to the Backstory
without altering or contradicting any previously known information.
The introduction of a Cousin Oliver
or Long-Lost Uncle Aesop
is often a Revision
, while Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
is often a Rewrite
. The Other Darrin
may be either or both.
This often occurs in order to address a previous contradiction to continuity.
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- The early-1980s series All-Star Squadron ran for 70 issues, all of which was slotted in between issue #10 and #13 of the 1940s series All-Star Comics. The term "retcon" (in its longer form, "retroactive continuity") was devised by writer Roy Thomas to describe this book.
- The mid-'90s comic series Untold Tales of Spider-Man was designed entirely around this trope. They even included a timeline laying out where each story took place among the original Lee/Ditko stories.
- Dan Slott's Spider-Man and Human Torch and Christos Gage's X-Men and Spider-Man do similar interweaving with the timeline. It's fun to figure out how all of the retcons work around each other...
- The reprint series X-Men Classic, which debuted in the X-Men's '80s heyday, often incorporated newly drawn insert panels with original dialogue by Chris Claremont to elaborate on some plot point or character note, or indeed to bring older stories in line with later plots.
- X-Men: The Hidden Years, which takes place between issues #67-93 of Uncanny X-Men, when the series was in reprints.
- Captain America's Superhero Origin was rewritten in Tales of Suspense #63 so that Steve Rogers had to drink the Super Soldier Serum instead of having it injected (due to the Comics Code Authority prohibiting demonstrations of drug use). The origin was subequently subjected to revisions — Captain America #109 had Steve exposed to Vita-Rays after drinking the formula, and Captain America #255 reintroduced the injection of the formula while retaining the oral dosage. Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men gave the origin yet another revision — the project Steve participated in was actually a part of the Weapon Plus program, which was also responsible for the likes of Wolverine, thus retroactively making Captain America Weapon I.
- Baron Heinrich Zemo is another case. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Avengers 4, and retroactively treated as Captain America's achnemesis during World War II. Readers may get the wrong idea by the stories, but Zemo was not created during The Golden Age of Comic Books. And the famous thing of plane where Bucky "died" and Captain America fell to the ocean and froze, was not Captain America's finale retconned as Not Quite Dead, but a plot created by Lee and Kirby when they brought him back.
- Mortadelo y Filemón were given this in a book where it's explained how they lost their private detective agency and were forced to join the secret services overnight. Several years after it kind of suddenly happened.
Film - Live Action
- Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness while set in an Alternate Timeline to specifically avoid Continuity Snarl, do add previously unknown information about characters and things in the prime universe.
- These include: An earlier (and much simpler) Stardate format, Kirk's father seeing Kirk take command of the Enterprise in the Prime Reality and the apparent notion that no starship had ever embarked on a 5-year exploration mission before the year 2233.
Film - Animation
- The Lion King 1 ˝ offers an entirely different and quite humorous explanation to why the all the prideland animals bowed when Rafiki lifted newborn Simba. Lets just say you don't want to be behind Pumbaa after a meal.
- The novel Death Star explains why in Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope the superlaser's firing sequence (which, when destroying Alderaan, had been activated quickly and systematically) is so slow and deliberate when it comes time to blow up the Rebel base. And after reading it, you will never look at the climax of Episode IV in the same way again: The gunnery officer responsible for it suffered a nervous breakdown from sheer horror and remorse after the destruction of Alderaan, and is desperately stalling for time on Red Squadron's behalf whilst inwardly begging for death. It's one of the biggest Tear Jerkers in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
- Another SWEU example. In the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia, Warlord Zsinj is a clueless cardboard cutout villain who just somehow controls a fleet large enough to be dangerous. The X-Wing Series, written years later, re-establishes him as a brilliant and pragmatic planner with a taste for showmanship, who likes to use Obfuscating Stupidity in order to keep his enemies (and subordinates) off balance.
- The 'fourth' and 'sixth' books (chronologically) in the Anne of Green Gables series were written after the rest of the books, to appease the fanbase. They work with information that L. M. Montgomery provided in other novels.
- Although the Sherlock Holmes novels were published anachronistically, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes was something of a revision, being published after Arthur Conan Doyle's death by his son and editor, and expanding upon small references in the series.
- This is the concept at the core of the Dragonlance Lost Chronicles trilogy (2006-2009), which happen in between (or at the same time of) the events of the original Chronicles trilogy (1984-1985), by far the most successful of the series. It works well, because the original trilogy used to occasionally jump several weeks/months in between chapters, and the untold events that unfolded there were just briefly referenced in passing, without much explanation.
