Marvel Comics Unlimited!: To Retcon or Not to Retcon?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

To Retcon or Not to Retcon?

Greetings comic book lovers,

A common complaint among diehard fanboys (and fangirls!) boils down to continuity. In fiction, continuity is the consistent existence (or explanation) of something, like the origin of a character, a superhero’s powers, or something as simple as the real name of a character. For decades publishers have altered aspects of characters quite a bit, but usually those changes were gradual or even outside-of-canon to fit a specific story. Important elements, like the fact that Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben died as a result of his inaction or that Superman comes from Krypton were unchanging. While most of us like a good parallel universe story, such as those in What If? it’s the reboots and renumbering that can be off-putting.

Retcon is short for retroactive continuity, meaning previously established continuity is changed, often disregarding other stories that would not work if the retcon had been in place. Sometimes the retcon occurs because editors or writers change and planned plots are abandoned. A recent post on Facebook reportedly shows a list plots by issue for Uncanny X-Men by John Byrne that extended more than a dozen issues past his last (#143).

There have been some really clever retcons, and more than a few that I loved to see happen. When Jean Grey was brought back because “Phoenix” wasn’t really Jean, I loved it. In fact, many of the back-to-life retcons are ones that fans love the most. The current All-New X-Men with teen Jean brought from the past into the present by Beast is a clever way to bring her back after her most recent death.


On the other hand, while I hated to see him die, the Colossus “death” retcon screamed “soap opera death” in every way.

Here’s a great list of retcons (as well as abandoned plots) from         the website Comic Book Resources - a great site for a wide range of comics news.

Have a favorite (or most-hated) retcon? Anger about the New 52 or Marvel.NOW events? Tell me about it in the comments!


Until next time,


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