Comics the Re-written History

A hand reaches out for you to grasp, it seems oddly familiar but also very strange. Grabbing for the hand it slowly becomes an opaque white and loses all tangible form, reaching through the ghostly limb it becomes lost in a forgotten time stream never to be reclaimed. Staring up to the sky to scream a big rubber pencil eraser descends, horrified you try and avoid the it but find yourself becoming opaque just like the hand you had reached for. Being forgotten, lost, drifting through a dimension of lost time only to be read about in back issues collecting dust in a comic books store’s long boxes.

Retcons happen almost annually in the world of comic books, choosing to change and edit continuity in whatever way the storyteller sees fit. Characters wiped from existence only to spring up 10 years later as if they had never been written out in the first place.

One of the funniest, yet, truthful moments I have read in comic books was in “Ex Machina,” when in an issue a young Mitchell Hundred and his buddy are in a comic book store. His buddy is telling him about how Superman has all these robots.

Mitchell turns to the man and says, “Why would Superman need robots?”

The friend replies, “I don’t know. Maybe so that he can be some places as Superman and Clark Kent at the same time.”

Later on in the story time is fast forwarded to Mitchell and his friend in their ‘20s standing in that same comic book shop and the friend or maybe it was Mitchell says, “What happened to Superman’s robots?”

The owner of the store, Leto says, “They were retconed.”

The person who posed the question responds, “Retconed?”

Leto replies, “Yeah, retconed they were written out of history.”

Finally the moment of truth comes when the person says, “How can you just re-write history.”

Well basically that poses a very interesting question in comic books. How can you re-write history? Well the answer is pretty simple; you just boot up your computer and write it that way.

I am not saying that I approve of every retcon that takes place in comic books, but I do understand them as a useful literary device. Some people would probably be up in arms about this, but without them how can Superman, Batman, Spider-man and all of the X-men remain in there late ‘20s early ‘30s. To be honest with you they can’t, nobody wants to read a comic book story about some octogenarian running around fighting crime.

Sure Superman could probably get away with it, but if comics flowed in real time then Batman and Spiderman’s popularity would probably be way, way down.

Retcons are always happening in comics it is unavoidable, but, sometimes they happen without any explanation. For example, a character like Hawkman in the DCU has had the most convoluted history. His origins where a constant flip-flop in comics, sort of just changing with whatever writer was writing his comic at the time, of course now his actual origin is known.

Retcons can be extremely un-popular, one that was super un-popular was the Spider-man “One More Day/Brand New Day,” retcon written by J. Michael Stracynski, where Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane was written away to never exist. This is probably the most un-popular one that comes to mind, and was literally the fans versus the editor-in-chief. Fans love Mary Jane and they love Peter Parker and it took something like 30 years for the fans to finally see them get married. Well editor-in-chief Joe Quesada apparently didn’t like the idea of marriage and had the whole thing scrapped despite whatever the fans liked.

Retcons aren’t always so bad, in fact, they help creators bring back those characters they were dying to write but couldn’t due to the fact the characters were out of continuity. Take for example what I like to call the evil sidekick syndrome, there seems to be a trend lately where authors like to revive old heroes sidekicks and turn them evil, at least for a little bit. It started with Jason Todd, the second Robin, who was originally killed by the Joker. The Joker beat the kid to death and that was that; the character was gone end of story. Well years later, like maybe 15, Jason Todd is revived and is now a Batman villain.

The same thing that happened to Batman with Jason Todd’s revival happened to Captain America. Bucky Barnes was Captain America’s sidekick in World War II, Bucky died; he was dead end of story. Years later someone writing Captain America got the idea to bring the character back so they re-wrote him as a brain washed Soviet villain called Winter Soldier. Bucky was bad for a while but he eventually turned back to the side of the good guys and replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America.

Things like this are always happening in comics, and every time it happens there is going to be a cry of protest from the fans. But retcons are important; they are what keep comics interesting and un-predictable. Nobody is ever dead in a comic book because years later it could be revealed that the person who died in the comic is a robot, was trapped in time or was just taking a vacation.

Here is a link to an interesting article about the top 15 worst retcons in comics, simply click here

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2 Comments

  1. and thats what I hate about comics, nothing is definite. I get the sense everything is fake. I liked it when Cap died. Now he’s a Skrull. I liked it that Xavier was killed, now he’s back.Ahhh

    That is why I don’t read Marvel or DC comics anymore

  2. Agreed. I usually steer clear of reading any of that stuff until it is all collected. I mean I know vaguely what is going on just from the net but yeah. It gets real confusing but you had to figure Cap was a Skrull after Secret Invasion. SI is really just a cheap cop out for Marvel creators to bring back whatever character they want without the trouble of writing a complicated back story.


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