- An example from the Star Trek Novel Verse: The Sundered, a book of Star Trek: The Lost Era, introduces interphase tunnels that lead from the Milky Way to the Small Magellanic Cloud. The Star Trek: Titan novels later built on this by establishing a whole subspace topography that placed the Cloud "downstream" of the Milky Way. This served to allow two different ships in two different times and places to both reach the same region of space and interact with the Neyel race. Then, another Lost Era novel, The Buried Age, made a subtle offhand reference to ancient transportation networks created by the ancient Precursors, the Manraloth, offering an explanation for how this improbable situation came about.
- Bleach: The death of Ichigo's mother Masaki, the event that triggered his Protectorate syndrome, is explained in chapter 19: she was killed defending Ichigo from a Hollow that had been trying to lure him in and eat him. However, Tite Kubo has stated that he did not have a plan for how to end the story until late in the Soul Society Arc, at which point Masaki's death seems to have been Revised to make it fit. The new information is added in the Final Arc: Masaki's proximate cause of death was the Hollow attack, however her ultimate cause of death was her Quincy ancestor stealing her powers and leaving her defenseless at exactly the wrong moment. While this greatly complicates Ichigo's backstory, it also doesn't outright contradict any previous canon.
- Shaman King: How the Big Bad Hao Asakura became evil. Whilst originally thought to have occurred simply due to the death of his mother and being abandoned by an oni whom he had befriended, two chapters in the side story manga Zero tell us exactly when he became evil as well as providing the origin of the name of the Asakura family since he started out life as Asaha Douji. He didn't turn evil right away, he had actually become neutral after both this event and witnessing the conditions of the population in the countryside. He was then taken in by an onmyoji named Hamo Tadatomo, and befriended another apprentice name Daitaro. It all went to hell when it was revealed that Daitaro's apprenticeship had been used by their master and his supposed archenemy, whom he had been working with all along, to create a human-shikigami hybrid that everyone could see despite their power level. When this happened, Daitaro went on a rampage, and the revelation of Tadatomo's Freudian Excuse drove Hao mad. He confronted Daitaro in a crazed state, proclaiming that if he failed to stop Daitaro, they could at least destroy everyone together. Hao won, and was given the name that most characters refer to him as by the emperor as a gift of gratitude.
Live Action TV
- In Season 9 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it is shown that Willow met Giles' aunts while she was training on his estate in Bath after the events of season 6.
- Star Trek: Enterprise, especially in its final season, was very fond of carefully challenging the common assumptions about past continuity while ensuring that everything we had heard before was still literally true (most notably, the meeting with the Borg, and the ultimate explanation of the Klingon Forehead Issue). Undoubtedly an interesting mental exercise (see Fanwank), but quite often, the viewers are left feeling like the writers just pulled a fast one.
- In The Avengers episode "The Forget-Me-Knot", Steed and Mrs Peel are revealed to have a never-before-seen superior called Mother. He (oh yes) subsequently became a recurring character for the rest of the show.
- Caprica. Pretty much "Revision: The Series!". It helps that the parent show, Battlestar Galactica, revealed almost no backstory on the era of Colonial history that Caprica takes place in, giving the writers a very wide scope to tell stories without stepping on established canon.
- The Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife" revises the ever-vague origin story of the Doctor himself. It's widely-known canon that the Doctor wanted to see the universe, so he "borrowed" a TARDIS and ran away from Gallifrey. Neil Gaiman's revision? The TARDIS wanted to see the universe, so she stole a Time Lord (by leaving her doors unlocked for the Doctor) and ran away from Gallifrey.
- The Time Lords went through this twice. From "The War Games" onwards they were depicted as All Powerful Bystanders, with limitless power over the universe but choose not to interfere in the affairs of lesser species. "The Deadly Assassin" onward showed that this was merely an image they like to project, as in reality Time Lord society is immensely corrupt and stagnant, the people themselves content to sit back in luxury while the universe goes on without them, even forgetting much of their own history. The Doctor Who Expanded Universe and "The End of Time" showed that this was a deliberate restraint their ancestors had put on themselves, as when Time Lords start messing with the universe they become anything from Evil Overlords to full-blown Omnicidal Maniacs; the Doctor is a very, very rare exception.
- Cheers. Since the beginning of the series, the bar's sign indicated that the bar was established in 1895. However, the episode "The Stork Brings a Crane" claimed that the number was made up by Carla because of her belief in numerology simply so that the writers could do a centennial episode in 1989 (since it was obvious that show would most likely not be on the air in 1995).
