Loose Canon

This material is separated from the main continuity, usually in the form of special episodes or even Bonus Material. It's not out of canon, but it's not treated as if it was fully in canon either. Its continuity status is "No, Except Yes": not quite accepted, and not quite rejected. None of this will be referenced in canon, but it will not be contradicted outright either.

As opposed to the Canon Discontinuity which was explicitly removed from Canon later, this "Optional Continuity" implicitly was not firmly tied into Canon to begin with. Unlike Big Lipped Alligator Moment, it's not just a random throwaway gag that pops up unexpectedly only to sink forever, it's a complete piece of continuity not thrown away, but still set aside. While it cannot participate in over-arching storylines, it serves to highlight characters or setting that do belong to the Canonical continuity without interrupting the main story flow with expositions, up to becoming dedicated Exposition Bonus Material.

If the events are not inconsequential, such an episode may contain Reset Button, Or Was It a Dream? or Perspective Flip to Unreliable Narrator, forming a weakened link with the Canon. Compare Broad Strokes. Unrelated to Cowboy Cop.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Darker Than Black: OVA is a Deconstructive Parody on the series... with a Reset Button at the end.
  • Detective Conan has an ongoing spinoff manga series called Detective Conan Special Edition that is going on on a children's manga magazine. While it agrees with most canon elements of the main series, it's not drawn by the original mangaka (and hence has some Off Model issues) and The Syndicate never appeared outside of the First Episode Spoiler. Its lack of firm link with the canon can be demonstrated by how, despite being a Long Runner itself (>30 volumes), its story were very seldom adapted into the anime, even though such a thing would be very helpful in preventing Overtook the Manga.
  • Many Pokémon movies - while a few of them are shown to be part of the canon, one wonders how the Victini movies would fit in, due to them being the same movie, but with different twists.
  • The Evillious Chronicles franchise has four comedy bonus stories that were e-mailed with the Waltz of Evil databook, each of them too self-referencing to actually be considered canon. Even so, nothing contradicts that the events of the stories happened and fans tend to take the world-building assertions in them as true.

Collectible Card Games
  • In the early days of Magic: The Gathering, a number tie-in novels were published by HarperPrism and a comic series was published by Armada. When the Weatherlight saga began and Wizards of the Coast started its own novel line, the continuity was revised (This is commonly referred to as "The Revision"). Any material in the old publications is considered Canon unless new material directly contradicts it.

Comic Books
  • This is the status of the Vertigo Comics line of DC Comics: it started as part of the DC Universe, with most if not all characters simply being mature readers takes on existing characters, but has grown progressively more separate (and also began introducing new titles with no connection to the DC Universe). Basically, a Vertigo story featuring a DC character only applies to the main universe IF a story in a DC comics says it did. For example, we know that Dream of the Endless exists in the DC Universe because he (or rather his replacement) has appeared in issues of Justice League of America and Justice Society of America. However the versions of Hell from those universes do not match.
    • Though even those interpretations of hell remain as Loose Canon due to the fact that the Sandman series posits that there are multiple parallel afterlifes. In addition, for the most part, Vertigo depicts Hell as subjective; DC depicts Hell as objective.
  • Given how most Sam & Max comics usually only last three pages and how most stories (including the cartoon and video games as well) are mostly standalone, an official canon for the overall franchise is a really hard thing to decipher. The only time continuity really comes into play these days is in the Telltale Games Sam & Max series and tiny references to past cases (like Jesse James' severed hand from Sam & Max: Hit The Road appearing in recent episodes of the Telltale Games Sam & Max.

Film
  • The 2003 film Hulk essentially is this to the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk. The latter picks up with the hero where we left off with him at the end of the previous film, but 'adjusts' certain elements of the back-story...although the specifics of that back-story have very little bearing on the plot of the film itself.
  • Superman Returns also uses this regarding the first two Superman films, particularly as despite being set a few years after Superman II, it is seemingly set in contemporary times instead of during the eighties.
  • Each film in the Evil Dead series streamlines and slightly alters the general events of the previous film before continuing the story from where it ended. Army of Darkness even replaces the closure of Evil Dead 2 to make its plot work better.

