Reframing past events to serve a current plot need. The ideal retcon clarifies a question alluded to without adding excessive new questions. In its most basic form, this is any plot point that was not intended from the beginning. The most preferred use is where it contradicts nothing, even though it was changed later on.
While the term comes from comic books, dating to All-Star Squadron #18 in 1983 and shortened to "retcon" by the end of the decade, the technique is much older. Often, it's used to serve a new plot by changing its context; however, it's also done when the creators are caught writing a story that violates continuity and isn't very plausible.
In Marvel Comics, the person who pointed out the problem and at the same time provided a plausible explanation was awarded a Genuine Marvel Comics No-Prize by editor Stan Lee, a tradition that was kept alive by other editors after he became publisher.
See also Ass Pull, which is something that was not properly set up before it is sprung on the audience, and Cliffhanger Copout, in which a perilous situation is retroactively changed to allow the characters to escape. It is related to Deus ex Machina. Some, but not all retcons are Ass Pulls, and a good retcon can actually improve the current narrative. A good way to get away with a retcon is to reveal new implications or motivations for events that have already been established.
Smoother retcons won't be distinguishable as such, and can even make what was initially an Ass Pull later look like everything was Just as Planned. (In other words, No Prize it into plausibility and away from the dizzying realm of the Ass Pull.)
The retcon is considered by many to occur when current events contradict the past continuity of the series and is evidence of a Writer on Board. Perhaps more often, the retcon does not actually violate canon, but rather violates fanon, the set of unstated interpretations usually made by the audience (an interpretation violated this way is said to be Jossed). Most competent writers achieve a retcon by relying on a less-obvious but still perfectly valid interpretation of what was previously seen.
As the number of twists and misdirections in a story becomes higher, it becomes more difficult to tell whether an event actually is a retcon (which implies that the writers changed their minds), or a misdirection (which implies that the writers intended the "retconned" version all along, and had been deliberately misleading the audience before). In some cases, it is impossible to tell, short of reading the author's mind (even then, it might not helped, as it's entirely possible for an author to be on the fence about what they're planning to do).
A retcon may be used as part of an Armed with Canon campaign launched by one author against the work of another author in the same Shared Universe. Over-use of retcons can result in Continuity Snarl. It can also result in your readers and fans approaching the work with a certain degree of skepticism, cynicism or even complete uninterest, especially if you tend to obviously and quickly retcon away that which turns out to be unpopular or drastically challenges or changes the status quo — after all, why get involved in your latest Crisis Crossover Event which promises to Change Everything Forever and that Nothing Will Be The Same Again if there's a good chance it'll all just be retconned away after a short period of time?
This happens very easily with prequels when the writers aren't being very careful. On the other hand, Tropes Are Not Bad. It's entirely possible that an author will retcon his own work to fix a Continuity Snarl or even apply an Author's Saving Throw if things get really hairy.
- Backported Development: When someone's characterization in flashbacks is tweaked to more closely resemble their current self.
- Cerebus Retcon: Sometimes a result of Cerebus Syndrome that makes a past event more serious as part of a shift to drama.
- Revision: A continuity alteration that doesn't directly contradict any previous material.
- Rewrite: A retcon that openly overwrites the facts of the previous continuity.
- Orwellian Retcon: The prior events that contradict the new continuity get rewritten.
- Cosmic Retcon: An in-story event alters reality, which causes a retcon.
- Retconjuration: An in-story ability to alter reality, which causes a retcon.
- Remember the New Guy?: A new character is introduced, but is retconned to have been part of the story all along.
Related concepts for explaining away retcons can include the Hand Wave or Lampshading. See also an Internal Retcon, for retcons within a fictional universe, or External Retcon, for retcons in real life.
Examples with their own subpages:
- Magic: The Gathering:
- At the end of the Mirrodin novels, Glissa activates the Soul Traps and sends all of the inhabitants of the plane back to their original homes, leaving only her, Slobad and Geth's head on Mirrodin to act as wardens for the Mirari. When the plane was revisited years later in the Scars of Mirrodin block, this was retconned so that only those who weren't born on Mirrodin were returned to their original planes, and that the "native" Mirrans had been left behind.
- Wizards also confirmed that the Guilds of Ravnica had pretty much dissolved, shortly before Return to Ravnica was announced and it turned out that they were still going strong.
- The Child of Love: A while after completing the fic the writer decided that naming Shinji and Asuka’s second child “Axel” was a dumb idea, and he retroactively renamed it “Hiroyuki”.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race:
- The Special Edition Episode 1 makes it clear that the company Wily failed to get a job at was Vick-Tek; in the original it was an unnamed company and mentioned in passing.
- It also has Lynn Wersching and AL-05 appear earlier as they investigate Wily's home.
- Several of them in Superman fanfic Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation:
- Lorile's job changes twice.
- The Superman's descendants’ weakness to saltwater, originally stemming from pollution, was retconned to be caused by a hex put on them by Hecate.
- In a rare in-universe example, the Lemony Narrator of the essay-fic, Equestria: A History Revealed, crosses out sentences from sources she cites as soon as they disagree with something else she's been saying. It only points out her alterations of history even more.
