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Cosmic Retcon

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Frost: Crisis is over, we beat the bad guy, and you're still worried because...?
Cisco: Because an infinite number of Earths experienced a cosmic heat death from which only one Earth was rebuilt.
Frost: Mm-hmm.
Cisco: So now, not only do Superman, Supergirl, and Black Lightning live here, but now our entire timeline has been rewritten so that they've always lived here, and [opens his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the House of El symbol on it] I DON'T REMEMBER OWNING THIS SHIRT!
The Flash (2014), "Marathon"

An example of a Retcon caused by forces within the story itself, usually using Time Travel of some sort to alter history. Rarely is it used purely as a dramatic device; the real function is to paper over continuity gaps and mistakes.

For example, let's say that the author of a novel series was dissatisfied at the way she'd killed off a character in an earlier book. Instead of just having him show up and explain that he was Only Mostly Dead, she has the other characters pulled back in time by an evil plan of the Big Bad; in the process, they manage to prevent the events that lead to the death of the character, and when they get back, ta-da! There he is, good as new.

Whether or not characters will remember the pre-retconned state depends on the story.

Often (especially lately), Cosmic Retconning is the go-to method for demolishing Continuity Lock-Out and drawing in a younger audience. As a rule of thumb, superhero movies are the hottest way to increase readership; thus, the new canon should conform to whatever is playing in theaters or on television. See also Ret-Canon.

A potential downside to this, of course, is that it can invoke a massive sense of Shoot the Shaggy Dog on previous stories in the franchise; and if the cosmic reset button gets hit repeatedly, it can become hard for readers to get emotionally invested in a new version because they feel it will all just get eaten by a wall of antimatter or something again before long. Moreover, if the old versions of the characters see the end coming for their world and realize that, at best, they can only save the universe by drastically changing it (perhaps erasing countless people from existence and rewriting the personalities of the survivors), the results can be pure Nightmare Fuel — and also possibly a source of severe Mood Whiplash if either the outgoing or incoming universe is notably more "carefree and innocent" than the other.

Note that this applies only to actual retcons; something like Back to the Future, where changing the past is part of the original plot, doesn't count.

Compare Internal Retcon, which is far more mundane and relies on authority figures twisting or omitting the facts. Retconjuration is the ability of a character to do this, usually only found in the hands of Reality Warpers and their ilk.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard (V Series):
    • Downplayed example. The defeat of the Destiny Conductor means that Kourin, Suiko and Rekka lose their status as Called Walkers and their destiny will return to what it should have been, erasing them from their friends' memories and making it as though they never met them. However, it is later shown the consequences of the events that took place and led to the Conductor's defeat remain and some of the people affected have a feeling that something is missing.
    • Discussed in the Shinemon arc in regards to Gear Chronicle's time manipulation abilities and potential effects, but eventually it doesn't come to pass.
  • Date A Live: At one point in the series, Shido goes back in time using one of Kurumi's bullets to when Origami's parents were killed by a Spirit and manages to prevent their deaths. While this does change Origami's history and personality and she no longer has a vendetta against Spirits, her parents ended up dying anyway, only in a traffic accident this time.
  • Played for laughs in Excel♡Saga, where the Great Will of the Macrocosm has to reset the plot multiple times per episode.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The Grand Finale of the original continuity, Stone Ocean, ends with Enrico Pucci recreating the universe, but before it can be completed, Emporio manages to kill him, resulting in a wholly new universe created in its place. The new universe is briefly seen at the end of the part, with counterparts to most of the main cast. The next story arc, Steel Ball Run, is a Continuity Reboot that takes place in the same time period as the first story arc, Phantom Blood, with various counterparts to individual or multiple characters. Despite these two facts, and much fan confusion, the Steel Ball Run universe is not one that came as a result of Stone Ocean, instead being another universe entirely with no stated connection to the first continuity aside from names and the existence of Stands.
  • At the very end of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga, Shinji rejects Instrumentality and causes the Reset Button to be hit. The final chapter takes place in the rebooted timeline, where the Earth is safe, Second Impact never occurred, and the Angels never appeared on Earth.
  • Pokémon: The Series
    • In the Pokémon Chronicles episode "Celebi and Joy", shortly after entering a big city, Ritchie is sent back 75 years in the past and prevents a boy from being killed in an accident. After Ritchie returns to the present, it's shown that the once-boy is now the mayor of the city, which is now an idyllic valley town.
    • Happens again in the anime proper in "Time Warp Heals All Wounds", where after learning about an old woman's husband who died in an accident after leaving town, May and Meowth are sent back into the past when said husband is still alive and prevent him from taking the train to the city where he would eventually die. As a result, the husband is still alive and is a Pokémon Egg Doctor in town who assists May when her Egg hatches into an Eevee.
    • And it happens once more in Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, where Ash, Brock, and Dawn are sent back thousands of years in time to prevent the event that made Arceus distrustful of humans and want to pass judgment on them. They succeed although they have to remind Arceus in the present what they did after returning there. It's also revealed that there is now a ancient picture in the present depicting Ash and co. having helped save Arceus.
    • The Episode "Rotom's Wish" has Ash and co. arrive at a dilapidated hotel run by a Jerkass Trainer who makes guests battle his Krookodile and lost their Pokémon if they lose to him and that the bellboy was the original owner of the hotel who lost to him 10 years prior. A Rotom sends Ash and co. back in time and with said Rotom, they're able to defeat said Trainer's Krookodile. After returning to the present, the hotel is now in a much better state headed by the original owner and the Jerkass and his cronies are now loyal employees.
  • In the final episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka wishes for the power to erase all Witches that have ever existed or could possibly exist before they're born, which results in her ascending to become the embodiment of hope for all Magical Girls. Her wish ends up creating a new world where the Witches and Madoka Kaname herself never existed, Mami and Kyoko are still alive, Magical Girls fight creatures called Wraiths, a "Law of Cycles" is in place that causes Magical Girls who cross the Despair Event Horizon to disappear, and Homura now uses a bow and arrow in honor of her best friend.
  • Space☆Dandy: Half the episodes ends with the protagonist trio or some of them dead (including an Episode of the Dead where the whole universe is zombified), always beginning the next episode alive as if nothing happened. It's later revealed that all the episodes really happened, since the narrator is God and reboots the universe at the end of every episode.
  • In SSS-Class Suicide Hunter, protagonist Kim Gongja kills himself 4090 times so he can go back to the past before his killer Yoo Soohan gains Resurrective Immortality and kill him.
  • Transformers, of course, has one of its own: the Unicron Singularity, which ripped and tore at the fabric of time and space in a way that essentially opens up a planet-sized plot hole just to make room for itself to fill it.
    • The Unicron Singularity didn't exist as this at first, and it was transformed into one by the club comic writers to account for some (admittedly minor) inconsistencies between Transformers: Energon and Transformers: Cybertron. Mind you, these are only minor in comparison to the humongous plot holes that already populated the rest of the entire Transformers multiverse, which did not have such a black hole, though later media claims that its effects branch out to other universes as well, ergo it is both the cause of and solution to many errors in continuity (and even animation).
    • There actually exists a Transformer, Vector Prime, who was tasked by Primus to protect the stability of the timeline - in other words, the number of plot holes in Transformers is so bad, it is actually an in-universe threat, and there needs to be someone to keep the holes and inconsistencies from destroying everything. He does his best to fix things (usually retconning them from outside the timeline to cover inconsistencies, but coming in person for tremendous holes like the Singularity) so presumably any inconsistency we see was simply recorded before he got around to it, and our media are ripple effect proof.
    • The concept of the multiversal singularity (that is, characters of which only one exists in the entire multiverse, such as Primus, Unicron and The Fallen) was nullified by this - while at first it was gradual, with Ask Vector Prime claiming certain appearances of Unicron (such as the one in the original American cartoon continuity) were not part of the main singularity Unicron, the 2015 Fun Publications story "Another Light" had Nexus Prime solidify the walls between reality, limiting travel between dimensions and splintering all former singularities (such as Vector Prime and Nexus himself) into infinite selves across existence, as had been the case with many "regular" beings.
  • In the final arc of The World God Only Knows, we learn that Elsea is, in fact, the Ultimate Weiss, the superweapon the Big Bads have been after all along. As a result, Elsea is a great deal more powerful than anyone, even herself, realized and once the dust from the final battle settles, uses her power to allow herself to be reborn as Eri Katsuragi, Keima's little sister.
  • Done several times throughout the backstory of ×××HOLiC and Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-. You'd need a diagram drawn by M.C. Escher in seven dimensions to figure out the order of which retcon came before which, though. Altogether, they produced several clones, eliminated the royalty of a kingdom as royalty while leaving their children the prince and princess in place (their ancestor from another dimension had to come in to act as a placeholder and keep causality intact), caused reality to not notice that someone had died for several hundred years, at which point it had always noticed (except for the aforementioned clones and friends), and both added and removed the main character's parents from existence (their existence in-story predated the retcon somehow, and the protagonist managed to survive his parents ceasing to have ever existed via a Deal with the Devil).
  • Yo-Kai Watch ended in 2017 and was revived in 2019 with Nate owning a new Yo-kai Watch. In-series, it's stated that Nate's memory was wiped.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V seemed to be a new series where everything has a fresh start, with each summoning methods belonging in their own dimensions (Standard, Fusion, Synchro, and XYZ), and there is a full-scale war initiated by the Big Bad who seemingly wants to fuse all the dimensions together. That is not the case. Anti-Villain Leo Akaba wanted to fuse the dimensions together because he created four cards to deal with the Big Bad, Zarc, who after becoming a duel champion, fused with his dragons (Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon, Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon, Starve Venom Fusion Dragon, and Clear Wing Synchro Dragon), becoming an Eldritch Abomination. His daughter Ray then snatched the four cards he created and uses them to defeat Zarc. The Original Dimension then split into four parts, as did Ray and Zarc, and he intitally didn't have any memories of the Original Dimension until he regained them. As a result of the retcon, Ray split into Yuzu, Serena, Ruri, and Rin and arc became Yuya, Yuto, Yugo, and Yuri. While three of the four pairs were close friends, Yuri and Serena did not have a special bond.