Fan Works
  • The Pony POV Series has several chapters which Word of God has specifically said are optional for readers to consider canon or not, depending on their personal preference. This includes Luna's sidestory and the "Battle Pros" chapter. The former is refrenced somewhat in the actual canon, but never truly confirmed.
    • Pinkie Pie's Side Story, detailing the end of the G3 universe through her witnessing the Cosmic Retcon that must be done or the universe ends. Word of God has pretty much left it up to the readers rather it's a prequel, a non-canon standalone story, or just a fever dream of Pinkie Pie.
  • The Getting Back on Your Hooves sidestory "Another Happy Mother's Day" is said to be this by Word of God, being one valid possibility as to the fate of Checker Monarch. Ironically, it's actually a Recursive Fanfiction written by Alexwarlorn, the writer of the above Pony POV Series, the two authors being good friends.

Literature
  • Discworld spin-off materials (diaries, maps, Nanny Ogg's Cookbook etc) are generally loosely canonical.
    • Hell, earlier Discworld books are this to later ones, because Terry Pratchett has admitted he wasn't an as good a writer back then as he is nowadays. In his own words (paraphrased):
    Was the Patrician a fat man, or was I just not as good a writer as I am now?
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has Gilden-Fire, a novella consisting of material cut from The Illearth War. It gives information about the Haruchai (the people that the Bloodguard come from) which is found nowhere else in the books. However, the details of the storyline don't quite mesh with the version of events given in The Illearth War.

Live-Action TV
  • The Lost tie-in books and video game aren't canon (except for the Incident Room in the game...) but they don't interfere with canon by involving background characters and just mentioning the canon events as happening elsewhere. (The one trip-up spot here is really the part right before the end of the video game where you have to save Jack and Kate from the Others. There's no reason why that wouldn't come up again in the series...)
  • Very common with TV series tie-ins in general. Most of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel tie-in novels are this way, as are the CSI franchise tie-ins.
  • The third-season The West Wing episode "Isaac and Ishmael" was specifically intended to be canonically vague - it opens with the actors telling us not to worry about where it fits into the show's chronology (which is wise, given that it falls in the middle of a cliffhanger and its resolution), but no one ever actually says that it isn't canonical.
  • Doctor Who is often this, but most of these cases during the '60s and early '70s were due to the BBC wiping most of their tapes for storage - even though the audio and scripts still exist, episodes that can't actually be watched are sort of treated like Expanded Universe works - for obvious reasons they're never required knowledge for later episodes, though sometimes things that occurred in them get sneaky references.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have this for almost everything. Major events get retconned all the time, and it's up to individual writers what they consider canon for their story. Due to the sheer size of the setting and suspect in-universe sources of background info (which is generally presented as propaganda for one faction or another, making its reliability conveniently dubious) things they don't like can usually just be ignored and left ambiguous.

Theatre
  • The Drowsy Chaperone: In-Universe, Man-in-Chair never elaborates on the actors playing George and Trix. However, the booklet that comes with the 2006 Cast Recording contains fake liner notes from the record of the Show Within a Show, naming both of them.

