Like it or not retroactive continuity is a fact of the comic medium at this point. We, the comic reader, are used to have any element of a character's history or background changed on at a moment's notice.Yet it is not a fact that I am entirely o.k. with accepting.There is something about the retcon that has always stuck in me like thorn in the paw.
It is not that I have anything against radical changes in te character or storyline. You say you want to turn Superman blue and red? Go ahead.You say you want Tim Drake to becoming the dark and obsessed Red Robin? You got it.You want to kill Oliver Queen? I will be pissed but if it is decent storytelling I will grudgingly accept it. Change happens in stories.Tragedy, joy and complete life upheavals happen in our everyday lives so why not in the fictional journeys of extraordinary characters?As long as the build makes sense, well comic sense, and it leads somewhere then you could give Lian Harper laser eyes for all I care.
Yet, retroactive continuity flies in the face of the fundamentals of good storytelling.I will actually hedge that statement before I get into too much trouble.Lots of retroactive continuity flies in the face of the fundamentals of good storytelling. Ah, there is nothing like a good hedge.Some of it works for me.Oliver Queen having an illegitimate son that he never knew about?The character was a womanizer for a while so it makes sense. Jefferson Pierce, Black Lighting, having daughters is a whole different story.For almost three decades Pierce was a divorcee with no mention of one daughter, let alone two.However, you hit Outsiders #1 and you suddenly get Anissa “Thunder” Pierce going off to fight the good fight.Jump a few more years forward and now you have Jefferson with Jennifer, another daughter with powers.Oh, he is married as well. There is no explanation for why it happens. It just simply is.This leads into my two issues with the retcon. One, once you allow it, it steamrolls.We go from divorcee, to single father of one, to married family man all on the whim of writers. Too many steps from the original and you lose sight of the heart of the character. How can you rely on the facts, the core of a character, if those base facts are subject to change. What next? Have Bobby Ewing's death turn out to only be a dream? Wait a second...
More importantly, the retcon is a cheat.The writers do not want to work with the base that is given them so they ignore it.You do not like blue Superman or red Superman?Fine, his electromagnetic powers dispersed and he is back to normal.You do not like a crippled John Stewart?Fine, uber-powerful Hal Jordan cures him.These are changes that work within and are believable to the comic genre as we know it.To just ignore though, shows a lack of imagination.To ignore though, shows a lack of respect for what has come before.I was struck by something that came out of Newsarama’s coverage of Heroes Con this past weekend.
“In regards to the upcoming Starro appearances, Cunningham said that despite all of the appearances to date, the real Starro has never been seen…”