"Thanagar's champion, Hawkman can talk to birds. He also can't talk to birds. Sometimes, he can't even speak normally at all! Even if he could talk normally, or to birds, there are no birds on Thanagar, because it does not exist. Hawkman was sent here to study Earthly police methods, because Thanagar's own methods suck! That's OK though, because Thanagar still does not exist! Yet it is populated by peaceful barbarians! Who are stupid, and also warlike!"
A Shared Universe can become a very confusing place, and the longer they exist, the more confusing they can become. As new creators come on board and take over, continuity eventually gets tangled, convoluted, and increasingly difficult to pick through. Sometimes, it gets to the point that not even the fans who write Wikipedia articles understand what is and isn't in canon.
It goes something like this: in the beginning, The Universe is created, and it's a blank slate. Everything's new; as such, the creators can do whatever they want to do, create whatever they want to create, throw everything in and have fun doing so. Whatever works, works and whatever doesn't, doesn't. So far, so good.
However, the whole idea of a Shared Universe is that different creative teams will eventually take over. Sometimes Writer A of Title A will leave and Writer B will take over, while at other times Writer A's character will guest star or make a Cameo appearance in Writers B's title. People being people, those different creators will have their own ideas. They'll have different ideas about what the 'verse should be, about what has worked and what hasn't, what might work and what doesn't.
The new creative team will also want to make their distinct mark on the 'verse and their readership; as such, they'll have their own things that they want to add, things they disapprove of and want to remove or ignore.
Things that were previously essential may become irrelevant to the new team, and different character traits and events may be emphasized or ignored. They change things.
When another creative team comes along, they'll change things even more; they may even completely override the changes made by the previous team to include things that they want to see or to reassert a previous status quo. Unfortunately, sometimes what they regard as being fundamental to the original continuity was never even there to begin with!
The longer that this goes on and as more teams take over, the more chance there is of a Continuity Snarl. The more retcons are made, reset buttons pressed, and the more the 'verse enters into a Dork Age.
There is also a bigger chance of certain things simply being forgotten and overlooked (and then possibly rediscovered and revived). As the process continues, more things become confused, convoluted and impenetrable. Weird inconsistencies and gratuitous retcons proliferate. Drastic changes opening up dozens of potentially fascinating story-lines are introduced and then promptly forgotten about and left hanging (or immediately reverted) by another new team, which goes on to do something completely different.
And add to this the problems caused by Comic Book Time, it gets to the point that trying to keep things straight becomes a nightmare.
And that's just if there's only one main work in the Shared Universe to begin with — if you bring together many different characters and storylines set in the same universe and cross them over with each other, you have many different continuities going on at once. Trying to keep everything straight between them can be an exercise in complete madness, as the continuity between them is completely tangled up and near-impossible for anyone to unpick.
Unfortunate, if you have a fan-base which likes everything arranged in a neat, tidy little pattern and isn't shy about voicing their opinion when this isn't the case.
This is particularly a problem for comic books, especially in The DCU and the Marvel Universe, which have the long-running and tangled continuities of many a character to keep straight. Long-running TV franchises can also suffer from Continuity Snarls — the Doctor Who and Star Trek universes have gotten especially snarled over time (although the former can easily Hand Wave this away because it's about time travel).
A Continuity Snarl can result in Continuity Lock-Out for readers, especially newcomers, as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of what's happening in the 'verse without a Masters Degree in Continuity Studies. Creators often resort to the Crisis Crossover to try untangling the snarl they've made for themselves — unfortunately, this can just as easily become Continuity Porn, which more often than not just makes things worse. Can lead to a plain ol' Plot Hole.
When canon becomes too involved and self-contradictory, it starts denying new writers "room to move." When writers disagree strongly with what previous writers before them have added to the mix and are overly keen on using continuity to get rid of them (or attack the other writer), then the snarl may come from the writers being Armed with Canon. If worse comes to worst, the writers may simply perform a Continuity Reboot, discarding the old continuity completely and starting over from scratch. (Everything you read or watched before? It never happened! You imagined it! Either that, or it was All Just a Dream.)
Every once in a while, the writer may just give up trying to fix everything and say, "Okay, it happened but not in every detail."Continuity Drift is when a Retcon sloooowly happens over a period of time. Do not confuse with a Series Continuity Error. A Continuity Snarl is when a situation involves layers upon layers of contradictions. A Series Continuity Error is a singular mistake.
Eric Burns of Websnark did a rant about it here.
See Armed with Canon, Comic Book Time, and Author's Saving Throw for common causes, may result in Continuity Lockout, Continuity Porn, Tangled Family Tree, and Timey-Wimey Ball. Multiple Choice Past is this trope applied to a single character.
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Anime and Manga
Eureka Seven AO's entire backstory. (deep breath) Eureka is clearly from the original, yet the spec2 she pilots is the movie iteration (the original never had shoulder-mounted lasers). She's also piloting the spec2 well after it should have evolved and subsequently vanished, alongside Renton in the evolved version, and there's no explanation as to where she got this one. The End is in Generation Bleu's basement, intact and in its white color scheme, although shortly after being freed from said basement it gets vaporized by an IFO that comes out of nowhere. None of this is ever sufficiently explained. Although since the continuity with the original show and/or movie makes no sense, it can't be in the continuity of the original show. You're welcome.
Dragon Ball, due to the filler episodes that are contradicted later (like Goku's pod being destroyed by Piccolo, only to be used later by Capsule Corp.) and the Non-Serial Movies that are still referenced later, but can't possibly fit into the show's timeline. (Gohan meets the dragon he rescues in Movie 3, but how could the Goku stop The Tree Of Might from destroying Earth when Goku's either dead, fighting Nappa and Vegeta, in a hospital recovering, or en route to Namek? And if this is Garlic Jr. from Movie 1 who's pouring the Black Water Mist, then why did no-one recognise Gohan near the beginning of Dragon Ball Z?) This leads to some glaring problems, like a character who was dead being seen in a bar drinking.
Despite mostly having only one writer, the classic Astro Boy series turned into a first class continuity snarl towards the end. What happened was that in the final episode of the original anime, Astro died performing a Heroic Sacrifice to deliver a device into the center of the sun to stop it from dying. Shortly after the anime ended, Osamu Tezuka began a new Astro Boy story as a newspaper strip in the Sankei Newspaper, which featured Astro's melted carcass being recovered by time-traveling aliens and brought back to life before winding up trapped in the distant past (the readers' present). Because Astro had never died in the manga, however, when the collected edition came out Tezuka redid the first chapter that involved Astro, alive and well getting thrown back in time when the alien timeship crashes on Earth instead. Tezuka then produced three more different, contradictory stories of Astro's future in various publications: a pilot for a second Astro Boy series that never got off the ground which also takes place after the end of the anime where Astro is found by a completely different race of time traveling aliens, upgraded into a new body with time travel capabilities and sent back to Earth to find the era he came from; A one-shot nostalgia piece in a men's magazine, yet another followup to the anime where Astro is resurrected by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and taken to a planet millions of light years from Earth from which he may never return, so Ochanomizu and the rest of the Ministry Of Science staff create a replacement, who turns out to be a lazy sex maniac because he was designed to be more "Human"; and finally, "The End Of Astroboy", which doesn't mention his death and simply has him in a display case in a robot museum due to being supplanted by more advanced robots and then freed by some human rebels to help them fight against said robots who have taken over the world.
Also Brock's mother. The Japanese original said both parents had abandoned Brock to raise his younger siblings, but the English dub gave him an absentee father and a dead mother - awkward when his Mom shows up in a later season.
Like Digimon below, Slayers has clearly stated Alternate Continuity, and it's actually a bit milder here—the different continuities begin to form after the stories that compromise the first eight books, or the first two seasons of the anime, both of which are similar enough to avoid too much confusion. It's still complicated, however:
In the novels, Lina actually meets Amelia's father, Prince Phil, and gets involved with his family feud before the series proper—the story of the first Slayers Special novel was transferred into the middle of the anime's first season: the same plot occurs, but Lina actually meets Amelia, and it goes from there. Also, the Atlas City story occurred right after the very first fight with Shabranigdo, but the anime cuts to the aforementioned family feud, and the Atlas City story occurs during the second season. This makes little sense in context because in both the first book and the first episode, Lina is on her way to the city. Finally, Amelia appears after the battle with Copy Rezo in the novels, appearing in another Saillune royal family plot that was also implemented in the second anime season. Because she joins Lina earlier in the anime, she is with them during the Copy Rezo fight, and also meets Zelgadis earlier on.
The remaining seven novels remove Zelgadis and Amelia and replace them with Luke and Millina, and from there comes its own story.
Before he appears again in the fifth book, Zelgadis actually meets Xellos before the others do, hence why he knows of him when he appears. This is accounted in a side story.
There are a bunch of manga series that are their own sets of continuity. The most notable is the Hotter and Sexier universe of The Hourglass of Falces, in which all six protagonists (Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadiss, Luke, and Millina) are together. Naturally, the latter four never met one another at any time, and it would probably be impossible, given that both Luke and Millina are dead by the end of the series. Fans outside of Japan who are unaware of the second set of novels (as only the first eight were translated) probably don't know who Luke and Millina are.
The radio dramas are also rather bad at this. The worst case is the Slayers Premium radio drama based on the short Non-Serial Movie: because of the presence of Gourry's Sword of Light, it's likely that it takes place after the second season of the anime. However, in the prologue of the drama, Amelia states that it had been five years since they last met-problematic, since the anime seasons each occur within one year of the other. Premium also, of course, has its own manga adaptation.
Finally, there are cases of the dreaded Multiple Choice Past, especially in regards to Zelgadis. It's never mentioned in the anime, but in the novels it's stated that he was a criminal during his time with Rezo after he was initially turned into a chimera, and it gave him a bad reputation. Also, the applications of magic vary heavily to the point of convolution.
The various works of Leiji Matsumoto, which often share characters and have a tendency to re-tell stories from different points of view, could be the trope namer for this. Examples include:
Captain Harlock's ship, Arcadia, has two vastly different appearances throughout the shows in which it appears. Although this change was supposedly made due to a copyright conflict, no explanation is ever mentioned within the show. "Endless Odyssey" takes this to an extreme by showing one version in present times, and the other version in flashbacks.
Tochiro, the man who build the Arcadia, dies three different times in three different ways.
The film "My Youth in Arcadia explains how Harlock lost his eye and gives him a military career before he turned to piracy. However, some shows such as "Cosmo Warrior Zero" neglect to include his lost eye at all.
In "Space Pirate Captain Harlock" And "Endless Odyssey," Queen Emeraldas and Tochiro have a child named Mayu, who is never mentioned in any other series.
Some shows hint that Emeraldas and Maetal of Galaxy Express 999 may be sisters, even twins, despite the fact that in some of the shows the two are introduced for the first time.
Even more oddly, some speculation links Captain Harlock and Mamoru Kodai/Alex Wildstar as the same person. According to who you ask, they are either literally the same person, or Kodai pretended to be Harlock for his conveniences. Or something.
Similarly, most series have Torchiro and Harlock's friendship stretching back to their childhood, but "My Youth in Arcadia" shows them meeting for the first time while in the military.
Mimay has a radically different appearance from series to series: In most she has blue skin, blue hair, yellow eyes, and no mouth, but in a few instances, she is a rather normal-looking woman with blond hair and pale skin.
The series Captain Herlock: Endless Odyssey makes a valiant attempt to maintain continuity, and picks up with most of the main cast, including Harlock, Mimay, Kei, and most of the back-characters. Despite this, Tadashi Daiba's role manages to play out almost exactly as it did in previous series.
There is a glaring canonical gap of about 800 years between these overlapping stories. The character's apparent immortality is never mentioned.
For the most part, Digimon takes place in different continuities. However, there are still some pretty big snarls, mostly in the videogames. Digivolution lines get mixed and matched, changed, et cetera. Ryou Akiyama is somehow from Adventure, has encounters with the Digi-Destined, and gets sent to the Tamers universe by Milleniummon. None of this is addressed in either show, and for that matter, where is the other Ryou? Or his family? What happened to all of that data that Monodramon absorbed from Milleniummon? This thing was supposed to have surpassed the Sovereign. Speaking of, how many ultimate evil Digimon or ultimate godlike Digimon are there by now? So who's top dog? And how can there be a Black/Shadow Seraphimon if corrupting a Seraphimon causes a Daemon to be born? How did WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon DNA Digivolve if Gatomon still had her tail ring? Americanization also adds problems. Was Kokomon reborn? How did Diaboromon survive if the virus behind it was destroyed?
The WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon "DNA Digivolving" thing can be explained because in the original Japanese version they were merely fusing to become a more powerful Digimon of the same level. Where Jogress evolution (the evolving method of choice in season 2) was when two Digimon combined together to advance to the next level. The dub made a mistake in referring to WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon becoming Omnimon as digivolving.
This is part of an even bigger snarl that happens when you work the merchandise in, as some fans consider it canon and some don't. In the show proper, Ex Veemon and Stingmon become Paildramon for the first time (the process known to the US as DNA Digivolving) and a flashback to Omnimon is shown as The Smart Guy tells the newer characters that this has in fact happened before. However, the Japanese card game refers to the DNAs as "jogress" (join and progress) and Omnimon as "fusion" when giving the requirements for bringing Omnimon or Paildramon (and the like) into play. Really, it's as simple as "sometimes two Digimonturn into one badder 'mon. In Japan there's this card game with two names for this. They either do or don't mean the same thing."
Then some V-pets do say Omnimon is at a higher level. The easiest thing to say is that Digimon can keep getting stronger after Ultimate/Mega and just ignore whatever the level is called at that point.
This is only a problem, if at all, in the Adventure continuity. In the broader Digimon canon as a whole, it is accepted that a) Omegamon is the product of a Jogress evolution/DNA Digivolution, b) "fusion" is just another term for "jogress" and the English version's uniting the two under the same term is a rare case of it simplifying things, c) Ultimate/Mega level Digimon can evolve to other Ultimate/Mega Digimon, whether it's through Jogress evolution or otherwise, and d) Holy Rings like Tailmon's tail ring have absolutely no relevance to the process of Jogress evolution whatsoever and that point in Adventure 02 was the writers not listening. Indeed, Omegamon himself is the subject of such an evolution from one Ultimate to another in the Digimon Mini virtual pet line, evolving from WarGreymon alone. Also, pretty much every Mode Change ever is an example of this, being little more than evolving to another Ultimate that happens to be a variation on the prior form.
Shadow Seraphimon wasn't a corrupted Seraphimon, Mercurymon just absorbed his data, the name is really misleading. Not only that, but he (Seraphimon) gave the digidestined fighting Mercurymon a much needed powerup. Granted he had been reincarnated and was still an egg.
However, as you can see, a lot of this comes from Fan Wank regarding merchandise. It is not always possible to fit everything you see on a trading card or virtual pet into the show, but the show does not contradict itself on many things. However, Ryo has it as bad as any comic book character. The Ryo-related aspects of Digimon Adventure 02 that seem nonsensical are explained in the games, but once you take them into account some of the events of Digimon Tamers are thrown off.
Kinnikuman has a rather bad example: when Geronimo attacks Akuma Shogun, we see a group of choujin watching Geronimo's beat-down, with Geronimo being in the group. In other words, Geronimo's watching himself get beaten.
