Comic Books are one of the greatest mediums that you can get. They can have action, adventure, loss, mystery, intrigue, excitement and anything else you could care to mention. They have spawned some of the most memorable characters in fiction. From The Last Son of Krypton, The Dark Knight of Gotham, The Green Goliath, The Amazon Adventuress, The Scarlet Speedster, The Man Without Fear, The Spider – Man to more modern super heroes like Rorschach and V from V for Vendetta super heroes have always been characters to look up to or be afraid of.
They can inspire fear in the hearts of criminals and hope in the hearts of the just. They have inhabited worlds that have enthralled generations of readers and have transported their audiences to everywhere and every when. Some comic book moments have stayed with the reader long after they have put down their copy of The Amazing Spider Man or The Fantastic Four. Occasionally, however, these great moments and stories are wiped out by comic publishers wanting to make a consistent universe. This isn’t a bad thing but sometimes it can really annoy you. Here are the top 10 Great Comic Moments Eradicated by Stupid Retcons.
10: Superman Winks at the Audience
One day in 1985 DC decided that they needed to clean up their continuity. The result was Crisis on Infinite Earths that would eradicate so much continuity and brought about the “end” of the multiverse that had been so popular with readers. Gone was Superboy, Superman of Earth Two and all the other elements of that forgotten era. DC decided before they eradicated everything to do a “final” Superman story.
The result was Alan Moore’s brilliant Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? The story encapsulates fifty years of Superman’s history. It begins with Daily Planet report Tim Crane interviewing former Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. Lane is apparently the last person to have seen Superman alive and Crane wants to try and get to the bottom of what happened to him. The majority of the story is told in flashback, as Lois recounts for Crane the tale of Superman’s final days. It turns out that even after stopping all crime in Metropolis; The Man of Tomorrow has got to battle Brainiac for one last time. With the public finding out his true identity and the Legion of Super Villains on his back, Superman retreats to The Fortress of Solitude. After defeating the true villain behind the whole scheme, Superman walks out into the frozen wasteland.
In the final panel we see the now de powered Clark Kent wink at the audience in a manner that not only encapsulates the character but also gives a satisfactory end to the Superman saga. Having gone through so much it seems fitting that The Man of Steel can not only have finally defeated all of his enemies but been able to bring up a family as he always wanted. Shame it was all retconed by Crisis on Infinite Earths but on the plus side we got Man of Steel as Superman’s origin! Until that was retconed. Oh well.
9: The Coming of Galactus
Galactus is one of the great bad asses of the Marvel comic universe. He spends his time going around the universe devouring the life force of planets that have been scouted out from him by his unwilling servant, The Silver Surfer. Galactus was first introduced in a Fantastic Four storyline which spanned three issues entitled The Coming of Galactus. Galactus, being a hungry sod, decides to send his slave The Silver Surfer out to find a suitable planet for him to devour. After passing by the planet of the Skrulls, The Surfer finds Earth which The Watcher has been trying to hide.
Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as The Fantastic Four see Galactus’s spaceship arrive in Earth’s atmosphere. Galactus emerges and declares that he is going to devour Earth which is one of the best reveals a comic as ever had. The whole story builds up to Galactus’s arrival and succeeds in giving him such a fantastic entrance. Of course after Galactus arrives The Fantastic Four get down to some awesome fight scenes with the giant including the famous sequence in which Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic punches Galactus in the face. After convincing The Silver Surfer to help them The Fantastic Four manage to defeat Galactus though at a great cost to The Surfer who is banished by Galactus at the end of the story.
In his first story Galactus shows off his full might and the great scale of the story and the threat to Earth show that Galactus is not someone to be messed with.
All this was lost when Marvel rebooted their franchise with Heroes Reborn which was a pretty stupid retcon if ever there was one.
8: Batman Fights The Joker Above Gotham
After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC rebooted its whole continuity. After this, a new origin story was needed for many of its major heroes. Batman received Year One as his origin story courtesy of Frank Miller. However, Year One only gave Batman his origin and didn’t show us how Gotham went from a mobster town to a place populated by colourfully dressed lunatics. The villains’ origin were given in The Long Halloween. Similarly to Batman Year One, The Long Halloween takes place over a several months and goes through all the seasons.
The story begins with The Dark Knight in his normal persona of Bruce Wayne attending a society wedding. While their Bruce is pressured by mob boss Carmine “The Roman” Falcone , a central figure from Year One, to launder money for him. The billionaire refuses to do so and while he is leaving he encounters a beaten up Harvey Dent. Helping Dent to his feet Wayne leaves to pursue some leads in his alter ego.
After meeting Catwoman, The Dark Knight meets up with Captain Jim Gordon and Dent who want to enter a pact with The Caped Crusader that they will take down Falcone once and for all. The scene was later adapted into 2008’s The Dark Knight. However the best moment happens later on.
Near the middle of the story we get its best moment, this is when The Joker hijacks a plane and sends it spinning through the Gotham night. Batman battles him in the sequence while attempting to straighten the plane and stop anyone from being injured. Wonderfully drawn and written, this sequence was taken out of continuity by Infinite Crisis which re wrote various aspects of the previous timeline.