    Audio Plays 
  • In Big Finish Doctor Who, Charlotte Pollard being saved by the Doctor causes her to become a living paradox meaning history starts breaking down, the CIA are around in 1937 before they should have been formed and Benjamin Franklin was a President. But after she saves the Web of Time the paradox and these events become part of the Web, therefore there is no paradox. Timey-Wimey Ball indeed.

    Comic Books 
  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld: The 2020 series establishes that Gemworld undergoes some sort of soft reboot (soft enough for enough people to remember old version and notice the changes) every time main DC Universe has a multiversal Crisis Crossover, supposedly every time coming off worse to wear from it.
  • The DCU has done this several times, starting with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Usually, it's part of a larger effort to make the characters more accessible and marketable. Usually, it fails.
    • Crisis on Infinite Earths did it to the entire DC Universe — the destruction of The Multiverse damaged the time-stream, changing the histories of many characters who lived on the only surviving Earth, thus removing their pre-Crisis backstories (and their campiest adventures). Several survivors of other Earths have been rewritten into the new history, such as the Justice Society: pre-Crisis, they were active in the 1940s (when their original stories were published) on Earth-Two, and their world's Justice League equivalent; post-Crisis, they were the merged Earth's first superhero team, but still active in the 1940s.
    • Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, the first sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, was the second universe-wide retcon, caused by Hal Jordan and Hank Hall going mad and tampering with the timestream. It created the sliding timescale that the DCU has used since and altered the backstories of several characters, most notably Hawkman, who was extremely streamlined to deal with his snarl (that partly resulted from Crisis) and the Legion of Super-Heroes, who got a complete Continuity Reboot.
    • In Infinite Crisis, CoIE's second sequel, a group of survivors from the pre-Crisis multiverse try to separate the numerous Earths yet again, leading to the multiverse's re-creation. It also featured a second, separate cosmic retcon; see below. (The third sequel, Final Crisis, did not radically alter continuity.)
    • The picture at the top of the page came from Infinite Crisis. Many of the changes here were caused by Superboy-Prime pounding on the walls of reality, giving rise to the "Superboy Punch!" meme as a way of hand-waving continuity errors.
    • In what looks almost like a parody, at the end of Legion of Three Worlds, he's Hoist by His Own Petard when he retcons himself by punching the Time Trapper, who was his future self. The latter is Ret-Gone outright.
    • Flashpoint, building off The Flash: Rebirth mentioned below, boils down to simply a time-traveller mucking things up and the heroes having to fix it. When Barry Allen makes the fixes, Pandora steps in and uses him to merge the Vertigo Comics and WildStorm continuities with the main DCU to create a single timeline, saying the three had originally been one timeline splintered long ago. It seems to be this merging, not a case of incorrectly repairing history, that causes the retcons. The result is that superheroes have only been active for about 5 years at the start of the reboot, and there was no Golden Age of heroes and heroes are in general younger than they previously were.
    • Convergence causes the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths to be rewritten, so the pre-Crisis multiverse comes back with the addition of the worlds added post-Infinite Crisis. However, this doesn't rewrite any of the universes' continuities, and they keep going as they were beforehand.
    • In The Flash: Rebirth, it is revealed that Barry Allen's mother is dead and his father, the only suspect, died in prison. For years Barry Allen was one of the few superheroes without a traumatic origin and his parents grew old without complication; it turns out it is because Barry's archenemy, the Reverse-Flash, went back in time, killed his mom, and framed his dad. This in turn changed everyone's memories so that Barry's mother was always killed when he was a kid, and caused Barry to be an angstier person.
    • J. Michael Straczynski's revamp of Wonder Woman has Diana not as the first woman to leave Themyscira and make her way in man's world, but as a survivor of a Themyscira that was sacked when she was a child and who is just now coming into her Amazon heritage. Other characters in the DCU (such as Max Lord) are stunned to find out that few people seem to remember Wonder Woman as she was. Diana's goal is to try setting things right. This revamp was a Gambit Pileup between the goddesses Nemesis and Clotho. Eventually Diana manages to set everything right, but her ordeal, likened to the Odyssea, was meant to introduce new changes into the status quo, like a revised outfit and a harder, no-nonsense attitude for Diana, though this too seems to have be retconned by the end of Flashpoint and into her new series. Wonder Woman's pants (and lack thereof) were the cause of so much drama that for several months they were in limbo, though by the time September 2011 rolled around she was again pantsless.
    • Superman Reborn: When Pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois fuse with the New 52 Superman and Lois, it creates a new history for not only Superman and Lois, but also the DC Universe as a whole. In terms of Superman's backstory, basically it incorporates some of the New 52 stuff into the pre-Flashpoint stuff. Changes to their history include:
      • The pre-Flashpoint Superman's most recent origin, Superman: Secret Origin, being once again canon, with callbacks to the story presented in the "Aftermath" issues, including how Superman first saved Lois, the design of Metallo and a visual call back to what inspired Lex Luthor's hatred of Superman. Previously, Superman's new origin was told in Action Comics (New 52).
      • Clark revealing his identity to Lois and the two being married, whereas the New 52 Clark never revealed his identity to Lois and was never even in a relationship with her.
      • Superman's romantic relationship with Wonder Woman in the New 52 is removed. Clark is established as having only ever dated Lois since becoming Superman.
      • Superman still died at the hands of Doomsday in The Death of Superman, as he had before the New 52. The New 52 Superman's death in The Final Days of Superman is also removed from continuity.
      • Notably, when Clark retells the rise of the Supermen that showed up after his death, Kon-El/Conner Kent and Matrix are missing. In fact, even though most of Superman 90's history is restored, all Supergirls who had replaced Kara Zor-El remain retconned out of existence.
      • The events of Convergence: Superman are undone, as Lois gave birth in the Fortress of Solitude and not the Flashpoint Batcave, with Bruce Wayne involved instead of Thomas Wayne to drive things home.
      • An altered version of the Superman: Lois and Clark miniseries is worked into the characters history, with it being established that Clark and Lois did still live on a farm during that time, with Lois working as "Author X". However, their civilian friends knew they were away and had had a son, and Superman took a break from the Justice League and operated at night. The reason for this is because Lois' writing on Intergang resulted in her and Clark being targeted, and so they went into hiding. Before, the pre-Flashpoint Clark and Lois didn't have any friends, and New 52 Superman was still on the League and the pre-New 52 Superman operated in secret just because he didn't want to reveal the nature of the multiverse to the world, and later because he didn't trust the New 52's more cynical worldview.
      • The restoring of villains such as Imperiex and the Hank Henshaw Cyborg Superman and his history, whereas the only New 52 Superman was Zor-El who'd only just appeared by the time of modern stories, with it being established that Hank Henshaw didn't become Cyborg Superman in the New 52.
      • With Jon being born in the mainstream DCU, this also makes the "five year" time span of the New 52 moot. Previously, Jon was born in the Convergence story and world and was brought to the New 52 world as a newborn. He later showed up in modern times at an unspecified age. After Reborn, Jon specifically states that he's 10, and Clark did quite a bit before he was born in the new timeline, all of which was public. Meaning there is no way the five year timeline can be intact.
      • Ma and Pa Kent did still die in a car crash, as they had in the New 52. Pre-Flashpoint, Pa Kent died of a heart attack long into Clark's Superman career, and Martha was still alive.
      • The story also removed the Trinity's New 52 meeting (they met when the Justice League formed while Darkseid was invading Earth). Instead, Superman met Batman at some unspecified point, and both met Wonder Woman a while later.
    • Both The Button and Flash War reveal that Wallace West, the current Kid Flash, is actually the result of the actions of Dr. Manhattan with Professor Zoom commenting in the former story that Wallace was "new" and the implication being the original Wally's memories were tampered with.
    • Doomsday Clock reveals how Doctor Manhattan altered the DCU's history and the butterfly effect it had:
      • By moving Alan Scott's Green Lantern battery out of his reach, Manhattan killed Alan and delayed the emergence of superheroes, as the Justice Society of America don't form. Because of this, the DCU has a more cynical worldview which is why Jonathan Kent discourages Clark from using his powers. This is why Clark began his career as Superman rather than Superboy, and he wasn't confident enough to save his parents from their fatal car crash that was engineered by Manhattan to make Clark a more cynical figure. Because Superboy doesn't exist, the Legion of Super-Heroes don't get their inspiration and thus don't form in the future.