Most DC characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman, etc) were created during in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, a mandressed in the American flagtaking down Hitler was everything that readers needed. World War II ended, the interest in such things died down, and most comic books began to close or to move to other genres. And on a day unlike any other, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino created a new Flash, unrelated to the old one in everything except the name, and the super hero genre was reborn, followed by similar relaunches of old DC glories. Did you follow up here? Well, one day Fox wanted a cameo appearance of the old Flash, and wrote "Flash of Two Worlds". Flash (Barry Allen) appears by accident in another world, "Earth 2", where the original Flash lives. They meet, save the day, Barry comes back home, and that's it. That's it? Hell, no. The Pandora's box had just been opened. What happens with Superman and Batman, whose titles had never been cancelled? Which stories are in Earth 1 and which ones in Earth 2? If Barry knows Jay's secret identity because there are in-universe comics about the Earth 2 characters, what happens with Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne? And why stop it with 2 Earths and not create new ones? All this led to a nightmarish DC continuity (which was only partially fixed in 1986 with Crisis on Infinite Earths) and all this mess, just because fans once wanted to see Jay Garrick one more time.
As messy as the "multiverse" solution wound up being and with all the complications it opened, it was still a more satisfying explanation than "some heroes (Flash, Green Lantern, Atom) age and are replaced, and others (Superman, Batman, Green Arrow) don't and are still the same person in the late 1960s that they were in the early 1940s." The Two Worlds story only highlighted the basic problem, it didn't cause it.
Post-Crisis, Hawkman is the poster child for this trope. Originally, the Hawkworld mini-series was supposed to retell the origins of the Silver Age Hawkman, but after it became a success, DC commissioned a Hawkworld regular series, taking place where the mini-series left off, resulting in a total reboot of Hawkman's continuity (a la the post-Crisis reboot of Wonder Woman), despite the fact that the Silver Age Hawkman was already established in post-Crisis continuity, and prior to the relaunch, briefly joined the Justice League International. This was followed up with several attempts at fixes, each of which simply made the problem worse. Hawkman's continuity was described, according to DC editor Mike Carlin, as "radioactive". In the wake of Zero Hour, the various incarnations collapsed into the "Hawkgod", who was essentially an Anthropomorphic Personification of the Hawk-Continuity Snarl. After this, DC editorial declared the character off-limits to the writers from 1996-2001.
The cover to Hawkman (Vol. 3) #27, published in December 1995, shown above, pretty much describes Hawkman's continuity at the time.
While all of this Continuity Snarl was happening, Hawkman and Hawkgirl's son appeared as a minor character in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, eventually resulting in their grandson Daniel Hall succeeding Morpheus as the anthropomorphic representation of dreams.
Carter Hall, the Golden Age Hawkman, was eventually pulled out of the snarl in the pages of JSA. The Silver Age version is still in limbo. Carter had a few of the Silver Age concepts (most notably a connection to Thanagar) attached to him during the process. He also includes a simplification of one aspect of the Hawkgod; the Hawkgod's previous avatars included several of DC's historical characters with vague connections to hawks, and these have been retconned into Carter's former incarnations.
And now Jim Starlin, for reasons known only to himself, has written a Hawkman special in which a godlike-being points out to Hall that his Egyptian origin doesn't make sense, and insists on calling him by the Silver Age version's name. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in The DCU.
They did one where they merged the "Thanagarian Police officer" Hawkman with the "Egyptian Warrior re-incarnated over time" Hawkman into one being. It seemed to work, for a time. The DCAU went with two Hawkmen, but subverted them in how the Thanagarian Police Officer is more of a Brown Shirt, and the reincarnated Egyptian Warrior is a clear Stalker with a Crush for Hawkgirl. It actually ended up making a lot more sense.
An admirable, if a bit simplified, attempt to explain Hawkman's continuity exists here.
The whole deal with the X-Men comics. A lot of it is the Kudzu Plot started with Claremont, but a lot of it comes from the loads of Ret Cons and counter Ret Cons.
One example is Jean. Until the late 1990s, it was (relatively) simple. Jean was Jean. Phoenix was (retconned into) a cosmic entity that took her identity, and Madelyne Pryor was her clone. Then those Running the Asylum couldn't get that straight, and turned it into this. The Summers' Tangled Family Tree got worse and worse from the 1990s onward.
During Grant Morrison's run on the book, the X-Men travelled to China where a mutant named Xorn was held prisoner, released Xorn, and took him in as member of the team. Xorn turned out to be Magneto in disguise. The degree to which this made sense is debatable (since when does Magneto speak perfect Chinese? Why didn't Wolverine smell him?) but it was at least easy to follow so far. But then Magneto started doing drugs and herding people into ovens, and when Morrison left the book, the remaining X-Book writers couldn't retcon him as an impostor fast enough. So it was someone pretending to be Magneto pretending to be Xorn. Then it turned out there was another Xorn, who was the brother of the fake Xorn. There's a reason they don't mention Xorn much these days.
Somewhat amusingly, this trope is actually the reason Claremont was kicked off his second run on the title, as EIC Joe Quesada felt that his utter devotion to every minute detail of continuity made his stories nigh-incomprehensible.
Stand forward, the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Websnark rant linked above goes into detail, but it's worth noting that there have been at least three separate reboots of the series, that there have also been a number of smaller Cosmic Retcons that involved things like long-standing characters being retroactively replaced with entirely different people, and that DC Comics at one point featured two vastly different versions of the group simultaneously.
DC later attempted to fix this with Legion of Three Worlds, which teamed up Reboot Legion, the Threeboot Legion, and a new Legion that was almost but not quite the original (the five year gap version was simply ignored). The result was that the Reboot Legion and the Threeboot Legion were put on a bus, leaving only one Legion, the first one, with the addition of Gates, Bart Allen and XS. While this left the characters still reacting to stories that had happened in the 70's and 80's, the resulting history was considered relatively uncomplicated, at least by Legion standards.
Then New 52 hit, and after limping along for a while with poor sales, the final issue revealed the current Legion was actually the Legion of a world similar to Earth 2, although there are few differences and Word of God is that it's not actually Earth 2.
The Wonder Woman mythos has gotten increasingly confused due to Time Travel and Cosmic Retcons, but poor Donna Troy is a particularly notorious example. She was created due to a continuity error — the writer didn't realize that "Wonder Girl" was just Wonder Woman as a teenager and crossed her over with herself — and has since been the subject of at least five stories attempting to establish just what her ever-more-complicated origin is. The fact that, following the Crisis, Wonder Woman was retroactively declared not to have been active in the early years of current continuity, while Donna was still supposed to have been a Teen Titan alongside the original Aqualad, Speedy, Robin and Kid Flash certainly didn't help.
John Byrne introduced a fix, having WW's motherTime Travel back to the forties and become the "first" Wonder Woman, which helped, but he also introduced the "Dark Angel" concept, which retconned Donna as a sort of cosmic Chew Toy repeatedly reincarnated into horrible fates, and sent her straight into Continuity Limbo for a few years. This all has earned Donna the nickname "Identity Crisis Lass" in some circles. Also "The continuity error who walks like a woman!" It was finally declared in 52 that Donna Troy was a symptom of the chaos caused by having multiple realities interacting with each other.
Post-Crisis Power Girl went through sooo much of this - she's a Kryptonian, she's an Atlantean - she's a weird metahuman - nobody knows. Finally, it was declared that she was a survivor of the pre-Crisis multiverse and her Continuity Snarl was the universe trying to "fit her in" and failing. Now she is considered to be the Supergirl analog of the original (pre-Crisis) Earth-Two. Yes, this means now there's a second Power Girl in current continuity Earth-Two. Writers just don't know what wasp nests to leave alone. And as of New 52, Power Girl is again the Supergirl from Earth-2, only it's a completely different Earth-2 from the previous versions.
In a related manner, Supergirl's continuity is pretty tricky, too. There have been at least half a dozen different characters to use the name, including Superman's cousin, a shapeshifting alien created by good version of Lex Luthor from a pocket dimension, a shapeshifting alien merged with a human who is simultaneously an angel, a completely different version of Superman's cousin, a human formerly merged with a shapeshifting alien, and Superman and Lois Lane's daughter from the future. Oh, and some of those might be the same people, and some of them, even post-Crisis, might never have existed.
Then there was the time the alien shapeshifter Matrix was removed from continuity by Infinite Crisis without retconning Linda Danvers. Even The Other Wiki admits to being confused by this.
Is Marvel Comics' Superman equivalentThe Sentry a Silver Age hero who erased all knowledge of his existence so an evil being called The Void would not exist? Or is he a superhuman with mental problems who read a comic book and adopted the identity? Is he the results of Super Serum experiments with The Void being actually a part of his fragmented mind? Who knows?
Superboy: John Byrne's reboot of Superman caused all kinds of problems since, for one, his Superman was never Superboy. No Superboy to hang out in the 30th Century with the Legion of Super Heroes. Then you have all of the splintering of Superboy - clone, Superboy Prime, Pocket Universe Superboy, etc.
While not as extreme as some of the examples here, Green Arrow has had numerous minor, but confusing, problems since Oliver Queen came back from the dead.
The problems began when novelist Brad Meltzer wrote a Green Arrow story called The Archer's Quest centering upon Oliver Queen going on a road trip with former sidekick Roy Harper to retrieve items that could be used to discover his secret identity. The problem with that is that Oliver Queen hadn't had a secret identity in years! In fact, in the Quiver storyline written by Kevin Smith (which came out less than a year before Meltzer's story) the main piece of evidence Batman used to convince a resurrected and amnesiac Oliver Queen that he HAD been dead was newspaper articles which used his real name while discussing his death.
Another problem was the revelation that the whole Archer's Quest was a ruse and that Ollie had really been trying to recover a photograph which proved that he had been present on the day his illegitimate son Connor Hawke was born and that Ollie, ipso facto, was a dead beat dad. The problem is that this scenario is completely implausible given the circumstances under which Ollie originally found out that Connor (who he had been traveling with for a while before his death) was his son - he had been told by the truth by his best buddy Hal Jordan, who was (at the time) nigh-omnipotent with the power of all The Guardians Of The Universe Minus One. For Meltzer's scenario to make sense, we have to believe that Hal Jordan is capable of being able to see the DNA of a person by looking at them but is unable to tell when his best friend is lying about having no idea he had an illegitimate son.
It got worse several years down the line when Judd WinickJossed a fan theory that sprang up to explain away the discrepancy. The idea was that Ollie knew about Connor and tried to do the honorable thing by proposing to Connor's mother but that she had (having always been portrayed as an independent, free-spirited hippie) rejected him because she didn't want to marry only because he felt guilty/didn't want to get tied down. Instead, Winick wrote a flashback scene where Connor's mom approached Ollie and was sarcastically wished good luck in trying to prove the baby was his in court. This scene apparently took place BEFORE the shipwrecking incident which inspired Ollie to become Green Arrow, as he tracks her down once he gets back to civilization and is there to have his photo taken with Connor before he has a fight with Sandra and walks out of her life again.
What makes this truly awful is this scene was meant to bookend the excellent Green Arrow: Year One mini-series by Andy Diggle. Suffice it to say that Green Arrow fans who have read that book find it hard to believe that the man Oliver is at the end of the story would ever abandon a child in need, much less his own son.
Speaking of romantic problems, Judd Winick did a major disservice to the character when he decided to join Green Arrow and long-time girlfriend Black Canary together again off-camera, only to break them up. He did this by having Green Arrow suddenly decide to have a one-night-stand with the niece of a friend, despite the fact that Ollie was ready to propose to Black Canary not a few months earlier in the final chapter of The Archer's Quest by Brad Meltzer! Indeed, the dialogue in the scene where Ollie nearly proposes suggested that he and Dinah had gone out a few times since his resurrection but that she wasn't ready to date exclusively, let alone get married.
Judd Winick also caused problems with his Heading Into The Light storyline, which was meant to be a lead-in to Infinite Crisis. In the end, there were so many issues with the storyline that DC Comics had to retroactively declare that Heading Into The Light took place AFTER Infinite Crisis, even though the story ends with a wounded Oliver Queen having visions of himself in other realities.
Some problems also sprang up over the issue in which Doctor Light drained Kimiyo Hoshi of her powers. She appeared in Infinite Crisis and Birds of Prey with her powers intact, while other stories ran with the premise of having her powerless. This was eventually handwaved in an issue of Justice League, which had Kimiyo mention that while she still retained her abilities, they were now malfunctioning and only worked on certain random occasions.
One of the original reasons for creating the Ultimate Marvel universe was to avert this trope by creating a blank slate free from the decades of continuity the main universe had built up. This didn't stop Ultimate Marvel from generating Continuity Snarls of its own.
One snarl is with its version of Iron Man is concerned. The Ultimate Iron Man miniseries by Orson Scott Card, while good on its own, depicted Tony Stark as superhuman born with a healing factor and his brain distributed throughout his entire body. Since the Ultimates series depicted Tony as the more traditional nonpowered genius in power armor, this caused issues. Another origin story featured in an issue of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up created further problems. Although Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote the latter story, has suggested that some of Ultimate Team-Up is dubiously canon, it remains to be seen how or if the former will be reconciled.
The Ultimate Iron Man miniseries was later retconned to be a anime about Tony Stark's life that ignores the truth in favour of bizarre sci-fi, though that didn't stop the 'distributed brain' thing from showing up elsewhere.
Ultimate Fantastic Four is the source of a few issues as well. In Ultimate Spider-Man and The Ultimates the Fantastic Four are referenced and Reed Richards is a notable enough scientist to have a building at ESU named after him, but very early on in Ultimate Fantastic Four, before the team comes together, there are references to The Ultimates.
This one happens because of a change in plans. Originally, the Fantastic Four we were seeing in Ultimate Spider-Man and the such were going to be adults, while Ultimate Fantastic Four would take place a decade or so in the rest of the line's past, establishing the FF as the first super heroes and cornerstones of heroic society in the Ultimate U. The plan got muddled and changed, but it's very apparent when Sue Storm, 16-ish in UFF, shows up during Ultimate Spider-Man's "Clone Saga" and is clearly in her late 20s/early 30s.
Busiek also used Avengers Forever to untangle the very snarled continuity of The Vision. For decades, the Vision's origin story had him being created from the remains of the original Human Torch. But after the writers of West Coast Avengers decided to re-introduce the Torch to modern continuity in the late 80s, the Vision's origin was retconned, invalidating a lot of stories and raising a lot of questions about where the Vision did come from. Enter Busiek, who explained everything by having Immortus use a time-altering MacGuffin to change history, so that two contradictory events; the Torch being rebuilt and the Torch not being rebuilt, both happened at the same time. Neat, huh?
The Uncle Scrooge comics briefly endured this after Boom Studios acquired the license. The first eight issues under this publisher seemed to follow the comics' standard continuity — and then the next eight tried to tie the series into the DuckTales TV show, which was only a loose adaptation with noticeable differences (in the comics, there was never a Launchpad, Donald didn't join the navy and Glomgold was an Afrikaner). As of issue #400, the comics seem to have returned to their original continuity, and a completely separate DuckTales title has since been released. So naturally this new series would feature a brief appearance by John Rockerduck, a Scrooge antagonist from the comics who never appeared in DuckTales!
The symbiotes from Spider-Man. First, the Venom suit was just an alien costume. Then it was retconned into being alive. Then, when the writers wanted to turn it into a villain, it was retconned that the suit made Spider-Man go insane and he had to get rid of it (originally, he was trying to destroy just because it was attaching itself to him, which is a bit harsh for a guy like Spidey). It was later shown that the suits fed off strong hosts as a sort of Social Darwinist. Then it was revealed to feed off negative emotions such as hate and anger. Then they were shown to live in the Negative Zone... no wait, there was a separate planet of them. Oh, and Toxin proved that not all of them are born evil after all. Oh, and Carnage has had about three symbiotes get destroyed but no one ever remembers those stories.
As the Batman franchise was one of the few properties not completely rebooted during DC's New 52 initiative, numerous continuity problems have arisen over the bits of Bat-history that were altered. A particular source of contention is how Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown could fit into the new, condensed five year timeline given some of the statements made in the new Batgirl title. However, it has been explained that although Batman has been publicly active for five years, he has been active years before he was publicly known.
Special mention must go to Batman's ten-year-old son who he fathered at some point within the past five years. However, it is possible that Batman's son was born before Batman was publicly known, or that he was grown quickly in a vat.