- The rewrite of Sonic X: Dark Chaos not only retconned huge parts of the original, but it also retconned nearly all of the author's prequel story Fall of the Seedrians as well - to the point where the author discontinued the prequel entirely.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fan Fic "Pattycakes" was first written so that a badly derailed Fluttershy broke Rainbow Dash's will and caused her to regress to a childlike mental state. Given that a) the psychological torture involved consisted of bondage mitts, oatmeal, a bottle and a nappy and b) the whole thing took less than a day, a second part still referred to Dash as "mentally broken" but hung part of the plot on Dash's condition being the result of a mental regression drug Fluttershy had invented.
- Before 1985, there was no such thing as a set Disney Animated Canon. There were Disney classics of course, but the list of what constituted an "official" entry was constantly changing; they'd add and remove films depending on whether or not they wanted to bill their latest film as "our 15th feature" or "our 20th feature". That changed with the release of The Black Cauldron, which they billed officially as their 25th film by only including films that had at least 75% animation. However, two fully animated films that the list did not include (that had been included in the list's previous incarnations) were The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons (1937), which was a compilation of various Silly Symphonies shorts in order to get audiences excited for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and Music Land (1953, and no relation to the 1935 animated short), another compilation film that featured shorts from Make Mine Music and Melody Time stitched into one film, complete with a new opening and transitions between the shorts. Academy Award Review was re-released into theaters in 1966 and released on Laserdisc in Japan in 1985, but Music Land has been lost to history.
- Disney edited the canon again in 2009 by including Dinosaur (2000), which up until that point had not been included, in order to call Tangled (2010) their 50th animated film.
- In Europe, since the 2011 Winnie-the-Pooh film did poorly at the box office, the movie is no more counted as part of the Canon since the 2014 release of the "52 Classics" DVD boxset. Also, The Wild replaces Dinosaur, because UK viewers liked the former a lot.
- The Lion King:
- Kopa, Simba and Nala's son mentioned in the storybooks The Lion King: Six New Adventures, was ditched and replaced with Kiara in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride without explanation. Averted in this case since the series was published by Grolier Enterprises with the permission of the Disney Marketing department, rather than by Disney itself. The presentation scene however is retconned, and there are several other characters who are borderline retconned (depending on whether you consider the deleted scenes canon).
- Simba's and Nala's cub at the end of the first scene has male markings, but is technically never called a male. The sequel redesigns the cub to look female and made her into Kiara. Originally there were going to be twins, which would explain the unknown female cub while keeping the original male cub, but Kiara's twin brother was scrapped to fit continuity and because writing multiple cubs wasn't working well.
- An American Tail 3 states that Fievel Goes West was All Just a Dream.
- The Kung Fu Panda 2 tie-in short Secrets of the Masters completely changes the backstories of masters Ox, Croc, and Thundering Rhino, though this isn't too big of an issue since their original backstories were only explained on the official website, not in the film itself.
- The Little Mermaid:
- Historically Aquata is the oldest sister and heir to the throne. In the third movie she's portrayed as the fourth oldest and Attina is now the oldest.
- Adella was portrayed as slightly heavier than her siblings in the first and second films, and in the series is much heavier. She's since been retconned to being Ariel's size.
- Cinderella III: A Twist in Time retcons the second movie out of existence, though Anatasia's love interest still appears as a Mythology Gag.
- All Dogs Go to Heaven took place during The Great Depression yet the sequel takes place in The '90s. Itchy apparently only recently died between the several decade timeskip.
- At the end of Minions which takes place during the mid 1960's the minions encounter their boss Gru as a child and he takes them in, however in Despicable Me 3 his twin brother Dru states he was a child during the 1980's.
- An interesting example occurs in the film version of The Bourne Ultimatum: At the end of The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne calls CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy, who reveals his real name, birthdate, and birthplace, before they arrange a meeting elsewhere in the city. This exact same scene occurs in the middle of Ultimatum, after we learn how she came across this information, before we learn that 1) the meeting was a diversion so Bourne could break into the CIA's headquarters and steal the documents he needed, and 2) the "birthdate" she gave him was actually a code for the address of the CIA facility in which Bourne was trained.
- In The Fast and the Furious series, Leticia "Letty" Ortiz dies in a car crash in Fast & Furious, but is revealed to have lived in Fast & Furious 6.
- As stated in the page quote it isn't just the Highlander series that had a lot of retcons between it in the film, even most of the Highlander films had retcons between them. The sequels and series did away with the idea that the duel between Connor and the Kurgan was the final game-ending duel between the Immortals, with Connor claiming the prize, and instead made the duel one of many, with many iImortals still out there. With the game still ongoing. Duncan was introduced in the series to fight more Immortals. Highlander II: The Quickening retcons the Immortals as beings from the planet Zeist, set in the future, with Ramirez coming Back from the Dead and Brenda dying. These events become Canon Discontinuity. Highlander III: The Sorcerer establishes the game can continue if an Immortal ends up trapped in a cave, and Brenda dies in a car accident. Highlander: Endgame attempts to go with the series continuity by establishing the game is still ongoing due to the existence of more Immortals, so the game doesn't need to be bypassed by hiding in a cave. Brenda didn't die from a car accident, but was run over by the Big Bad Kell, and Duncan's ex-wife Faith is introduced, though he claims in the series to have never been married. Connor has been hibernating for ten years, though the series establishes Connor and Duncan had met during that time. Highlander: The Source establishes the existence of an even older Immortal than Methos, who was established in the series to be the oldest Immortal.