      • This is undone by putting the Lantern back within Alan's reach, with some unintended side-effects. With the Lantern, Alan Scott becomes Green Lantern and the JSA form — incidentally, Wonder Woman is now active earlier than Superman and Batman, having fought alongside the JSA in the 1940s — and their influence creates a more optimistic history for superheroes. As a result, Jonathan encourages Clark to use his powers and so Clark begins his career as Superboy and saves his parents from their car crash, and they are alive in the present day. Because Superboy was there to inspire people, the Legion of Super-Heroes forms in the future.
    • Dark Nights: Death Metal features one, as the culmination of the "unboot" storyline building since DC Rebirth. The Multiverse is collapsing and everyone is forced to rally to defeat the Batman Who Laughs as he tries to destroy everything. In the end, Wonder Woman defeats him, and "the Hands" recreate the multiverse, intending to make all prior continuity canon, no matter how hard it conflicts. The Justice League determine that everyone was brought back to how they were just prior to the Batman Who Laughs' attack, along with the resurrection of much of the dead from even prior to it, and characters will receive flashes of alternate futures and even alternates pasts as the multiverse settles. This essentially allows future writers to decide for themselves what histories they want to use.
    • Legion of Super-Heroes has the Original Continuity, the Glorithverse Retcon, Post Zero Hour Reboot Legion, Threeboot Legion, Retroboot Legion, and now the Bendisboot. When you have enough reboots and massive retcons that it names a whole era of the franchise, it's safe to say you've done it a lot.
  • The creators of ElfQuest were forced to do this by Executive Meddling: basically, they lost the rights over a large group of characters, the Wavedancers, created as a spin-off by someone Running the Asylum. Because they did want to keep the overall story, a new group of Wavedancers was created in their place, and the original group was handwaved as a dream brought on by Big Bad Winnowill.
  • Marvel Universe uses it less often, usually preferring the more "subtle" Sliding Timescale. This usually prevents the all-at-once changes of a Cosmic Retcon by feeding changes out gradually over decades.
    • Marvel had their own Superboy-Prime for a while in the form of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. When her powers shifted from "control of probability" to "able to reshape reality at will" and she went bugnuts crazy, "Wanda did it" became a very popular Hand Wave for a little while.
    • One 2000s example of a Marvel Cosmic Retcon is the Spider-Man storyline One More Day, in which Peter Parker makes a Deal with the Devil to erase his marriage with Mary Jane in exchange for saving his Aunt May's life, having no other options.
    • Avengers Forever reveals that many events of the past have been staged by Immortus and Space Phantoms, cleaning up many Continuity Snarls.
    • Doctor Strange has seen this happen a few times (being pals with Higher Beings will do this). In one storyline he saw the entire world destroyed and recreated except for himself, causing him some psychological distress as he wondered if the people he knew and loved were actually real.
    • In All-New, All-Different Marvel, a sentient cosmic cube named Kobik restores the youth and super powers of the original Captain America, Steve Rogers. However Captain America: Steve Rogers reveal that, in a shocking twist, she has changed retroactively his story making Steve a member of HYDRA in the process (with things like Cap's mother had been convinced to join HYDRA before Steve's father died). This because, before, the Red Skull has manipulated her and she believed HYDRA to be perfection. And then it turned out that she didn't just alter Steve's past, she created a whole new alternate timeline, and brought that Steve into the main timeline, while the true, would-never-join-HYDRA Steve was trapped in a limbo created by Kobik. Eventually, good Steve was freed and beat evil Steve, and evil Steve was later gruesomely Killed Off for Real in a later comic run..
    • The events of Daredevil (Charles Soule) and Daredevil (Chip Zdarsky) saw Mike Murdock, an identity Matt created as part of a Fake Twin Gambit to throw off people who were to close to figuring out he was Daredevil, become an actual person with his own life and history — and still alive, as Matt ended the gambit by faking "Mike's" death. Said events also made Mike somewhat responsible for Matt's blindness and the death of their father, Jack.
    • Played with in Gwenpool Strikes Back. Following Gwen's desperate breakdown over her imminent trip to Comic-Book Limbo and death, Ms. Marvel tries to help Gwen by giving her thoughts on Gwen's origin: she's not a real person trapped in a comic book world, but a Reality Warper mutant. The shock of her powers manifesting made her subconsciously change her perception of reality and trick her into forgetting her true self in order to protect her from a power she couldn't fully comprehend. This ends up being the accepted backstory by the universe, and Gwen is retconned into being a mutant all along. Gwen herself knows it's a retcon and still believes in her true origin story, but for all intents and purposes, the universe now treats her as a mutant.
    • Eternals (2006) subjects the eponymous characters to this. It's revealed that some of their previous history and culture was a version rewritten with illusion and telepathic meddling, then reinforced by reality warping.
  • When characters from Milestone Comics and Archie Comics' Red Circle imprint started to popping up in the DC Universe, Word of God said that their worlds had been fused with DC's due to the events of Final Crisis.
  • In The Sandman (1989), Delirium threatened at one point to turn Mazikeen into a "a demon half-face waitress night-club lady with a crush on your boss", and "make it so you've been that from the beginning of time to now and you'll never ever know if you were anything else and it will itch inside your head worse than little bugses". Given that Mazikeen already was a demon with only half a face working at a night-club, it's unclear if Delirium actually did make a Cosmic Retcon (with the original state never being seen by the reader), or if she was just being her usual Cloudcuckoolander self.
    • This is what happens if enough living creatures share the same dream. If a thousand cats were to dream of a world where they rule over humans then the universe would change so that it had always been that way. Luckily getting a thousand cats to agree to do the same thing is nigh impossible. Also, this is how humans came to rule the world.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • This happens in the Mobius: X Years Later reality (which is separate from the main canon universe). Damage to the fabric of reality from previous adventures threatens to completely destroy the timeline, so Sonic goes back in time to fix it, which results in reality changing - before, Mobius was a Utopia ruled by King Sonic, where all the villains were either dead or at peace with the heroes. But after the changes, it becomes a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by King Shadow and enforced by his Secret Police. Fortunately, the heroes who remember the way things are supposed to be come together and defeat him, returning things to the way they're supposed to be (albeit still with the alternate history).
    • There are also shades of this in Silver's stories; everytime he travels backwards in time, he causes small alterations to the timeline. Just not enough to undo the Bad Future he lives in.
    • Dr. Eggman attempts to invoke this trope in the Sonic: Genesis storyline - hooking up a Chaos Emerald to the Death Egg II, he attempts to rewrite history so that Sonic never existed... and ends up creating the video game universe instead, though with the Freedom Fighters and Snively with them. Sonic is able to go Super and, in an attempt to save Sally due to the fact that she was killed before the first Retcon, resets the universe to its normal state. However, because of that one change, a number of things about Mobius itself is altered.
    • Happens again in the Worlds Collide crossover with Mega Man (Archie Comics), where Eggman and Dr. Wily recreate the Genesis Wave, this time affecting both their worlds. Though rather than trying to erase Sonic and Mega Man, they alter history so Mega Man is post-Mega Man 10 (allowing the use of Bass, Proto Man and Duo) and Sonic is in the modern video game setting rather than Archie's unique comic universe (for familiarity to non-Archie Sonic readers).
      • In the final part of the story, Eggman screws up Sonic's Chaos Control, causing some major rewriting in his world that, so far, shuffles the current position of nearly everyone, integrates some game storylines into the Archie continuity, redesigns a number of characters, exiles characters created by writers who weren't working on the comic any longer, including Ken Penders's characters (who are entangled in a lawsuit), characters who were family members or love interests of game characters and abruptly aborts the King Naugus and Mecha-Sally arcs. Oh, and the entire multiverse collapses on itself, leaving only a few alternate worlds and dimensions intact.
  • Alan Moore's Supreme run starts with the main character finding out that he is not the only Supreme — reality has been revisioned multiple times in history, and all his previous incarnations (be they alternate counterparts, imagined versions or "future" selves) together with all their supporting characters, end up in the Supremacy, a dimension which they turned into a utopia. Later, we find out that his Arch-Enemy Darius Dax has a similar thing - all his previous versions go to a dimension called the Daxia.
    • Much is made of the fact that Supreme (that is, the one starring in the book) survives the retcon in the first issue, though little of his history or characterization remains the same — a Lampshade Hanging of the fact that Moore's run is a retool or "soft reboot" of Rob Liefeld's material.
  • Youngblood: Judgment Day reveals that the Book of Hermes is capable of changing reality and Sentinel used it to not only rewrite his own life but also turn the whole world into one that he liked.

