Retroactive Continuity

January 12th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

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I yapped this preview from IGN. Don’t bother clicking, IGN is terrible.

Basically, this is a pretty good way to show that retcons are pretty much a lame storytelling device. Nine times out of ten, it’s just another way of saying, “Welp, we screwed up and we don’t want to have to deal with the consequences.” Sometimes it’s something like, “We need this character to be in this position for this story to work and don’t want to do the in-betweening.”

Retcons can be used well, but by and large, they are about sidestepping consequences. Hal Jordan murdered a whole bunch of people, and so far, it seems like his punishment is to get called a stupid earthman and sneered at once every eight months or so. Why? Because he’s Hal Jordan, Hero, and DC Comics needed him to be a Green Lantern for some reason. Sinestro? He ain’t dead! Why, he faked his death! Why? Because Hal Jordan needs Sinestro as a villain. Jean Grey isn’t dead, she’s just in the bottom of a bay. Why? Because we need a team featuring the original X-Men. Prometheus? He hasn’t been looking like a buffoon all over the DC Universe for years. He’s been all locked up, who is that other guy? He’s just some guy who acts just like him, has the same gimmick, costume, personality, and powers.

This is stupid. There’s dozens of other ways to get around Prometheus being an idiot. Faulty tech. A deep-seated fear of Batman (it worked for Deadshot). Slumming it and trying to stay off the radar. Anything but “it wasn’t him, nope.”

That’s just lazy.

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13 comments to “Retroactive Continuity”

  1. Sheeeesh. It’s like “Oh, we’ve got this guy that reprogram his brain to become totally bad-ass, but he’s been acting a bit of a wuss since that one time that Batman messed with the system.” And the obvious fix for this was to throw in Martian Manhunter and make it so that some other chump was wearing his hat.

    Why just… Oh, I dunno… USE THE FACT THAT BATMAN SCREWED UP HIS BRAIN?! Was this *too* obvious?

  2. Oh, and how to fix his brain? He made a backup disc!

  3. I’m glad SOMEone else thinks that Hal Jordan getting switched back sounds stupid. People keep telling me Rebirth is awesome but as a DC fan as of 2006 or so, I’d rather just not pay attention to the whole mess.

  4. Oddly enough, while digging through all kinds of Baker St. stuff relative to one of my endless multitude of projects, I was suddenly put to the realization that Moriarty is a total retcon! New supervillain on the block who is in retrospect revealed to have been Behind All Kinds Of Things, which wasn’t intended at the time by the author, but which actually does work pretty well in context.

    I can’t say for certain that Doyle was the first, but this is the first major genre retcon that I know of in fandom. (I’m not including mythology remixes by classical dramatists, since that was kind of the whole point of Athenian plays – let’s come up with Motivation and/or new surprise twists/endings for the old legends…)

  5. I agree. It’s rarely done right. Luckily, it can be. Unluckily, even when it’s not, a significant chunk of fandom still eats it up.

    I’ve probably found myself on the wrong side of that, from time-to-time – particularly when I wasn’t around for the previous iteration and the new one is working out just fine.

    I imagine that’s what’s going on for a lot of fans of Spider-Man’s post-OMD/BND continuity. They’re enjoying what’s happening now so the retcon is okay with them. Ultimately, I can respect that (and even the desire to do retcons, at time), but sometimes, the retcon leaves such a nasty taste in my mouth that I can’t enjoy the character/series for a long time, if ever.

    In the case of GL, it just took a long time for the taste of the yellow fear monster to vacate my palate. With Spidey, I think I’m done for good.

  6. Bird of Prey fixed Prometheus WAY better than this excuse. Even though he got called out on being Green Arrow’s bitch, he then proceeded to defeat Lady Shiva over the course of THREE PANELS.

    And the girls didn’t even beat him. Prometheus’ target offed himself, so Prometheus lost his need to fight. Then he gave Huntress a rub by saying that for the second time, she gave him more trouble than Superman ever has. It was a good arc and a good fix.

    Part of me is disappointed that you didn’t name this article Crooked Continuity.

  7. Don’t get me started on Hal Jordan…

    Still, yeah the Prometheus retcon seems to be basically a problem with overthinking the idea. Rather than accept past continuity and overcome it as a reason to develop the character from a one-note inversion of Batman (how many of those do we have anyway, Catman, the Wrath, arguably Bane, any others I’m missing?), they just wipe the slate clean and return to one-note badassery.