- In BIONICLE, the storyline had a unique way of expanding both ways: as it progressed in the present, various Flashback bits delved deeper and deeper into the past, all the while explaining or even completely rewriting present story details (or the way we perceive them) without resorting to changing the exact details themselves or contradicting facts. How much sense these revisions made, from the stories' and our own standpoint, varied greatly.
- Another Code R changed one thing about the events of Ashley's third birthday, in that she gained a pendant which becomes vital to the plot of the game. A bit of a clunkier revision, as while it doesn't alter or contradict anything, the pendant suddenly becomes very important to the point where Ashley is never without it and both she and her dad are fairly concerned about keeping it safe, despite it never having been mentioned or discussed prior to that game.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is able to pull this off. In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the Patriots were apparently a bunch of long-dead men and "the collective consciousness" of the White House who controlled America via viruses, trickery, and artificial intelligences, and wanted total information control of the Earth to "save society from itself" and might have launched the ultimate Big Brother ship to do this, but were stopped. It makes a lot less sense in context. However, it's revealed the "collective consciousness" was an overblown metaphor for AIs, who were originally supposed to simply guide governments away from war and towards peace. They went berserk (though it is hinted it was more in the manner of a programming bug rather than they suddenly gaining sentience) and decided that the best way to obtain peace was total control of the populace. Great job on the scriptwriters for being able to subvert the Gainax Ending of MGS2. Oh, and Vamp isn't an actual vampire.
- Done to a more subtle degree between Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, reaching its apex in Metal Gear Solid. The events of Metal Gear were very 'video-gamey' - while there was a clever plot twist which was mindblowing at the time (a subversion of the Exposition Fairy where they were actually aiming to confuse and harass you), there wasn't anything close to Character Development. Metal Gear 2 began to give Snake some personal trauma, and by Solid, in order for the plot to make any sense, we must believe that the (near-plotless to our eyes) Metal Gear was, in fact, an epic war drama full of blood and terror and Heroic BSOD and Luke, I Am Your Father. It actually works very well (and is a heaven for Fix Fic writers) - until you actually replay Metal Gear. Then...
- Alice: Madness Returns has one, where it is revealed that the cat never knocked over a lamp, and the cause of the fire was something completely different. The cutscene in the original game is now implied to be Alice's attempt to understand the past she has forgotten.
- Quite common in the Warcraft universe, probably slightly outnumbering outright retcons. The most famous one would be the Orcs' shamanic heritage, though as they've continued fleshing that out details can get a little inconsistent.
- Even that has been All There in the Manual since the second game, and since in the first they didn't even mention there were races other than humans on Azeroth it wasn't much of a stretch.
- Probably the biggest revision is the geography of Azeroth itself. In Warcraft I, the fighting took place between the humans of what is now called Stormwind and the orcish invaders, with no mention made of lands and races outside those borders; in the modern era the world has four more continents (not counting Outland) and at least a dozen major civilization-building species, built up in a half-dozen rounds of writing in new parts of the world that had never been shown but never conclusively denied either.
- Done in Portal, with a new achievement and a patch to change the game ending. The whole point is to set up Portal 2.
- In Modern Warfare 3, Yuri is shown to have played a background role during several key events in the Modern Warfare timeline. He is first seen during the nuke deal held in the "One Shot, One Kill" mission from the first game (where he and Makarov are the ones who drive the injured Zakhaev to safety), as well as being present when Makarov (standing in Al-Asad's safehouse) detonates the nuke in the "Shock And Awe" mission. He is then revealed to have been present during the "No Russian" mission from the second game - Makarov shoots him in the stomach before he, Private Allen and the other Ultranationalists massacre the civilians in the airport. Yuri makes it to the lobby and witnesses the aftermath of the massacre before collapsing and being treated by paramedics.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution (being a prequel) is an entire game full of this to the original Deus Ex.
- In Mass Effect 2 its revealed that Tali'Zorah has been nurturing a crush on the Male Commander Shepard since the events of the first game. Naturally everyone onboard the Normandy already knew.
- Also a hint of it towards Fem!Shep, but it goes nowhere.
