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Thread: Origin Retcons

  1. #1
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    Default Origin Retcons

    I was thinking about how somewhat simple straightforward origins morph into these complex things.

    Batman's parents were originally just two people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then we got a name added to the mugger, Joe Chill. Then a revelation that Chill had been hired to kill Thomas Wayne, due to Wayne's testifying against crime boss Lew Moxton. Then it was revealed that Chill's mother had been the housekeeper for Bryce's uncle and had helped raise Bruce after the murder. Recently there was the whole Court of Owls stuff.

    Luthor was a weapons dealer with a full head of red hair who was manipulating the two sides in a war for profit and with an eye to gaining political power. He had no particular beef with Superman, it was just that Superman was the hero who stumbled on the scheme and stopped it. Later his backstory was expanded to knowing Superman since childhood and he was retroactively bald from this time. He gained the first name Lex. He was given a sister (though she never knew she was related to him). Post-Crisis we were told Lex had killed his own parents for insurance money which he used to start his company. This later was changed so Lex inherited money from his equally amoral father, Lionel based on the Smallville TV show.

    Barry Allen went from a random police scientist who had a lab accident and gained super-speed to the embodiment of the Speed Force that powers every speedster. His rather average life prior to gaining his powers is now a tragic backstory caused by an enemy he hadn't even met yet. At one point we were told he had a twin brother whose family line would lead to Barry's greatest enemy, the time travelling Reverse-Flash.

    Those are just a few examples.

    So what changes to a character's origin/back story do you like and which ones are just a bridge too far?

  2. #2
    Ultimate Member Digifiend's Avatar
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    Donna Troy's has always been a mess, ever since her original origin got invalidated by Crisis (Teen Titans wasn't rebooted, Wonder Woman was, making Wonder Girl's origin impossible). New 52 didn't help her either.

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    Moderator Frontier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Clark View Post
    I was thinking about how somewhat simple straightforward origins morph into these complex things.

    Batman's parents were originally just two people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then we got a name added to the mugger, Joe Chill. Then a revelation that Chill had been hired to kill Thomas Wayne, due to Wayne's testifying against crime boss Lew Moxton. Then it was revealed that Chill's mother had been the housekeeper for Bryce's uncle and had helped raise Bruce after the murder. Recently there was the whole Court of Owls stuff.
    Wait what ?

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    Mighty Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frontier View Post
    Wait what ?
    Batman 208. Framing device for reprints.

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    Astonishing Member Jackalope89's Avatar
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    Jason Todd's origin, pre-Crisis, was basically a copy/paste of Dick's. Except Jason was blonde.

    Post-Crisis, Jason was given his more iconic, and interesting, origin as a street kid that had the guts to steal the hubcaps/wheels (depending on the version being told) right off the Batmobile.

  6. #6
    Fantastic Member mikelmcknight72's Avatar
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    While personal preference is always a factor, I think it is a case by case situation. For instance:

    Jason Todd - Retconning his origin to differentiate him from Dick was absolutely the right call. Personally, I thought the post-Crisis origin was quite good.
    Hal Jordan - The retcon of his father's death suited the character, it added some depth to a character that needed it, and I approved.
    Barry Allen - The retcon of his mother's death and his father's false conviction was horrible and unnecessary.
    Batman - I like the Joe Chill as the murderer origin, but I'm ambivalent about it being a hit rather than a random mugging gone bad. I'm very much in the camp that didn't like the temporary retcon that he never found out who killed his parents.
    Donna Troy - The origin around Infinite Crisis worked well enough, but the Who Is Donna Troy story (New Teen Titans Vol 1 38) is perfection. It should be the definitive origin, and it should be editorially enforced.
    Hawkman/Hawkwoman/Hawkgirl - Personally, I prefer Carter & Shiera to be separate from Katar & Shayera/Kendra. However, what Johns did with Carter in his JSA run worked pretty well. I've not read the newest origin. I'm waiting for the full story to be up on DCU.
    Superman/Legion - A teenage Clark traveling to the future to be Superboy with the Legion should be editorially enforced. Whether or not he was Superboy in his present can go either way, though I'm partial to it.
    Wonder Woman - I didn't mind the daughter of Zeus retcon at first, but I've grown to strongly prefer the Perez origin and power set. The only qualm I had with it was that they had her coming into Man's World in the present instead of the past. My main reason is that it really screwed Donna over.
    Kon-El/Conner Kent - While I liked both his first and second origins, I have a bit of a preference for the Johns retcon.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Clark View Post
    I was thinking about how somewhat simple straightforward origins morph into these complex things.