Video Games
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid Mobile. It hits the Reset Button at the end by erasing Snake's memory so it doesn't interfere with canon. (Though that doesn't explain why Otacon doesn't remember any of the events either...) It doesn't help that it's so hard to get hold of that it's virtually a Missing Episode.
    • In The Darkness Of Shadow Moses and The Shocking Conspiracy Behind Shadow Moses, in-universe backstory documents included with Metal Gear Solid 2, were both intended to be canon at the time, but have been ignored for convenience (particularly the plot point regarding Metal Gear possessing only a dummy warhead, the background information about "the real Naomi" who went missing in the Middle East and the fate of the main Naomi). That said, not much is specifically contradicted between the games and the books and some of the things that are contradicted are likely intentional. The stuff that isn't contradicted (like the background details of Nastasha and Ames' relationship) is presumably canon.
    • Some of the "Snake Tales" shorts included with Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance - the stories are certainly not part of the main continuity, but some fill in background information that is probably canon:
      • "Confidential Legacy" is the most obvious one - the story about Meryl working with Gurlukovich is definitely non-canon, but it also goes into a lot of detail about Meryl's family situation which is regarded as canonical, naming Meryl's legal father for the first time and delving into his military position and job. It also contains the only explanation thus far for why Snake and Meryl are not a couple in Metal Gear Solid 2.
      • "Big Shell Evil" shows Snake demonstrating a photographic memory talent to memorise a long computer password. He never actually uses this ability in the canon, but there is still a very sad Call Back to it in Metal Gear Solid 4 in a sequence where the player may have him forget a computer password, demonstrating he has lost this ability. In addition to this, it elaborates on Snake and Otacon's friendship circumstances and interpersonal quirks, along with "External Gazer".
      • "Dead Man Whispers" fills in a lot of detail about Vamp and Scott Dolph's relationship. The canon has Snake mention in an optional radio conversation that "rumour has it" that they were lovers. "Dead Man Whispers" makes it very clear that they both deeply loved each other, as Vamp is shown to sacrifice himself in order to protect Dolph. It also gives some characterisation to Jackson, the original leader of Dead Cell and Fortune's husband, and goes into detail about what exactly the financial corruption scandal he was involved in was.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, not being made by Kojima, is canon only insofar as it doesn't contradict anything else.
    • Metal Gear: Ghost Babel adds some detail to Big Boss's backstory (such as his student Augustine Eguabon) that was presumably supposed to be canon at the time, and gives a lot of background information and worldbuilding to Galzburg/Gindra, the country where Outer Heaven was located.
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force (note that the expansions were made by a different company than original producers Valve) introduced the main character (marine Adrian Shepard) who proved quite popular among the fanbase; and the mysterious "Race X" from another, unknown world who happened to arrive at Black Mesa during the events of Half-Life and made a weak attempt to conquer Earth. Their canonicity is pretty much a gray area: it was never completely exiled from canon, but they did not appear in the series again. Same goes for Blue Shift; though Barney Calhoun made his way into Half-Life 2, the supporting characters (Dr. Rosenberg) and the exact events are semi-canon at best.
    • A generic, unnamed guard in Half-Life offers to buy Gordon Freeman a beer if they leave Black Mesa alive. While Barney Calhoun appears in Blue Shift, he comments in Half-Life 2 that he still owes Gordon that beer. Calhoun never directly encounters Freeman during the course of Blue Shift, though it is conceivable that many guards (perhaps even all guards) owe Gordon Freeman a beer for some reason or other.
    • The only detail from expansions that Half-Life's writer, Marc Laidlaw, has explicitly declared canon is Black Mesa's nuclear destruction in Opposing Force's ending.
  • It is somewhat unclearly stated whether the Team Fortress 2 tie-in comic “Loose Canon” is in fact Loose Canon or not.
    • Later comics and in-game updates build off of this comic as though it was canon, so it's only an example of In Name Only.
  • In the Tales Series, the Tales of Fandom games are treated this way, at least by the parts of their audience that don't speak Japanese, due to No Export for You. Details may gradually trickle through the fandoms as Fan Translations are made, but since these can be unreliable, most fanfic writers consider them optional at best.
  • Pretty much everything written by Michael Kirkbride for The Elder Scrolls lore outside of Bethesda is this. It's essentially treated as canon by most of the fanbase, but Bethesda has no official stance either way. Most of what he writes about is the more obscure aspects of the cosmology that doesn't get expanded on in the games, and lore figures the games never touch upon or that Bethesda is simply finished with (like Vivec).
  • RuneScape has some Spin Off novels which are loose cannon due to the inconsistencies it has with the game. Some of the events of the novels have been referenced in the game and one of the main characters has also shown up in the game. They officially are cannon except where contradicted by the game.