Metamorpho mentions in an issue of Batman, Inc. that he used to be a member of the JLA. This was a Continuity Nod to Morrison's JLA run, which no longer exists in the current canon. It's also stated in a later issue of Justice League that the team's membership did not change at all during the 5 year Time Skip, meaning that there's no way Metamorpho was ever part of the group.
It's easy to simplify it by saying that the entire DCU is one big one of late. A Cosmic Retcon happens every few years now and every Armed with Canon writer is Superboy-punching the universe differently. The most indispensible parts of the most important characters' origins (Krypton go boom, Batman's parents) will always stay the same. Anything else will change a dozen times, and since something always just happened to alter reality, which past stories still count is a question whose answer is both unknowable and constantly in flux. Sometimes even the writers can't keep track; for example, what if the writer of Batman and the writer of Batgirl each think they get to decide what the Batgirl of the new universe is like? At one point, Catwoman's supporting cast were people she met in an origin story that no longer happened and is wildly different from her new one. Of course, only time will tell if they still exist post-New 52.
The 2000 AD strip Strontium Dog. The guest appearance in Judge Dredd revealed that Johnny Alpha's adventures took place in the future of the Dreddverse, even though that was hard to square with Strontium Dog continuity (basically, where did all the Mega Cities go?) But then it turned out that didn't even matter, because the strip was rebooted in 1999, with the explanation that the previous run, Dredd crossover and all, was just a legend, and this was the true story. Which didn't stop spin-off strip Durham Red sticking with the original version. And then John Wagner returned to the original continuity, making the reboot non-canon...
The last 2005 BIONICLE comic, Fractures, ended with the six Toa Hordika marching into the Coliseum to confront the villains, with a note informing the readers that the Cliffhanger will only be resolved in the movie released later that year. The movie of course contradicted the comic's last few pages — only five of the Toa Hordika broke into the Coliseum, not to defeat the bad guys but to free their leader Vakama, who's become evil due to Roodaka's persuasion. In the comic, Roodaka never even meets him, although his turning evil is foreshadowed. The Hordika are also accompanied by the legendary beast Keetongu, who's only talked about in the comics, but doesn't actually appear. Some of the 2004 comics also had smaller inconsistencies with that year's movie — for example, did Vakama learn how to use his launcher as a jetpack and Matau his blades as wings before or after traveling to Ko-Metru?
In the first issue of The New 52Teen Titans, it was stated that Tim Drake kept his history as Robin & that previous iterations of the team existed, with references also being made to past Titans teams in Red Hood & the Outlaws. Come the zero issue of Teen Titans a year later, and Tim's been retconned to have always been Red Robin & this is the first team of Teen Titans, with the collected edition of the first Titans arc outright removing the details that were retconned out. And as for the previously mentioned members of the Titans in Red Hood, so far the word is, more or less, that Dick Grayson, Starfire, & Arsenal (and possibly some others) hung around with each other, but never called themselves any team name.
The references to Gar (Beast Boy) and Garth (Tempest) made by Arsenal in Red Hood can now be considered retconned out, as Garth was later introduced as an infant in the Aquaman title and Gar is a hero just starting out in New 52 continuity (and also red-skinned and red-haired, as opposed to his classic green look). An early appearance of Gar (with green skin and hair) was also edited out in the TPB run of Teen Titans, along with a cameo of Miss Martian (who was recolored to be a white blonde girlnote Well, she was a White Martian...).
A Teen Titans arc also featured the 70's Titan Lilith rebooted as a villain, with some of the team members seeming to know who she was. This would have been even more of a continuity snarl had Scott Lobdell been allowed to go through with his original plan: The villain was going to be Raven, who was responsible for founding the '80s team of Titans- who now no longer existed.
The removal of the Titans' history also lead to a comment in Batwoman being altered, where Bette Kane mentions that she'd been a member of the team and had fought Deathstrokenote although this itself had to be a retcon, as Flamebird never got such a chance or was on the main team. Of course, she could have also been bragging. The Titans reference was completely erased in the TPB edition.
In the Day of Vengeance mini-series produced around Infinite Crisis, Bill Willingham had The Spectre murder the Lords of Order and Chaos, T'charr and Terataya. This caused Hawk and Dove to instantly become depowered. All other writers proceeded to ignore this for later stories, although it created confusion among fans as to how Hawk and Dove could still have their powers. T'charr and Terataya's deaths were a bit of a snarl in the first place, as both had previously died in the '90s Hawk and Dove series— and had their powers sealed into the two heroes. Holly Granger's existence is another snarl in H&D history, as Dawn Granger was always said to be an only child in the '90s series. Tellingly, after Holly died and the New 52 reboot happened, it would appear that Dawn is back to having no siblings.
Rogue Trooper was a strip about a genetically-engineered Super Soldier named Rogue who fights a one-man war on Nu Earth, accompanied by the digitised minds of three of his comrades in microchips attached to his helmet, gun, and backpack. Makes sense. At some point he met a woman of his race (for want of a better word) named Venus Bluegenes, who died. No problem. Later on, the series was given a brand new reboot, using Dave Gibbons' original vision, starring a new GI named Friday. So far so good. Then Venus got her own spinoff, but set in Friday's continuity. Uh, well, maybe she's an alternate version. Then Friday met Rogue and everything stopped making sense.
In the first movie, Sharon is 9 years old. Revelation is explicitly set 6 years later, yet in that film she's just about to turn 18.
In the first film, it's clearly stated (and made obvious by some plot events) that "Only the Dark One (Dark Alessa) opens and closes the door to Silent Hill." Yet in the sequel, a minor character says she became trapped in Silent Hill's otherworld simply by taking a wrong turn and getting lost in a fog bank, when there was no reason for "the Dark One" to bring her there.
The biggest is probably that the first movie's climax includes Dark Alessa and Sharon, the two halves of Alessa's soul, merging back into a full reincarnation of Alessa. Yet in the sequel, Sharon is still only one half of Alessa, Dark Alessa is still back in Silent Hill, and there's another big scene right before the climax where they merge... again.
In the first movie, it's revealed that Alessa was burned by the town's pseudo-Christian cult on suspicion of being a witch, and that the cult members believed burning her would stop the apocalypse. In Revelation, it's explained the town's clearly pagan cult, the Order of Valtiel - which is oddly described as the same cult from the first film - burned Alessa because she was a chosen one who had to be ritually burned in order to CAUSE the apocalypse of this world and bring about the rebirth of their god and the creation of a new paradise. Paradoxically, Revelation still contains flashback scenes of schoolchildren tormenting Alessa for being a witch.
In the first movie, the motive of Alessa, in her creation of Sharon, was to send Sharon out as an orphan, get her a loving, protective mother, and then call her back to Silent Hill to lure in the mother so that she could be persuaded to assist in Alessa's revenge against the cult for the sake of her adopted daughter. In the sequel, it's instead stated by Dark Alessa that Sharon was created just to live outside of Silent Hill and have a happy, normal life, and that Alessa never wanted Sharon to ever return because it would help the cult. Since this is the exact opposite of her plan in the first film, it seems she never called Sharon to Silent Hill during the time of the first movie, yet no other explanation is ever given as to why Rose and Sharon went to Silent Hill six years before Revelation. Since that needs to happen to set the sequel's plot in motion, Revelation essentially writes itself out of existence without realizing it.
Minor by comparison to most of the other examples, but Tim Burton's Batman featured a black Harvey Dent, whereas when he was used as a character in the Joel Schumacher-directed sequels, he was depicted as white. Or at least, half of him is white.
Highlander is one of the kings of this trope. Each of the original films screwed up the continuity more and more (and two of them are Canon Discontinuity in any case), and then the series was added in and then there are things like Search For Vengeance, and the Animated Series. This is another universe that will give you a headache if you try to figure it out.
Men In Black has Agent K erasing the data on James Darrell Edwards, the future Agent J, including a birth certificate dated 1975. The third movie takes place in 1969, and a young J is featured. The confusion is made worse by Will Smithbeing born in 1968.
The Star Wars saga caused several snarls, with some caused due to conflicting Expanded Universe material, and some due to the series' jump from the original trilogy to the prequels:
Obi-Wan has several statements in the OT that turn out to be Half-Truth at best (which does fit in with his character; he is one of the most prominent examples of Half-Truth). He claimed he didn't own a droid in A New Hope, but did during the prequels (though apparently it was the Jedi Order's droid, not his personal droid). He apparently didn't know that Leia was Luke's sister at first, despite being present when they were both born and named. He never specifically stated that Yoda was his mentor, but it was certainly the implication in The Empire Strikes Back (before it's revealed that it was Qui-Gon Jinn, then subsequently patched up by showing Yoda trained young Jedi before they grow up and get another mentor). Obi-Wan also mentions that he was as reckless as Luke when he was his age (but not according to the prequels, which show him following the rules more rigidly than anyone else).
Leia claimed to have remembered her mother in Return of the Jedi, but Padme died in childbirth in Revenge of the Sith. Possibly explainable if she was thinking about her adopted mother, although Luke does specify "your real mother" when he asks.
The novelization of Revenge of the Sith lampshades/handwaves this. When the twins are born Luke is described as having his eyes shut tightly while Leia's are open as if trying to take in everything.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader does not seem to recognize C-3PO, despite creating him in The Phantom Menace (and remarking in said film that he's incredibly unique). The Expanded Universe attempted to rectify this in a (non-canon) story called "Thank The Maker", where Vader reminisces about his mother and 3PO when he's at Cloud City.
Revenge of the Sith reveals that it took roughly 20 years to build the Death Star (from the time Luke and Leia are born, a rough frame of the structure is being built) without anyone realizing it. In Return of the Jedi, the Death Star II only takes 3-4 years to be fully functional and mostly-built. The apty-named novel "Death Star" tries to address this, going over numerous problems that came up over the course of its construction (including at least one instance of the superlaser having to be stripped out and redesigned). Death Star II, despite being somewhere between 2 and 20 times larger than Death Star I (depending on the source), could be built much more quickly because by that point the Empire actually knew how to build a Death Star. Gets a possibly unintended Lampshade when an Imperial officer complains about the speed at which he's expected to finish the project.
Obi-Wan and Yoda supposedly left Luke on Tatooine with the purpose of training him later. When that day came, Yoda acted surprised and even argued with Obi-Wan as to whether or not Luke should be trained. While in the prequels, Yoda is explicitly shown teaching young children (and therefore may simply have assumed the plan had changed since Luke wasn't brought to him, say, ten years ago and feel that Luke is now too old to begin training), nothing in the original trilogy hints at this.
Within the original trilogy, Luke and Leia are set up as possible love interests (to the point that a deleted scene shows them about to kiss), only to be revealed as siblings later on. Neither of them has the slightest idea that they are, even though Luke's Force perception should have tipped him off at some point. The problem was that Han Solo clearly has a romantic interest in Leia in Empire Strikes Back, and the last thing old-school George Lucas wanted was to end the trilogy with a messy love triangle.
In Empire, Leia actually kisses Luke—apparently in an attempt to make Han jealous, but still.
Obi-Wan, and Anakin after he removes the Vader mask in ROTJ, are played by actors in their 60s and 70s, respectively, suggesting they would have been in their 40s and 50s when Luke and Leia were born. Instead, they were shown to be in their 20s and 30s.
Canonically, Obi-Wan died at 57 (only 5 years younger than Alec Guinness during filming). Anakin, on the other hand, was 46 (26 years below Sebastian Shaw!).
The Expanded Universe had, prior to the prequel trilogy, assumed that Obi-Wan had met and trained an adult Anakin, as nothing in the original trilogy even hinted at Jedi being brought in for training as young children. Thus, the EU sources listed him as being only 5 years younger than Obi-Wan.
Anyone who listens to the Star Wars Radio Dramas can't help but notice that Han shoots first and Han does not meet Jabba on Tatooine. These were two of the more infamous changes made by Lucas when he Re Cut the 1977 film for re-release.
In the process of creating prequels for the X-Men series, different creative teams have introduced a number of discrepancies in the franchise-in fact, the only sign they're meant to be in the same continuity is the presence of Wolverine in all five films and the character of William Stryker. Almost all of the films have continuity snarls with other installments; most of the time it's a conflict between the movie trilogy and one of the other films.
Emma Frost is introduced as a woman in her late 20's/early 30's in First Class (which takes place in 1962), but is seen as a teenager in Origins (which chronologically happens 17 years later, during the Three Mile Island incident in 1979).
This isn't the only problem with ages-Cyclops is portrayed as a teenager in 1979 during Wolverine, but is portrayed as a man in his mid to late twenties in the original X-Men trilogy, which takes place 20 or so years later. James Marsden was 27 when he portrayed Cyclops in the original X-Men, about ten years too young.
In X1, Professor X claims he and Magneto first met when the former was 17. First Class has their first meeting in 1962, but prior to this shows a younger Charles Xavier aged around eleven alive and well in 1944.
Admittedly, Cyclops was blindfolded whilst being rescued from the Island by Wolverine in Origins, but it still seems unlikely that in X1, he would have no idea whatsoever that he has met the man who once saved his life.
The process by which Wolverine received his adamantium claws changes from film to film. In X1, dialogue and x-rays show that he had mechanical pistons and claws grafted into his arms. X2 hints that the adamantium was injected and shaped by doctors, and (in a flashback) Logan is seen fighting off several doctors who've been working on him before escaping the Alkali Lake facility covered in blood. In Origins, the adamantium bonding process is hands-free, no doctors ever work on Logan, and the adamantium is grafted to his bone claws, something he wasn't mentioned as having in the following films. Additionally, the X-rays don't show the two giant holes he should have in his skull.
Charles is paralyzed in First Class, but is seen as an older man walking around (with Magneto, no less) when they visit the young Jean Grey in The Last Stand and when he appears in Origins. Hank McCoy becomes Beast in First Class, but is shown on a television screen (in human form) in X2, talking to Sebastian Shaw, who should be dead. Cerebro was built by the CIA in First Class, but was apparently built by Xavier and Magneto in X1. The discovery of the mutant gene is new (and eventually leads to America and Russia uniting to kill mutants) in 1962 in First Class, but Congress is surprised and shocked by the existence of mutants in the "present day" of X1, which happens 40 years later.
Days of Future Past provides an explanation for Beast - he has developed a drug which allows him to temporarily negate mutations. It also (for some reason) temporarily heals Charles' paralysis, but at the same time negates his mind-reading powers, yet is still shown to be fully able to both walk and read minds in The Last Stand.
Also in Wolverine, Sabretooth never had his memory erased and should know his own brother. In X1, which was released first, it seems that Sabretooth does not know Logan, looks completely different, and is near-mute (though none of the Brotherhood is terribly talkative in X1.) That surprised people-Tyler Mane is contracted for two movies, and would not have changed much due to age. You'd have expected Sabretooth to be largely the same but with more lines instead of the totally different character we're given in "Wolverine."
In First Class, it is established that Mystique and Prof. X grew up together. Seems odd that she would be so casual about attempting to kill him in X1 and at no point did Charles express any real knowledge of her outside of being Magneto's lackey.
First Class depicts Charles and Magneto briefly encountering Wolverine, which appears to contradict X1's assumption that this is their first time meeting him. While Wolverine not remembering them is Hand Waved by his memory loss in Origins, it still doesn't explain why the other two don't seem to recognize him or mention that they've met before.
In X1, it is implied that Magneto built his own telepathy-blocking helmet and it was a new addition since Prof. X was surprised he had one. In First Class, it was built by Sebastian Shaw and Prof. X had full knowledge of it.
In X2, Magneto claims that he and Prof. X built Cerebro together. In First Class, we're told that Beast built it.
Matthew Vaughn, director of First Class, stated he tried to fit with only the trilogy instead of Wolverine. Too bad Fox and the makers of said movie's Blu-Ray didn't listen, and the Cerebro bonus feature profiling most mutants try to put all 5 films in the same timeline (as mentioned above, Emma Frost◊ is the most senseless).
