The Best Comic Book Retcons of All Time, According to Twitter
Retcons, when done well, can make something better than what it was.
Comics’ continuity is a funny thing; some characters get changed with every appearance while others have supposedly maintained the same continuity from the start. But a recent Twitter thread has gotten into changes and retcons that improved the character’s backstory.
For anyone who doesn’t know, a “retcon”—derived from the words “retroactive continuity”—is considered a sudden change to established lore, usually one that directly contradicts previous established character, backstory, and/or worldbuilding, retroactively changing continuity. While retcons are often seen as “lazy writing” by fans, some changes are so good that they become accepted as the true canon.
Many of the retcons people actually like involve elements introduced in later comics that eventually became synonymous with a character. A prime example of this is Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s Butler. He is a vital character in practically every version of Batman lore, to the point it is almost impossible to find a piece of Batman media that doesn’t have Alfred as a supporting character. But Alfred was originally introduced in 1944, five years after the first Batman comic and four years after Robin (Dick Grayson) was introduced. That’s right! Robin has been in the comics longer than Alfred.
Other retcons were the result of adaptation, either changed in another medium or brought into the comics after debuting in a non-comics story. An example of this is a lot of the characters from Batman: The Animated Series like Mr. Freeze or Harley Quinn, who were either invented for the show or had their stories completely revamped.
Heck, the change to Hooded Justice in HBO’s Watchmen (2019) is literally what drives the plot, along with recontextualizing the first costumed vigilante in the Watchmen universe.
Even Manga/Anime and fantasy fans have gotten in on the trend.
My personal favorite is that Kate Kane (Batwoman) was originally introduced as a love interest for Batman over accusations by the comics code that Batman and Robin were gay and in a relationship. Kate Kane was later retconned to be Bruce’s Jewish lesbian cousin. Now that’s irony.
All of these go to show that, in a media landscape that is dominated by shared universes (Marvel, Star Wars, etc.), going against canon isn’t a bad thing. Heck, Star Wars’ Darksaber was changed from having been a weapon stolen from Jedi by Mandalorians to the weapon of the first (and possibly only) Mandalorian Jedi.
The point is that “canon” should not be the end all, be all of fiction. It can help keep things consistent, sure, but sometimes, change is for the better.
What’s your favorite comic “retcon”? Comment below!
(featured image: Fox Kids)
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