    Batman's parents were originally just two people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then we got a name added to the mugger, Joe Chill. Then a revelation that Chill had been hired to kill Thomas Wayne, due to Wayne's testifying against crime boss Lew Moxton. Then it was revealed that Chill's mother had been the housekeeper for Bryce's uncle and had helped raise Bruce after the murder. Recently there was the whole Court of Owls stuff.

    Luthor was a weapons dealer with a full head of red hair who was manipulating the two sides in a war for profit and with an eye to gaining political power. He had no particular beef with Superman, it was just that Superman was the hero who stumbled on the scheme and stopped it. Later his backstory was expanded to knowing Superman since childhood and he was retroactively bald from this time. He gained the first name Lex. He was given a sister (though she never knew she was related to him). Post-Crisis we were told Lex had killed his own parents for insurance money which he used to start his company. This later was changed so Lex inherited money from his equally amoral father, Lionel based on the Smallville TV show.

    Barry Allen went from a random police scientist who had a lab accident and gained super-speed to the embodiment of the Speed Force that powers every speedster. His rather average life prior to gaining his powers is now a tragic backstory caused by an enemy he hadn't even met yet. At one point we were told he had a twin brother whose family line would lead to Barry's greatest enemy, the time-traveling Reverse-Flash.

    Those are just a few examples.

    So what changes to a character's origin/back story do you like and which ones are just a bridge too far?
    The Court of Owls has nothing to do with Batman's origin. Just his maybe brother, and whether Lincoln March is Thomas Wayne Jr. or not is irrelevant to Bruce's motivation to become Batman.

    The Court's retcon is for Dick's origin where they change Haly's Circus and C.C. Haly from a benevolent home into child trafficker for The Court's Talon.

    I don't like it because you don't retcon Alfred to secretly preparing Bruce to be sold to The Court, don't you?

  8. #8
    Mighty Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    The Court's retcon is for Dick's origin where they change Haly's Circus and C.C. Haly from a benevolent home into child trafficker for The Court's Talon.

    I don't like it because you don't retcon Alfred to secretly preparing Bruce to be sold to The Court, don't you?
    I agree entirely. I am absolutely thrilled you posted this, because I thought I was only who hated the Court of Owls backstory for Dick. I mean, I hate it. Not only for Haly, either. Though that's definitely the worst. But the weirdness and such back-projected into Dick's life before he became Robin. Sort of how I feel about the Joker setting up Jason's life. I like that things were "normal" (well, relatively - not comic-book-weird anyway) for them before they became crime fighters. I don't like elements from the present being back-projected into the past. Also, see #13. So tired of everything always being connected. Also, Gotham had enough secret societies already.

  9. #9
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    I'm not generally a fan of retcons that try to shoehorn a villain as the one who was secretly manipulating all this bad stuff all along. That said, when it's done right, it is amazing. Morrison managed to pull it off with Doom Patrol's origin and it fit perfectly. The James Bond movies recently tried to do it with Blofeld and it failed miserably. Over at Marvel, they tried to do this with Norman Osborn and it just felt cheap.

    I actually loved the Superboy-Prime retcon punch idea explaining away all the missteps of the Post-Crisis era because of how utterly ridiculous the concept is.

    The idea that, when Barry Allen sacrificed himself in the original Crisis, he was hurled backwards in time to become the lightning bolt that gave him his powers is brilliant. The idea that he is the engine that generates the entire Speed Force across history was pointless, and, frankly, disrespectful to both Jay and Wally.

    The whole drunk driving retcon added to Hal Jordan's origin was retconned away pretty quickly because it simply made no sense and was only published as a result of miscommunication between the editor, the writer who did the first issue, and the writers who replaced him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikelmcknight72 View Post
    Superman/Legion - A teenage Clark traveling to the future to be Superboy with the Legion should be editorially enforced. Whether or not he was Superboy in his present can go either way, though I'm partial to it.
    Agreed, and it would be ridiculously easy to say that Clark was never Superboy *in the present*, but still had adventures in the future as Superboy with the Legion.

