The Comics 8 Ball 10.15.13: 8 Best & Worst Comic Book Retcons
Posted by Anthony Kennedy on 10.15.2013
From Green Lantern to Phoenix, Spider-Man to Jason Todd and X-Men Deadly Genesis and a few others, 411's Anthony Kennedy ranks the 8 Best & Worst Comic Book Retcons!
Welcome back to the Comics 8 Ball! I'm your dedicated columnist Anthony Kennedy here again to talk comics. I want to thank everyone who helped break me in here as the newest 411Mania writer by taking the time to read and comment on last week's list. Today I want to keep it going and delve into a subject that will ignite visceral hatred from comic book readers, the retcon.
But first….READER FEEDBACK
Last week's Comic 8 Ball yielded some spirited conversation on the listed Hook Ups I suggested as well as readers offering a few of their own:
Not Da Mountie: Jubilee and Kitty were like 14 when they went through their respective "unofficial Wolverine sidekick" phases. He was obviously a paternal figure to them, kind of like the relationship he had with Rogue in the X-Men films. It's pretty gross to think of him in a romantic relationship with them.
I have to disagree. Both have aged over time, in fact Kitty's now Head Mistress of her own school. And even in their late teen-aged years, comics have shown they are not afraid to show girls of their age in adult relationships.
gooched: "Batman and Wonder Woman works for the reason that Superman and Woman Woman cannot be, as a couple they are imperfect, Bruce represents everything that Diana and her people would abhor about men and to see it's all a facade and Bruce is in fact one of the greatest human beings alive is the perfect story that brings out both the character strengths in both Bruce and Diana in terms of vulnerability. With Supes and Diana, they are both super powered anyway, so any form of strength is seen as alienating and any form of vulnerability is seen as uncharacteristic. That's why Paul Dini gets what others dont when he made Wonder Woman and Batman hook up in his animated universe."
Couldn't have said it any better. Dini built a great chemistry that paralleled the portrayal of Lois and Clark's relationship in the show. I'm glad there was an appreciation for wanting to see this pairing play out in comics.
CyberVenom: Interesting topic and picks! Here's mine in no particular order:
10. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy
9. Magneto and Rogue
8. Nightwing and Starfire
7. Dr. Doom and Morgan Le Fay
6. Wolverine and Jean Grey
5. Emma Frost and Manor
4. Jubilee and Robin (even if it was cheesy)
3. Peter Parker and Betty Brant
2. Tony Stark and Janet Van Dyne
1. Clark Kent and Lana Lang
Have to give you credit on Harley and Ivy, totally slipped my mind. Would disagree with Clark and Lana. The Smallville overreliance on this pairing left a sour taste in mouth about EVER wanting to see them as a comics couple. EVER!
Thanks to everyone who left a comment. I appreciate the feedback and look forward to reading what you have to say about this week's topic. And with that, heeeeeeeere we go...
8 Best & Worst Comic Book Retcons
The retcon. Nothing inspires more spirited debate among comic fans than when a writer or publisher decides to retroactively readjust the pre-established continuity of a character or story, because, for the most part, a new storyline requires it. We all have our favorites that we loathe with a passion or truly worship with admiration. All in all, a retcon can fail miserably and offer a finger to its readers all because one day the creative team decided "on second thought, maybe not!" This column is dedicated to eight of the best and worst retcons that will live in infamy with comic fans.
#8: Joe Chill: Bat Parent's Killer
The Way it Was:At some point, the powers that be at DC Comics decided to put a name and face to the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents, Joe Chill. He was a petty mugger that tried to get the biggest score of his life by robbing Gotham's first family. Unbeknownst to him, he inadvertently created the Batman and ultimately paid for this transgression when he was promptly killed by his henchmen when informing them of this fact. He somehow turned up again in the Batman Year Two storyline where he partnered with Bats to take down the Reaper.
What They Fixed: Parallax (more on him later) decided to rewrite time by recreating the universe itself in the Zero Hour event. Basically an excuse to deal with any origins DC skipped over in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the best thing that came out of that was once again, the killer of Batman's parents was never caught or identified.
The Reaction: The fact that the killer was anonymous again made him a more powerful symbol to Batman's crusade to end crime in Gotham. Putting a name and face to the Wayne's killer lessoned the torture that Bruce Wayne felt at the death of his parents as he had a name and face to his pain. Removing that, I always felt, made this act less special, and made Batman's self-torture a bit less valid. Why would he dedicate himself so fully to exacting revenge on a guy that the police knew of and could handle just fine on their own?
