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Continuity Snarl

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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 Continuity 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. 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 chances of Continuity Snarls taking place go up as more retcons are made. Drastic changes opening up dozens of potential storylines are introduced and then promptly forgotten about. Different characters and storylines set in the same universe Crossover and create multiple different continuities. Add to this the problems caused by Comic-Book Time, and keeping things straight becomes a nightmare. An Audience-Alienating Era is a possible result when this all goes bad.

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. (Eric Burns of Websnark did a rant about this in comics here.) Long-running TV franchises can also suffer from Continuity Snarls — the Doctor Who and Star Trek universes have gotten especially snarled over time (although time travel helps Hand Wave a lot of this away).

A Continuity Snarl can result in Continuity Lock-Out for readers, especially newcomers. Creators sometimes 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." So — how to fix this? The simplest, and by far most common, solution is to simply not care very much about continuity. TV show comedies are a good example — do whatever is the funniest and reset things for the next episode. If you need to offer at least a token acknowledgement to past work, just say "Okay, it happened but not in every detail." Finally, the trusty Continuity Reboot allows a clean slate; for example, new TV shows or movies in a long-running comics franchise usually make clear they're their own separate continuity.

Continuity Drift is when a Retcon slowly happens over a period of time. Not to be confused with a Series Continuity Error, a singular mistake. See Armed with Canon, Comic-Book Time, and Author's Saving Throw for common causes of snarls. May result in Continuity Lock-Out, Continuity Porn, Tangled Family Tree, and Timey-Wimey Ball. Multiple-Choice Past is this trope applied to a single character.

Compare Schrödinger's Canon.