- The Indiana Jones series has subtle examples arising from the fact that the second film takes place earlier than the first:
- In the now-iconic "shooting the swordsman" scene from Raiders, the common assumption is that Indy acts on the spur of the moment, without ever having anticipated what he would do. But in Temple of Doom, there's a scene that seems like a direct shout-out to the Raiders scene, in which a pair of swordsmen approach Indy, wave their swords around in a very similar manner to the fighter from Raiders, and then Indy reaches for his holster only to realize it's empty. Since the movie is set a year before Raiders, the implication is that this sort of situation is familiar to him and may have even happened before.
- Early in Raiders while talking to Marcus, Indy pooh-poohs belief in the supernatural. At the end of the film, of course, Indy sees directly the power of the ark. If Raiders were merely a standalone film we'd have every reason to believe Indy began the story as a skeptic and became a believer by the end. But in Temple of Doom he had another encounter with the supernatural and clearly accepted it, suggesting Indy was lying in his conversation with Marcus from Raiders. One possible explanation is that he thought no one would believe him and didn't want to be viewed as a flake, but that probably wasn't the point of the scene when Raiders was originally written.
- In Jurassic Park, the T-Rex didn't eat Dr. Grant because it couldn't see nonmoving objects (in the book, this was in fact a result of splicing dinosaur DNA with frog DNA). In the sequel, this was retconned to rather be that Grant's theories on the T-Rex were wrong, and in fact it ignored him because it wasn't hungry.
- The Reveal towards the end of Lethal Weapon 2 that the death of Riggs' wife was no accident but rather a botched attempt by the villains to kill Riggs himself back when he with Narcotics working at Long Beach.
- Madeline, apropos of nothing and in complete contradiction of the books the movie is ostensibly adapting, depicts Madeline as an orphan. Episodes of the Animated Adaptation made after the movie make this change as well.
- Discussed Trope in Misery, where Annie refuses to accept the first draft of Paul's new Misery novel because it contradicts known facts — and as his "#1 fan" she knows the books better than he does.
- The Omen (1976) is clearly set around its release in 1976, as evidenced by the fashions and vehicles. The third film in the series, Omen III: The Final Conflict, explicitly took place in 1982 and 26 years after the original, retroactively pushing the first movie's events back to 1956 (and those of the first sequel, Damien: Omen II, to 1963).
- In the 1995 miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Wickham says "There's one lady I shall be very loath to part from," while looking meaningfully at Lizzie, shortly before he leaves for Brighton. After he elopes, we see this line again in a flashback, followed by a meaningful look at Lydia, which definitely was not there the first time.
- In the American remake of The Ring, Samara was a biological child of the Morgans (at least Anna),note yet they claimed she was adopted, possibly to hide her supernatural origin. In the sequel, though, it turns out she actually was adopted by them.
- At the end of Rocky, Apollo Creed tells Rocky that he has no desire for a rematch. Cut to the beginning of Rocky II (which takes place that same night), and Apollo is so desperate for a rematch that he tries to get Rocky to fight him in the middle of the ER they were taken to for treatment.
- Snow White and the Huntsman has Finn describe Sara's death to Eric, strongly implying that he killed her personally. The Huntsman: Winter's War not only retcons the manner of Sara's death, but it instead reveals that Eric only believed her to be dead. Finn is also completely absent in the prologue of the second movie, which retcons Ravenna into having a younger sister Freya who wasn't mentioned in the first film.
- The Star Wars prequels introduced a number of problematic contradictions:
- In A New Hope, Obi-Wan mentions that Anakin wanted Luke to have his lightsaber when he was old enough. However, unless Obi-Wan heard Anakin screaming something very different than what was said onscreen as he was being roasted alive on the shores of Mustafar, this is altered quite drastically in Revenge of the Sith. Though some fans shrug it off with it being From a Certain Point of View (it certainly would not be the only lie Obi-Wan tells Luke in this scene) and/or a bit of wishful thinking ("If he'd known you existed, and if we hadn't been enemies at the end...").
- In turn, Star Wars Legends (the old EU) also features an innumerable amount of Retcons. However, they are generally very subtle, used to explain minor discrepancies. Though a few of them are still significant enough to affect ongoing storyline. On the other hand, many are almost something of a Butterfly Effect - a fairly small and seemingly insignificant thing that ends up causing lots of Fridge Logic in other works (or even the same one). In many cases, this is more due to a build-up of lots of these little inconsistencies that magnify each other when combined. Of note is the retcon that Palpatine and Thrawn knew the Vong were coming and told no-one.
- The countless species used to have this happen to them on a fairly regular basis. Retcons would include everything from a character formerly established to be one species being retconned into another one or a subspecies, to the appearance of a race changing from one work to another. Like◊ the◊ Cathar◊.
- Bothans, for various reasons, have had their appearance change somewhat frequently. They originally looked like humans with fur, then like bipedal orangutans, but now look something like a cross between a lion and a kangaroo, with humanoid build. And half-Bothans, for some reason, have hooves.