    Fan Works 
  • Digimon: Children of Time: As revealed in the first chapter of Children of the Present, after the events of Digimon Adventure 02, Gennai, insisting that The Masquerade still has to be maintained for a little while longer, not only erased the memories of everyone who wasn't a DigiDestined or a family member of the DigiDestined, but also somehow created the Digimon franchise as shown in Digimon Tamers.
  • In Raven Child's The Smurfette Village fanfiction series, the events that take place in the fourth story "A Home Through Time" retcon The Smurfs (1981)' ninth season (the time-traveling episodes) out of existence, setting things up for the events that take place in the story series proper.
  • In the Pony POV Series,
  • In Drakonophobia the White Dragon Sotrahkun is forced to do this when Alduin screw things up extremely badly. He'd created Tears through time that allowed him to summon alternate versions of himself but in the meanwhile breaking time as we know it. The Dragonborn, Petra is forced to sacrifice herself mend things in the end with the help of Brynjolf, sets the retcon in motion. as a result, only Brynjolf remembers the old timeline as Sotrahkun rewrites and actually merges timelines. But it's hinted that Petra will eventually recall everything that happpened, albeit at a different pace.
  • In Flashpoint 2: Advent Solaris, the cosmic retcon at the end of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is both a major part of the plot (the entire reason it's happening, actually) and is also undone via another retcon right in the 16th chapter when the villain, Mephiles the Dark, transports most of the heroes to the part of the film right before the titular war started in the first place - it's unknown if them preventing the events from happening was intended on his part or not.
  • This is part of the backstory of Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The Norse Goddess of Death, Halja, unleashed Ragnarok on Heaven itself with the power of the Red Dragon, retconning every Longinus user up to that point out of existence in the process, and planted herself as Heaven's new ruler. The only one she missed was Divine Dividing, currently wielded by Makoto Fujiwara, the son of the Seraph Gabriel and a human.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Make a Wish has a magic wishing star that grants every wish made on it. Many wishes are purely physical changes, but a few feature Cosmic Retcons on both large and small scale.
    • On the small scale, Rainbow Dash wishes for a chance to meets the Wonderbolts, and finds herself having won a contest she never remembered entering. Yet everypony else remembers her doing so and even remarks that she visited the contest's office on a weekly basis to find out if she'd won.
    • On the larger scale, Scootaloo makes the wish that she was Rainbow Dash's sister and wakes up the next day Rainbow's flesh-and-blood little sister. Like Rainbow and the contest, Scootaloo's the only one who remembers anything different in her case. The story focuses on her realizing what happened and dealing with the For Want of a Nail implications.
  • A version of Gaster causes this in Blooming Dreemurr, quite simply after the blog got into a sort of state of chaos, reseting everything back to when the blog had begun, with Flowey underground.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton: This is eventually explained in Chapter 34 of The Girl Who Could Knock Out the Hulk to be the cause of the series' Massive Multiplayer Crossover nature. Specifically, Doctor Doom and his timeline's Reed Richards have been dragging people, species, and objects from other universes into Earth-199999 and then rebooting the timeline to make them retroactively part of it, all for the purpose of making Earth strong enough to fight off Thanos and the Black Order.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Mouth of Madness has some particularely mind-bending ones. The crux of the story is that horror writer Sutter Cane has become so powerful that his creations have become reality, and the protagonist John Trent finds himself in the fictional setting of his stories. By the time he gets back to the "real world" his partner Linda Styles has been written out by the writer (not even her boss, who sent them on their mission, can remember her), and Cane's reality-destroying novel was already delivered by Trent to the publishers and has been on the shelves for weeks, even though Trent just emerged from Hobb's End. The Cane that Trent encountered might also be an Author Avatar of the real Cane, who is writing the entire story of the movie (yes, the one you are watching), Cane might have been influenced by a monolith of Eldritch Abominations to change reality so they can transform it into something wholly alien, or Trent may be particularly insane.
  • Monster a-Go Go does this for a poorly executed Gainax Ending. At the end of the film the monster suddenly vanishes and everyone forgets the monster existed and the astronaut who became the monster is found alive and normal with no memory of how he ended up where he was found. There never was a monster and how this happened is not explained, though the narrator speculates that some cosmic force is responsible.
  • Star Trek (2009): Nero traveling back in time and doing lots of things, radically changing the timeline, creating a brand new continuity:
    • Killing Kirk's father.
    • And blowing up Vulcan, and killing Spock's mom.
    • Actually played with, since J. J. Abrams himself stated that his movies take place in an alternate reality caused by events in the movie and that everything else in Star Trek canon is still intact.
  • Japanese time-travel movie Time Slip Yankee shows what happens when you mess with your parents first meeting Back to the Future-style. The main character is snap-backed into a retconned timeline where his then girlfriend in now his mother after his parents fell for different people. Everything about his life is different, even his body.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse. The events of DoFP not only fix the Bad Future, but also alter the events of X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand, preventing the death of Scott and Jean (who's still taken to wearing red). X-Men Origins: Wolverine also gets discontinued, not just its ending, but by showing that William Stryker is different and Logan's flashbacks to his adamantium bonding are those of the first two movies - not to mention what happens with Deadpool, who becomes the Merc with a Mouth instead of a zombified All Your Powers Combined mutant controlled by Stryker.
    • There is still a scene from Origins in DoFP, and its events are alluded to. And Jean unleashes the Phoenix much earlier than she did in Last Stand, and she controls it to do good this time. Charles seemingly got the info about the mess he caused by locking the Phoenix inside Jean's mind when he read Wolverine's mind, and did all he could to help Jean master it instead.
    • It also becomes obvious that Weapon X plays out differently than originally.
    • Broad Strokes: While X-Men probably still happened more or less the same way it did in the original timeline (Rogue's got her white hair), the events of X2: X-Men United must have been altered for Jean to be alive and one of the good guys, as well as Mystique no longer being a murderous terrorist or Magneto's Dragon. Also, among the few things that remain from The Last Stand and Origins respectively are Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat being played by Elliot Page and Beast becoming Kelsey Grammer when older, and Wolverine having bone claws.
      • Apparently certain characters were born earlier due to events in DoFP, such as Storm, Angel and Nightcrawler to name a few.