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    Comic Strips 
  • The Doctor Who Magazine comic strip:
    • Even when the strip started creating its own UNIT continuity, it developed a new dating problem. The 1990-1 story "The Mark of Mandragora" introduced a new major UNIT character Muriel Frost, in which she was depicted with the rank of Captain. By "Evening's Empire", published a few months later, she's become a Colonel — except that "The Mark of Mandragora" was set, by implication, on Millennium Eve, and definitely after 1997, while "Evening's Empire" visually appears to be set at publication date (clothing fashions and vehicles, in particular).
    • There's a major one related to Armed with Canon shenanigans back in the nineties. After the end of the original TV show in 1989, the strip continued with stories about the Seventh Doctor and Ace, which were increasingly depicted as sharing a continuity with the Doctor Who New Adventures, eventually following their regular cast changes by replacing Ace with the book series' original companion Bernice "Benny" Summerfield and then having its aged-up Dark Action Girl version of Ace rejoin Seven and Benny. Then a new editor who really didn't like the New Adventures took over, and replaced the New Adventures-continuity strips with a series of nostalgic strips about past Doctor-companion teams... which ended, at around the time the Eighth Doctor TV movie was broadcast, with a Cross Through arc about new villains the Threshold attacking the Doctor at different periods in his timeline, and climaxed with the death of Ace, clearly depicted as dying soon after "Survival", aggressively cutting the New Adventures out of the strip's continuity. The Threshold story then continued into the first major story arc of the Eighth Doctor comics, which began at that point. Trouble is, more recent writers can't resist throwing in continuity references to both the "New Adventures shared continuity" Seventh Doctor strips and the Eighth Doctor strips, despite their canon incompatibility.
  • The "Funkyverse" consisting of Funky Winkerbean, Crankshaft and John Darling has become one. In 2007, after the death of Lisa, Funky Winkerbean skipped ahead ten years while Crankshaft didn't. In some ways, this is handled sensibly. Ed Crankshaft is hospital-ridden and near death in Funky Winkerbean, while in his own strip he's still active. Other characters are similarly de-aged. The problem is the frequent crossover stories that make no sense under this construct. Sometimes they're set up with the Funky characters saying "Remember that thing ten years ago?" More often they're not, especially when it's a concept rather than a character — the Starbuck Jones movie premiered in both strips simultaneously, somehow. And that each individual strip is a Continuity Snarl of its own. Inconsistent dates, unclear retcons, and characters who are way too old to be doing what they're doing are common problems. In the final storyline of Funky Winkerbean it was explained that the temporal discontinuity between Funky's town and Crankshaft's town, and possibly some of the other issues, are side effects of a time traveller trying to ensure that Summer Moore writes a book that will save the world. So that explains everything.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Egyptian Mythology make this one Older Than Dirt. Ancient Egyptian History spans more than half of written human history and suffered several breakdowns and multiple invasions and occupations. When Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egyptnote , the formerly-two kingdoms merged their pantheons and so several deities were merged, renamed or removed altogether. One of the Pharaohs attempting to throw the entire Pantheon at the time out the window to instill a Monotheistic religion to Aten and the incomplete Unpersoning that followed didn't help one bit. The most famous version in the modern day (the Heliopolitan myths) are the result of priests and scribes trying to sort all of this out in a way that legitimized the then-Pharaoh and his dynasty, and even then elements of the rest can slip in.
  • 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? One of the stranger explanations is "both": the one born from Ouranos is Aphrodite Ourania, who governs spiritual or universal love, while the one born from Zeus is Aphrodite Pandemos, who embodies passionate and physical love. Are they aspects of the same goddess, or two different ones? Yes.
      • 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 Hephaestus, the greatest smith ever. He is then welcomed into the pantheon. At some time afterwards, he hits Zeus over the head with an ax in an attempt to relieve Zeus's splitting headache, and when Zeus's head splits open, out comes... Athena. It's like that old "born in a log cabin he helped build" thing.note  Causality is just for mortals!
