Retroactive Legacy

Occasionally a company creates a fake 'legacy' for a character, and uses that as a basis for the character: Essentially a Retcon, introducing their past adventures into real life. By combining Retraux with Show Within a Show, the creators engineer a 'return' for a new character.

A specific form of Newer Than They Think. See also Been There, Shaped History for when the constructed legacy involves events "originally" performed by other characters. Compare and contrast Un Installment, where a single installment is "missing" from the midst of a series, and Noodle Incident, where small isolated past offscreen events are referenced.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kujibiki Unbalance (the first iteration) only had three episodes produced, spaced at random points along the nonexistant series. Despite that, there was a clip show back to episodes that never happened and next episode previews for episodes that also didn't happen.
  • The DVD bonus specials for Princess Lover!! have episode previews for Magical Knight Maria-chan starring Silvie's kid sister. These include previews for episode 25 even though the first 24 don't exist, and previews for a sequel series.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sentry from Marvel Comics was a character "introduced in the '60s", and was so powerful that knowledge of his existence threatened the universe. So, he made everyone: even himself, even Marvel Comics, and even the readers forget he existed, until he "returned" in 2000.
  • Orson Randall, another Marvel character who wielded the power of the Immortal Iron Fist in the '20s, supposedly passed into obscurity, completely unknown to Danny Rand, the modern Iron Fist, until he "reappeared" in 2007. The series delves into the histories of the Iron Fists that held the title before Orson, which go back for over a thousand years.
  • Circa 2009, writer Jason Aaron revealed that the Ghost Riders aren't the only Spirits of Vengeance. The British model draws from Spring-Heeled Jack, the German model closely resembles Shock-Headed Peter, and the Japanese one is a bosozoku with an oni-like appearance. There have been Spirits of Vengeance for every culture and every era; the American Spirits alone number in the dozens (which explains the original GR being a cowboy all clad in white), and when the Vikings first landed in North America they found a Spirit of Vengeance protecting the shore.
  • A classic example from Marvel is Cable, who was created in the 1980s, but as soon as he was introduced he was written into history and characters acted like they had known him forever. Time Travel was heavily involved, explaining why this was the case for him.
  • In the 70's, it was stated that the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four had taken his name from the original Golden Age Human Torch, whom he was a big fan of. This had never been brought up before in any other comic, and in fact, when the Human Torch met his Golden Age counterpart back in the 60's, he seemed to have absolutely no idea who the hell he was.
  • Marvel again: The series Alias introduced Jessica Jones, who had a backstory of being a C- or D-list superhero before retiring as a private detective. As with Cable, she's now treated as if she was active back in The Bronze Age of Comic Books — and indeed Peter Parker's high school classmate in The Silver Age of Comic Books.note  Interestingly, the original plan was to have Alias feature an existing heroine, Spider-Woman.
  • The Widowmaker series established that the Ronin identity previously held by Maya Lopez and Clint Barton was originated by a Japanese nationalist during World War 2. Exactly how nobody knew this is never actually explained....
  • The DCU had Triumph, a hero who was supposedly a founding member of the Justice League of America but a Heroic Sacrifice involving the timestream removed him from history and dumped him in the present day.
    • They did the exact same thing again with Moon Maiden, who was basically a cross between Sailor Moon and Superman.
  • Meanwhile, both DC and Marvel put up a lot of thought in the "retroactive continuity" in the Amalgam comics event, with fake creators, fake letters and fake notes from the editor for each book.
  • Alan Moore's first issue of Supreme was a tribute to the many versions of the character who had been published since his first appearance in the 1930s, all of which Moore had just made, save the Grim Dark Age Supreme Rob Liefeld had originally created.
  • Alan Moore also wrote the Judgment Day mini-series for Awesome Comics. The series deals with a metacommentary of the notion of retcons to super-hero histories as Alan Moore himself creates a new backstory for the characters of Awesome Comics, to replace the shared universe they left when Rob Liefeld left Image several years earlier.
  • Greg Rucka's 2000s Checkmate series introduced a legacy character of the World War II heroine Mademoiselle Marie, and revealed that the original Marie was in fact just one in a long long of Maries dating back to at least the French Revolution.
  • Volton was an obscure hero from The Golden Age of Comic Books who never had a clear origin. After becoming a Public Domain Character, Marvel included him in the 90's Invaders mini-series, where it was established that Volton was an android created by the same inventor responsible for the Human Torch and The Vision.
  • Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Dream of the Endless, was introduced in the 1980s as the original from which the previous Sandmen had derived.
