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Thread: Good Retcon?

  1. #1
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    Default Good Retcon?

    Retcons are the domain of only the worst and laziest writers and editors.

    Time traveling to the past to change something OR rebooting a universe is pretty frustrating stuff by itself since it deals with some much self referencing material in general but at least they can be stories.

    I would much rather see a property put to bed for good or an alternate retelling take its place than have any retcon.

    I love the comic medium but I think top heavy continuity being retconned is part of the major problem of comic sales going from millions to thousands.

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    Chosen One Carabas's Avatar
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    A number of good retcons:

    * Captain America got frozen in ice and awakened when found by the Avengers instead of just finishing the war and going on to fight communists in the 50's.
    * Bucky was a badass who was turned into the Winter Soldier.
    * Tony Stark is an alcoholic (okay, not personally digging this one, but it seems popularamong a lot of Iron Man fans)
    * Superman can fly
    * The Joker isn't dead (multiple times)
    * Green Arrows entire island origin
    * Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker
    * Martha Wayne's pearl necklace is a Frank Miller addition
    * Wanda and Pietro are Magneto's kids (and now that it got changed back to them being unrelated it's the worst thing ever)
    * all versions in which Superman was a member of the Legion Of Superheroes when he was a kid
    * the entire concept of there being an Earth 1 and Earth 2 where silver and golden age heroes can be in the same continuity
    * almost the entirety of Green Lantern lore

    And so one... Oftentimes, your most favourite aspects of your most favourite characters turn out to be retcons if you look deeper.
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  3. #3
    Mighty Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackstormy1804 View Post
    Retcons are the domain of only the worst and laziest writers and editors.

    Time traveling to the past to change something OR rebooting a universe is pretty frustrating stuff by itself since it deals with some much self referencing material in general but at least they can be stories.

    I would much rather see a property put to bed for good or an alternate retelling take its place than have any retcon.

    I love the comic medium but I think top heavy continuity being retconned is part of the major problem of comic sales going from millions to thousands.
    Except that a major retcon is what basically started the Marvel Universe as a universe, i.e. Captain America was frozen in ice at the end of WWII to be discovered and thawed by the Avengers and did not keep fighting through the 1950s against the Red Scare as the stories told in the comics. Same with Namor being in a NYC homeless shelter and not having been in all the Namor stories of the 50s.

    Essentially retcon is only a label used to delineate changes fans don't like from changes they like and accept. Those types of changes are part and parcel of telling shared universe stories over an extended period of time without a single vision/voice guiding them for the entirety of the run. Some have been sales bonanzas, some have hit like a lead balloon. Like anything else in comics, there are good ones and bad ones, successful ones and unsuccessful ones, but they are not the reason comic sales are shrinking. Comics haven't sold millions regularly since the golden age and aside from certain event comics aided by gimmicks have rarely reached millions in sales since then and never sustained that level of sales for any length of tale since the forties. Some of the hyped launches of the early to mid 90s reaches millions of sales, but didn't sustain them beyond an issue or two. Retcons had nothing to do with the decline in sales levels though.

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  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Gray Lensman's Avatar
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    Anything with a Green Lantern who isn't Alan Scott is built upon a retcon - this includes the very idea of a corps, in addition to everyone in it.

    While I dislike it, Thanagar and Hawkman as an alien is a retcon. The reincarnation angle is retconning back to the original take and undoing the first retcon.

    Magneto as a villain with any depth as opposed to the flat moustache twirler is a retcon.

  5. #5
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    Cap frozen in ice, Winter Soldier, Wolverine bone claws, Maximoffs being Magneto’s kids, Tim Drake is Tim Drake again, original Wally West still exists, Red Hood, Aquaman being half Atlantean and half human, two generations of Black Canaries, GL emotional spectrum, Parallax entity, Byrne’s Man of Steel, Five Years Later is not canon, Alec Holland being Swamp Thing again, no Snap Wilson, drill sergeant Kilowog, Jason Todd’s origin Post-Crisis that wasn’t exactly like Dick Grayson’s, Power Girl being from Earth-Two again, Orm being Atlantean.

    There are too many bad retcons to list.
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  6. #6
    Fantastic Member kjn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRP View Post
    Essentially retcon is only a label used to delineate changes fans don't like from changes they like and accept. Those types of changes are part and parcel of telling shared universe stories over an extended period of time without a single vision/voice guiding them for the entirety of the run.
    I agree with everything you say, and would add that even in the case of a single writer, there can still be retcons. Lois Bujold, one of my favourite authors, has said that "the writer should always reserve the right to have a better idea".