Web Comics
  • The Gunnerkrigg Court bonus pages at the end of every chapter represent two different varieties. Some of the pages just show brief scenes which are officially canon, but are rarely ever mentioned again. Other pages feature a white-haired girl named Tea who pops in to describe background details to the audience. The contents of her exposition are canon, but Tea has yet to appear in the comic proper, and she has interacted with a cartoon representation of Tom Siddell (a character that the real Mr Siddell insists is non-canon).
  • The Order of the Stick comics that appeared in Dragon Magazine might fall into this. In one online strip where Haley mentions Belkar claiming to be a gourmet chef, he responds that it was in Dragon so he's not even sure if it's the same continuity.
  • Unwinders Tall Comics:
    • The Rant below page 32 specified that "It's not Tall Comics canon, but it IS Marmaduke canon." But fallout from the events of that page pop up again thirty pages later, anyway.
    • Page 97 gives information about the in-universe authors of Powerup Comics. The rant below is quick to point out that this shouldn't be taken as absolute canon for Powerup Comics: "I mean, I consider it canon personally, and it's definitely Tall Comics canon that these are the real people behind Powerup Comics, but at the same time, I don't want to invalidate any fan theories about Powerup."
  • After Homestuck ran an intermission featuring the Midnight Crew from Problem Sleuth, one member of the MS Paint Adventures forums began a forum-based adventure serving as a prequel to the intermission and starring the Midnight Crew's rival gang, the Felt. Although the author was eventually forced to cancel it due to accusations of forcing his fan fiction into canon, it was generally seen as this, especially due to the author getting permission from Andrew Hussie to use plot points and character designs that hadn't yet been featured in the main comic, and it was even given a Shout-Out by having Hussie slip a necklace resembling one worn by an Original Character from the forum adventure into the actual intermission. Andrew eventually declared it to be non-canon, however.
  • Slapdash Application of Verbiage alternates between regular comics and "Tales of Dubious Canonicity", pieced together from previously-drawn artwork. Whether the events and dialogue of these comics have any bearing on the plot or characterization in the main comic is unclear.
  • Questionable Content has a handful of characters who show up only in filler strips that the author writes when he doesn't have time to do a regular strip. However, he did write a multi-part New Year's comic with them, and one of them had a cameo in the comic proper. Oh, and there was also the birthday comic.
  • In El Goonish Shive, according to the FAQ page EGS:NP stories "generally don't have continuity unless referred to in a later story, and aren't a part of the main storyline unless referred to in the story section." This means unless they involve things that obviously would not fit in continuity (like gratuitous Fourth Wall breaking) or explicitly say they are out of continuity (the Goonmanji storyline is a prime example) the EGS:NP storylines can be considered Optional Canon.

Web Original
  • The Fine Structure story "Marooned" is Optional Canon by Word of God. A number of details, mostly Alternate Character Interpretation on the Big Good, are left to the opinion of the reader.
  • The SCP Foundation as a whole is one huge loose canon made up of many smaller canons connected together and sharing the same setting. This is because SCP is written by many different authors who may just as easily ignore each other's writing or incorporate it into their own stories. Readers are encouraged to decide for themselves what is canon, which is called "headcanon." For example most of the pages listed as "Joke SCP s" are actually not even meant to taken as canon but many readers and even some writers take some of them as canon anyway. This is also partly justified since a lot of it is told by Unreliable Narrators, and due to usage of Alternate Universes, alternate timelines, Reset Buttons and Multiple Choice Pasts.

Western Animation
  • Zuko's Story is a tie-in Prequel comic to The Last Airbender, the live-action film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, the writers went out of their way to incorporate details from the animated series. Except for Zuko and Iroh being drawn as their movie counterparts, the story would fit right in with the animated series, which was in fact the authors' intent. There is however no word on whether the series considers it to be canon.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • The Equestria Girls movies have unclearly fit into the continuity of the television show. While they explicitly take place before certain canon moments, nothing that happens in the movies has ever been brought up in any show episodes. There have been two cameos by Flash Sentry (otherwise an Equestria Girls-exclusive character) in the show's fourth season, but he served a very minor role in the story both times. The comic book spinoff provides some more supplemental details on the characters, including a mini-issue dedicated to the backstory of Sunset Shimmer, but that just complicates things even further as to whether the movies are in the official canon or not.
    • The Comic Book spinoff of the show is of ambiguous continuity. Very little of what happens in the comics is referenced in the show, leaving it ambiguous whether the events of the comics are considered to have happened. Word of God from Hasbro stated that the comic is considered canon until the cartoon says otherwise, such as the case with Daring Do. The comic started to hint that the Daring Do series was written by Twilight Velvet, the mother of Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor, and one story has Daring appear in reality in an incident where fictional characters and actual ponies in Ponyville exchange places by magic. The episode "Daring Don't" revealed differently.
    • My Little Pony also has some chapter books and picture books aimed at younger readers than the comic that are ambiguously canon. The book Under The Sparkling Sea possibly is canon to the comics due to the appearance of mermares in the comic as well as twilight using the same spell for making ponies aquatic in the comics that she first used in the book.

Alternative Title(s):

Optional Canon