  • Jake's death, and the subsequently epic time-and-space-altering events that bring him back from the dead in The Dark Tower.
  • Discworld
    • Thief of Time: History was literally shattered by a "glass clock" that trapped the Anthropomorphic Personification of Time, and then patched back together (albeit with some weird gaps and miscellaneous changes) by the History Monks; the plot of the book revolves around the History Monks stopping someone else from making a second clock. It's implied that this explains the prevalence of Schizo Tech on the Discworld and some of the continuity gaps from earlier books.
    • Mort: The Interface is the physical manifestation of the universe gradually retconning away Mort's 'mistake' in not taking Keli's life. More accurately, Mort changed how history is meant to go, and the Interface represents the inertia of history Cosmic Retconning it back again.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: Faction Paradox's has a far more insidious form of this: the Paradox Biodata Virus. It latches into the part of your biology linked to the Time Vortex... and makes it so you always have worked for them and always will. The Eighth Doctor was infected, and his timeline nearly destroyed.
    • Eighth Doctor Adventures book The Ancestor Cell, based mainly around said Faction, features a huge and weird one with the Doctor's destroyed TARDIS retconning it back, after holding both timelines intact for quite some time, and blasting the sector of space that included Gallifrey into quarks.
  • In the Dragonlance Legends books, much of the plot revolves around the efforts of various characters to Cosmic Retcon stuff they don't like in the past. Tasslehoff is central to this, because kender who travel through time can change the flow of events. First Tasslehoff tries to Retcon away the Cataclysm; Raistlin tricks him into breaking the time-travel device instead. Then Raistlin tries to Retcon away the death of Fistandantilus (since he himself has taken Fistandantilus's place in history), and succeeds, entering the Abyss instead of being blown to smithereens. Finally, Caramon and Tasslehoff wind up in a future where Raistlin wins, and return to the present in order to Retcon everything back to normal. The plot of Legends will give you migraines if you think about it too much.
  • InCryptid: In That Ain't Witchcraft, Antimony's defeat of the Crossroads is explained by the Anima Mundi as this, since she went back in time and killed them before they ever took the Anima Mundi's place. Somehow, this doesn't cause any temporal paradoxes, and everything the Crossroads did (or "didn't do") still happened and everyone remembers it. It can be quite a Mind Screw.
  • The book Starbright and the Dream Eater has one, after Starbright manages to defeat the Dream Eater. She wakes up the next day and finds that every single reference to the "spindle sickness" that the Dream Eater created is instead replaced with a reference to a dangerous pesticide. Every person who got sick from spindle sickness got sick from the pesticide instead, and no-one except her remembers the Dream Eater even existed.
  • Stardoc: In Dream Called Time, Cherijo and Duncan end up in an alternate timeline where they never existed after convincing the Jxin not to transcend (and inadvertently make the universe a worse place in the process). Fortunately, the only effects on them are that they're entirely undocumented and that the only people who remember them are those with ripple-effect-proof memories. Including, somehow, their daughter.
  • In Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations, one of the characters is completely deleted from history by a particularly malicious "uptime" villain ("Future Guy" from Star Trek: Enterprise). He proudly refers to it as the most satisfying achievement of his career.
  • Used in the Star Trek: String Theory novels. When Voyager accidentally meddles with the "strings" underlying reality, space starts to unravel. The solution to the entire mess eventually involves rewriting thousands of years of history. An event which actually occurred within the current story (all photons within a certain range being drawn into Exosia, a realm of subspace) is now placed many millennia in the past. The starless Void from the Star Trek: Voyager Season Five opening episode is the result of this event. Its existence is therefore one big Cosmic Retcon, down to the species who developed there but technically didn't exist until a few weeks prior...
  • Averted in Star Wars Legends. Jacen Solo's brother, Anakin, died. Jacen develops the power to use the Force to time travel. Jacen's Sith apprentice is Anakin's girlfriend. Jacen's time travel, however, can only alter the events in his memory, not in reality.
    • Apparently, bringing Anakin back from the dead was seriously considered for the ending of Legacy of the Force, but they figured that messing with time travel in the Star Wars universe could be pretty messy.
  • In the Warcraft universe, the book trilogy The War of the Ancients RetCons some parts of Azerothean history due to a few people going back in time (most notably the blue dragonflight going from extinct to having enough members to wage war against all other dragons and some mortals at the same time).
  • The Well World series by Jack Chalker has this as a power granted by someone who has root access to the Well World's main computer. Nathan Brazil had rebooted the universe at least three times.
  • In The Wheel of Time this is a feature of its strongest magical attack, "balefire." Anything hit by balefire is erased from the past few seconds/minutes of time; anything living hit is Deader than Dead, as the only known method of resurrecting someone without Reincarnation can only work if begun immediately after death. This not only stops the Dark One from bringing Quirky Miniboss Squad members Back from the Dead, it can be used to un-die main characters those villains had killed... but historically the spell was outlawed, after flagrant misuse caused Continuity Snarls threatening to unravel creation itself.
  • In Worm, part of the author's justification for his rewriting of Chapter 7.9 a day after it was posted was a power of one of the involved characters. Coil, the boss of the protagonist's team, had the power to split the world into two timelines and then collapse whichever one he didn't like.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The entire plot of 12 Monkeys is built around the heroes trying to bring one of these about by changing history and preventing the global pandemic. They succeed in doing so at the start of Season 2, but due to the Army of the 12 Monkeys' persistence the plague is only delayed, so they just create a Close-Enough Timeline, where things are mostly the same. They finally succeed in the series finale, as Cole — who has since come to realize that he's the lynchpin of the series' Stable Time Loop — allows himself to be erased from time, breaking the loop and creating a new timeline where the plague, the 12 Monkeys, and the Witness never existed.
  • The Arrowverse has had a few of these:
    • The Flashpoint, triggered by Barry's actions in the season 2 finale of The Flash, causes major changes to reality. Actually, there are two cosmic retcons: one after Barry saves his mother from being killed by Eobard Thawne and one after he undoes it, upon realizing that the new reality is bleaker because he is estranged from the West family. Despite having reversed the course of history, things don't exactly go back to the way they were. Though Barry is once again close with the West family, Iris still has a falling out with Joe. Cisco's brother, Dante, is dead, while Diggle and Lyla now have a son, J.J., instead of a daughter, Sara. There are also new metahumans, one of them being Ralph Dibny, who was a dead man pre-Flashpoint.
    • The Legends do this from time to time, simply because of their line of work. Martin Stein's daughter, Lily, is one such example; she didn't exist before he time traveled to meet with his younger self, advising himself to be closer to his wife which inadvertently lead to a child.
    • The Crisis, as shown in Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, is a far bigger retcon than Flashpoint. It basically merges all pre-Crisis Earths excluding those that serve as the setting for unrelated DC shows into a single reality called "Earth-Prime" (so Earth-38 from Supergirl is merged, but Earth-9 from Titans isn't), therefore Barry and Kara can now interact without having to use Cisco's device. Pre-Crisis Earth-2 is erased, but the Laurel Lance from that Earth somehow still exists in addition to the Earth-1 Laurel who remains dead. Since Oliver is responsible for resetting the multiverse, he also brings back many of his dead loved ones, including Moira, Quentin, Tommy, and Emiko. Sara Diggle is brought back from nonexistence and allowed to exist with J.J., so now Diggle has two kids instead of one. Star City is made a city devoid of crime, erasing the pessimistic future from Arrow season 7 in favor of the much happier and more positive future as shown in "Green Arrow and the Canaries".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Dawn's existence. Essentially, in order to hide a magic key, a group of people decided to give it the shape and flesh of a girl and implant False Memories on Buffy and her family to make everyone think she was always the youngest daughter of the family.
    • And in the spinoff series Angel, the title character makes a Faustian bargain to have his son retconned into having lived a happier childhood and not remembering his real life (in which he was raised by a psychopath in hell). As a consequence, everyone else forgot about the boy's existence; so in a sense, it's the exact opposite of the Dawn scenario. Network higher-ups requested the retcon due to the show's dense continuity, which ended up being dumped back into the plot anyway.
  • Doctor Who has loads, of course. (For Expanded Universe examples, see Literature and Radio.)
    • Between the old and new series there came an off-screen event called the Time War, removing the Time Lords and Daleks (though Russell T. Davies was rather reluctant to stick to that) and changing the Laws of Time. It's also a handy crutch for any inconsistencies.
    • In series 5, the cracks in the universe play a similar role. In "Flesh and Stone", the Doctor realizes they've erased the events of "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End" (explaining why Amy didn't recognize the Daleks) and "The Next Doctor". The cracks also ate Amy's parents, and end up erasing Rory, and later the Doctor himself before things are fixed, although everyone eventually gets better.
    • In "The Name of the Doctor", the Doctor's open timestream at his grave on Trenzalore provides the Great Intelligence with an opportunity to successfully retcon the Doctor's entire timeline, and Clara has to intervene throughout the Doctor's history to retcon the retcon. However, as of "The Time of the Doctor", the Doctor no longer dies on Trenzalore, so the retcons may never have happened.