    • Talking of Hephaestus and Zeus, there's also the story of Kyôn Khryseos, the Golden Hound. One myth explains that Kyôn Khryseos is one of the many creations of Hephaestus. However, the main point of fame for the Hound is that it guarded Zeus when he was a young boy growing up. As the above entry elaborates, Hephaestus is either Zeus's son or Zeus's wife's son, so this really doesn't add up unless this dog is also a time traveler.
    • 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' great-grandson, 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.)note  A more modern version has Athena, who received the head of Medusa from Perseus after his quest ended and attached it to her shield, eventually turn Atlas to stone with the head sometime after the incident with Heracles.
    • When Theseus first arrived in Athens at the beginning of his adventures, Medea tried to poison him so that the child she bore from Aegeus would inherit the throne. Years later, Theseus would participate in the Argonaut expedition, which brought Medea to Greece. She got married to Jason, was abandoned by him, then went to Athens and married Aegeus.
    • One of Theseus's first tasks was slaying the bull of Marathon, which had previously been brought there during Heracles's seventh labor. Later in life, Theseus would be trapped in the underworld only to be rescued during Heracles's 12 labor. The problem is that Theseus went to the underworld after he had kidnapped Helen, and the fallout of Helen's brothers Castor and Polydeuces attacking Athens led to Theseus losing his throne, which means that the entire hero career of Theseus must fit between the 7th and 12th labors of Heracles, but that doesn't leave enough time for Theseus to have had a son who grew to adulthood (Hippolytus). note 
    • Castor and Polydeuces were both Argonauts, which implies they were older than Theseus, but toward the end of Theseus' career when he is supposed to be a man past his prime, he kidnaps their sister Helen, and it is a plot point that she is too young to marry at this time. Helen would later be the cause of the Trojan war which happened a generation after the voyage of the Argo, which means that Castor and Polydeuces would have to be at least a generation older than their sister, but they all share a mother. note 
    • In one story, Hippolyta, current queen of the Amazons, has a fling with Heracles but winds up dead due to Hera's meddling. However, another story has Hippolyta marry Theseus (Heracles' cousin and sometimes companion), and dies when the Amazons invade Athens. Then another account says that a generation later the Amazon queen Penthesileia accidentally killed Hippolyta during a hunting accident, meaning that Hippolyta potentially died three times! Admittedly, these accounts aren't too hard to reconcile...which is probably why there are about half a dozen stories that try to do it, with varying versions of which hero Hippolyta was involved with, how this affected her standing with the Amazons and how she died. note 
    • Dionysus was born as a result of his own actions. To elaborate, he was the son of Zeus and Semele, who was descended from Harmonia, a daughter of Ares and Aphrodite who was born after the latter was already married to Hephaestus. However, Aphrodite and Hephaestus only got married because Dionysus got Hephaestus drunk and brought him back to Olympus this way. The reward for bringing Hephaestus back to Olympus was marrying Aphrodite but Dionysus, probably afraid of the already timeline-ripping continuity snarl, refused the reward and said Hephaestus got to Olympus on his own - and he should be the one marrying Aphrodite. Then Aphrodite proceeds to cheat on Hephaestus with Ares and give birth to Harmonia, the ancestor of Dionysus...
  • What were the circumstances surrounding the death of Goliath? The story as generally remembered is that David was a shepherd boy bringing food to his brothers in Saul's army when he heard of Goliath's challenge to single combat, introduced himself to Saul, and volunteered to fight... except that he was already serving Saul at this point as a musician and armour bearer; Saul should have known who he was and he should have been with his king in the first place. While all this just comes from the first book of Samuel, the second book of Samuel mentions how Goliath was killed by someone called Elhanan, though some Bible translations say Elhanan killed Goliath's brother Lahmi.
  • Also from the Bible, the Gospels of Luke and Matthew both give genealogies of Jesus which are completely different for every generation after David. There have been multiple theological attempts to explain this; that one is through Joseph and one through Mary (and that her father is coincidentally also named Joseph) is popular, as is the idea that one is the "legal" genealogy and on the biological one (thanks to complicated inheritance laws), but it's never addressed in the text itself. The Gospels also give two mutually exclusive accounts about what year Jesus was born: In Luke, it’s very clearly linked to the Census of Quirinus, which happened in 6 CE; but in Matthew, Jesus is born during the reign of Herod the Great—and Herod is known to have died in 4 BCE.