- R2-D2 flying. Apparently, they decided that was too cool an ability and removed it sometime between III and IV. Though it's easy to assume that R2 possessed the ability to fly in the Original Trilogy, but never did because he didn't have to.
- A minor one, but still worth pointing out since some side material still stick with the original story. In the novelization of Return of the Jedi, the reason for Vader's reliance on his trademark life support armor was that he fell into a pit of lava following a duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. In Revenge of the Sith, Vader and Obi-Wan duel on the volcanic planet Mustafar with Obi-Wan defeating Vader on a bank next to a lava river. Vader never actually touches the lava, but he's close enough that the hot fumes set his clothes on fire and he burns to a crisp. Probably justified, since it's a bit more likely that he'd survive this way.
- At Celebration 2017, Dave Filoni confirmed that a popular fan theory that Captain Rex of The Clone Wars and Rebels was a member of the Rebel strike team in Return of the Jedi would be canonized, thus retconning that particular soldier's previous name and identity away.
- Few remember when Kyle Reece told Sarah Connor that "There is no fate but what we make for ourselves?", in the first The Terminator movie. Apparently that was the most important thing in the message he was supposed to deliver to her from John Connor in the future, so the second film makes sure to make the viewer remember he said it, as this idea is a big part of the plot of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
- X-Men Film Series
- X-Men: First Class set in 1962 shows a brief clip of Storm as a little girl with her hair already white. X-Men: Apocalypse is set twenty-one years later and shows her with black hair that only turns white when Apocalypse empowers her. Unless of course she had been dyeing it black and Apocalypse just made her natural hair come through.
- Also at the end of First Class, Charles wipes Moira's memories - and her dialogue implies that she remembers everything up until Shaw attacked the CIA. Apocalypse retcons this into never remembering Charles at all.
- With Peter Dinklage being cast as Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the character played by Bill Duke in X-Men: The Last Stand is retconned into being 'Secretary Trask'.
- Flint Marko's entire role in Spiderman 3. In fact, when Captain Stacey addresses Peter Parker and Aunt May in the police station, he could virtually be the chief spokesperson of retcons in their purest form: "Initially, we thought this man, Dennis Carradine (the thief from the first film) was your husband's killer... we were wrong. As it turns out, Mr. Carradine was only an accomplice - the actual killer is still at large." Stacey slides Marko's mug shot across the table to Aunt May. "This is the man who killed your husband." To take the retcon even further, Peter's mind reels in sorrow via flashback where Marko shoots Uncle Ben in cold blood, complete with a hateful glare... however, the end makes it clear this is only what Peter thinks happened, as Marko delivers a heavy confession in a Once More, with Clarity! flashback that the money Carradine robbed was never meant for him in the first place, but rather emergency money to help Penny, Flint's dying daughter. Carradine yanks Marko's arm as he runs back, causing him to fire an accidental shot at Uncle Ben he did not deliberately intend.
- DC Extended Universe:
- At the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman states that she abandoned the world of men one hundred years ago, with the clear implication that she gave up on humanity after her experiences in the First World War. However, when we actually see those events in her own film she comes close to the Despair Event Horizon after Steve Trevor's death, but doesn't cross it, rejects Ares' Humans Are Bastards worldview, and is not shown abandoning humanity at the end. Justice League reinforces this further as, while it doesn't get specific, it does state that Wonder Woman came to humanity's defense many times in between 1918 and the events of Dawn of Justice.
- For a "softer" retcon, we have Superman's personality and relationship to the world. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gave him an Adaptational Angst Upgrade and made Beware the Superman a major plot point, while Justice League basically drops these tropes and tries to convince the audience that no, he was always this friendly and everybody loved him, really.
- Remember when Rolling Stone declared Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here to be "actually nothing more than the skillful manipulation of elements so simple — the basic three chords everyone else uses — that any collection of bar hacks could grind out a note-for-note reproduction without difficulty"? Well, neither do they, considering they now declare it one of the greatest albums of all time.
- Before the establishment of canon texts, most religions were retconned continuously throughout their existence. Ancient Egypt had three creator gods: Amun, Ra (later combined as Amun-Ra) and Ptah. Dionysus started out as a god of death, resurrection and primal chaos, but after disappearing from the pantheon for a while, came back as the happy drunkard we know today. Before the Council of Nicea established the "official" Christian canon, stories of the life of Jesus ran the gamut from he and Mary Magdelene being married to kid Jesus defeating dragons. Most have now been retconned out of existence, though a few are allowed as "apocrypha".
- The practice of religious syncretism — the merging of two or more religious traditions — generally results in this, with older myths, texts and stories getting their context changed to make them compatible.
- Due to its inherent nature, professional wrestling is full of retcons. This is especially true for angles (storylines) that flop or otherwise fail to resonate with the audience. In the years before the word gained negative political connotations, the terms "abort" and "abortion" were used in carny language to reference a suddenly-ended failed angle.
- The NWA retconned The Fabulous Moolah's first women's title run, so the WWF retconned all of Fabulous Moolah's title losses, for 26 years anyway.
- The NWA and Ring Warriors retconned Kacee Carlisle's forced defense of the NWA women's championship belt into a her getting an inexplicable shot at La Rosa Negra's Battling Bombshells belt.