  • The fourth season of Fringe picks up in a timeline that's been cosmically retconned as a result of Peter being erased from existence at the end of season 3. The differences are subtle — the prime universe Fringe Division has a different lineup, Walter is a shut-in, some characters are now strangers — but most of what happened in the previous seasons seems to have unfolded in the same way, or at least similarly.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger has the power of the Greatest Treasure of the Universe, which lets its discoverer rewrite the universe to suit their own desires. The Gokaiger ask if it could eliminate Zangyack, and are told that it would be as if Zangyack never existed — but that they would also erase all of the Super Sentai from existence too. They end up rejecting the "wish", deciding to take on Zangyack themselves, because facing impossible odds is what Super Sentai members do, and because they don't want to lose everything that they've gained and become as a result of the hardships Zangyack inflicted upon their lives.
  • Kamen Rider Build: In the final arc of the series, the heroes enact a plan to defeat the Big Bad Evolto by merging their Earth with one from an Alternate Universe, using Evolto's seemingly limitless power to fuel the merger. They succeed, and the new world created is one where the events of the series — from the Skywalls dividing Japan all the way up to the Final Battle — never happened. The cast all lived normal, ordinary lives...except for the protagonists Sento and Ryuga. Because Evolto essentially "created" both of themnote , they're basically walking anomalies, remembering everything that happened but being complete unknowns in the new world, even to their former friends. To make matters weirder, there's a second "peaceful world" version of Ryuga who never experienced the shows events, so he can't just take up his old life or find his (now living) girlfriend; the show doesn't say whether there's a second Sento, but we do see that Takumi Katsuragi (who became Sento) and Taro Satou (whose appearance was copied to the amnesiac Katsuragi to make "Sento" and who was killed to keep the secret) definitely are here, so presumably not. The series ends with them setting off to find a place in the world, and Sento planning to turn the adventures of Kamen Rider Build into a TV show.
  • The latter part of Lost season 5 concerns the main characters, having traveled to 1977, attempting to prevent the plane crash which initially brought them to the island, thus undoing everything that has happened so far in the series. It doesn't work, though it does create its own side-effects later on.
  • Occurs near the end of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. The villains turn back time to a period a decade or so before, and when the effect was canceled, anything that had changed during the reverse-time led to changes in the present day. Most notably, Aisha had moved to a small African village as a child, and Tanya's Adventurer Archaeologist parents had left her in America rather than the African village.
  • The Sandman, "A Dream of a Thousand Cats": The Prophet's message is that the nature of reality can be changed more easily than people realize — if enough people, perhaps as few as a thousand, all dream the same thing at once, that will become reality. It's already happened once, creating the damaged and strife-torn world we inhabit; when the Cat of Dreams is explaining this to the character who will become the Prophet, he specifically states that the dream didn't just change the universe from its former state into its current state, but rewrote all of history so that the universe had always been the way it is now.
  • In Stargate SG-1, a two-part episode in Season Eight involved the team time-traveling back 5,000 years into the past, screwing something up, and then their counterparts in the alternate timeline had to time travel back again to fix it. In the end, the only visible difference was that Jack's pond now had fish in it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The Krenim timeship from "Year of Hell" is a weaponized form of this. Its main weapon erases its target from past, present and future, resulting in it never having existed except in the memory of the timeship crew, which is insulated by technobabble. Unfortunately using it on the Krenim Imperium's current enemy the Rilnar means that ancient interbreeding between them never happened, meaning that the Rilnar never contributed a crucial antibody to the Krenim genome, meaning billions of Krenim are now dead of a plague. Annorax, the captain, spends the next couple centuries trying to undo his mistake with more temporal incursions, which eventually brings him into conflict with Voyager. The two-parter ends with Janeway ramming the timeship, causing it to erase itself, which pushes the Reset Button on the two-parter's entire plot. This, however, includes undoing the erasing of the Rilnar, thus solving the Krenim's problems too. However, the last scene is Annorax working on time equations, so we might have it all start again.
  • Supernatural:
    • Balthazar attempts to do this by traveling back in time to save the Titanic: this has the effect of ruining Celine Dion's career, creating 50,000 new souls for Castiel, and preventing the deaths of Ellen and Jo Harvelle. Unfortunately for them, Castiel resinks it at the end of the episode after Fate herself calls him out on it. The whole thing was on Castiel's orders, in order to create new souls for the civil war in Heaven that he's losing.
    • In "Lebanon", John Winchester inadvertently time travels past the time he would have died, which triggers ripple effects to reality, causing Dean to become a fugitive, Sam to become a motivational speaker, Castiel to remain a robotic servant of Heaven under Zachariah (who is still alive), and Mary to begin disappearing because the circumstances that would have led to her resurrection never happened. Deciding that he cannot sacrifice Mary for the world, John chooses to return back in time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons gets hit with one of these once in a while to explain the shifts between editions.
    • One of the last adventures for Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition was Die Vecna Die!, in which the titular evil god gains control of the city of Sigil, a Cosmic Keystone that lets him restructure The Multiverse to his whim. He fails, but the city's rightful ruler, the Lady of Pain, can't put everything back together perfectly. This was implicitly meant to explain away the differences between the cosmologies of 2nd and 3rd Editions.
    • Forgotten Realms is especially infamous for this, having one for each edition. The Time of Trouble (in which the gods where forced to Wander The Earth) and the shattering of the Tablets of Fate that it caused explains the shift to 2nd edition, the Spellplague caused by the death of the goddess of magic explains the shift to 4th edition, and the Second Sundering, caused by her resurrection and the reforging of the tablets, explains the shift to 5th edition.
  • Exalted manages to have its own equivalent of Crisis on Infinite Worlds during a First Age Historical Event called "The Time of Cascading Years". It was a rare foray into Temporal Mechanics for the series; Creation had split into 700 separate timelines, each one with only a single Celestial Exaltation in it. The timelines each reintegrated when that timeline's Exalt managed to save Creation in some massive way... which took longer for some than others. First Age historians basically ended up hand waving the calendar as 'skipping over' the Time of the Cascading Years in the year count, as some timelines were hundreds or thousands of years older than others. The writers primarily introduced it to allow Player Characters in the First Age to have Multiple Conflicting Continuities about "Who saved what from whom with how many chickens", who got to wield the Aidenweiss, and other sorts of badassery that would otherwise be exclusive to historical NPCs.
  • In GURPS Infinite Worlds, a retcon is called an "ontoclysm" or "reality quake", described as a cosmic event that can change the past and even the natural laws of a given universe. The game even gives rules for attempting to trigger one! It has been mentioned that superhero worlds are especially susceptible to reality quakes, and that any world with magic or super-powers could be explained by "shards" of the previous reality existing in the new universe (which sounds much like the DCU's explanations about the various Crisis of Infinite Retcons).
  • The Mage: The Awakening Sourcebook Imperial Mysteries introduced this as a big trick of archmasters. Via Imperium Rites, they can build off of changes they've already made in the world to alter fundamental truths of reality, retroactively introducing changes to history or cosmology. This is part of how one becomes an archmaster (rendering the facts of one's existence only vaguely remembered to mages and not at all to others), and is the most well understood path to Ascension; you remake the world into one where your transcendence is and always was a fundamental property. Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory is possible, but only to archmasters and only while within their Golden Road.
    • This is also the threat posed by some of the greater Abyssal Intruders. The largest ones, otherwise known as Annunaki, represent realities that never were and never could be, but which try to establish a foothold on the Fallen/Phenomenal World whenever Paradox opens a large enough door. The most prominent one in the setting is the Prince of 100,000 Leaves, a Hyperborea-with-chainsaws-style timeline so abhorrent reality itself said "Nope" and aborted it. Due to mage screw-ups, it has established a cult in the Fallen World that tries to assemble its various scraps of alternate history (the Leaves of its title) so that it can rewrite history and make it so that this is how things always were.
  • Magic: The Gathering had the events of the Time Spiral Cycle, which culminated in The Mending; multiple Planeswalkers uniting to stop the multiverse from unraveling itself. This caused all the involved Planeswalkers to die or lose their spark, and surviving Planeswalkers, as well as anyone that was born with a Planeswalker spark afterwards, were much less powerful; While they could still travel through the multiverse, they did not have the power to do so at a mere whim, nor were they immortal. This meant that new Planeswalkers could be printed on cards that didn't have to choose between representing their power, and being properly balanced. One of the formerly-god-like Planeswalkers, the Elder Dragon Nicol Bolas, was not happy about being depowered; he is now one of Magic's most prominent villains, with multiple sets centering around his attempts to undo the retcon and regain his former power level.
  • Nobilis has one of these in its Back Story. Something like 500 years of time were erased, but in an uneven way so that some events moved back the full five hundred years, some a portion of that and some not at all. The souls of all the people on the space colonies this erased are very upset, and seemingly still on the planet they used to live.
    • This is also the goal of the Excrucians; they attack aspects of reality, causing them never to have existed.
  • Warhammer 40,000: anything and everything can be easily fixed with liberal application of Tyranids. This is how the Squats faction was quietly removed from the product line.

