retcon /ret'kon/ [short for `retroactive continuity', from the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.comics] 1. n. The common situation in pulp fiction (esp. comics or soap operas) where a new story `reveals' things about events in previous stories, usually leaving the `facts' the same (thus preserving continuity) while completely changing their interpretation. For example, revealing that a whole season of "Dallas" was a dream was a retcon. 2. vt. To write such a story about a character or fictitious object. "Byrne has retconned Superman's cape so that it is no longer unbreakable." "Marvelman's old adventures were retconned into synthetic dreams." "Swamp Thing was retconned from a transformed person into a sentient vegetable." "Darth Vader was retconned into Luke Skywalker's father in "The Empire Strikes Back".
[This term is included because it is a good example of hackish
linguistic innovation in a field completely unrelated to computers.
The word `retcon' will probably spread through comics fandom and
lose its association with hackerdom within a couple of years; for
the record, it started here. --ESR]
[1993 update: some comics fans on the net now claim that retcon was
independently in use in comics fandom before rec.arts.comics. In
lexicography, nothing is ever simple. --ESR]
From <a href="http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=retcon">dictionary.com</a>
Last night on IRC the idea of a US1/Transformers crossover came up.
You could feel the groans radiate from across the globe as they passed over the Internet and into the channel.
One of the things that came out during this moment was the statement, "It's bad enough Spider-Man crossed over with them"
I pointed out that it has been requested that the issue in question be ignored and not considered to have really happened.
This isn't one of those fandom ideas, either.
This came from the editors at Marvel.
And this wasn't a case of retcon. There wasn't any preservation of the facts. There wasn't any explanations given.
It was simply, "it didn't happen."
Welcome to the wonderful world of Transformers continuity. I can say it's a wonderful place, because it doesn't really exist, and if years of philosophy classes have taught me anything it's that when something doesn't exist, anything you say about it is vacuously true.
There are some matters of forgivable retcon, as I'll get into at a later time. And there are moments like Spider-man where they simply wave their hands and move on.
For simplicity's sake, I'll be focusing just on the Marvel US comic as a self-contained universe, mostly because I'm not familiar with the UK series. Also, as much fun as it would be I'm not going into the cartoon; it's way too easy. And Dreamwave fired off a reset button and are completely re-writing history, picking and choosing what they want to incorporate, so I'll leave them out of the picture for now.
If you have a good connection, you can read scans of the Generation 1 comics here
, and the Generation 2 comics here
Everyone is probably familiar with the basic premise of the Transformers: an Intelligent race of living machines capable of transforming their bodies (hence the name!) split into two factions, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, and they don't really get along. At all. Like, trying to completely obliterate each other type of not getting along. And about 4 million years ago a group of Autobots lead by Optimus Prime ventured away from their home planet on Cybertron on mission.
In the comics, it was to stop this swarm of asteroids or something similar from impacting and destroying Cybertron. And as they were completing the mission they were attacked by the Decepticons led by Megatron. Seeing defeat being imminent Optimus chose to crash their ship, the Ark, into a volcano in what would become the state of Oregon, into the Earth, sacrificing himself and his warriors to stop Megatron and the other Decepticons.
...Four millions years later the Ark woke up and restored both the Autobots and the Decepticons. During this process it re-configured their bodies so that they would transform into the shapes of Earth vehicles and machinery.
So... first thing that happens after a roll-call is that the Decepticons get the hell out of there and begin making plans on how to conquer the planet. The Autobots talk for a few moments and some of them go to the movies.
It was a drive-in.
It was soon stated that they couldn't process energy sources on Earth, and the early issues were about trying to find away to convert sources on our planet into a form that they could use. The Decepticons even captured a nuclear power plant and converted it into a fortress in their pursuit of this, but even that didn't help them any.
So... basically you have a race of eons old robots, capable of interstellar travel, they can construct their bodies so that they can contort into other forms... some of these transformations involving unexplained changes in mass (Megatron goes from being a thirty foot tall robot to being a Walter P-38... and a normal human can pick him up, so it's not like he's a really really really heavy P-38)... Megatron also has a nuclear fusion cannon on his arm and somehow channels that energy into a directed blast that doesn't always level a city and doesn't seem to hurt himself in the process...
...Yet a chemistry problem is beyond them.
...Not only that...
...But they kidnapped a poor mechanic named Sparkplug Witwicky and forced him at laser point to figure out the conversion for them.
Now, given that the Decepticons have this ethnocentric world view, them relying that much on a human to figure something out... Well, I guess whenever Megatron would yell about how useless we puny flesh creatures were his hiding his own shame over his lack of a basic high school education.
And who rescued Sparkplug? The military? No. The Autobots? Well, one Autobot. Gears.
Gears. With the help of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
To make a long story short, in issue #3
Spider-Man and Gears break into the Decepticon HQ and got Sparkplug out of there.
I don't have the issue on hand to go through it, but it's not important.
And I don't think it's important to ask "If the US military was on hand trying to fight the Decepticons only to get trounced, then why weren't the Avengers or the Fantastic Four called?" Though, I will say that if a band of 30 foot tall robots with nuclear weapons strapped to their arms were terrorizing the land and I was calling the shots, I'd have every super-human I could get a hold of there and fast.
Maybe Doctor Doom was launching the Baxter Building into the Sun or something that week, but hey, like I said, it's not important.
What is kinda important, though, is that this issue would make Transformers a part of Marvel Continuity.
...Years later the Editors would ask on the letter's pages for the fans to forget about this issue.
On The Formidable Transformers FAQ
it was noted that Spider-Man made an appearance in Ren and Stimpy
, yet no one tries to claim they're part of the Marvel Universe.
But it wasn't just issue #3.
In issue #4
, it was mentioned that Shockwave showed up looking for everyone millions of years ago, and the Ark dispatched the Dinobots to take care of them. Shockwave was winning, but the battle ended up in a draw.
Where was the battle? The Savage Land.
Ratchet even went there after them in issue #8
This one doesn't get brought up nearly as much, though. Maybe it helps that KaZar didn't make a cameo. I dunno.
There's a Dazzler reference in issue four, but it's not that big of an issue. That's more of a footnote.
Now, one of the human characters that did escape the mold of being just what's known as a "squishie" and have some depth was Circuit Breaker. See, Josie Beller was working on this Oil Rig, got attacked by Shockwave, became paralyzed, developed this electro-magnetic duck tape costume that she then started to use in a campaign to wipe out all Transformers due to a fierce hatred for robots over what happened to her.
And she showed up in Secret Wars II
...Course, this one, no body really has to ask anyone to forget. It was Secret Wars II
. Does anyone really want to remember?
...So, despite what your eyes may tell you, Transformers are not in the Marvel Universe. You never read those comics. Don't try to make sense of the events without them. Just looking at the pretty robots and the battles and stuff and forget! Forget!
...See. That's not retcon.
That's just really crappy story-telling.
...If and when I follow this up, I'll go into revisions and such that are only concerned with the Transformers themselves.