In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
How do you feel about retcons in comics?
Excuse me while I get on my soapbox. I feel that the collective comic book industry and fandom should stop fighting the cyclical nature of comic book stories and embrace the retcon. If comics were about maintaining realism within the confines of their fantasy Peter Parker would be sixty-seven years old this year. But it taking fifty years for him to age fifteen isn’t really an issue, it’s that he’s had fifty years worth of stories and that’s too much to fit into fifteen years (and it’s closer to ten anyway). It’s too much to move forward with. Comic book continuity only goes so far, then someone gets to hit the retcon button. Sometimes it’s logical, sometimes it’s absurd, sometimes it’s welcome, sometimes it feels like a personal attack, but it always comes around again.
I would like to freeze origin stories and let everything else be a free for all. Why does there have to be a prime universe? Set limits on series instead of characters and let the creators tell the stories they want to tell: borrowing this, ignoring that, exploring the other, exploding the new. And then after that series is done, another team gets a shot to tell a whole other story. Or not! I don’t want to do away with continuations or crossovers entirely. I want to do away with whining and arguing about whether or not a retcon was “worth it” or “necessary” or “a power trip”. I want to dismantle the hierarchy of what “counts” and what’s “real”. I want there to be a comic I can hand a new reader every month.
It would take a lot of bravery to implement my plan. And a lot of trust. It’s a near impossible task. But these are stories about superheroes and things are only impossible until they’re not.
It’s all pretend.
I say this at the risk of being extremely obvious. But. Whenever you (and my “you” includes “I,” because I do this, too) find yourself getting upset that the stories you read didn’t happen, it’s worth remembering.
It’s all pretend.
So, for me, the question of whether you like a retcon is the same as the question of whether you would have liked a story if it had been told that way in the first place. The retcon process is neutral (and in fact I often prefer an ingenious retcon to a carefully planned story). If anything, I wish comic books didn’t spend so much time on it and just basically announced, “Yes, we did it that way before. Now we’re doing it this way.”
Just ask Holly Robinson.
I am a mixed and hypocritical fan of retcons. To wit, I like the retcons that remember the things I agree with while forgetting or revising the things I dislike. And I scowl at retcons that accomplish the reverse.
I am a big fan of reboots, re-envisionings, and Alternate Universe takes on things, though. I really enjoyed Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. I liked many of DC’s Elseworlds. I like the baldfaced chutzpah with which X-Men comics have forty-kajillion future-alternate-possible-AUs. If establish continuity comics want to end everything and start all over every few years, I’m along for the ride.
Nothing anyone can publish in the future can take away the stories I love. And what’s new might be another thing I enjoy. So why not? Bring me your rebooted retcon re-imagining and let’s see what happens.
So what about you? How do you feel about retcons in comics?