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Do i, in fact, hate retcons?

It has been suggested that the events depicted in Illuminati #3, in which the Beyonder's origin is seemingly retconned and it is strongly implied that Secret Wars II never occurred, would have thrown me into a whirlwind of outrage if it were done by a writer and editor that have not already earned my trust. Leaving unexplored the question of "Is it hypocritical to like something if it is done by a good creative team but not like the same basic idea when it is done poorly?", i just want to challenge the notion that i have some inherent problem with retcons.

I don't. There are some retcons that i like a lot, some that i loathe, and some that i am fairly neutral towards. If a retcon adds something interesting to the marvel universe as a whole, i am happy with it. The best example of that is Kurt Busiek's Avengers Forever, which basically goes through Marvel's history and "cleans up" a number of Kang stories, most of which were very bad.

The ones i hate are the ones that are not only bad stories in their own right, but also invalidate a good story in the process. Example: The Terminus Factor. While Dave Campbell will tell you exactly why that story was so bad, what he doesn't tell you is that in addition to being terrible, that story also makes it very clear that what you thought was happening in the original Terminus stories was not the case at all, turning a very cool character into something pretty generic and lame.

Another crappy retcon was the recent change to make Xorn an entity separate from Magneto, invalidating Grant Morrison's interesting take on Magneto's character and motivations. It was a bad story that led to much confusion.

The key here, however, is that these are bad stories invalidating good stories. Secret Wars II, on the other hand, was a terrible story. What Tom Defalco vindictively did to the origin of the Beyonder after he got control of the company when Jim Shooter was fired was even worse. Those stories could use some enhancement or a new way of interpreting them.

Like the Xorn retcon, though, these "new developments" on the Secret Wars II front could lead to more questions than Marvel intends. While Secret Wars II was a bad story, there were a number of important things that came out of it, especially in a lot of the tie-in books. If we are now saying that Secret Wars II only happened as a simulation on a far off moon, then how did the things that happened as a result of Secret Wars II actually happen, and what was going on in the 'real' MU when we were actually being shown scenes from the simulation? If Marvel decides they need to follow through with this, they've got a lot of 'splainin to do.

However, here i think they are deliberately drawing on the Marvel legacy of the ambiguous retcon. The best example of this is Fantastic Four #350, in which Doom states that he typically is traveling off-world and most of the time you see Doom it's really a Doombot. The genius of that is that it's totally not definitive. You don't have to take Doom's word for it if you don't like the idea and if you do, you basically get to pick which Doom appearances were "real" and which weren't.

I think the same philosophy can be applied here (and i think this was done deliberately). Professor X gets his information regarding the Beyonder based on some suspicious mind-flashes, and Black Bolt is unable to confirm the details. Therefore the origin retcon is not definite. Furthermore, the scene on the moon is also ambiguous. This is a guy with reality-warping powers; he can do essentially anything he wants, so what we are seeing isn't necessarily what is implied here. So basically, if you hate Secret Wars II so much that you want it stricken from the continuity, here's your starting point (you still have a lot of work to do). If not, then the Beyonder has gone through his Secret Wars II experience, traveled back in time, and is now running through it again at his leisure in order to make some sense of it.

The larger point that the story is trying to make about these particular characters is a good one as well and overall it was an interesting read, so i liked it.

Also this week i got Daredevil, which was also quite good. Neither me nor min can guess who the mystery mastermind villain might be, though.

By fnord12 | June 4, 2007, 9:57 AM | Comics


Well, whoever challenged you on this particular issue, I'm sure he felt it was this retcon (if interpreted in a certain way) would be unloved, not retcon's in general. 'Wiping out' all of SWII would be a bad retcon, despite the crappiness of the original story, especially if the retcon didn't explain how the tangential bits have happened.

And Bob didn't come to the same conclusions as either of us, so it's not as obvious as was thought.

Plus, retcons should be a last resort kind of thing. Any bad plot points should be mined for gold by a good writer, not mentioned (but not ignored), and only retconned out if it serves a better story (and any inconsistencies be explained). Retconning out a story simply because it doesn't fit the story a particular writer's whims no matter who he or she is, is bad writing/editing.

And I'm not saying what exactly is happening in this case. I'm willing to ride out the mini as it is, as you mention, generally well-written.

It was David Schulman. He called me because he knows how i love all things Secret Wars.

I don't know that there should be rules placed on retcons saying it should only be last resort. If a writer has a good story idea that involves a retcon, i say go for it.

I want to hear Bob's conclusion.

And, yes, you hate everything.

wayne, you liked brubaker's winter soldier that brought bucky back and doesn't fit your "retcon" criteria, so what the hell are you going on about?

I didn't see that story as a retcon. I have 2 interpretations:

1) In an effort to stop the Beyonder, the Illuminati accidentally instigated Secret Wars 2. The reason you see scenes from the real Secret Wars II in the fake Manhattan was because the Beyonder was able to control reality so perfectly that his version of Manhattan and the Marvel characters acted exactly like the real Marvel characters.

No matter how you look at that story, it ended completely differently than Secret Wars II.

2) The Beyonder was messing with the Illuminati. He implanted the thoughts in Professor X's head (including the the whole Beyonder is a mutant Inhuman aspect) so that they would go to him, offerig him real interaction with humans.

Didn't the whole "Beyonder is a mutant Inhuman" thing read like the 80s and 90s trend to make everyone into a mutant (like Daredevil)?

I am creating a blog post more fully explaining my 'retcon' position and address all of your concerns. It'll be published next Tushday.