In an endless sea of Hollywood reboots, I decided to sit down and ask the question, “why do retcons and reboots illicit such a visceral response from people?” It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on. Some people love them regardless of what they are. Just as many people hate them for the same reason. It’s a see-saw of emotions when a reboot or retcon is announced. In my mind, some of this is caused by the nature of the two actions. Retcons often lead to reboots of franchises, and reboots of franchises often have heavy retcons in them. It’s a symbiotic relationship with varying results.
Being a life-long comic fan, I’m no stranger to retcons. Sometimes they make things better (regardless of how the community accepts them) and sometimes they just fall flat. I was never a fan of the Parallax retcon. I loved Hal Jordan going insane because everyone he knew and everything he loved was destroyed in Coast City. It was poetic. But ultimately it was thrown away for the “Parallax entity” that ended up spinning into a pretty dope war of lanterns and Blackest Night, so I guess I’ll let it go. Conversely, I loved blaming Super-Boy Prime for punching (literally) time and
screwing up the timeline. It gave us back Barry Allen (not my favorite Flash and I thought it was better when he sacrificed himself and not just got lost in the Speed-Force) and explained a few other things that didn’t make sense in DC continuity. Marvel has also made extensive use of retcons. Look at Wolverine’s bone claws… Whose idea was that? Yes, I hated it. Madelyn Pryor and Jean’s MANY returns are always retcons. Hell, pretending that Magneto and Xavier were analogous to Malcolm and Martin the whole time is one of the largest retcons in history.
But I digress. One of the reasons I think retcons and reboots work in comics better is because of the length of time. If a series comes out and dies after 6-12 issues, that’s anywhere from 6 months to a year’s worth of stories. That enough to dive into. The longer-running characters like the New 52 or Marvel’s Battleworld get to re-launch because we have grown accustomed to the characters. That’s another reason we are reluctant to see them change. I think sometimes people confuse growth with change and that’s an entirely separate issue that goes along with fandom as a whole.
Let’s take a quick look at Star Wars for example. The Force Awakens was a fun ride, but it didn’t cover new ground. It retreaded ground that we loved and that’s okay. The Last Jedi, while I had issues with this movie, it did MOST of what it was supposed to do. I know it’s divisive but that’s not the point right now. It pushed the narrative forward and sometimes that’s going cause people some distress. Lastly, The Rise of Skywalker… RETCONS! That’s again one of the issues. Now I enjoyed the experience of Skywalker, but I realize where it was lacking. The problem is, taken as a single story, those three movies would be 3 issues of a comic. Even though they are spread over the years, it’s only 3 parts of a tale. No one would read a comic that retcons issue 1 in issue 2. That’s the problem. Now it’s not exclusively to Star Wars. Star Trek’s movie franchise has also come under similar scrutiny, as has the Terminator franchise and many others.
Retcons and reboots are okay, given the material that you take them from. There are tons of movies from the ’80s that are NEAR great but could use the spit and polish of new graphics (studio execs, if you’re listening I have a treatment for “The Running Man” just waiting to be read). But iconic movies have to be given certain care and patience. The Total Recall reboot was done well. The Thing was a well-executed movie that didn’t offend the original. Often, we get one glimpse of these characters we come to love before someone wants to retcon or reboot. That’s why the
responses vary from, welcoming to fire and pitchforks. Retcons and reboots can be useful tools when wielded carefully. What is usually seen by the viewing community at large is reckless regard for characters they’ve grown to love. One exception I will say is with Disney. While some of the movies have been met with mixed reviews, the characterizations themselves have been largely praised. After watching the recent live-action versions of beloved movies (Lion King being the exception) I think they have rebooted these movies to great effect. Reboots and retcons are a mixed bag, but like a sword, if wielded with care they are an exacting weapon that cuts through box-office and fan expectations. In case you were wondering, I’m FOREVER going to be mad at what they did to John Connor in both Terminator Genisys AND Terminator Dark Fate.
Brian Joseph Lambert is the lead contributing writer and editor at Wingless Entertainment LTD. He specializes in bringing diversity to action/adventure, fantasy and sci-fi worlds. In 2017, while earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Full Sail University, he published his first novel, ASCENSION- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 1. In 2019 he earned a Master’s degree in Entertainment Business and released JUSTICE- ISSUE #0 for Wingless Entertainment LTD and Konkret Comics. Brian's current projects include WAR FOR THE SWORD- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 2, a CG animated feature film entitled, RUBICON and JUSTICE- THE FALL, an ongoing graphic novel with KONKRET COMICS. Brian recently was selected as a Reader's Favorite Book Award Finalist in 2019 for, ASCENSION- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 1. Brian has edited numerous independent works including, Is’Nana the Were-Spider by Greg Anderson Elysée, Akolyte by Derek Allen, Nia Caler by Dorphise Jean and the upcoming Beyond 13th by Michael Ralph. When not writing or editing, Brian works on creating a functioning lightsaber so that he can pass the Jedi trials.