One of the most difficult issues about serial fiction is keeping track of all the details. At any given moment, any comment regardless of its importance becomes an official part of the story. Also, if you as an author ever say anything it is considered canon, even if you say it as a joke on Twitter. Maintaining narrative continuity is a sign of taking your work seriously while if you just do the nothing changes reset button approach it doesn’t allow for a real connection to the characters and story. So what happens when something is published but you inadvertantly contradict the information of a previous installment. Retcon ahoy!
Retcons are the short version of retroactive continuity wherein information is provided that directly alters or right out deletes past data. Retcons are used to fix plot holes or somehow add a new dimension to the story by changing the tone entirely. But that’s a symtom of Cerebus Syndrome, something to discuss in a future post. Back to retcons. The word gets thrown around a lot when new information is revealed in the story. Its fairly to assume that characters can lie or have secrets and the truth will be eventually revealed. This is a conflict in the plot that can be resolved later. If the characters suddenly reveal the mistery then it comes out as resolving an issue, even though retcon is often called out by the audience. Let me give you an example. This morning I was watching Young Justice, which is like a more serious version of Teen Titans and is just freaking awesome on all levels. One of the characters is Meg’ an aka Miss Martian, niece to John Jonz aka Martian Manhunter. Both are from Mars and have green skin though they can polymorph into just about any size and shape. Today’s episode revolved around Meg’ an and how she took the appearance she normally has. Long story short, martians are normally pretty scary but take a more humanoid form. Meg’an is actually white skinned and way freakier than usual. The average viewer will immediately claim retcon, since there’s no way that she is that way. In reality, it makes sense if you know more about the story and paid attention to details. First off, Miss Martian in other continuities is already stated to be a white skinned martian, which are rare and face some major racism, it’s not just being albino. Or is it? Not entirely sure how it works. Anyway, the show has said that Martian Manhunter has hundreds of nieces and nephews and had only been close to Meg’an for a few weeks before she comes to Earth. There is a mystery about this character from the get go and this episode revealed much about it. The show within a show from which she gets the catchphrase “*facepalm* Hello, Meghan” had alaready appeared in a flashback as well. So yeah it’s a cool reveal but not a retcon.
If you want a retcon, check out the previous video that has tons of them. Most devious of all is the “healing coma” in which Superman lies before returning to action. Now Superman has gotten his ass kicked by a lot of people, monsters, and overall craziness. Apocalypse has done a lot of damage. Lex Luthor has stabbed him with every type of kryptonite based weapon you can imagine. Zod and other evil kryptonians have particuarly brutal encounters. Superman barely survives a lot of things and the battle with Doomsday would have done just that. It would have been slightly more believable had the battle occurred at night, since Superman has solar regeneration as a stated superpower. Also, remember the part when Green Lantern goes crazy and starts killing everyone. he later becomes the evil Parallax and gives the Justice League a run for its money. He later repents and they retcon that Parallax was really an evil entity that possessed Hal Jordan and they later fight it. When they did the less than stellar Green Lantern movie, Parallax was stated from the beginning to be this evil thing.
More to come on retcons later.