- TNA did an extended storyline where Sting turned heel after Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came on board. Hogan was clearly acting as a face, while it was hinted Bischoff might be working behind his back. However, Sting was a heel and was attacking faces. He made some vague comments about people not understanding, but he was a heel. Lo and behold, Hogan & Bischoff cheat TNA president Dixie Carter out of controlling interest in the company. As a result, Hogan and Sting's heel/face alignments are retroactively reversed.
- Edge and Christian were initially portrayed as brothers but were later referred to as childhood friends (which they were in Real Life—they were born within a few months of one another, and raised in the same Ontario town).
- Kane's (kayfabe) marriage to Lita was retconned due to the whole Matt Hardy/Lita/Edge triangle storyline/debacle. However, it was later reversed because Matt's been released for several years and blackballed from the company.
- When Kelly Kelly lost her Divas' Championship to Beth Phoenix in 2011, she was defeated by Beth in a match on Smackdown that was announced as a non-title match (and no title graphics were shown). However when the results went up on WWE.com, it was suddenly retconned into being Kelly's title rematch - and Eve Torres was pushed instead.
- Magic: The Gathering has "The Revision". In the early days, the novels and comics were done by different companies than the card game itself, but when Wizards of the Coast became a bigger company they wanted to publish their own books. Reading the 10 books and the pile of comics so far was apparently too much effort for them though, so they issued a statement that everything that had come before was still valid, unless new stories contradicted them, thus creating what fans call "prerevisionist" and "revisionist" continuity. Several books were actually published that replaced older comics.
- In both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, whenever fluff from one army's codex contradicts that of another, it's stated to be the work of propaganda. This is because until later on an army can probably expect to see an update to their book every 2-3 years, and several had not seen an update for up to a decade (Dark Eldar was most infamous for this prior to their update), so there are expected to be massive gaps in the lore that don't match up. This also allows the author of each book to play up the badassery of the unit's Bestiary entry without much complain about Gameplay and Story Segregation, as the Bestiary entry is supposed to play up their badassery even if it's not true.
- Warhammer 40,000 has undergone quite a few of these through its four editions, including entire races being retconned out. Anyone younger than 20 remember the Squats? Didn't think so. The official policy on the Squats now appears to be that the entire race was murderlised by one of the Tyranid Hive Fleets. The Tyranids are God's gift to retconners. "Hey, what happened to those guys?" "Eaten by Tyranids." And then Ret Conception kicked in with the game's 6th edition, which brought the Squats back as a race of abhumans tolerated by the Imperium.
- The Fimirs of Warhammer.
- Originally created to be the "iconic monsters" of the Warhammer world, they are now remembered only by people who played Hero Quest early in the nineties. Their reproductive cycle revolved around capturing human slaves for brides, which probably made for some thorny conversations with the parents of younger gamers. They made a return in 2012 as part of Forge World's Monstrous Arcanum release though, albeit with some more family-friendly lore.
- Retconning happens at a minor level when most new editions of the army books are released, introducing new units and troop types into armies whose backgrounds have never included them before. Often these newcomers will be woven into the history of the faction in question to make it seem like they've been there all along. Or, as a direct rewrite, to fix continuity errors. For example, in his first appearance in the Warriors of Chaos book, the Dragon Ogre Shaggoth Kholek Suneater was supposed to have been imprisoned in a glacier 700 years before the present by Teclis, the greatest wizard of the modern era. Since Teclis was actually born several hundred years after this date, the new version has changed it to "the greatest High Elf Mages of the day".
- Warhammer: The End Times earned a lot of ill will from the fanbase by doing this repeatedly, often in ways that didn't mesh harmoniously with the setting as previously established. For example, in lore written prior to the End Times, Malekith was found unworthy to be Phoenix King by the Flame of Asuryan, which burned him horribly. Some lore, including the Sundering novels, even went into detail on why he would be found unworthy - for example, the part where he conspired to undermine the former Phoenix King for years, then murdered him, then started a fight at the election to determine the new Phoenix King because the other lords weren't falling in line fast enough. Then, in the End Times, it suddenly turned out that he was actually Asuryan's choice all along, and the bit where he was only near the Flame to begin with because he murdered the last guy to have the job he wanted was quietly ignored.
- Before The End Times there was Storm of Chaos, which ran on a very similar premise - The armies of Chaos led by Archaon the Everchosen were overwhelming the world and every faction had to respond, but this time the outcome of the event was to be determined by battles fought by the players and submitted to Games Workshop. This did not go as planned - Owing to a number of circumstances players of Chaos armies proceeded to get massacred by nearly every other faction. GW so badly wanted Chaos to win that they later changed the rules, letting the players vote on whether Chaos should win or the faction that had just been defeated in the plot, the orcs, should win. The players overwhelmingly chose the orcs. GW was left in the uncomfortable position of either having Archaon fail spectacularly or pushing on with the plot by completely ignoring the results of the submitted battles. They opted instead for a strange middle ground where they tried to acknowledge the results without letting them dictate the flow of the story. The story that resulted was equal parts Ass Pull, Character Derailment, and Railroading and all of it was eventually exiled from canon by the End Times, which was a much better look at what Storm of Chaos would have been if the players hadn't been given a say.