  • The Gospels, as well as various non-canonical early Christian works, include different numbers of witnesses to Jesus' resurrection, the exact circumstances thereof, his teachings, etc. There are many proposed harmonizations of all this, naturally.
  • Multiple different accounts of Judas Iscariot's death, from both inside and outside the New Testament, have survived from antiquity. According to the Gospel of Matthew, he was overwhelmed by remorse when he realized Jesus was going to be crucified, tried to return the 30 pieces of silver, then hanged himself. In the Book of Acts, however, he's said to have used the money to buy a field, then died in an apparent accident while working it. Church Father Papias of Hierapolis gives yet another version, agreeing with Matthew that he committed suicide, but saying it was by disemboweling himself to put himself out of his misery after he became horrifically and incurably diseased.
  • Japanese Mythology: Was Amaterasu conceived by Izanagi and Izanami while the latter was still alive? Or was Amaterasu the byproduct 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...
  • Arthurian Legend:
    • 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 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.
      • In the very earliest stratum Cai was easily the foremost of Arthur's war band.
    • And Morgan Le Fey — once she made the Crossover 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.
    • How exactly are Arthur and Mordred related? Is Mordred Arthur's nephew, his son, or both?
    • The Excalibur in the Stone question is the result of this. As time went on, people gave it two origin stories: the more famous take of Arthur pulling it from a stone, and a version where it was a gift from The Lady Of The Lake. Le Morte D Arthur tries to include both legends by saying that Arthur pulled a different sword from the stone and got Excalibur from the Lady later...but even then, Malory messes up at one point and calls the first sword "Excalibur."
    • Then there's Elaine of Astolat AKA the Lady of Shalott. Half the time she's an innocent maiden who falls in love with Lancelot and then dies of heartbreak. The other half she's still a maiden who falls in love with Lancelot, but instead of being innocent she forces herself of Lancelot with the help of magic and then bears his son. Unless that's Elaine of Carbonek.
    • Is The Lady of the Lake the same person as Nimue? Or are they two different characters? Some reconcile this by making it a title that gets passed down, with Nimue being one holder.
  • Urban Legends falls under this trope, being a form of present-day Oral Tradition, they often change via Gossip Evolution with every retelling.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • One of the duties governing bodies like the National Wrestling Alliance have is to prevent or remove these, at least when they are in danger of becoming painfully noticeable to large amounts of people. Unfortunately the NWA itself started in an age before VHS or cable and neglected to keep track as those things became steadily less expensive until it was too late. Suddenly the large majority of fans who could only watch television of their own territory could see everything at once. For example, there were a dozen different territories with an equal amount of incompatible NWA World Tag Team Champions.note  This wasn't sorted out until 1992, with everything between then and 1950 being officially listed as "vacant".
  • 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 tended to be mildly rebooted when he got 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 was made to their childhood home burning down, but which brother was responsible depended on who's heel and who's face at the time. If they're both face, it was an accident Paul Bearer's fault. With Bearer dead, WWE being PG, and both men winding down their careers (Kane pivoted to a political career in the late 2010s and Taker retired in 2020), it never came up again.
  • 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.
  • WCW's 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.
  • At one point, ECW Champion Christian wanted a match on Raw against WWE Champion Sheamus in 2010, and as part of his pitch to the guest host about making the match, he joked that he and Sheamus were both born without last names. Knowing Christian, it was possibly part of the joke that this statement ran directly counter to the fact that Sheamus O'Shaunessy and Christian Cage both spent years making their names on the independent circuit in their native countries prior to their WWF/E television debuts, upon which said surnames were scrapped.