Vaughn also failed to make Beast fit into the continuity of the original trilogy. In order to make the ages work, Beast would have had to be 60 or so years old during the events of X-Men 3 (Kelsey Grammer was 51 during filming; meanwhile, X2 Hank looks much younger. Fan theory about X2 Beast tends to involve "image inducer" holograms like Nightcrawler once used.)
In previous films it had been established that Logan had no memory of his past prior to 1979. So how, exactly, in The Wolverine was he able to remember saving Yashida during World War II?
Prior to the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, producer Lauren Donner Schuler went on record saying that the film made Origins and The Last Standnon-canon. However, Future Past still references Logan's memories (including scenes from Last Stand), which doesn't answer why (up until the timeline changed) there was a caucasian Bolivar Trask (played by Peter Dinklage) in 1973, and an African-American Trask (played by Bill Duke) during the events of Last Stand.
The original RoboCop trilogy has a bit of a minor problem with the name of the titular cyborg's superior officer, Sgt. Reed: in in the first movie, his first name is given in one scene as "John", but in the second, he's referred to by Murphy (following his reprogramming by Dr. Faxx) as "Warren".
Who is King Arthur's greatest knight: Sir Gawain, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percival, Sir Galahad, or King Pellinore? Did you even know that in many of the earliest tales, it is Sir Gawain, without question? And before that, it was Mordred as a good guy.
And what about Sir Griflet? Originally one of Arthur's most loyal knights, he was pretty much supplanted by Sir Bedivere.
And Lancelot, the one knight that everyone knows, isn't even part of the "original cast". He was originally the star of his own set of adventures and only got mixed in with the other knights along the way.
According to Peter David, Lancelot was "the first Mary Sue." This certainly explains his (or rather his reincarnation's) treatment in Knight Life.
And Morgan Le Fey-once she made the Cross Over and stuck, having originally been from the Matter of France-went from being a benevolent sorceress who had saved Arthur's life on multiple occasions to a vindictive yandere bent on breaking up Arthur/Guinevere to the mother of the Big Bad to the Big Bad herself. And even after Mordred was retconned into being her son, he originally wasn't fathered by Arthur. And then the whole Brother-Sister Incest thing got added in.
In the very earliest stratum Cai was easily the foremost of Arthur's war band.
The Briar Creek Vampires: In one book, it is a major plot point that vampires do not simply burn up or turn to dust, but leave behind normal bodies that must be disposed of. In later books, they turn to dust every time.
Because he was constantly revising his unpublished works, J. R. R. Tolkien managed to create a Continuity Snarl all by himself (which is probably why they were unpublished). His son Christopher edited many of them together into The Silmarillion, trying his best to come up with a version that didn't contradict itself and presenting it as in-universe folklore to cover remaining holes.
The Land of Oz suffered from continuity problems from L. Frank Baum's hands. This included whether they used money, whether they could die, and where Ozma came from.
He managed to get a Continuity Snarl with two books. In the first book, the Scarecrow is Offered the Crown of the Emerald City-Glinda has the flying monkeys carry him back there so he can claim it. In the second book, when the Scarecrow goes back to Glinda for help regaining his crown, she tells him that he's not entitled to it, it's Ozma's.
Heck, as Oz went on, the number of adaptations, prequels, sequels, spinoffs, side-stories, etc have made it even worse. In fact, take one look at the number of books alone that take place in an alternate continuity, and which ones are considered "Canon".
H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Lovecraft himself was not always very consistent with various details between his stories, and several of the other authors who continued his work had various contradicting views of the mythos, leading to much confusion for anybody trying to fit all the stories into a single continuity.
Part of the reason behind that is that, at the time, Lovecraft had a very "pulp fiction" attitude towards his stories - not only did he have very little intent to create a cohesive continuity framework into which all of his stories could be inserted, but he tended to see each story as somewhat self-sufficient and exclusive. Mentioning the same occult book in multiple stories or inserting a reference to a character from another story was more a method to create the feeling of artificial depth to the story at hand rather than trying to imply they all took place in a consistent universe. Lovecraft never really bothered to maintain continuity in his OWN stories, let alone all the stories written by his friends and associates that used shared references.
Furthermore, Lovecraft aimed to create the feel of ancient myths by adding in deliberate inconsistencies, depending on what source the characters of a particular story gain their information. There's at least three different species as candidates for the title of the Great Old Ones, for example, as well as the more famous interpretation which Derleth embraced that the name refers to unique creatures of immense power.
In his later years, Kir Bulychyov admitted that he never reread any books in his Adventures of Alisa cycle, which would explain the many, many continuity problems that emerged over time. Krys, a recurring villain, had about three different (contradictory) origins and six different explanations of how his powers worked. His companion, Veselchak U, gained and lost powers. The chronology has been anything but consistent and don't even get started on when half of the novels were supposed to take place relative to each other. The fact that Kir Bulychyov died a few years ago doesn't help at all.
Chris Roberson aims for this by intention—as a kid, he loved reading comic books and seeing all the ways they interconnected. Pretty much everything he writes that isn't a tie-in to Warhammer 40,000 is in a single setting, but he explicitly uses the "many worlds" model of quantum mechanics, and slight deviations lead to massive differences over a relatively short period of time. Attempting to fit his works into a single continuity would be arguably meaningless, and it's uncertain whether even he knows what he's doing half the time.
An entire cottage industry has sprung up around trying to wrestle the Sherlock Holmes stories into continuity — not only with each other, but with actual history.
About halfway through the first BIONICLE book, Tale of the Toa, the writer starts mentioning the tools of the Toa Nuva, and how the Toa use them. Yet they only turn into Toa Nuva at the end of the second novel. The confusion came about because the author, who wasn't well versed in the story and its characters to begin with, had to churn out the books real fast, all in 2003, which meant that besides that year's story, those of '01 and '02 also had to be written down. She thus accidentally mixed up the original Toa and their tools from the first year with their advanced Nuva forms from the second.
A lot of scenes also differ in their presentation from the source material, like how the Toa received their Golden Masks, and the entire final battle with the Manas and Makuta, the latter of which didn't even occur in the book, despite being the Grand Finale of that year. Tons of scenes are written in a way that makes the book unwarrantable for a Compressed Adaptation title (as in, the left-out events simply cannot be spliced in between the chapters). These could be forgiven, were the book meant to be a simple adaptation, or a "new take" on the story, but it was supposedly intended to be part of the official timeline.
In The Book of Night with Moon Tom and Carl are stated as Advisories, which would put it before the second book in the other series. Then Nita shows up... and says that Dairine has passed Ordeal, which is the plot of the third book!
Ranger's Apprentice has problems with its continuity, possibly because Writers Cannot Do Math. Every major event in Halt's life — leaving home, coming to Araluen, becoming a ranger — happened "twenty years ago"; in the first book this isn't a problem, because it would've been about twenty years exactly from when it started to then, but all this still happened "twenty years ago" after five or six in-universe years. Possibly justified with Halt just rounding it off, because "twenty years ago" is easier to say than "twenty-five years ago".
I Dream of Jeannie was infamous for this. Notably, in the first series, it was explained that Jeannie had been a mortal girl who was turned into a genie (and trapped in a bottle) by an evil djinn who fell in love with her. Starting in the second series, Jeannie was born a genie, and all of her relatives were genies as well, notably her evil sister.
A series one episode featured Jeannie losing a potential career as an actress when it was revealed that she could not be filmed. Many later episodes forgot about this, with one episode featuring Jeannie getting targeted by thieves after appearing with an ancient jewel in a photo, and another episode featuring a scandal when Jeannie and Tony are photographed together. The Wedding episode bizarrely brought back the idea, where complications arose when Jeannie got not be photographed for her wedding.
Finally, what would happen if Jeannie and Tony got married. In an early episode, it is said that Jeannie would lose her powers if she married a human, but her children could still be genies. When they actually married in the show, Jeannie still kept her powers.
On the issue of the children, in the TV movies, it was originally shown that Jeannie's son did inherit his powers, but the second movie portrayed him as a mortal.
Moira Sullivan, mother of Chloe Sullivan, is nothing more than a walking Continuity Snarl. Her past varies slightly every time in her few appearances, the difference usually including the time when she left Chloe.
Countless Doctor Who fans learnt to shudder when the topic of what exact decade(s) the UNIT stories were set in is raised, before the new series demonstrated how much worse it could get. Precisely when the UNIT stories were set may be unclear, but at least we know which order they took place in. With the new series and spin offs, we don't even know that. There are sound arguments that Revenge of the Slitheen happened after "Smith and Jones", and equally sound arguments it happened first.
Due to Rose skipping over a year in "Aliens of London", the new series chronology started at 2006. However, despite being consistent with this for the first few years, by Series 4, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, they began using the same year as production, even though they were mentioning past events that should have happened next year.
The Eighth Doctor's continuity doesn't even try to make sense simultaneously. His only definitively canon stories are his birth in the telemovie and his death in "The Night of the Doctor"; the novels, audio plays and comics made it clear early on that they're not concerned with outright contradicting each other for the sake of telling their own stories. The 40th anniversary audio drama "Zagreus" has the Eighth Doctor see alternate Universes and mention his adventures in other continuities.
Though in "The Night of the Doctor" he does mention his Big Finish companions and Big Finish tries to fit in with New Who.
These are by no means the only fraught areas of Doctor Who continuity. In what order did the original series' Dalek stories happen? (In particular, when does "The Daleks" take place and why are the Daleks in that story so different from all others seen later?) How many Doctors have there been (watch "The Brain of Morbius", although the novelisation clears it up a bit)? What was Atlantis like, and how did it sink? And how many times did it sink (And yes, this question is more complicated than it first appears)? How do Time Lord family relationships - in particular, the Doctor's - work? What are the Laws of Time and for that matter, are they laws in the scientific or legal sense? And most of that list arises just from the TV series.
And then, add in the novels and the comics. Normally, as with Star Trek, these are dismissed as non-canon, but is it really non-canon when Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred (7 and Ace, respectively) reprise their roles for the audio dramas? The BBC has no canon policy at all; the only requirement laid down by the Beeb is "No television story has to depend on the off-screen material to make sense."
It's probable that everything is canon, but with all the time travel that goes on, the Doctor's past adventures and even massive things like the fabric of Time Lord society get changed by all of this all the time. The problem is then understanding what's canon right NOW.
And now that the entire universe was erased and reassembled in the finale of series 5 it's not clear what has ever happened or not, particularly in series 4 and 5.
The Time War that occurred sometime between the Eighth and Ninth incarnations is sometimes used by the writers to explain continuity errors.
Another possible theory which is occasionally kicked around in the fandom is that since we know, due to classic-era episodes like Inferno plus the events in various new-era Series 2 episodes, that the TARDIS can slip "sideways in time" into alternate-history universes, it's entirely possible that the TARDIS has been doing so all along without the Doctor realizing it.
In the immortal words of current producer Steven Moffat: "It is impossible for a show about a dimension-hopping time traveller to have a canon." - there's a reason why one of the best episode guides for the show is titled "The Discontinuity Guide".
Various wikis have taken differing positions - Wikipedia mostly treats only the TV shows as canon, This Very Wiki treats the TV shows as the Whoniverse and everything else as the Doctor Who Expanded Universe and the Tardis Data Core decided that there isn't really one canon, but takes most things that can be considered officially-licensed stories as valid parts of the Whoniverse, including stories not made by the BBC but licensed from owners of individual aspects, such as K9. Even in situations in which different stories contradict each other, they simply say that it is the result of differing accounts of particular periods. They do claim some stories, like "The Infinity Doctors" and Death Comes to Time aren't part of the Doctor Who Universe.
The UNIT dating controversy is lampshaded by the Doctor in the new series, who mentions not being entirely sure when precisely he worked for them, narrowing it down to roughly some time in the 70's or 80's. In "The Day of the Doctor" has Kate Stewart (the Brig's daughter) mention that UNIT used a few differing dating methods back then, so even they are a little muddled on the issue as well.
It was assumed through most of the Moffat era that the aborted "metacrisis" regeneration from the RTD era did not count as a full regeneration towards the thirteen-regeneration limit. In "Time Of The Doctor" it was revealed that it did, which retroactively screwed up a lot of Moffat stories. For example, when the Doctor is poisoned, he says to himself that he'll just regenerate and the TARDIS informs him that the venom blocks regeneration...but he was already out of regenerations anyway, so regeneration would never have been an option and he has no reason to lie when he's the only one listening. Some inconsistencies can be handwaved as lack of character knowledge, but it makes no sense that, say, the Silence (a religious order dedicated solely to studying and killing the Doctor) didn't know about his regeneration but the Daleks (who previously had all knowledge of the Doctor erased) do.
As mentioned above, Star Trek also suffers from this, despite efforts from the writers to avoid this.
A particularly embarrassing debate is the question of why Klingons look completely different in the original series to the rest. It was Lampshaded in one Deep Space Nine episode, but deliberately wasn't explained (the Deep Space Nine writers stated they realised any explanation, especially a virus-based one (which they had considered but abandoned) would be underwhelming, forced and ridiculous so decided to acknowledge it in a humorous way but not insult the fanbase with a horrible technobabble solution). Enterprise made it worse, with their ridged Klingons (so they had them, then lost them, then got them back?) and decided to create an explanation in the fourth season, which is when it truly remembers "we're a prequel series" and starts to tell the story of how the TOS-era Trek Verse came to be. The TOS Klingons are the descendants of several Klingon colonies that got infected by a virus that caused a genetic mutation that made them look more human. Said virus was created by a Klingon scientist hoping to enhance Klingon soldiers using DNA from genetically engineered humans, after said genetically engineered humans 1) kicked their asses, 2) stole one of their ships, and 3) flew circles around the Earth Starfleet's flagship. Apparently, reconstructive surgery in the Enterprise episode suggests that individual gene therapy became possible between TOS and Deep Space Nine, thus explaining Kang, Kor, and Koloth's sudden appearances of ridges in the latter.
The change in their MO from "The Russians IN SPACE!" to Proud Warrior Race Guys is hinted at in one recently-affected Klingon mentioning having felt fear for the first time since childhood. Apparently they got more underhanded because their personalities were also altered to be more human.
Now the Romulans are one. Enterprise didn't explain how they went from ridged in TFE to not in TOS to ridged again in TNG. Then the new movie makes it worse still: Nero and company are not ridged! And no, Alternate Universe doesn't explain things, because it's post-TNG Romulans from the prime universe who changed history. They are very much the same Romulans that existed alongside Picard et al.
In the prequel comic to Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Countdown, it's stated that Nero's crew ritualistically disfigured themselves as a demonstration of mourning for their lost homeworld. You can see in the very first scene with Nero that he has both pointed ears intact, while later in the movie one ear has had the point cut off. The same scene also has much more prominent brow ridges on Nero's face than later in the movie, so it's likely that distorting their ridges was another part of the mourning, along with the tattoos.
The loss of the ear came in a Deleted Scene, where Kirk Sr.'s ramming of the Narada disabled the craft and allowed Klingons to capture the Romulan crew. The disfigured ear was the result of some, uhh, Enhanced Interrogation Techniques on the part of the Klingon captors. (This scene also explains why Nero laid low for 20+ years.)
Furthermore, the tattoos sported by Nero's crew are given an explanation: Romulan tradition states that when a family member passes away, they apply dyes to their skins, and mourn. When the patterns fade, they move on with their lives. Nero's crew tattooed the symbols onto their bodies, so that they would never move on from the loss of Romulus.
