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Wednesday, June 11, 2014 

Ten nonsensical retcons

What Culture brought up ten examples of inexplicable retcons both major publishers coughed out over the years. At the beginning, however, they say:
Sometimes retcons can work out well by adding to the characters mythology and open up a vast amount of potential for new stories, such as Geoff Johns’ work in Green Lantern: Rebirth which created a deeper history of the Green Lantern Corps in a story that spanned nine years.
Deeper, my foot. Surely the worst thing about Rebirth was how it referenced Identity Crisis and tied it in with the proceedings. And what followed was no better. Johns went out of his way to present Hal Jordan as a guy bitter over the death of his father, not getting over it even at such an adult age. It was preposterous. And let's not forget those gross Red Lanterns!

Another part of this blurs differences between two stories featuring the World's Finest duo:
Anyone who knows comics knows the 1990’s was a dark time for the industry as it was faced with low sales, poor storytelling and crossover after crossover. Batman’s Knightfall saga and Superman’s Death and Return stand-out among the 90’s fiascoes, but its Spider-Man’s Clone Saga which is the most prime example of the industry’s stagnation during this decade.
Well they're right that Knightfall was one of the better crossovers, and certainly did feature an auspicuous debut for Bane. And they're also right that the Clone Saga was one of the most bottom of the barrel retcons of those times. But Superman's Death and Return? It may not have been as bad as the Clone Saga, but it was still a farce, meant for nothing more than sales spiking, as the DC editors sought to exploit naive speculators who really believed they'd give up on a famous figure so easily. The death part was definitely uncalled for, and so too was glossing over that embarrassing moment in history. They do something similar when they bring up the New 52:
Not to say that The New 52 doesn’t have some silver linings; for one, it did streamline a lot of DC’s convoluted history which made it much more accessible for new or casual readers; with the exception of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated or Geoff John’s Green Lantern, readers didn’t have to read up on several years worth of stories to understand the characters’ backstory. Because of this it reinvigorated DC and its stable of superheroes by attracting a slew of new readers and has largely been quite successful, but nonetheless remains quite controversial.
Have they not taken a look at sales? It should be clear based on those that this reboot wasn't successful over the long run. And seriously, in an age when trade paperbacks of key moments in history should be easy enough to print up, why must it take reading several years worth of past stories to understand their backgrounds? You certainly don't have to do so much with Superman to know he's the last son of Krypton, grew up in Smallville before moving to Metropolis and fell in love with Lois Lane. And why are these company wide crossovers needed to justify retcons? Back when Marvel's staff had more sanity, they usually just did them individually, series-by-series. Now, even Marvel's succumbed to that kind of thinking, and above all that, resorts to crossovers just for short-term sales.

But at least they do tell something impressive about the reception Joe Quesada got after he forced One More Day down the audience's collective throats:
Marvel’s decision angered many fans and creators alike, nearly forcing writer J. Michael Straczynski to take his name off the final two issues because he didn’t agree with Marvel’s editorial mandate. Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada had long been outspoken about his dislike of Spider-Man’s marriage, feeling it aged him too much and made him less relatable for most Spider-Man readers. Reaction to ‘One More Day’ was so bad, in fact, that Quesada was booed off-stage at several comic-cons following the story’s conclusion and still faces that amount of treatment today.
Yeah, I think I remember at least one instance from the past 6 years where Quesada was condemned for his vulgar, selfish little retcons, and has largely avoided convention attendance since. Even Stan Lee and Gerry Conway never received that much negative reaction over the death of Gwen Stacy. Unfortunately, this meant diddly squat to the higher echelons at Marvel Entertainment, who promoted him to a higher job after Disney bought the company, and never cared to restructure it for the better. Today, Quesada's still there, keeping on with his loony persona, in jobs he's unsuited for, probably laughing out of the other side of his face for all the hurt he caused many decent people over peanuts. If he doesn't like marriages, he shouldn't even have bothered to go into the comics business, nor should he have been associated with the Fantastic Four, where Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman are the most notable married couple besides Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.

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Hey, I'm the author of the WhatCulture article, Richard Church. First I just want to say thanks for reading my article and referencing it on your blog!

Secondly, I just wanted to comment as well on your own thoughts. First, I believe you misinterpreted what I meant about the death and return of Superman. I wasn't using that arc, or Knightfall either for that matter (though it is the better story of the two) as an example of a good 90's story, but as one of the prime examples of poor comic storytelling during that time. Clone Saga definitely takes the top spot, but Death and Return comes close. I think this mix-up might be a bit more on my end though as I wasn't quite clear in my wording as I meant they stood out among the 90's bad fiascoes so I apologize for the mix-up.

On the subject of Hal Jordan, while I will admit some of the character work can be a bit repetitive within his Green Lantern story, the mythology he added to it was fairly good, even going so far as to explain, or really retcon, the reason Green Lanterns couldn't affect the colour yellow, something that was always a silly idea.

As to your comment about Hal's trauma over his father's death, remember that he did witness his father die in a fiery jet crash when he was 9 or 10. That's a pretty traumatic experience for anyone to go through so I totally buy Hal still being affected by his father's death years later. After all, if Batman can still be affected by his parent's deaths, surely Hal Jordan could be?

As for the New 52, while sales aren't as good as its inception, the sales are still quite good. Granted, DC has cancelled several of its lowest selling titles, but overall the New 52 has continued to be fair success. While I do also agree that new readers can simply pick up an old trade to catch up on a heroes backstory or origins, I think the problem more on DC's end is which origin to choose from as many of the popular heroes, such as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and especially Batman and Superman, have several different origins that contradict each other to varying degrees. It was easier for them to start fresh for all new readers jumping into comics rather than having to learn about years worth of history as most readers would have to do with comics like X-Men or Spider-Man.

Well, I think that's about it, sorry for taking up so much space! Thanks again for reading the article and feel free to comment again if you want to continue the conversation!

My #1: Bucky.

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