  • 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, which 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! So if you're confused, remember, the '90s Jets are the Coyotes, and the '10s Jets are the former Thrashers.
    • 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 would 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 moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Ravens, while a new team began 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. Made even more confusing by the fact that this isn't the norm for the NFL; in most cases, a team that moves from one city to another is still considered to be the same franchise (Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, etc.), but there was such an uproar at the idea of taking the Browns out of Cleveland that an agreement was eventually struck by which owner Art Modell would take the team and form a new franchise, while the franchise name and records would remain in Cleveland so that a new team could be built under the "Cleveland Browns" banner.
    • The Washington Senators in Major League Baseball. The "original"note  franchise existed from 1901 to 1960, then relocated to Minnesota and became the Twins. Similarly to the Browns, the city then received a new franchise with the same name. This iteration lasted from 1961 to 1971, and relocated again to become the Texas Rangers. The Montreal Expos moved to D.C. in 2005 and became the Nationals, which was an unofficial nickname for the old Senators clubs.
    • 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; there was a short lived team in Ottawa from 2002 to 2005 called the Renegades, and the current team launched in 2014 is now known as the Redblacks. While the Redblacks' owners acquired the intellectual property rights to their predecessor team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders precluded the usage of the name.
      • This happens a lot in college and high school sports. Many schools have common nicknames, and league alignments are very fluid. The Southeastern Conference was formed in 1932 with three sets of Tigers—Auburn, LSU, and Sewanee, with Sewanee leaving in 1940. Then, in 1961, founding SEC member Mississippi State changed its nickname from Maroons to Bulldogs, joining fellow SEC charter member Georgia with that nickname. Then in 2012, the SEC returned to three sets of "Tigers" when Missouri joined. The Atlantic 10 Conference has had three sets of Rams since 2012, namely Fordham, Rhode Island, and VCU. The American Athletic Conference started in 2013note  with the Temple Owls, but added two more sets of Owls in 2023 with Florida Atlantic and Rice.
    • When Major League Soccer team the San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston after the 2005 season, the league's commissioner stated that the Earthquakes' history, records, name, and colors would remain in San Jose, waiting for a new expansion team. The Earthquakes returned in 2008, taking the old team's history.
    • In Romanian football\soccer, there are two Universitatea Craiova teams, because when CS U Craiova decided to dissolve its football department, another team, FC U Craiova took its place. Then FC was disaffiliated by the Romanian Football Federation in 2012 due to legal problems, and the local authorities of Craiova decided to revive CS in 2013. A legal battle ensued regarding who retained the history of the team between 1948 and 1991, with the Federation deciding it should remain with CS, but it's still a sore point with FC's fans. Mind you that there is a more complicated case in Romania...
    • This snarl also occurred in capital Bucharest with Romania's most victorious team, Steaua Bucharest. The team was privatized from the multi-sport club CSA Steaua Bucharest, ran by the Ministry of Defense, in 1998, changing its name to AFC Steaua Bucharest - later just FC Steaua Bucharest as another owner took control and changed the team from non-profit to a public share company. Then in 2011 the Ministry sued claiming to hold the rights to Steaua's logo, colours, honours and name, and three years later it was determined CSA never gave permission to use the trademark. Ultimately, in 2017 FC got a turnaround reducing its name to just initials, FCSB, and CSA resurrected its football department. CSA claims to hold the whole history from before the privatization, but UEFA and the Romanian league still attribute all the honors to FCSB.
    • How about a time where one city had two teams with the same name, at the same time? The Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) started their career in 1920, but moved to St. Louis in 1960. At the same time, St. Louis already had a St. Louis Cardinals team: the MLB team. The Cardinals football teams were often referred to as the "Football Cardinals" to avoid confusion. Things were solved when the NFL team moved to Arizona in 1988. (ever since, St. Louis only got football between 1995 and 2015, as the Los Angeles Rams moved there, only for disputes regarding the stadium 20 years later to send them back to California)
  • 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.note 
    • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The publication history of Magic: The Gathering’s storyline has been such a jumble of novels, comics, articles and other supplementary material that there are major and minor contradictions all over the place, but a few of the bigger ones are:
    • The state of the island of Lat-Nam. Early sources state the island was rendered poisonous and uninhabitable for thousand of years after the College of Lat-Nam was destroyed during the Brothers’ War. Later sources never mention this, and have the School of the Unseen located there during the centuries that the island was supposedly poisoned. This is covered in greater detail on the Multiverse in Review blog.
    • The Ice Age comics were later replaced with the novel The Eternal Ice. The problem is that while the novel invalidates some aspects of the comics, it does refer the other events from the comics that are not directly shown in the novel, meaning that part of the comic is in continuity and part of the comic is out of continuity.
    • A number of characters from the Legends set show up in both of the Magic Legends cycles, which are set hundreds of years apart, with no explanation. One very problematic example concerns the characters Tor Wauki and Ramirez DePietro. In the first Magic Legends Cycle, Tor Wauki is an archer aboard the ship of pirate Ramirez DePietro. In the second Magic Legends Cycle, set hundreds of years later, Tor Wauki meets the shapeshifter Halfdane in the guise of DePietro and has no idea who the pirate is. Halfdane later reveals he killed DePietro two years ago. The Multiverse in Review Blog has taken a swing at this, but ultimately concludes that there is no other way out than to assume that there are multiple characters with the same name in canon, which was obviously not the original intent.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation VCR-based game A Klingon Challenge gives the stardate of 49253.5 for when its set. However, since this was made around the time of Season 5, future entries weren't taken into account — the closest canonical date would be 49263.5 in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Starship Down" where the Enterprise was already destroyed during the events of Star Trek: Generations (stardates 48632.4-48650.1) and the peace between the Federation and Klingons had already fallen apart.
  • Warhammer 40,000. The setting is deliberately designed to take into account the possibility of Continuity Snarl by making the tech naturally variable and everything told is either from skewed viewpoints, propaganda, or possibly inaccurate documents, reports, or histories. Its creators' pronouncement is "Everything written about 40k is canon, but it isn't necessarily true." The Horus Heresy series is an exception to this; the idea is that this is what really happened, without 10,000 years of distortion...which just makes it awkward given that the sequence of events after Isstvan goes something like three different ways just within books by Graham McNeill.
  • Warhammer classic has this with the Undead backstory. The RPG and the novels give completely incompatible versions of events, the most glaring being that Vashanesh (the main hero of the RPG version and heavily implied to be Vlad von Carstein under a different name) does not exist at all in the novel version. What makes it really confusing is that both versions were treated as canon by different writers right up through the end of the setting.
  • Two Vampire: The Masquerade books came out close together, both revealing that Rasputin was a member of two distinct Vampire clans. Instead of making one Canon Discontinuity, it became a Running Gag that Rasputin was everywhere before revealing he was a wraith who possessed several supernatural figures since his death.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: Unavoidable by the modular means the game is established. It is far from uncommon to see players choose the Bad Future versions of characters fighting alongside past incarnations to fight opponents in environments they really have no business in (just try and rationalize how in the hell Spite's victim cards make sense when playing in the barren, deserted Final Wasteland, what the Chairman's thugs are doing in the Ruins of Atlantis, or how The Matriarch got all those birds to the Wagner Base on Mars, for instance). This gets even funnier with the OblivAeon expansion, which includes five former villains as heroes, so now players can have the new heroes fighting their own past selves. Of course, the players will also only have a very vague sense of what happened where, as the events referenced in the cards' quotes were never published, so the players are free to Hand Wave it however they like. Word of God eventually confirmed that every game is canon within its own universe - and some pieces of the Multiverse are weirder than others.

