special things happening with time and aging there...

Of course, sometimes Pete chooses to show us the characters aging due to the passage of time, but not always.
And, although the memories and effects usually linger - absent a memory wipe or similar, any 'normal aging' effects are usually undone, or at least minimized, when the character returns to the present Sluggy prime timeline.

So there are a lot of in-universe reasons that it would be be challenging if the characters were allowed to age based on the way age typically affects a person who lives through a similar amount of time in real time.
But that's okay, because the story works, whether in spite of the various time flow differences involved, or because of them!

I think a lot of the reason is because Pete does such a great job with explaining the strangeness of his universe. He may not give us access to every puzzle piece in the order we may think is best, but he is an artisan when it comes to making sure those puzzle pieces are eventually seen to fit quite tight with other.

In my opinion, the rare cases where Pete forgets something already established is the exception that proves the rule. I think that occasional mistakes are totally understandable! Picture the 'bulletin boards connected with string' that he must deal with to keep all of the facts and repercussions in effect at this point!
(No, scratch that... Complex bulletin boards and string connectors are child's play compared to a time web that is constantly being repaired within the story narrative itself!)
It boggles my mind that he is so good at the callbacks, never mind the way he has been able to plant a seed right in front of us without making it obvious, and bring it back years or even decades later as a lynchpin in a storyline!
And even when he makes mistakes, he's great at fixing them after the fact! It is even more impressive since the storyline ALSO feature lots of time travel to the past and future, as well as interdimensional travel. And time passes there too! Unless it's Timeless Space... woah...

I have yet to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and it sure is a large one, with perhaps the biggest effect on all of this.
Pete has frequently expressed to us when he is feeling particularly burdened by real world events and when he is stressed by too much to do and too little time to do it. It has often come extremely close to causing the end of Sluggy. But most of you who read this already know it, and were involved in convincing Pete that most of his fans can be patient when needed, and even help support him directly. So from time to time, Pete may need to even more dramatically 'unlink' the pace of the passage of storyline time from the passage of real time, even where he really would seem to prefer if it were possible to move it along in something closer to real time. Sure, there was a period where it wasn't clear if the approach would succeed, but, from here, it looks like it was the right thing to do, and continue to do as needed!

Of course, this may lead to a realtime year passing by while Pete to give us a story that fits in only one action-packed day in story time. Or he may condense multiple days or more of Sluggy timeline into a single day's strip.

*************************

Whatever the cause, the strip timeline moves at whatever pace it moves at, yet the characters have living histories and are often allowed to evolve or progress. They just don't typically age much, if at all. And, all that is okay, because the stories work!

But it sure makes it difficult to factor ages and aging into any speculation. We only 'know' what Pete has revealed, even if there is incidental evidence implying we know more. And even more so if there is any question about whether the 'given facts' came from an unreliable narrator.

So, I (at least) find it hard at times to remember that character age in the Sluggy universe is just a number... and likely an imaginary one at that. And that character ages only matter when they matter to Pete.

Wait a minute, I was just struck with some speculation inspiration!
Maybe the gang are in their 40's, and Pete intends all of this to be an uber-flashback /recap and someday we will snap back to the 'present'!!! (Where we may find Zoe sitting back on a couch and explaining everything to Zorg and his/her siblings?) "How I Met Your Sluggy?" It could happen...

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 Post Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2021 6:12 am 
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All I know is that Torg and Riff are several years older than Zoe, as they had already graduated from college when they meet Zoe, and she starts college when the strip begins. Gwynn is interesting because I think Zoe meets her when she goes to work for Dr. Lorna, so she's actually probably closer to Zoe's age than Torg or Riff.

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 Post Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2021 11:29 am 
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Theoretically it's possible that the main characters are aging normally but the readers of the comic are well ahead of them in years (so maybe it's actually still 2008 in the comic universe even though it's 2021 in real life, owing to time passing more slowly there). Only issue with that is that Pete has kept referencing modern technology throughout the storylines. Torg starts out in 1997 using a big desktop computer to do his web design work, as would have been standard at the time. Later we see him using smartphones. So it seems clear that Sluggyverse has roughly kept up with real time, technologically and culturally.