    Now, too many or too big retcons too quickly are problematic. Not because they are necessarily bad, but because they are confusing, even if they are good (for subjective values of good). Going from, say, Superman married to Lois to Superman dating Wonder Woman back to Lois not knowing Clark Kent is Superman in a relatively short span messes with the reader's model of the character relations.

    But the retcon is a necessary tool in the writer's toolbox.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carabas View Post
    A number of good retcons:

    * Captain America got frozen in ice and awakened when found by the Avengers instead of just finishing the war and going on to fight communists in the 50's.
    * Bucky was a badass who was turned into the Winter Soldier.
    * Tony Stark is an alcoholic (okay, not personally digging this one, but it seems popularamong a lot of Iron Man fans)
    * Superman can fly
    * The Joker isn't dead (multiple times)
    * Green Arrows entire island origin
    * Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker
    * Martha Wayne's pearl necklace is a Frank Miller addition
    * Wanda and Pietro are Magneto's kids (and now that it got changed back to them being unrelated it's the worst thing ever)
    * all versions in which Superman was a member of the Legion Of Superheroes when he was a kid
    * the entire concept of there being an Earth 1 and Earth 2 where silver and golden age heroes can be in the same continuity
    * almost the entirety of Green Lantern lore

    And so one... Oftentimes, your most favourite aspects of your most favourite characters turn out to be retcons if you look deeper.
    I wouldn't call Tony Stark's alcoholism a retcon. It was more of a progression of his character/personal journey.

    Martha Wayne's necklace was a great visual, but it didn't change Batman's origin or back story, so I wouldn't count it as a retcon.

    Villains not really being dead is more of trope rather than a retcon.

  8. #8
    Extraordinary Member Kirby101's Avatar
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    Alan Moore's Swamp Thing was a retcon, and one of the most amazing bits of comic storytelling at that.
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  9. #9
    Mighty Member Coin Biter's Avatar
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    "Bad" retcons sometimes attempt to exculpate characters from moral offences. For example, they want to resurrect Jean Grey so need to find some way to exculpate her for the deaths she caused during the Dark Phoenix Saga. So it transpires that it wasn't her all along. Similarly (albeit in a less celebrated story ), they want to exculpate Wanda from "no more mutants" in House of M, so it turns out that Doom somehow in some way was responsible, presumably while hanging around the Billiard Room with Reverend Green.

    In both cases, regardless of the merits of the original story, the basic plot of the original is simpler and more memorable than the more complicated retcon - and in that case, the original story somehow will always be remembered, and the retcon fades from everyone's minds.

    Actually having characters deal with the consequences of their actions would probably be a preferable approach (perhaps more difficult to do in the 80s when expectations were high for superhero behaviour than it is now, when practically every superhero is complicit to some degree or other in appalling crimes ).

  10. #10
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    Most of the Golden Age adventures of Cap, Bucky, Human Torch/Toro, and Sub-Mariner being comic book stories, to explain why they had this Axis-fighting rep when most of their original stories were set in the US.

  11. #11
    Genesis of A Nemesis Things Fall Apart's Avatar
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    Wakanda was always a technological marvel rather than T'challa being the sole driving force behind their ascent.
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  12. #12
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    The Ultron Imperative.

  13. #13
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    Depends on how well done the retcon is.

    As mentioned, the greatest retcon in comic history was Captain America being frozen and returning.

    Most of Superman's powers are retcons pretending that he always had those powers. I do consider them bad retcons only in the sense that Siegal wrote them as if he always had those powers when he clearly didn't in previous stories.

    The entire DC Silver Age is a retcon.

    The entire DC Post-Crisis era is a retcon.

    So, again, it just depends upon how well done it is.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Things Fall Apart View Post
    Wakanda was always a technological marvel rather than T'challa being the sole driving force behind their ascent.
    Um. No.

    FF 1.53 makes it clear that T'Challa built the technology Wakanda enjoyed, using education he received outside the country.
    images.jpg

    One of Man-Ape's pretexts for his coup against Black Panther was a promise to return the nation to its more primitive traditions.
    images.jpg

    Wakanda as an advanced civilization in it's own right came later, and does indeed constitute a retcon. It's a good retcon, certainly more sensible than one guy transforming a whole culture, but it's not the way Wakanda was always portrayed.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirby101 View Post
    Alan Moore's Swamp Thing was a retcon, and one of the most amazing bits of comic storytelling at that.
    Didn't he perfect that trick working on Marvel Man back in the UK?

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