- In Exalted, the Sidereal Exalted (who are basically Fate Ninjas) have a panic button called Avoidance Kata. Its effect? Retcon the whole world so that they made a different choice several minutes ago and are anywhere but here. The introduction of the Liminal Exalted is also this. Word of God says they've been there for a long time, we just didn't notice them.
Holden Shearer: They're very rare, they live in the cracks of the setting and perform their feats in dark times people strive to forget. But they're not new, as the GSPs are new; thus, 'they were always there.'
- Several of the other new Exalted introduced in 3e also get retconned into Creation's history along with the Liminals, such as the Exigents, the Spoken, and the Chosen of the Depths.
- 3e also significantly rewrites the map of Creation, expanding its overall area, adding many new places, and shrinking some established places that covered entirely too much space.
- Unknown Armies gives us Entropomancers (chaos mages who get power from taking risks), who are based around re-writing history. Cliomancers, despite being history buffs, can only affect people's PERCEPTION of history, as well as their memories. Of course, this still counts as retcon.
- The "Luck" advantage in GURPS can have the enhancement "Wishing" added to it which allows the person using it to retcon a recent mistake into whatever result they like. The writers have also retconned the weights of melee weapons as including the sheath in order to bring them down to reasonable levels.
- Wizards of the Coast wielded a +5 Rethammer in the Fourth Edition Forgotten Realms. Virtually the entire elven pantheon was retconned into one or more existing (usually human-ish) gods, along with the vast majority of the other minor gods. The previous planet of Abeir-Toril was changed to two separate worlds. Also gone is the Blood War, a massive near-eternal war between the devils of the Nine Hells and the demons for the Abyss for ultimate badassery.
- They do give a reason why there is no Blood War. Asmodeus, the lord of the Devils, became a god and took a third option, by kicking the Abyss out of the way so they don't have to fight it.
- A relatively minor, but still noticeable one was made to the war between the Gods and the Primordials. Originally, the Gods defeated the Primordials and banished them to the Elemental Chaos. It was later "revealed" that a third party, the Primal Spirits, intervened and ordered a truce.
- Mystra dies. Again. This is the fourth time it happens.
- In the early days of the storyline collectible card game Legend of the Five Rings, a number of card typos brought about story retcons. The most consequential of these was an oni card misprinted with the name of the hero Hida Yakamo. This led to a story point about Yakamo selling the oni his name, heavily influencing his character development and in the end being explained as the general model for oni-human interaction in Rokugan.
- An actual rule of the universe in Nobilis: if you cause a car to fall apart, reality will insert a history of mechanical failures to explain that.
- BattleTech usually avoids direct retcons, as almost every publication exists as an actual document within the universe, retcons can be explained as being from atn Unreliable Narrator or meddling from the secretive organization that runs the Subspace Ansible network. However, there a few straight-up retcons:
- A key point of the setting was that all capacity to build BattleMechs was irrevocably destroyed in a 300 year long war, and that the noble houses were fighting over remaining spare part depots. This was to play up a Mad Max / Scavenger World setting. However, they soon realized that no factories = no new designs to be introduced in followup supplements. Therefore, FASA later said that there were still factories producing new 'Mechs, but that they were degraded and no longer working at full capacity, and that the bleeding-edge tech of the Star League was Lost Technology.
- When the game first came out in 1984, the majority of the Humongous Mecha used artwork licensed from Japanese anime, mostly Macross. Flash forward to 1994, and the American distributor of Macross sues the bejesus out of FASA. The mechs listed in the suit (most notably, the de-facto Series Mascot Warhammer and Marauder) could no longer be depicted in artwork, and republications of older sourcebooks had to edit them out. However, the mechs still existed In-Universe, unchanged, and newer lawyer-friendly art with altered designs were explicitly different variants. The mechs original designs were retconned in 2015; the original designs are now non-canonical.
- In the BattleTech Expanded Universe, the first novels depicting the high-tech Clan Invasion were written before the new sourcebooks were released (packed full of recovered/rediscovered Inner Sphere Lost Technology), leading to the protagonists seemingly flabbergasted by Clan technology that the Inner Sphere was already producing.
- Originally Queen Frostine from Candy Land was the mother of Princess Lolly. Queen Frostine is now "Princess Frostine", sister of Princess Lolly.
- The original G.I. Joe figure was unnamed until both the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero mail-in toy and the comic established General Joe Colton as the original G.I. Joe.
- The Transformers franchise has a few:
- The original cartoon presented the Transformers origin as being created by a squid-robotic race called the Quintessons as slave labor. Most later incarnations, including G1 versions, have ignored that origin story in favor of the Primus-God version. Although it could be argued one does not preclude the other...
- The original cartoon had Unicron originally constructed by a being called Primacron. Every version since has used the origin that Unicron and Primus were warring brothers and Unicron being the Transformers equivalent of the Devil.
- Hasbro had earlier stated that the Transformers Aligned Universe isn't part of the larger Transformers multiverse. Between Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark (which involves the titular artifact going from the Aligned universe to the universe of the movies and a Generation One universe), the Ask Vector Prime column (which confirmed the events of Dark Spark revealed the existence of the Aligned universe to the larger Multiverse), and The Complete AllSpark Almanac (which also mentioned the Aligned universe), Regeneration One (which has a subplot of Hot Rod seeing all his counterparts, including his Aligned incarnation from the DS version of War for Cybertron), and Andromeda - Axiom Nexus News Reporter, this has since been changed.