  • Young X-Men introduced the new Cipher, Alisa Tager. A retcon establishes that she's been present at the Xavier Institute since way back in Grant Morrison's New X-Men run, but thanks to her intangibility and invisibility, the readers simply hadn't noticed her.
  • Grant Morrison introduced a new Shining Knight in Seven Soldiers, Sir Ystin, who heralded from the ur-Camelot that would establish the recurring cycle of Arthurian legend, and became the template for Sir Justin, the Shining Knight of a later era.
  • Immortal Iron Fist established that Amazing-Man (AKA the Prince of Orphans), a Golden Age superhero who had previously been owned by a rival company, was one of the Immortal Weapons.
  • Happened to The Spectre in the John Ostrander series, who was given a history that stretched back into The Bible and the earliest days of Creation.
  • DC Comics occasionally assembles a legacy from previously-unrelated characters.
    • E.g., when a minor Golden Age The Flash villain called "Rival" retroactively became the first Reverse Flash.
    • Or when Western heroes Nighthawk and Cinnamon became previous incarnations of Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
    • When James Robinson wrote Starman, DC had six characters by that name, only two of whom had any connection: Ted Knight; the 1950s Starman (who was actually Batman in a story that had been Retconned away); Mikaal Tomas; Prince Gavyn of Throneworld; Will Peyton; and Ted's son David Knight. Robinson created Ted's younger son Jack as "his" Starman, and forged connections between all the above characters, some of whom turned out to be the same people.
    • There was also the original Manhunter, who thanks to a retcon, first became a superhero after encountering the Manhunter androids (who in real life had been introduced four decades after Kirk initally debuted). Later, it was established those androids took their name from the Manhunters from Mars, as seen in the pages of Martian Manhunter.
  • The Golden Age heroine Golden Girl was retconned into being the aunt of the Hulk foe Thunderbolt Ross, based pretty much entirely on the fact that they happened to have the same last name.
  • When the Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 and #53, it was implied that T'Challa had come up with the Black Panther identity after his father's murder, with inspiration taken from Wakanda's panther god. Later writers established that there had already been multiple Black Panthers throughout history, and that T'Challa's father, T'Chaka, held the identity before his death.
    • From the 90's onward, it's been canon that during World War 2, Captain America had encountered and fought alongside a past Black Panther (who Depending on the Writer, was either T'Challa's father, or his grandfather). During their very first meeting back in the Silver Age, Cap made no such mention of having ever encountered another Black Panther, and indeed it was very clear that he had never set foot in Wakanda before that point.
  • During the 80's, the villain Arthur Light was retroactively established as having been the second Dr. Light, with the original being a man named Jacob Finlay. Another retcon was later introduced to tie Doctor Light to his female, Japanese replacement, Kimiyo Hoshi. It was stated that Kimiyo's father had developed the Doctor Light suit with Finlay, before Arthur Light stole it in the first place.
  • When DC licensed the Red Circle heroes from Archie Comics, they retroactively inserted the Hangman into DC's Golden Age during the 1940's. In his backup feature, it was established that Hangman had shared adventures with Wesley Dodds' Sandman.
  • Frank Miller's Daredevil: Man Without Fear mini-series established that during one of his first vigilante outings, Matt had accidentally killed a teenage prostitute by knocking her out of a window. The later 1997 Daredevil / Deadpool Annual Retconned the girl into being a young Typhoid Mary, who had actually survived the fall and developed a Split Personality as a result.
  • Similarly, the very first issue of Marvel Team-Up had a scene where Spider-Man saved a young woman from being mugged on Christmas Eve. A much later issue by Chris Claremont established that the woman was actually Misty Knight.
  • Years after DC gained the characters Judomaster and Tiger thanks to a buy-out of Charlton Comics, the two were retconned into being members of the All-Star Squadron, despite never actually appearing in that series.
  • When the Milestone heroes were integrated into DC's continuity, it was established that Icon was now an old friend of Superman. It was also mentioned that Hardware knew Blue Beetle, and this throwaway line would later form the basis for an issue of The Brave and the Bold. Milestone Forever took this a step further, hinting at past team-ups between Static and Wonder Woman and Blitzen and The Flash.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen often features this, but the most obvious example is Campion Bond, who is introduced as a heretofore unknown ancestor of James Bond, demonstrating that careers are genetically transmitted in the LOEG-verse.
  • In story, this was what the military told the public Captain Atom was in his Post-Crisis series.
  • The Image Comics character Shadowhawk named himself after the Silver Age Shadow-Hawk, a parody of Silver Age Batman, whose teenaged son Squirrel would go on to become Shadowhawk's Evil Counterpart, Hawk's Shadow. Eventually it would be revealed that there was a line of Shadowhawks going back to Ancient Egypt.
  • Valiant Comics's Rai is a title passed down to several characters powered by the Blood of Heroes, with the current Rai existing in 41st century.
    • The Blood of Heroes is later revealed to be the same nanites that power the 20th century hero Bloodshot (Rai debuted before Bloodshot).