And then there's the Eugenics Wars. In the 1967 episode "Space Seed", it's established that the Earth was devastated in the 1990s by a great war fought against (or possibly between) genetically-engineered supermen. Trouble is, Star Trek was still going strong by the time the actual '90s rolled around. And some episodes made in that time and afterwards seem to suggest that the '90s happened like they did in Real Life. But the Eugenics Wars are still canon and an important part of Star Trek's Back Story as they are the origin of iconic villain Khan. This has never really been officially resolved, although author Greg Cox wrote a series of Star Trek novels covering the Eugenics Wars, depicting them as happening in secret and trying to match it all up with real history.
This is thrown out the window by a comic series that has the Reboot!Khan explaining his origins. In his version of history, the Augments did indeed stage a takeover in the 90s, which took all of two weeks. They then started fighting with one another, allowing humans to band together and throw them off. Khan's people are the only ones that made it out thanks to him devoting most of his time to research (he had the SS Botany Bay built to explore the Solar System). Marcus then found the ship, had Khan thawed out, reshuffled his face, and gave him Laser-Guided Amnesia to make him think he really was a Section 31 agent named John Harrison. "Harrison" proceeds to upgrade the Vengeance and re-invents Scotty's long-range transporter, before heading over to blow up Praxis.
Another such snarl was created by a throwaway line from The Next Generation where Data points out that Andorian marriages have four individuals in them. One series of tie-in books took this to mean that Andorians have four sexes, with other books taking it to mean that the Andorians practiced complex marriage with two males and two females. Canon had been ambiguous on the issue for years, but eventually went with the complex marriage interpretation by the time of Enterprise.
The first appearance of the Borg in "Q Who" established them as something completely alien to the Federation, and it's even stated that they wouldn't have discovered humanity for a while longer if Q hadn't introduced Picard to them. Fast forward to the introduction of Seven of Nine on Voyager, whose backstory is that she was captured by the Borg as a child when her parents were on a trip looking for them, long before "Q Who." If you really want, you can say the Borg's time travel in the First Contact film created some timey-wimeyness that changed all this, but it's probably more trouble than it's worth.
Also on Voyager, a couple of formerly-human Borg are said to have been assimilated at Wolf 359. How this could have happened is unclear, since there was one Borg cube there that was completely destroyed in Earth orbit, and if anyone from the fleet at Wolf 359 had been assimilated they would presumably have been killed then.
Perhaps they sent their memories to the rest of the Collective.
Then there's the Enterprise episode that has two drones from the Queen's Sphere survive the crash, assimilate a bunch of scientists, hijack a transport ship and start heading towards the Delta Quadrant. After the Enterprise destroys it, Phlox reveals that they managed to send a message. Archer figures the subspace message would take about 200 years to reach the Delta Quadrant, putting it in TNG timeframe.
The Big Bang Theory: In the season 1 episode "The Hamburger Prostulate" mentions that Sheldon is allergic to cats, but later episodes mention that he had a cat when he was a kid. "The Plimpton Stimulation" even states that getting a pet was against the "Roommate Agreement" unless it was necessary, like a Seeing Eye Dog.
Possibly lampshaded in "The Zazzy Substitution" (Season 4, Ep 3) where Sheldon reacts to his breakup with Amy by getting a cat ... then several more. 25 in all.
Though people can develop (and lose) allergies as they get older, or pass through different developmental stages, so it is possible that Sheldon had a temporary cat allergy.
Don't try to figure out M*A*S*H's timelinenote not at all helped by the fact that the series was on for more than ten years while the actual Korean War finished in just over three. Many have tried and it just gave them a headache:
To get into the show's worst offenses, when Colonel Potter takes over the camp, it's explicitly stated to be September 19, 1952, but a later episode opened on New Year's Eve, 1950 with Potter and Winchester there. And The Korean War started in late June of 1950, so apparently the show's first five seasons with Colonel Blake and Frank took place over the course of barely more than five months. And early episodes with Blake and Frank tended to give the year as 1951 or 1952. And the September 19, 1952 date doesn't work very well even on its own since it requires that eight seasons take place over the course of ten months.
Not only that, but they had a Christmas episode in each of the seasons and a few episodes that would take up several months to a whole year.
There were only three Christmas episodes of M*A*S*H and one day-after-Christmas episode which could have occurred the day after a previous Christmas episode in the same "war" year. There was only one episode which took place over several months.
The Boxing Day episode begins on Christmas Day, with some British officers visiting the unit talking about wanting to get back to their own unit for Boxing Day, which doesn't correspond well with events of any of the other Christmas episodes.
One episode starts with the new year and ends with the next year.
In a Season 3 episode, Hawkeye talks about the death of Doctor Charles Drew and says it was "last April." Drew Died in April of 1950. That would put this episode some time in 1951.
A few episodes later in Season 3, Hawkeye says he's been in Korea for two years. If he got there when the war broke out in June of 1950, which doesn't seem likely since he was drafted, that would make it some time in 1952 at the earliest.
In the episode where BJ arrives, Hawkeye states that he had Trapper as his roommate for over a year, and in another he states that Trapper was already at the 4077th when he arrived. That doesn't work with the above statement he's been in Korea for two years when Trapper was still there.
In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Maddie asks London's help to pass gym when she realizes that, despite her pampered lifestyle, the rich girl is in great shape. In the sequel show, Suite Life On Deck, London suddenly needs Zack's help to pass gym.
There is a solution.. possibly. See Dan Schneider for info. In short, there is a Show Within a Show that could be what the characters are referring to and not Drake and Josh''.
That solution is then torn apart by the Victorious episode Who Did It To Trina, where they explicitly state that Drake & Josh is a TV show. Even though the episode before it had Helen, one of the main characters fromDrake & Josh appear and reference characters from Drake & Josh.
In The Office, toward the end of the fifth season, in a rare instance where two people are talking to the camera, Pam and Jim are talking about how Andy and Angela had been engaged for a couple of years, but then said that the timeline was complicated.
Kamen Rider OOO's appearance in Kamen Rider Double's movie and their crossover movie Movie War Core has... issues with OOO's TV series continuity. Whilst this would not be a problem for Kamen Rider traditionally (what with each Heisei Rider series until Kamen Rider Decade being self-contained) the fact that Double's canon across all medias is very tight creates OOO's problems. Examples include Gotou becoming Birth (his not getting to be Birth is a major part of his character arc) and OOO's medal count (he switches between forms he never had all the medals for at the same time at any point in the series.)
And Giru existing. In the series, Giru is never active. A complete set of ten Core Medals for a dinosaur Greeed exists, and five wind up in Eiji and five wind up in Maki. Also, there were Out Of Character Moments with the OOO crew, as all the details of the series hadn't been finalized when the movie was produced. This results in a movie that is clearly a direct continuation of Double but just as clearly can't be in continuity for OOO.
Making it more confusing, every crossover from that point on has references to the previous one. In Movie Wars Core, Eiji (OOO) helps save one of Shotaro (Double)'s friends, prompting Shotaro to say "That's another one I owe you", referring to Eiji's Big Damn Heroes moment from the Double movie. In Movie Wars Megamax, Shotaro mentions repaying this debt, as well as quoting what Eiji said when they first metnote "Riders should help each other out."; on top of that, Eiji recognizes Gentaro (Kamen Rider Fourze) thanks to hisBig Damn Heroes moment in the stand-alone OOO movie.
There have been three seasons of Power Rangers that have shown variations on the future: Power Rangers S.P.D. (2025), Power Rangers Time Force (3000), and Power Rangers RPM (undefined; somewhere between Next Sunday A.D. and Twenty Minutes into the Future). Trying to fit them together can be problematic, especially since the various showrunners are unclear on whether or not RPM is an Alternate Continuity. (Of course, it's not too hard to weld together the three seasons, since Time Force shows wastelands that could have been created in RPM. The biggest bone of contention about SPD revolves around the amount of aliens living on Earth which had disappeared before the chronologically later seasons. It's not a huge stretch to assume that by the time of RPM and Time Force, the aliens have become Human Aliens by either adapting to Earth's atmosphere or integrating with humans.)
In "Alpha's Magical Christmas", a direct-to-video musical released during the second season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has many continuity errors such as the team already being acquainted with Rocky, Adam and Aisha, even though Tommy is still wearing his Green Ranger costume and not the White Ranger one, while Jason, Zack and Trini are "at the Peace Conference", even though they're still Rangers.
Here's another one for you: When did Power Rangers first start showing up on earth? In Dino Thunder, Tommy claims that the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers were the first, but then you have seasons like Wild Force and Mystic Force where the organizations the Rangers belong to have existed for decades or even millenia. And even if you argue that those organizations may not have had actual Rangers until their respective seasons began, Power Rangers Samurai outright states that the Samurai Ranger powers have been in use and passed down throughout family lines for centuries.
Dino Thunder does its best to try and tie together all the previous series by being the first since Lost Galaxy to acknowledge that they all exist in the same universe, but creates more inconsistencies, in addition to the above mentioned, Tommy himself is one. First off he is shown working for Doctor Anton Mercer a few years prior. However this contrasts with his previous appearance in Forever Red where he owns the local hangout and is implied to have a bit of money which seems quite different then assisting a dinosaur professor.
Frasier Crane famously told his friends at Cheers that his father was a research scientist and had died years before. This was Handwaved in his Spin-Off series Frasier as having been something he said because he was angry at his dad that day, but it was in fact not something that was said once; his characterizations of his father and his identifying himself as an orphan took place consistently over quite some time during his years in Boston.
Frasier's mother visits him during his engagement to Diane, and is almost psychotic at the thought of her son marrying a mere barmaid. This doesn't fit in well with Frasier's claims ot be an orphan, or her posthumous characterization in Frasier, and raises the question of when, exactly, she died.
This one's pretty easily handwaved though. Frasier is, first and foremost, a snob, and not likely to admit to having a blue collar dad. The lie is a bit callous, but not outside the realm of Frasier's thinking.
Degrassi fixed a year issue caused by Seasons 6-9 each being half a school year long. Causing time in series to lag behind the real world. So start of Season 10 it is suddenly current year, 2008 to 2010 over the summer break... But given Emma's birthdate is a fixed point, and her first day at Degrassi is also fixed by the Class reunion of the DJH characters, makes a lot of interactions between Seasons 7-9 problematic. Specifically between characters like Sav and Holly J with characters like Paige and Spinner.
Pretty Little Liars is starting to run into this especially where Jenna and Toby are concerned. This is probably the result of initially following their book characterizations then pulling a Wham Episode regarding them and developing them into their own characters butkeeping their new characters for flashbacks where they should be their old selves. Jenna isn't too bad since she's made out to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing in the early books but Toby goes from a creepy loner Emo Teen pre-character development to having always been a Iron Woobie with no hints of creepiness.
"Hercules and the Amazon Women" established Hercules, Iolaus, and their peers as having been conditioned since birth to believe women are inferior and should Stay in the Kitchen. After meeting the Amazons for the first time, Hercules slowly realizes that this line of thinking is wrong and becomes respectful to women for the rest of the series. However, Hercules and his friends met the Amazons and several other Action Girls as teenagers in Young Hercules, and had plenty of respect for women at this time.
The god Strife gets killed by a god-slaying weapon in "Armageddon Now: Part 1", and Zeus gets killed in "God Fearing Child", yet Strife appears in "Yes Virgina, There Is A Hercules" (which is set in the modern day), while Zeus is mentioned as being active. Some fans have Handwaved this by suggesting the two may have been resurrected somewhere down the line.
In Young Hercules, Jason was a teenager just like Hercules and Iolaus. In the main series, Jason is an old man who eventually dates and marries Hercules' mother Alcmeme and had been an active soldier when Hercules had been conceived.
"Ten Little Warlords" claims Ares' sword is the source of his powers. When it is lost, he will lose his powers and whoever claims it will become the new god of war. In the meantime, everyone becomes overly aggressive because there is no god of war to control anger and hate. In other episodes, Ares' powers are internal just like every other god. Also, when he is depowered at other times, people's personalities stay the same.
In one episode of Xena, the heroes meet Ulysses and help him return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Later, they come across and participate in the Trojan War.
"Hercules in the Underworld" has Hercules venture into the Underworld and meeting Hades for the first time. Hercules did it as a teenager in an episode of Young Hercules.
Zeus' twin sons Castor and Pollux appear in Young Hercules and Castor eventually gets murdered. Castor and Pollux later appear in the Xena episode "Little Problems"... and are portrayed as conjoined twins.
As a long running show there's bound to be one or two things that don't add up, but a pretty bad one occurs in Season 1 that there's little excuse for because it comes about in the space of two episodes right at the start of the show. There's barely any continuity to screw up. One episode centres on Ross moping because it's the anniversary of his first having sex with Carol (and also losing his virginity). Monica is the one who first remembers, which is Squicky but Ross says there were few people he didn't tell. In the very next episode, Monica says the line "Wow, my brother didn't even tell me when he lost his virginity."
Chandler and Rachel are shown interacting in Thanksgiving flashbacks to their teen years, and in a flashback to a few months before the series began, and yet in the pilot they're introduced as total strangers. Ross gets a "You remember..." before his name, as Chandler ought to as well.
In one of the early episodes, Phoebe is talking to a professional guitar player, Stephanie, and knows the real names of the chords. Several seasons later, when she was teaching Joey how to play a guitar, she appeared not to know the real names, and instead used her own made-up names (like Bear Claw).
How I Met Your Mother, a show normally outstanding in its continuity, has a couple of small errors. For example, at Lily and Marshall's wedding, Scooter states that his real name is Bill. But in season 8, it's revealed that his original name is Jeffrey.
In the first season, Marshall comments that he's never been in a fight before. However, later seasons reveal that years of brutal fights with his brothers have made him an excellent fighter, and he is able to knock out a large man with one punch.
The season 1 Halloween Episode has Robin give a big speech about how she could never play team sports - and would only play tennis - establishing that she has trouble mixing with others. A handful of episodes later has her state that she missed her prom for field hockey nationals. Subsequent episodes referenced her hockey background.
Misfits took the odd step of dating its final episode as taking place exactly a year after its first. This removed the implausibility of people keeping their crazy powers a secret for years at a time, but made it pretty much impossible for the show's 37 episodes to fit into that time period. Most episodes take place over a few days or weeks and most of the season premiers imply that months have passed whilst the show has been off air.
Charmed was notorious for its numerous continuity errors, especially in the sixth season. Chris Perry - a Kid from the Future - appeared to stop the Titans from conquering the world. When he gets his origin episode in season 6, there is no mention about the Titans and his brother Wyatt is the Big Bad in the future. He also orbs into the attic in his debut episode but this shows him going back in time via a portal in the attic wall. Additionally his hair was short when he arrived on the show but the actor grew it long for season 6 - and it's the same in his origin episode.
Chris says that Paige died in his debut episode, claiming to have prevented her death. In a season 6 episode, he tells her he goes to her for money in the future.
In a season 4 episode Phoebe says that her grandmother was married six times. Later episodes Retcon this to Penny only being married four times and engaged six altogether.
Patty and Victor's relationship in the past becomes more convoluted as the show goes on. It's implied in season 1 that Victor left Patty when he found out she was a witch. Numerous time travel and flashback episodes complicate matters even further as Victor and Patty appear to have broken up and reconciled quite a few times. The series finale in particular flashes back to when Phoebe was conceived and Patty and Victor seem to be fine. This contradicts season 1's "That 70s Episode" where Patty and Victor have been separated for a while and Patty doesn't know she's pregnant with Phoebe yet. The story is also initially that Victor left the girls to be raised by Penny. Season 3's "We All Scream For Ice Cream" says that he stuck around for a while after Patty died but then left again.
Religion and Mythology
If you look at the pantheon of any ancient civilization close enough you're bound to find these. Because of:
A. Different versions of the same myth by different writers
D. Drift over the centuries: Our records of mythology come from different periods over time, and a civilization's myths can change significantly as the years pass. It should be hardly surprising that the stories in, for instance, the Greek Epic Cycle (the Iliad and Odyssey) should be a bit different from myths recorded in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles and from those recorded in Roman times (e.g. in Ovid and Virgil): the Epic Cycle was first written down about 800 BCE, Classical Athens was about 400 BCE, and the Roman Empire was around the first century BCE. And Classical myth isn't the first of it: by the time the Greeks began trading with Egypt during the Classical period, Egyptian civilization was already 2500 years old—as ancient to them as they are to us.