My theory of the case here is that it's like superhero comics that try to maintain continuity. The X-Men were teenagers in the 1960s. Somewhere along the way they aged up into their 20s or 30s, and then basically froze at that age while the world advanced around them (technology, fashion, pop culture references, all keep updating to reflect the time period in which the issue was produced). Old events from prior decades are still referenced.

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 Post Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2021 1:42 pm 
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sycasey wrote:
Theoretically it's possible that the main characters are aging normally but the readers of the comic are well ahead of them in years (so maybe it's actually still 2008 in the comic universe even though it's 2021 in real life, owing to time passing more slowly there). Only issue with that is that Pete has kept referencing modern technology throughout the storylines. Torg starts out in 1997 using a big desktop computer to do his web design work, as would have been standard at the time. Later we see him using smartphones. So it seems clear that Sluggyverse has roughly kept up with real time, technologically and culturally.

Yeah. Sluggy Time keeps up with what is happening in real time, as it benefits the storyline, but Sluggy Time isn't marching at the same speed or over the same distance.
And at this point the storyline has plenty of built in reasons we can point to. Uncle Time is loopy, after all!!!

sycasey wrote:
My theory of the case here is that it's like superhero comics that try to maintain continuity. The X-Men were teenagers in the 1960s. Somewhere along the way they aged up into their 20s or 30s, and then basically froze at that age while the world advanced around them (technology, fashion, pop culture references, all keep updating to reflect the time period in which the issue was produced). Old events from prior decades are still referenced.

Exactly. I'm glad that Sluggy doesn't occasionally reboot like longer running comics tend to do, though.

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 Post Posted: Sun Dec 05, 2021 1:44 pm 
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Well, today's news somehow answer the question:
https://sluggy.com/blog/view/16086/art- ... ime-retcon
Quote:
Time works weird in the Sluggyverse. To be honest it feels like Torg and Riff were kids-to-teens in the 80's, college-age in the 90's and pretty much have stayed 20-something forever after that (with Zoë being slightly younger and Gwynn will never admit her age anywho)

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 Post Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:02 am 
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My assumption appears to be correct!

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 Post Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2021 1:41 am 
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I always assumed Gwynn's age was right between whatever Torg/Riff and Zoe are. They're all in the same range.

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 Post Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2021 3:58 am 
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GUIGUI wrote:
Well, today's news somehow answer the question:
https://sluggy.com/blog/view/16086/art- ... ime-retcon
Quote:
Time works weird in the Sluggyverse. To be honest it feels like Torg and Riff were kids-to-teens in the 80's, college-age in the 90's and pretty much have stayed 20-something forever after that (with Zoë being slightly younger and Gwynn will never admit her age anywho)

My first reaction to today's news is 'wow!'
Pete's 'time-retcon' news IS (to my eyes) indeed one of those exceptions that proves the rule.
The rule being that he is an incredible story teller with mind-boggling attention to detail.
(And the exception being that even he has occasional difficulty in keeping things like dates and ages 'coherent' - which is totally understandable given that 'time works weird' in the Sluggyverse, for all of the reasons that Pete and everyone else has pointed out.)

So, occasionally, speculating will be more difficult since it is hard to reconcile ALL of the ways that Sluggyverse time and real time are different, even though they interact now and then. Makes for interesting spec conversations, at least!
(Yeah, I know, as long as I remember to refrain from speculating in Reactions...)

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 Post Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2021 9:48 am 
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sycasey wrote:
I always assumed Gwynn's age was right between whatever Torg/Riff and Zoe are. They're all in the same range.


She'll always be a few years older, in my eyes. Because she would hate that. :gwynn:

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 Post Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2022 7:23 am 
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superhunnybear wrote:

It boggles my mind that he is so good at the callbacks, never mind the way he has been able to plant a seed right in front of us without making it obvious, and bring it back years or even decades later as a lynchpin in a storyline!

I agree! It stuns me every time!

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