7: Spider Man fights Daredevil
Spider – Man, one of America’s quintessential heroes was going through a bit of an odd time in the 80s – 90s. He ditched his red and blue outfit for a black and white suit (later revealed to be symboite Venom) and contemplated killing his villains. Well at least in one story in particular. During the events of The Death of Jean DeWolfe in which a background character called Captain Jean DeWolfe is killed, The Web Crawler and guest bud Daredevil attempt to find the killer.
They discover she was murdered by a new villain called Sin Eater. Spidey also finds out that Jean had a crush on him which makes matters even more personal. When Spider Man finally catches up with Sin Eater he is so angry he decides to kill Sin Eater. Daredevil turns up in the nick of time and manages to stop Spidey from killing Sin Eater. Angry at Daredevil for not letting him get vengeance on the villain, the two heroes begin to fight resulting in not only a moral battle but a physical battle between the pair.
The fact that we get Spidey to go into places that he would not normally go and his interaction with Daredevil throughout the story makes this a fascinating story and one again opens the old age superhero question about whether a hero should kill. With the aide of Daredevil Spidey realises that killing is never the answer.
This is fantastic story is one of the best Spider Man stories of the era but was wiped out by One More Day which pretty much rebooted all of Spidey adventures during the 80s and 90s. Shame.
6: Batman “returns from the dead” for Ras Al Ghul
After Batman’s campy 60s era the character was updated to be more gritty for the 70s. To this end he was given some new enemies such as the fantastic Ra’s Al Ghul. Al Ghul (or The Demon’s Head) first appeared in the story labelled Daughter of The Demon. Al Ghul turns up in the Bat Cave one day saying he has kidnapped Robin. Daring the Detective to find him, Al Ghul slips away.
After faking the death of Bruce Wayne and saving Robin, Bats decides to go after Al Ghul. They track him down to the desert where Ra’s and his daughter Talia are trying to create a plague to wipe out the Earth’s population. Batman believes Ra’s is dead, until he sees him resurrected by the Lazarus Pit. After deciding to battle shirtless (but still wearing his tights, of course), The Dark Knight and The Demon’s Head fight it out in the desert. Ra’s seems to defeat Batman but is shocked when after being kissed by Talia, he gets up and tracks them back to the camp. Batman appears before Ra’s in his tent letting the echo terrorist deliver one of the best lines in comics “Are you a man or a fiend from hell?!”
Batman’s return for Ra’s and the fact he can outwit his villains in such a way helped re-establish Batman as a master strategist but also as a great warrior something that he had lacked in the 60s.
The whole story and in particular this scene are wonderful gems from the 70s era of Batman; they were unfortunately wiped out from canon by Crisis on Infinite Earths. Damn you DC!
5: Hal Jordan Goes On A Murderous Rampage
Hal Jordan is not only a beloved character but also the second Green Lantern. So when he suddenly went crazy and started ripping up half the galaxy it could be seen as a bit out of character. However, a lot happened to Jordan to cause this. During The Reign of The Supermen, his home town of Coast City was destroyed by the villain Mongul. Sending Jordan into a rage, he flies after Mongul intent on killing the Super Villain. To cut a long story short, after breaking both his arms and his knee, Jordan finally manages to defeat Mongul.
Nevertheless, he is still upset about the death of his home town and uses his Green Lantern ring to re-create the city. The Guardians are furious at Jordan and order him back to their home planet of Oa to explain himself. Jordan does return and is infuriated by The Guardians and so absorbs power from The Guardians power source and goes completely insane. He becomes so mad, he kills everyone on Oa, decides to call himself Parallax and crushes his original Green Lantern ring underfoot. The final shot of Jordan crushing his power ring beneath his foot surrounded by the corpses of his former comrades is a fantastic and very dramatic shot. Parallax then goes on a rampage throughout the galaxy and in essence becomes a Super Villain.
After being shot in the heart by Green Arrow and momentarily recovering his sanity, Jordan begins to admonish himself of his sins by healing his former friend Jon Stewart’s broken back and then using the last of his energies to sacrifice his life to reignite the Sun. What a way to go!
Of course, being such a popular character Jordan couldn’t stay dead forever and obviously he couldn’t have done all those horrible things! Even if his hometown had been destroyed in front of his own eyes, Hal Jordan still wouldn’t have done it. It was instead retconed to being a virus called Parallax which had infected his system. This was in turn re retconed when all the events were de canonised by Flashpoint. Damn you DC!
4: Bruce Wayne Becomes Batman
As I have mentioned above, after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC rebooted its whole continuity giving new origin stories to its characters. For The Dark Knight this was Batman Year One, one of the best origins the character has ever had. The story like Batman Begins shows Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham after several years away training all over the world. Throughout the story Wayne evolves from only having a vague idea about how to implement justice for his parents to ending the story with a definitive mission with a certain set of goals.
