Whether we’re talking Boom Tubes or retcons, there’s plenty of jargon in the world of comics. The PoP! Stars are here to ensure you’re not left scratching your head, saying “It’s All Geek to Me.”
Retcon - n. 1) abbreviation for “retroactive continuity” 2) any such addition or revision to a comic book character or universe’s history v. 1) the act of introducing such an element to the history of a comic book character or universe
Ah, yes, the “retcon.” Few concepts are more hotly contested throughout all of comicdom than the retcon, and in fact, we here at PoP! have even argued about what does and doesn’t qualify under this term. What we can tell you is as follows:
- Some retcons are overt changes to existing stories or story elements. The constant updating, by Marvel, as to when and how Tony Stark first received the injury that transformed him into Iron Man – for instance – is an ongoing retcon. Originally, his continuity established that his injury had been sustained during the Vietnam War, but since then it has been retconned to have happened during the Gulf War, and most recently retconned again to have happened in Afghanistan.
- Other retcons are subtle additions to or manipulations of existing lore. The recent revelation of the various corps throughout the DC Universe is, essentially, a retcon, as these factions have existed right along and are retroactively being established as always having been a part of the Green Lantern Corps history, even if no one knew about them.
Interestingly enough, what type of retcon you’re talking about does not dictate the impact that it can have on the characters involved. While the change in which war Tony was fighting is a fairly huge revision of established facts, it changes next to nothing about the character as a whole. On the flip side, the creation of Gabriel Summers, the third Summers brother, does not actually change any of the events that we already know to have happened, yet the impact on the character of Charles Xavier is intensely negative.
Yes, retcons can be a powerful storytelling tool, or a deadly weapon leading to the most grievous of character assassinations. It all depends on the skill of the pen that’s scripting them.