    Films — Animated 
  • Toy Story 2 established Woody as a valuable antique cowboy doll who used to be the star of an old merchandise driven show called Woody's Roundup.
  • Wreck-It Ralph follows two characters of that (fictional) smash-hit arcade game from 1983, "Fix-It Felix Jr.". Apparently the game was so legendary, Buckner & Garcia made a song about it. Also, the fact that there's a "Jr." in the name can lead one to assume there was a more primitive "Fix-It Felix" game that predated this one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Leonard Part 6 supposedly followed five earlier adventures of the protagonist that had been suppressed in the interest of national security.
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space depicts the same alien race's ninth attempt to invade Earth.
  • The first three Star Wars films began with Episode IV-VI, suggesting an epic series. It wasn't until much later that episodes I through III were created.
    • The first prints of Episode IV, however, did not have the "Episode IV" in the opening title crawl.

  • The book The Princess Bride pretends to be an abridgement of an older book of the same name written by the fictitious author "S. Morgenstern". Remember those parts in the movie where they cut back to the grandpa reading the book to his grandson Fred Savage? William Goldman, the writer, "abridged" the book based on memories of being read the original by his father, and equivalents to those scenes are present in the real life novel as footnotes and forewords. The book actually had its roots in something Goldman made up for his two daughters as a bed time story.
  • The novelization of the 1984 movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension presents itself as merely the latest in a long series of "Buckaroo Banzai" books, and makes frequent reference to the titles and events of the alleged previous volumes, such as Bastardy Proved a Spur.
  • Trent's Last Case is actually the first novel featuring Philip Trent.

    Live Action TV 
  • Community had two infamous Clip Shows...that consisted entirely of footage from past episodes that didn't actually exist.
  • Jimmy MacDonald's Canada is a Mockumentary about a Fake Pundit Show that took place back in the 60's, and starred a stereotypical ultra-conserative man, who was railing against technological innovation and youth culture. The show ended when MacDonald had a nervous breakdown on TV, made off with all the tapes from the episodes, flew off to parts unknown, but died in a plane crash. Some of the episodes have recently turned up, and the mockumentary features eight episodes of what was supposedly a weekly program that ran for years.