The best moment from the story is when after fighting crime through the streets of Gotham without a costume and getting beaten up, Bruce Wayne returns to Wayne Manor. Nearly dead, Wayne flings himself into his father’s old chair and remembers the death of his parents. We see through the flashback, masterfully drawn by David Mazzucchelli, that Bruce’s parents were killed by a mugger.
After remembering this life changing event, Bruce begs his dead parents to send him a sign, a symbol of what he must become. At that moment a bat crashes through the window and Bruce realises what he must become. This moment showing the birth of Batman is one of my all-time favourite comic moments and is the defining way the comics have shown how Bruce Wayne became Batman. The fact Wayne implores his parents to give him a sign at this point shows that the reason Wayne became Batman was because it was because he thought his parents wanted him to.
Of course this was wiped from continuity by Infinite Crisis. Damn you DC!
3: X – Men don’t make the best rescue team
Back in 1975 there was a story in Giant Sized X – Men Number One in which The Original X – Men got kidnapped after going the island of Krakoa. With only Cyclops escaping Professor X had to create a new band to go and rescue his original team. Getting in contact with Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird, Sunfire and Banshee Professor X decides to send them to find the kidnapped X – Men. On arriving on the mystery island the new team discover that Krakoa is in fact a giant mutant! Everything goes okay, Wolverine kicks some ass, the evil mutant island is destroyed (seems a bit harsh) and the second X – Men team are dubbed X – Men International.
Sadly, someone had to go and mess it up. To “celebrate” 30 years since the story was first published Marvel decided to revisit the story. Instead of having a sequel to the story, they decided to mess with the continuity of the original and retcon certain parts of the tale. For a start, Professor X decided that instead of calling up more experienced mutants like he did in the original story, he’d ask a bunch of young, untested mutants to rescue the X Men. Great thinking Xavier! Predictably the young X – Men team are killed with only Cyclops remembering the tragedy. That is until Professor X wipes his memory of the event because, who would really want to remember a storyline as bad as that. The retcon makes the original story not as interesting and original as it was originally. Which just goes to show how retcons can affect decent stories and make them not as enjoyable as before.
2: The Death of Gwen Stacy
Gwen Stacy was at one time a very important character in the Spider Man universe. As girlfriend to Spidey, she was a central character to his comic universe and was beloved by many fans. Realising that soon Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy would have to get married, Marvel decided to kill off this character in one of the darkest and most dramatic stories possible. After being kidnapped by Spidey’s arch enemy, The Green Goblin, Gwen is taken to the Brooklyn Bridge where Spidey and The Green Goblin fight. During the fight Gwen falls. Spidey attempts to save her but by using his webslinger to stop her while she is plummeting down, he causes a whiplashes effect and kills her. With such a dramatic end to such a beloved character you would think that this moment would be untouchable in comic history. Sadly it isn’t.
Marvel first off decided to resurrect Gwen Stacy by making a clone of her. Not only did her resurrection detract from her original death it also didn’t make much sense. Oh well it can’t get worse! Sadly it did when the intelligent, loyal and sweet Gwen we knew is retconed into a strange cheater. In Sins Past, is it revealed that while she was in a loving relationship with Spidey she was also having an affair with Norman Osbourne aka The Green Goblin and became pregnant with his two children who she managed to give birth to without anyone noticing. Er….okay? Not only does this mess with normal continuity it also seems a pointless retcon that simply degrades a beloved character. Marvel, what are you thinking of?!
1: Barbara Gordon – Oracle No More
Barbara Gordon was the original Batgirl, the sidekick to The Dark Knight. She aided Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson on their quest to fight crime for many years until the cataclysmic events of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke in which for no other reason than to get to Commissioner Gordon and Batman, The Joker cripples her. The scene wasn’t exactly the best move and Moore later regretted the decision to cripple her. However, from this moment, Barbara managed to get more agency than she ever did as Bat Girl. After managing to get used to being confined to a wheel chair, Barbara decided to create a new identity for herself as Oracle and carved out a superhero career separate from Batman’s but still inspired by The Dark Knight’s antics. Not only did Barbara manage to show readers that it is possible to overcome a disability and still kick ass, it also showed them that female super heroes didn’t have to be all boobs and no brain.
And then Flashpoint came along and kind of ruined it all. Instead of Barbara continuing her work as Oracle she was suddenly Bat Girl again. The excuse being that in the new timeline, she had been disabled but she was all better now! After travelling to South Africa she had got her spine fixed. Simple as that! I’m surprised no one had thought of it before.
Not only is Barbara Gordon’s career as Oracle the best thing to be wiped out by a stupid retcon, it is something worse than that. It is demeaning to the fans of the comics. It means that comic readers who emphasised with Barbara will feel alienated by their comic book hero suddenly getting better. This sort of thing does happen in real life but a lot of the time it doesn’t. For people with problems, Oracle was a beacon of hope in a dark and troubled world that was chucked out so that a company didn’t have to have a disabled character at the centre of their new hip universe. Shame on you DC, shame on you.