    Video Games 
  • The Mirror Realm in Blank Dream supposedly has the ability to grant one's greatest desire. In Mishiro's case, she wants to make it so that she never existed at all.
  • City of Heroes has the PsychoChronoMetron, a device that allows psychics to alter the world. It was only used once; as something of an aversion, it caused a Continuity Snarl as the villainous inventor attempts to use it to turn a hero into an ally, without knowing anything about his history. The history of this hero was left... somewhat confused.
  • The weapon of the Chrono Legionnaire in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 does this. The target is locked in a time bubble and slowly erased from existence. More 'complex' (i.e. expensive) units take longer to erase, presumably because every individual component must be written out of history.
  • Drakengard 3 uses this trope as a central plot device. Accord, a cyborg girl from the Old World who serves as the story's narrator, tries to find a branch where The Flower is sealed away and no Intoner survives. The way alternate timelines are handled has been compared to Steins;Gate.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, at many points in the series and in the backstory, these have resulted from "Dragon Breaks" and other timeline altering, reality warping events. To note some of the more prominent examples:
    • Daggerfall has seven possible Multiple Endings, depending on what the Agent decides to do with the Mantella. Later games reveal that all of the endings happened at once due to an event known as the "Warp in the West", Merging the Branches of the endings, though none to the same extent they would have individually. For example, instead of one kingdom taking over the entire Iliac Bay, it is divided into four. Likewise, Mannimarco still ascends as a god, but in a rather minor station.
    • Following the posthumous ascent of Tiber Septim to godhood as the deity Talos, he is said to have used his powers to cause several of these. To note:
      • Was he really Talos of Atmora, a Nord who heroically rose to the position of Emperor, uniting all of Tamriel for the first time, as orthodox Imperial history states? Or was he Hjalti Early-Beard of High Rock, a shrewd Breton politician and master manipulator who rode his many powerful friends to become Emperor and then backstabbed them the moment it became convenient? One prominent theory states that the latter was true at first, but following his apotheosis, he literally rewrote history to make the former true as well (or instead). (Lending credence to this theory, Vivec, the Dunmeri Physical God, canonically did something similar upon his own ascent to godhood.)
      • Until the events of the Warp in the West, Cyrodiil was described as a dense tropical jungle. Following his apotheosis, Talos is said to have warped reality to turn Cyrodiil into a temperate forest instead as a reward for the Imperial Legions who served him so well as Emperor. As seen in Online, which is a prequel to the main series taking place hundreds of years before Septim's rise, this change is apparently retroactive, making it so that Cyrodiil was always a temperate forest land.
  • After defeating the Big Bad of Eternal Eden, the world disintegrates, and the hero wakes up to find himself re-experiencing a similar sequence of events as the prologue, but with all threats of conflict gone. This is because the world we see at first is just a fake reality the protagonist dreamt up of to hide his misdeeds, and defeating the evil forces that he unleashed resets the world back to the way it was before.
  • In Fable II, Lord Lucien originally intended to rebuild the Tattered Spire in order to bring back his deceased wife and daughter, but by the time the Hero of Bowerstone gets to him to rescue the other three Heroes who are trapped by him, Lucien decided that the world itself needed a Cosmic Retcon. However, the Hero of Bowerstone prevents Lucien from accomplishing this and either kills him or lets Reaver shoot him after explaining himself. After this, Theresa gives the Hero the choice of one of three wishes, two of which are in themselves retcons of history.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates has this as its ending. The Yuris and Chelinkas from every parallel world rewrite reality to prevent the tragic events of the game and resurrect their family. Yuri and Chelinka remember, but nobody else does.
  • Flip Dimensions: Lily has the ability to change the lore of each world, as shown when the worlds are rebooted without their original Dark Lords. This is because each world is created from her imagination as fiction. It's implied that the Kazuki of the first Theiweth was retconned into sharing the backstory and motivations of the Kazuki from the second Theiweth.
  • The end result of Ghost Trick: Sissel, Missile, Detective Jowd and Yomiel go back 10 years to prevent the latter's death via a meteorite fragment, thus preventing all of the events leading up to the game proper from ever taking place.
  • Half-Life: Alyx was marketed as an interquel set between the first two major games in the Half-Life series, and for the most part that is the case in the final product. That is until you reach the game's ending where the rescued G-Man shows Alyx the future in Half-Life 2 where Eli dies. G-Man allows Alyx to save her father's life at the cost of having to be employed by the G-Man, who is dissatisfied with Gordon Freeman in the future. The post-credits scene shows Eli alive but Alyx has been plucked out of the timeline. Luckily, Eli is aware of this and swears revenge on the G-Man.
  • The "Together, Forever" ending in Ib involves Ib and Mary escaping the gallery together. The world rewrites itself so that Mary is a human girl who has always been Ib's cheerful sister.
  • The opening of Megadimension Neptunia VII's second act is one of these taking place, wiping the CPUs from collective memory and establishing Gold Third as leaders in their place. It puts focus on the "retroactive" part of "retcon" too, the nations now appearing as though their Gold Third has been running them for years instead of days. Since none of them even wanted this in the first place, the world is falling apart. Thankfully the entire retcon is undone when Neptune, in her NEXT form, cuts through the whole thing with a Single Stroke Attack.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Mortal Kombat 9 game has the Raiden from Armageddon broadcasting a message ("He must win") to himself around the time of the tournament from the first game, right before the freshly victorious Shao Kahn, aglow with the power of Blaze and ready to go full-on Multiversal Conqueror, can finish him off. The Raiden of the past is now imbued with knowledge of events to come and sets about changing them, hopefully for the better. However, things still end up bad at the end, just in a different way. Past!Raiden interprets "he" as Liu Kang, so he ensures that Liu Kang will win the tournament, but if you remember, this is also what happened in the original. It's only until the majority of the good guys get slaughtered that Raiden realizes "he" actually means Shao Kahn; if he lets Shao Kahn win, the latter will proceed to invade Earthrealm, which will lead the Elder Gods to call a time out and execute Shao Kahn for breaking the tournament's rule. This does prevent Armageddon, but at a great cost.
    • Mortal Kombat 11 brings another set of combatants from the original game, both good and bad or alive and dead, to the rebooted timeline, causing many people to have a copy of themselves running around (except for Raiden, whose present self turns to ash, since there can't be two identical gods). It is later revealed that this, as well as the above case, are engineered by Kronika, a Titan who wants to create a perfect world and doesn't care if it means she will have to commit omnicides one after another. The original and rebooted timelines are not only canonical, there are in fact thousands of other alternate timelines where things proceed slightly different. In the best ending, she partially succeeds rebooting the timeline back to the prehistoric age, but Liu Kang and Raiden manage to kill her before she can rewind it further.
  • The events of the first game of the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time trilogy are retconned twice. First within the game itself, when the Prince rewinds time at the end of the game and kills the Vizier that kicked off the events of the game, and then again at the end of Warrior Within, inadvertently retconning the Vizier's death, causing him to come back as the Big Bad of Two Thrones. By the time Two Thrones rolls around, the first game's story has ceased to exist in its entirety, and only the Prince remembers what happened.
  • One of the endings of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is Johnny asking God to retcon the universe so that the Earth was never destroyed, creating an alternate timeline where the Saints don't exist and Johnny, Kinzie, and Matt are cops. The Spin-Off game Agents of Mayhem takes place in this timeline.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), in which the ending writes the game out of continuity, though Sonic still presumably still has memories of what happened.
    • And then Sonic Generations happened, reintroducing the game as an alternate timeline. As of Sonic Forces, the events of Generations also caused Classic Sonic to become an alternate timeline instead of being Modern Sonic's past self.
  • Soulcalibur VI seems like a simple retelling and Soft Reboot of the Soul Series, as it sticks closely to the timeline of the original Soulcalibur era with little deviation, and what little could be passed off as Adaptation Expansion. But certain deviations, leading up to Zasalamel's secret final chapter where Zasalamel receives visions from his future self, thus changing his plans from seeking death to acquiring both Soul Calibur and Soul Edge to lead humanity to a bright new future, before even enacting the original plan to begin with, confirms that this is in fact a hard Continuity Reboot set in a different timelime from the first six games. Furthermore, a common idea is that these visions are being received from his future self in the original timeline.
  • Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town: The mechanic that allows the Player Character to "divorce" their spouse works like this trope in practice. Once the "divorce" is implemented, everything is the same, except that the Player Character never proposed to their spouse. If the pair had a child prior to the "divorce", the child is implied to be Ret-Gone after it.
  • This happens in Suikoden Tierkreis whenever the world undergoes a radical change. The cause of these events is worlds fusing together, the actual retcon part is an effect of the True Chronicle.
  • Super Mario Galaxy presents a not-as-easy to spot form of this, with the universe suffering a reset at the end of the game, and Mario welcoming a new galaxy. If this were self-contained, it wouldn't be here, but given how Super Mario Galaxy 2 follows the events of this new universe and simplifies story beats to the degree of the New Super Mario Bros. games, which hadn't become an official franchise until 2 years after the original Galaxy game, this fits the bill of a Cosmic Retcon.

