Growing up on a steady diet of comic books, with a strong showing from the Legion of Super-Heroes, I’ve never had a problem with retcon, time-travel or story-telling shenanigans.  My favorite movie in the ‘Men In Black’ franchise is MiB3, wherein we find that, due to time-travel, K has been secretly protecting J all his life, after the death of J’s father in the past.  It’s a really strong premise, pulled together by the wild alien technologies and impossible premises of the series, and works to add depth to the main leads’ relationship.  Many of my friends cite the altered reality created by the time-traveling Nero as the reason that they are able to accept J.J. Abrams revamped Star Trek universe, since it’s not a reboot, but in fact an altered timeline from the Star Trek of old that doesn’t invalidate the original.  We live in the age of the “shocking twist”, so finding that Nick Fury was always an amoral jerk or that Reed Richards intentionally created the Fantastic Four or that Bucky survived his seeming death in the 40s has become commonplace, which leads us to today’s “Everything you know is WRONG!” query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) also finds the involvement of the Deep Space 9 crew in the past during ‘Trials And Tribbleations’ to be a strong contender, asking: What retcon (changed premise, altered back story or retroactive continuity) has been the most successful in your favorite pop culture?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. “Trials and Tribble-ations” is a great one.

    I think the DCAU in general counts. It was both reasonably faithful to the DCU while also going in it’s own direction, and to me it is just as valid a setting as the DCU proper that exists on the comic page.

    Speaking of DCAU, I really loved the retcon in an episode of JLU that showed that Terry McGinnis was always intended to become Batman. I know a lot of people hated it, but it worked for me.

    While it has been since proven non-canon thanks to the Mirror Universe two-parter in “Star Trek: Enterprise”, I really enjoyed the explanation for why the Mirror Universe was the way it was in the Trek novels that were co-written by William Shatner. In the novels, it was the events of “Star Trek: First Contact” that created the splintered off timeline that we call the Mirror Universe, with the fear of the Borg one day returning causing the people to become more aggressive and warlike as they gradually went from protecting themselves to becoming conquerors and torturers.

    And I also liked the big altered history dealie in the last couple seasons of the TV series “Eureka” after they went back in time to I think the 1940’s, then came back to find a different version of the present. The fact that it was never resolved or changed back made it that much more interesting as the characters adapted to the new timeline instead of attempting to change it back.

  2. Malone_hasco on

    Its hard to say, there have been very few I’ve liked better than original idea. I would have to go with New 52, because it increased my DC comics consumption by several books per month. I cant tell, it might have happened anyway, but lets pretend that was the reason.

  3. The Parallax.. retcon? Does it count as a retcon thingie? The basic idea the Green Lantern Rebirth brought up, that – while redeeming Hal Jordan more than Final Night ever did(something I’m a little meh about, since that led to the return of Hal Jordan, kicking a certain Rayner off to the side) – it also paved the way for the mulit-spectrum corps which is to me, one of the coolest things about the DC Universe ever. Sheer power based off of one particular emotion is.. well, a fantastic idea, although the… quality of stories told revolving around these rings has varied muchly, with a tendency towards “Not all that great”.
    I still love that the concept’s out there, and that, like Supergirl for a little while there, every DC hero has a chance to be chosen.
    I think the best use of a Lantern ring in a story where you wouldn’t expect to see a ring was Swamp Thing’s Future’s End tie-in – that was beautiful and heartbreaking I’m rambling off into a tangent here.
    Green Lantern Rebirth make more spectrum corps. Me happy.

  4. Swamp Thing Vol 2 #21- Alan Moore’s spin on the character, changing him from a “muck-encrusted mockery of a man” to a plant elemental.

  5. “Return Of The Wolf Man” by Jeff Rovin.
    This book not only successfully captured the feel of the classic Universal films, while cleverly bringing the Big 3 (Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man) into present day (well, 1998 anyway), but it managed to retroactively explain a LOT of continuity gaffs from the classic films brilliantly.
    – How did Lawrence Talbot become the Wolf Man again after being cured in House of Dracula?
    – Why was the Wolf Man hunting Dracula and the Monster in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein?
    – What happened after Dracula and the Wolf Man fell into the ocean at the end of A&CMF? You know that wouldn’t kill either of them, right?
    – What happened to McDougal after he was attacked by the Wolf Man in A&CMF?

    As a huge fan of all those classic Universal movies, I absolutely love this book. I definitely consider it an official sequel, and would love to see Universal do something with this…maybe a CGI/animated film or something.
    (The sequels are pretty crappy, though. They were by a different author, and are to be avoided at all cost.)

  6. Chris Godbey on

    The first one that came to mind was the retcon that Captain America was frozen near the end of WWII, and that Bucky was KIA (which recieved a retcon of its own that was almost as good).

    Sets up a lot of Cap’s characterization, and it becomes an important part of his character. And not to mention being a very clever bit of creativity on Stan & Jack’s part.

  7. Darren Appel on

    The Mordru-verse from Legion of Super-Heroes v4 #5.
    In the previous issue we found that Mon-El had been created as an escape vessel to allow the Time Trapper to survive his battle with the Infinite Man, after the Legion conspiracy squad brought Jaxon Rogarth to the end of time to kill Time Trapper for slaying Superboy.
    Mon-El chose to end the Time Trapper, even though it would mean there was no balancing force against Mordru, the sorceror supreme of the 30th Century, and therefore Mordru might end up controlling the universe.
    Issue 5 starts with us bang-smack in the middle of a Universe where Mordru ruled S U P R E M E over the 30th century, in an age of magic where science was all but forgotten. Despite the odds, the basic heroism of many Legionnaires shone through, even though their had never been a LoSH, many of their number fought against Mordru’s reign as a resistance. Against impossible odds they restored the old timeline, albeit with a few editorially mandated changes [No superman family in the Legion-verse].

    A close second is the last season of Fringe, set in a dystopian future where S P O I L E R S ….. the observers have taken over the planet and are draining it of it’s resources.

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