    Theme Parks 
  • In Back to the Future: The Ride at Universal Studios:
    • 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.
  • Also at Universal, during the Dementor attack in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the Chamber of Secrets is seen in ruins, yet in the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it is seen in an almost perfectly intact state.

  • The story detailed in the promo-material for LEGO's short-lived Slizer 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.
  • Thanks to Mixels being a toyline by LEGO and a show by Cartoon Network working in tandem with each other, it is bound to get things wrong. This includes personalities of Mixels, and, most divisively, whether Jawg or Gobba is the leader of the Fang Gang (toys say Jawg, series says Gobba).

    Visual Novels 
  • The Nintendo DS Updated 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 Village 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.
    • This is fixed in the 3DS Trilogy rerelease. When Edgeworth is brought up in the third case of Justice for All, Edgeworth is stated to have stepped into a courtroom once after his own trial, that time being the fifth case. All references to Case Four being the last time Phoenix saw Edgeworth are removed.
  • 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. On the flip-side, Kotomine remains dead since he was fated to die in every possible continuity. 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 Mystic 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.

    Web Animation 

  • 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. The current Fantasy Kitchen Sink of the setting was their way of avoiding this happening again.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
      • It has since been explained that Circe (yes, that Circe) breaks many of the rules on the grounds that she also has a precognitive ability, meaning that those she trains really, really need her training due to some unspecified future event. Those to whom she offers her assistance tend to die horrible deaths — or worse.

    Web Videos 
  • The Spoony Experiment: Any attempt to create a consistent origin for Dr. Insano creates an awful one of these, mostly because there is no effort made to keep things in the slightest consistent. The Channel Awesome site featured an attempt to explain his existence, which will probably be made inaccurate next time he shows up (the basic idea is that there are at least 3 of him around). Amusingly, Spoony's explanation for him is "There is no continuity, there is only Insano." Though he did say he was flattered that people cared enough to put forth the effort. Later "explained" in To Boldly Flee as the effect of the Plot Hole, along with any and all other plot holes in the site's continuity, implicitly along with that of the broader Reviewaverse.

    Real Life 
  • Trying to keep track of everything that happened after the death of Alexander of Macedon (a.k.a. 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 Ptolemaic Empire, and all the others, as a "Macedonian Soap Opera".
  • A similar case can be made in tracing the outcome of the Mongol Horde. It doesn't help that the Mongols didn't have a sophisticated writing system until they began 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? And the few Europeans who wrote about them had no idea of many aspects of their culture and their own religious and ethnic prejudices to contend with (to say nothing of wishing to please rulers or wealthy people who paid them).
  • 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 III. Totally different Anne Neville.)
  • Likewise, if you're interested in Dracula enough to study Vlad the Impaler, prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor when you see the preposterously chaotic history of the Wallachian throne. Rulership of the principality sometimes changed hands multiple times in a single year, and some rulers had five or even six separate reigns to their name. Putting an end to that sort of thing was a major reason for some of his more famous atrocities.
  • Similarly, The Mexican Revolution with its constant double-crosses and people dropping in and out has been known to leave people trying to study it utterly baffled. 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 had been going on for centuries.
  • The Crisis of the Third Century in Roman History is one to modern historians. Not only were there multiple civil wars and rival claimants for the throne (26 of them over a 50-year period), but the historical records we do have for the area contradict each other regarding when events happened. In some cases, it's unclear whether multiple battles took place at particular locations years apart, or whether there was only a single battle that's been recorded incorrectly.
  • The post-colonial history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is notoriously convoluted. Between all the invasions, rebellions, coups, civil wars, intrigue and general chaos and instability, trying to make sense of it all is like trying to straighten out a tumbleweed.
  • The Lebanese Civil War is one of the most confusing conflicts in modern history. There were severe regional tensions, sectarian animosity, agitation from militants of various levels of extremism following a number of different ideologies, Palestinian refugees taking up arms to fight those they considered their enemies within Lebanon, ethnic and religious minorities making their own plays, constantly shifting alliances... and that's before you get into foreign involvement from countries and organizations both inside and outside the Middle East.
  • The Syrian Civil War looked at the Lebanese Civil War and said "Hold my beer.": The sheer amount of foreign interference, factionalism in the rebels, militants and terrorists fighting each other more than the government they are ostensibly against, having a chance of kicking off a war between Russia and NATO because a Turkish fighter shot a Russian one down after it crossed the border, Russia and Turkey getting into a brief proxy war after another unrelated strike a few years later, mercenaries composed of Civil War veterans being used elsewhere, the nadir of drone warfare as Turkey demolished a decades long insurgency within its borders and went on to unleash hell against the close allies of said insurgency, allied powers supporting different sides, the entire mess with the Islamic State/Daesh/ISIS/ISIL, allegations of chemical weapon usage, this war has it all. Scholars are likely to suffer breakdowns as they try to make a comprehensive timeline.
  • Generally speaking the line between "history" and "pre-history" is drawn where written records exist. However, the vast majority of all the stuff ever written (even all the stuff of historic significance ever written) does not survive to this day and literate and illiterate cultures have existed side by side for most of history. And the sources often had other things in mind than telling an accurate account of history as best they could. Many authors wanted to make one side or political faction look good or bad, delegitimize or legitimize current claims or past acts and of course people were occasionally declared Un-person. Even for periods of the Roman Empire where multiple authors survive, historians tend to mistrust the sources to some degree as they almost all were of senatorial rank and had certain biases. An emperor who pissed off senators is certain to have gotten a Historical Villain Upgrade, whereas an inept or brutal ruler who pleased the senate may have gotten a Historical Hero Upgrade. And when several claimants vied for power, authors writing after the fact were liable to dismiss those that missed out on power or whose memory the current rulers didn't want to evoke, even if they actually got to rule for significant amounts of time.