E. Syncretism, the practice of trying to fold other mythologies into your own. So the fertility goddess of the next island over is really your fertility goddess, or her aunt, or a despised rival that yours decapitated in a myth you just wrote for the purpose of showing the people of your island that the people from the next island are horrible people who richly deserve your hatred and raiding parties. Or the umpteen different theologies and practices lumped together in Hinduism. Or stories originally from other religions with just the names of the gods changed whether or not it makes any sense.
All over the place in Classical Mythology, the only long-running franchise to have three millennia of retcons:
Case in point, Venus/Aphrodite's origin story. Was she the daughter of Jupiter/Zeus? Or was she born from the sea foam from when Ouranos/Uranus's testicle fell into the sea, long before Zeus was conceived?
Or take Eros. Was he the son of Aphrodite and Ares, as he is usually depicted in Western art from the Renaissance onward? Or was he one of the eldest deities of all, born out of the original Chaos alongside his siblings Gaia (mother of Ouranos) and Tartaros, as described by Hesiodus in his Theogony?
Hephaestus's origin is a crazy example. Okay, so he was born when Hera gets annoyed that Zeus apparently gave birth to Athena on his own. She tries it, and she gets a very ugly baby. So she tosses it off Olympus. That baby is raised to become the greatest smith ever. He is then welcomed into the pantheon. At some time afterwards, he hits Zeus over the head with an ax while Zeus has a headache, and Zeus gives birth... to Athena. It's like that old "born in a log cabin he helped build" thing.note The most common explanation is one or both of: Hephaestus is a legitimate son of Zeus and Hera (Which works well for establishing that those two make a very bad couple, seeing as how their other son is Ares) or it was Prometheus who split Zeus' head open to let Athena out (Which is consistent with the fact that Metis, a titaness, was the mother of Athena; meaning that Athena was probably born not long after the Titanomachy, when Prometheus was still on Zeus' side). Causality is just for mortals!
When Perseus was returning from his trip to decapitate Medusa, he met the Titan Atlas and asked to share his hospitality. Atlas was a jerk and refused, so Perseus turned him into a mountain with Medusa's head. Perseus' distant descendant, Heracles, later stopped by the same region, where he got the help of a completely healthy and not-at-all-stone Atlas in stealing some Golden Apples. (Keep in mind, Medusa's effect on people is incurable.)
Was Amaterasu conceived by Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto while the latter was still alive? Or was Amaterasu the by-product of Izanagi washing himself of the filth from Yomi? The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki both say different things. And say nothing of the myth where she sends her grandson to rule over the world...
The Bible has surprisingly few direct contradictions, but let's just say that there's a cottage industry in trying to make sense of the Bible in a manner that doesn't lead to major contradictions. That cottage industry is called "Christian theology and Jewish study." And that's all we'll say about the matter; you want to find which ones they are you'll have to go elsewhere.
The WWE's "Kane" character, whose official life story has him having been a hopelessly-insane burn victim in an asylum at the same time he was supposed to have been hanging out in college and going to parties with his sweetheart Katie. Further complicated by the storyline of his "brother", who had a whole angle where he Broke the Fourth Wall and "went out of character". The whole thing got so complicated that they had to have somebody write a book (titled Journey Into Darkness if one should want to look it up) in an attempt to explain it.
The Undertaker himself tends to be mildly rebooted when he gets a gimmick change. Different personas don't often directly reference older ones, but this is a double-edged sword; most glaring is when the American Badass started out with the Undertaker doing a worked shoot to sell the idea that he wasn't supernatural in character as well as out, so he could come back as a leather-clad biker, only for Kane to kill him so he could be resurrected as undead.
Occasionally a reference is made to their childhood home burning down, but which brother is responsible depends on who's Heel and who's Face at the time. If they're both Face, it was an accidentPaul Bearer's fault.
A good one was in WCW, where a masked wrestler would run out and attack people during their matches. He was eventually revealed to be Rick Steiner. The problem was that the week before said masked wrestler attacked...Rick Steiner.
WCWs Black Scorpion was allegedly someone out of Sting's past. It was going to be the Ultimate Warrior, but there was a small problem-Warrior didn't work for WCW at the time. After months of waiting, and literally dozens of people showing up under the mask, they finally made Ric Flair the "real" Black Scorpion. The kicker? The Black Scorpion was created to give Sting an opponent other than Ric Flair.
The original DeLorean Time Machine makes an appearance sitting in Doc's garage and seems to be in mint condition notwithstanding being destroyed by a freight train at the end of Part III, though it might be possible he simply rebuilt one.
The Clock Tower seems to be working, even though it was still broken as of October 21st, 2015 in Part II. The ride, however, takes guests 4 days later to October 25th, 2015. Whether or not it may have been "repaired in four days" is up to you.
The story detailed in the promo-material for LEGO's short-lived Slizers line could never agree on what the characters were (Are they single entities? Or entire species?), in what order the Elemental Nations on their planet followed each other, or just how many regions there were at all. This hit the US market harder (where the series was known as "Throwbots"), since in their story, there were multiple planets, but in the line's second year, they got replaced by the European single-planet setting.
There's a rather telling one between Dead Space and Dead Space 2; in the first game, the Red Marker is basically portrayed as benign and the key to stopping the Necromorphs, but in the second one, it's the active source of the Necromorph outbreak. Actually unsnarled (though partially through clue-fuelled deductions) in Dead Space 3: the Markers broadcast a signal that creates Necromorphs and, when their numbers reach a critical mass, causes them to amalgamate into a gargantuan alien lifeform called a "Brethren Moon". The constant rephrase of "Make Us Whole" from both of the Markers is them trying to compel enough people to die and become Necromorphs to create a new Brethren Moon. Isaac misinterpreted the Red Marker's pleas in the first game and inadvertently placed it upon a signal dampening device that had been constructed when it was placed there two centuries earlier.
While the individual Klonoa games have decent plotlines, the inter-game continuity gets rather ridiculous. In Door to Phantomile, Huepowis revealed to be the prince of the Moon Kingdom using the Ring Spirit form as a disguise, andis tragically separated from Klonoa at the end of the game, both of which are ignored when he reappears in later games. Not only does Joka have a different personality in every game he appears in, but he already knows Klonoa in half of them, and is killed in the other half. And Chipple, a random villager from Empire of Dreams, showed up in Dream Champ Tournament, where he had become Klonoa's close friend... and a kangaroo.
The Legend of Zelda continuity is very confusing for the simple reason that for a long time, we didn't have the whole picture, and, of the bits and pieces gotten, weren't told how they fit together, or how many wholes they comprise, leading to decades of debate as to how to organize anything. Word of God itself was contradictory. Franchise creator Shigeru Miyamoto, not all that concerned about the timeline, seemed to endorse that the various games may be corrupted retellings of each other while series director and producer Eiji Aonuma preferred there be a worked out timeline. Things were finally sorted out in late 2011 when the two revealed the official Hyrule Historianote which, among other things, showed that things split into THREE timelines, not two as was previously thought, explaining why it was so darn difficult to figure out what went where, but the confusion willlive anew each and every time a new game is released.
The fact that the official timeline presents about as many problems as the average fan timeline is an example of how snarled the series' continuity is. The reason for this is probably that in many cases, not even the games' developers seemed to be aware of the timeline placement of the game they were working on, especially when it comes to the games developed by Capcom.
Mortal Kombat. Each character gets his/her own ending, they often intersect, with other character's endings, and are often in direct conflict with other character's endings, showing one character winning a battle in his own ending, but being killed in the same battle by his opponent in his opponent's endings. Background information in the next game says which endings are canon, and which aren't. The official word on the Mortal Kombat Deception endings are only on Armageddon's website: Basically, Shujinko and Nightwolf's endings worked together to end Onaga. For the Mortal Kombat Armageddon endings, replace "Background information in the next game" with "Opening cutscene in the next game": Basically, either the backfiring of Taven's plan to Kill 'em All empowering everyone instead allowed Shao Kahn to win, or Kahn just flat out won on his own through his sheer power.
There are more straight examples of snarls in the actual story, mostly the result of the lead writer shift after MK4 . The two which stand out the most are Scorpion's oath to protect Sub-Zero (started in his MK2 ending, supported in the official comic and UMK3 ending, then ignored completely in MK4, with following games being ambiguous about the whole ordeal, or portraying him as an Ax-Crazyrevenge-seeker), and Kintaro's fate after MK2 (with 3 different sources, all of debatable canonicity, stating different and contradicting fates for the Shokan).
Another big snarl is that at the end of MK2, Shao Kahn is Killed Off for Real, but in 3 he returns alive and well to take over the world.
Street Fighter: In fairness, a lot of it is because 2 become an iconic landmark revolutionary sea-changing event of events which changed the universe forever and ever (to the point where pretty much everyone got plain sick of it). If this weren't the case, Capcom probably would've just relished their success and quietly released Alpha as a fun, inconsequential one-off featuring the unselectable fighters in the first game, then made a full break with III. As it is, II and its continuity has reached such an enormous Shuma-Gorathian level that it's dragged the rest of the Street Fighter universe into it. Hence, Street Fighter IV. With Makoto, Dudley, and Ibuki (and now Yun and Yang) at the same age and with the same motivations as in a game that canonically isn't supposed to happen for at least another three years. With a hopelessly convoluted plot involving M. Bison (who does die for real at some point, we just don't know when) and a Korean hellion we've never even heard about before. With Adon seemingly stuck in the distant past. With Rose around for no apparent reason. Before, there would be retcons; now, Capcom isn't even trying to hash it out anymore.
Capcom plays so fast and loose with continuity that now we have Ingrid, a character who deals with continuity snarls. Maybe. Between having few appearances and Capcom's refusal to ever clear anything up, she's more likely to turn into a snarl herself.
Myst created an interesting continuity snarl when it retconned the prison books of Myst I and Riven into actual ages. That is, the books themselves were not intrinsically special or different from other linking books. Myst IV goes into great detail as to what the Red and Blue ages (named Spire and Haven) are like. While this works for Myst I, it violates the events as they unfold in Riven. To beat Riven, you have to trap Ghen in a prison book. This book was presented as a special "one man prison" book, which is a very important plot point. Ghen's no fool; he isn't going to go into any random book some guy brings him. To ensure it's safe, he asks you to go through the book first. This works out in the end because it is a one man prison; when he comes through the book after you, you are freed and he is trapped. If that book were a regular linking book, you'd be trapped with a very pissed-off Ghen... who had the sense to bring a gun.
It isn't the only retcon in the game's canon that poses problems for Myst. When the official rules for linking books were more clearly established, they included the fact that sound doesn't travel through a linking panel. This means that the stranger couldn't have talked to Sirrus and Achenar, regardless of whether they were in prison books or prison ages, nor could he have talked to Atrus through the linking book to D'ni at the end of Myst. This is compounded by the fact that Sirrus, Achenar and Atrus definitely shouldn't have been able to see the stranger, as although the linking panel lets you see an Age, you clearly can't see back through a linking panel even inside Myst (including the D'ni book, since when you get to D'ni you can't see back into the library, so how did Atrus see the stranger?).
Mega Man has a real weird timeline. Mega Man X was supposed to end after Mega Man X5, but didn't, leaving a complicated mess of the continuity of its series.
Mega Man X: Command Mission takes place during 22XX, which is when the Mega Man Zero series does. Bosses regularly refer to Zero "Century-Old Junk" (literally, not figuratively), and given how the X series takes place in 21XX, things don't fit, especially considering the time needed for the Elf Wars and such.
Each installment of The Elder Scrolls is made by a different team, and each has a very large amount of information in each game. Later teams have been known to completely overwrite what was established by earlier teams. Every single installment has a portion of the fanbase that declares "They Changed It, Now It Sucks".
The Elder Scrolls series even has an in-universe continuity snarl: the Warp in the West. Somehow, all of the contradictory endings of Daggerfall are true (the linearity of time broke down. It's called a Dragon Break, and in-universe the Warp in the West was not the first one).
Touhou: The PC-98 games mostly seem to have been stricken from canon, but occasionally there'll be a reference to them, leading to headache-inducing attempts by fans to reconcile them with the Windows games. And the setting as described in the first few Windows games doesn't really match later what'd later get nailed down in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense... which would cause problems itself when the things it covered that weren't in existing games would turn out different when they actually appear.
The major, not really handwaveable problem is the lunar wars. Imperishable Night has as its backstory the Apollo missions being a cover up for a war between The Earth and The Moon. Then Bougetsushou retcons this into the Lunarians being paranoid and maybe doing the odd bit of sabotage to the astronauts, but it being pretty one-sided. The problem is that there being a real, actual war is Reisen's entire reason for running away, and the Lunarians wanting her back (because of the difficulty fighting!) is what kicks off the plot of Imperishable Night.
The Blaze/Silver/Nega issue in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. In Sonic Rush, Blaze is from an alternate dimension. In Sonic '06 she is from the future (and seems out of character). Additionally, due to that fact she was from the future, she could be REAL version of Blaze, who isn't born until later. The other one DID come from an alternate universe...
Later on, in the DS version of Colors (which may or may not be canon), Blaze appears alongside Silver during the third mission on Sweet Mountain and, should the player receive an S rank in their side mission, after a battle with Orbot and Cubot Silver claims to have felt like they'd fought together before, a nod to '06 Blaze (who was Silver's best friend). Tails comments that perhaps they had been partners somewhere, some time.
And then there is Generations. Blaze is first seen at Sonic's birthday party interacting with Cream and her in-game character profile notes that she's from another dimension, indicating that this is the same Blaze from Rush. As a Continuity Nod (of sorts) to '06, Blaze is found in Crisis City. Here's where things get wonky. After Sonic completes the Crisis City Act 2 mission "Blaze: Piercing the Flames", Blaze will remark, "I never thought I'd find myself in Crisis City again," bringing up the question of how exactly Blaze knew of a place that existed in a timeline that was erased from history.
Additionally, both Silver and Eggman Nega (characters with prominent ties to Blaze, but connected to her by different games) are drawn into this snarl as well, as the two appear in the Rivals series—sans Blaze. Here, Silver is still from the future, but Nega (established in Rush as Eggman's parallel self from the same dimension Blaze is from) is now a descendant of Eggman, embittered by how Eggman's failures have tarnished the family name in the future and is now an enemy of Eggman instead of working with him. Later on, Nega reappears in Rush Adventure and Rivals 2 with the conflicting backstories of his appearances between Rush and Rivals. It's implied that (due to '06 slamming down on the Reset Button until it cracked) Silver now hails from the Rivals future and Blaze is from Rush (with no official word on Nega with his lack of appearances since), but Silver is still the Rival Battle for the Modern era of Generations (which takes place in Crisis City, no less) and the ending of Generations has him and Blaze briefly chatting it up before everyone says their goodbyes to Classic Sonic and Tails.
The confusion was finally cleared up in 2012, with Takashi Iizuka stating that Blaze is from an alternate dimension, while Silver and Eggman are from the future.
The Nintendo DSUpdated Re-release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney featured an extra, fifth case which takes place in between Ace Attorney and Justice For All as evidenced by Maya still being away at Kurain Villiage training wherein Phoenix and Edgeworth work together to assist Ema and Lana Skye in their legal case. However, when Edgeworth reappears in Justice For All's fourth and final case, Phoenix claims not to have seen him since the fourth case of Ace Attorney where Miles was accused of murder and Edgeworth supports this by claiming to have left the country right after said events; neither of them seeming to remember their work together on the Skye trial. This could simply be explained away as a case of Canon Discontinuity by stating that the fifth case of Ace Attorney never really happened in the series proper, due to it being an addition for the remake. But, Ema is integrated with the official continuity in the Apollo Justice arc by having her appear and explain Wright's involvement with her sister's case, thus making Phoenix's and Edgeworth's reactions to each other in Justice for All seem odd in retrospect.