This also put an end to the idea of the original Thirteen being "multiversal singularities" as the Aligned!Thirteen includes very different members including Alpha Trion and Optimus Prime, and "Ask Vector Prime" outright had Vector Prime (who, according to "multiversal singularity" rule, meant that every bot with the name "Vector Prime" would, for all intents and purposes, be the same bot from Transformers Cybertron) stating that his Aligned counterpart is a distinctly separate entity. Hasbro ultimately pulled a Cosmic Retcon and put the multiversal singularities concept down for all the Thirteen, as well as Unicron and Primus themselves, making the one in each universe their own entities.
- Effectively, by changing the Beast Wars toyline to be in-line the cartoon, the events don't take place on present day Earth, and Optimus Primal and Beast!Megatron aren't the same characters as their G1 namesakes but instead, are Legacy Characters.
- Sonichu. The creator was trolled by people pretending to be Shigeru Miyamoto, who was talking to the creator, Chris, about a game development. When this troll said that would be impossible to make a game based of fanwork, another troll, posing as a lawyer pretending to be Jay-Z, advised Chris to change several aspects of the comic. What followed were so many terrible retcons, there's a whole Wiki about it. The weirdest part is that the creator actually believed he was in contact with Shigeru Miyamoto and Jay Z the entire time.
- Xawu retconned a typo that was pointed out on the comments.
- Several characters in Ctrl+Alt+Del were retconned, even having their bios deleted on the site. Though at first it looks like they were just Put on a Bus or Brother Chucked, if you mention any of these characters on the forum, the creator, Tim Buckley, will ban you for life.
- R.H.Jr's 'Goblin Hollow' had the hell retconned out of it. It was once known as 'Under the Lemon Tree' and the Goblins were originally figments of Ben's imagination made real. It received a retcon changing the setting, and quite a few facts from the original, including how the goblins came to be.
- Parodied in an oddly confusing fashion by Evil, Inc.. See the strip here.
- Nikki in The KA Mics was told by the author that she was a fictional character without a name, was later named by a reader, then it was retconned that she was a sister to the ex-Valkyries Gertrude & Brunhilda & her name had always been Nikki & she didn't realize this because of amnesia.
- Gunnerkrigg Court contains a minor retcon. In the first chapter, Antimony reconstructs a robot from spare parts in order to carry a shadow across a bridge (it was the only logical answer). To many, this implied that she was at least somewhat technologically proficient, as she is able to look at a piece of what we assume to be complex machinery and repair it almost completely. However, as the comic continues, we learn that her best friend Kat is actually the scientist and Antimony is perplexed by machinery if anything. So, how did she rebuild a complicated gizmo like Robot? Well, we learn that all she really did was snap his fully functioning joints together (showing she is at least familiar with the "Head bone's connected to the neck bone" song), and didn't actually need to mess with his hardware to reboot him.
- Erfworld needed to retcon a special ability given to one of the characters in its series. Funnily enough, it actually managed to successfully lampshade this through the ironically-recursive introduction of a school of magic known as retconjuration. (In an even more delicious twist of irony, this school retroactively replaced a school called Deletionism, which was itself deleted.)
- Drowtales went through this once. Now the first episode has been redone the second time. While the new pages are much better quality-wise, and some of the plot make a lot more sense, many elements were removed, characters have been changed, and episodes were cut down to mere sketches of their former selves. Not to mention the mysteries the reader was left in the dark about for most of the original stories were also revealed retroactively. The series also became Lighter and Softer in some ways while amplifying some of the darker themes at the same time.
- Lampshaded in this Darths & Droids
- Comic book theme web comic Ret-Conned is named after this.
- In The B-Movie Comic, Professor Dr. was never actually a hunchback.
- Bob and George: Why make it a plan!
- Retconning earlier plot holes (usually via time travel) is one of this comic's defining aspects.
- Super Effective has done it a few times quietly—literally editing the comic and uploading a newer version. Changes include renaming Gary to Blue, for example.
- Girly does this rather jarringly during the final arc. Turns out that Otra is actually the Eldritch Abomination-y Sidekick Queen, and that her entire life was just a lie fabricated to awaken her latent power. Entire strips were replaced to support this. Winter and the readers were devastated. PSYCH! Turns out that the Business Sidekick was lying and Otra was simply possessed! And the changed strips? They just made it impossible to disprove the Business Sidekick. Like Josh would actually do THAT to his characters...
- In a 2003 Penny Arcade strip where Tycho volunteers as a Mall Santa at a pet store, Gabe mentions that Tycho hates animals. Years later, we would find out that Tycho loves animals, and is sexually attracted to them.
- Discussed in an "Ammika Explains" segment of APT Comic.
- El Goonish Shive, has had a lot of retcons and Dan has admitted as much:
Just look at EGS. You can't throw a rock without hitting a retcon, and several of them do exist as a result of past mistakes.
- Word of God is that the neighborhood in Precocious is more compact than it used to be, partially so as to let Gemstone Estates and Copper Road interact more.