    Instead a big hairy problem was created for no reason at all.

    But yeah, I prefer that he was Superboy the whole time. Every retcon has taken away more and more of his past, and his character, and turned him into a lesser person, IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Digifiend View Post
    Donna Troy's has always been a mess, ever since her original origin got invalidated by Crisis (Teen Titans wasn't rebooted, Wonder Woman was, making Wonder Girl's origin impossible). New 52 didn't help her either.
    I was thinking more of retcons that added new information rather than replacement origins. So the Crisis removing Wonder Woman from Donna's origin wasn't what I had in mind. All the attempts to merge the Titans of Myth origin with Donna as an Amazon are a pretty good example, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    The Court of Owls has nothing to do with Batman's origin. Just his maybe brother, and whether Lincoln March is Thomas Wayne Jr. or not is irrelevant to Bruce's motivation to become Batman.

    The Court's retcon is for Dick's origin where they change Haly's Circus and C.C. Haly from a benevolent home into child trafficker for The Court's Talon.

    I don't like it because you don't retcon Alfred to secretly preparing Bruce to be sold to The Court, don't you?
    I knew about the Dick Grayson/Talon retcon where he was intended to serve the Court instead of being Robin/Nightwing, but I incorrectly assumed the Gotham bit where the Court had a hand in the Wayne's deaths came from the comics as well.

  13. #13
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Clark View Post
    I knew about the Dick Grayson/Talon retcon where he was intended to serve the Court instead of being Robin/Nightwing, but I incorrectly assumed the Gotham bit where the Court had a hand in the Wayne's deaths came from the comics as well.
    Thr Court did tried to kill then or at least Martha, but it failed. They had nothing to do with their actual deaths. Also, count among the people that never liked the Haley Circus retcon.
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  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    Speaking of Batman, The Waynes walking down the alley in crime-ridden Gotham.

    First of all, no. In the original origin, they didn't enter the alley. Joe Chill jumped out of the alley to rob them.

    Gotham was also not as insanely dangerous as it is now. It used to be that the neighborhood is safe enough to walk down at night. Then after the sudden murder in the supposedly safe neighborhood, people started moving out of Park Row, and criminal elements slowly moving in, that over the next 20 years the neighborhood became crime-infested and known as Crime Alley.

    I don't like it because one, it makes The Waynes look stupid, and two, I just don't like the concept of Gotham being always dark and dangerous compared to gradual descent.

    I don't know since when but authors really like going at it that Gotham is cursed, to the point that it's been cursed since colonial times... I think one version said it's cursed by... either Native American or devil worship that later rewritten as Barbatos and I'm just like... you're writing Detective Comics, not Silent Hill. Cool it with the curse.

  15. #15
    Mighty Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    Speaking of Batman, The Waynes walking down the alley in crime-ridden Gotham.

    First of all, no. In the original origin, they didn't enter the alley. Joe Chill jumped out of the alley to rob them.

    Gotham was also not as insanely dangerous as it is now. It used to be that the neighborhood is safe enough to walk down at night. Then after the sudden murder in the supposedly safe neighborhood, people started moving out of Park Row, and criminal elements slowly moving in, that over the next 20 years the neighborhood became crime-infested and known as Crime Alley.

    I don't like it because one, it makes The Waynes look stupid, and two, I just don't like the concept of Gotham being always dark and dangerous compared to gradual descent.

    I don't know since when but authors really like going at it that Gotham is cursed, to the point that it's been cursed since colonial times... I think one version said it's cursed by... either Native American or devil worship that later rewritten as Barbatos and I'm just like... you're writing Detective Comics, not Silent Hill. Cool it with the curse.
    You have some strong points there. And, while not at all origin-y, I'd like to chime in that Gotham should actually improve with time after Batman debuts. I don't at all like the concept that nothing they do does any good in the long run. Of course, I'm also not especially fond of the Gotham-is-a-corrupt-hellhole aspect, since it's not really what it was earlier. Yes, there are crime problems, but that just wasn't what the city was in older comics. It's fine for it to be more corrupt or more crime-ridden that other cities of a similar size, but I just think it goes overboard sometimes. Making the city unsavable kills any hope for the future.
    Last edited by Tzigone; 08-05-2019 at 06:00 AM.

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