It's quite easy to make it fit in canon if you ignore the one part where Phoenix says he has not seen him since Miles' trial and just consider that they were really referring to case 5 of the first game rather than case 4 (case 5 actually does somewhat set up Miles' disappearance). This problem was basically made due to bad porting. If they changed the background in Phoenix's little "Haven't seen him since" monologue, this whole problem would have never existed.
What's really weird is, because of the order the games were released in overseas, the translations had every chance to fix this and write it so that no one would notice the problem, and they... didn't.
Ironically, Super Robot Wars is pretty successful at averting this. In fact, Banpresto does the exact opposite of snarling continuity up and instead snarls it together. At the point, the original games, Alpha, and Original Generation have several common ties, thanks be to several characters who can time or dimension travel (Shu, Ingram, and Gilliam head the list).
Odder still when you realize that each was originally in its own canon, and these characters were only giving out Continuity Nods. Original Generation is in the position currently of tying the original games/Alpha/MX/The Great Battle/Hero Senki/etc into one interlocking whole courtesy of characters who in canon reference their own appearances in those canons.
Even more interesting, it's being strongly implied that there's only one Nagisa, and his appearances throughout Super Robot Wars canon (in F/Final, Alpha, and MX) are the same Kaworu or his consciousness reincarnating across timelines with full knowledge of his history (in Alpha 3, he vaguely refers to the events of MX).
The creators of World of Warcraft, after admitting they had forgotten a key fact about the eredar that was established in Warcraft III's manual, went on to say that they didn't care about continuity as much as making a good game and brushed off complaints about the changes made to the draenei. Eventually, fans learned to ignore this and some other minor retcons.
The draenei retcon was fairly minor in terms of effects to storyline (the draenei didn't have much involvement in it before), although it did retcon the background of Sargeras somewhat. To make matters confusing there are actually two new explanations for his corruption: one being the same as the old one but with the eredar replaced with demons in general, and the other being that he just came to perceive the universe as flawed, with no mention of demonic corruption. Nobody is quite sure which is canon, although the evidence would lean towards the latter one. Years later, demons in general are confirmed to pre-date Sargeras' corruption once again, though it varies by race.
The real Snarl (which was thankfully sorted out) was the origin of Garona, a half-orc and a fairly important figure in lore. She originally had orc and human parentage, and was born before the orcs launched their first major invasion (originally there was quite a bit of time between the opening of the Dark Portal and the First War, during which the orcs mainly did small raids on the human settlements nearby the Portal). However when the First War was retconned to have happened almost immediately after the opening of the Portal, there was no way for her to be half-human. Then she was half-draenei, a human-like race from Draenor. Then the draenei were ugly creatures that looked in no way human. Then the draenei were mutant human-like creatures. The the un-mutated draenei were non-demonic eredar (see above). Her parentage went unexplained for years and for some time it seemed that she was simply going to be erased from continuity, but she was finally given a new origin, making her a product of the warlock Gul'dan's experiments that involved breeding draenei prisoners with orcs, and then making them grow rapidly into maturity with magic.
Blizzard introduced a new one with their whole "There must always be a Lich King" thing, although they still have time to justify it. The idea is that if no one takes over the job as Lich King, then the Scourge will overrun the world and destroy everything. There's two problems with that. One: There can't be that many Scourge left, since we've fought and destroyed them all the way to the Lich King's very doorstep. Two: We've already seen what happened when the Lich King loses power without a successor, it was the entire plot of the Warcraft III expansion, the Frozen Throne. The Lich King was dying due to a spell that Illidan cast, but he was interrupted before he could finish. As Arthas rushed over to Northrend to take over, the Scourge did not overrun the world. In fact, they started to become the Forsaken, who are supposed to have their minds back. Thus, if we assume that the new revelation is true, it not only makes Illidan look like a big fool (even bigger than the heroes who trusted Maiev), it implies that the Forsaken are an evil more dangerous than the Scourge. Although the Wrathgate event and subsequent invasion of Undercity make this a very good possibility, the Forsaken are a playable race and it seems doubtful that the game will ever truly confront or resolve this problem. Even so, not all Forsaken are evil, and the evil ones are not unstoppable (just a playable race, and full of plot armor).
The leading fan theory is that it might actually have to do with the Elder/Old Gods, which the Nerubians used basically live over, and the Lich King might technically be accidentally keeping it sealed. Scourge boosted by the power of Eldritch Abominations might be... bad. Very Bad. Considering that Yogg-Saron, god of death, very loudly screams about how the Lich King is trying to usurp his throne, this seems like the most likely explanation. Note that Yoggy was still sealed when the Forsaken were freed, which explains why they kept their minds instead of being re-enslaved by him.
However, Word of God during an Ask Creative Development Q&A says that the "There must always be a Lich King" statements should be taken at face value. No Old Gods, no Ner'zhul speaking through trusted ghosts... just a need for a new Lich King, with the added bonus that Arthas or Ner'zhul could have unleashed the Scourge and ravages Azeroth without the undead being feral. Arthas likely held them back to corrupt people to maintain his pride (to show that his failings were normal). Why not Ner'zhul? No idea. Probably to buy time to escape the Legion's control.
Blizzard lampshaded their tendency to do this with the Well of Eternity dungeon, which revisits a previously established moment in Warcraft lore using time travel. Defeating the Dual Boss at the end in the wrong order grants the achievement "That's Not Canon!" with an angry face as the icon.
Previous lore stated that the only life on Azeroth before the Titans came were the elementals, and the Old Gods that they worshiped, both of which were imprisoned by the Titans before they shaped the world. At some point, the Earthen were exposed to the Old Gods, which turned them into mortal dwarves. Now, a titan computer known as the Tribunal of Ages says that during the shaping by the earthen the Old Gods came to Azeroth and corrupted it, including using the Curse of Flesh, followed by the titans coming. Supplemental materials say that other life existed before the titans came, including trolls, the evil insectoid races, and the faceless ones. Also (as a sub-snarl that is pointed out by the source) the tauren, but before their creator Ancient (the Bull Ancient) could have existed (no Emerald Dream/nature to be spawned from). The Klaxxi confirm that the insectoids (the aqir) were around before the titans, when previously it was just the elementals.
The continuity of the Persona titles can in fact be taken as all games being in the same universe, despite great differences between the first 3 games (actually 2, but one is a two-parter) and the newer 2. This is because both games in the aforementioned two-parter, Persona 2, end with a massive Cosmic Retcon, the second of which may have reset everything from the first game as well. The third also tries to end itself by retconning out it's own existence, but this time, the protagonists see through it (though it is still a Downer Ending). This is made even more confusing by the fact that the later games make several Shout Outs to the earlier games in the forms of former playable characters being mentioned on TV or by other characters. In addition, the nature of the enemies and of the Personas which the game is named for do not remain consistent, with the first two games featuring demons from the main series, while the latter two feature shadows born of the human psyche, which is what Personas from the first two games were. Even the portrayal of shadows is inconsistent in the newer games, which definitely share the same universe, as P3 has artificially made shadows, where as P4 has more "natural" shadows.
There isn't really that much inconsistency; the only artificial shadows are the Full Moon bosses and Strega's Personae. While it is true that the bulk of the shadows in 3 are tiny fractions of Nyx's essence while in 4 they are reflections of human emotions and thoughts, Nyx (Mankind's subconscious wish for death or an escape from pain) herself, along with Metis (Aigis' loneliness) and the Embodiment of Despair (The despair felt by SEES on the protagonist's death) have their ultimate origins as reflections of emotions just like in 4. Of course, 4 also has Izanami; who doesn't appear to have either of them as her origin.
According to this surprisingly obscure interview with Persona 4's staff, the games do all take place in the same verse.
Persona 4 Arena directly contradicts Persona 3 and Persona 4 with the characters’ choices of Personas. All of the Persona 4 characters are stuck with their Initial Personas. The game reference Chie and Yosuke’s completed Social Links (meaning they should have their Ultimate Personas) but they have their first ones and too little time has passed for them to have regressed. Teddie is the most glaring example as his Star Social Link is one of three that levels up automatically in Persona 4 and must be completed in order to reach the True Ending (which Arena explicitly follows). Even more confusing is Aigis, who has Pallas Athena even though in The Answer Aigis inherits the MC’s Wild Card and Pallas Athena is changed into Orpheus. The Answer is clearly canon because Erebus appears in Elizabeth’s story and Aigis still possesses the Wild Card. It is unlikely that Aigis was able to re-fuse Pallas Athena since Igor tells Aigis that she has the access to the same number of Personas through the Wild Card as the MC did.
For P4U/P4A, it should be noted that the Personas all use skills they would have at high levels, and unlike the P3 Ultimate Personas, the P4 Ultimate Personas only had increased stats (until P4G). As for the universe, Persona Magazine, which was published sometime after the 1up interview, often ignores P1/P2 continuity and refers to the current Persona-verse as 'the P3/P4 world', and given that P1/P2 and P3/P4 outright contradict each other several times over, it's possible we're heading for a retcon.
The Halo universe can't make up its mind on whether there was a single "class" of Spartan-IIs or more. The various writers have changed the answer to that question more than nine times, which is summed up at this Wikia Wikianswers page. Meanwhile, the situation in Halo's Extended Universe is an absolute mess:
First humans were the heirs to the Forerunners. Then humans were Forerunners, but less advanced. Then they were a different species again, but now Forerunners hated humans because ancient humans were an expansionist interstellar empire which the Forerunners had defeated and devolved. The Forerunners are led by the Didact, who loves humans. Actually he hates them. Actually he's two different people. And anyway the only reason humanity lost the war was because they were weakened by their conflict with the Flood: a parasite which they had barely managed to defeat by finding a "cure," which the Forerunners try to replicate. Actually there never was a cure, and humans didn't defeat the Flood at all - the "expansionism" was merely mass migrations of humans fleeing from the Flood. When the Flood show up the Forerunners are taken by surprise with no idea what they are or where they came from. Actually no - the Forerunners observed and steadily prepared in case the Flood should return. Except that actually the Flood was created by an even older species as revenge for being wiped out by the Forerunners. No wait, the Flood actually are the older species. Is your head spinning yet? The constant retcons are explained by the previous information the players received being "incorrect" or "incomplete" or characters "remembering wrong."
Street Fighter Alpha 2 basically treated the SNES Final Fight sequel, Final Fight 2, as if it never happened. They did so by introducing Zeku as Guy's Bushin Ryu predecessor, ignoring the fact that Genryusai from Final Fight 2 was precisely introduced to fill that role. The Alpha series continued with no reference to Genryusai's existence until Maki, Genryusai's daughter and a fellow Bushin apprentice, was introduced to the portable versions of Alpha 3, where she was Zeku's other student. The developers didn't bother to explain where Genryusai fits in within the Bushin Ryu hierarchy, but some fans believe that Zeku was actually Genryusai's student.
While early Pokémon games' differences between "Generation" versions are mostly aesthetic, later years significantly change the plot and in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire's case, who the main antagonist is. Then there's whether the pre-Game Boy Advance era games are canon, or if only the remakes are.
Pokémon Black and White has even more differences between the two versions than previous games, although it is implied that both versions take place in parallel dimensions of each other that are able to interact with each other (Trading, Player battles and the Entralink).
Continuity in Pokemon games is usually thought of as being based on how the Pokémon themselves are traded from game to game, but this can get a bit confusing when you factor in Pokémon Colosseum and its sequel, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. The latter takes place five years after the former, but both games are only compatible with the GBA games, which are assumed to take place at the same time. The DS games (the Sinnoh-based games and Johto-based remakes) take place three years after the GBA games (the Hoenn-based games and Kanto-based remakes).
This gets even more pear-shaped if you decide to consider the spin-off titles. Depending on the title in question, it can be canon with the main games (Pokémon Snap and Ranger) or it exists in completely different continuities (The Mystery Dungeon, The Trading Card video game, Hey You, Pikachu! and its spin-offs etc.)
The Nasuverse has an interesting approach to continuity snarls.
The first comes into place with Kagetsu Tohya, a sequel for Tsukihime. Kagetsu Tohya takes place in a dream world where the continuity is heavily blended and mutually conflicting events all take place together. For example, whether or not Akiha goes to Shiki's school depends on what he is thinking that morning. However, it should be impossible for this to be possible at all because the story is based around Len, and there is no route in Tsukihime where Shiki meets Len (Arcueid's familiar at the time) while Akiha goes to school with him. The continuity snarl occasionally confuses Shiki as well, but he's prevented from really thinking about it by Len.
An equally weird example makes up the plot of Fate/hollow ataraxia, which blends the timeline for Fate/stay night. The nature of FSN means that almost the entire cast has to be killed off before the end, but they're all okay again in FHA. Characters who died in all three routes are back. The reason for this is because Tohsaka accidentally merged a large number of continuities together, both ones we saw and ones we did not. Thus while Lancer was always killed, there was a continuity somewhere where he didn't. Like the above example, dream worlds come into it somehow, but since it hasn't been fully translated it's not quite clear how it works out exactly.
Finally, Ryougi Shiki appears in Melty Blood despite word of god stating that she and Tohno Shiki do not share a universe because the odds of two people having the Mystis Eyes of Death Perception at any given time make it impossible. Nobody seems to have had the eyes for several thousand years, meaning the odds of having them manifest are at probably trillions to one. Melty Blood has other issues than this, however. Satsuki is alive and a vampire, Arcueid is still around but not all yandere-y, Kohaku's route appears to have been partially resolved, Vermillion Akiha etc.
Ōkami may only be a 2-game series, but it has one thing it can't agree with itself on. Ōkamiden introduces a Akuro, who is the Big Bad of the game. Now, dialogue when he's introduced heavily implies that he is the successor of the previous game's Big Bad, Yami. But later, the Knowing Jewel claims that he merely used Yami as a vessel. Keep in mind that Akuro didn't exist in the first game, and that both of these versions of what Akuro is come from the same game! Jeez!
Mabinogi has this, much to the ire of some of the community.
In Generation 11, you're told that the Shadow Realm was created out of the grief of Price Tuan. Cichol reveals in Generation 16 that it's the fault of the Soul Stream. The Soul Stream is also responsible for the desolation of Metus and the Beach of Scathach.
Cichol also says that the desolation of Another World was also caused by the Soul Stream. Upon arriving to Another World in Generation 1, under the pretense that you're going to the fabled paradise of Tir Na Nog, Dougal (the only one there) tells you that it is another world destroyed by the Fomors.
Fridge Logic is also demonstrated here. You're told before you head for Another World that Nao can't help you there (pretty much saying that you can't be revived by her) because Another World is outside of Erinn's Soul Stream (where she resides).How is it, then, that a Soul Stream of one world would affect another that's not under the aforementioned Soul Stream?
In Generation 4-8, you learn that the Elves and Giants are beings cursed by Irinid (Neamhain) herself. As per the renewal of Chapter 1, Elves and Giants can now participate in the quests in order to obtain their transformations instead of doing the string of quests they originally had in order to obtain their transformations (which were actually removed). Most of the focus of becoming the Paladin was on making the actual armor to go on the journey to obtain the spirit that will enable the Milletian to become the Paladin at will (with a time limit). When the Milletian actually does transform, they wear the armor that they journeyed to create. Elves and Giants do not. They still become the Falcon (if you're an Elf) or the Savage Beast (if you're a Giant). In addition, the skills respectively are still called "Fury of Connous" and "Daemon of Physis", respectively. One begins to wonder why Morrighan would send beings cursed by her sister to get blessed behind said sister's back, and how they just happen to transform differently from the humans.