    Visual Novels 
  • Time Hollow involves the main character "fixing" Cosmic Retcons caused by the game's villain.

    Web Animation 
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • Uriel Ventris suspects that something has been altering history to lessen or nullify the Ultramarines' failures and making them always succeed no matter how impossible the odds are. It's hinted that Marneus Calgar made some sort of Deal with the Devil that turned the Ultramarines into Mary Sues, and that whatever he did occurred during the Tyranid invasion of Ultramar.
    • The second Q&A episode reveals that retconned or Deader than Dead characters get sent to a realm called "The Retconnian". So far, Malal, Fucking Horus and the Squats have been seen in there.
  • RWBY: A rare In-Universe example that doesn't result in a continuity reboot. After Ozma's death and Salem being made immortal, she rallies an army to exact revenge of the Gods of Light and Darkness under the pretense of infinite power, and this drives the two God Brothers over the edge. Their powers kill all life on Earth (minus the immortal Salem), including all innocent lifeforms, turning the world into what everyone now knows as Remnant. They do promise that if the new world manages to live in harmony once the four Relics are brought together, they won't destroy it this time, but they do intend to destroy the world for good if it hasn't learned anything from the last time.
    Maria Calavera: Honestly, I'm still coming to terms with the fact that this is humanity's second time around.

  • Blood Is Mine: The library is capable of altering past events. First it changed how Fuse found out about it, then it completely erased Jane, Caius, and Finch's visit to it (though they still have the memory of it and what they came for).
    Caius: So, uh, did that actually happen, or...?
    Dr. Finch: Technically speaking, I don't believe it did. We remember an event that never truly occurred.
  • An explicit power of the Big Bad in Captain SNES: The Game Masta. So far, it seems she can only retcon things within the framework of existing backstory, fleshing things out in a way favorable to her... but its implied that at full power, she isn't so restricted.
  • The non-canon El Goonish Shive, EGS:NP storyline "Oblivious Wand Waving" features a wand that does this while seeming to do nothing from the perspective of both the user and everyone else around them.
  •, Retconjuration is the school of magic that allows the Titans of Erfworld to do this.
  • There are two such instances of this in Homestuck.
    • The Scratch is an event that the Sburb game provides players should they find that their game is inherently unwinnable. By physically scratching a magical construct in the game, generally something that resembles a large music-playing device such as a record on a turntable or a music box cylinder, it unleashes a massive amount of energy that completely resets the universe to some unspecified time in the past. However, all the players are replaced by their genetic ancestors who are now their own genetic descendants.
    • Later in the comic, John and an entourage of trolls find a supposed weapon that could be used to destroy the Big Bad. It is intangible, however, and reaching into it causes John's arm to show up all over the comic's history. To help sell the effect, the panels in question (and a few Flash animations) had the arms put in retroactively. It's later discovered that it allows John to alter the Alpha timeline entirely without creating a doomed timeline as a result, giving him the power of Retconjuration.
    • A few hundred pages later, this is done again, but with less impact on the plot. After John met his Denizen and completed his quest by getting rid of the oil on his planet by zapping it through existence using the power mentioned above, smudges of oil "suddenly appeared" on a lot of old panels.
    • After the events of Game Over, Terezi sends John on a mission to change subtle things in the timeline in hopes that it will fix everything that has gone wrong. A few things are changed during the trolls' session, but the most notable change is stopping her from killing Vriska. His changes have some unforeseen side effects, such as post-retcon John and Roxy dying and being replaced by their pre-retcon counterparts, but overall, the changes he brings about result in them having a fighting chance against the Condesce and the multiple iterations of Jack Noir that are threatening the session.
  • In Narbonic, Dave goes on a time-travel adventure. Afterward:
    Dave: I guess this proves that time is a closed system, unalterable, our fates inescapable. I guess I'll have a cigarette and brood.
    Mell: Since when do you smoke?
  • In the Web Comic Thog Infinitron, a movie producer interested in optioning the comic for a live-action movie says his offer hinges on the creators making a change to Thog's origin. The resulting retcon sets off an alarm in a time travel watchdog agency.
  • The original run of Zortic ended with a fight between two cosmic beings creating a big swirly Negative Space Wedgie, which the heroes all fell into. The comic went on hiatus for a short time, and then came back, starting over from the beginning. The original run of Zortic was based exclusively on parodying popular science fiction franchises; the two cosmic beings were arguing over the merit of this. The new version is intended to be more original and less parody-driven.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • The finale of Demo Reel had the fictional version of Doug Walker retcon the series into a kind of Purgatory inside the plothole to justify canceling it and bringing the Critic back. Which is exactly what the real version was doing (Demo Reel didn't have enough viewers to maintain it). Even the characters in both shows thought this was stupid.
  • In The Spoony Experiment, Linkara punched the wall in order to bring back Spoony a la Superboy Prime, but only succeeded in changing Donna Troy's origin story again and turning Dr. Insano into a man.
  • To Boldly Flee works this way for the entire Awesomeverse, explaining any kind of continuity errors in previous stories as the Plot Hole retroactively screwing with reality, and any future mistakes being the result of the Plot Hole merging with the universe as a whole, effectively breaking reality. Best summed up by this exchange:
    Doctor Insano: The Plot Hole created havoc because we used to live in a universe that made sense, but now that the hole is the universe, there is no conflict.
    JO: But that doesn't make sense.
    Doctor Insano: Nothing does! Isn't it great? Crazy's the new normal...
    Kinley: But I don't want to live in a giant mistake!
    Doctor Insano: Well tough shit, nothing's perfect kid.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "Jake the Dog", there was an animation error involving Simon's crown still being on his person despite Farmworld Finn taking it. In "Crossover", this gets explained as Prismo teleporting the crown onto Simon's body after Farmworld Finn threw it away. From there, the crown gets destroyed by a nuclear bomb's detonation.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Parodied in "One Hundred", the Number One-Hundred destroys reality to claim the Aqua Teen's souls. The trio escaped by becoming Aqua Unit Patrol Squad, a Scooby-Doo-esque mystery solving team in a new show. Things returned to normal in the next episode, the only difference is that the following seasons have new introductions.
  • In one of the early episodes of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Captain America's sidekick Bucky is violently killed during World War II. Then near the end of the first season, Cap accidentally touches the Cosmic Cube, which grants his greatest desire by retroactively changing history so that Bucky survived the explosion.
  • All the retcons in Ben 10: Omniverse are explained by the entire universe getting destroyed and then getting imperfectly recreated by Ben in Alien X form in the seventh note  episode of the series. One of the main changes is that the living planet Primus, which used to be a massive DNA storage for the Omnitrix and which played a major role in season 3 of Alien Force, no longer exists. Whether this means Eunice is also Ret-Gone is unclear; she was on Primus, but her existence wasn't directly tied to it. Word of God is that she's "unlikely" to appear in Omniverse. (Basically, complicating things here is that there are a lot of things from past series that the Omniverse writer considers non-canon. You will have a VERY different understanding of this world depending on whether it comes from the show or from Word of God. However, actual episodes don't seem to be written as if we're in a radically different world where only every third episode of the prior series happened. Even so, the things the head writer considers non-canon don't show up, either; the closest we get is a non-plot-relevant Call-Back to a line from the Primus episode.)
    • This came up again in another episode shortly before the series ended, where Ben was put on trial for it. Ben's lawyer defends him by claiming these kinds of changes were previously done all the time by others of Alien X's species, using as evidence Azmuth's appearance and/or voice having completely changed at least three times. This basically means we can blame Celestialsapiens for all continuity problems and even changes in casting and art style that you wouldn't think mattered in-universe.
  • In season 2 of Danny Phantom, Danny accidentally gets his ghost powers removed by a Literal Genie, leaving Sam to recreate the event that gave him his powers in the first place, except she puts a "DP" logo on his suit so that he'll have it in ghost form. When she decides it'd be easier to just wish everything back to how it was, she does so, but specifies that she wants his costume to keep that logo because she likes it.
  • Futurama
    • Fry's travel back in time created his time-copy, which also allowed them to retcon the most heartbreaking episode of the series.
    • In fact, the whole Bender's Big Score movie is just made of this trope. It even leads to a giant rip in the universe by the end when Bender meets all of his past selves hidden in the caves under Planet Express with all of history's treasures and convinces them to all emerge at the same time instead of when they were supposed to, at which point Nibbler exclaims "Everyone out of the Universe!" and eats himself.
  • Played for Laughs in Rick and Morty with Rhett Caan, a nerd with Medium Awareness and Reality Warping abilities that let him perform this.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated ends with one. The Nibiru Entity is defeated when the crystal sarcophagus it was using to draw power from another dimension is destroyed. This results in the sarcophagus imploding into a black hole and erasing the Entity from existence. As a result, everything is changed to be as if the Curse of Crystal Cove, the very curse that the Entity created, never existed at all. This makes for a literally and metaphorically much brighter world that's implicitly closer to the first Scooby-Doo cartoon.


Video Example(s):


"Time's up."

"Year of Hell, Part II". With USS Voyager nearly blasted to wreckage by the Krenim timeship, Captain Janeway sets the ship on a collision course and rams the larger vessel amidships. This causes a chain reaction that ends with the temporal weapon misfiring and erasing the ship itself from history.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / RammingAlwaysWorks

Media sources: