When Chris Claremont gave us Giant-Size X–Men #1, did he — whether literally or metaphorically speaking — change the game of Marvel continuity, repurposing the moribund Uncanny X-Men to tell a new kind of story? Or did the game actually change when Adam Warlock, erstwhile messiah, became the atrocity-loving Magus in Jim Starlin’s Strange Tales #178? Or had the game always already been different, each new creator adjusting the rules not only of their own book but of the entire storyworld?
The rules of Marvel continuity — or of any continuity, really — would seem to exist merely in order to be bent into unrecognizable shapes. There’s a fascination for me in this playful practice, this largely unacknowledged-as-such emergent storytelling game. Unlike the systems of oral poetics that serve as my touchstone for such narrative practices, Marvel continuity possesses a complete a record of the choices made by previous players — Lee, Kirby, Ditko, to name some prominent and fitting examples we might set beside Claremont and Starlin.
To put it another way, what I want to concentrate on this Thursday is how retcons work in a flexible possibility space like Marvel continuity that’s nonetheless bounded to a certain important degree by everything that’s gone before. What can comics retcons tell us about how the games we usually discuss build their own emergent narratives?
Or, really, let’s just talk about our favorite retcons and why we love them and what that says about how we play now.
Join the conversation on Discord at 8:30 Eastern!