#7 X-Men Deadly Genesis
The way it was: The classic Giant Size X-Men #1 story had the original X-Men abducted by the living island Krakoa with only Cyclops being able to escape to regroup and seek help. Professor X would go on to recruit a new class of X-Men that included Storm, Colossus, Nightcralwer, and Wolverine among others and, along with Cyclpos, rescue the original X-Men team. The rest as they say is history. What They Fixed: So we thought. In Ed Brubaker's Deadly Genesis, we learn the truth that the international X-Men had been Professor X's second attempt to rescue the original X-Men. The first attempt to retrieve the missing X-Men was conducted with a team of young mutants --Vulcan, Sway, Darwin and Petra. The rescue ended with all of them being slaughtered except Vulcan, who survived by absorbing the energies of his dead teammates. When Polaris blasted Krakoa into outer space in Giant Size X-Men #1, we find out that Vulcan was shot into space, as well, but survived in a comatose state, thanks to Darwin's reactive powers. After the debacle, Cyclops—who was aware of the "first" wave—was deeply distraught, prompting Xavier to mind-wipe him.
The Reaction: Not very good. Some fans decried this unnecessary retelling of the X-Men's second class. Not only did it underwhelmingly tie up the long dangling plotline of the third Summers brother, but created a horrible representation of Professor X as someone willing to coldly sacrifice young mutants and eliminate their existence from those affected, something totally out of character for him.
#6: Xorn x Magneto Debacle
The way it was: Ah, Grant Morrison's New X-Men. Is there a more divisive comic run than his time as X-Men scribe. Many lament his boldness to break from the norms and introduce some (much needed?) changes to the X-mythology including secondary mutations, Mutants as the dominant species, and the introduction of Xorn, a Chinese mutant with a star for a head, who spent years imprisoned, and became a teacher for some of the more troubled students at the Xavier Institute. Xorn was eventually revealed to be Magneto in disguise, and died in battle, along with Jean Grey.
What They fixed: Obviously, Magneto was too high profile to kill off for real — so a retcon was needed to establish that Xorn was NOT Magneto. Instead, Xorn was a real person under the influence of Sublime. And because Xorn became so popular, they they just had to introduce another Xorn, his twin.
The Reaction: Utter disdain and confusion. Depending on the day of the week, people are willing to accept it was Xorn or Magneto as Xorn or Xorn's brother. Of all the options that must have been on the table, they chose the worst possible one. If you're going to give Grant Morrison the strings to X-Men, be prepared to live with his decisions.
#5 One More Day
The Way it Was: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson were married in 1987. They remained married throughout the next twenty years. Over that time, certain characters close to Peter discovered his identity, and more importantly, during Marvel's 2007 event Civil War, we saw the integration of the Superhero Registration Act, forcing secret identities to be revealed, Spider-Man unmasked to the entire world, sparking one of the most exciting and important moments in comics that year.
What they Fixed: Everything? Marvel E-I-C Joe Quesada made it his mission to end Peter and MJ's marriage, as well as his public unmasking. And of course, how could they do it, let's shoot Aunt May and force Peter and MJ to literally make a deal with the devil, Mephisto, to save her at the cost of their "love" presents Peter with a deal in the story arc "One More Day" – offering to make sure Aunt May lives in exchange for…Peter and Mary Jane's marriage? Yes, Mephisto's only desire was apparently for their love. Not Peter's soul. Not MJ's soul. Their love.
The Reaction: Has there been a storyline more hated by the masses? They essentially erased twenty years of Peter and MJ continuity for the sake of returning the Peter Parker to what the publisher felt worked best, nevermind what sales and feedback suggesting otherwise. Devolving the character did nothing to renew interest in the character and has left fans with little reason to get invested in him again. And why should they? The very real possibility of it being retconned out of continuity again exists for them.
The Way it Was: Jason Todd. The second and least liked Robin had been dead for nearly 20 years after being beat to death by the Joker in A Death in the Family story arc. The people literally voted to keep him dead, as there was 900 number where fans could vote to save him or let him. His death would have long lasting ramification on Batman and the Bat family as he would be tortured at his failure of losing his sidekick.
What they Fixed: After testing the waters with Clayface masquerading as Jason Todd during the 12-issue Jeph Loeb-Jim Lee Hush storyline, DC brought him back into continuity in one of the wackest ways possible. Superboy Prime threw an epic tantrum and punched a hole through reality so hard that he revived the multiverse, and retconed Jason Todd resurrection into existence, only months after his death. Story goes that he clawed out of his own grave, was discovered by Talia al Ghul and placed in her father's Lazarus Pit, and had been alive in the 15 years since his believed death. Thus coining the term, ‘the retcon punch.'
The Reaction: This really had good potential; unfortunately Judd Winick canceled the memory of Jason as Batman's biggest failure and instead gave him a ludicrous return origin. While Winick's Under the Hood storyline and his run as the Batplacement were good, his character has since fallen by the wayside. Is any comic reader checking for the character? Yes, DC has done nothing of importance with this character, especially considering that he was more effective to the Batman mythos dead than he is alive.
#3 Hal Jordan's was Possessed by Parallax
Green Lantern Books
The Way it Was: Hal Jordan was dead and disgraced as he couldn't cope with the loss of Coast City after it's destruction by the Cyborg Superman during the Reign of Superman storyline. Driven mad with grief, he convinced himself that with more power he could bring his city back to life, and slaughters his way through the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians of the Universe, and absorbing a huge amount of power, becoming the villain Parallax. I personally loved this storyline and thought it was an excellent way to shake up the status quo and transition to a new character taking up the mantle of Green Lantern.
What they Fixed: How do you redeem a fallen hero turned mass murderer: it was mind control, of course! The heroic Hal Jordan didn't break under the grief of the deaths of 7 million people that he'd sworn to protect, no no, but rather he was under the influence of a yellow space bug called Parallax, which was the personification of fear. This way, Hal Jordan could return unblemished, because *HE* never did anything wrong.
The Reaction: Of ourse, Geoff Johns could sell this to the comic fandom. Hal, unfortunately, was re-installed as GL, Sinestro was back, and they managed to add to the Lantern mythology by creating new Lantern power sources based on fear, rage, and hope, and gave us the awesome Sinestro Corp War.
#2: Jean Grey Alive the Phoenix Cocoon
Avengers #274, Fantastic Four #286, and X-Factor #1
The Way it Was: This one is the great Grandaddy of retcons. Jean Grey took her own life after losing control of the awesome power of the Phoenix Force, and accidentally devouring an inhabited planet. Cyclops was bummed, left the team and figured out the best way to get over his dead ex-girlfriend was to hook up with a clone of her, have a baby, and move to Alaska to live happily ever after.
What they Fixed: A few years later, Marvel wanted to cash in on the successful X-brand by spinning off another title, this time starring the original X-Men class in X-Factor. But they would require the return Jean Grey. So they decided that she was never Phoenix, instead the Phoenix Force created a cocoon of her, and the real Jean Grey was kept in stasis, deep beneath the ocean. Problem solved.
The Reaction: This went off pretty much without a hitch or any complaints. Considering the circumstances and the introduction of the Phoenix force itself, altering it to have been a separate entity didn't really piss many fans off. The more egregious offense of this retcon was having stand up X-Men field leader Scott Summers leave his wife and child to reconnect with his previously thought dead lover. I still have a problem with that and no amount of Mr. Sinister mind tampering will make me ok with that. Jean Grey's return did bring about a great X-Factor and for that it, no one should have fault with it.
#1: Bucky's Alive
The Way it Was: Bucky was Captain America's World War II teenaged sidekick as who fought to stop the Nazis. As the pair attempted to disarm a bomb set aboard Baron Zemo's plane, Bucky died heroically when the plane exploded. Bucky' death would haunt Captain America for decades after and served as a reminder to his greatest failing.
What They Fixed: Leave it to Ed Brubaker's to come up with a awesome story to revive Bucky and create a dangerous new antagonist for Cap. We find out that a Russian submarine came across Bucky's frozen body in the sea. Suffering from amnesia, Bucky is reprogrammed by the Soviets as an assassin using the codename Winter Soldier, given a bionic arm, giving him superhuman strength and EMP-like powers, and is put back into "storage" when not active. After a confrontation with Captain America, Bucky recovers his memories and eventually becomes a force for good, and even took up the mantle of Captain America, following the death of Steve Rogers at the conclusion of Civil War. The Reaction: To comic fans, there were two untouchable character deaths: Uncle Ben and Bucky. Not only did Brubaker bring a long, untouchable dead character back, but did so in a manner that it was universally loved. Is there any better example of a one note, previously joke sidekick character turned into a badass Avenger with a lengthy staying power?
Well that's my list. Agree, disagree, did I miss a couple that should have made this list? Let me know! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a great week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! I'm done.