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Kurt Onstad

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Retroactive Dream Continuity [Aug. 19th, 2002|07:13 pm]
Kurt Onstad
[Current Mood |weirdweird]
[Current Music |Somebody - Depeche Mode - Catching Up With Depeche Mode]

For you non-comic book fans, a quick definition. Retcon, aka retroactive continuity: When a new story changes or nullifies a story told in the past.

So, anyways, I had a dream last night, and it was very similar to a dream I had a few months ago. In both dreams I was at a funeral for Isaac Asimov with my dad. The funeral took place at a university of some sort (for some reason, I think Pepperdine when I picture it). The head of the university was really rude for some reason. And sometime in the dream, both times, I ran into a friend from high school named Patty. There was a huge line of mourners to pass by what would have been the coffin, but in my dream was just a table with various notes and papers that people left behind in rememberance, and Patty was leaving the room as I came in...

The thing I found really bizarre about this dream, though, is that I remembered the last dream I had had about going to this funeral. And so, my mind retconned that dream to being a funeral for Janet Asimov (Isaac's wife. She's still alive in real life...)

Dreams are weird. They get even weirder when they actually have a continuing thread going through them...


[User Picture]From: ideaspace
2002-08-21 10:06 am (UTC)

Alan Moore's Swamp Thang

It was my impression that "retcon" isn't just changing or deleting the past, but rather revealing something in the present that somehow modifies your interpretation of the past. None of the events change in a proper retcon, only the light by which they're seen.

Thus all of Mickey Moran's or Swamp Thing's adventures pre-Moore "happened" - it's just that now we know Marvelman was part of a inter-dimensional weapon program behind the scenes and Alec Holland was six feet under, sucking water.

Some writers, obviously, do it more elegantly than others. Cheap retcons involve conveniently forgetting lines of dialogue, names, or entire plots. Good retcons are like magic tricks. You can't see how you missed it before.

Anyway, Janet Asimov? Why would you even be invited?
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[User Picture]From: speedball
2002-08-21 11:59 am (UTC)

Thing Ring, do your Thing...

Your definition of a "proper" retcon is more of a revelation than a retcon. Although, if you add, "that wasn't the intention of the past story's author," that would take out things like the ending of The Sixth Sense, which really doesn't belong in the "retcon" classification and bring it more in line what I think of as a retcon.

Unfortunately, not all retcons are proper. For instance, in FF (vol. 3) #59, it's revealed that when Ben turns into The Thing, he is transporting a living shell from another dimension which surrounds his human frame, and he transports it back when he transforms back into Ben. This completely negates all of those issues that show Ben in any sort of "in-between" phase, which show that his whole body is transforming from one form to another with no inter-dimensional transportation...

In an ideal world, only Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison would be allowed to retcon events. But, we don't live in that world, and so we end up with stories like the above, which is why my definition of retcon was a little looser...

And then, of course, there are reboots and other history re-writing methods, but those don't really have much relevance to this discussion...

And hey, if I was invited to Isaac's funeral (in my dream), why wouldn't I be invited to Janet's before that?

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[User Picture]From: ideaspace
2002-08-21 12:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Thing Ring, do your Thing...

Well spotted, sir. That "outside the original storyteller's intention" clause should have been made explicit. What I love about the books of Tim Powers is that he retcons reality.

That, and his book "Earthquake Weather" is the best non-AOKP explanation of why certain storylines happened back in the day.
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