- Hoo boy, where do we start with Dream Drop Distance? It turns out Ansem's/Xehanort's Heartless' actions in the first game, such as making Maleficent to gather the Seven Princesses of Heart were to facilitate the recreation of the X-Blade, rather to obtain Kingdom Hearts, Xemnas founding Organization XIII was not to obtain hearts of their own will keeping their bodily will, but to turn them into vessels for Xehanort's heart for again, the X-Blade. Have I mentioned that Xemnas lied to them about their nature as emotionless, heart-lacking beings and that they could grow new ones in truth? Oh, again in the first game, that Brown Robed guy who was "Ansem" you met in Destiny Islands? He is not the Ansem from that instance of time, rather, he time traveled to the past the moment he got word from Xemnas that his task isn't doing so well due to the Organization's members' independence (he originally came from 10 years ago from the events of Kingdom Hearts) making a pitstop to visit his younger, human self to get him gather 13 incarnations of Xehanort throughout time as a backup plan, before traveling into the future setting his sights on Sora and Riku.
- Up until The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the in-universe historical writings that make up most of Tamriel's lore considered St. Alessia to have been the first Dragonborn (a mortal given the soul and powers of a dragon and the plot device which the legitimacy of the prior lines of Emperors and the main quest of Skyrim depends on). Then the DLC Dragonborn introduced the actual first Dragonborn from the time Dragons ruled Men... so long ago that the only knowledge available to modern historians are artefacts, fragments of myth and oral tradition in a few isolated groups.
- Actually seen to change in Sonic 3 And Knuckles. Playing Sonic 3 alone, at the end of the game, the Death Egg gets destroyed and you saved the day. Playing the game locked-on to Sonic & Knuckles in one run-through however will show the Death Egg not exploding like it did in Sonic 3 alone playthrough, it merely crash lands. You then go after it for the remainder of the game. A by product of the splitting up of the game into two games.
- In some ways, Knights of the Old Republic 2 takes this attitude towards the original game. The Mandalorian Wars, Jedi Civil War, and Revan's capture and return all happened, but the motivations and goals of most of the major players are called into question. Star Wars: The Old Republic, set a few hundred years later, adds another layer of this onto both previous games (for instance, suggesting that the Emperor was responsible for Revan and Malak's fall to the Dark Side, the cause of which was never established). It can get a little confusing, especially since few of the narrators have any pressing reason to tell the truth.
- BioShock 2 introduces Sofia Lamb, who is not only the collectivist foil to objectivist Andrew Ryan but also his first true rival in Rapture before Fontaine. She is established as the reason that Ryan started all the imprisonments and executions in the first place, and why he cracked down on Fontaine so viciously, as he didn't want a repeat of Lamb.
- The player character is an Alpha Series Big Daddy (the first Alpha Series), Super Prototypes that were made before the other Big Daddies. Why does the player character in the first game never encounter them? They're all dead or insane from losing their Little Sisters, which is why the weaker Big Daddy models were used instead, because they don't have such a strong attachment.
- BioShock Infinite's Daisy Fitzroy is presented as a violent revolutionary no better than the despot she wishes to overthrow, and is even prepared to murder the children of her enemies. Burial at Sea reveals that she was deeply conflicted about the violence that her movement created and that she knew that her (empty) threat to kill a child would ultimately lead to her own death; she was actually quite disturbed by even being told to make the threat, and she went through with it only because she knew that her own death would eventually allow for the downfall of the Big Bad.
- Done in El Goonish Shive, with the background character of the Shy Girl being merged with the minor character Rhoda.
- Transformers: Beast Wars did this quite nicely: The revelation of Tarantulas's true loyalties in "The Agenda" is a particularly well-done example. It contradicted nothing, fit in seamlessly, and added another layer to both the plot and the character. Of course, even that wasn't the whole truth - fans Running the Asylum took a couple of minor references made in-passing during the series and turned them into a whole new layer of backstory for Tarantulas.
- If the major and most of the minor retcons made within the Ben 10 multi-series don't fall under this, they eventually will. The writers have an uncanny ability to bring up plot points established earlier and reshape them to make sense. (i.e, why Kevin changed between the first and second series, how Gwen was able to adapt to magic so easily, etc.) A significant example is Ultimate Alien's "Moonstruck", which brings up small story elements taken from both previous series.
- Ben 10: Omniverse looks to be doing this as well, though they're doing it in such a manner that they're showing some of Ben's adventures pre-timeskip.
- Adventure Time does this twice with the Ice King. "Holly Jolly Secrets" details his backstory, as well as providing an explanation for his constant Aesop Amnesia, while "I Remember You" reveals he played a major role in the backstory of another major character (and giving an explanation for part of said character's behavior in their introductory episode).