This one was all me. Shocker, I know!

To have proper fun with it, I had to mess with continuity just a little. In the finale of Fans the webcomics series (at for reasons that seemed good in 1999), Fans-Shanna says she’s retiring from fieldwork, but here she is, right in the thick of it. Still, she wouldn’t be the first cast member to say she’s gotten out and then found herself pulled back in.

I do think that many of the characters seen in Fans have some AU selves in the Guilded Age universe somewhere. And I like playing with my old toys as much as anyone. But I’ve never really cared for the trope of “cross-universe destiny” that would push Guilded Age Shanna to meet up with some version of Will and Tim, so that her social life could reach the “correct” configuration (meaning, what feels “correct” if you read Fans). Shanna indeed does need her horizons broadened, but she’ll be meeting a different batch of nerds and bonding with them for somewhat different reasons.

I love superhero comics and accept most of their absurdities, but where they and I part company is when marketing is substituted for imagination. As I write this, DC is publishing Future State, a maybe-alternate future that features a new version of the Justice League. That League could’ve been made up of Gilgamesh, Draculina, the Living Google, Nunchuku, Kaiju General, and Antifa the Multitude… buuuut of course it’s just new, admittedly more diverse versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Aqua(wo)man, and Green Lantern. Because the heroic ideal was perfected around 1942, and it’s future generations’ job to replicate it. Look, the audience will accept enby Flash or they’ll accept a blond cishet speedster named “Bluestreak” who doesn’t care about the Flash legacy (until he sees the error of his ways, of course). But you can’t have both!

In terms of appealing to the readers who had followed me here from Fans, bringing Will and Tim and others in would’ve been a similar choice. That sort of thing feels right because it appeals to a nerd’s sense of order: even though some things are different, all the right names are right where they “belong.” And we only have the spoons to really care about so many characters, so introducing versions of people we already know about makes the transfer of affection easier.

But I don’t think it actually says anything that true or interesting about life. If the course of your life is different than it was in some other universe, then it’s far more likely that you’ll make different friends along the way. And you need to be open to new possibilities, or you’ll just end up chasing the past.