- In Questionable Content, Hannelore's backstory has changed considerably since her first appearance, when she would refer to wacky interactions with other kids that her OCD caused her when she was in school. A later arc established that she never actually went to formal school or even interacted with other children, being raised by an AI on her father's space station until she was a young adult
- In Homestuck, this occurs in-universe: John Egbert gains the power to effectively rewrite the existing narrative without causing any timeline splits, which manifests in a couple of ways when he goes back and muddles with established events:
- In two instances, he takes action that results in minor details changing, specifically, he stuck his arm through a portal that ended up causing his arm to appear in dozens of other panels of the comic. Likewise, he later disposed of a large amount of oil by dumping it elsewhere in the narrative. Andrew Hussie literally went through and edited the existing panels (and in some cases, flash animations) to include these changes.
- Later on, he travels back to earlier events to manually retcon how they initially played out. In order to allow for both the changed versions and the original versions, Hussie created a password system: First time readers can continue reading normally, but people who have reached the point in the story where the retcons occur get passwords that allow them to view the alternate versions of the events.
- At least one early page of Far Out There has been specifically retconned. The first appearance of Layla's mother Pattie presented her in a fairly villainous role, but that never sat well with the author. Eventually, he wrote a lengthy voting incentive◊ that not only re-imagined the character to be more sympathetic, but also drastically changes the details of Pattie and Layla's falling out.
- Early in the production of Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc, Servant Chaos was basically Mistress 9 with a different forehead symbol. She was later retconned to keep Mistress 9's hair, but now wore Princess Saturn's dress. Dialogue was also later changed to make more clear what happened to the time-traveling incarnation of Chibiusa.
- Lampshaded in Unforgotten Realms where in one episode, Garry got his original body back (in a way that doesn't make sense), and jumps off a cliff. Two episodes later, Roamin talks about how the show does not make sense, and Garry reappears in his new body.
- In the Homestar Runner toon "email thunder", it turns out that Homestar has had his own email-answering program for a while now. Much of the time when Homestar appeared incompetent or insane was merely part of his show. Not only that, but his show is actually more popular than Strong Bad's. This is expanded upon in "Hremail 7", where it's suggested that Strong Bad first got the idea for his show from Homestar and then forgot about it. Also, he got his first computer from Homestar's trash, and his first email was actually sent by a friend of The Cheat's.
- In "kind of cool", Strong Sad says that Senor Cardgage lived near the Brothers Strong when they were little. Later toons suggest that Cardgage still does live near the Strongs.
- Benthelooney is a prominent abuser of this since his rants were Un-Canceled. From the original dubs to the first half of the "Revival Era", he was fairly consistent for the most part with his opinions and stuck with them. But in the middle of 2012 to this day, he started retconning his original opinions on subjects that were mostly well-established later on (Pixar, and even Adventure Time and Regular Show).
- Not altogether uncommon in Survival of the Fittest
- From the V3 Pregame to the start of the game itself, Sean O'Cann went from a narcissistic, arrogant Jerk Jock with hints of homosexuality to a friendly, compassionate, fairly sensitive guy. This change seems to rely on the assumption that a couple of pregame topics (which featured Sean acting like a Jerkass) never happened.
- Bobby Jacks' full name. It transpires on the 7th day of the game that his name is actually Robert, with Bobby being a nickname. No reference of this being the case had been made before this point, although some people assumed that his name was Robert prior to that, but it's never mentioned, and his profile doesn't even note it.
- Finally, the setting itself was Retconned, changed from being set in the Battle Royale universe to its own original continuity and setting.
- LG15: the resistance applied a couple of these to lonelygirl15, such as the revelation that Sarah was evil all along or that Jonas is a trait positive male.
- Orion's Arm has made a number of retcons since it's creation. Femto-tech was removed due to physics problems. The number of people killed by GAIA was retconned a number of times in order to adjust the population numbers.
- While not happening all the time, it is not uncommon for certain characters to be retconned in Marvels RPG. This will mainly happen if a new member wish to use a scrapped character that haven't done much before (s)he was scrapped.
- Whateley Universe: Word of God says that the author of the Phase novels only started years after the series started, and reinterpreted everything she didn't like about Phase's behavior in such a way that there were no outward changes (everything in prior stories was 'right' or 'slightly misheard') but all of Phase's actions were explained.
- An actual plot point in To Boldly Flee in which all continuity errors in the Channel Awesome universe was an effect of the Plot Hole, a physical embodiment of, well, that trope. Specifically called out was The Spoony One and Doctor Insano being the same person in Kickassia, when in all other respects they are separate people.
- Less forgivable is "The Review Must Go On". Context: To Boldly Flee was meant to be the Critic's swan song, where he spent most of the special locked in depression and only really become happy when he became the Plot Hole. After that, there was a new show called Demo Reel, led by a tragic Former Child Star called Donnie DuPre. Five episodes of that went by, and "The Review Must Go On" suddenly made it out of nowhere that "Critic couldn't comprehend the selfless act he performed" and Donnie's terrible life was just a punishment for him formed by purgatory. To say it was an Ass Pull is an understatement.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, at the end of the episode "Bardock: Father of Goku", Cooler lets Goku's escape pod get away even though he's close enough to eliminate it. When asked why, he simply says "because I'm a prick". In the movie "Revenge of Cooler, they replayed this scene, except instead Cooler says he won't destroy it because Frieza only owns this section of the universe because he whined to his dad, and its his problem if this comes back to bite him.