As new teams were signed by Komani to work on new Silent Hill entries, the nature and inner workings of the nightmare, as well as mythology behind the titular town, changed considerably.
Batman: Arkham Origins cause one within itself when they decided to giveBatman: Year One's corrupt S.W.A.T. officer Branden a first name: his bio in the game proper is listed as "Howard", but according to a radio transmission the player can listen to on the Cryptographic Sequencer in the "Cold, Cold Heart" DLC, his first name is "Scott".
The Sims has suffered more and more continuity errors with each new installment of the game.
Between Sims 1 and Sims 2, Michael Bachelor was revealed as Bella Goth's brother, and apparently switched birth order: he was fresh out of college in the first game, while Bella was married and had a child; but in the second game, he appears on the family tree as older than Bella and his ghost shows that he died of old age.
In Strangetown, Lola and Chloe Singles are shown as twins in one of the family photo albums, but are several days apart in age.
In Veronaville, the birth order of the Capps is notoriously confused. While Cordelia is named by her father's memories as his youngest child, the family tree names her as oldest. A generation down, the family tree, Consort Capp's memories, and the memories of the siblings themselves place the birth order of Cordelia's children as going either Juliette, Tybalt, Hermia; Tybalt, Juliette, Hermia; or Juliette, Hermia, Tybalt. On the other side of the family feud, Bianca Monty is shown in the family tree to be older than Antonio and Claudio, but Antonio starts off older than Bianca. Isabella Monty also has no memories of the births of her children.
Between Sims 2 and Sims 3, Kaylynn Langerak went from being much younger than Mortimer and Bella Goth to being slightly older than them. Additionally, Mortimer went from being apparently older than Bella to being exactly the same age as Bella.
Sims 4 pulls an outright Retcon on the backstory of the Caliente sisters, turning their mother from Nighat Caliente, who died when they were children, to Katrina Caliente, who is raising them as a single mother. Additionally, the devs have stated that Don Lothario has a crush on Katrina Caliente, which means that between games he became older than the Caliente sisters, who were exactly his age in Sims 2.
Drowtales' rolling Retcon (repeatedly sequentially updating older chapters with new art and story) causes chaos for many fans' understanding of the comic's backstory, and there are ongoing debates on the forums as to what formerly canon information is current canon and what isn't.
The Order of the Stick parodies this trope with an actual entity called The Snarl; created when multiple Gods tried to create the universe and had disagreements about how things worked.
Whateley Universe: Does the magic department offer introductory classes for people with no previous magical ability? In one story, a magically inclined member of the school board (who, presumably, would know) explicitly says no. And yet, Ayla will be studying magic for the first time in the spring.
A partial answer now exists: You need to be able to gather the energies of Magic in some way to take the courses in Magic (and it's explicitly noted that there are (inefficient) ways a normal human can do so).
But that still doesn't really work - in There's an Angel in Dickenson Cottage Lodgerman explicitly tells Kerry that her brother can't come to Whateley despite his enormous magical potential because Whateley only trains students who can already use magic. Ayla can't do this, but is somehow getting enrolled in a Magic 101 course anyway. Lodgerman may be lying for some reason or another, of course, but it isn't addressed.
The aforementioned series? In Japan, Cybertron is called Galaxy Force, and it appears it's unrelated to its Japanese predecessors, Micron Legend and Superlink. The US version tries to tie the three together, but there are still some problems, so a comic was produced that chalked all of this up to a big warp in time and space... even though some minor retcons and a few lines of explanation saying where the older characters might have gone to would have sufficed. Yeah, it wouldn't have been perfect, but come on, was it really necessary... especially since they've already let the original timeline rage out of control? Also, most people are fine with that comic not being canonized, because the warp in space is caused by the black hole in Cybertron, which formed when the Super Energon sun created to sustain all the restored planets at the end of Energon collapsed. Basically, it would have made Energon the worst Shoot the Shaggy DogDowner Ending in the history of fiction... and opened new holes with the continued existence of Cybertron and Jungle Planet.
What makes it worse is that it suffers from Xorneto syndrome (see X-Men example) in that the right hand seems to not know what the left hand is doing. All of the Unicron Trilogy's continuity problems could be solved with the "black hole's effect on the multiverse makes Cybertron the Post-Crisis version of The Verse" statement (that comes from the aforementioned comic. Just stop before you get to the part that makes Evangelion look like Happily Ever After by comparison.) That didn't stop everyone with the ability to create official material from explaining their own pet peeve a different way, explaining some things that didn't need explaining, and making the bigger problems all the more glaring.
Worse, the show itself mentions none of this, and we're left with plot holes big enough for Unicron to fly through, even a few that would have been changed by a few lines. Starscream's back, not brainwashed into being ultra-loyal and not remembering anything, but also not a Noble Demon, instead more, well, The Starscream. Jetfire is now Australian. Wing Saber is now a hothead. Sideways is back and has a different origin and final plan and nobody remembers him. Mini-cons have a different origin (including Jolt, who was major in Armada, as Hot Shot's Mini-con partner.) The biggest example is this: when Optimus and Leobreaker first combine, everyone is in total and absolute shock at the impossible - robots combining - happening. Guess what the main gimmick of both Armada and Energon was? (Hint: In Japan, Energon was called Super Link.) All it would take is a "Hey, Hot Shot, it's been a while!" from Jolt and similar acknowledgements of changes, or not going on about how combining, which used to happen all the time, is a shocking thing that has never happened before, or not giving Jetfire a new voice actor and style out of the blue to either completely cure the problem or at least make it fit together much better.
Oh, it gets worse: Takara has now decided that Galaxy Forceis in continuity with Micron Legend and Superlink, just as Cybertron is in continuity with Armada and Energon. It should be noted, however, that many characters in Galaxy Force do not share names with anyone in Micron Legend and Super Link, whereas Cybertron, in a manner similar to Robots in Disguise, named many characters after familiar ones. This makes the Japanese Continuity Snarl and the American one different - sharing The Verse doesn't make single characters out of the Micron Legend / Super Link characters and whoever in Galaxy Force they most resemble. (This puts some Fridge Logic in the Japanese version, now full of Expy characters that coexist. In America, there's one medic named Red Alert. In the old Japanese continuity, Micron Legend's Ratchet and Galaxy Force's First Aid don't get in each other's way continuity-wise. In the new version, two guys happen to have highly similar head designs and replacements for their missing left hands by dumb luck and no one comments on it. Numerous similar examples exist.)
Furthermore, some characters are "multiversal singularities", meaning that every incarnation of a certain character (Like, say, The Fallen) is the same being, instead of just some alternate version. This leads to some headache inducing retcons among other things.
Later statements by Hasbro have clarified that War For Cybertron, Exodus, and Prime are part of the same continuity in the same way that the original Transformers cartoon and the Marvel, Dreamwave, and IDW comics are all part of the G1 continuity — IE, they share similarities in aesthetics and characterization, but are not necessarily consistent with one another. The fandom generally uses the term "continuity family" to refer to such an arrangement, and this difference in terminology is part of the reason some fans continue to grumble about discrepancies in canon between the three works.
Even that doesn't satisfy all, just because War for Cybertron was so G1 Prequel-y (its cast is G1 characters and only G1 characters and their pre-Earth designs were largely based on The War Within, Dreamwave's G1 prequel.) and had nothing in common with Prime. However, they're working at fixing the problem via some Arc Welding: Prime writers are making references to it, and the second game in the series, Fall of Cybertron, is also looking more at Prime than at G1 when it comes to what events it's setting the stage for (though it's still using all G1 characters. Welcome back, Bruticus!) Also, Prime Shockwave looks very much like Fall of Cybertron Shockwave.
The Aligned continuity gained a new one when both The Art of Prime and The Covenant of Primus decided to address the dead Prime whose arm Megatron stole for his Badass Transplant in "Alpha; Omega". According to notes for Megatron's design in Art of Prime, he stole it from Sentinel Zeta Prime, but according to The Covenant of Primus, it came from the Liege Maximo, one of the original Thirteen. For what it's worth, TFWiki.net has decided to go with the The Covenant of Primus explanation.
Speaking of "Sentinel Zeta Prime," he is an attempt to clean up a minor one. One source says the Prime before Optimus is Sentinel and one says it's Zeta, so Hasbro decided, "why not make them the same guy?"
Played for laughs on American Dad! when Roger explains the background of a character he's made up for himself:
Roger: My name is Braff Zacklin. I was an international race car driver. One day, a baby carriage rolled out onto the track so I swerved into the retaining wall to avoid it. The car burst into flames, but the baby miraculously survived ... I was that baby.
Steve: That doesn't make any sense.
Roger: I'm Braff Zacklin!
Star Wars: The Clone Wars begins to run into this during the third season. All of the episodes take place in Anachronic Order, making their placement already difficult. Some even retcon the timeline for past episodes. For example, events in one episode took place in between the two prior season finales... and implied the second season finale took place before the first.
It doesn't help that the series itself is retconning a fair amount of older series's, such as many of the Republic Commando novels.
The continuity between episodes has been fixed. The show airs in syndication in a new and chronological order that starts a few weeks after the second life-action film in which Anakin got his scars and became a knight.
Parodied in The Fairly OddParents where it shows all of the different versions of Crimson Chins there are from the different decades of comic books. They all have different appearances, attitudes and one was even banned (the "super edgy 1985" one who swore excessively).
Played straight in the series with its own continuity. The inclusion of Poof as a main cast member has brought up some confusion regarding his absence in the finale of the movie Channel Chasers. Also, the addition of Sparky in Season Nine brings on more continuity issues, such as Sparky not being there on the end of Channel Chasers (the same contradiction happened with Poof) and he not being on the live-action movies - A Fairly Odd Movie and A Fairly Odd Christmas - both taking place thirteen years after the events of the main series. In A Fairly Odd Movie, there is even a scene in which Wanda states that Timmy doesn't have a dog.
Basically, this is where one should remember that the term "Word of God" is perhaps giving a little too much canon weight to author statements. The show never once makes it look like there is any connection between AA and EMH.
The Little Mermaid prequel TV series has a couple. In the movie Sebastian barely knows Ariel and is assigned to watch over her after she misses the concert. In the TV series he's part of her True Companions and they act as if they've known each other for years. Additionally Sebastian doesn't discover Ariel's grotto until the "Part of Your World" number - after he's only just been told to keep an eye on her. The TV series has him appearing in the grotto numerous times.
Otherwise subverted with other details. Eric appears on the show a couple of times but Ariel never sees him, preserving the continuity of their first meeting in the movie. Likewise Ursula appears but is not defeated and does not interact too much with Ariel.
Trying to keep track of everything that happened after the death of Alexander of Macedon (aka the Great) is almost impossible for anyone, even those with higher degrees in Classical History. The scale of the political maneuvering between his putative successors is too large to summarize. Suffice to say that one Classical Historian has described the carnage and politics between Macedon, Persia, the Ptolomaic Empire, and all the others, as a 'Macedonian Soap Opera'.
Similar case can be made in tracing the outcome of the Mongol Horde. It doesn't help that the Mongols didn't have sophisticated writing system until they begin to be assimilated to the culture of the invaded peoples. It doesn't help even further that the Khans valued secrecy if not deliberate obfuscation— where is the Tomb of Genghis Khan? Who was split from who?
The Wars of the Roses are sure to induce headaches in just about anyone studying them for the first time. The family trees are incredibly complicated (which is part of what started the whole mess, really), and the fact that the entire nobility seems to have been determined to choose from the same list of ten or so first names can make one dizzy after a while. For instance, Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, had several sons, the first two of which were Humphrey and Henry. Both sons married women named Margaret Beaufort. (The sons' mother, by the way, was Anne Neville... but not the Anne Neville that married Richard of Gloucester, a.k.a. Richard III. Totally different Anne Neville.)
Similarly, the Mexican Revolution. Once the United States got involved, it gets even more confusing because the Taft and Wilson administrations supported opposite sides of the conflict. And this is leaving out historiological debates over the whole mess.
The Schleswig-Holstein Question. Lord Palmerston is said to have remarked of it, "Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business — the Prince Consort, who is dead, a German professor, who has gone mad, and I, who have forgotten all about it."
As a result of a Gambit Pileup that's been going on for centuries.
Any time a city has two teams with the same name at different times, it can lead to this. A good example in the National Hockey League: from 1971 to 1996 there was a team called Winnipeg Jets, who has since moved to Arizona as the Phoenix Coyotes (later on being the Arizona Coyotes in 2014). In 2012, the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Canada, where they were rechristened... Winnipeg Jets!
Similarly, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, and in 2013 the new owner decided to rechristen them New Orleans Pelicans to lose the Artifact Title (the name came from how in the American Revolution Charlotte was described as "a hornet's nest of rebellion") and get something that fit Louisiana. Then Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (which started play in 2004), said his team will get the Hornets name back in 2014. Though once the Charlotte Hornets were revived with the rename, they made sure to say that the NBA allowed the "new" team to share the pre-New Orleans history, like...
The Cleveland Browns in the NFL. The original team wanted to move to Baltimore, but the city of Cleveland won a lawsuit against the National Football League, in which while the team's roster and staff would move to Baltimore to become an "expansion team" known as the Baltimore Ravens, a new team would begin operating under the old Browns banner three years later. While the new Browns team was originally stocked with personnel in the way that expansion teams usually are, the NFL considers the Browns to be one continuous franchise that "suspended" operations for three years, retaining all the awards the team had won prior to the move.
Then there's the Canadian Football League which had, for a number of years, one team called the Roughriders (one word) and another called the Rough Riders (two words). (This is because the CFL was formed by the merger of two smaller leagues, each of which had a team with that name at the time.) The Ottawa Rough Riders have long since shut down as a team, but the name could be reactivated if someone wanted to buy the right to it from the current owner. (A new Ottawa CFL team will begin play in 2014, but it will be known as the RedBlacks and has no particular connection to the former Rough Riders except being based in the same city.) The Saskatchewan Roughriders remain in the CFL.
In American college sports, there have been several examples of this phenomenon:
In 1907, the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association was formed. In 1928, the conference split mostly along public/private school lines; both factions claimed the MVIAA name for a time. One faction eventually became known as the Big Six Conference, later the Big Seven and Big Eight. The other became the Missouri Valley Conference. The Big Eight merged with four schools from the disbanding Southwest Conference in 1996 to form today's Big 12 Conference, while the MVC operates to this day.
There have been two separate leagues known as the Big East Conference. The original was founded in 1979 as a basketball-first league. In 1991, it added football, and entered into two decades of turmoil, mostly involving the split between schools that played top-level football and those that didn't. The conference finally split along football lines in 2013. The seven schools that did not play FBS (top-level) football bought the "Big East" name, and joined with three other schools to form a new Big East Conference under a new charter. The FBS football schools that were left behind, plus other new members, retained the charter of the original Big East, but are now known as the American Athletic Conference.
Speaking of the Missouri Valley Conference, it has been involved with an even more confusing example of this trope, one that also involves the conference now known as The Summit League.
In 1977, six schools in the Midwest formed the Mid-Continent Athletic Association, a football-only league, with play starting in 1978.
Then, in 1982, the Association of Mid-Continent Universities (the conference now known as The Summit League) took over the MCAA.
The MVC got involved in this snarl in the same year when its member schools formed the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, a separate though related league specifically for women's sports.
By this time, the MVC was operating a hybrid football league that contained teams both in Division I-A (today's FBS) and the second-tier Division I-AA (now known as FCS).
After the 1984 season, the MVC decided to drop football. Coming to the rescue... 'the Gateway. Yes, the women's league. It took on football as its only men's sport, absorbing both the MVC's I-AA programs and all of the Mid-Continent football teams.
In 1992, the MVC took over the Gateway, spinning the football conference off into a new entity which immediately renamed itself the Gateway Football Conference.
Finally, in 2008, the football league renamed itself the Missouri Valley Football Conference.