  • Bruce Willis's The Return of Bruno was his debut album.
  • The Aquabats!' first album was called Return of the Aquabats. They're that sort of band.
  • British wigger-rap parody act Goldie-Lookin' Chain called their first album "Greatest Hits", accompanied by an album cover showing the participants sat in shop doorways holding cardboard signs saying "Will Rap For Food" to imply that they'd been spectacularly famous and successful before a Creator Breakdown and/or massive substance abuse. This turned out to be rather prophetic in a meta sort of way, because after releasing three singles and getting one of them into the Top 40 they sank without a trace.
    • Their gimmick (as seen in interviews, and on their pre-fame demo CDs) was that they had apparently been going since 1983 - ie, over 20 years. It's true that they'd released 6 albums (starting in 2001) before their major label album in 2004, but that's only 3 years. It didn't help that their follow up album was called Safe As F**k, meaning that it got no radio or TV promotion.
  • Alien Ant Farm also called their first album Greatest Hits, although the strange thing is that it includes early versions of Smooth Criminal (called Slick Thief), Movies and These Days, all of which were singles when re-recorded for the albums AN Thology and Tru ANT respectively. The former two were their biggest hits, and (outside of fans), Alien Ant Farm are basically only remembered for them these days.
  • When Chris Jericho started a heavy metal cover band, Fozzy, as a side project, they introduced themselves as being the real writers of the songs they were covering, with the story that a crappy recording contract had them and their trapped in Japan for decades. Jericho himself performed using the stage name "Moongoose McQueen", and insisted that he wasn't Jericho, but that Jericho was just another guy ripping him off. (Eventually the gimmick was dropped, as ironically the band started recording well-received original material and spends much time touring real metal festivals now. Jericho is a widely respected metal frontman now, as well as a main event pro wrestling star.)

    Video Games 
  • Eat Lead The Return Of Matt Hazard has been given an entire backstory of games (including that he was the "first character to crouch" although it was "removed at the last moment" before release of "The Adventures of Matt in Hazard Land" in 1983). They put up a blog about it, and a fake fansite complete with pointless animated gifs and one of those Java "lake reflection" headers.
  • Retro Game Challenge presents an entire alternate 1980s game industry, complete with magazines.
  • Beat Mania IIDX has a classical song called "Piano Concerto No. 1 'Anti-Ares'", supposedly written by one Virkato Wakhmaninov between 1893 and 1974. In actuality Virakato Wakhmaniov is a pseudonym of Jun Wakita, one of Konami's in-house composers, and he composed the song in 2004.
  • The DS game Dark Void Zero claims in its promotional material to be a game developed in the 80s by Capcom for a "revolutionary" yet ultimately scrapped arcade system with two screens. The game then eventually was used as the basis of the upcoming PC and console game Dark Void and thus Capcom has decided to "re-release" the "original" as a DS title.
    • The arcade system in question is a Playchoice-10, a Nintendo arcade machine with 10 different NES games inside it as the name suggests, and instead of lives/continues, feeding coins/tokens into it instead grants more playing time. And yes, it did have 2 screens, although since the games in question were NES games, the only purpose the second screen had was providing game hints and info. But after they released new info on the game, not only does the supposed backstory for the game contain tons of speculation, but the supposed promotional image for the game is blantantly photoshopped as well.
  • In Merry Gear Solid 2, the synopsis of the game Merry Gear is available in the Previous Operations section of the menu, and the plot is referenced in the game's story. The game never actually existed.
  • Final Fantasy X: The Blitzball player Jecht's famous "Sublimely Magnificent Jecht Shot Mark III" move isn't actually the third iteration — he just called it the Mark III because it sounded more interesting. As his son Tidus relates it was also a bit of a marketing ploy. Fans would show up to every game hoping to one day see Marks I & II.
  • Fur Fighters starts with the return of Big Bad General Viggo. Apparently the Fur Fighters stopped him in an earlier game but of course no such game was released.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Animaniacs episode "Back in Style."
    • The Warner Brothers and Warner Sister themselves, as well- they were old-timey cartoon characters locked up because they were too wacky.
    • Animaniacs character Slappy Squirrel was supposed to be a cranky old semi-retired cartoon character from Bugs Bunny's heyday. Why the Warners hadn't aged a day since their supposed debut in the 20s while Slappy had aged considerably since her supposed debut in the 40s ... um, clean living?
      • Because it's funnier that way.
      • It may also be a nod to a Tiny Toon Adventures episode exploring the nature of toons ala Roger Rabbit. It was an episode where Babs Bunny was seeking out old cartoon stars Bosco and Honey so they could be her mentors, and in the process learned that laughter is what keeps a toon young. The Slappy Squirrel episode "Critical Condition" suggests that no one has laughed at Slappy in a long time.
  • The second episode of Clerks: The Animated Series was the locked-in-a-freezer clip show - they had trouble remembering, at first, anything that didn't happen the previous week, but eventually started talking about previous adventures they had.