    Digression, but I was just thinking about Prometheus’ parallels Bane. They were both supposedly unstoppable badasses who used artifical gimmicks to get an edge over Batman, and afterwards got relegated to jobber/lacky status. Of course Bane then gave up his gimmick, whilst Prometheus seems to be clinging to his. I would pay to see Bane vs Prometheus in Secret Six.

  8. Oh yeah, and as someone who hasn’t really read the character since Morrison stopped writing him, has he updated his tech any?

    A CD-ROM in his helmet might have worked in 1998, but it’s pretty dated by todays standards. He’d be better off with a DVD or Blue-Ray.

  9. I don’t even think you’d need a whole issue to rehab the character. I would really respect a writer with the yarbles to brush it all away with “I had a bad year; I did some things I am not proud of. But I’d like to see how well-adjusted *you’d* be if Batman gave you a motor neuron disease and then punched you in the face.” And then on with Prometheus getting on with being a cool villain.

    That would be genuine class. If everybody agrees his appearances over the last few years were awful, can’t we just ignore them instead of spending all this time on explaining them away?

  10. I don’t have an opinion on the Prometheus thing as yet but I will wait to see how things turn out before passing judgement.
    I disagree with what was said about Hal Jordan though. I thought it was necessary to bring him back because DC bastardized him by making him into a mass murderer for no plausible reason. To me, turning him into a messianic stone cold killer during zero hour was very out of character. It is understandable that he would be pissed off about Coast City being destroyed but to go from wanting to resurrect it to rewriting reality was not very plausible.
    Ask yourself a few questions:

    How was one Green Lantern like Hal able to easily take down several other Lanterns just as good or experienced as himself to get to the Central Battery?

    Why didn’t the Guardians stop Hal themselves before he got there if he tore through some of the Green Lanterns? Did they all undersestimate him or something?

    where were the rest of the Corps while this was happening, such as John or G’Nort? Were they on vacation or something?

    Why would the Guardians send Sinestro to stop him and give him a green ring, given the fact that he betrayed them and turned into a villain? Why could’t they have sent someone more trustworthy like John Stewart to stop Hal’s rampage?

    To me, the idea that Hal was possessed by a demonic force seems more plausible as there was no way that one green lantern could have easily brought down the Corps and wipe them out before being taken down via lethal force-plus there was no real buildup to Hal going crazy. If Hal had shown signs of going bad before the Coast City incident, then it would have been more believable but it was a jump-the shark moment for dc because the sales on the Green Lantern book was suffering.

    As much flak as the Green Lantern Rebirth storyline is getting from the bloggers, the Emerald Twilight storyline deserves even more flak. If they hadn’t bastardized Hal and had given him a proper sendoff like Barry Allen, there would have been no need to resurrect him.

  11. Both stories are dumb, and I don’t like Hal Jordan enough to spend the time to even talk about it.

  12. Dear DC editorial, we’ve finally met your new villain, Prometheus. This one gave us quite a run for our money, that’s NOT what we agreed. We had to ‘imprison’ his mind and we don’t want to hear about him ever again. You’d better send Killer Moth next time. Remember, if you keep pissing us off, we’ll go to Marvel. Batman has Joe Quesada on speed-dial already.

    Yours heroically,
    Justice League of America

  13. @draco: Emerald Twilight was garbage, no question. They rushed it out of nowhere practically to tie in with GL #50. If they’d spent a year building it up it might have made more sense.

    Then again, it took Hal’s greatest trait, his inability to give up and turned it into a flaw. He was determined he could fix all the horrible stuff that had happened and the Guardians were just holding him back. He was Anakin 10 years before Revenge of the Sith! 😉

    Hal was one of my favorite heroes when I started reading comics. I didn’t like him becoming Parallax, but Kyle grew on me and Final Night gave Hal a semi-decent send-off.

    Ultimately Twilight left the character unusable as a Hero. No matter how much Johns tried to sugarcoat it he killed/maimed a lot of guys. I hate it whenever I see him these days because of the concerted effort DC has made to sweep the bad editorial decision under the carpet whilst saying it still happened.